1412.) Genesis 21

September 30, 2014


Genesis 21   (NRSV)

The Birth of Isaac

The Lord dealt with Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as he had promised.

Sarah and Abraham had waited a very long time for this child—but God’s promise is sure!

2Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the time of which God had spoken to him. 3Abraham gave the name Isaac to his son whom Sarah bore him. 4And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. 5Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.

6Now Sarah said, “God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.” 7And she said, “Who would ever have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”


Galatians 4:28 (New Living Translation)

And you, dear brothers and sisters, are children of the promise, just like Isaac.


Another Isaac . . . Isaac Watts

Gen20 Watts

Watts was born July 17, 1674 at Southampton, England, the eldest of nine children. His father was a Dissenter from the Anglican Church and on at least one occasion was thrown in jail for not following the Church of England. Isaac followed his father’s strongly biblical faith. Isaac was a very intelligent child who loved books and learned to read early. He began learning Latin at age four and went on to learn Greek, Hebrew, and French as well. From an early age Isaac had a propensity to rhyming, and often even his conversation was in rhyme.

Because Isaac would not follow the national Church of England, he could not attend the Universities of Cambridge or Oxford. Instead, he attended an academy sponsored by Independent Christians. After completing his formal schooling, Watts spent five years as a tutor. During those years he began to devote himself more diligently than before to the study of the Scriptures. In 1707 he published his first edition of Hymns and Spiritual Songs.

For a few years Watts served as pastor to an Independent congregation in London. A violent and continual fever from which he never recovered forced him to leave the pastorate. Sir Thomas Abney received Watts into his home, and Sir Thomas’ family continued to provide a home and serve as Watts’ patrons for the next 36 years.

Watts’ most published book was his Psalms of David, first published in 1719. In his poetic paraphrases of the psalms, Watts adapted the psalms for use by the Church and made David speak “the language of a Christian.” Examples of Watts’ method can be seen in his paraphrases of Psalm 72 into the hymn “Jesus Shall Reign Wher’er the Sun,” Psalm 90 into “O God, Our Help in Ages Past,” and Psalm 98 into “Joy to the World.”

Benjamin Franklin first published Watts’ psalm paraphrases in America in 1729.  They were well-loved by Americans of the Revolutionary period.

After his death on November 25, 1748, a monument to Watts was erected in Westminster Abbey.

And  HERE  is his greatest hymn, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”  (based on Galatians 6:14).  Isaac was born to Abraham and Sarah in no small part so that centuries later, Jesus could be born to die for our sins.


Bruce Feiler: Walking the Bible: A Journey by Land through the Five Books of Moses (Book I, Chapter 2 “Take Now thy Son”).


Hagar and Ishmael Sent Away

"Hagar and Ishmael" attributed to Frederick Goodall.

“Hagar and Ishmael” attributed to Frederick Goodall.

8The child grew, and was weaned; and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. 9But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac. 10So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.”

11The matter was very distressing to Abraham on account of his son. 12But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed because of the boy and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named for you. 13As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a nation of him also, because he is your offspring.”

14So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba.

Not easy to be Hagar.  Brought out of her homeland in Egypt as a slave to foreigners, forced to have sex with her owner and bear his son, then tossed out of that wealthy family (given only a little bread and water) when the new little heir came along.  But God kept his eye on Hagar, and sent an angel to her — twice! — to assure her that she and her son were loved by God.  Here in the wilderness she can say again, “You are the God who sees me.”

15When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes. 16Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, “Do not let me look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept.

by Wesley

“Son of Hagar”  by Frank Wesley

17And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. 18Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him.”

Arabs trace their lineage back to Abraham through Ishmael.

19Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the boy a drink. 20God was with the boy, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow. 21He lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother got a wife for him from the land of Egypt.



