Standing Before Powers and Authorities
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Then the men set out from there, and they looked down toward Sodom. And Abraham went with them to set them on their way. 17 The Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, 18 seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? 19 For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.” 20 Then the Lord said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, 21 I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.”
22 So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord. – Genesis 17:16-22
I’m a fairly respectful person. I don’t need to stand on formalities of title or position. On the other hand, I’m inclined to “show respect where respect is due” (cf. Romans 13:7). I see no benefit from refusing to acknowledge someone’s authority or position – even if I don’t agree with him or her. It’s “Mr. President” for me whether it’s my guy in the White House or not.
Along with that goes a certain reticence to challenge authority. I’m not a windmill tilter, nor a protester. I don’t say that to brag. It’s just the way I’m wired. And I’ve not been convinced that I need to recalibrate that. I’m happy when others speak out against injustice. I’m thankful that there are those who are willing to challenge immoral, unethical, and unrighteous behavior.
But look at Abraham! He is not only willing to speak out, he’s willing to speak out to God! He stands before the Lord: “Abraham still stood before the Lord.” That’s bold. That’s brave. That’s gutsy! Or maybe, just maybe that’s what bold faith looks like.
Martin Luther prayed for his friend and invaluable colleague, Philip Melanchthon:
Filled with fear, [Luther] said: “O God, how the devil has shattered this instrument for me!” Then the faithful and manly friend approached his God in prayer for his much beloved friend, by throwing, as he, himself afterwards said, “the sack before the door, and by rubbing his ears with all the promises from His own word.” He exhorted and commanded Melanchthon to be of good cheer, because God did not desire the death of the sinner, but needed further services from him; told him that he himself would rather depart now; had food prepared for him when he was gradually becoming convalescent, and upon his refusal to eat, threatened: “You will have to eat, or I will put you in the ban.” Gradually the patient improved in body and spirit. – Life of Luther by Julius Kostlin
It’s called Fides Heroica (Heroic Faith). And the Father of Faith (Abraham is known by that name) is exercising it here. Heroic Faith will stand up to God. Not in defiant arrogance, but in expectant boldness. Not in inopportune insistence, but in confident expectation.
I’ve done that one time in my life. It wasn’t when our newborn son was in the NICU for 14 days. It wasn’t when our daughter-in-law was suffering with cancer, or we were down to our last $4.17 in the early years of our marriage. It was for someone whose marriage needed rescue. And I didn’t set out to be bold and insistent, but it came over me that God was going to do a work in their lives, and I was to pray about it.
We may not feel the need to exercise heroic faith. But we can stand before God in prayer. And we do that through the alien righteousness of our Lord Jesus. For in him we are righteous. By faith: the gift of God’s Holy Spirit.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. – Hebrews 4:15-16
I think I’ll go there now. How about you?