God Will Help You

“For I am the LORD your God
      who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, Do not fear;
      I will help you.
Do not be afraid, you worm Jacob,
      little Israel, do not fear,
for I myself will help you,” declares the LORD,
      your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. — Isaiah 41:13–14

The  portion for this week, , which means “go to yourself,” is from Genesis12:1–17:27, and the  is from Isaiah 40:27–41:16.

There is an old Jewish Hasidic tale about the great Rabbi David of Lelov, who was on his way to visit his own teacher. On the way, he stopped at the home of a friend who was planning to join him. When the famed rabbi arrived, the friend quickly told his wife to prepare a meal for the rabbi. The wife was astounded. The family was extremely poor and all she had was flour – not a pinch of salt or a drop of oil. Still, the woman went out to the forest to gather twigs for a fire and boiled dumplings for her husband and the rabbi.

When Rabbi David returned from his journey he told his wife all about it, including the meal that he had at his friend’s house. He said, “My friend’s wife prepared such a delicacy, it tasted like it had been spiced with herbs from the Garden of Eden!” Rabbi David’s wife went to the friend’s house and asked his wife for the recipe of the delicacy her husband spoke of. The woman replied, “What delicacy? It was only flour and water!” “But that’s impossible,” said Rabbi David’s wife. “My husband said that it tasted like something out of Eden!” “My God!” the woman exclaimed. “As I was gathering twigs for the fire I prayed to God. I told Him that I had nothing, but that He had everything including the Garden of Eden. I asked God to add some spice from Eden so that the meal should be pleasing to the rabbi. God must have heard my prayers!”

This story has so many lessons for us. One is that, really, we all have nothing; we are nothing without God. But God, who has everything, can give us something and make us into something. With God, all things are possible, but without Him, we’ve got nothing.

In this week’s Haftorah reading God said: “Do not be afraid, you worm Jacob, little Israel, do not fear, for I myself will help you . . .” God called Jacob a “worm,” and Israel, “little.” In essence, God was saying, “You can’t do it without Me, but I will help you and then you can do anything.”

Earlier in this Haftorah reading, the prophet Isaiah made reference to Abraham who had been miraculously victorious in the battle that we read about in this week’s Torah reading. What won the battle? Was it Abraham’s strength? No, said Isaiah, it was God.

Today, as we face life’s challenges, remember that we can’t handle them – at least not on our own. But God says: “I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”

Psalm 51:10 Renew a right spirit within me.

A backslider, if there be a spark of life left in him will groan after restoration. In this renewal the same exercise of grace is required as at our conversion. We needed repentance then; we certainly need it now. We wanted faith that we might come to Christ at first; only the like grace can bring us to Jesus now. We wanted a word from the Most High, a word from the lip of the loving One, to end our fears then; we shall soon discover, when under a sense of present sin, that we need it now. No man can be renewed without as real and true a manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s energy as he felt at first, because the work is as great, and flesh and blood are as much in the way now as ever they were. Let thy personal weakness, O Christian, be an argument to make thee pray earnestly to thy God for help. Remember, David when he felt himself to be powerless, did not fold his arms or close his lips, but he hastened to the mercy-seat with “renew a right spirit within me.” Let not the doctrine that you, unaided, can do nothing, make you sleep; but let it be a goad in your side to drive you with an awful earnestness to Israel’s strong Helper. O that you may have grace to plead with God, as though you pleaded for your very life-“Lord, renew a right spirit within me.” He who sincerely prays to God to do this, will prove his honesty by using the means through which God works. Be much in prayer; live much upon the Word of God; kill the lusts which have driven your Lord from you; be careful to watch over the future uprisings of sin. The Lord has His own appointed ways; sit by the wayside and you will be ready when He passes by. Continue in all those blessed ordinances which will foster and nourish your dying graces; and, knowing that all the power must proceed from Him, cease not to cry, “Renew a right spirit within me.”

