And I’ll bet you guys think this is the title for my latest post, huh? Well, actually this is just a placeholder while I wait for the power to come back on. I don’t want to have to go out driving in the storms to get a good enough signal to write my full post. So, hopefully I’ll have power soon. Blessings until then. ~Crystal
Okay, so power is back on, but I’m leaving the title the same because the reading is short, and there’s not much in it–especially about the power of God. Of course, when I look for it, I can find the power of God in most everything since I know I don’t even breathe in or out without Him. In that sense, there’s no power outage in this story or in any story. I mean, I almost burst into tears in my first computer class back in 2001. It was just a brief overview of an A+ course, but when the guy said that everything we see on the screen is just a series of ones and zeroes representing power turned on or off, I could suddenly see God working on His creation in binary arithmetic and saying, “Power on–Let there be light.” It may seem silly to some, but it amazes me to see God in everything.
So, today’s short reading is from Genesis 25:1 through Genesis 25:11, and it briefly tells the story of Abraham when he married Keturah. I would guess that this marriage was after Sarah died, but I find some questioning in my mind on this subject. See, Keturah bore Abraham six sons. But remember how Abraham laughed about having pleasure when he was old? So, did all his youthful strength come back to him after he created Isaac? Beyond that, it talks about the children of his concubines. Maybe there’s more history elsewhere, but I’m just wondering if Abraham had all these children after Isaac, or if they were just unmentioned before. The telling does say that Abraham gave all his riches to Isaac and sent the other children to the east with grants.
By the last verse, we read that after Abraham passed away (and was buried by his sons Isaac and Ishmael in the same tomb as Sarah), God greatly blessed Isaac. I’ve heard many messages about God’s blessings being given through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob/Israel whose story we have yet to read. Now, I’m wondering exactly what blessings/grants were given to all these other sons. I’m thinking of mighty armies and prosperous lands throughout the earth, and I’m remembering that God told Abraham that the whole earth would be blessed through him.
It’s funny how I can read this stuff each year and have thoughts on it as I read, but then when I decide to write the commentary, I see so much I never noticed before. Even when what I see creates a bunch of questions to which I may or may not get answers, I love that my heart is always stirred by the written Word of God. And now, I guess it’s like I said above, even if I’m not seeing specific readings about the power of God, there really never is a power outage.
So many things in life are linked together. I love in today’s reading from Genesis 24:53 through Genesis 24:67 how the original blessing for Isaac multiplied to bless more than just Isaac. I believe that all started with the servant who took the time to praise God and acknowledge Him as the provider of the blessing.
First, the servant was blessed. He blessed Rebecca with jewelry, clothing, and a promise of a good future. Then he also blessed Rebekah’s family with jewelry, clothing, livestock, etc. The family blessed the servant and the men he traveled with. Rebekah blessed her family. Her family sent her away with blessings like, “Our sister, may you be the mother of millions, and may your descendants possess the cities of those who hate them.” And when Isaac saw her as they arrived near his tent, it says he took her to be his wife, and it comforted him from the grief he was feeling over his mother’s death.
The Bible has so many promises of blessings from God, and they are all set to multiply. He gives to us with the purpose of our sharing it with others, but we have to see it and be thankful for it before we will be able to let go and share. Oh, but once we let God take over, it can go so far. It’s like the boy who gave the two fish and five loaves of bread in John 6:1-14. What started as a small offering that fit into a lunch box filled thousands and provided 12 baskets of leftovers after Jesus touched it. If we will remember that old hymn, Count Your Blessings, and sing it to ourselves often, we can lift God up in a way that He can multiply the blessings in our lives. Sing with me…
Count your blessings, name them one by one.
Count your blessings, see what God has done.
Count your blessings, name them one by one.
Count your many blessings, see what God has done.
May the blessings flow abundantly into and out of your life, and may you never become stagnate in receiving but always give as freely as you receive. Amen!
Yesterday, we read about God giving Abraham’s servant a sign that he was moving in the right direction, and through it, the servant found Rebekah as a future wife for Isaac. Today, we read in Genesis 24:27 through Genesis 24:52, and the story is almost exactly the same except that it is being retold by the servant to Rebekah’s relatives.
In verses 47 & 48, the servant begins to share his personal reaction to being shown a positive sign about Rebekah. He tells the family how he put the gifts of jewelry on her, and then he describes bowing before Adonai and worshiping Him for bringing him to the right place. In verse 49, he gives his audience the chance to make a decision about whether or not they will believe and adhere to the direction that has been shown to the servant and confirmed by the sign, and I love their response.
In verses 51 & 52, the two men respond by saying (my paraphrase), “Well, since this is obviously from God, we can’t say anything good or bad. Since Rebekah is here before you, take her and go, and let her become your master’s son’s wife…since God said so.” And at that point, the servant again bowed on his face to worship Yahveh Almighty.
If only we could all respond as calmly and without argument, right? I know I have thought for sure that God said things, but then I waited for a person to confirm what I knew in my heart. When I didn’t get the human support I felt I needed, I backed down only to find later that I should have listened to that still, small voice in my spirit. If only I would always understand that His ways and thoughts are above my ways and thoughts and, with or without human support or understanding, move forward in obedience just because God said so. There is a way that seems right unto a man, but the end leads to destruction. And then… there is God’s way.
…but you can’t make the girl give it a drink. Of course, Abraham’s servant knew that, so he prayed and asked the Lord to give him a sign that he was on the right path. Today we read in Genesis 24:10 through 24:26 a short but hopeful jumping off place for the rest of the story about Isaac and Rebekah (called Yitzchak and Rivkah in the Complete Jewish Bible).
The servant makes it to his destination, and he is near the home of Nahor, Abraham’s brother. He’s supposed to pick out a wife from the neighborhood and hope she is family, so he can bring the girl back for Isaac to marry. If it were me, I’d be a bit uncertain too. I mean, he knows that if he doesn’t find the right one, he is released from his obligation, but he also knows and cares for his master’s plan.
And here, I want to talk about signs for a moment. The New Testament tells us that an adulterous and sinful generation seeks after a sign, so I hear a lot of people suggest that God’s people should never seek a sign from God. But I don’t believe that particular text is talking about the kind of sign the servant is requesting in today’s study. His purpose in requesting a sign is to be pleasing to his master and maybe even to God. (The text leaves me a bit uncertain as to if the servant actually served Yahveh Almighty, but he definitely believed and prayed to “his master’s” God.) I think those referred to as adulterous and sinful are those who are looking for some mystical sign before they will give up their sinful ways to follow God. When God’s children ask for a sign to know we are pleasing to Him, it is out of our love for Him and our desire to do well.
Now, back to the servant. He says that when he sees a girl come to the well for water, he will ask her for a drink. He asks for a sign that if she gives him water and then offers to water his camels as well, he will know she is the one for Isaac and that God has shown him favor. When he sees the beautiful and single Rebekah, he starts his plan into action, and she immediately begins the task of providing water for the servant and all his camels. When he asks her whose child she is, she tells him she is the granddaughter of Abraham’s brother Nahor, and in this she confirms that God has indeed blessed the servant in his task for his master.
Sometimes, it’s hard to know what sign to ask for because we might be concerned we’re asking for something that could happen anyway–like a girl offering to water thirsty camels. But if our hearts are pure in our requests, I believe God loves to show off and confirm His word and His directions to us. There is so much blessing to come out of the future of Isaac and Rebekah, so of course God would confirm His words and the desires of His faithful Abraham. We too have blessed futures that God wants to lead us into if we are willing to follow. And sometimes, if we need a reminder that we’re on the right path, I believe God will give us the confirmation we need to either keep going along the road we’re on or make a turn. May His perfect will be done in all things. Amen!
Today’s section runs from Genesis 23:17 through Genesis 24:9 and begins with the purchase of land for Sarah’s burial. Apparently, burying his wife has reminded Abraham of his own mortality. He calls in his longest term (aka most faithful) servant and makes a request from him about the future of Isaac. I’m guessing Abraham has been praying about a wife for him because he tells the servant what steps to take and assures him that an angel will go before him to bless him in his efforts.
The servant takes an oath (signified by placing his hand under Abraham’s thigh, but I haven’t yet learned what that practice means) that he will do all Abraham asks. Mainly, Abraham wants to make sure that his son does not marry into the foreigners of the land where they dwell as strangers, but he also does not want his son to go back and live in their homeland. He is dependant on this faithful servant to go to Abraham’s birth land and find a wife to bring back to him.
