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Though we suffer different consequences for our sin, God’s plans remain constant.

I once knew a Christian family that held a curious philosophy about those credit card offers we find in the mail. Swept up like so many in the whirling dance of debt, they interpreted them as a message from God that they should take a cruise. Now, that might seem ridiculously presumptuous, but then so are many of the rash, self-serving, and faithless decisions we make. We know as believers that God’s Word is true, that He provides everything we need, and that His ways are best, yet how often do our choices actually reveal unbelief? 

In his message “Getting Ahead of God,” Dr. Stanley reminds us of the seriousness of this when he says,

Whether it’s our own voice or the voice of someone else, we must always be careful to follow the Lord rather than human reasoning. Sometimes we don’t understand how God could possibly accomplish what He’s promised, so we decide to help Him out in some way or do it ourselves. However, if we don’t wait for God, we’ll live in disharmony with Him and suffer the consequences.

All of us have experienced painful consequences for our sin, only to be renewed by grace as we submit ourselves afresh to Christ. But I’ve often wondered why the consequences of disobedience can be so varied, particularly in the history of Israel.

 

Take Sarah, Uzzah, and Zechariah for example. In disbelief, Sarah tried to help God out by arranging for a son through her servant (Genesis 16); Uzzah steadied the ark of God to keep it from falling (2 Samuel 6); and Zechariah questioned God’s promise to give him a son in his old age (Luke 1). For his doubt, Zechariah was made mute, yet he lived to enjoy the gift of his son John. Sarah’s sin brought great heartache upon herself and the nation of Israel, but she is honored as a woman of faith (Hebrews 11). Yet Uzzah, who at first glance seemed to have right motives, died instantly. 

The differences can seem shocking, but they show us why we can’t rely on human reasoning in our quest to serve God. There is always a greater, perfect purpose in God’s work among us.  While we are saved to walk in obedience, our choices do not bind God to a particular outcome. When we pray, “Your will be done,” we do not grant God permission to work as He wishes; rather, we submit ourselves to the work He already intends.

In the case of Uzzah, we see God in His holiness and perfection dealing with a deadly form of presumptuousness among the people. The ark of the covenant had been kept away from Jerusalem, but Uzzah, under David’s direction, ignored the law by transporting the ark there on a cart. When he reached to keep it from falling to the ground, Uzzah apparently assumed that his hands were somehow clean enough to touch the holy and undefiled symbol of God’s presence. He was terribly wrong, however, and paid for the assumption with his life. With this action, the Lord sent a resounding message to Israel: God’s holiness must be remembered at all costs.

While we are saved to walk in obedience, our choices do not bind God to a particular outcome.

Though neither of them paid with their life, Sarah and Zechariah were no better than Uzzah. Upon hearing God’s remarkable plan to bring them children, they doubted His word. And like Uzzah, Sarah took matters into her own hands.

The sins of Sarah and Zechariah brought them painful consequences but did nothing to alter God’s plans for their offspring—that had all been determined long before. Through those sons, God would advance freedom for His people, releasing them from the yoke of both physical and spiritual slavery. Sarah’s promised child would be a patriarch of the nation of Israel and, ultimately, an ancestor of our redeeming Savior. And Zechariah’s child would be the prophet sent to prepare the way for the Lord.

Those who are called by the Father are loved by Him (Rom. 8:28-30). And our love, empowered by the Holy Spirit, will produce faithfulness, trust, and great satisfaction for us as God is glorified. Though we don’t always understand why we must endure losses and unexpected challenges, it’s important to continue waiting on Him, patient for His solutions, instead of relying on our own. 

 

Illustration by Adam Cruft

Related Topics:  Gods Promises

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1 Now Sarai, Abram's wife had borne him no children, and she had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar.

2 So Sarai said to Abram, Now behold, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Please go in to my maid; perhaps I will obtain children through her." And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.

3 After Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Abram's wife Sarai took Hagar the Egyptian, her maid, and gave her to her husband Abram as his wife.

4 He went in to Hagar, and she conceived; and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her sight.

5 And Sarai said to Abram, May the wrong done me be upon you. I gave my maid into your arms, but when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her sight. May the LORD judge between you and me."

