825.) Genesis 19

June 29, 2012

The Dead Sea. Sodom was known as a Dead Sea city.

Genesis 19    (NRSV)

The Depravity of Sodom

The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of Sodom.

There has been a steady progression of compromise in Lot’s life. He went from looking toward Sodom (Genesis 13:10), to pitching his tent toward Sodom (Genesis 13:12), then to living in Sodom (Genesis 14:12) and losing everything. Now Lot sits in the gate of Sodom, indicating he is a civic leader.

Lot himself was a righteous man who was grieved by the sin he saw around him (2 Peter 2:7-8), but because of his compromise few of his family and none of his friends were saved. Compromise destroyed his testimony.

–David Guzik

When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them, and bowed down with his face to the ground. 2He said, “Please, my lords, turn aside to your servant’s house and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you can rise early and go on your way.”

They said, “No; we will spend the night in the square.”

3But he urged them strongly; so they turned aside to him and entered his house; and he made them a feast, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.

4But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house; 5and they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, so that we may know them.”

6Lot went out of the door to the men, shut the door after him, 7and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. 8Look, I have two daughters who have not known a man; let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please; only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.”

Lot!  The offer of your daughters is horrible and cannot be justified, even when we consider the low place of women in the pre-Christian world and the very high place of any guest in one’s home in the ancient world. You are showing your true colors, and it isn’t pretty! 

9But they replied, “Stand back!” And they said, “This fellow came here as an alien, and he would play the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.” Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and came near the door to break it down.

10But the men inside reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them, and shut the door. 11And they struck with blindness the men who were at the door of the house, both small and great, so that they were unable to find the door.

Sodom and Gomorrah Destroyed


12Then the men said to Lot, “Have you anyone else here? Sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or anyone you have in the city—bring them out of the place. 13For we are about to destroy this place, because the outcry against its people has become great before the Lord, and the Lord has sent us to destroy it.”

14So Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, “Up, get out of this place; for the Lord is about to destroy the city.” But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting.

15When morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Get up, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or else you will be consumed in the punishment of the city.”

16But he lingered; so the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and left him outside the city. 17When they had brought them outside, they said, “Flee for your life; do not look back or stop anywhere in the Plain; flee to the hills, or else you will be consumed.”

18And Lot said to them, “Oh, no, my lords; 19your servant has found favor with you, and you have shown me great kindness in saving my life; but I cannot flee to the hills, for fear the disaster will overtake me and I die. 20Look, that city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one. Let me escape there—is it not a little one? —and my life will be saved!”

Lot!  Whining and badgering and complaining to angels while the brimstone is starting to fall on your head!  You are showing your true colors, and it isn’t pretty!

21He said to him, “Very well, I grant you this favor too, and will not overthrow the city of which you have spoken. 22Hurry, escape there, for I can do nothing until you arrive there.” Therefore the city was called Zoar. 23The sun had risen on the earth when Lot came to Zoar.

24Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven; 25and he overthrew those cities, and all the Plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.

26But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.

(Not sure that being a pillar of salt isn’t preferable to being the wife of a husband like Lot . . . just sayin’ . . . )

“Lot’s Wife Looked Back” by Chicago artist David Detzner

Luke 17:22-32 (New International Version)

Then he said to his disciples, “The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it.  People will tell you, ‘There he is!’ or ‘Here he is!’ Do not go running off after them.  For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other.  But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.

“Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man.  People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.

“It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building.  But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.

“It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed.  On that day no one who is on the housetop, with possessions inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything.  Remember Lot’s wife!



Bob Dylan sings Lot’s Wife’s song (at least that’s how I hear it):  “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.”


27Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the Lord; 28and he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the Plain and saw the smoke of the land going up like the smoke of a furnace.

29So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the Plain, God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when he overthrew the cities in which Lot had settled.



“Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.  They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.”
–Ezekiel 16: 49-50  (NIV)

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
–James 1:27   (NIV)

How painful it is to look back on our lives and see where we have been “arrogant, overfed and unconcerned . . .”  What can you and I do even more intentionally to “help the poor and needy” and “look after orphans and widows in their distress”?


The Shameful Origin of Moab and Ammon

“Lot and His Daughters” by Orazio Gentileschi, 1623 (National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa)

30Now Lot went up out of Zoar and settled in the hills with his two daughters, for he was afraid to stay in Zoar; so he lived in a cave with his two daughters. 31And the firstborn said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is not a man on earth to come in to us after the manner of all the world. 32Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, so that we may preserve offspring through our father.”

33So they made their father drink wine that night; and the firstborn went in, and lay with her father; he did not know when she lay down or when she rose.

“Ironically, in his own drunkenness Lot carried out the shameful act that he himself had suggested to the men of Sodom: he lay with his own daughters.”

–John Sailhamer

34On the next day, the firstborn said to the younger, “Look, I lay last night with my father; let us make him drink wine tonight also; then you go in and lie with him, so that we may preserve offspring through our father.” 35So they made their father drink wine that night also; and the younger rose, and lay with him; and he did not know when she lay down or when she rose.

36Thus both the daughters of Lot became pregnant by their father.

Lot!  Words fail me.

37The firstborn bore a son, and named him Moab; he is the ancestor of the Moabites to this day. 38The younger also bore a son and named him Ben-ammi; he is the ancestor of the Ammonites to this day.

The Moabites and the Ammonites will be enemies and obstacles for Israel, just like the descendants of Ishmael.


The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Dead Sea.   http://www.ianandwendy.com/Israel/Dead_Sea/Dead%20Sea-9.jpg
Destruction of Sodom.  http://www.aboutkhai.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/10/windowslivewriterbiggsodomgomorrahandblogging-f65bimage03.png
Detzner.   http://www.burkhartstudios.com/gallery/painters/detzner/lots_wife.jpg
Gentileschi.  http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_9l2lhz6XYkA/SaFO11oGn6I/AAAAAAAAAFg/bo_Be9zNyVQ/s1600-h/Lot,+daughters.jpg

824.) Genesis 18

June 28, 2012

“Abraham and the Three Visitors” by Israeli Hassidic artist David Avisar

Genesis 18   (NRSV)

A Son Promised to Abraham and Sarah

The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. 2He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground.

3He said, “My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant. 4Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. 5Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.”

So they said, “Do as you have said.”



As Abraham did before the angels, so we also bow down before the Lord.  “We Bow Down,” written by Viola Grafstrom.


6And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.”

Yes, Sara(h) was well-known for her delicious little cakes!

7Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it. 8Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.


Hebrews 13:2 (New American Standard Bible)

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.



“Entertaining Angels”  by the Australian Christian pop rock band Newsboys, released in 1998 and a big hit.


9They said to him, “Where is your wife Sarah?”

And he said, “There, in the tent.”

10Then one said, “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.”

And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him. 11Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. 12So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?”