If I were to tell the story in a modern way to make it easier for myself, I would say that Abraham is like a life-long American missionary that has been told to claim a particular land for God. That missionary might have a son that is marrying age, so he has someone go back to the states to find an American wife for his son. He doesn’t want his son to go back to America yet himself because they still have much work to do, and he wants his son to stay until the word of God to them has been fulfilled. Abraham said it this way in Chapter 24, verses 6 & 7, “See to it that you don’t bring my son back there. Adonai, the God of heaven — who took me away from my father’s house and away from the land I was born in, who spoke to me and swore to me, ‘I will give this land to your descendants’–he will send his angel ahead of you; and you are to bring a wife for my son from there.”
I imagine Abraham was still trusting God to fulfill the promise of giving that land to his descendants, so his descendant had to stay there until that was done. And maybe Abraham was even a little concerned that if Isaac went to visit another land, he might be enamored by something new and want to stay there rather than continue to stake out the place of promise. And I think this is a good thing for us to remember as well. Sometimes, it may seem like a long period of waiting to receive something God has promised us, but if we continue to have faith, trust God, and stake out the promise, it will be just as God has promised it will be. Bless God for ALL His promises and blessings!
Today, we begin Parashah (portion) 5 which covers Sarah’s life and spans Genesis 23:1 through Genesis 25:18. It starts with a bit of sadness for Abraham in today’s reading from Genesis 23:1 through 23:16. In our story, Sarah has passed away at the age of 127, and Abraham is looking for a proper place to bury her in a land that is not their home. Certainly, not having his own land on which to bury his wife is adding to his grief, so Abraham is looking for a plot to buy as his own. He has set such a good example, even as a foreigner in a strange land, that everyone on the council is willing to give up their own tombs to him, but Abraham keeps seeking for something of his own.
Finally, Abraham asks the men to consult Efron the Hittite about a piece of farmland he would like to buy and use for the burial. It appears that Efron was already among the councilmen present, so he speaks up and says he’ll give the land to Abraham for free. Of course, many of us would consider that to be a blessing from God, but sometimes it can be more of a blessing to pay your way and be a good businessman, so Abraham insists on knowing the value of the land. Efron figures out what he is asking and says, “A plot of land worth 400 silver shekels — what is that between me and you?” Then Abraham gets his message and pays for the land.
Maybe it’s my female mind, but all the hidden messages back and forth did not make sense to me, so I had to ask my husband why men wouldn’t just come straight out and give a price and an exchange. He said that it enabled each man to make his offering without insulting the other. In a current world example, the exchange might go something like this…
A woman goes to get her hair done. The hairdresser offers to do her hair for free because she is the pastor’s wife. The woman says, “A workman is worthy of his wages, so please let me pay you.” The hairdresser answers, “But it’s only a 25 dollar style and cut,” and happily accepts that amount from her customer.
In the above scenario, both women are able to exchange their services freely, and it results in both women being more givers than takers. It appears Abraham had some good business sense and knew how much of a gift to God, others, and ourselves it is to have a giving spirit. And this is an awesome way that we, too, can be a blessing while we are foreigners in this strange land called life on earth. It gives clear understanding to why joy is spelled “J.O.Y.” and stands for Jesus, Others, You–in that order.
The picture below contains a portion of a beautiful message (from 1902) called The Joy of Giving by Ellen G. White. Read the full article at http://www.whiteestate.org/message/Joy_of_Giving.asp or by clicking on the picture.
So, we know that Abraham has learned to trust God in everything, and we know that his belief has paid off. His trust in and of itself was so great that it was counted as righteousness. That’sbig trust. What we will read today is going to take every bit of that big trust. The last part of this week’s portion is the entire chapter; Genesis 22:1 through 22:24. It is the story of when God gives Abraham the ultimate test of his life.
First, a little note, if you read this in the King James’ Version, you will see the word “tempt,” but I looked up the Hebrew word used here, and it means, test, try, or prove. I have heard people argue because of the New Testament quote that God does not tempt any man, so I wanted to clear that up. Of course, I’ve also heard people change that to say that God doesn’t test anyone, but I believe this shows us that there are times when testing can prove us like the trying of gold in the fires of purification. However, I also believe that God will never make or allow something to happen to us that is not ultimately for our own good.
Now, back to the story. At this point, Isaac is said to be in his early twenties. God wakes Abraham with a command to take his only begotten son, the son who Abraham loves and has all his hopes and dreams resting in (italics mine), and offer him up to God for a burnt offering. I feel like Abraham would’ve needed to wrestle that one through a bit to convince himself, but maybe not. I do know, however, that by the time they got to the foot of the mountain where the sacrifice was to take place, Abraham was convinced enough of God’s promises to him that he said the following from verse 5:
“The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back.” (NLT)
Do you see the faith and trust there? Can you hear the hope in his words? He didn’t say, “I’ll be back,” he said WE will be right back. Somehow, Abraham knew God would keep His promises. He knew that either God would change the way things were planned out, or he knew God could raise his son up from the ashes. Abraham was known as a man of his word, so if he said “we” to his servants, then he meant both of them would be returning.
If you’ve read the story, you know what happens next. Abraham stacks the wood and stuff on Isaac’s shoulders, and they head to Mount Moriah. (This is also thought to be the same mountain where Jesus was crucified. I found an interesting article on the archeology of the place at the Discovery News site.) Anyway, Isaac takes note of the lack of sacrifice and Abraham tells him that God will provide Himself a sacrifice. Whether that wording was intentional or not, I can’t be certain, but that it has arrived to us saying that God would provide (or make) Himself a sacrifice, I think is definitely in His plan.
As the story closes, Abraham has Isaac bound and ready for sacrifice, and he even has the knife raised to do the deed when The Angel of the Lord tells him to stop. He also tells him that now He is certain Abraham will hold nothing back from Him. Somehow, I think God already knew that about Abraham, but I’m sure now Abraham knew it about himself. We can all say we won’t sell out our beliefs for a million dollars or a bag of gold, but until someone offers us a million dollars or a bag of gold, do we really know that for sure? Well, if Abraham ever said he would do anything for God, he just proved it to himself beyond all doubt. And then, just when Abraham needed it, God provided a lamb stuck in the briars, so Abraham was able to worship God with a proper sacrifice.
On a personal note here, I want to say that some years ago, I went to Holy Land Experience in Orlando, Florida and saw an amazing movie about this subject. It was sort of a triple story showing Abraham and Isaac, Jesus on Calvary, and the destruction of the temple, all in tandem. It was quite powerful to watch in that fashion. One of the most beautiful parts showed Isaac putting his arms out, willingly allowing himself to be bound and laid on the altar of sacrifice. I wish they would make that available as a DVD, but last time I checked, it was not. If any of you have seen it, I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you have not been to Holy Land, I recommend a visit. I’m sure some things have changed with the new ownership, but I loved my visits there each time, and I hope to go again someday. Let me know if you have been there and what you took away from your visit.
I have always wondered about the judgment from the court system that deems someone with a reason behind a crime they commit as not guilty. I mean, it would seem to make more sense for them to call the one proven guilty (but not fully responsible) by some other name–maybe “guilty but blameless” or something. But those who commit crimes are most certainly guilty, so calling them otherwise is perpetrating a lie that may be bigger than the crime committed because we have proclaimed a verdict that disagrees with God’s truth.
In today’s reading from Genesis 21:22 through Genesis 21:34, we find what happens when a man displays righteousness in everything he does. We will see why Abraham was truly not guilty, and we will see it hinges on his constant sanity.
Abraham calls for a meeting about a well his men dug that was apparently seized by someone in the camp of the Philistines. Unfortunately, there were no witnesses, so the situation is sort of at a stalemate except for one thing. Abimelech and the commander of his army worry that Abraham might expect them to pay a price for what was stolen from him. They point out that they have been observing him and they see that God is with him in everything he does. Because of Abraham’s favor in God, they have concerns about the possibility of a curse that could pass to their children and grandchildren.
To me, the definition of sanity is to have God with you in everything you do. When you have God in everything, you have His wisdom in everything too. In this case, it helped Abraham to make a wise decision that did not result in any kind of revenge or payback from either side.
Though Abimelech asked Abraham to not treat him unjustly because he knew what kind of power was with a man who consistently walked with God, I don’t think Abraham planned to do anything against him anyway. Instead, Abraham used wisdom in creating a covenant between all of them to mark his new well as his own in everyone’s sight. Doing that made sure all were involved and invested in keeping it under its rightful ownership.
