AMI QT Devotionals for November 16-18 are provided by Pastor Paul Liu.
Devotional Thoughts for Today
“The Blessing of Rebuke”
So Abimelech rose early in the morning and called all his servants and told them all these things. And the men were very much afraid. 9 Then Abimelech called Abraham and said to him, “What have you done to us? And how have I sinned against you, that you have brought on me and my kingdom a great sin? You have done to me things that ought not to be done.” 10 And Abimelech said to Abraham, “What did you see, that you did this thing?” 11 Abraham said, “I did it because I thought, ‘There is no fear of God at all in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.’ 12 Besides, she is indeed my sister, the daughter of my father though not the daughter of my mother, and she became my wife. 13 And when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, I said to her, ‘This is the kindness you must do me: at every place to which we come, say of me, “He is my brother.”’” 14 Then Abimelech took sheep and oxen, and male servants and female servants, and gave them to Abraham, and returned Sarah his wife to him. 15 And Abimelech said, “Behold, my land is before you; dwell where it pleases you.” 16 To Sarah he said, “Behold, I have given your brother a thousand pieces of silver. It is a sign of your innocence in the eyes of all who are with you, and before everyone you are vindicated.” 17 Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, and also healed his wife and female slaves so that they bore children. 18 For the Lord had closed all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.
No one likes to hear the words, “I told you so,” even when we know we’re wrong—it just sounds annoying and reeks of condescension. Yet for all the ways we don’t like to have our faults pointed out to us, we usually won’t grow without it. In fact, the apostle Paul tells us: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Notice the functions of Scripture in these verses: teaching, reproof, correction, equipping and training. Yes, there’s a cognitive aspect in teaching, but there is also correction and reproof (NIV says, ‘”rebuking”), which means, if we are to grow in faith, we need the rebuke of Scripture, as well as others to rebuke us according to Scripture. It’s part of our training in faith.
When Abraham moves his family to the Philistine town of Gerar—thinking that nobody fears God there—he acts out of disbelief and fear. He lies that Sarah is his sister and not his wife—which leads to a world of trouble when King Abimelech claims Sarah for himself. So God continues Abraham’s training by using the words of a pagan king to rebuke His own prophet. Abimelech doesn’t say, “I told you so,” but he does question Abraham’s integrity in misleading him and bringing God’s anger against his household. It’s correction. It’s reproof. And like many of us, Abraham doesn’t respond well, becoming defensive and making excuses. He cannot deny his fault, but he doesn’t fully take responsibility for his failures either. It’s a lesson half-hearted learned, which might be why we revisit this same scenario in the life of Abraham’s son in Genesis 26 (same place: Gerar; same problem: fear; same failure: lying that his wife is his sister).
The end result in today’s passage is that God’s prophet blesses his new neighbors from a position of humility and grace. God still uses the trouble-making prophet and humbles him through truthful rebuke.
Prayer: Lord, give me a teachable heart today, so that my pride would not keep me from facing the areas in my life that You want to change. Help me to recognize Your correction, no matter what form it comes in. And give me the strength to take responsibility for my sin so that I might experience the fullness of Your grace. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Jeremiah 16
Lunch Break Study
Read Ephesians 4:14-16: Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Questions to Consider
- How might “teaching,” “cunning,” “craftiness,” and “deceitful scheming” undermine genuine faith?
- Why do you think “speaking the truth in love” is important for the church?
- Is there a person in your life who needs to hear the truth in love? Take a moment to write down biblical truths that need to be incorporated into their life. Begin to pray about how you might share this truth in love. Pray also for opportunities in which you might do so.
- Paul is telling us that maturity inevitably involves discernment—that is, being able to identify what is not true, only partially true, and distortions of the truth. Because until and unless we can do this, we will always be susceptible to manipulation, like children struggling to tread water in the sea; this means, we must nurture an inquisitive mindset when approaching Scripture and seek understanding rather than just taking the word of our spiritual leaders. This does not mean that we are to be skeptical or judgmental; rather, we are to be teachable, eager to learn, and able to study the Bible for ourselves.
- It is the means through which growth happens in the church. It’s truth in love; NOT JUST TRUTH: I’m sure we can all think of instances where someone “gave it to us straight,” and we could not stomach it because of how it was said. And NOT JUST LOVE: Most of us also know the “love” side, where we avoid telling the truth, even to the point of tolerating bad behavior—all in the name of being a good friend. Neither approaches are adequate in Jesus’ church. Telling the truth in love is a matter of attitude and care. Our goal is the growth of our brother and sister; our motive is caring concern; and our approach is truthful but gentle—not belligerent or vengeful. In truth, this approach is also a skill we need to develop, since so much of our previous experience emphasizes one to the neglect of the other (truth over love, or love over truth).
Quote: “Too often, we say we are defeated by this or that sin. No, we are not defeated. We are simply disobedient. It might be good if we stop using the terms victory and defeat to describe our progress in holiness. Rather, we should use the terms obedience and disobedience. When I say I am defeated by some sin, I am unconsciously slipping out from under my responsibility. I am saying something outside of me has defeated me. But when I say I am disobedient, that places the responsibility for my sin squarely on me. We may in fact be defeated, but the reason we are defeated is because we have chosen to disobey.
“We need to brace ourselves up and to realize that we are responsible for thoughts, attitudes, and actions. We need to reckon on the fact that we died to sin’s reign, that it no longer has any dominion over us, that God has united us with the risen Christ in all His power and has given us the Holy Spirit to work in us. Only as we accept our responsibility and appropriate God’s provisions will we make any progress in our pursuit of holiness.”
― Jerry Bridges, The Pursuit of Holiness
We see in the life of Abraham that it’s one thing to be protected by God and another to be teachable. Abraham’s lying becomes a repeated pattern in his life and in the life of his descendants because he failed to receive the correction of God fully. What areas of weakness did the Holy Spirit bring to your awareness today? Pray that God may lead you in rejecting every impulse that comes from fear and insecurity. And ask for His strength to make you courageous, consistent and truthful.