Posted in encouragement, hagar, love

Our tender and loving Jesus

I love to preach about Jesus’ wrath against sin. He is so holy, I enjoy pondering that attribute of His, and to think about the justice He will render in rectifying the universe when He banishes all sin from it.

But I also love to think about His love and tenderness. These are aspects of Him too. There are many tender moments in the bible where Jesus is directly involved in the lives of His people in a loving way. Here are a few.

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Jesus cares for the oppressed: Hagar

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)

Hagar was a slave woman, poorly used.

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. She had a female Egyptian servant whose name was Hagar. And Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. So, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her servant, and gave her to Abram her husband as a wife. And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. (Genesis 16:1-4)

It was a common practice. That doesn’t make it any easier. The verses continue in 5-6

And Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done to me be on you! I gave my servant to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt. May the Lord judge between you and me!” But Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your servant is in your power; do to her as you please.” Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her.

So even worse, the situation between the women inflamed with emotion, as it is wont to do when there are too many women in the tent, and not enough men. And worst of all, Abram washed his hands of it. Essentially he said, “What-evah,” and went out. When Hagar fled, she went into the desert. The Angel of the LORD (Jesus) intervened and encouraged Hagar. First He told her to submit to her mistress. Then He promised her that her son would father a great multitudinous nation.

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Some years went by and Hagar was poorly used again. In Genesis 21, Isaac was born and Sarah was triumphant. She told Abraham to cast Hagar and the boy out. And Abraham did. He gave her a skin of water, a bit of bread, the boy Ishmael, and said “See ya.” And sent Hagar to the desert. When her water was gone, she put the boy under a bush because she could not bear to watch him die, and cried out to the LORD. The Angel of the LORD (Jesus) came again, and encouraged her, and prophesied to her.

for I will make him into a great nation” (Genesis 21:18b)

What care Jesus takes for the oppressed and those who piteously cry out! He sees.

So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.” (Genesis 16:13).

Jesus hasn’t stopped doing that. He sees. He intervenes. He cares.

Our Savior is the God who searches hearts.

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” (John 6:37)

Nicodemus was a Pharisee. He was a Pharisee of Pharisees, because he was THE Teacher of Israel. (John 3:10). We all know what kind of relationship the Pharisees had with Jesus, and the relationship that Jesus had with the Pharisees.

Jesus called them serpents. (Matt. 23:33). He called them dead graves (Matt. 23:27). He said they were blind guides, and fools (Matt. 23:16-17). He said they made sons of hell twice as worse as they were. (Matthew 23:15).

Yet when Pharisee Nicodemus came to Jesus, Nicodemus was not called those things. Jesus was not angry. He was patient. He listened. He knew what was in Nicodemus’ heart! He is the God who searches hearts!

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And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works.” (Revelation 2:23b)

He led Nicodemus to the Truth, He received the man who the Father sent, and in no wise did Jesus cast him out. He is a loving God, who sees hearts.

Here is a third scene of tenderness.

Jesus loves the sinners, brokenhearted, downcast. So many people think that one must be good before you turn to Jesus. Many people think that if they make a mistake, they will be sent away from Jesus. Neither are true.

He was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:12).

Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners’” (v. 13). (Matthew 9:9–13)

But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. (Psalm 86:15).

When Jesus was arrested and was being hauled all around town to different trials, in three different settings, members of the crowd asked Peter if he was one of Jesus’ disciples. We know what Peter did. He said “No!” three times. Peter denied even knowing Jesus, in front of many people, just as Jesus had said Peter would. (Matthew 26)

And Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said, “Before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. (Matthew 26:74)

Imagine the guilt! The self-hatred! Peter had been the spokesman for the Disciples for three years! He was fervent for the Lord in the Garden, going so far as to cut the ear off the High Priest’s servant! (John 18:10). And now he denied even knowing Jesus.

No wonder he wept bitterly.

But our tender Jesus did not leave Peter there in that state of guilt and bitter gall. He restored Peter. He met Peter in a private meeting after His resurrection, (Luke 24:34). Jesus also restored Peter publicly. (John 21:15-19). He asked Peter three times if Peter loved Jesus. He publicly restored Peter, and gave him a charge: “Feed My lambs.”

We have a tremendous God. Jesus is loving, holy, patient, kind. He searches hears, is kind, and cares for the oppressed. He is due all glory, and honor, and love. But He is also our friend, and our Father. We cry, “Abba!” and know that He is forever our holy and loving parent, caring for us intimately and personally. How deeply grateful I am, we all should be, for this gift. The gift of Jesus.

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Posted in elijah, encouragement, God, hagar, tender

Tender moments in the bible

There are so many powerful moments in the bible. Where does one begin? Genesis 1, God creates everything, are verses that are awesome to ponder. The resurrection, when Jesus emerged from the tomb alive. God is all-powerful.

There are thunderous moments too. When Mt Sinai trembles, when God was in the earthquake, when He split the ground under Korah and closed it back up again. God is to be feared.

But there are tender moments too. The God of thunder and wrath and all-power is so tender!! I’m not one of these who believes the wrathful God is the Old Testament turned into the sensitive (“boyfriend”) Jesus of the New Testament. Read Revelation and you see it is the same God of wrath and anger against unrighteousness and sin. In the Old Testament (as well as the New), there are very tender moments which show us our Holy God is everything. He is simply everything good- including tenderness.