At the end of this reading, we’re told that Abraham continued to live in the land of the Philistines for many years, even though he was a foreigner there. The Bible tells us that we are also foreigners and pilgrims on this earth because this world is not our true home. However, even though we are strangers here, may we as believers walk with God in everything we do. May we walk in such a way that others will see it and desire to keep things right with us even if only because they want our God to have favor with them. If we walk this way, we can remain righteous and clean (not guilty) by reason of God’s wisdom and sanity.
P.S. Last night, my mind was swirling with some great songs about being a foreigner in this land and about hope for a better place, so I decided to look up some lyrics. In the process, my computer froze, so it’s possible that one of the lyrics sites was unsafe. Just in case, I’m going to list some titles and a few of the lyrics, but instead of lyric sites, I’m going to link to YouTube videos. I try to keep my computer safe, and I don’t want to send my visitors to any dangerous sites either. That said, here are a few songs I really like…
In the last few days, we studied how Lot had many blessings as a relative of Abraham. When God blesses someone, He does it so well that their blessings cannot help but spill over to others. In today’s reading from Genesis 21:5 through Genesis 21:21, we read about God’s blessings on Abraham’s sons.
Now, I’m saying sons because at the beginning of the reading, Sarah has finally given birth to Isaac, Abraham’s son of promise. She is amazed at the experience and even praises God for being able to nurse her son. She doesn’t even mind that his name means laughter since she now says that others will laugh with her in celebration of this great joy in her life.
Unfortunately, her happiness comes to a screeching halt when she sees the son of her handmade Hagar making fun of Isaac. She chased Hagar out once before because she was making fun of Sarah for being barren. Now, she demands that Abraham make her leave again because she cannot bear to see the other boy teasing her son. Abraham goes to God to find out what to do, and God tells him to listen to Sarah. But God also promises Abraham that He will be with the boy and make a great nation of him “because he is descended from you,” God says.
Even though there will come a time in the future where Isaac is referred to as Abraham’s only son, God is faithful to extend the blessings and promises He has poured out upon him throughout his generations. Since those of us who are circumcised in heart toward God are now considered to be of Abraham’s seed (See Galatians 3:29), that means God’s promises and blessings come all the way down to us as well. Praise God that He is a promise giver and a promise keeper.
With all the shorter readings earlier in the week, today’s reading from Genesis 19:21 through Genesis 21:4 was a bit longer. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to focus on in the story until I got to verse 37 of the first chapter in the reading. But let me start with the background.
The angels have granted that Lot would not have to run to the hills where he was afraid to go and have allowed him to go to a small city called Zoar. But, after Lot got there with his daughters (minus his wife because she turned back toward the destruction and became a pillar of salt), he became afraid that somehow people might know that he had favor to escape God’s judgment and would try to kill him. He ran for the hills he tried to avoid.
While he was hiding there, his daughters decided that, since all their brothers were now incinerated, it was their job to carry on the family name. They got their father completely drunk, and both of them went to him to become pregnant without him knowing about it. This has never been my favorite story. I don’t like that kind of drunkenness, and I think it’s pretty gross for the daughters to even make that kind of decision. But then I learned something particularly interesting in verse 37. It says, “The older bore a son, and named him Moab [of a father]; he is the father of the Moabites to this day.”
So, why does it matter that the oldest daughter is the mother of the Moabites? Well, do you remember the sweet story of Ruth and Naomi? Ruth was a Moabitess. She had married one of Naomi’s sons and after becoming widowed, she chose to stay with her mother-in-law. This is where we get that oft-repeated “where you go, I will go” statement made between friends. But Ruth also told Naomi, “Your God will be my God.” And this is where it gets good.
In Matthew 1:5, in the New Testament account of the genealogy of Jesus, you’ll find Ruth in the lineage of our Messiah, Jesus. So, we start with Abraham whose belief is counted to him for such righteousness that God even has mercy on a nephew who lived in the midst of a vile city. Then, after Lot runs and his daughters engage in incest with him, a child from that unholy union produces a lineage that includes a daughter who goes from curse to blessing and finds herself carrying the grandfather of King David. It is a beautiful and amazing story of mercy and redemption, and it encourages me that even from destruction, fear, and debased situations, God can bring His Perfect Light out from the midst of darkness. Wow!
Have you ever tried to hug a porcupine? No? Well, me either. But even if I had the opportunity, I don’t think I would want to do so. I have hugged someone wearing wool, and the itchy scratchy feeling that makes me feel like I have little pins sticking me all over doesn’t make me want to continue for long. It’s just not pleasant to hug something that hurts. Well, sin is like that to God. He wants to spend time with us, but He doesn’t want the prickles of pain caused by our being covered in the sin in which we immerse ourselves. So, He asks us to “come out from among the unbelievers and be separated from them.” (See 2 Corinthians 6:17.)
In today’s reading from Genesis 19 verses 1 through 20, God sends angels to Sodom. Abraham’s nephew Lot recognizes them, and he knows the situation in the town is something these men should not have to deal with, so he asks them to come stay at his house. Maybe he feels that if he hides them out of sight, they will be protected, but the sinners in that city are so bent on defiling all that is good, they show up at the house and demand that Lot send his guests out to them as playthings for their disgusting lust. It’s as if they can smell purity and innocence and will not be satisfied unless they can destroy it.
Since Lot has lived with these people for so long, maybe he has learned to ignore much of their behavior thinking that as long as he is not part of it, it doesn’t matter if he lives in the midst of it. But he doesn’t realize how much can change just by being in the constant presence of sin. So, while he knew it was wrong to let the men have their way with his angelic guests, he apparently did not see the harm in trying to appease them by offering them his virgin daughters. In that moment, he forgot that part of his role as a father included protecting their innocence.
In the end, the angels pulled Lot in from trying to make deals with the evil men, and then they blinded the men at the door so they could no longer find the door. They protected Lot and his daughters and then warned them not only to walk away, but to run away, from the coming destruction. Unfortunately, though freedom was also offered to his other children who lived in different parts of the city, they chose to stay rather than to heed the warning.
I guess the moral of this story, whose ending should come in tomorrow’s reading, is that it is better for us to come out from among unbelievers and keep ourselves pure and separate than to try to pry ourselves away when we finally get a clear vision of where sin is leading. Lord, please separate us and keep us out of the miry clay. Set our feet upon You–our Rock and our Salvation.
In our homes, if we have a family member that routinely violates the law and the respect of other household members, we will usually find that our households feel like places of chaos and unhappiness. Even when that family member no longer lives with the family, the strain is heavy. We call for interventions. If we pray, we call our prayer-warrior friends and ask them to bring the situation to God. We plead for God to have mercy on the soul of the disobedient one, but we also pray that somehow the rebellion will stop, so we can have peace. And in those situations where a positive change takes place, we are grateful for whatever it took to bring it about and for having our families back in order and harmony.
In today’s reading from Genesis 18:15 through Genesis 18:33, we learn the real reason the three men stopped by Abraham’s homestead; to bring peace to a chaotic situation. There was a cry of help rising from the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. People created in the image of God were in trouble. They were victimized. They were miserable. Like Abel’s blood crying to God from the ground, this creation was crying to The Creator from the depths of misery. And Yahveh God grabbed a couple of warrior angels and headed to earth to deal with it. As the story continues, God talks with the angels about letting Abraham in on the details of the mission. God said He wanted to include Abraham in His plans because of the strong future he had in front of him. Maybe God also thought it would be good to share with Abraham out of respect for his nephew’s family that still lived there–especially since the mission included the destruction of the city because of the abundance of wickedness.
Now Abraham, like any loving family member, begins to plead with God on behalf of the possibility of righteous men having to pay a price for the deeds of the wicked. He even says to God, “Far be it from You to destroy the righteous with the wicked.” Of course, he was likely imagining that Lot and his family were righteous since they were raised up that way, and maybe he even thought they were stuck in the depths of that horrible place. So begins the conversation between God and Abraham about just how many righteous men would have to dwell there in order for the city to be saved.
Eventually, Abraham brings the number all the way down to ten people. God tells him that even if there are ten righteous people there, He will spare the city. Of course, we know the outcome of that, so we can be sure there were not even ten righteous men living there. It was like the wrong side of the tracks on the wrong side of the tracks–all the wickedness gathered into one bad place. But even with all that evil, God would have been prepared to have mercy on them if He could have found ten people who could lift Him up as a light in the darkness. He is just that merciful. And He let Abraham pose scenario after scenario until even Abraham knew the situation in the place was hopeless.
