2835.) Genesis 18:1-15

February 28, 2020

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

Genesis 18:1-15   (NRSV)

A Son Promised to Abraham and Sarah

This passage is one of my favorite portions of Scripture. It speaks of God’s presence with me, of God’s faithfulness to me, even in my disbelief.  Ray Stedman says: 

God is always testing us, and his testing does not come when we are warned and ready. Anyone can pass a test then. If I tell you that I am going to test you to see if you exhibit love under pressure, whether you can keep your temper when you are being irritated, and if you can be sweet when things are going wrong, you are likely to pass with flying colors.

But God never tests that way. His tests catch us unprepared, off-guard. It is when we are confronted with some simple situation that no one will know about that the tests of life really come: When you are relaxing at home and the phone rings and suddenly you are confronted with a call for help, or a demand for a response — and you had planned to relax and enjoy yourself all afternoon — what happens then? That’s the test.

When you are busy around the house with your hands immersed in dishwater and something is burning on the stove and the refrigerator has just quit and the sink is stopped up and you’ve got sixteen different problems on your mind, and your child comes up and asks you a question which is obviously of little importance, what do you do then? That’s the test.

When your neighbor or friend gets sick and somebody has to take care of the children — what do you do? What is your reaction? These are the tests of God. This is the way God tested Abraham.

Oh, to be as faithful as Abraham was! And the joy of knowing that even when I laugh at his promise, God is patient to bring me to understanding, just as he did with Sarah.  Hebrews 11:11 says, “It was by faith that even Sarah was able to have a child, though she was barren and was too old. She believed that God would keep his promise.” God will perform all that he has said!

(And — there is such beautiful artwork for this story!)

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.

We can assume that this was God, in the Person of Jesus Christ, appearing to Abraham before His incarnation and birth at Bethlehem. We assume this because of God the Father it says, No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him (John 1:18), and no man has ever seen God in the Person of the Father (1 Timothy 6:16). Therefore, if God appeared to someone in human appearance in the Old Testament (and no one has seen God the Father) it makes sense the appearance is of the eternal Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, before His incarnation in Bethlehem.

–David Guzik

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

_________________________

Music:

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.

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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 (NASB)

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, 1612.  (Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna, Italy). 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 (ESV)

If we are faithless, he remains faithful—

for he cannot deny himself.

_________________________

Art:

“Abraham Welcoming the Three Angels,” by contemporary Israeli artist Boruch Nachson.  Charming!  Click  HERE.

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

_________________________

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.    https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Abraham-And-The-Three-Angels.jpg

2834.) Genesis 17

February 27, 2020
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.”

_________________________

Music:

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.

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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 Abraham — “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.

Reflection:

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.

Humor:

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
Abraham.   https://www.holdenchapel.org/sermons/series/abraham-walking-in-gods-word
a joyful heart.   https://www.smileyme.com/lprod.asp?lookup=1814
Chagall.   http://www.artrev.com/art/detailview.asp?pid=4178734328&aid=102&mid=112&original=No

2833.) Genesis 16

February 26, 2020

“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.”

Reflection:

“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.

“Hagar” by Peter Paul Rubens, 1630’s. It is believed he used his second wife as a model. (Dulwich Picture Gallery, London)

It is the angel of the Lord who finds Hagar. This is the first appearance of the phrase angel of the Lord in Scripture, and as we compare it with other uses, we find that this refers to none other than the pre-incarnate Christ. He says several things to her. First, Where do you come from, and where are you going?These are arresting questions. Hagar answers the first, but she has nothing to say to the second. She does not know where she is going. Where can she go? The question draws her helplessness sharply to her attention.

Then the angel says, Return and submit. This is the only way to experience the grace and blessing of God. Had she gone on wandering into the wilderness, it would have been disastrous. Both she and the child in her womb would have died. When God finds us wandering, this is always what He says: Return and submit! Submit to the circumstances you dislike, and I will work it out. To do anything else is folly.

With the command to return comes the promise of blessing. Blessing always follows obedience. I will multiply your descendants so that they will be too numerous to count. And then follows the prophecy of Ishmael’s nature. He shall be a wild ass of a man, his hand against every man and every man’s hand against him. He will be a nonconformist, a Missouri mule—a man with whom no one can get along.

Hagar, glimpsing here something of God’s omniscience and power, names Him The God Who Sees Me.This is the circumstance that gripped her. Here is a God who sees me and knows me just as I am as well as all that concerns me. So she named the well The Well of the Living One Who Sees Me.

Have you found God to be the one who lives and sees, the one who knows all about your life and your circumstances? The one who knows the past and the future and says to you as He said to Hagar, Return and submit? That is the place of promised blessing.

–Ray Stedman

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Music:

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.  https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/gen16-el-roi.jpg
Rubens.  https://www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk/explore-the-collection/101-150/hagar-in-the-desert/

2832.) Genesis 15

February 25, 2020

abraham-stars

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. Thank you, Lord!