In Genesis 21:15-19, slave girl Hagar had been misused by Sarah (and Abraham). She and her son Ismael ran away to the wilderness, and there, thirsty, alone, and weak, they prepared to die.

When the water in the skin was gone, she put the child under one of the bushes. 16Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot, for she said, “Let me not look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the boy, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Up! Lift up the boy, and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make him into a great nation.” Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. And she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.

“God heard“, “The Angel of God” [Jesus] called to her from heaven. He assured her. He made promises to her. He opened her eyes so she could drink. What direct, intimate ministration from Holy God in heaven!

In 1 Kings 19:4-8, we see tender ministrations again. Poor Elijah, downcast, alone, and fearing for his life. He, like Hagar, ran to the desert and wanted to die.

Elijah in the wilderness, by Washington Allston, 1817

 But did God let Elijah stay that way? No

Ferdinandus Bol, 1660, Elijah Fed By An Angel

But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.

The angel touched Elijah! He had prepared food for Elijah! He comforted Elijah, and gave him direction and hope. God is so good to us. He does that for us today.

In Matthew 4 we read that Jesus was in the desert 40 days and nights, alone, fasting, and tempted by satan. At the end of the trial, it says in Matthew 4:11,

“Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.”

One might say, ‘Well, of course God would send angels to minister to His Son!’ but perhaps the ministering angels who ministered to Jesus are also some of the same ones who minister to us? Just think on it! Overall, it is to His glory that he is so involved with His people, that ministration is a regular part of His interaction with us!

His ministration with sinful man began at the Garden after the Fall. He personally covered Adam and Eve

Genesis 3:21 says, “And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.”

The God who had just made the Universe, and upholds it by power of His will and His voice, personally made garments for his rebellious children, and wrapped them. I picture a child throwing a tantrum, and saying all sorts of things to his father, including, “No! I don’t wanna! I hate you!” But after the storm is over and the timeout is finished, the father gives the boy a bath, wipes his tear-stained face, and wraps him in a towel. He holds him close to herself, his sniffles diminishing as the very heartbeat of the one who created him him and feeds him and cares for him saturates the boy’s heart and mind, and eventually his brow unfurrows and his face becomes angelic, and he drifts off to sleep, still in his father’s arms.

That is our God. Holy and Fearful, but a caring Father, holding us in His arms until the storm passes by and our rebellion subsides. He is tender. One day, there will be no more tantrums, and no more rebellion. We will love our Father perfectly and completely, just as He loves us now. What a day that will be.

Posted in hagar, living water

Hagar in the wilderness drinking from the living waters of life

Two of my favorite scenes in the bible are the Woman at the Well, and Hagar in the Wilderness. In the former, the Lord ministered to a marginalized woman whose sins had given her an illustrious reputation which preceded her wherever she went.

Hagar was Abraham’s slave and her sin was forced upon her: Sarah (Sarai) concocted a plan to hurry-up God’s plan to get the promised child. She convinced Abram to use Hagar as the maternal vessel. When Hagar became pregnant, Sarah’s jealousy grew, and Sarah death harshly with Hagar.

“But Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your servant is in your power; do to her as you please.” Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her. The angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She said, “I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai.” (Genesis 16:6-8).

The Angel of the LORD is interpreted to be Jesus, pre-incarnate. He told Hagar to go back and to submit, and she did. Genesis 16 has the full account.

The child born to Abraham and Hagar was Ishmael, but as Ishmael grew, Sarah became jealous again. Dissension came up between the two women. Sarah expelled Hagar from the community and with her child, Hagar fled to the desert.

The wilderness is a harsh place and when the water in her pouch ran out, Hagar knew that death would soon come. She placed the boy down near bushes and went to die herself a little ways off, not bearing to see the death of her child.

“In 1835, Camille Corot created this painting, inspired by his trips through the Northern Italian countryside. The painting depicts Hagar and the child Ishmael, dying of starvation and thirst in the hot desert sun. An angel flies in from the background to save the child from an untimely death. When Corot presented this painting at the Paris Saloon in 1835, it created a sensation, as the crowd was in awe of the way Corot portrayed the serene harmony of the setting against the harsh reality of the dying child.” (Source: WikiArt)

Again The the LORD came to Hagar, this time by voice, and comforted her.

“Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot, for she said, “Let me not look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the boy, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Up! Lift up the boy, and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make him into a great nation.” Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. And she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.” (Genesis 21:16-19)

Both times Hagar was in the wilderness, God immediately heard the the plea of her heart and the piteous lonely cries from her mouth. He asked her a similar question as He had asked Adam, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9, Genesis 16:8). Both times Jesus was dispatched to provide life to her, with water. Jesus is the Living Water. He gives life and He sustains life.

Our God is mighty. He is sovereign. He has His plan, which none can thwart. Yet He is tender, and caring, and gentle with His people. I hope the beauty of the painting and the even greater beauty of the Word comforts you today. Cast all your cares upon Jesus, who is the Living Water.

“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”
(John 7:38)