There are days when I look at the behaviors of people that just don’t make sense, and I know God must be sparing this whole earth just for the righteous on its face. I know He is strained at the cry of the victims against those who kill, steal, and destroy for whatever evil reason they can justify–and often just because they don’t care. I know God grieves even more than I do over the pain of the righteous and the innocent as we live out these last days where men are calling good evil and evil good. And I know God longs to bring those who love Him to that promised place of eternity with Him. But, for now, we have to trust that He is sparing the earth because there are still enough righteous people who follow their Creator and will bring His light to a lost and dying world. Let us ask Him to continue to help us to always be ready to give an answer for the hope that is within us. And if we have unsaved family and friends, we can praise God for His mercy as He delays His return and His judgment for the sake of the righteous.
Today’s reading begins Parashah (Portion) Four, which includes Genesis 18:1-22:24. Part 1 of this portion is Genesis 18:1 through Genesis 18:14, and it tells the story of when God stopped by Abraham’s house. It says that when Abraham looked out his door, he saw three men standing under the Oaks of Mamre, and he knew immediately who was on his property. The picture below from Wikemedia Commons, can be found at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Abrahams_Oak,_1880.jpg.
So, here’s Abraham just going about his daily routines, having many of the same needs we all experience on a daily basis, and suddenly he looks outside and sees God. If that happened to you, what would you do? How many people do you suppose would say something like, “Oh, hey God. I’ve been meaning to talk to You. I’ve got this list of things I’ve been needing from You, and, well, since You’re here anyway.” I grieve that many would see it as the magic lamp is here. Let’s rub it.
But not Abraham. He ran–not walked–from his tent door and fell at his feet in humble worship. He asked these visitors to be his guests; to wash their feet, have some food and drink, and to rest before they traveled on. He was beside himself trying to give to them and do FOR them rather than trying to get something FROM them.
This has always meant something special to me. I have asked myself more than once if, when I am in the Presence of the Almighty, am I more concerned about what I can get or what I can give. So many altar services are all about coming forward to receive something from God. We have services and gatherings centered around gifts and getting. Even Christmas, a time when people claim to be celebrating the birth of our Messiah, is more about getting gifts from each other than giving gifts to the birthday child. And whether it’s in the natural or the spiritual, this taking more than giving breaks my heart. And I wonder, after all God has given us in creation and salvation, does it break His heart too?
See, Abraham knew that the Creator of the Universe didn’t have to bless him as He already had. He knew God didn’t even have to stop to visit. Thankfulness exceeded his desire to request things from Him. His biggest request was that he would find favor in God’s eyes, so that He would stay and visit for a while. In return, God reminded Abraham once more that his wife Sarah would be having a baby soon. This time, it was Sarah who laughed, and I love today’s final verse in response to Sarah’s laughter: Is anything too hard for the Lord? The Amplified Bible adds “or too wonderful.”
I want to go before the throne in thanksgiving and humble adoration proclaiming how great is my God and praising Him that He reigns supreme in my life. I want to praise Him because I know that NOTHING is too hard or too wonderful for Him. And I pray this blesses Him so much that he will want to stop by and visit often.
Finish the sentence: I have been obedient in spite of… Think about the times when you have been challenged to believe something, but you acted on what you were told and did the right thing anyway. Especially think about the times when you marched forward to obey God in faith in spite of fear, a battle with unbelief, bad previous events, or whatever else. For Abraham (renamed at the end of the last section), he challenged God on a lot of subjects, but when it was all said and done, he still obeyed God. Somewhere, deep inside, even when he was challenged, he still believed. Back in Genesis 15:6, and then repeated in Romans 4:3, we are told that Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.
Today, in Genesis 17:7 through Genesis 17:27, we read about God’s continued promises to Abraham to bless him. God tells him He will bless his land and his people through future generations. He renames his wife from Sarai, meaning “mockery,” to Sarah, meaning “princess.” It’s a wonderful bit of blessing and promise. But, when God tells Abraham that these promises are still going to come through his own seed and through his wife, Abraham falls on his face and laughs. That’s a big laugh. Abraham’s diary could have said ROTFLOL and truly meant it. 😀
Okay, so Abraham had good arguments for God, like wondering why the seed couldn’t come through Ishmael since he was already born, but the part that had him rolling on the floor with laughter was the idea that he could physically do what was needed to create a child when he was 100 and his wife was 90. Be honest, if your great-grandparents told you they were having a baby, wouldn’t you laugh? It reminds me of the salt and pepper shaker set where the old man scratches his head while looking at his gray-haired and pregnant wife. Her apron reads, “You and your once more for old times sake.” If you want to see a picture, someone is selling the set on eBay.
So Abraham is basically saying to God, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” But here’s what’s so cool about it. God doesn’t get mad at Abraham and change His mind. He doesn’t threaten to give the promise to someone else. Because, as I’ve said before, God knows our form. (Thankfully!) But God showed that He too has a sense of humor by telling Abraham that he had to name is son, Isaac, the Hebrew word for laughter. He was not going to let Abraham forget that he doubted that all things are possible with God. But do you imagine that Abraham ever looked on the face of that precious infant, or growing boy, and felt bad about laughing? I imagine that instead, he chuckled a bit, smiled, and offered up a high praise to a God who is truly there for us in spite of our weaknesses, foibles, failures, and yes, even our laughter when we don’t think He can do what looks to be the impossible. May God give each of us a personal reminder that will help us continue to obey Him in spite of fighting whatever tries to stop us from it.
The content of this poem I wrote many years ago says a lot about everything I’ve written to this point, especially about the covenant made by God in the post for October 17th. I felt this was an appropriate time to share it.
I FOLLOW HIM
By Crystal A Murray – (C)2005
I follow Him…
…Around the corridors of Heaven, where beings created for worshipping Him fall at His feet. He sighs, and I hear Him say, “How I long for a friend with whom I can commune, and who will worship Me and desire to commune with me–because he loves Me.” A few heavy sighs later, I see His breath flowing into His new friend. He smiles and says, “It is very good.”
I follow Him…
…through a garden, where He walks and talks with man and woman. I see His despair on the day He can’t find them because a veil of sin now separates Him from His new creation. I watch as, in pain and desperation, He slays an animal to cover their nakedness and then uses the animal’s blood to temporarily pierce sin’s veil, so He may commune once more with His friends. I hear Him lament that all communication with mankind will now be strife for Him because of sin, but He loves them, and He will not give it up. He will never leave nor forsake them.
I follow Him…
…to His drawing board and see His plans for a temple in Heaven and its counterpart on earth. I also see plans for an ark; a covenant; splitting a sea; how blood sacrifice should work and why it doesn’t; and a way to bring Perfect Blood before the Heavenly altar and permanently destroy the veil of sin.
I follow Him…
…to Bethlehem on a star-lit night; to a carpenter’s shop; to a temple service; to a wedding in Cana and a pool in Bethesda.
I follow Him…
…now to another garden. In this one, called Gethsemane, His flesh and Spirit wrestle. I hear Him pray for my salvation–and yours. The flesh bleeds, but the Spirit prevails. I watch as His betrayer kisses Him … and then flees with Perfect Blood on his lips.
I follow Him…
…to the judgment hall and the whipping post.
I follow Him…
…to the death stake: where Perfect Blood stains the ground … the Centurion’s sword … and the hands of His killers. I see a tomb where His body lays still while His Spirit descends into Hell to take the keys of death and forever deliver His creation–His friends–from bondage. As He returns to His tomb, I watch as His Spirit awakens His body with the dawning of a 3rd-day’s sun.
I follow Him…
…as He comforts those who grieve at His tomb, makes Himself known to disciples walking a lonely road to Emmaus, and fills the nets of forlorn fishermen. I hear Him tell of a Comforter. Soon, I watch as He ascends in a cloud back to Heaven, where He goes to prepare a place for me–and for all who love Him. I see that, even today, He works in Heaven’s Holy Temple as our High Priest continuously offering His Perfect Blood to atone for our sins.*
I follow Him…
…because I love Him and desire to commune with Him. He makes a way because He loves me and desires to commune with me. And someday, with the sounds of a trumpet and a shout, He will split the skies and call His people to come home. And then…
…I will follow Him for eternity!
We have a long reading today from Genesis 15:7 through Genesis 17:6, and that means it is harder for me to boil it down–especially since it has two important story parts. I will focus this post on the first part, from Chapter 15, where we have a ceremony between God and Abram that most people likely read through without realizing its significance. To understand the importance of this ceremony, I first need to tell you about the meaning of the “Blood Covenant” which is what is being performed here in what is now known as the “Abrahamic Covenant” or “Covenant of the Pieces.” It’s one of my favorite Old Testament stories because it gives us a glimpse into the future promise fulfilled by Jesus.
