Day 8

Nothing is Too Hard for the Lord

Wisdom Proverbs 1:8-19
New Testament Matthew 6:25-7:23
Old Testament Genesis 17:1-18:33

Introduction

Are you facing a seemingly impossible situation in your life? Is there an apparently irretrievable breakdown in a relationship? A serious health issue? An almost impossible challenge in your job? Is there a habit or an addiction that you are finding hard to break?

Whatever challenges you may face in the year ahead, nothing is too hard for the Lord.

Abraham was a hundred years old. His wife Sarah was ninety. God promised them a son. They said, in effect, ‘That is impossible.’ This is the context of the great rhetorical question: ‘Is anything too hard for the Lord?’ (Genesis 18:14). The answer is ‘No’. If Sarah could conceive when ‘already very old, and… past the age of childbearing’ (v.11), then nothing is too hard for the Lord.

In each of the three great challenges we see in today’s passages we need to remember that nothing is too hard for the Lord.

Wisdom

Proverbs 1:8-19

Prologue: Exhortations to Embrace Wisdom

Warning Against the Invitation of Sinful Men

    8 Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction
        and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.
    9 They are a garland to grace your head
        and a chain to adorn your neck.

    10 My son, if sinful men entice you,
        do not give in to them.
    11 If they say, “Come along with us;
        let’s lie in wait for innocent blood,
        let’s ambush some harmless soul;
    12 let’s swallow them alive, like the grave,
        and whole, like those who go down to the pit;
    13 we will get all sorts of valuable things
        and fill our houses with plunder;
    14 cast lots with us;
        we will all share the loot ”—
    15 my son, do not go along with them,
        do not set foot on their paths;
    16 for their feet rush into evil,
        they are swift to shed blood.
    17 How useless to spread a net
        where every bird can see it!
    18 These men lie in wait for their own blood;
        they ambush only themselves!
    19 Such are the paths of all who go after ill-gotten gain;
        it takes away the life of those who get it.

Commentary

Resist the temptations

Jesus never tells us to withdraw from the world. The challenge is to be ‘in the world’ but not ‘of the world’. You are called to resist the temptations of the world around you.

The book of Proverbs gives practical advice on how to achieve that balance. Don’t let others entice you into sin: ‘If bad companions tempt you, don’t go along with them’ (v.10, MSG). ‘If they say, “Come along with us…”’ (v.11), do not to give in to them.

When I was practising as a barrister I noticed how many people were led into crime by others saying to them, ‘Come along with us.

Don’t be enticed into sin by the fact that everybody else seems to be doing something – evading tax or travel fares, getting drunk or being promiscuous. Don’t follow the crowd: ‘Do not set foot on their paths’ (v.15). Something is not acceptable just because others are doing it. I can’t justify my actions on the basis that it is the way in which the world works.

In the end, if your ‘feet rush into sin’ (v.16), or you go after ‘ill-gotten gain’ (v.19a), it takes away your life. ‘When you grab all you can get, that’s what happens: the more you get, the less you are’ (v.19, MSG).

The enticement of the world is very strong. Yet, nothing is too hard for the Lord.

Prayer

Lord, I pray that in the year ahead you will give me the strength to resist all the temptations of the world and not to be enticed into sin.

New Testament

Matthew 6:25-7:23

Do Not Worry

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Judging Others

7“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

6 “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

Ask, Seek, Knock

7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

The Narrow and Wide Gates

13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

True and False Prophets

15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

True and False Disciples

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

Commentary

Live the Jesus lifestyle

Jesus’ words are the greatest words ever spoken. They are so challenging. For example, he says, ‘do to others what you would have them to do you’ (7:12). This golden rule is beautifully simple but seems almost impossibly hard to live out. ‘Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them’ (v.12, MSG).

The great challenge is putting Jesus’ words into practice. His instructions are clear, but the standards seem impossibly high. Yet, nothing is too hard for the Lord.

  • Stop worrying and start living

    Jesus commands you not to worry about your life or material things (6:25,28–31). Think ahead, plan ahead, but don’t worry ahead. Trust in your Heavenly Father to provide (v.26). He knows your every need (v.32). Faith is the antidote to worry.

    You cannot add a single hour to your life by worrying (v.27). As Corrie ten Boom put it: ‘Worry does not empty tomorrow of sorrow; but it empties today of strength.’

    Live in day-tight compartments. Live one day at a time. Don’t borrow trouble from tomorrow: ‘each day has enough trouble of its own’ (v.34b). Make a decision today not to worry about tomorrow. Trust God to provide for you one day at a time.

  • Sort out your priorities

    Jesus tells you to change your ambitions and priorities. Seek God for who he is and not for what he can do for you. Like us, God does not want his friends only to be interested in what they can get out of him. He wants you to seek his ‘presence’ not just his ‘presents’.

    Take on a new set of responsibilities that are both exciting and challenging: ‘seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be yours as well’ (v.33).

  • Do not be judgmental

    We are not to take pleasure in judging others, not to enjoy seeking out other people’s failings or presuming their actions spring from bad motives. If we knew what people had been through, their sorrow and their suffering, we would not be so quick to judge. Jesus tells us to get our own lives sorted out first. We are to change ourselves before we try and change other people (7:1–5). Rather than sowing harsh criticism and judgment, sow mercy, kindness and love.

  • Persist in prayer

    Don’t be repetitious, but be persistent. Jesus makes wonderful promises of answered prayer (vv.7–8). He promises ‘good gifts’ as you pray (vv.9–11).