13The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ 14Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.”

15But Sarah denied, saying, “I did not laugh”; for she was afraid.

He said, “Oh yes, you did laugh.”

2 Timothy 2:13 (English Standard Version)

If we are faithless, he remains faithful—

for he cannot deny himself.



“Abraham Welcoming the Three Angels,” by contemporary Israeli artist Boruch Nachson.


Mosaic of Abraham from Ravenna, 6th century.



Judgement Pronounced on Sodom

16Then the men set out from there, and they looked toward Sodom; and Abraham went with them to set them on their way. 17The Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, 18seeing that Abraham shall become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? 19No, for I have chosen him, that he may charge 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 about for Abraham what he has promised him.”

20Then the Lord said, “How great is the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah and how very grave their sin! 21I must go down and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me; and if not, I will know.” 22So the men turned from there, and went toward Sodom, while Abraham remained standing before the Lord.

23Then Abraham came near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will you then sweep away the place and not forgive it for the fifty righteous who are in it? 25Far be it from you to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”

“Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”  This verse often comes to me when I ponder the impossible things of life — children being abused in horrible ways, mothers dying and leaving young kids behind, wicked persons succeeding while the righteous suffer, and endlessly on and on in our broken world.  This verse brings comfort:  God will make things right in the end.  He will do what is right for all involved.

26And the Lord said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will forgive the whole place for their sake.”

Once the principle is established — God will not destroy the righteous with the wicked — now it is just a matter of numbers. How many righteous people will God spare the city for?

This reminds me of an old joke:

Guy: “If I gave you a million dollars, would you sleep with me?”
Girl: “A million dollars is a lot of money, and you don’t look that bad, so I guess I would consider it.”
Guy: “OK, since I don’t have a million dollars, would you sleep with me for $100?”
Girl: (outraged) “What kind of girl do you think I am?”
Guy: “We’ve already established the answer to that question. Now we’re just negotiating the price.”

27Abraham answered, “Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. 28Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?”

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

29Again he spoke to him, “Suppose forty are found there.”

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

30Then he said, “Oh do not let the Lord be angry if I speak. Suppose thirty are found there.”

I love that Abraham never asks the Lord “Why?” or demands that the Lord explain himself or his actions.

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

31He said, “Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.”

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

32Then he said, “Oh do not let the Lord be angry if I speak just once more. Suppose ten are found there.”

He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.” 33And the Lord went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham; and Abraham returned to his place.



Simple Secrets of the Kingdom
Study 8 – Jesus Christ, the second perfect

In this study we see the contrast between the second perfect man Jesus and the first man, Adam. Jesus is the new Adam and by his power of grace he is able to bring about changes in us. We can become a new creation in Jesus. Click here for AUDIO or VIDEO.


The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Avisar.   http://www.jewish-art-and-gifts.com/images/Abraham%20and%203%20visitors%20lg.jpg
Sara Lee cake.   http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_92_cipUxhGw/SFUbpr5soKI/AAAAAAAAAak/KliCizEux5Y/s320/sara%2Blee.png
Sodom in black and white.  http://sewhttkr.home.comcast.net/~sewhttkr/bibleWS/bibleWS/12_sodom1.gif

823.) Genesis 17

June 27, 2012

Circumcision Procedure Tray

Genesis 17   (NRSV)

The Sign of the Covenant

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. 2And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.”



“God Almighty” in verse 1 is, in Hebrew, El Shaddai, meaning the God Who is sufficient, the Almighty One.  Amy Grant sings.


3Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, 4“As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. 5No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. 6I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. 7I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. 8And I will give to you, and to your offspring after you, the land where you are now an alien, all the land of Canaan, for a perpetual holding; and I will be their God.”

9God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. 10This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. 12Throughout your generations every male among you shall be circumcised when he is eight days old, including the slave born in your house and the one bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring. 13Both the slave born in your house and the one bought with your money must be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. 14Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”


Galatians 5:6 (New International Version)

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.


15God said to Abraham, “As for Sarah your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. 16I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.”

17Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said to himself, “Can a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Can Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?”

Even though Abraham had no doubts about the promise, yet so far he was mistaken with respect to the person.  For he though that Sarah would not bear a child and that the promise would be diverted to Ishmael.  But here a perfect circle is closed, so to speak, and Abraham sees that a true heir will be born to him from Sarah.  Consequently, he is full of joy.  Exulting and triumphing in the most beautiful and perfect faith, he falls to the ground and laughs.  Full of wonderment, he says, “Shall a son be born to me, a man one hundred years old, and from Sarah at that?”

Thus Abraham, full of joy, laughs as he gives thanks to God for His so unexpected kindness.  For what else could he do than marvel at his and rejoice over it?

Let us ask God to give us a joyful heart for such joyful promises that we, too, may exult and be glad with saintly Abraham because we are the people of God.

–Martin Luther

18And Abraham said to God, “O that Ishmael might live in your sight!”

19God said, “No, but your wife Sarah shall bear you a son, and you shall name him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. 20As for Ishmael, I have heard you; I will bless him and make him fruitful and exceedingly numerous; he shall be the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. 21But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this season next year.” 22And when he had finished talking with him, God went up from Abraham.



New names!  God identifies Himself for the first time as El Shaddai, the God who is more than enough.  And Abraham and Sarah get new names, to signify the new direction their lives would soon be taking.  Jesus says that you will have a new name, too!  In Revelation 2:17, the promise is given that “to the one who overcomes . . .  I will give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.”

What new name, what new direction, might God have for you?


“The Circumcision” by Marc Chagall, 1956.

23Then Abraham took his son Ishmael and all the slaves born in his house or bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house, and he circumcised the flesh of their foreskins that very day, as God had said to him. 24Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. 25And his son Ishmael was thirteen years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. 26That very day Abraham and his son Ishmael were circumcised; 27and all the men of his house, slaves born in the house and those bought with money from a foreigner, were circumcised with him.



Two little boys are in a hospital, lying on stretchers next to each other, outside the operating room. The first kid leans over and asks, “What are you in here for?”

The second kid says, “I’m in here to get my tonsils out and I’m a little nervous.” The first kid says, “You’ve got nothing to worry about. I had that done when I was four. They put you to sleep, and when you wake up they give you lots of Jell-O and ice cream. It’s a breeze!”

The second kid then asks, “What are you here for?” The first kid says, “A circumcision.” And the second kid says, “Whoa! I had that done when I was born. I couldn’t walk for a year!”