In a blood covenant, the sacrificial animals are cut in two pieces as a representation of the two parties or sides who are making the covenant. If either party breaks his agreement, the penalty is to pay in blood. At Wikipedia, I found an article explaining biblical covenants, and the writer there states it this way… “Covenants in biblical times were often sealed by severing an animal, with the implication that the party who breaks the covenant will suffer a similar fate. In Hebrew, the verb meaning to seal a covenant translates literally as “to cut”. It is presumed by Jewish scholars that the removal of the foreskin symbolically represents such a sealing of the covenant.”
Now, here’s the understated thing about the covenant that I find very exciting: Each party walks through the pieces to symbolize his own keeping of the promise. This was a covenant between Abram (representing mankind) and God (representing Himself), and we see that before Abram was able to walk through, God put him to sleep. Both a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch appeared in the midst of the pieces, which means that God Himself walked through the pieces as both man and God. By doing this, He promised that He would pay the price in blood if either side of the covenant was violated.
We know that God keeps His promises, but we also know that He understands the ways of man and knew we would not keep ours. That means He planned from way back to shed His own blood. Acts 20:28 says, “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” (Italics mine.) Also, in 1 John 3:16a, the Bible says we know the love of God because He laid down His own life for us.
This was just a beginning of promises to Abram, who will be renamed to Abraham by the end of today’s reading, but I will cover the rest in a separate post due to the length of today’s post. For now though, it excites me to know that His plans for us–and me–have always been to do whatever it takes to make sure He can spend eternity with those He loves. He does this in spite of our rebellious behaviors and our rejection of Him. I guess that’s why in John 15:13-14, Jesus told the disciples that there is no greater love than that where a person would lay down his life for his friends. And then He called them His friends. Halleluyah! We have been granted the greatest love if only we accept it.
We humans think we have it all together sometimes. Just because all the parts are available, including the ability to think and create, we think because we build something, we are some type of creative geniuses. Here’s a little joke that gets the point across well…
One day, a group of scientists were discussing cloning, and they concluded that since they knew how to create humans, they no longer needed God. Upon sharing this news with God, He proposed that before they totally dropped Him out of their lives, they should have a man-making contest. The scientists agreed. God specified they had to do it from scratch–the old-fashioned way, and the scientists still decided it was something they could win.
Finally, the day of the big contest arrived. The timers were set, and the chosen scientist and God were at the starting line. When the whistle blew, the scientist reached down to the ground to grab a handful of soil. Just then, God shouted, “Hold it! Get your own dirt.”
Now, in today’s reading in Genesis 14:21 through Genesis 15:6, the King of Sodom is trying to bargain with Abram about which spoils of war he will keep and which he will give to Abram. But Abram tells the king he will not take anything from him because he wants to be sure the king cannot say later that he was the one who made Abram rich. Abram wanted every thing he gained to be known as a gift from His Creator. He trusted God for the promise of riches, and He knew that meant God would have to be his only provider. We may have many blessings from mankind, but the very source is always our Father God.
This story portion ends with Abram’s conversation with God about not yet having an heir. So, while Abram knew God was his provider, here we get to see his human side as he wrestles with trusting God for his future promise of children that would outnumber the dust of the earth. Abram begins to reason that maybe it is a servant’s child that will become his heir, but God tells him once again that the promise will come from Abram’s own body. He then takes him outside and compares his future promise with the number of stars in the sky.
God knows our form, and He knows that we often trust what we see, which is why we so often trust the creation over the Creator, but He is also kind and merciful as He tenderly reminds us who He is and that His plans for us are always for the good. I love how this little story shows Abram both at his best and at his worst, and it shows how God is ready to bless him in both of those places. God is always the Creator, and He always wants to create wonderful things in our lives if we will keep our sights and trust set on Him.
I know some things may seem to just be things, but I am one of those who believes that everything and everyone has a purpose. In today’s reading from Genesis 14, verses 1 through 20, we find a battle among kings. Five kings to four kings to be exact. And if you want to read all their names and such, just click the link since The Complete Jewish Bible has them listed mostly phonetically. Anyway, in this battle of kings, they are fighting in a valley filled with clay pits where many fall in.
When I read of clay in the Scriptures, I always think of the flesh. So, here are a bunch of kings (people with authority–some to do good and some to do evil) fighting not to fall into clay pits (flesh). And I don’t think it’s just chance that this valley is near the Dead Sea. The evil kings have kidnapped Lot, the nephew of Abram who we introduced in yesterday’s reading. Abram calls on those born and trained in his own household to go out to battle with him and rescue that which belongs to him (Lot) who is likely in the valley of pits himself. They succeed and bring back Lot, his possessions, and all the women and children that were taken with him.
Not only is this a battle with which most who serve God and reject the flesh are acquainted, it ends with the kind of victory most of us seek. They get help from like-minded soldiers, and they take back what the enemy has stolen. When it is all said and done, Abram goes to meet the King of Salem (later called Jerusalem), aka King of Peace, and the King, Melchizedek, blesses him. When we get victories over the flesh, we praise God for His mercy and deliverance, and since Melchizedek was a high priest for God, it was a similar action. As part of their meeting, they shared bread and wine, and at the close, Abram gave the first recorded tithe (tenth) I’ve read about.
So next time you feel like you are in a valley of pits, gather some prayer warriors and fight to win. Scripture tells us that we have more who stand on our side than we have who stand against us. It also says that He who is within us is greater than he who is in the world. We can win in our battles if we open our eyes and take care not to fall into the pits of flesh. Oh, and when we win, we can offer our praises to Christ our King of Peace.
And here’s a nice chorus about the subject from the song, He Brought Me Out of the Miry Clay…
He brought me out of the miry clay,
He set my feet on the Rock to stay;
He puts a song in my soul today,
A song of praise, hallelujah!
Also, if you’d like to read some interesting information about the connection between Melchizedek and Jesus, check out an article from Hebrew for Christians where you can also find more commentary on this Torah portion.
Maybe my title should actually be “Thanks Á la Lot” since the story, from Genesis 13:5 through 13:18 is the story of Abram and his nephew Lot, but I just couldn’t pass up the pun. 🙂
In today’s part of Torah portion three, Lot and Abram were both so abundantly blessed that they began to overrun each other. Their servants even started fighting with each other. So Abram, ever a fan of peace and family, decided that it would be best of they put some space between them. Because Abram was the one with the blessing, and because he was the elder, he could have chosen the land he wanted and given Lot the leftovers. Instead, he told Lot to choose whatever he wanted, and he would be the one to take what was left.
Lot decided to take for himself the land that looked the best. The well-watered plains of what we now called Jordan. He did not seem concerned about the inhabitants who already lived there–in Sodom and Gomorrah, and we will see in later chapters how that should have been a top concern for him. Still, because Lot took Jordan, Abram took Canaan.
Starting with verse 14, we find Yahveh talking with Abram and making him some more promises. Now, in addition to the promise of making a name for him, God tells Abram to look around him and see if he can count the grains of sand because his family of descendants will be just as innumerable as the sand. With that, the Lord also tells him to look around at all his eyes can take in and to walk the length and breadth of it. Yahveh promises Abram it will all belong to him.
So, because Abram put love, peace, and family first, God added to his blessings. And Abram knew these things were gifts from the Almighty and built an altar of thanksgiving. To those who are the type to count their losses, having to give up land to Lot may have seemed like a sacrifice too great to pay. But because Abram knew where his blessings originated, he willingly did what was needed and was rewarded for a heart that counted blessings instead of troubles. And what was left for Abram to do after God rewarded him? Offer a sacrifice of praise for God’s abundant blessings on his life in spite of any loss–and he lost “a Lot.” (Sorry, I can’t help it. But laughter is good for us, so I hope my silliness makes someone smile.)
Stories like the one in today’s reading from Genesis 12:14 through Genesis 13:4 may be one of the reasons why our court system has testifiers agree to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” In this story, Abram has decided that his wife Sarai’s beauty could cost him his life, so he falls back on the fact that she is his half-sister. He has her tell the Egyptians that she is Abram’s sister and conveniently leave out the part about her being married to him. They pay him handsomely for sharing his “sister” with them, and they don’t question it until plagues hit their household. Somehow, I guess the word has already gotten around that you don’t mess with the things of God Almighty because they knew what was causing their plagues, and they immediately released Sarai to Abram and sent them both safely on their way with many blessings.
