[The demon Screwtape writes:] The humans live in time but our Enemy destines them to eternity. He therefore, I believe, wants them to attend chiefly to two things, to eternity itself, and to that point of time which they call the Present. For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity. Of the present moment, and of it only, humans have an experience analogous to the experience which our Enemy has of reality as a whole; in it alone freedom and actuality are offered them. He would therefore have them continually concerned either with eternity (which means being concerned with Him) or with the Present—either meditating on their eternal union with, or separation from, Himself, or else obeying the present voice of conscience, bearing the present cross, receiving the present grace, giving thanks for the present pleasure.
Our business is to get them away from the eternal, and from the Present. With this in view, we sometimes tempt a human (say a widow or a scholar) to live in the Past. But this is of limited value, for they have some real knowledge of the past and it has a determinate nature and, to that extent, resembles eternity. It is far better to make them live in the Future. Biological necessity makes all their passions point in that direction already, so that thought about the Future inflames hope and fear. Also, it is unknown to them, so that in making them think about it we make them think of unrealities. In a word, the Future is, of all things, the thing least like eternity. It is the most completely temporal part of time—for the Past is frozen and no longer flows, and the Present is all lit up with eternal rays.
Well-fortified cities have broad walls, and so did Jerusalem in her glory days. The New Jerusalem must, similarly, be surrounded and preserved by a broad wall of nonconformity to the world and separation from its patterns and ideas. There is a tendency today to break down this holy barrier and make the distinction between the Church and the world merely nominal. Believers are no longer fixed on godliness, questionable literature is widely read, frivolous pastimes are eagerly indulged, and a general laxity threatens to deprive the Lord’s special people of those sacred distinctives that separate them from sinners. It will be a bad day for the Church and the world when the proposed amalgamation is complete, and the sons of God and the daughters of men shall be united, and another deluge of wrath is ushered in. Beloved reader, make it your aim in heart, in word, in dress, in action to maintain the broad wall, remembering that the friendship of this world is enmity against God.
The Broad Wall provided a pleasant place of relaxation for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, from which they enjoyed sweeping views of the surrounding country. This reminds us of the Lord’s exceedingly broad commandments, which provide a pathway to freedom and communion with Jesus. From here we look upon the scenes of earth and gaze toward the glories of heaven. Separated from the world, and denying ourselves all ungodliness and fleshly lusts, we are not in prison nor restricted within narrow boundaries; no, we walk in freedom, because we keep His commands.
Come, reader; this evening walk with God in His statutes. As friend met friend upon the city wall, so meet your God on the path of holy prayer and meditation. You have every right to stand upon the walls of salvation, for you have been given the key to the King’s city—you are a citizen of the metropolis of the universe.
The story of the prodigal son moves my heart to delve into the depths of God’s limitless grace. I find myself in every facet of Jesus’ words. I identify with both the son’s rebellion and the power of the father’s love. As children of God we are in constant need of reminders about God’s mercy toward us. When the world rejects us, God calls us in. When the world writes us off, God clothes us with righteousness and honor. May this transformative story of the prodigal son guide you to a deeper and more intimate relationship with your loving heavenly Father.
“And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”
Devotional No single passage of Scripture has impacted my life in greater ways than Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son. I find myself in every facet of this story. I see my own sin and pride in the foolishness of the son to run from the Father. I see the despair and destitution that results from my own sin as the son longs for the slop he feeds to pigs. I see my desperate need for forgiveness, grace, and restoration in the son’s return. And more than anything, I see the unfathomable grace of my heavenly Father as the father in the story runs out to embrace his disobedient and wayward child. Rather than beginning this week on the prodigal son with my own thoughts, take time to allow the entirety of Jesus’ words in this transformative story to impact your life. Ask the Holy Spirit for fresh eyes today. Find yourself in Jesus’ words. I pray that you will feel the selfishness and rebellion in the prodigal son. I pray that you will feel the despair and loneliness that comes from sin and separation from the Father. And I pray that you will feel the loving embrace of your heavenly Father as the heart of your God is clearly displayed through this life-changing story. “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”‘ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.“Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found’” (Luke 15:11-32).
If we go back in Genesis to the time when God called Abram to be the father of a great nation, we see that over and over again, Abram and Sarai faced one big problem in their lives. They couldn’t seem to wait for anything. As a pair they were constantly running ahead of God while they tried to work everything out for themselves. It is this, “I can do it on my own” attitude that led them to Egypt, that brought Hagar into their lives, and that finally led to the birth of Ishmael.
Time and again though, our gracious God, rather than turning His back on His two headstrong children, worked with them, leading them over some of the same territory as He gently taught both Abraham and Sarah that following God is the only way to a truly happy and harmonious life. In the wonderful words of R. C. Sproul, “We are called to live in the presence of God, under the authority of God and to the glory of God.”
No where is this truth lived out so well as in the life of Abraham when he obeyed God’s request to give his only, promised son as a sacrifice. This time, instead of going it alone, Abraham waited for God to “provide a lamb,” which God did.
But there’s one more experience hidden away in Scripture that warrants our attention for this is just one more example which shows us that Abraham had learned it is better to wait than wander.
In Genesis 25:1, we find that after Sarah died, Abraham married again. Most likely, like many individuals who have lost a mate, Abraham found himself lonely. But here’s an important lesson for us to learn. Before Abraham ran off into the arms of a new woman, he made certain Sarah had a proper burial and that Isaac was comforted and also that he had found a wonderful woman in Rebekah to be the mate for his only son, Isaac. Abraham tended and cared for his first family before he took on the responsibilities of a second family.
I find this to be a wonderful lesson because Abraham waited to bring someone new into the family mix until the healing had taken place after Sarah’s death, not only in his own life, but in the life of his child, Isaac.
Over the last few years, as I have watched friends lose a parent and then have their surviving parent remarry, I’ve watched as severe rifts have developed when individuals haven’t waited for healing before plunging into a new relationship and bringing a new person into a family unit that still may be fractured by pain. Abraham’s waiting shows he had learned that he needed to follow God rather than impetuously rush ahead even in matters of the heart.
There’s more we can learn as well. And it is from Keturah, the second wife in Abraham’s life.
Keturah, being wife number two, was not to be envied. Memories can be difficult to live with, especially if those memories are held up as an example for wife number two.
In Abraham’s case, historians believe Keturah to have been fairly young. She has been described as a beautiful Hittite woman, who married an elderly rich man. Living in the shadow of the beloved wife and mother, Sarah, certainly had to be difficult indeed. It would be for any woman in such a situation.
But counselors offer this advice for all “Keturahs.”
Advice #1: Remember that negative thoughts and feelings like jealous insecurity will only be like gasoline poured on a fire.
Advice #2: Acknowledge the past but live in the present. I believe this is great advice for all “Keturahs” who find they are not number 1.
As we learn, Keturah had six sons that we know about, and interestingly enough, we don’t read about any painful battles or jealous outbursts between family #1 and family #2. I believe this is because Abraham learned that waiting on God brings true happiness into our lives.
“When we fail to wait prayerfully for God’s guidance and strength, we are saying with our actions if not our lips, that we do not need Him.”
“Lord, I am yours, I was born for you;
what is your will for me?
Let me be rich or beggared,
exulting or lamenting
comforted or lonely;
since I am yours, yours only,
what is your will for me?
St. Teresa of Avila
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author When A Woman Meets Jesus
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