January 20

Genesis 21:10-11 (NIV) 10and she said to Abraham, "Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that slave woman's son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac." 11The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son.

Sarah had enough of Hagar and Ishmael. She now had the son of promise. The Apostle Paul tells us this is a picture of Judaism and Christianity (Galatians 5:22-31). The one was an effort of man trying to bring about the promises of God through human effort. The other is the promise coming to pass by faith. Eventually all our human effort to please God must give way to what God does for us by grace through faith. Those born in the natural way (human effort) will persecute those born of the promise (by grace through faith). All your striving will not make you like the Son. Only a yielding to His life in you can transform you so that His life comes through.

The human effort was causing Abraham a great deal of pain in this passage. He loved Ishmael greatly. He had grown attached to the product of his human effort. That is only natural if that human effort is a son, but we grow attached to our religious efforts as well. When it was necessary for Ishmael to go, Abraham was greatly distressed.

Some of our human efforts, works to please God, 'good' things but things not done at the direction of the Spirit, will have to pass away too. Can we honestly recognize that they are the product of our human efforts and let go of them in preference to the things of God? It will hurt, but that is because we have grown attached to our own ways.

Consider: Is there a religious effort I need to let go of?

January 20

Malachi 3:8-10 (NIV) 8"Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. "But you ask, 'How do we rob you?' "In tithes and offerings. 9You are under a curse–the whole nation of you–because you are robbing me. 10Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it."

This time their question is "How are we to return to you?" The LORD reminded them of their poor excuses for offerings (1:6-14), worthless leftovers. It was a reflection of their evaluation of God. Someone once wisely said, "Show me a person's check book, and I will tell which god they have chosen." We invest in what we believe in and in what we think is best for us. A person of faith lays up treasure in the Kingdom of God because his heart is there. A person that lives for self invests in the pleasures and security of this world.

In chapter one, God asked where was the honor and respect that was due Him? We are indebted. We have received everything from His hand and He deserves an expression of our appreciation. Though 100% is His, He gives us a guideline of 10%. The word 'tithe' literally means 10%. We are no longer under the Law of the Old Testament, but we are under the principles that God was expressing to His people. The principle is that we are indebted to God. We should give at least 10% back to Him to demonstrate that all we have is His. It is an expression of faith in His continued provision.

Refusing to yield to God what is due Him results in a curse. That is not to twist our arm into giving, but to discipline our heart into realizing all we have is from Him. It has also been said that the last part of a person to be converted is the wallet. Perhaps that is because it represents our control over our life.

Consider: Take a look at your check ledger and let God speak to you about the condition of your heart.