For me, the idea of telling a half truth, even for a good cause, is difficult. I am honest to a fault, and I have to find a reason and a justification before I can agree to something like what was cooked up between Abram and Sarai. I actually felt bad for the Egyptians and what they had to go through as a result of this half-lie. But as I study it and other Scriptures, I can see that there are times when the “letter of the law” is less important than the “spirit of the law.” For example, if you tell someone that you have plans that don’t include celebrating their birthday because you actually want to surprise that person with a party, in the letter of the law, you’ve told a lie. But in the spirit of the law, you were not leaving out truth for the purpose of hurting someone, so it wasn’t truly a lie. For the Egyptians, if they truly served God Almighty, Abram wouldn’t even have had to fear they would take his life just to take his wife for themselves. If they served the True God, and if they were God-minded and not self-centered pleasure seekers, they would have known to pray about everything rather than just thinking they could take something simply because they desired it.
It’s not always easy to know when to lean on the spirit of the law over the letter, but there are a few other biblical examples of it…
In 1 Samuel 21, King David acts like he is insane.
In Joel 3:10, the weak are to say they are strong.
There’s even a story where a prophet has to get beaten to look like he has been attacked before arriving at a particular city.
All of these things point to the same issue–do not speak lies or truth with the purpose of hurting others. Search your heart and pray before you speak at all times. Commit your ways to God, and from there, He will establish your thoughts, and thereby your words. Walk in the spirit of the law, and you’re less likely to violate the letter of the law unless there is just no other way around it.
Today begins portion three from Genesis, Chapter 12, Verses 1-13. I’m out again after having an incredibly blessed meeting with Louisville Christian Writers. And, again I know I won’t make it home on time, so I’m using the phone app. Yay for apps!
Anyway, yesterday I talked about men who used the gifts of God to make a name for themselves. In today’s story, we meet Abram, Sarai, and their families. We find a man who has caught the attention of God like Noah did, and God has decided He has great plans for this guy.
God begins to share His plans with Abram, including those to make of him a great nation. He says He will bless him so much that all the families of the earth will be blessed through him. God even tells him that He will bless others who bless him.
The part that really caught my attention–because of the haughty men of yesterday’s story–is God’s promise to make a name for Abram. What an amazing blessing. For all the work we do trying to make names for ourselves and/or trying to leave a legacy, and here is Yahveh Almighty telling Abram how He wants to make a name FOR him. I see by this that it IS okay to have a name that is known by others–as long as it is God who makes that name for you.
Blessings to you all as you seek His perfect will for your lives.
The last half of today’s reading from Genesis 11:1-32 is the genealogy of Shem, the oldest son of Noah. But before we get to that point, we get to hear a story about good gifts being used for the wrong purposes. The key verse here is Genesis 11:4 where it says, “Then they said, ‘Come, let’s build ourselves a city with a tower that has its top reaching up into heaven, so that we can make a name for ourselves and not be scattered all over the earth.’ ” The rest of the story is the familiar tale of “The Tower of Babel” (aka “The Tower of Confusion”) where God confused their languages, so they could no longer work together to create things for their own name.
In this story, God has given men the whole earth and all they need to create a life for themselves. He has given them language to communicate with each other. He has given them bricks and mortar to build shelters for themselves. He was their Ultimate Provider then just as He is our Ultimate Provider now. But they forgot that even when they had to work for something, It was God who created the ability to work and the products to work with or from.
With all those gifts, including the gift of unity that was so strong even God said it could make nothing impossible for those who worked together, where do you hear any words of praise echoed to God, or any thoughts of working with His will or plans? You don’t. Instead, these men took God’s provisions as their own, built with them according to their own will, and then used them to make a name for themselves as if it were all their own from start to finish. They forgot that God is the Author and Finisher. They failed to realize that unless The Lord builds the house, all labor is in vain. (See Psalm 127:1.) They allowed the fear of being scattered to overtake them rather than asking God where He would have them to go. They let all the good gifts of God end up being used for selfish, prideful, fearful, and other bad reasons.
Today, there are many gifted people doing the same with the gifts God has given them. They become haughty and act as if the world cannot live without their gift of entertainment or prophecy. If something they have to offer is that important, it’s even more important that they keep it in line with God’s perfect will. Even our faith must be an act of obedience, so if we’re obeying our Creator, where do we get bragging rights? I pray frequently that God will keep me in check when someone positively comments on something I have done–be it singing and writing or helping and encouraging. I know I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me, and I also know I can do nothing apart from Him. I know that, even when I am doing His will and accomplishing things through Him, it is only by His grace. According to His word, even my desire to serve Him is from Him. Philippians 2:13 in the Easy-To-Read version states it this way: Yes, it is God who is working in you. He helps you want to do what pleases him, and he gives you the power to do it. So, there is nothing to boast in except Him. May we always keep that perspective that none of the wonderful gifts He pours out on us will go bad.
Today’s reading from Genesis 9:18 through Genesis 10:32 is a bit longer, and it is so because it’s another chapter that covers a bunch of genealogy. This time, it’s the genealogies from the sons of Noah from whom the entire earth was repopulated after the flood. But before it gets into the genealogies, this chapter tells a story of excess, drunkenness, and disrespectful behavior.
Noah was a farmer, so after getting off the boat, he planted a vineyard. From the fruit of his labors, he drank a bit too much wine (it is easy to go overboard when you have gone without something for a very long time) and passed out in his tent. I’m guessing his robes came undone, or the wine made him warm, and he stripped them off, but for whatever reason, he was laying there completely naked. What happened next changed the future of many people groups.
Noah’s youngest son, Ham, happened by his father’s tent. Instead of backing out and respecting him, he ran to tell his brothers all about it. Now remember, the sons who entered the ark were married men and their wives, so this was a full-grown married man running off to make fun of his father to other full-grown married men. I think there is likely much more to the story, but here’s what I see: The states of mind before the flood were not only lacking any direction toward God, but they were so selfish, they were immature. Learning to care for others instead of just yourself takes time and maturity, so selfish people often act childish by being demanding, having temper tantrums, and/or being just plain silly. I think Ham came on board with the mindset of those who had just been destroyed. Maybe all but Noah boarded that way, but I believe Ham “missed the boat” mentally and emotionally when he did not learn a lesson by watching the end result of that evil behavior. And that childish behavior caused problems from his son, Canaan, on down the line because Ham did not create a legacy of maturity and obedience that could be taught through the generations.
As with all of God’s stories though, there is always some good news to find. In this case, it was the two older brothers who walked backward with a blanket and covered their father’s nakedness instead of making fun of him. Were they mature because they were older, or had they matured as a result of the last year and the lesson learned from the destruction of mankind? It’s hard to tell, but in a literal way, they fulfilled Proverbs 10:12 where it says, “Hatred stirs up contentions, but love covers all transgressions” (Amplified Bible). The immature son disrespected his father, and hated him enough to try to stir things up against him in the hearts of his brothers. But his brothers loved their father and chose instead to cover his transgressions. I also like the way this is stated in 1 Peter 4:8 (Amp)….”Above all things have intense and unfailing love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins [forgives and disregards the offenses of others].”
We have a Savior who feels love toward us, so when given the choice to mock our sins and put them on public display for punishment, He chose instead to cover us–with His own body and blood. He took the public display, the mocking, and the punishment on Himself. And because mercy and love is more powerful than punishment and hate, we have the promise that His love covers our sins, not only unto the third and fourth generation (as it is with those who hate God), but unto thousands of generations of those that love God and keep His commandments. (See Exodus 20:6).
The reading for today is all in Genesis 9 and is a very short set of verses from 8 through 17. Noah, his family, and the animals are off the boat. Noah has offered the first sacrifice to show his thankfulness for their salvation. And now, with this family ready to replenish the earth, God has made a promise, and he has given a sign for that promise that we still see today; the rainbow.
I downloaded an image I really like by rwangsa at Flickr (http://www.flickr.com/photos/rwangsa/452128709/)…
You know, there are many gods out there that people try to please with various works, but most of them are just trying to get those gods to carry them to an eternal paradise. They will give it all for a promise that may or may not be true. But our God and Creator, Yahveh Almighty, has promised us so much more than an eternity in paradise. He has plans so awesome that He says they haven’t even found a way to enter into our thoughts or imaginations.
I was talking with a friend today, and we were discussing what we have with God that so many others do not have with their gods. The greatest thing we have of course is His Love. It’s not just an end game, but a gift He desires to shower on us in every moment. He wants us to trust Him so much that you will see many covenants He makes with His people throughout Scripture. This covenant in today’s reading is not only a promise, but a promise that comes with a sign both to us and to Him. He says that when we see it, we can remember His promise to us. And He says that whenever He brings clouds upon the earth, He Himself will see the sign and remember His promises. It’s like two best friends that tie a string around each others’ wrists or pinky fingers to remind the other that they will be best friends forever. God is our best Friend, a covenant Friend and a covenant God, who will be there for us…forever! Hallelu-Yah!!!
