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Progressive Revelation

03 Mar

5Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Prov. 3:5-6).

One of the hallmarks of a Christian is to walk in obedience to the will of God – for we know this will be well-pleasing unto the Lord. As we take this journey, we realize that it is easier to stray from the narrow path and find ourselves in a spiritual wilderness. Sometimes, this could be due to our lack of submission to the will of God. Another possible reason is that we could not discern the will of God in our lives. The latter is perhaps, by far, the most difficult aspect concerning the will of God in one’s life. Though we have the Holy Scriptures to guide us in the general direction, however, there is no clear-cut formula to discern God’s will in certain episodes of our life.

Take for example, the life of David. The Philistines gathered at the valley of Rephaim when they heard that David was anointed king over Israel (2Sam. 5:17-23). David enquired of the Lord if he should fight the Philistines and the Lord answered “Go up”. God gave David the victory. In the next verse, the Bible records that Philistines spread themselves again at the same place to fight against David. Presumably, a time period had lapsed between these two gatherings. A case of déjà vu? What would David do? David was not presumptuous in discerning the will of God. Again, he enquired of the Lord on what to do but this time the answer was “Thou shalt not go up” (2Sam. 5:23). This episode highlights to us the dynamic will of God at work. God’s will on what we should do is not constrained by a specific prescribed formula; whereby a same set of parameters in a certain situation will warrant the same response from the Lord. This is clearly demonstrated in the case of David and the Philistines. Such is the difficulties in attempting to discern God’s will for our lives by our own human wisdom!

The silver lining in the cloud of God’s dynamic will is that God never leaves us clueless and directionless about what to do. Instead, He guides His people through a progressive revelation of His will. This was clearly seen in how God guided Abraham in the execution of His will concerning the promise of the seed. When God called Abraham out of the Ur of the Chaldees, He promised Abraham that He would make of him a great nation (Gen. 12:2). Abraham was already old but he was filled with faith and looked forward to the fulfilment of this promise of God. A number of years passed by quickly and Abraham still had no son. What could Abraham do? Abraham did what any “good Christian” will do – he attempted to help God to accomplish His will! How? He intended to adopt his faithful steward, Eliezer, to be his son. In this manner, Abraham reasoned that God’s promise would come to pass. But God had other plans. He revealed to Abraham that “he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir” (Gen. 15:4). This means that Abraham would have a biological son to inherit the promise, and not an adopted son. With this insight, Abraham realized his error and realigned his walk in the will of God; and attempted to have a child biologically.

A number of years passed by quickly again, and Abraham tried hard and had yet to have a child with his wife Sarah, let alone a son. What could Sarah do? Sarah did what any “good Christian” will do – she attempted to help God accomplish His will.

She offered her handmaid, Hagar, to Abraham to bear a child for them both (Gen. 16:1-3). This was a common remedy in the ancient Middle-East culture then. Abraham hearkened unto his wife and went in with the maid. Hagar conceived and gave birth to a son, Ishmael. Abraham must have thought that finally God’s promise unto him was fulfilled. It was at such moment that God again revealed His will further to Abraham – Ishmael would not be the heir to the special blessings of God’s promise unto him. Instead, the heir would be a biological son whom Abraham would have with Sarah and would be called Isaac (Gen. 17:19).

Had Abraham erred in his faith over this whole episode of fulfilling God’s promise? Had he been rebelling against the will of God by taking in Hagar to bear a child for him? But, think for a moment, and put yourself in Abraham’s shoes. When God gave Abraham the promise, God did not stipulate how this heir would come about. Hence, Abraham intended to adopt his steward to be his heir. When God revealed that the heir would be his biological son, Abraham thought that having a child with Hagar would not be violating this will of God for the child born would indeed be a son from his own bowels. It is only when God further revealed unto Abraham that the heir would be a son whom He would have with Sarah, and would be called Isaac, then was the revelation complete.

An important lesson for us to learn in this aspect of Abraham’s life is the nature of the revelation of God’s will. God’s will is dynamic and God does not reveal all the details of His will to us completely at one go but progressively. To walk in this will of God requires us to constantly tune our frequency to His will. We cannot assume the path we take towards this destination is correct. We have to enquire of the Lord constantly – to check our action such that it is coherent to His will every step of the way. For example, if you are called to be a missionary and you heard that there is an urgent need for missionaries to India. In your own human wisdom, it would seem a logical and obvious choice for you to serve there. However, that may not the mission field which the Lord wants you to be in. We cannot simply assume the will of God in our life by the parameters we see and determine God’s will by our own wisdom. We need to pray and seek the Lord to ascertain His will. The Bible reminds, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8-9).

At times, the will of God is not clearly revealed even when we seek Him in prayer. Take note that this is the wisdom of God. If He were to reveal everything to us immediately, the tendency of our human nature is to attempt to live a life by our own wisdom, independent of God. But if God reveals His will progressively to us, we have no choice but to learn to depend upon God each step of the way. Such is the wisdom of God! So, in regard to doing the will of God, we must learn not to act presumptuously, notwithstanding all our good intention. Instead, let us learn to seek out God’s will for our life diligently each step of our ways and follow God’s leading and guidance through a progressive revelation of His will. We need to trust God and not our own human wisdom. So, let us “5Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Prov. 3:5-6). Have you been trusting God to lead you in His progressive revelation or are you living a life leaning upon your own understanding?

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