HERE  is a fascinating collection of Abraham-Sarah-Hagar paintings from various artists and periods.  Please comment below and share your reaction to one or some of the pieces of art!


by Hartley Coleridge (1796-1849)

Lone in the wilderness, her child and she,
Sits the dark beauty, and her fierce-eyed boy,
A heavy burden and no winsome toy
To such as she, a hanging babe must be;
A slave without a master–wild, nor free,
With anger in her heart!  and in her face
Shame for foul wrong and undeserved disgrace.
Poor Hagar mourns her lost virginity!
Oh woman fear not–God is everywhere;
The silent tears, thy thirsty infant’s moan,
Are known to Him whose never-absent care
Still wakes to make all hearts and souls his own;
He sends an angel from beneath his throne
To cheer the outcast in the desert bare.

Abraham and Abimelech Make a Covenant

well and tamarisk tree near the outer wall of Beersheba

22At that time Abimelech, with Phicol the commander of his army, said to Abraham, “God is with you in all that you do; 23now therefore swear to me here by God that you will not deal falsely with me or with my offspring or with my posterity, but as I have dealt loyally with you, you will deal with me and with the land where you have resided as an alien.”

24And Abraham said, “I swear it.”

25When Abraham complained to Abimelech about a well of water that Abimelech’s servants had seized, 26Abimelech said, “I do not know who has done this; you did not tell me, and I have not heard of it until today.”

27So Abraham took sheep and oxen and gave them to Abimelech, and the two men made a covenant. 28Abraham set apart seven ewe lambs of the flock. 29And Abimelech said to Abraham, “What is the meaning of these seven ewe lambs that you have set apart?”

30He said, “These seven ewe lambs you shall accept from my hand, in order that you may be a witness for me that I dug this well.”

31Therefore that place was called Beer-sheba; because there both of them swore an oath. 32When they had made a covenant at Beer-sheba, Abimelech, with Phicol the commander of his army, left and returned to the land of the Philistines.

33Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beer-sheba, and called there on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God. 34And Abraham resided as an alien many days in the land of the Philistines.


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:
balloon.  http://www.arenaflowers.com/product_image/large/327-its_a_boy_balloon.jpg
“The Birth of Isaac” from The Ratner Museum, Bethesda. MD.  http://www.ratnermuseum.org/includes/images/photos/bible/bible-9.jpg
portrait of Isaac Watts by Jonathan Richardson the elder (Hackney Museum, London).   http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/images/paintings/hmcc/large/lne_hmcc_cnv00044_large.jpg
Goodall.    http://www.goodallartists.ca/images/Hagar%20&%20Ishmael%20d.jpg
Wesley.  https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2009/02/sonofhagar1.jpg?w=450
Beersheba well.  http://www.bibleplaces.com/images/Beersheba_gate_well_and_tamarisk_tree_tb_n062400_wr.jpg

1411.) Genesis 20

September 29, 2014
"Sarah and Abimelech" lithograph by Marc Chagall, early 1960's. Dream coming in the nick of time!

“Sarah and Abimelech” lithograph by Marc Chagall, early 1960’s. Dream coming in the nick of time!

Genesis 20   (NRSV)

Abraham and Sarah at Gerar

From there Abraham journeyed toward the region of the Negeb, and settled between Kadesh and Shur. While residing in Gerar as an alien, 2Abraham said of his wife Sarah, “She is my sister.” And King Abimelech of Gerar sent and took Sarah.

Second verse . . . same as the first . . .

3But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, “You are about to die because of the woman whom you have taken; for she is a married woman.”

God Almighty has to intervene!

4Now Abimelech had not approached her; so he said, “Lord, will you destroy an innocent people? 5Did he not himself say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ I did this in the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands.”

6Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that you did this in the integrity of your heart; furthermore it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her. 7Now then, return the man’s wife; for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you shall live. But if you do not restore her, know that you shall surely die, you and all that are yours.”

 Gen20 whos-the-daddy small

Bible commentator  Donald Barnhouse says, “Suppose Abimelech had taken Sarah and God had not intervened? Two seeds would have been at the door to Sarah’s womb, and to this day an element of doubt would cling to the ancestry of our Lord.” 

8So Abimelech rose early in the morning, and called all his servants and told them all these things; and the men were very much afraid. 9Then Abimelech called Abraham, and said to him, “What have you done to us? How have I sinned against you, that you have brought such great guilt on me and my kingdom? You have done things to me that ought not to be done.”

