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Friday, 5 August 2016

Being a good witness.

As I continued in my private devotional readings in the Book of Genesis, this morning, I was reading in chapter 12.  This is a very significant chapter as, after the first eleven chapters and their generally world-view, the record moves to the story of just one man and his descendants.  The man is Abram (later to be known as Abraham), and the interesting thing about his descendants is that he was childless!

I am an avid reader.  I love books.  I read almost anything that is readable.  But the Bible is different from any other book that I have ever read - and this morning reminded me of why that is.  You see, there are very few of the other books that I have read that I would return to - and even those to which I have returned have not provided me with any new insight in the second reading.  The Bible, however, is the living Word of Almighty God and, as such, always has something new to say to those who approach it with reverence.  I have absolutely no idea how many times I have read Genesis 12! Yet this morning, I realised something that hadn't hit me before (although countless others will undoubtedly have seen this in the past!).  It's to do with "being a witness".

Abram showed great faith and obedience when he left Haran at God's command.  I love the link between 12:1 and 12:4 - "Now YHWH said to Abram 'Go' .... So Abram went."!  No discussion; no consultation; no forming of a committee to discuss the proposition.  It was a command, and Abram immediately obeyed!  He arrived in the land of Canaan, and it was then that YHWH informed him that He was giving this land to Abram - and to his descendants.  Remember, he is now more than seventy-five years old, and still childless!  

As he journeyed, he witnessed by building altars to the one true God (vs 7 & 8).  But then famine struck the land.  What would this man of faith do now?  We might expect him to build another altar and call upon the Name of YHWH.  We might expect him to encourage his Canaanite neighbours to trust in the Creator God. What actually happens is that he goes down to Egypt!  

Worse is to come.  He realises that Sarai, his wife, is a beautiful woman (in this period relatively soon after the Flood, it would appear that time was not yet ravaging the human body, even if man's life span had been drastically shortened!) and that the Egyptians might kill him so that one of them could have her for his wife.  So, he hit upon a cunning plan - Sarai was to say that she was his sister (not wholly untrue, by the way: see 20:12) and thus his life would be spared.  

Do you see what has happened?  The man of faith has become a man of fear; the man who worshipped the Creator God has become more concerned about his own skin.  Regretfully, things didn't work out quite as he may have expected!  He was indeed spared - but the pharaoh took Sarai into his harem!  The result of this was that YHWH "... afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sar'ai, Abram's wife." (v.17) - not a punishment, but a warning.  The pharaoh was not a happy man!  He sent for Abram: "'What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? Why did you say, 'She is my sister,' so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife, take her, and be gone.' And Pharaoh gave men orders concerning him; and they set him on the way, with his wife and all that he had." (vs.18-20). 

It was one of those situations in which the unbeliever acts in a more godly way than the professed believer.  Abram's witness to the one true God was destroyed.  

So what has this got to say to you, and to me?  It is a reminder that, if we claim to be disciples of Jesus, then we are constantly witnessing.  There is never a time when we are not witnessing.  The only question is: "Am I being a good witness - or a bad one?"  Whether we are in the home, in the office, in the shop, at our recreational activities, or wherever, we are being watched by others who want to see what difference being a disciple of Jesus makes to one's life.  If they see nothing but a reflection of themselves, why would they want Jesus?

It was just on Sunday that I quoted the little poem that begins: “Christ has no hands but our hands to do His work today;"  It is as  true today as it was then - and it always will be!   Do the people in the place where you work; the home in which you live; the places you frequent for recreation; know that you claim to be a disciple of Jesus?  If you haven't told them, would they know by your witness?  Do you always behave as if Jesus was beside you, in the flesh?  He is, of course, by the Spirit!

I was challenged, this morning, by reading again about Abram.  Perhaps I've been led to share it in order that you might be challenged too!

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