The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
medical supplies.    https://www.healthmegamall.com/ProdImages/MLE/21672.jpg
a joyful heart.   http://www.smileyme.com/pocket_cards/kids_children/bookmarks_joyful_heart_cheerful_face_pocket_prayer_card.gif
Chagall.  http://www.franklinbowlesgallery.com/Shared_Elements/ArtistPages/Chagall/galleries/bible/CHAG0722P.jpg

822.) Genesis 16

June 26, 2012

“Hagar,” a chromogenic print by Israeli photographer Adi Nes, 2006

Genesis 16  (NRSV)

The Birth of Ishmael

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, bore him no children. She had an Egyptian slave-girl whose name was Hagar, 2and Sarai said to Abram, “You see that the Lord has prevented me from bearing children; go in to my slave-girl; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.”

Poor Sarai!  All these years of childlessness had convinced her it was her fault.  So she comes up with a solution.  After all, isn’t it true that “God helps those who help themselves”?

And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. 3So, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her slave-girl, and gave her to her husband Abram as a wife.

“Sarah Presenting Hagar to Abraham” by Louis Lagrenee (1725-1805),

4He went in to Hagar, and she conceived; and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress. 5Then Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done to me be on you! I gave my slave-girl to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt. May the Lord judge between you and me!”

6But Abram said to Sarai, “Your slave-girl is in your power; do to her as you please.”

I became despised in her eyes:  Hagar’s contempt for Sarai started the problem. She couldn’t resist displaying an inappropriate haughtiness, thinking her pregnancy somehow showed her to be better than Sarai.

My wrong be upon you!  Sarai blamed the whole situation on Abram, and for good cause. He should have acted as the spiritual leader and told his wife God was able to perform what He promised, and they didn’t need to try to “help God out” in the works of the flesh.

Indeed your maid is in your hand; do to her as you please:  Abram seemed to make a bad situation worse by turning the situation over to Sarai and not taking care of the child he is father to. Yet, in this, he also puts his relationship with Sarai first, and that is good.

These terribly complicated and difficult situations often arise out of our sin. All in all, it is much easier to live life trusting in the Lord.

–David Guzik

Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she ran away from her. 7The angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur.

“Hagar and the Angel in the Desert,” by James Tissot, 1896 (The Jewish Museum, New York)

8And he said, “Hagar, slave-girl of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?”

She said, “I am running away from my mistress Sarai.”

9The angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit to her.”



“Where have you come from and where are you going?”
How would you answer the angel of the Lord’s question if it were addressed to you?

“Return to your mistress, and submit to her.”
What difficult situation are you facing which requires that you persevere and see it through?

“You have conceived and shall bear a son.”
What gracious hope is God offering you?


10The angel of the Lord also said to her, “I will so greatly multiply your offspring that they cannot be counted for multitude.” 11And the angel of the Lord said to her, “Now you have conceived and shall bear a son; you shall call him Ishmael, for the Lord has given heed to your affliction. 12He shall be a wild ass of a man, with his hand against everyone, and everyone’s hand against him; and he shall live at odds with all his kin.”

13So she named the Lord who spoke to her, “You are El-roi” meaning “You are the God who sees me”; for she said, “Have I really seen God and remained alive after seeing him?” 14Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi; it lies between Kadesh and Bered.

from Whispers of His Power,
by Amy Carmichael

Genesis 16:13-14 — And she called the name of the Lord that spake unto her, Thou God seest me.  Thou God of Vision.  Wherefore the well was called The well of Him that liveth and seeth me.  The well of the Life of Vision.

Thou God seest me, Thou God of Vision.  These words were spoken by Hagar who had been utterly discouraged but now was encouraged.  Sarah had been very unkind to her, but the angel of the Lord did not say to her, “Poor Hagar!”  The sympathy of the Lord our God is never weakening, it is bracing.  Hagar had run away, so the angel said Return.  God’s love is always brave love. 

He said more.  Perhaps Hagar had thought He did not care much about her.  He cared for Sarah of course, but she was only Hagar.  So the angel put her right about that, and told her how the Lord would bless her, because He had seen and heard her affliction.

Awed and heartened, Hagar called the name of the Lord Thou God that seest me, Thou God of Vision.  The well nearby was named “The well of Him that liveth and seeth me.”

Thank God for that well in the wilderness.  If we are discouraged or tired or hurt today, one long drink from that well will give us new life, new courage, new patience to return to running the race set before us, even to the end.

from Rebecca — This story of Hagar and this teaching from Amy Carmichael have been profoundly influential in my life. The fact that “You are the God who sees me” (verse 13) is an encouraging thought in every situation.  Am I tempted to do wrong?  God is watching me, giving me strength to resist sin and choose righteousness.  Am I ill-treated and hurt or angry about it?  God sees, God knows, and he will take care of me, so I can stop feeling sorry for myself (Choose NOT to be offended!) and live in kindness to all.  Am I in need?  God sees my lack and will provide according to his riches in glory.  Am I in a perplexing situation and do not know what to do next?  God understands and day by day will work all things together for good for me.  Am I counting my blessings and praising the Lord?  God sees and hears and rejoices with me.  As Amy Carmichael says, the love of God is “bracing” and I commend it to you!


15Hagar bore Abram a son; and Abram named his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael. 16Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.



In honor of Hagar and all the people who feel beaten down, whose home is a wreck, who are so tired that even their soul is weary — “Who will comfort me?”  by Melody Gardot.

My soul is a weary
My soul is a weary
My soul is a weary
I said my soul is a weary
My soul is a weary and beaten down from all of my misery
Oh Lord who will comfort me
My soul is a weary and beaten down from all of my misery
Oh Lord who will comfort me
Got a hold on my heart that keeps me bound
When the whole wide world is free
Oh Lord who will comfort me
Got a hold on my heart that keeps me bound
When the whole wide world is free
Oh Lord who will comfort me
My home is a wreckage
A family drowned in flight and poverty
Oh Lord who will comfort me
My home is a wreckage
A family drowned in flight and poverty
Oh Lord who will comfort me
Oh Lord who will comfort me


Simple Secrets of the Kingdom
Study 7 – Son of God, Creator

God’s perfect Son, Jesus, now shares in our creation daily by actively creating new life in us.  The power behind this work is the living word of our living God.   St. Paul writes about this power in us as the central reality of his message to his churches, especially to Colossians and Ephesians and Corinthians.  Click here for AUDIO or VIDEO.


The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Hagar photograph.  http://www.turismo.intoscana.it/allthingstuscany/tuscanyarts/files/2011/01/adi-nes-hagar.jpg
Lagrenee.  http://conchigliadivenere.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/sarah-presenting-hagar-to-abraham.jpg
Tissot.  http://oneyearbibleimages.com/hagar_desert.jpg
El Roi.  http://backgrounds.crossmap.com/christian-backgrounds/wallpaper1353_1600x1200.jpg

821.) Genesis 14 and 15

June 25, 2012


Genesis 14 and 15   (NRSV)

Lot’s Captivity and Rescue

In the days of King Amraphel of Shinar, King Arioch of Ellasar, King Chedorlaomer of Elam, and King Tidal of Goiim, 2these kings made war with King Bera of Sodom, King Birsha of Gomorrah, King Shinab of Admah, King Shemeber of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar). 3All these joined forces in the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Dead Sea). 4Twelve years they had served Chedorlaomer, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled.