This is my first post from my phone app since I know I will not get home on time. I’m thankful I have this option.
Now, to continue on with the story of Noah. In today’s reading from Genesis 8:15 through Genesis 9:7, he and all living things from the ark are finally getting to come out and restart life on earth. I don’t imagine life trapped inside the ark for almost a year was pleasant. Yet, the first thing Noah did when he exited the ark was to build an altar and give an offering to the One who saved him and his family. There’s no record of what Noah thanked God for, but I imagine it was an extensive list. If I were Noah, just some items from my list would be…
- Thank You for looking at me with grace;
- Thank You for saving me from destruction;
- Thank You for being my Provider and sustaining me for all those months;
- Thank You for saving my family;
- Thank You that I know You Yahveh Almighty.
Whatever Noah thanked God for, that smell of his thankful offering went up as a sweet aroma to God and was pleasing to Him. And I believe that sweet aroma was more about the offering of thanksgiving that came from Noah’s heart and mouth than it was from anything that burned upon the fire. I believe this because of the new testament verses that tell us that the sacrifice of our praise goes up as a sweet-smelling aroma to God. I can compare this to how I respond to the smell of something grilling on a barbecue. Even when I’ve just eaten and am full, I could sit downwind of the aroma of a barbecue and just enjoy it as it wafts in my direction. If our praise smells even close to that good to God, no wonder He is enthroned on the praises of His people.
Something came to me about the readings for the last three days, and I want to bring it up before I jump into today. In Genesis 6:8, Noah found grace in the eyes of God. In Genesis 6:9, Noah was righteous & wholehearted, and he walked with God. In Genesis 6:18, God told Noah He would establish a covenant with him. In Genesis 6:22, Noah did all that was commanded of him. In Genesis 7:1, God says to Noah, “I have seen that you alone in this generation are righteous before me.” In Genesis 7:5, Noah did all that God ordered him to do. Can you see a pattern here?
Remember, this was before any of the levitical laws were given, so what do you suppose made Noah find grace in the eyes of the Lord? And that brings us to our reading for today from Genesis 7:17 through Genesis 8:14. Verse 17 tells us that the ark was lifted up above the earth. And that’s where I want to focus.
Noah, whose name actually means “rest,” had a spirit that was above (not obedient to) the flesh. He was, like the ark that he built, lifted up “above the earth” if you think of earth as representing flesh since that’s what we are made from. None of the Scriptures I found say anything about his wife, sons, or sons’ wives being holy, obedient, or finding grace in the eyes of Yahveh.
So, we can sum it all up this way: A man called Rest (and remember our Savior Jesus is The Rest wherein the weary may rest) was righteous. He built a vessel (like our Savior robed Himself in flesh) that would be lifted above the earth (like Christ was lifted up on Calvary and lifted above sin) to save those he loved from complete destruction. Now go back and read the story of Noah as if you’re reading the story of salvation, and ask yourself yesterday’s question…will you get in the ark?
My reading today from Genesis 7:1-16 is short, but it puts feet on the commands God gave to Noah yesterday. The ark is built, the animals have shown up, and now God invites Noah & his family into the place that will save them from destruction.
You know, it seems from the beginning that God has always delighted to give those who love Him a refuge from the troubles and trials that are created by the disobedience of those who do not love Him. He truly lives up to the name, Deliverer. Here is a slide from a Bible study by Beth Moore (found at http://calvarylife.org/explore/podcast/elevation/courageous/slides/slides_052012.pdf) that nicely describes how God is ALWAYS our Deliverer:
While the slide talks of fire, it was no less a deliverance for Noah and his family to be delivered from the death of all other living things. This story is only the beginning of God showing people that He wants to be our Deliverer, and it represents His heart of hearts–to deliver us from the ways of sin and the wages of sin (which is eternal death). Now our question; will we give up our own ways and go into “the ark” when we are invited?
The title for this post comes from the last verse of this reading from Genesis 6:9 through Genesis 6:22, “Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.” (This verse from the Amplified Bible.)
I just spent an evening and a full day at a training seminar to learn about prayer and healing and ministering to others. I have about 25 pages of notes, and I saw some amazing things in the Power of God. Since I have walked as a follower of God, I can testify to multiple miracles, including one that is medically verified. And yet, I look at these chronicles of Noah, and I wonder, if it were me in his place, would I do ALL that God commanded me to do?
If we all told the truth, I’m sure we would all admit that it would be a struggle to exceed the boundaries of the natural things God wants us to do and take a jaunt into the supernatural. If we can’t see it or feel it, can it really be true? Then again, we can’t see love, but we somehow trust it is true. We can’t see salvation, but we know it is true, and often trust someone who says they’ve become saved just on their word. And salvation, the regeneration of the human soul, is the greatest miracle of all. Of course salvation wasn’t even part of the culture back then–except for Noah. The world had never yet seen a drop of rain, so just believing that God was going to destroy the earth with water was a stretch, but he did it. But then, to build a boat on dry land, build it the size required and believe it would float, and then trust that the animals from all over the earth would just find their way there and walk right in? Wow! Most of the world would have called, and probably did call, Noah a crazy man. But he obeyed in spite of their accusations.
Growing up, we had a record, and yes I mean a vinyl LP album, called “Bill Cosby is a Very Funny Fellow…Right!” I can’t tell you how many times we listened to it, but it was funny pretty much every time. The part we listened to most was the three skits where God calls on Noah to build an ark. Noah asks questions like, “Am I on Candid Camera?” and “Who is this really?” And while the story is written as a comedy, so much of it rings of truth when thinking about how humans react to that which is supernatural in God. To hear it for yourself, listen to this recording at God Tube… http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=WL7YYLNX and let me know if it’s your first time hearing it, or if it brings back some great memories for you.
And after you listen to Bill Cosby, and/or read today’s Scriptures, ask yourself whether you would act like Bill’s Noah, or the Noah in the Bible who, rather than doing things his own way, did ALL that God commanded of him. No wonder he found grace in the eyes of the Lord.
I mentioned one of today’s verses in a previous post when I talked about it being strife for God to dwell within man because of our flesh. To clarify, it is because of the evil of our flesh using the definition of evil to mean “minus God.” The whole of today’s reading is from Genesis 5:25 through Genesis 6:8, and it tells about the multiplication of mankind which includes the multiplication of evil because of the sheer abundance of flesh.
While I’m not sure what is meant here by the “sons of God” vs. the “daughters of men,” I wonder if God created more men from “scratch” than just Adam. And then in chapter 6, verse 3, God says, “My Spirit will not live in human beings forever, for they too are flesh.” I think it’s talking about the “oil and water” mix of flesh that yields evil and God’s Spirit that yields good.
In verse 5, we find that men are filled with wickedness and that all the imaginings of the hearts of mankind are of evil only. The King James Version states it as that their thoughts were “only evil continually.”
Some years ago, I was told that the truest definition of evil is, as I mentioned above, “minus God.” Another statement I read states that evil is a living thing with all of its molecules flowing in a direction that is opposite God. That makes sense when compared to Genesis 8:21 where it says that men’s thoughts are inclined toward evil from their childhood. The flesh by itself is minus God. So, while wickedness is not the definition of evil, it is caused by evil; by those whose thoughts are always in and on the flesh instead of in and on God.
So in chapter 6, we read that it was a constant state of mind–always thinking of self and never thinking of God. In the new testament, in Luke 17:26-27, we read that in the days when Christ returns, things will be just like they were here in Chapter 6. And the thing is, that doesn’t just mean what we would consider to be wicked men. The idea of men thinking more of themselves than thinking of God happens plenty with “the church” as well. When men pray, worship, preach, etc., just to be noticed, they’re thinking of themselves. When men think more about what they can get from God instead of what they can give to Him, they too are thinking of themselves. And when men worship the creation more than the Creator, well, that’s definitely thinking of self.
I asked someone one time, after they told me about an altar call where almost every person in the congregation went forward, “Would the same number of people move to the altar if the preacher asked how many wanted to give something to God as did when he called to everyone who wanted to receive something special?” The thought that fewer are willing to give than receive grieves me because I feel that God is worth more than a “genie in a magic lamp.” If the last thing we received from God was our salvation, it’s still deliverance from eternal death, and that makes it worth more than anything else–especially considering that it is a gift of God’s love to us.
I desire to worship God for who He is more than for what He does. I believe that will keep my thoughts from resting in the thoughts of the flesh, whether those thoughts lead to wickedness or just self-centeredness. For those who are followers of Christ, I find this perfectly summed up by author Chip Brogden from The School of Christ, in the following statement: “What is greater than the work of the Lord? It is, the Lord of the work.” May we always keep it in this perspective.
