Bible Reading Blog

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Paving the Way

Tuesday, November 01, 2022

BIBLE READING: Hebrews 11.23
“By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.”

This verse summarizes Exodus 1.8–2.10. The Israelites, having once occupied a place of importance in Egyptian society because of Joseph, now find themselves in bondage. A new Pharaoh has come to power and, out of fear for his own power, has decreed that all male Hebrew infants are to be killed. Into this reality, baby Moses was born to Amram and Jochebed (Exodus 6.20).

As I considered their choices, it occurred to me there were probably other factors motivating this decision: fear, determination, parental love. Without this recounting in Hebrews 11, one might chalk their choices up to any combinations of these factors. But the prevailing thought in Hebrews 11 is “by faith.” The recounted events are only told to us because they spring out of faith. Amram and Jochebed didn’t make this choice thoughtless of God and his sovereign power. Instead, they acted by faith.

It takes faith to disregard an edict of the king. It takes faith put your own life on the line for the sake of another. It takes faith to do what is right. But these parents feared God rather than men because true, persevering faith obeys God. They hid Moses even though their disobedience could have been discovered (and punished) at any time. As we’ve seen from others in this chapter, the prevailing motivator was trust in God to have the final say.

It is interesting the author of Hebrews doesn’t include their names. Their faithful choices not only affected the life of Moses, but of an entire nation. By faith they preserved the life of one of the greatest leaders in history. But maybe that’s the point. Faithfulness is more focused on God’s working through human choices. When we obey God, it has greater impact than just our lives in the present. More importantly it allows God’s glory to be shown in this world.

By faith Moses’ parents disregarded their lives to save their son who would grow up to deliver his people from slavery. The Nile was meant to be the tool to kill him, but God used that very thing to be the means for his deliverance. Even the meaning of his name (“to draw out”) reflects the deliverance that occurred because God was faithful to His promise of sending a deliverer to the Israelites.

By faith, we can have the same impact today. Most of us are not destined for large scale leadership or mass influence. But our faithful choices may be paving the way for those who will. My grandparents both grew up in godless homes. But years ago, they learned about God and chose to walk with him. Today they have 4 children many grandchildren who are also faithful to the Lord. In the coming years, their names may be lost to history, but their legacy of faith will remain because they prepared the next generation to know God. We may not be able to do a lot, but we can do something, by faith, that will serve others and honor God.

Another Unlikely Inductee

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

BIBLE READING: Hebrews 11.21
“By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff.”

The life of Jacob was a colorful one. His early years were marked by trickery and manipulation. He took advantage of his brother Esau and deceived his father Isaac, gaining him firstborn status and blessings. But his deception caught up with him and was forced to flee to Haran to find a wife and escape Esau’s anger. Over the course of 21 years, he married two of his cousins and experienced plenty of family drama. Jacob notably had 12 sons (who became what we know as the 12 tribes of Israel), but there was strife among them because of Jacob’s favoritism towards Joseph. His own reflection upon his life was, “Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life” (Genesis 47.9).

And yet here is another unlikely inductee into the Hall of Faith. Not only that, but God’s people would assume his name (Israel) and he would be remembered for all time alongside both Abraham and Isaac (e.g., Genesis 50.34; Exodus 3.15; Acts 7.32). Why? We are directed to the end of Jacob’s life as he spoke to the sons of Joseph (see Genesis 48).

Jacob, although knowing he would die in Egypt, had faith that God would keep His promise and take his descendants into the Promised Land. Knowing this, he gave a blessing to his grandsons and then he worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff. Jacob worshiped God, knowing in his heart that the promised blessings given to Abraham and Isaac, and passed on to him would be fulfilled. Jacob’s faith is also seen in his last words to all his sons in Genesis 49.29-30, “I am about to be gathered to my people; bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite,  in the cave that is in the field of Machpelah….in the land of Canaan [the Promised Land]”.
 