  • Choose to live a radical life

    Stay on the narrow road that leads to life (vv.13–14). On the narrow road there is no room for pride, dishonesty, anger, hatred of enemies or unforgiveness.

    Humility is the order of the day. You have to give, pray, exercise self-control and seek first the kingdom of God. It is a road of purity, integrity, honesty and forgiveness. It is a road where you are required to ‘do to others what you would have them do to you’ (v.12). You are to show good fruit – by your character, lifestyle, teaching, actions, impact and relationships (vv.15–23).

Prayer

Lord, as I face the challenge of living the Jesus lifestyle this year, thank you that nothing is impossible with you. Fill me today with your Holy Spirit and help me to live the kind of life that deep down I long to live.

Old Testament

Genesis 17:1-18:33

The Covenant of Circumcision

17When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. 2 Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”

3 Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, 4 “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. 5 No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. 6 I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. 7 I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. 8 The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God. ”

9 Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. 10 This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring. 13 Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant. ”

15 God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. 16 I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”

17 Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” 18 And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”

19 Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. 20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. 21 But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.” 22 When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him.

23 On that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household or bought with his money, every male in his household, and circumcised them, as God told him. 24 Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised, 25 and his son Ishmael was thirteen; 26 Abraham and his son Ishmael were both circumcised on that very day. 27 And every male in Abraham’s household , including those born in his household or bought from a foreigner, was circumcised with him.

The Three Visitors

18The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. 2 Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.

3 He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. 4 Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. 5 Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.”

“Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.”

6 So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three seahs of the finest flour and knead it and bake some bread.”

7 Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. 8 He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree.

9 “Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him.

“There, in the tent, ” he said.

10 Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”

Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. 11 Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”

13 Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”

15 Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.”

But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.”

Abraham Pleads for Sodom

16 When the men got up to leave, they looked down toward Sodom, and Abraham walked along with them to see them on their way. 17 Then the Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? 18 Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. 19 For I have chosen him , so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”

20 Then the Lord said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous 21 that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.”

22 The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the Lord. 23 Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing —to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

26 The Lord said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake. ”

27 Then Abraham spoke up again: “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, 28 what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five people?”

“If I find forty-five there,” he said, “I will not destroy it.”

29 Once again he spoke to him, “What if only forty are found there?”

He said, “For the sake of forty, I will not do it.”

30 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?”

He answered, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.”

31 Abraham said, “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?”

He said, “For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it.”

32 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?”

He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”

33 When the Lord had finished speaking with Abraham, he left, and Abraham returned home.

Commentary

Trust the Lord in difficult times

The Lord appears to Abraham and sets before him a huge challenge: ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless’ (17:1). Then he makes a wonderful promise: ‘I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers’ (v.2). No wonder Abraham ‘fell face down’ (v.3).

God makes a covenant with Abraham. He promises him the land of Canaan, and also that many descendants and nations will come from him (vv.4–8). This promise is highlighted by God in the name change from Abram to Abraham, as Abraham means ‘father of many nations’ (v.5). God also changes Sarai’s name to Sarah – who was to be ‘the mother of nations’ (v.16). The sign of the covenant was circumcision (v.9 onwards).

God did not just say once to Abraham that he would have a son. He confirmed it time and time again (15:4; 17:16; 18:10). You can expect God to speak to you about major matters in your life and confirm them many times over.

Abraham’s relationship with God is very intimate. God engages in conversation with Abraham. Abraham pleads with him about Ishmael. God’s response is ‘Yes, but...’ (17:19). He says he is not only going to answer Abraham’s prayer for Ishmael, he is also going to do more than Abraham could have ever asked or even imagined (vv.19–21).

The third time that God made this promise to Abraham he sent the ‘three visitors’ (18:1–15). As we read this through New Testament eyes, we can see an image of the Trinity here. It is clear that there are three of them (v.2) and yet it seems they speak as one: ‘Then the Lord said…’ (v.13).

God promises, ‘I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son’ (v.10). Sarah laughs. She thinks, ‘After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?’ (v.12).

It is encouraging that Sarah also had the usual human weaknesses. The Lord says to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh and say, “Will I really have a child, now that I am old?”’ (v.13). ‘Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh”’ (v.15). We all are tempted sometimes to lie to get ourselves out of trouble. With the exception of Jesus, the Bible never presents the great men and women of God as faultless.

The Lord’s response is to repeat his promise and ask rhetorically: ‘Is anything too hard for the Lord?’ (v.14a)

Prayer

Lord, help me this year to continue to trust in you. Thank you that, whatever the issues I am facing in my life, nothing is too hard for you.

Pippa adds

Matthew 6:25

‘Do not worry about your life…’

I have spent far too much time worrying about things in my life – family, illness, problems, work, relationships, even what to wear…! I find it difficult not to worry at all. If you don’t worry, it almost seems as if you don’t care.

There is a balance between being really concerned and burdened to pray, and being worried. I think the answer is in trusting that God hears our prayer and will act. And hopefully he doesn’t mind us coming back to the same concerns again and again!

Verse of the Day

Matthew 6:34

‘Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.'
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References

The One Year® is a registered trademark of Tyndale House Publishers. Used by permission.

For a more detailed explanation and application of ‘The Sermon on the Mount’ (Matthew 5–7) see Nicky Gumbel’s book The Jesus Lifestyle.

Corrie ten Boom, Clippings from My Notebook, (Triangle, 1983)

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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