5In the fourteenth year Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him came and subdued the Rephaim in Ashteroth-karnaim, the Zuzim in Ham, the Emim in Shaveh-kiriathaim, 6and the Horites in the hill country of Seir as far as El-paran on the edge of the wilderness; 7then they turned back and came to En-mishpat (that is, Kadesh), and subdued all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites who lived in Hazazon-tamar.

8Then the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) went out, and they joined battle in the Valley of Siddim 9with King Chedorlaomer of Elam, King Tidal of Goiim, King Amraphel of Shinar, and King Arioch of Ellasar, four kings against five. 10Now the Valley of Siddim was full of bitumen pits; and as the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some fell into them, and the rest fled to the hill country. 11So the enemy took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their provisions, and went their way; 12they also took Lot, the son of Abram’s brother, who lived in Sodom, and his goods, and departed.

Lot!  Don’t you see that the evil of Sodom is clutching at you and your soul? 

But Abram is a man of honor, and he will fight for his nephew.

13Then one who had escaped came and told Abram the Hebrew, who was living by the oaks of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and of Aner; these were allies of Abram. 14When Abram heard that his nephew had been taken captive, he led forth his trained men, born in his house, three hundred eighteen of them, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. 15He divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and routed them and pursued them to Hobah, north of Damascus. 16Then he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his nephew Lot with his goods, and the women and the people.

Abram had wealth.   Any man who can assemble 318 servants capable of fighting must be very rich.  And he kept them trained and ready to defend his interests.

Abram had military wisdom. Using the clever tactic of a night attack with his army split into two groups, he succeeds in rescuing Lot and recovering all the booty seized by the confederacy of the five kings.



“The Battle Belongs to the Lord,”  words and music by Jamie Owens-Collins, 1985,  performed by the Maranatha Singers.


Abram Blessed by Melchizedek

“Abraham and Melchizedek” (also known as “The Knight’s Communion”), Reims Cathedral, c. 1250

17After his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). 18And King Melchizedek of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was priest of God Most High.

The name Melchizedek means “king of righteousness.” He is the king of Salem, and Salem is the original Jerusalem, and Melchizedek is the priest of God Most High. He is a worshiper and priest of the true God, ruling over Jerusalem even in those ancient times.

–David Guzik

(And to my dear friend LRW, who is himself a worshiper and a priest of God Most High — Happy Birthday!)

19He blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, maker of heaven and earth; 20and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” And Abram gave him one tenth of everything.

“The Meeting of Abraham and Melchizedek” by Peter Paul Rubens, c. 1626 (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.)

Hebrews 5: 7-10 (ESV)

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.


21Then the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the persons, but take the goods for yourself.”

22But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have sworn to the Lord, God Most High, maker of heaven and earth, 23that I would not take a thread or a sandal-thong or anything that is yours, so that you might not say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’ 24I will take nothing but what the young men have eaten, and the share of the men who went with me—Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre. Let them take their share.”

God’s Covenant with Abram

15) After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.”

Abram needed a shield because he was expecting to be attacked.  He needed reward because he had just forfeited great reward offered from the king of Sodom.  God is telling Abram that though he has sacrificed for His sake, he will not be the loser for it. God will more than make up what Abram has given up for the Lord, because God knows how to answer all our needs. 

2But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3And Abram said, “You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.” 4But the word of the Lord came to him, “This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir.” 5He brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”

And one of those descendants will be the Bright and Morning Star, Jesus Christ.

6And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.


Here in Genesis is one of the clearest expressions in the Bible of the truth of salvation by grace, through faith!  Paul explains it further:

Romans 4:18-24 (New Living Translation)

Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping—believing that he would become the father of many nations. For God had said to him, “That’s how many descendants you will have!” And Abraham’s faith did not weaken, even though, at about 100 years of age, he figured his body was as good as dead—and so was Sarah’s womb.

Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God.  He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises.  And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous.  And when God counted him as righteous, it wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. It was recorded  for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.


7Then he said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess.”

8But he said, “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?”

9He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.”

10He brought him all these and cut them in two, laying each half over against the other; but he did not cut the birds in two.

Abram understood God was telling him to get a contract ready for signing.  In those days, contracts were made by the sacrificial cutting of animals, with the split carcasses of the animals lying on the ground.  Then both parties to the covenant would walk through the animal parts together, repeating the terms of the covenant. The Lord made a covenant in Genesis 15:18 is literally, “the Lord cut a covenant.”

Jeremiah 34:18-20 makes reference to this same practice of a covenant made by cutting animals and repeating the oath of the covenant as one walks through the animal parts.

The symbolism was plain: first, this is a covenant so serious it is sealed with blood; second, if I break this covenant, let this same bloodshed be poured out on my animals and me!

There is no mistake about it: when Abram has his doubts, and wants assurance from the Lord, God says to him plainly, “let’s sign a contract and settle this once for all; this land IS yours.”

–David Guzik

11And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.

12As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him. 13Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know this for certain, that your offspring shall be aliens in a land that is not theirs, and shall be slaves there, and they shall be oppressed for four hundred years; 14but I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. 15As for yourself, you shall go to your ancestors in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. 16And they shall come back here in the fourth generation; for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”



Until the time was right, God’s people were to wait — through four hundred years of slavery and the hair-raising exodus; they were to wait even though the waiting was long, difficult, and painful.  Are you ever frustrated because God does not immediately act to meet your need or fulfill your expectation?  What purposes might God have in allowing you to wait?


17When the sun had gone down and it was dark, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. 18On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, 19the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, 20the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.”


The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Abraham looks at the stars.   http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_I_rRqZjTqu0/SwLb-fLnLvI/AAAAAAAAANE/8MdzJqkAFPo/s1600/abraham_stars.jpg
Knight’s Communion.   http://www.brynmawr.edu/Acads/Cities/wld/01530/01530h.jpg
Rubens.    http://nga.gov/fcgi-bin/timage_f?object=4564o&image=8282&c=
Abraham and stars.  http://www.loder.cz/bible/abram/V054.jpg
“The Covenant”  by Pat Marvenko Smith.  http://www.revelationillustrated.com/shop/images/Covenant.jpg

820.) Genesis 12 and 13

June 22, 2012
The Call of Abraham, ceramic relief by Richard McBee, 1980
“The Call of Abraham”  ceramic relief by Richard McBee, 1980

Genesis 12 and 13   (NRSV)

The Call of Abram

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

A three-fold promise of land, descendants, and blessing.  The remainder of the Old Testament is the great story of Abraham’s children, the Jewish people, living in the land that God promised to Abraham.  And the New Testament is the story of the greatest blessing from God, which he sent to all people through Abraham’s genealogical line, his Son Jesus Christ.

