Friday, 15 October 2010
Tasting Grace Changes My Appetite
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be satisfied. Matthew 5:6
No wonder I’m often discontent. I crave so many things besides righteousness. What hope do I have for the blessed life?
“What is cursed living?” asked the preacher last night at church. “It’s Adam and Eve reaching for the fruit. It’s striving, aspiring, wanting to be God. It’s climbing the ladder, relentlessly asking,
‘Am I good enough? Have I done enough?’
It’s living under the tyranny of an unrelieved conscience and an unrelenting God.”
He was describing me. I see the problem of appetite in my life. I see my craving, my striving. But what am I to do about it?
Abraham is like me, we just crave different things. He craved safety and it got him into trouble repeatedly. Twice it was recorded for posterity, but these two episodes were probably just the tip of the iceberg.
Humanly speaking, his hunger for safety makes sense. God had called Abraham from the safety of his family home to a land he didn’t know. He left the familiar for the unfamiliar. Surrounded by strangers, his only Friend was invisible and prone to long silences.
Not only that, but he was “blessed” with a beautiful wife. Drop dead gorgeous, actually. So astonishingly attractive that he assumed kings would kill him to get her. His fears were well founded. At 65 she turned heads in Egypt, and at 90 she was added to the harem of a more local king.
So Abraham reached up to grab the fruit of safety with his own hands. His self-protection plan was ingenious. Sarah was actually his half sister, so he could just emphasize the sister fact and be silent about the wife fact. Her part was to chime in, “Yep. He’s my brother all right.” Simple and hardly even a lie. He would be safe. She? Well, it was probably quite safe in the harem.
God Shows Up
In his craving for personal safety Abraham had forgotten God. But God hadn’t forgotten Abraham. God shows up and begins to speak. What does he say? Does he give up on Abraham? Hand him over to his worst fears? Punish him for craving instead of trusting?
No. God intervenes and fixes everything. He speaks first to the pagan king, warning him not to touch Sarah. The king responds well, giving Sarah back to Abraham and ensuring her honor has not been breached. He also gives Abraham assurances of safety for as long as he stayed there, plus flooding him with gifts of livestock, silver, and land.
Abraham comes out of the incident richer, safer, and more blessed than before. Not only that, he ends up being a blessing to this pagan king, despite himself. Rather than cursing Abraham, God had blessed him and blessed others through him. Just like he had promised to do thirty years before.
Are you shocked by this? I am. The safety Abraham craved was the very gift God gave him. God didn’t just give Abraham more than he deserved, he gave him the opposite of what he deserved. That’s grace. That’s the flood of good that flows from the Fountain of goodness.
But something doesn’t sit right with this incident. Abraham gets off too easy. The king, Abimelech, paid a price for Abraham’s sin. And Sarah was the silent victim. It’s actually quite scandalous. Who paid the price for the grace Abraham received that day?
We have to go back to Genesis 15 for the answer to that conundrum. That was the day God made his promise of blessing certain. He set up a ceremony for a two-way blood oath, and just at the solemn moment when God and Abraham were to say their vows, he put Abraham into a deep sleep. “May I be cut in half if I fail to bless you as I’ve promised,” was God’s oath that day, “And may I be cut in half if you fail to fulfill your part of the bargain.”
It was Christ who bore the cost for Abraham’s craving that day. And it’s Christ who bears the cost for mine.
That’s why God pours blessing on me even when I don’t hunger for righteousness. And that changes my appetite.