6 But Abram said to Sarai, Behold, your maid is in your power; do to her what is good in your sight." So Sarai treated her harshly, and she fled from her presence.

7 Now the angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur.

8 He said, Hagar, Sarai's maid, where have you come from and where are you going?" And she said, I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai."

9 Then the angel of the LORD said to her, Return to your mistress, and submit yourself to her authority."

10 Moreover, the angel of the LORD said to her, I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count."

11 The angel of the LORD said to her further, Behold, you are with child, And you will bear a son; And you shall call his name Ishmael, Because the LORD has given heed to your affliction.

12 He will be a wild donkey of a man, His hand will be against everyone, And everyone's hand will be against him; And he will live to the east of all his brothers."

13 Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, You are a God who sees"; for she said, Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?"

14 Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi; behold, it is between Kadesh and Bered.

15 So Hagar bore Abram a son; and Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael.

16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to him.

1 Now David again gathered all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand.

2 And David arose and went with all the people who were with him to Baale-judah, to bring up from there the ark of God which is called by the Name, the very name of the LORD of hosts who is enthroned above the cherubim.

3 They placed the ark of God on a new cart that they might bring it from the house of Abinadab which was on the hill; and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were leading the new cart.

4 So they brought it with the ark of God from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill; and Ahio was walking ahead of the ark.

5 Meanwhile, David and all the house of Israel were celebrating before the LORD with all kinds of instruments made of fir wood, and with lyres, harps, tambourines, castanets and cymbals.

6 But when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out toward the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen nearly upset it.

7 And the anger of the LORD burned against Uzzah, and God struck him down there for his irreverence; and he died there by the ark of God.

8 David became angry because of the LORD'S outburst against Uzzah, and that place is called Perez-uzzah to this day.

9 So David was afraid of the LORD that day; and he said, How can the ark of the LORD come to me?"

10 And David was unwilling to move the ark of the LORD into the city of David with him; but David took it aside to the house of Obed-edom the Gittite.

11 Thus the ark of the LORD remained in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite three months, and the LORD blessed Obed-edom and all his household.

12 Now it was told King David, saying, The LORD has blessed the house of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, on account of the ark of God." David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom into the city of David with gladness.

13 And so it was, that when the bearers of the ark of the LORD had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling.

14 And David was dancing before the LORD with all his might, and David was wearing a linen ephod.

15 So David and all the house of Israel were bringing up the ark of the LORD with shouting and the sound of the trumpet.

16 Then it happened as the ark of the LORD came into the city of David that Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD; and she despised him in her heart.

17 So they brought in the ark of the LORD and set it in its place inside the tent which David had pitched for it; and David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD.

18 When David had finished offering the burnt offering and the peace offering, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD of hosts.

19 Further, he distributed to all the people, to all the multitude of Israel, both to men and women, a cake of bread and one of dates and one of raisins to each one. Then all the people departed each to his house.

20 But when David returned to bless his household, Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David and said, How the king of Israel distinguished himself today! He uncovered himself today in the eyes of his servants' maids as one of the foolish ones shamelessly uncovers himself!"

21 So David said to Michal, It was before the LORD, who chose me above your father and above all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the LORD, over Israel; therefore I will celebrate before the LORD.

22 I will be more lightly esteemed than this and will be humble in my own eyes, but with the maids of whom you have spoken, with them I will be distinguished."

23 Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death.

1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us,

2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word,

3 it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus;

4 so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.

5 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.

6 They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord.

7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced in years.

8 Now it happened that while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division,

9 according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.

10 And the whole multitude of the people were in prayer outside at the hour of the incense offering.

11 And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense.

12 Zacharias was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear gripped him.

13 But the angel said to him, Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John.

14 You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.

15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother's womb.

16 And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God.

17 It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."

18 Zacharias said to the angel, How will I know this for certain? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years."

19 The angel answered and said to him, I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.

20 And behold, you shall be silent and unable to speak until the day when these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time."

21 The people were waiting for Zacharias, and were wondering at his delay in the temple.

22 But when he came out, he was unable to speak to them; and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple; and he kept making signs to them, and remained mute.