4So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. 5Abram took his wife Sarai and his brother’s son Lot, and all the possessions that they had gathered, and the persons whom they had acquired in Haran; and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan. When they had come to the land of Canaan,6Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land.

7Then the Lord appeared to Abram, and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. 8From there he moved on to the hill country on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the Lord and invoked the name of the Lord. 9And Abram journeyed on by stages toward the Negeb.


Hebrews 11:8-10 (Contemporary English Version)

Abraham had faith and obeyed God. He was told to go to the land that God had said would be his, and he left for a country he had never seen.  Because Abraham had faith, he lived as a stranger in the promised land. He lived there in a tent, and so did Isaac and Jacob, who were later given the same promise.  Abraham did this, because he was waiting for the eternal city that God had planned and built.



Bruce Feiler.  Walking the Bible: A Journey by Land through the Five Books of Moses (Book I, Chapter 1 “In the Land of Canaan”).

map of Abraham’s journeys.   http://www.originofnations.org/books,%20papers/maps/patriarchs.jpg

Field of Dreams, 1989, starring Kevin Costner.  A movie with an Abraham-esque theme:  Farmer Ray Kinsella gives up everything in Iowa (Ur) to find his destiny. At the end of the movie, his daughter envisions the field as a promised land for people, and as the credits roll the lights of the cars coming there seem almost like the stars in the sky. (Can you tell I am a displaced Iowa farm girl?!)


Abram and Sarai in Egypt

10Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to reside there as an alien, for the famine was severe in the land. 11When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know well that you are a woman beautiful in appearance;

A Jewish legend says when Abram went into Egypt, he tried to hide Sarai in a casket. When Egyptian customs officials asked what he had in the casket, he said, “barley.” “No,” they said, “it contains wheat.” “Very well,” answered Abram. “I’ll pay the custom on wheat.” Then the officers said it contained pepper. Abram said he would pay the custom charges on pepper. Then the officers said it contained gold. Abram said he would pay the custom charges on gold. Then the officers said it contained precious stones. Abram said he would pay the custom charges on precious stones. By this time, the officers insisted on opening the casket. When they did, all of Egypt shone because of the beauty of Sarai. These same legends say that in comparison to Sarai, all other women looked like monkeys. She was even more beautiful than Eve.

–David Guzik

12and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife’; then they will kill me, but they will let you live. 13Say you are my sister, so that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared on your account.”

14When Abram entered Egypt the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. 15When the officials of Pharaoh saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. 16And for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male and female slaves, female donkeys, and camels. 17But the Lord afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife.

18So Pharaoh called Abram, and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? 19Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife, take her, and be gone.” 20And Pharaoh gave his men orders concerning him; and they set him on the way, with his wife and all that he had.


Memo #1 to Abram:

“Better a poor man whose walk is blameless
than a rich man whose ways are perverse.”

–Proverbs 28:6  (NIV)


Abram and Lot Separate

13)  So Abram went up from Egypt, he and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the Negeb. 2Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold. 3He journeyed on by stages from the Negeb as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, 4to the place where he had made an altar at the first; and there Abram called on the name of the Lord.

5Now Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents, 6so that the land could not support both of them living together; for their possessions were so great that they could not live together, 7and there was strife between the herders of Abram’s livestock and the herders of Lot’s livestock. At that time the Canaanites and the Perizzites lived in the land. 8Then Abram said to Lot, “Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herders and my herders; for we are kindred. 9Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left.”

“As soon as you begin to live the life of faith in God, fascinating and luxurious prospects will open up before you, and these things are yours by right; but if you are living the life of faith you will exercise your right to waive your rights, and let God choose for you.  God sometimes allows you to get into a place of testing where your own welfare would be the right and proper thing to consider if you were not living a life of faith; but if you are, you will joyfully waive your right and leave God to choose for you.  This is the discipline by means of which the natural is transformed into the spiritual by obedience to the voice of God.”

–Oswald Chambers

10Lot looked about him, and saw that the plain of the Jordan was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar; this was before the Lord had destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. 11So Lot chose for himself all the plain of the Jordan, and Lot journeyed eastward; thus they separated from each other.

Lot!  Rudely and selfishly grabbing what looks like the best for yourself, in the face of Abram’s generosity and kindness!  You are showing your true colors, and it isn’t pretty!

12Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled among the cities of the Plain and moved his tent as far as Sodom. 13Now the people of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord.

14The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Raise your eyes now, and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; 15for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever.



Abraham looked N and S and E and W — “Shout to the North”  by the British band Delirious, released in 2001.  (The music starts at about 14 seconds.)


16I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth; so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted. 17Rise up, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.”

“Arise, walk!”  According to ancient custom, a property transfer was finalized by the new owner’s visit to the tract.  God commands Abram to walk his land and lay symbolic claim to it.

18So Abram moved his tent, and came and settled by the oaks of Mamre, which are at Hebron; and there he built an altar to the Lord.



Click on the link to see “The Oaks of Mamre,” a painting by Marguerite Fletcher, courtesy of First Lutheran Church, Palo Alto, CA.



The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
McBee (a contemporary Jewish artist from New York).  http://richardmcbee.com/Relief%20Sculptures_files/thecallofabraham.jpg
cartoon.   http://www.cartoonstock.com/lowres/jco0017l.jpg
photograph of Kristin Kreuk.  http://www.toptenz.net/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/kristin-kreuk.jpg
Abraham and Lot.    http://www.lavistachurchofchrist.org/Pictures/Patriarichal%20Age/images/abraham_and_lot_part_ways.jpg

819.) Genesis 10 and 11

June 21, 2012


Genesis 10 and 11   (NRSV)

Nations Descended from Noah

These are the descendants of Noah’s sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth; children were born to them after the flood. 2The descendants of Japheth:

Japheth has traditionally been called the father of the Indo-European peoples — Caucasians, or the Gentiles.

Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras. 3The descendants of Gomer: Ashkenaz, Riphath, and Togarmah. 4The descendants of Javan: Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Rodanim. 5From these the coastland peoples spread. These are the descendants of Japheth in their lands, with their own language, by their families, in their nations.

6The descendants of Ham:

The descendants of Ham have traditionally been thought to be those who populated Africa and the Far East.

Cush, Egypt, Put, and Canaan. 7The descendants of Cush: Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah, and Sabteca. The descendants of Raamah: Sheba and Dedan. 8Cush became the father of Nimrod; he was the first on earth to become a mighty warrior. 9He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the Lord.” 10The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, and Accad, all of them in the land of Shinar. 11From that land he went into Assyria, and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-ir, Calah, and 12Resen between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city. 13Egypt became the father of Ludim, Anamim, Lehabim, Naphtuhim, 14Pathrusim, Casluhim, and Caphtorim, from which the Philistines come.