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.

abraham-face-starsjpg

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.”

Reflection:

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.”

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Music:

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://iamthewordthecomforter.blogspot.com/2011/09/covenant-with-god.html

2831.) Psalm 110

February 24, 2020

Psalm 110   (NLT)

A psalm of David.

There can be no doubt that this psalm looks forward to Christ. Jesus Himself cites it to show that David knew that its ultimate fulfillment would come with One who is greater than he (Mark 12:35-37). Even before Christ’s coming, a prophetic-messianic interpretation of the psalm was well known among Jewish interpreters.

–R. C. Sproul

The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit in the place of honor at my right hand (the place of honor)
until I humble your enemies,
making them a footstool under your feet (a place of disgrace).”

The Lord will extend your powerful kingdom from Jerusalem;
you will rule over your enemies.
When you go to war,
your people will serve you willingly.
You are arrayed in holy garments,
and your strength will be renewed each day like the morning dew.

The Lord has taken an oath and will not break his vow:
“You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.”

Meeting of Abraham and Melchizedek – by Dieric Bouts the Elder, 1464–1467. At The Church of Saint Peter, Leuven, Belgium.

The story of Melchizedek and Abraham is found in Genesis 14;
click  HERE  to read it.

“In Jesus, uncorrupted kingship and spiritual priesthood
will give the world an administration
such as it has longed for but has never known.”
–William MacDonald

David makes a prophesy about Jesus,
“You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.”
Like Melchizedek Jesus is a different and better kind of priest.

Because Jesus is a perfect priest he is able
to save all who come to him for salvation.
–David Worcester

You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek: This oath was so important that the author of Hebrews refers to it five times (Hebrews 5:6, 5:10, 6:20, 7:17, and 7:21).

· Hebrews 5:5-6 and 5:10 emphasize that this was Yahweh’s declaration, not something that the Messiah claimed for Himself.

· In Hebrews 6:20, the emphasis is on the idea that Jesus the Messiah serves now and forever as a living, active High Priest for His people.

· Hebrews 7:17 emphasizes that the priesthood of Jesus the Messiah according to the order of Melchizedek is better than the priestly order of Aaron, because it is eternal and will never end.

· Hebrews 7:21 emphasizes that the priesthood of Jesus the Messiah according to the order of Melchizedek is better than the priestly order of Aaron because it was founded on a direct oath of Yahweh, unlike the priestly order of Aaron.

–David Guzik

The Lord stands at your right hand to protect you.
He will strike down many kings when his anger erupts.
He will punish the nations
and fill their lands with corpses;
he will shatter heads over the whole earth.
But he himself will be refreshed from brooks along the way.
He will be victorious.

_________________________

Music:

The baby Jesus was not an ordinary baby!  When the wise men came, they brought him gifts:

  • Gold is a noble metal – a gift suggesting kingship
  • Frankincense was burned in religious ceremonies – a gift suggesting divinity
  • Myrrh was used to prepare bodies for burial – a gift suggesting death

HERE  is a hymn with references to Christ’s three offices as listed above.  “O Worship the King” is a familiar hymn to the Lord with an interesting author.  Charles Grant (1778-1838) was born in India. His family moved back to England when he was seven years old. He became a lawyer at age 29. He became a member of Parliament at 48 and was elected Judge Advocate General at 54. At age 56 he was knighted and then appointed Governor of Bombay, India. He died at the age of 60, while serving in India.

Grant was a politician and a public servant of England. He was also a devout Christian who took every opportunity to share the Good News. He was a financial supporter of missionaries, and was loved by the people of India, who established a Medical College in his honor.

Several of Grant’s writings, prose and poetry, were published during his lifetime. After his death, his brother gathered 12 of Grant’s poems into a book titled Sacred Poems. One of those poems, O Worship the King was set to music by Johann Michael Hadyn (1737-1806), and has appeared in church hymnals ever since.

_________________________

New Living Translation (NLT)   Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
“Who sits on the right hand of the Father.”  https://www.english.op.org/godzdogz/credo-27-and-is-seated-at-the-right-hand-of-the-father
Bouts.   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melchizedek#/media/File:Meeting_of_abraham_and_melchizadek.jpg
priest forever.   https://twitter.com/revivethypeople/status/1058252407061151746

2830.) Genesis 14

February 21, 2020

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.

_________________________

Music:

“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://image.slidesharecdn.com/gen14-150108135306-conversion-gate01/95/extreme-love-abraham-saves-lot-genesis-14-8-638.jpg?cb=1420725316
Knight’s Communion.   http://heavenlyarmor.blogspot.com/2011/10/who-was-melchizedek.html
Rubens.    https://www.nga.gov/collection/art-object-page.45640.html

2829.) Genesis 13

February 20, 2020
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.

_________________________

Music:

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.

_________________________

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