Taking Your Place in God’s Family

God places the lonely in families.” Ps 68:6 NLT

Life in God’s family can be challenging. To enjoy and fulfill your role as a family member you must understand three things: (1) Your rights. When you trusted Christ as your Savior you became a member of God’s redeemed family (See Jn 3:3-6). That means you have the right to be accepted, loved, protected, respected, provided for, trained, equipped, and rewarded. Regardless of your past mistakes, God guarantees you these rights, so embrace and enjoy them. (2) The rules of the house. Without the rule of law, you end up with anarchy. And it’s the same in a family. Can you imagine what would happen if the kids ran the house? Well, God’s family isn’t a democracy. You don’t get to vote on the rules. God has established unchanging principles in His Word that guarantee His blessing. “If you are…obedient, you shall eat the good of the land” (Isa1:19 NKJV). (3) Our responsibilities to one another. You’re called to accept, love and help your brothers and sisters even when they’re selfish, immature, critical, and irresponsible. Remember that God’s family is still “under construction,” but it’s way better than any other alternative! You need to participate in regular family life and activities. Early church believers met together “daily” (See Ac 2:46); as a result they survived all Satan’s attempts to destroy them. So support the life and mission of your church family with your tithes, talent, and time. Don’t just be a taker; “God loves a cheerful giver” (2Co9:7 NIV).

Keep the Faith

Then the word of the LORD came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness. — Genesis 15:4–6

The  portion for this week, , which means “go to yourself,” is from Genesis12:1–17:27, and the  is from Isaiah 40:27–41:16.

Toward the end of this week’s reading, Abraham began to think that God’s promise would not come to pass – at least not in the way that Abraham thought it would. He began to believe that by a successor, God really meant Abraham’s trusted servant, Eliezer. However, God came to Abraham and said in essence, “I meant what I said – you will have a son.”“This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.”

Next, God took Abraham outside and directed him to look up at the starry night sky, assuring Abraham that his children would be as numerous as the stars in the heavens. In the next verse we read: “Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.”

The Sages are bothered by this verse. It’s nice that Abraham believed God, but what does it mean that God “credited it to him as righteousness”? After all, would we expect any less from Abraham? He already believed in God, and God had appeared to Him and spelled out what would happen in no uncertain terms. I’d like to believe that even you and I would believe God if He appeared and promised something to us right now!

The Sages conclude that what made Abraham’s faith unique and noteworthy was that this was the first time that he was asked to have faith in what, by all natural accounts, was impossible. Abraham was old, Sarah well passed her childbearing years. They couldn’t produce a child even in their most fertile years. God’s promise didn’t make rational sense, and yet, Abraham believed.

That’s why God pointed out the night sky. God was telling Abraham, and all of us, that when things seem the darkest, we need to focus on the stars – on His promises. No matter how confusing life can get, we need to focus on what we know for sure – that God’s promises will come to pass and that His blessings are too numerous to count.

Once Abraham passed that test of faith, he became worthy of having Isaac. This is what the verse means when it says that God gave Abraham credit. Now, Abraham was ready.

In the same way, when we go through the dark times in our lives, we need to focus on God’s promises and stay obedient in faith. God is ready to fulfill His promises, but sometimes we aren’t quite ready yet. The challenge before us right now could be the test of faith that gets us ready to receive all that God wants to give us. No one should ever give up or give in to despair. Focus on the stars, not the darkness, and keep the faith.

Psalm 9:1 I will praise Thee, O Lord.  

Praise should always follow answered prayer; as the mist of earth’s gratitude rises when the sun of heaven’s love warms the ground. Hath the Lord been gracious to thee, and inclined His ear to the voice of thy supplication? Then praise Him as long as thou livest. Let the ripe fruit drop upon the fertile soil from which it drew its life. Deny not a song to Him who hath answered thy prayer and given thee the desire of thy heart. To be silent over God’s mercies is to incur the guilt of ingratitude; it is to act as basely as the nine lepers, who after they had been cured of their leprosy, returned not to give thanks unto the healing Lord. To forget to praise God is to refuse to benefit ourselves; for praise, like prayer, is one great means of promoting the growth of the spiritual life. It helps to remove our burdens, to excite our hope, to increase our faith. It is a healthful and invigorating exercise which quickens the pulse of the believer, and nerves him for fresh enterprises in his Master’s service. To bless God for mercies received is also the way to benefit our fellow-men; “the humble shall hear thereof and be glad.” Others who have been in like circumstances shall take comfort if we can say, “Oh! magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together; this poor man cried, and the Lord heard him.” Weak hearts will be strengthened, and drooping saints will be revived as they listen to our “songs of deliverance.” Their doubts and fears will be rebuked, as we teach and admonish one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. They too shall “sing in the ways of the Lord,” when they hear us magnify His holy name. Praise is the most heavenly of Christian duties. The angels pray not, but they cease not to praise both day and night; and the redeemed, clothed in white robes, with palm-branches in their hands, are never weary of singing the new song, “Worthy is the Lamb.”