15Canaan became the father of Sidon his firstborn, and Heth, 16and the Jebusites, the Amorites, the Girgashites, 17the Hivites, the Arkites, the Sinites, 18the Arvadites, the Zemarites, and the Hamathites. Afterward the families of the Canaanites spread abroad. 19And the territory of the Canaanites extended from Sidon, in the direction of Gerar, as far as Gaza, and in the direction of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha. 20These are the descendants of Ham, by their families, their languages, their lands, and their nations.

21To Shem also, the father of all the children of Eber, the elder brother of Japheth, children were born. 22The descendants of Shem:

Shem has traditionally been considered the father of the Semitic peoples, Jews and Arabs.

Elam, Asshur, Arpachshad, Lud, and Aram. 23The descendants of Aram: Uz, Hul, Gether, and Mash. 24Arpachshad became the father of Shelah; and Shelah became the father of Eber. 25To Eber were born two sons: the name of the one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided, and his brother’s name was Joktan. 26Joktan became the father of Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah, 27Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah, 28Obal, Abimael, Sheba, 29Ophir, Havilah, and Jobab; all these were the descendants of Joktan. 30The territory in which they lived extended from Mesha in the direction of Sephar, the hill country of the east. 31These are the descendants of Shem, by their families, their languages, their lands, and their nations. 32These are the families of Noah’s sons, according to their genealogies, in their nations; and from these the nations spread abroad on the earth after the flood.

“Hence one must consider this chapter of Genesis a mirror in which to discern that we human beings are, namely, creatures so marred by sin that we have no knowledge of our own origin, not even of God Himself, our Creator, unless the Word of God reveals these sparks of divine light to us from afar . . . This knowledge the Holy Scriptures reveal to us. Those who are without them live in error, uncertainty, and boundless ungodliness; for they have no knowledge about who they are and whence they came.”

–Martin Luther

The Tower of Babel

11) Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2And as they migrated from the east, they came upon a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.”

The ancient Greek historian Herodotus said the tower of Babel still stood in his day and he had seen it.

5The Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which mortals had built. 6And the Lord said, “Look, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7Come, let us go down, and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.” 8So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9Therefore it was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.


Three large artistic renderings of the Tower of Babel:

“The Tower of Babel,” a 1928 woodcut by M. C. Escher.

“The Tower of Babel”  by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, c. 1563 (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna). 

“The Construction of the Tower of Babel,” by Hendrik van Cleve, c. 1500? (Pinacoteca Nazionale, Bologna).


Using our speech to praise God — three very different versions of “O, for a Thousand Tongues to Sing” —

1)  Mike Rayson, a tribute to Charles and John Wesley.

2)  the MetroSingers, from the culturally diverse Metropolitan Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Hyattsville, MD.

3)  the David Crowder Band, a contemporary call-to-worship version.


Speaking of different languages — for a fascinating overview of the worldwide status of Bible translation, from Wycliffe Bible Translators: 


the tower of Babel language fiasco — in reverse!

Acts 2:1-11 (New Living Translation)

On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.

At that time there were devout Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem. When they heard the loud noise, everyone came running, and they were bewildered to hear their own languages being spoken by the believers.  They were completely amazed. “How can this be?” they exclaimed.

“These people are all from Galilee, and yet we hear them speaking in our own native languages! Here we are—Parthians, Medes, Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, the province of Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, and the areas of Libya around Cyrene, visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism), Cretans, and Arabs. And we all hear these people speaking in our own languages about the wonderful things God has done!”


Descendants of Shem


10These are the descendants of Shem. When Shem was one hundred years old, he became the father of Arpachshad two years after the flood; 11and Shem lived after the birth of Arpachshad five hundred years, and had other sons and daughters. 12When Arpachshad had lived thirty-five years, he became the father of Shelah; 13and Arpachshad lived after the birth of Shelah four hundred three years, and had other sons and daughters. 14When Shelah had lived thirty years, he became the father of Eber; 15and Shelah lived after the birth of Eber four hundred three years, and had other sons and daughters. 16When Eber had lived thirty-four years, he became the father of Peleg; 17and Eber lived after the birth of Peleg four hundred thirty years, and had other sons and daughters. 18When Peleg had lived thirty years, he became the father of Reu; 19and Peleg lived after the birth of Reu two hundred nine years, and had other sons and daughters. 20When Reu had lived thirty-two years, he became the father of Serug; 21and Reu lived after the birth of Serug two hundred seven years, and had other sons and daughters. 22When Serug had lived thirty years, he became the father of Nahor; 23and Serug lived after the birth of Nahor two hundred years, and had other sons and daughters. 24When Nahor had lived twenty-nine years, he became the father of Terah; 25and Nahor lived after the birth of Terah one hundred nineteen years, and had other sons and daughters. 26When Terah had lived seventy years, he became the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran.

Here is the Bible’s first mention of Abram, later re-named Abraham.  About one-third of the book of Genesis is about this man, who is remembered for his faith.

James 2:23 (New International Version)

And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend.

Descendants of Terah

27Now these are the descendants of Terah. Terah was the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran was the father of Lot. 28Haran died before his father Terah in the land of his birth, in Ur of the Chaldeans. 29Abram and Nahor took wives; the name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife was Milcah. She was the daughter of Haran the father of Milcah and Iscah. 30Now Sarai was barren; she had no child. 31Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they went out together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan; but when they came to Haran, they settled there. 32The days of Terah were two hundred five years; and Terah died in Haran.

As we are set to go into the next portion of Scripture, let’s review just where we are now.  Abram and Sarai have obeyed God and set out for an unknown land.  They have traveled from Ur, near the coast of the Persian Gulf, northward along the Euphrates River to the busy cosmopolitan center of Haran.  There Abram’s father, Terah, died.  Now Abram is the man in charge.  He will decide where his entourage goes, how they live, what they worship. 


Simple Secrets of the Kingdom
Study 6 – God’s Second Perfect Man

The first creation began with the universe and ended with the first perfect man. In God’s new creation, God starts with the Second Perfect Man and will end with a new heavens and a new earth. The new man, Jesus, reveals how imperfect people can  live by God’s power, called grace.  This grace frees us from the dead end life that comes from perfectionism and idealism. Discover how God can help you change to live under grace today. Click here for AUDIO or VIDEO.