Today’s reading is from Genesis 5:1-24. Somehow, I knew I might have some trouble writing in those chapters that deal with genealogies. This one is the genealogy of Adam. I know that bloodlines can tell us marvelous facts if we understand their study, and there will be some later on that I can comment on, but this one is not bringing me something easy of myself, so I’m going to borrow from a message I have on CD by John Bevere.
In the message, and in his book called “Drawing Near,” John Bevere brings up a point I doubt I would ever have noticed. The long lifespans at that point in history allowed many to hear Adam’s story of the days in the garden when he walked with God. Like a grandpa telling about the good ‘ol days, Enoch must have been the one that listened most intently. In John’s words:
Adam wept as he relayed his heart-wrenching account. “Enoch, I walked with Him….in His glory. The Creator of the universe, the Maker of all you see, walked beside me! He shared the infinite wisdom of His master plan, how He placed and arranged the stars of the universe with His fingers. Those very fingers created me as well as held my hand.*
He goes on to tell more about creation secrets that Yahveh likely shared with Adam, and it is powerful as well as sad because Adam gave up all that intimacy for the desires of flesh. John continues and talks about the effect these words likely had on Enoch:
The more Adam spoke, the hungrier Enoch became, until the passion overwhelmed him. He must walk with God as Adam had. He would not be denied.
And we know from verse 24 that Enoch walked so closely to God that one day he was there on the earth and then suddenly, he wasn’t. Scripture tells us that God took him. It’s like, one moment he was walking on the dirt and then suddenly, the dirt turned to gold.
I try to share my testimonies of both my successes in my service to God and my failures to Him. But this makes me want to focus just that much more on sharing my relationship with Him. I want to share Him in such a profound way that others will be like Enoch and become hungry to have an even deeper relationship. I, myself, want to feel that passion that overwhelmed Enoch and press in until I am walking so close to God that there will be little difference when He brings me to join Him at His throne. What a glorious way to live life whether it lasts 900 plus years or 90 plus years.
*Excerpt from book, Drawing Near, by John Bevere found at Google Books in the preview. Read the entire preview, or just the beautiful section about Adam and Enoch (on pages 11-13) yourself and let me know what you think. I would recommend the book and/or study set for anyone who wants to deepen his or her relationship with Yahveh Almighty.
Not only was I out and about after reading today’s portion from Genesis 3:22 through 4:26 (end of chapter 4), I was driving, so I couldn’t do the entry from my phone app as I intended to do on days when I’m running. I just got home and looked at the clock, so time is short, which means I’ll have to keep this short. But I’m determined to make my best effort to write every day.
Yesterday, the Scripture ended with man and woman knowing they were naked and sewing fig leaves together to cover themselves. And then God shed the first blood to cover them completely. It was only after I began studying the Hebrew roots of my faith and falling in love with the old testament that I saw God in a new and merciful light, and this is the first place I saw Him that way. I had always believed in God as the “Big Meanie” in the old testament who got nice when He robed Himself in flesh in the new testament. But now, I see Him wanting to visit with Adam and Eve, and feeling pain because of the sin that has now divided them. Scripture says that for God, associating with the flesh is “strife” ( see Genesis 6:3), and He will not have it that way forever.
So, here is God with the new creation, the ones He called “very good,” and it’s hurting Him to even visit with them. What does He do? He causes Himself a bit more pain by slaying yet another of that which He has created, so the blood can temporarily cover the sin and allow Him to fellowship with them once more. I believe He hurt over killing that animal even more than most animal lovers would hurt. I don’t think it was a small thing for Him with that sacrifice or any sacrifice He demanded later. But it was a necessary sacrifice in order for God to participate in the lives of those He made in His very own image.
As this reading begins, we have God setting up angels to guard the “Tree of Life” to make sure that mankind cannot touch it and eat and live forever. That is a huge act of mercy because had they eaten from that tree after being in the sinful state caused by their eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, they would have been doomed to live in that terrible state forever. Imagine having a front row seat to all the darkness and evil in the world and having to sit and watch it forever. That would have been their fate if God had not intervened with His mercy. Yahveh God purposely caused the knowledge of evil to shorten their lives, so they would not have to live forever in hopelessness. Not only is that a great mercy from Him, it is still only the beginning of what He would do to give hope and a future to those who love Him. Amazing!
Today’s reading comes from Genesis 2:4 through Genesis 3:21. As usual, there is so much I could comment on, from God Himself breathing the breath of life into the first man, to the heavenly garden in Eden where mankind could eat fruit planted by His Creator, to man and wife being as one flesh. But I’d like to focus on the verses from 3:1 through 3:6.
So imagine Adam & and his new companion walking along a path and just enjoying the beautiful creation that surrounded them. Somehow, they end up right in front of the one tree of which they are not to partake. A voice comes from a serpent also hanging around this very tree. (Of course, this makes me wonder if all the animals talked since neither the man or woman seemed to have been surprised to be conversing with a snake.) And the first thing the snake does is challenge their Creator on whether He is a good provider. My translation: The serpent asked, “Hey, you people, did God say you could not eat from EVERY tree in the garden?”
Wait a minute–ONE tree vs EVERY tree? That lying snake was trying to make the one forbidden tree look like it was of more value than all the other trees put together. The focus was shifted from all they did have to the one little thing they didn’t have. And that’s not a new trick. I think it contributes to much of the depression in today’s world. Sure, I’d love to live a cushy life where all my big desires are covered with plenty to spare. But I have the blessing of remembering times when I’ve had less, so those memories often bring me back to a place of gratefulness. The newly created couple didn’t have that to lean on, so all they could do is imagine that maybe they were missing out on something.
Next, the woman restated the rule of the tree of knowledge. Now, it could be that God said more to them with the first given orders, but if not, I’m wondering why the woman enhanced God’s words and added the part about not touching the tree. Did she fill herself with extreme fear to make sure she stayed on the straight and narrow? Or, maybe the law was spoken to Adam, and in his overly zealous desire to protect his wife from disobedience, he told her that she was not only to avoid eating it but also to avoid touching it. (Kinda like when parents tell their kids things like, “If you keep doing that, it’ll stay that way forever.”) Unfortunately, even strong warnings of never and forever don’t always work, and the fear of discipline in front of the woman was not enough to stop her from listening to the next lie.
So, in verse 4, the serpent flat-out calls God a liar. The husband is standing there, (we see that in verse 6), but he doesn’t seem to be getting defensive about all these lies. I wonder why he wasn’t shouting, “Come on, Honey, let’s get out of here. This little wimp has challenged our Creator on His ability to care for us, and now he’s calling Him a liar! We don’t need to hear anything else that snake has to say.” But they just stood there and listened, and the lying words started sinking in.
Now the woman takes a more deliberate look at the tree and begins a thinking process that has gotten man into trouble ever since. 1 John 2:16 says, “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.” Now look at the thoughts it says were going through the woman’s mind: When the woman saw the tree was good for food (lust of the flesh), pleasant to the eyes (lust of the eyes), and a tree to desirable to make one wise (pride of life), she was enticed. She imagined trying to BE like God rather than to SERVE her Creator, and in that, she imitated the very thoughts that got the voice behind the lying serpent thrown out of the Heavenlies in the first place. This was the fall before the fall. Before she even partook of the forbidden fruit, she engaged in evil thoughts and let the flesh win. And because her husband did not challenge the lying voice, she took him down with her.
But I do not want to stop here with hopelessness. It is evident that sin is something born into the flesh from its inception, or she would not have been able to sin in her mind before acting on her thoughts. But knowing this gives us a way to fight when those same thoughts try to bombard our minds. And even better, we are told in Hebrews 4:15, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” How was Yahshua (Jesus) tempted on all points? In Luke 4:1-13, we read of “the temptation in the wilderness.” The temptations included the lust of the flesh (turn these stones to bread), the lust of the eyes (look at all the kingdoms I can give you), and the pride of life (cast yourself down and make a show of the angels not letting you fall). He was truly tempted in EVERY way we can be tempted, and thus continually delivers us from what started with a liar at the beginning of creation.
- Current Events
- LCW for Edits
- About Writing
- Bible Study
- Fun & Flourishing Friday
- Lyrics and Song
- Musably Monday
- Sabbatically Saturday
- School of Christ
- Serendipitously Sunday
- Slice of Life
- Tech Time Tuesday
- Theologically Thursday
- TV and Movies
- Wordy Winsome Wednesday