23 When the days of his priestly service were ended, he went back home.

24 After these days Elizabeth his wife became pregnant, and she kept herself in seclusion for five months, saying,

25 This is the way the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked with favor upon me, to take away my disgrace among men."

26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth,

27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.

28 And coming in, he said to her, Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you."

29 But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was.

30 The angel said to her, Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.

31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus.

32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David;

33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end."

34 Mary said to the angel, How can this be, since I am a virgin?"

35 The angel answered and said to her, The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.

36 And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month.

37 For nothing will be impossible with God."

38 And Mary said, Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.

39 Now at this time Mary arose and went in a hurry to the hill country, to a city of Judah,

40 and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth.

41 When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

42 And she cried out with a loud voice and said, Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!

43 And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me?

44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy.

45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord."

46 And Mary said: My soul exalts the Lord,

47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.

48 For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.

49 For the Mighty One has done great things for me; And holy is His name.

50 AND HIS MERCY IS UPON GENERATION AFTER GENERATION TOWARD THOSE WHO FEAR HIM.

51 He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart.

52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones, And has exalted those who were humble.

53 HE HAS FILLED THE HUNGRY WITH GOOD THINGS; And sent away the rich empty-handed.

54 He has given help to Israel His servant, In remembrance of His mercy,

55 As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and his descendants forever."

56 And Mary stayed with her about three months, and then returned to her home.

57 Now the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth, and she gave birth to a son.

58 Her neighbors and her relatives heard that the Lord had displayed His great mercy toward her; and they were rejoicing with her.

59 And it happened that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to call him Zacharias, after his father.

60 But his mother answered and said, No indeed; but he shall be called John."

61 And they said to her, There is no one among your relatives who is called by that name."

62 And they made signs to his father, as to what he wanted him called.

63 And he asked for a tablet and wrote as follows, His name is John." And they were all astonished.

64 And at once his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he began to speak in praise of God.

65 Fear came on all those living around them; and all these matters were being talked about in all the hill country of Judea.

66 All who heard them kept them in mind, saying, What then will this child turn out to be?" For the hand of the Lord was certainly with him.

67 And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying:

68 Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people,

69 And has raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of David His servant--

70 As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old--

71 Salvation FROM OUR ENEMIES, And FROM THE HAND OF ALL WHO HATE US;

72 To show mercy toward our fathers, And to remember His holy covenant,

73 The oath which He swore to Abraham our father,

74 To grant us that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies, Might serve Him without fear,

75 In holiness and righteousness before Him all our days.

76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; For you will go on BEFORE THE LORD TO PREPARE HIS WAYS;

77 To give to His people the knowledge of salvation By the forgiveness of their sins,

78 Because of the tender mercy of our God, With which the Sunrise from on high will visit us,

79 TO SHINE UPON THOSE WHO SIT IN DARKNESS AND THE SHADOW OF DEATH, To guide our feet into the way of peace."

80 And the child continued to grow and to become strong in spirit, and he lived in the deserts until the day of his public appearance to Israel.

1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

2 For by it the men of old gained approval.

3 By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.

4 By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.

5 By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; AND HE WAS NOT FOUND BECAUSE GOD TOOK HIM UP; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God.

6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

7 By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.

8 By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.

9 By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise;

10 for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

11 By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised.

12 Therefore there was born even of one man, and him as good as dead at that, as many descendants AS THE STARS OF HEAVEN IN NUMBER, AND INNUMERABLE AS THE SAND WHICH IS BY THE SEASHORE.

13 All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.

14 For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own.

15 And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return.

16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.

17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son;

18 it was he to whom it was said, IN ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS SHALL BE CALLED."

19 He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type.

20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau, even regarding things to come.

21 By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff.

22 By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the exodus of the sons of Israel, and gave orders concerning his bones.

23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king's edict.

24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter,

25 choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin,

26 considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.

27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen.

28 By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that he who destroyed the firstborn would not touch them.

29 By faith they passed through the Red Sea as though they were passing through dry land; and the Egyptians, when they attempted it, were drowned.

30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days.

31 By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace.

32 And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets,

33 who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions,

34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.

35 Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection;

36 and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment.

37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated

38 ( men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.

39 And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised,

40 because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.

28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;

30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

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