The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Tower of Babel coloring page.     http://www.biblekids.eu/anticotestamento/tower_of_babel/tower_of_babel_coloring/tower_of_babel_14.gif
map of Shem-Ham-Japheth.  http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_YrRJi7Io_60/S3L2pe7ceZI/AAAAAAAAAJg/3KozJqV3-9s/s400/tableofnationsgenesis10.jpg
“Tower of Babel” stained glass window from First Presbyterian Church, Belmont, NC.     http://images.acswebnetworks.com/1/410/TowerofBabelB.jpg
“begetting” cartoon.      https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2009/02/joy-begetting-cartoon.jpg?w=450
map of Abram’s journey.  http://www.bible-archaeology.info/images/haran_map.jpg

818.) Genesis 9

June 20, 2012


Genesis 9   (NRSV)

The Covenant with Noah

God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. 2The fear and dread of you shall rest on every animal of the earth, and on every bird of the air, on everything that creeps on the ground, and on all the fish of the sea; into your hand they are delivered. 3Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and just as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. 4Only, you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.

The importance of the idea of blood in the Bible is shown by how often the word is used. It is used 424 times in 357 separate verses (in the New King James Version).

  • Blood was the sign of mercy for Israel at the first Passover (Exodus 12:13)
  • Blood sealed God’s covenant with Israel (Exodus 24:8)
  • Blood sanctified the altar (Exodus 29:12)
  • Blood set aside the priests (Exodus 29:20)
  • Blood made atonement for God’s people (Exodus 30:10)
  • Blood sealed the new covenant (Matthew 26:28)
  • Blood justifies us (Romans 5:9)
  • Blood brings redemption (Ephesians 1:7)
  • Blood brings peace with God (Colossians 1:20)
  • Blood cleanses us (Hebrews 9:14 and 1 John 1:7)
  • Blood gives entrance to God’s holy place (Hebrews 10:19)
  • Blood sanctifies us (Hebrews 13:12)
  • Blood enables us to overcome Satan (Revelation 12:11)

–David Guzik

5For your own lifeblood I will surely require a reckoning: from every animal I will require it and from human beings, each one for the blood of another, I will require a reckoning for human life. 6Whoever sheds the blood of a human, by a human shall that person’s blood be shed; for in his own image God made humankind. 7And you, be fruitful and multiply, abound on the earth and multiply in it.”

8Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9“As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, 10and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. 11I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”


12God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”


Hebrews 11:7 (Contemporary English Version)

Because Noah had faith, he was warned about something that had not yet happened. He obeyed and built a boat that saved him and his family. In this way the people of the world were judged, and Noah was given the blessings that come to everyone who pleases God.



The most famous rainbow song in the world.  “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” performed by Eric Clapton, the only person to be inducted three times into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and widely considered to be one of the greatest guitarists of all time.


Ezekiel 1:27-28 (Contemporary English Version)

From the waist up, it was glowing like metal in a hot furnace, and from the waist down it looked like the flames of a fire. The figure was surrounded by a bright light, as colorful as a rainbow that appears after a storm. I realized I was seeing the brightness of the LORD’s glory! So I bowed with my face to the ground.



Bruce Feiler.  Walking the Bible: A Journey by Land through the Five Books of Moses,  (Introduction — “And God Said”)

Peter Spier.  Noah’s Ark (a Caldecott winner wordless picture book)

Carmen Bernos De Gasztold, Author; Rumer Godden, Translator. Prayers from the Ark (from the animals and the humans!)

Tim Lovett.  Noah’s Ark: Thinking Outside the Box (current research by a naval expert and mechanical engineer)

Noah and His Sons

“The Drunkenness of Noah” by Michelangelo, 1509 (Sistine Chapel, Rome)

18The sons of Noah who went out of the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Ham was the father of Canaan. 19These three were the sons of Noah; and from these the whole earth was peopled. 20Noah, a man of the soil, was the first to plant a vineyard. 21He drank some of the wine and became drunk, and he lay uncovered in his tent.

Proverbs 20:1 (English Standard Version)

  Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler,

   and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.

22And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. 23Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father; their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father’s nakedness.

24When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, 25he said, “Cursed be Canaan; lowest of slaves shall he be to his brothers.” 26He also said, “Blessed by the Lord my God be Shem; and let Canaan be his slave. 27May God make space for Japheth, and let him live in the tents of Shem; and let Canaan be his slave.”

28After the flood Noah lived three hundred fifty years. 29All the days of Noah were nine hundred fifty years; and he died.


The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Rainbow and Promise.   http://www.essex1.com/people/paul/the-rainbow.jpg
rainbow.   http://digital-photography-school.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/11/photogrpah-a-rainbow.jpg
Michelangelo.  http://www.wga.hu/art/m/michelan/3sistina/1genesis/1drunken/01_3ce1.jpg

817.) Genesis 8

June 19, 2012

Genesis 8  (NRSV)

The Flood Subsides

But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and all the domestic animals that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided; 2the fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed, the rain from the heavens was restrained, 3and the waters gradually receded from the earth. At the end of one hundred fifty days the waters had abated;

4and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat.

Mount Ararat in eastern Turkey

Twenty-one summers ago I was traveling in eastern Turkey and was in the presence of Mount Ararat.  The huge ancient volcano towers over a broad plain which is near the borders of Iraq and Armenia.  Villages there were very poor — small concrete block boxes for houses, with tall pyramids of dried dung outside each door, fuel for the winter.  But the mountain!  It is immense and stunningly beautiful!  Although the region is frequently witness to Kurdish-Turkish unrest, the benign magnificence of the mountain seemed to me to quiet all discord.  The verse that came to my mind was “Be still, and know that I AM God.”

This is what Marco Polo wrote in his journal about Mount Ararat in the early 1300’s:  “In the heart of Greater Armenia is a very high mountain , shaped like a cube (or cup), on which Noah’s ark is said to have rested, whence it is called the Mountain of Noah’s Ark. It [the mountain] is so broad and long that it takes more than two days to go around it. On the summit the snow lies so deep all the year round that no one can ever climb it; this snow never entirely melts, but new snow is for ever falling on the old, so that the level rises.”


5The waters continued to abate until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains appeared.



“Over mountains steep, or on the stormy sea . . .”  My husband’s father, Tom Mitchell, sang this hymn to the congregation at his last church service the evening before before he shipped out to England and then on to Germany in WWII, leaving behind a wife and two daughters.  (Fortunately he returned safe and sound and lived to see his son and all his grandchildren born!)  Listen to Ernie Haase & Signature Sound sing “My Heavenly Father Watches Over Me.”


6At the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made 7and sent out the raven; and it went to and fro until the waters were dried up from the earth.

8Then he sent out the dove from him, to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground; 9but the dove found no place to set its foot, and it returned to him to the ark, for the waters were still on the face of the whole earth. So he put out his hand and took it and brought it into the ark with him. 10He waited another seven days, and again he sent out the dove from the ark; 11and the dove came back to him in the evening, and there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf; so Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth.


  12Then he waited another seven days, and sent out the dove; and it did not return to him any more.

13In the six hundred first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from the earth; and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and saw that the face of the ground was drying. 14In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth was dry.