It is true.  Abimelech, the pagan king, is in the right, and Abraham, the man of God, is in the wrong.

10And Abimelech said to Abraham, “What were you thinking of, that you did this thing?”

Memo #2 to Abraham:

As a dog returns to its vomit,
so a fool repeats his folly.

–Proverbs 26:11  (NIV)

11Abraham said, “I did it because I thought, There is no fear of God at all in this place,

Read that, “There is no fear of God in my heart, at least regarding this situation . . .”

and they will kill me because of my wife. 12Besides, she is indeed my sister, the daughter of my father but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife. 13And when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, I said to her, ‘This is the kindness you must do me: at every place to which we come, say of me, He is my brother.’“

Really, Abe, this is pathetic!  (Long pause.)  Yet I must ask myself, How many times do I repeat the same mistake, the same sin, in my life?  I confess:  too many times.  Lord, have mercy on me, as you had mercy on Abraham.

“Abraham should have said: ‘Forgive me, Abimelech, for dishonoring both you and my God. My selfish cowardice overwhelmed me, and I denied my God by fearing that He who called me could not take care of me. He is not as your gods of wood and stone. He is the God of glory. He is the living God, the Creator, the most High God, possessor of heaven and earth. He told me He would be my shield and my exceeding great reward, and supplier of all my needs . . . In sinning against Him, I sinned against you. Forgive me, Abimelech.’”

–Donald Grey Barnhouse

14Then Abimelech took sheep and oxen, and male and female slaves, and gave them to Abraham, and restored his wife Sarah to him. 15Abimelech said, “My land is before you; settle where it pleases you.”

16To Sarah he said, “Look, I have given your brother a thousand pieces of silver; it is your exoneration before all who are with you; you are completely vindicated.”

17Then Abraham prayed to God; and God healed Abimelech, and also healed his wife and female slaves so that they bore children. 18For the Lord had closed fast all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.

All of this protection of Sarah’s womb was necessary so there would never be a doubt as to who was the father of this long awaited son, arriving soon!



I love how God protects this couple on their way to becoming a family, in spite of their confusion and their misdeeds.  HERE  is a chorus about being part of God’s family.  I remember singing this as a child and asking my mother what “sod” was!


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:
Chagall.   http://www.georgetownframeshoppe.com/media/catalog/product/cache/1/image/9df78eab33525d08d6e5fb8d27136e95/M/C/MCDFB10.JPG
Who’s the daddy.    http://www.force18.co.uk/image/cache/data/mens/whos-the-daddy-2col_design-200×200.jpg

1410.) Genesis 19

September 26, 2014
The Dead Sea. Sodom was known as a Dead Sea city.  The sea itself has a saltiness of 29%, compared to the 4% saltiness of the world's oceans.

Floating in the Dead Sea. Sodom was known as a Dead Sea city. The sea itself has a saltiness of 29%, compared to the 4% saltiness of the world’s oceans.

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.”

Oh, 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!”

Oh, 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!

Gen19 Pepper_________________________


HERE  is 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 Rogier Willems, 2005.

“Lot and his daughters” by Rogier Willems, 2005.

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.

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

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

Oh, 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.guideoftravels.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Dead-sea.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
Willems.    http://cache2.useumdata.org/images-1/lot-en-zijn-dochters-lot-and-his-daughters-rogier-willems-2005-a7cffe4f.jpg
Gentileschi.   http://www.cdpaintings.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Lot-and-his-Daughters-by-Orazio-Gentileschi.jpg

1409.) Genesis 18

September 25, 2014

“Abraham and the Three Visitors” by Israeli Hasidic 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.”

"Abraham and the Three Visitors"  by Marc Chagall

“Abraham and the Three Visitors” by Marc Chagall



As Abraham did before the angels, so we also bow down before the Lord.  HERE is a solemn and lovely song, “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.

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.”

NEWS of a birth!

Now how many times has God promised this child to them?!  But we need to hear God’s promises over and over again. It is a way God uses to encourage and develop our faith.  Romans 10:17 says, So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

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?”

