In the School of Patience (3): Recognizing Our Father’s Majesty

Rev. John Blankespoor is pastor of the Pine Creek Christian Reformed Church of Holland, Michigan. In this article, the third in a series on In the School of Patience, he writes: “God promises that He will always give grace according to the need, and that He will bring nothing but good upon the pathway of His people, also if this includes burdens, sorrows, and disappointments.”

And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, Jehovah appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am God Almighty. . . . And Abram fell on his face . . . (Gen. 17:1, 3).

It‘s impossible. It can’t happen. I don’t see a way out. This is too much to hope for or to expect. It is very well possible that Abraham thought this about his problems.

It has been a long time since Abraham and Sarall had left their home in Ur. At that time they were 75 and 65 years old, as husband and wife. A childless couple they still were at this old age. But God had given Abraham a promise of a son and many descendants.

However, time went on, and Abraham and Sarah were given no children. Surely they must have done much thinking and praying during all this time. Their prayers, however, seemed to go unanswered. Then Abraham “came up with an idea.” He would adopt someone to be his son, his trustworthy servant Eliezer. And Eliezer’s children would be his children, and the promise of God would be fulfilled. Hc would help God along a little bit. We know the Lord‘s answer. No, Abraham’s son would be one which he himself would father, The son would be one of his own flesh. And they waited some more years. Patience they needed and learned to exercise it. Still no children.

Again Abraham came up with a thought and acted accordingly. He acquired a second wife, Hagar. Of Abraham and Hagar Ishmael was born, who surely was a son of Abraham’s own flesh. Now, Abraham must have thought, the problem is solved and God can give me descendants through Ishmael. Again the Lord disapproved of Abraham‘s “scheming” and actions. The promised son would be born of him and Sarah his wife. To them, however, this didn’t make any sense. They were much too old to have children. And with their increase in years this seemed all the more utterly impossible. God wanted them to live by His promises alone, the promises of miracles. They waited some more and had to have more patience. It was now 24 years ago since the first promise had been given, and that was a long. long time.

When he was 99 years old the Lord (Jehovah) again appeared to Abraham. Remember that the name Jehovah means that He is the 1 am that I am, the faithful covenant God. He is the God who keeps His promises always. It is He who now says to Abraham, I am God almighty. This meant for Abraham that the God who made those miraculous promises also has the power, all power to fulfill them. The order of nature was against Abraham and Sarah, they were much too old to have children. But the promising God is almighty, infinite in power. For Abraham this meant that God could and would give him the promised posterity. The next year Isaac is born, the child of promise. Ultimately all this points to the miracle child, Jesus Christ, the great promised One.

A Beautiful Response – And Abraham fell on his face. That is his response, one of beautiful trust in this great God, with humble adoration.

For us this passage and this truth can be a source of much comfort and strength. Tn Christ the great promises of the entire Old Testament were flll611ed. They are still given today in Christ to all believers. In Christ the Almighty One promises His people, through faith, nothing but blessings of love. Peter it is who speaks of God’s exceeding great and precious promises (II Pet. 1:4). As the sovereign One God assures His children that all things work together for good (Rom. 8:28). God promises that He will always give grace according to the need, and that He will bring nothing but good upon the pathway of His people, also if this includes burdens, sorrows and disappointments.

As with Abraham, our way, too, may seem to be an impossible one. It just can’t turn out well. If you feel this way remember Abraham. Our faithful God is God almighty. With Him there are no problems. Our problems are no problems to Him. This we must never forget. At any time Hc could solve or remove them, if He would see fit to do so. If He doesnt, it means that in some way they serve His purpose for our good.

Every day, always, God is the faithful One with almighty power. How necessary it is that we bow before Him in deep humility, and know and feel that we are living in contact with the almighty God. Do that until your heart has been filled with the faith that this God is working in you and will perfect His work in you.

Read the Scriptures and learn how God’s people of old had learned this and given expression to their faith in Him.

I will love Thee, O Lord, my strength (Ps. 18:1). God is the strength of my heart (Ps. 73:26). The Lord is the strength of my life (Ps. 27:1). God is our refuge and strength (Ps. 46:1).

It is Paul who says that we are strengthened with all might according to God’s glorious power (Col. l:Il). Try to imagine what this means, that the weak, needy child of God is given strength according to His glorious incredible majestic power. Paul portrays somewhat the same thought in those sublime words of Ephesians that God is able to do exceeding, abundantly above all that we can ask or think. Can we even begin to imagine what this means, what He promises here! God is able and willing to work abundantly, yes and do that in an exceeding measure. Exceeding what? Anything and everything that we ask of Him and even what we can conceive of and think of in our minds and souls. And that can be ever so much.

