Bible Reading Blog

Bible Reading Blog

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Satisfied With Life

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

BIBLE READING: Genesis 25

“Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people.” (Genesis 25.8)

By our standards Abraham was an old man. But if you read the genealogies from Genesis 11, he was just getting started. So how can the scriptures say he was “an old man and full of years”? The meaning is somewhat lost in translation. The NASB does well to translate this as Abraham was “an old man and satisfied with life.” According to the JPS Torah Commentary on Genesis, “Such a summation of a life is found with no other personality in biblical literature. The phrase describes not his longevity, which is otherwise mentioned, but the quality of his earthly existence.”

In other words, Abraham died and was “satisfied” with the quality of his life. Why was he satisfied? At the time of his death, Abraham had been materially blessed by God (Genesis 13.2; 24.1); but more importantly he had been enriched and settled by the promises by God. It gave him identity, purpose, and direction at every turn.

We must understand that Abraham’s satisfaction was not in his efforts but in the surety of God. He found peace at the end because God had providentially provided for him as he walked in obedience. So, death was simply the next door God was opening for him to walk through. Compare that to his grandson, Jacob who bemoaned that his days were few and difficult compared to his predecessors (Genesis 47.9).

Abraham’s trust and obedience is the fundamental pattern for our faith. Like Abraham, we will not be perfect in our decisions, but we can be perfect in our determination to go where God leads. When we sin or fail or botch up something again, we can decide to move forward, learning from it all, and beginning again and again and again.

Every day I get the opportunity to start new; every day I can begin again. Maybe I missed it yesterday. Maybe I got too busy, or I got sucked into Facebook or politics or news, or I just didn’t want to play with my kids. But yesterday is not what defines my life. It is my efforts today—to do what I know is right and take advantage of the opportunities provided by God—that define my future and give me peace. Abraham didn’t live perfectly, but He followed God by faith, and he died satisfied. Let us settle our hearts on God’s promises and move forward in hope of better things to come. Let us be satisfied with life, through trust in a faithful God.

“[Abraham] died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar… as it is, [he] desired a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called [his] God, for he has prepared for [him] a city.” (Hebrews 11.13-16)

Cast Out the Slave Woman

Tuesday, April 05, 2022

BIBLE READING: Genesis 21

By birth, Ishmael had legitimate claim to be Abraham’s heir. However, his status as a slave complicated the family relationship, even causing animosity in Abraham’s household. Furthermore, his mother’s attitude towards Sarah and Isaac seems to have rubbed off on him, leading to further tensions with Sarah (see Genesis 16.5; 22.9). During a feast for Isaac, Ishmael’s actions prompted Sarah to take, what may appear like, a rash response (Genesis 21.10). Although Abraham is disturbed by her actions, he consents to send her away because God steps in and affirms Sarah’s position (Genesis 21.11-14).

In the immediate context, this story is difficult. We need to uncover some details if we are to understand it.

First, there are some cultural nuances we don’t relate to. The dynamic of a slave to their master was submissive and absolute. Jesus affirmed this position in Luke 17.7-10. Hagar seems to have overstepped these boundaries with her behavior. Besides this, the language of Genesis seems to imply the actions of Hagar and Ishmael were less than innocent (see Genesis 16.5).

Second, given the promises of God, there was potential for conflict over the birthright. This is not to condone Sarah’s behavior or suggest that God couldn’t have worked his plan otherwise. However, as Abraham’s first-born son, Ishmael was positioned to lay claim to the bulk of Abraham’s inheritance, and his demeanor had potential to cause greater issues as Isaac got older (Genesis 16.12). There needed to be a clear distinction between sons.

Third, and most importantly, God’s response indicates, there is something bigger going on. God’s attention is not on the injustice Hagar and Ishmael may experience. In fact, God alleviates that tension by providing for them in the wilderness (Genesis 21.17-20). Instead, his focus is on his promises and what it would mean for future generations.