"Abraham and Three Visiting Angels"  by Ludovico Carracci (1555–1619)

“Abraham and Three Visiting Angels” by Ludovico Carracci (1555–1619).  See Sarah in the background?

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.  Charming!  Click  HERE.

Mosaic of Abraham from Ravenna, 6th century.  Click HERE.


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.

NEWS of judgment!

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 require in order to spare the city?

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.



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://sinibaldo.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/3-visitors-david-avisar.jpg
Chagall.    http://www.internetmonk.com/wp-content/uploads/Abe-3-Visitors-Chagall.jpg
Sara Lee cake.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/sara2blee.png
Carracci.    http://www.jokesandtrivia.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Abraham-And-The-Three-Angels.jpg
Sodom in black and white.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2009/02/sodom-bw11.gif

1408.) Genesis 17

September 24, 2014
Circumcision Procedure Tray

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;

God told Abram who He is, using the name El Shaddai.  Adam Clarke says:  “El shaddai, I am God all-sufficient; from shadah, to shed, to pour out. I am that God who pours out blessings, who gives them richly, abundantly, continually.”

walk before me, and be blameless. 2And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.”



HERE  Amy Grant sings one of her most popular hits, “El Shaddai.”  This song, written by Michael Card and John Thompson, won “Song of the Year” at the 1983 GMA Dove Awards.


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.”

There was, no doubt, a sense in which Abram — “father of many” — was a hard name to bear for a man who was the father of none, especially in a culture where inquiry about one’s personal life was a courteous practice. Now God went a step further and made his name “father of many nations.” It is almost preposterous for a childless man to have such a name.

–David Guzik

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.”

Acts 7:8  (NLT)

“God also gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision at that time. So when Abraham became the father of Isaac, he circumcised him on the eighth day. And the practice was continued when Isaac became the father of Jacob, and when Jacob became the father of the twelve patriarchs of the Israelite nation.”

Galatians 5:6 (NIV)

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 thought 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 this 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:
circumcision tray.    http://www.medical-supplies-equipment-company.com/files/media/images/Circumcision-Tray-Sterile-1.jpeg
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

1407.) Genesis 16

September 23, 2014

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

Genesis 16  (NRSV)

The Birth of Ishmael

(Once you are on the DWELLING home page, you can click on the pictures and see them larger — enjoy!)

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”?  But she is within her legal rights to secure a substitute to bear a child for her.  Other ancient cultures had such provisions in their legal codes.  The wife would maintain controlling authority over the concubine and the child — but we will see that things do not work out so easily for this threesome.

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),


"Sarah Leading Hagar to Abraham" by Matthias Stom, 1639 (Gemäldegalerie, Berlin)

“Sarah Leading Hagar to Abraham” by Matthias Stom, 1639 (Gemäldegalerie, Berlin)

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.”

What a mess!

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 sees me.  Thou God of Vision.  Wherefore the well was called The well of Him that lives and sees me.  The well of the Life of Vision.

Thou God sees 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 sees me, Thou God of Vision.  The well nearby was named “The well of Him that lives and sees 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 —  HERE  is “Who will comfort me?”  by Melody Gardot.  Lyrics follow.

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


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
Stom.    http://uploads4.wikiart.org/images/matthias-stom/sarah-leading-hagar-to-abraham-1639%281%29.jpg
Tissot.  http://oneyearbibleimages.com/hagar_desert.jpg
El Roi.  http://backgrounds.crossmap.com/christian-backgrounds/wallpaper1353_1600x1200.jpg

1406.) Genesis 15

September 22, 2014


Genesis  15   (NRSV)

God’s Covenant with Abram

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?

And one other thought — since waiting and worrying/discouragement/patience seem often to go together:  once a friend told me, “Disappointment is the gap between your expectations and reality.”  I have found that helpful, since I prefer to live my life in reality and not in false hopes!

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.”



HERE  is a request for our own vision — “Be Thou My Vision,” played on cello and piano by David Abramsky, with pictures from the San Francisco area.  Lyrics below.