When Abraham fell down on his face before God he “felt” something of this. This truth had “come through” to him. It had penetrated his soul. It will with us too, if we constantly believe these rich truths in the Scriptures with persevering prayer. In our worries, fears, and needs let us remember this picture of Abraham on his face, believing the promises of his almighty Lord. God also wants us to exercise such genuine trust with humble adoration.

When King Uzziah Died –In the year that king Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and his train filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim; each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy is Jehovah of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory, And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him that cried” (Is. 6:1–4).

We find here a description of the awe-inspiring vision Isaiah had. He was carried as it were into heaven and saw the Lord on His throne as the sovereign Lord of all The apostle John later identifies this glory with the glory of the exalted Christ. There are the Seraphim angels, likely millions of them. Did you ever see a million people at one time? Very few people have. But here are hosts, likely millions of angels. They hover above and on both sides of the throne.

It appears that there were two choirs, singing responsively. One multitude sang, “Holy, holy, holy is Jehovah of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.” And the other group responded with the same words. That God is the holy One means that He is set apart from all creatures as the great and glorious One. And who is this God? He is Jehovah (Jahweh in Hebrew), the faithful covenant promising God. He is the 1 am that I am, as revealed to Moses. As such He is the Lord of hosts, that is, of millions of creatures in heaven and on earth. The faithful God of the believers is the sovereign One.

What a tremendous impression this must have made upon the prophet Isaiah! He was simply overwhelmed. We also read that when these hosts of angels sang this song it made the very foundations (not just the building) shake. Does this mean that the prophet even felt this shaking? Perahps so. We are told all this that we, too, may know something of the majesty of this great God of Israel, and of all His people.

This was in the year that the king, Uzziah, died. We ask, why just then? What does the death of the king have to do with it? The answer quite probably is found in the condition of Israel at this time. Uzziah, a righteous king, had ruled for a long time, fifty-two years. The author of the book of II Chronicles gives us a list of his great accomplishments. It had been a time of great prosperity and peace, in which the nations had been shown much divine love.

But now big changes were about to take place. First of all Uzziah, the righteous king, fell into sin by assuming the right of a priest to go into the temple and burn incense. As a result the Lord made him leprous until the day of his death. A sad ending it was for him and Israel. But an eventful change took place also in the relation between Israel and the Lord. Because of their persistent sins, Israel as a people was given lip to hardness of heart and later as a kingdom and country to devastation and annihilation by powers of the world. Very heavy-hearted the pious people of God must have been when they saw this gradually taking place. Is this the cause of the Lord? Is this the future of the church? Such questions they must have asked.

It was at the beginning of this dark period that the Lord gave this vision to Isaiah, as found in Chapter 6. Isaiah must know, God’s people must know, Christians throughollt all time must know what he saw. God, the faithful One, the Jehovah of hosts is still on the throne. He is still the sovereign One, even though it may not seem that way, and often the opposite appears to be true. To Abraham God came telling him that He is the almighty One, to Isaiah the Lord gave a glimpse of the spiritual world and heaven, and what a marvelous glory of the Lord he sees!

When things go wrong as we see them, or when perhaps all seems to be lost, when the future is dark for us as individuals, for dear ones, or for the church, or whatever it may be that makes us discouraged and pessimistic, read Isaiah 6. Try to picture in your own mind and soul what he saw, and remember that this is still true today and always will be!

Isaiah‘s response – “Then said I, Woe is me! I am undone . . . .”

Abraham falls on his face before the Lord. Isaiah responds with these words. There is with both a deep sense of unworthiness, and especially with Isaiah there is a feeling of sin and guilt. About the prophet the commentator Delitzsch says, “To stand there in front of Jehovah of hosts, the exalted King, to whom everything does homage, and to be obliged to remain mute in the consciousness of deep uncleanness, excited within him the annihilating anguish of self-condemnation,The faithful Lord is so great, holy, and glorious in His promises, but men as creatures are not worthy of these blessings. That’s how these two men felt.

Let this truth sink deep into your and my consciousness. When we are troubled and burdened, how much do we think of our sins and unworthiness? Usually we are busy with ourselves and often, in one form or another, rebellious over against God. What these passages teach us is that God is wonderfully great and glorious as the faithful Lord. Listen again to those hosts of angels! But they also teach that even in our greatest need we are not worthy of these promises of power and strength. It is all by His grace. Paul says that Christ is so glorious that it is even a gift of grace to suffer for Him (Phil. 1:29}. Learning this lesson ever anew and trusting in this Lord we can be more patient and persevere in the school of life.