“For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise… But what does the Scripture say? 'Cast out the slave woman and her son"... Brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman” (Galatians 4.22-31)

Paul teaches us the purpose of God’s actions that day. God’s plan would come through the son of promise, not through the son which Abraham had chosen to have by his own will. Isaac became the firstborn of Abraham, by the will of God, through Sarah, and this pattern reflects significant spiritual truths to all coming generations. Your future is not determined by your birth or your efforts of morality, but rather by the direction and promises of God leading to obedience. God’s election of Isaac over Ishmael; his determination to bring life to the womb of a barren woman; his faithfulness to bless one and cast out the other, all point to the Sovereign will of God for everyone through Jesus.

There is always purpose in the actions of God. Stories like this one, when given new meaning in the light of Jesus, should solidify our trust in the working of God. While we may not see it in the present, or even understand it, God’s grace works in every circumstance to teach us his will for our lives.

A Pile of Ashes

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

BIBLE READING: Genesis 18-19

“Then the LORD said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.”” (Genesis 18.20-21)

God’s wrath on Sodom and Gomorrah was swift and total. But this wasn’t a knee jerk reaction. We’re not told how long God endured their wickedness, but it is telling that he came “down” to see what they were up to (Genesis 18.21). It’s not as though God didn’t know, but in his mercy, he allowed opportunity for them to change. He even entertained Abraham’s intercession on their behalf, as Abraham optimistically “negotiated” for God to spare them (Genesis 18.22-33). But the righteous were few and their sins were too great. Before the morning was over, they were a pile of ashes on the earth (Genesis 19.27).

As Peter reminds us, this episode has significant implications for our faith.

“…if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes [God] condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.” (2 Peter 2.6-10a)

  1. It serves as witness to God’s coming judgment. Multiple times in this letter, Peter reminded believers, “God is not slow to fulfil his promise, as some count slowness” (2 Peter 3.9), and that his previous acts of judgment remind us he can and will do it again (2 Peter 2.9; 3.5-7). God sees the wickedness in the world, and he will deal with it. His actions may take longer than we expect, leaving some to question, doubt or scoff at God (2 Peter 3.4). We must not be so foolish. Judgment day will come.

  2. God knows how to save the righteous. Although God did not find 10 righteous (Genesis 18.32), he did find one, whom he saved from destruction, even forcing him to leave the city (Genesis 19.16). It was by his mercy towards Lot and his commitment to Abraham that God saved Lot’s family (Genesis 19.16, 29; 2 Peter 2.7-8). God is always working in the best interest of the righteous (Psalm 34.15-17, 37.39; Romans 8.28). The country and culture may be deteriorating morally and spiritually around us, but God has promised to save those who are waiting for his appearance (2 Peter 3.11-13; 2 Timothy 4.7-8). We must be diligent to be found in him, as people separate from this world.

Stories like this are the foundation upon which we can trust God. He does what he says he will do. So, we must consider what sort of people we will be (2 Peter 3.11). The Lord knows those who are his and he will come back for them.

The Timeline is Too Long

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

BIBLE READING: Genesis 16-17

God made promises of a future heir (Genesis 15.4), but Abram and Sarai were getting old. Abram was 75 when God called him, and 10 years had passed since then (Genesis 16.3). Was he supposed to just keep waiting? What needed to happen next?

There was no immediate revelation from God. Sarai had determined she could not bear children (Genesis 16.2) and Abram agreed (Genesis 17.17). After all, she was 90 years old. God’s promise to Abram was that a son would come through him (Genesis 15.1-4), so maybe it wasn’t supposed to be Sarai. They needed to explore other options if God’s plan would be fulfilled.

Abram listened to Sarai and had a child with her servant (Genesis 16.2). Although Sarai wasn’t happy about it, for 13 years it appeared this was the path forward for God’s plan. But then God showed up again and promised Abram a son through Sarai (Genesis 17.19). Abram and Sarai laughed (Genesis 17.17; 18.12); but God was serious (Genesis 18.12), and in time Isaac was born.

God’s timing has always caused difficulty for people. A man born crippled wasn’t healed for 38 years (John 5.1-8). Rachel despaired as she was barren 14 years (Genesis 30.1). God’s people were enslaved for 400 years in Egypt. Maybe you’ve been asking God to do something in your life for weeks, months, even years with no obvious response. At this point many people give up or pursue other options because, surely this can’t be the way.