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.


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.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/abraham_stars.jpg
Abraham and stars.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/11-abraham-starsjpg.jpg
“The Covenant”  by Pat Marvenko Smith.   http://marico.cc/4jesus/Covenant.jpg

1405.) Genesis 14

September 19, 2014

Gen14 map

Genesis 14   (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.

Unfortunately, Lot moved right back to where he was before in Sodom. He refused this warning from God, and would eventually lose everything when Sodom and Gomorrah were judged.



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

We have no idea of where Melchizedek came from, how he came to be in Canaan, or how Abram came to know about him. We only know he was there. 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.

Melchizedek served Abram bread and wine. Perhaps he even served them in a manner looking forward to our redeeming sacrifice, as the bread and wine of Passover and the Lord’s Table look at our redeeming sacrifice, Jesus Christ.

–David Guzik

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.”

Abram declares that he will not be obligated to the king of Sodom by taking any of the captured goods.  His obligations are to God.

–Linda B. Hinton


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:
map.    http://www.ldsces.org/inst_manuals/ot-in-1/images/05-08.gif
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=

1404.) Genesis 13

September 18, 2014
How does Abraham handle his wealth?  How does Lot? How do we?

How does Abraham handle his wealth? How does Lot? How do we?

Genesis 13   (NRSV)

Abram and Lot Separate

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.

Both Abram and Lot returned to Canaan wealthy. Wealth, contrary to many people’s belief, does not solve all of one’s problems, and quite often brings more grief than joy. The burden of wealth often brings strife between men, as it did here. It often turns friend against friend, brother against brother, husband against wife. Worse yet, the weight of wealth makes it hard to raise one’s head and hands toward God.

Now, wealth, in itself, is not evil or dangerous, but it is “the love of money” that is “a root of all kinds of evil” (I Tim. 6:10). Abram and Lot display respectively the correct and incorrect attitudes toward wealth, and the consequences that follow these attitudes. Abram proves that one can be rich and be godly, be rich and have faith, be rich and serve the Lord, be rich and still live as a pilgrim on this earth. On the other hand, Lot’s end (later, in Gen. 18) is an example of the misery that the love of money can cause.

–Scott Sperling

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,  HERE.


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.

In the same way, God wants us to explore a land of promise, for us — His Word –– where God has given to us exceedingly great and precious promises (2 Peter 1:4), where He has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). He wants us to walk through this land, possessing it by faith.

–David Guzik

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  HERE  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:
wealth cycle.    http://www.sowabundance.net/portals/0/Wealth-Cycle1.jpg
Abraham and Lot.    http://www.lavistachurchofchrist.org/Pictures/Patriarichal%20Age/images/abraham_and_lot_part_ways.jpg


1403.) Genesis 12

September 17, 2014
The Call of Abraham, ceramic relief by Richard McBee, 1980
“The Call of Abraham”  ceramic relief by Richard McBee, 1980

Genesis 12    (NRSV)

The Call of Abram

This chapter is a turning point in the narrative of the Book of Genesis.  The story of the human family in Genesis has gradually narrowed its focus from all the world’s families (Genesis 10:1-32), to one particular family (Genesis 11:10-32), then to one particular man (Genesis 12:1).

–Linda B. Hinton

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”).

HERE  is a clear and interesting map of Abraham’s journeys.

Field of Dreams, 1989, starring Kevin Costner.  A movie with an Abraham-esque theme:  Farmer Ray Kinsella gives up everything in Iowa 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)



In this chapter God calls Abram.  Later we will read of God calling Moses at the burning bush.  Calling Jonah to go to the city of Ninevah.  Calling Saul on the road to Damascus.  And God is still calling disciples, calling them by name, calling you, calling me . . .  HERE  is Paul Baloche’s “The Same Love.”


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).   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2009/02/callofabraham1.jpg?w=470&h=453
cartoon.   http://www.cartoonstock.com/lowres/jco0017l.jpg
photograph of Kristin Kreuk.  http://www.toptenz.net/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/kristin-kreuk.jpg