Whoooeeee! Who knew there are so many ways to use the word ratchet, these days? Apparently I have to be careful here. By “ratchet” you need to know that I do not mean a musical instrument, or one of the several characters who go by that name in a variety of movies, TV series and computer games. Nor am I thinking about financial derivatives, quantum physics or a particular type of female known to haunt large-city night clubs. I have in mind the lowly mechanical device that allows movement in only one direction, usually attached to a socket wrench — a favourite tool of automobile mechanics when dealing with bolts in tight places. I’m particularly fascinated by the fact that a rachet only moves in one direction. If you try to turn it the other way you will get a clicking sound, but no movement at all.
Abraham had a spiritual ratchet operating in his life. As an old man Abraham was concerned about finding the right wife for his son Isaac. (You can read the story yourself in Genesis 24.) Because he loved his son, he wanted a wife who would help him worship and serve the true God. That narrowed his choices considerably. Apart from his extended family, everyone else was pagan, which meant their lives were embroiled in a mix of idolatry, witchcraft, and demons. Oh, and gross immorality of all types. Remember, in Abraham’s day Sodom and Gomorrah were model cities.
With all that in mind, Abraham called for his servant and made him swear he would go back to his ancestral homeland to find a wife for Isaac. Abraham was an old man by then, and could not be sure he would live to see Isaac married. Thus he felt completely dependent upon his servant.
The servant had a couple of questions: “What if the woman is unwilling to come back with me to this land? Shall I then take your son back to the country you came from?” Abraham was emphatic in his reply. “Make sure that you do not take my son back there,” he said. Even if no godly woman could be persuaded to join Isaac in Canaan, by no means was the son to ever return to Abraham’s homeland. Better he should live single all his life than either he should 1) marry a Canaanite woman, or 2) leave Canaan, the promised land.
Abraham knew that all God’s promises to him and his descendants would only ever be fulfilled in the land that was then called Canaan, but known today as Israel, or the Holy Land. So in order to stay in the place where God could bless him, Abraham had installed a kind of ratchet in his life that only allowed him to move in one direction, toward God and toward the land that God had given him. His sharpness toward his servant grew out of fear that the servant might reverse the ratchet and take his son out of the place of God’s blessing.
Did you install a ratchet in your life when you became a Christian? It’s necessary if you want to retain any progress you make in the Christian life. Like Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3), you were called to faith by God Himself. Like Abraham you entered into a covenant relationship with God. Like Abraham you were called to begin a pilgrimage toward the heavenly “city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10).
But are you as determined as Abraham not to go “back there,” back to the lifestyle, the thought patterns, the worldliness and casual idolatry of your previous life? A surprising number of professed believers regularly go “back there.” They have no ratchet to prevent their lives from turning back again and again. Then they act surprised when they find they are no longer in the place where God can bless them with a sense of His presence, peace, power and love.
Here’s the bottom line. You can’t be the person God has called you to be without a ratchet operating in your life, a ratchet that preserves the progress you make. “But how do you get such a thing?” you ask. The answer is simple, but profound. Be certain that you know God has called you, and be just as certain that you understand the nature of that call, its direction and purpose. Abraham knew that he had been called by God and he knew exactly what God wanted him to do. Then he did it — most of the time anyway.
So the first thing is to know that you are called, because every Christian is called by God. I trust you already understand this, but for a refresher go ahead and meditate upon the following verses. I think you will reach two conclusions, 1) All Christians become Christians because they are called by God and 2) God has a specific purpose in calling each person to Himself. The better you understand how these two truths apply to your life, the stronger your ratchet will be. (Acts 2:39, Romans 8:30, 9:24; I Cor. 1:26; Eph. 1:18, 4:4; II Thess. 1:11, 2:13-14; II Tim. 1:9; Heb. 3:1, 9:15; I Peter 5:10; II Peter 1:3, 1:10; Rev. 17:14, 19:9)