I’m not saying we should just sit around doing nothing and expect God to do something. But we do need to learn to wait on the Lord. When things take longer than expected we tend to get off-script. Stories like this remind us that God’s timeline is often very different than our own, but his promises are always sure. Abram and Sarai weren’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination. They made foolish choices at times. Their impatience and fears sometimes put them in difficult circumstances. But they didn’t just sit around and do nothing. They did their best to walk with the Lord in the way they thought was most pleasing as they waited on the Lord.  

Running the race with endurance means we must not only develop long term thinking, but patience in the work of God in our lives. As we walk by faith, the next step may be unclear. Really, we will never see the future with clarity. But having faith doesn’t mean we have it figured out or that we will always get it right. What it does mean is we are open to what his word says and diligent to follow where it leads. There will always be times when we know the right thing to do. Faith is defined in these moments.

Much of our anxiety comes from what we can’t control or what might happen. God wants us to leave that alone, trust in him, and do what we know is right. Don’t let the timeline bother you; God is working all things together for good, for those who love him according to his purpose (Romans 8.28)

Abram Believed the LORD

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

BIBLE READING: Genesis 15

“And [Abram] believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 12.6)

God’s initial promise to Abram was certain, but vague (Genesis 12.1-3). When he packed up to move, Abram had no idea where he was going (Hebrews 11.8b). Besides that, he was getting older, and he didn’t have any kids from which to make a great nation. But off he went.

Abram’s actions of faith are something to behold. When God spoke, Abram moved (12.1,4; 13.14, 18). He would go and do whatever God said because Abram believed God. That is because Abram trusted God was inherently reliable, and his word sure. That is the point of our verse today. To some this seems like a blind leap of faith. But I believe this speaks to the clarity with which Abram saw God. He didn’t need to be told the same thing 50 different ways. He heard what God said and he looked forward to how it would be fulfilled. This sort of trust is fundamental to faith.

In a short time, Abram had seen the land of promise and tasted the fruit of God’s promise to bless him and curse his enemies. However, when God reiterates his commitment to Abram (Genesis 15.1), we discover his faith was not without questions. “What will you give me for I continue childless…?” (Genesis 15.2). “How am I to know that I shall possess [this land]?” (Genesis 15.7).

It is critical we understand that faith is not afraid to ask questions. All people of faith questioned how and when God would operate. But they did it out of trust, not doubt. Faith is not overly skeptical. God will teach us what we need to know. There are things we may not understand about this life or the one to come, but that is intentional. He is the one in charge and he will work in our best interest. That’s what we see as this chapter concludes.

God responds to Abram’s questions with another promise (Genesis 15.5) and display that would have eternal implications (Genesis 15.9-ff). This strange scene represented an ancient covenant ritual. Normally both parties would pass between the animals as a pledge of fidelity. But here, “God” passed through alone. Abram played his part in arranging the items, but it is God who gave the covenant certainty (Genesis 15.13).

Abram didn’t see many of these things come to fruition (Hebrews 11.13), but we know they did. We know that Israel was afflicted as slaves for 400 years in Egypt (Genesis 14.13; Exodus 1-2; 12.40; Acts 7.6-7). We know that God brought judgment on Egypt and brought his people out with great possessions (Genesis 14.14; Exodus 6.6; 12.36). We know that his people came back to the land God had promised (Genesis 14.16; Joshua 1.6) We know because it has been recorded for our learning (Romans 15.4).

But it was by faith that Abram believed God. Oh, for a faith like his! We are to see from him that faith looks forward to God’s promises. It longs for them to be fulfilled and it works to be the tool for their fulfillment. As we will see in later chapters, that sometimes leads to foolish decisions on our part. It appears Abram tried to “help” God out with this plan (Genesis 16). But as is always the case, God works all things together for good, in his way, on his time schedule. We must learn to trust him. To wait for him. To rest in his promises.

Abram believed God by ordering his life to see the fulfillment of God’s promises. Do we?

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