15Then God said to Noah, 16“Go out of the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. 17Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh—birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth—so that they may abound on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.” 18So Noah went out with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives. 19And every animal, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out of the ark by families.



Space shuttle photo of Mount Ararat and Little Ararat with Landsat Photo overlay.


Thy Holy Wings

Thy holy wings, O Savior,
spread gently over me
and let me rest securely
through good and ill in thee.
Oh, be my strength and portion,
my rock and hiding place,
and let my ev’ry moment
be lived within thy grace.

Oh, wash me in the waters
of Noah’s cleansing flood.
Give me a willing spirit,
a heart both clean and good.
Oh, take into thy keeping
thy children great and small,
and while we sweetly slumber,
enfold us one and all.

Written by Carolina Sandell Berg, 1832-1903;
translated by Gracia Grindal, b. 1943


God’s Promise to Noah

20Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21And when the Lord smelled the pleasing odor, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, for the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth; nor will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done. 22As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”



2 Peter 3:3-9 (New Living Translation)

I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires.  They will say, “What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created.”

They deliberately forget that God made the heavens by the word of his command, and he brought the earth out from the water and surrounded it with water.  Then he used the water to destroy the ancient world with a mighty flood.  And by the same word, the present heavens and earth have been stored up for fire. They are being kept for the day of judgment, when ungodly people will be destroyed.

But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day.  The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.


Simple Secrets of the Kingdom
Study 5 – The Health Syndrome

God uses life experiences to help us move from immaturity and insecurity to confidence and a mature faith in God. It all starts when something happens that puts us in the dark. We begin right away to look for light. Light can come, as you will see, but it comes as we learn how to live by “second thoughts” with the power of the Holy Spirit. With the gifts of confession and forgiveness, we can become free and enjoy life again, living by gratitude to God instead of by guilt and resentment.  Click here for AUDIO or VIDEO.


The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Rainbow and ark.   http://www.muralsforkids.com/product_images/h/gu92351bblndr__29169.jpg
Mount Ararat.    http://media-2.web.britannica.com/eb-media/76/110276-004-BF483E63.jpg
Dove with olive leaf.  http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_gv63JaIhkLg/SXqdThYG7DI/AAAAAAAAAM4/mPCY1u7bibE/s400/peace-dove-flying.jpg
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter.   http://danwiz.com/Feb2007/SpringSummerFallWinterSmall.jpg

816.) Genesis 7

June 18, 2012

“The Deluge” by contemporary Belgian painter Benedicte Vandewattyne.

Genesis 7  (NRSV)

The Great Flood



“Bring the Rain,” by MercyMe.


Then the Lord said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you alone are righteous before me in this generation.

from Experiencing God Day-by-Day,
by Henry T. Blackaby and Richard Blackaby


The children of Noah faced a significant decision.  They lived in a world where everyone blatantly disregarded God.  Wickedness was the norm.  No one would have condemned Noah’s sons for living evil lives like the rest of society—no one except their father.  In a world rampant with ungodly attitudes and every form of wicked behavior, they were fortunate to be Noah’s sons.  When their father invited them to spend the next hundred years building an ark in obedience to a word from God, Noah’s sons had to choose whether to believe those around them or to trust their father.  They chose to join their father.  What a wonderful testimony of Noah’s godly influence in his home!  How fortunate for Shem, Ham, and Japheth that their father refused to compromise his integrity, even though everyone else in his society had done so.

Your life has an influence on those around you as well.  Your spouse and your children are profoundly affected by your choices.  Your co-workers, your neighbors, and your friends will all be impacted by your life.  As the world tries to persuade people to follow its standard, your life should stand in stark contrast as an example of a righteous person.  Your life should convince those around you of the wisdom of following God.  Do not underestimate the positive effect that your obedience will have upon those close to you.

2Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and its mate; and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and its mate; 3and seven pairs of the birds of the air also, male and female, to keep their kind alive on the face of all the earth. 4For in seven days I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights; and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground.”

5And Noah did all that the Lord had commanded him. 6Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters came on the earth. 7And Noah with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives went into the ark to escape the waters of the flood. 8Of clean animals, and of animals that are not clean, and of birds, and of everything that creeps on the ground, 9two and two, male and female, went into the ark with Noah, as God had commanded Noah. 10And after seven days the waters of the flood came on the earth.

11In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. 12The rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights.



Cannot resist!  I remember my little niece, Kari, singing and dancing to this song as a pre-schooler — so fun!  “I Love a Rainy Night” was a #1 hit for Eddie Rabbit in 1981.  Click on the link to hear it on youtube.



13On the very same day Noah with his sons, Shem and Ham and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons entered the ark, 14they and every wild animal of every kind, and all domestic animals of every kind, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, and every bird of every kind—every bird, every winged creature. 15They went into the ark with Noah, two and two of all flesh in which there was the breath of life.


16And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him; and the Lord shut him in.

17The flood continued forty days on the earth; and the waters increased, and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. 18The waters swelled and increased greatly on the earth; and the ark floated on the face of the waters. 19The waters swelled so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered; 20the waters swelled above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep.


21And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, domestic animals, wild animals, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all human beings; 22everything on dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. 23He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, human beings and animals and creeping things and birds of the air; they were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those that were with him in the ark. 24And the waters swelled on the earth for one hundred fifty days.


1 Peter 3:18-21 (New Living Translation)

Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit.

So he went and preached to the spirits in prison—those who disobeyed God long ago when God waited patiently while Noah was building his boat. Only eight people were saved from drowning in that terrible flood.  And that water is a picture of baptism, which now saves you, not by removing dirt from your body, but as a response to God from a clean conscience. It is effective because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.



The rains fall forever
Or so it seems.
I should build an ark,
I thought,
Watching the melancholy
Drizzle against the glass.
That’s what I would do
If I was Noah and God spoke to me.
But I am not
And He doesn’t
So I sit and watch.
The tides rise.
The rivers overspill into homes
That belong to other people.
Faces on the news,
Holding a single prized possession ,
Rescued from the debris,
To take with them
Into a new day.
And I wonder.
What would I take with me
Should that new day come
And the rains stop
And the waters recede?
What will I carry
That I treasure
From the flood?

— by Helen Eden


cartoon by Andrew Root


The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Vandewattyne.   http://ben.vandewattyne.free.fr/galerie_3.html
Noah’s Ark play set.   http://www.basbleu.com/basbleu/Item_Noahs-Ark-Play-Set_UC5862_ps_srm.html
The Great Flood.   http://www.vegetarianfriends.net/NoahsArk.jpg
woman in flooded house.   http://tonicoward.blogspot.com/2011/01/guest-blogging-from-sarah.html
Woodpecker on the ark cartoon.    http://www.bringyou.to/apologetics/NoahsArkHumor.jpg