Jacob was a man of faith who struggled much of his life with the reality of faith. But when it came to die, Jacob looked back over his life and remembered God’s blessings, God’s promises, God’s leading, and God’s redemption (Genesis 48.3-4, 15-16). Despite (and often because of) struggles, his faith had grown and at the end his faith was strong and a living testimony that God’s promises are real and reliable.

With many in Hebrews 11 we are intended to see their unlikely inclusion as a statement from God. Faith doesn’t mean perfection. It doesn’t even mean getting it right the first time. Instead, faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrew 11.1). Faith produces growth in our spirit to cling more firmly to the things promised and pass that along. Ultimately, faith is shown as an attitude of trust in God that develops over time and is deliberately communicated to others.

“Then Israel said to Joseph, “Behold, I am about to die, but God will be with you and will bring you again to the land of your fathers.” (Genesis 48.21)

She Considered Him Faithful

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

BIBLE READING: Hebrews 11.11
“By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised."

What do you expect to see from someone in the chapter of faith? Extraordinary demonstrations of faith? Uncommon obedience? Remarkable poise in difficult circumstances? None of these are given as defining features in the life of Sarah. In fact, Sarah appears to be quite the opposite. She was harsh and ruthless to her servant Hagar (Genesis 16.4-6; 21.9-10). She was bold and pointed with Abraham (Genesis 21.10). When God told Abraham she would have a child, Sarah laughed (Genesis 18.12). Then she lied about laughing because she was afraid (Genesis 18.15). After she bore Isaac, she still had a hard time believing it had happened (Genesis 21.6-7).

If I were picking out people of faith to highlight, she’s not at the top of my list. And yet, here she is right after Abraham. Why? “She considered him faithful who had promised.” The writer of Hebrews connects her faith with that of Abraham who also considered that God was able” to maintain his promises despite seemingly impossible circumstances (Hebrews 11.19; Romans 4.20). The word “considered” literally translated means this was the dominant thought in their minds. In other words, even in the presence of doubt, Sarah’s prevailing belief was that God would do what he said he would do. After all, God had come to them. His offer was too good not to pay attention. They were hopeless and God was giving them hope with a promise.

Her conviction about God’s nature and promises is the emphasis of her and Abraham’s story (see Hebrews 11.9, 11, 17). This obviously led to actions of faith. She went with Abraham every time God directed him. She even gave him Hagar to produce a child because she believed God’s plans for Abraham. Based on her response in that circumstance, we might assume she didn’t want to… but she was acting in a way consistent with her belief about God.

Sarah’s faith motivated her; but notice the focus of Hebrews 11.11 is not on her actions. It digs much deeper and reminds us that faith is rooted in what she believed about God. It was not superficial, but responsive to God’s revelation. People of faith didn’t always like God’s direction and even had plans of their own, but they always settled their hearts in trusting his promises.

Faith does not happen in a vacuum but in the context of revelation (Romans 10.17). This means faith is an outflow of trust in God. It is an informed decision that gains momentum with God’s proven track record. Abraham and Sarah didn’t have much to work with… but it was enough. How much more can we see God’s consistent faithfulness in the pages of scripture?! We can trust God.

Faith understands when God reaches out, it is always for good. It is believing that no matter how bad the circumstances, he can change the outcome. It is settled in peace that God is both Sovereign and Good. As God reaches out to us through the pages of scripture, we must listen and determine to trust him. When we do, we will find both power and peace.

“[may you have] the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ…” (Ephesians 1.18-20a)

A Reality to Come

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

BIBLE READING: Genesis 22

“[God] said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” So, Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac.” (Genesis 22.2-3)

Abraham believed God, even when it didn’t make sense. Faith is emphasized through the lens of Abraham’s trust in God’s promises (Hebrews 11.9, 13, 17). He was convinced (Romans 4.21) that if God had to raise Isaac from the dead to fulfil his promises, he would. Faith must be deeply rooted in God’s promises.

We get that application. But the bigger question is, “Why did God command this to begin with?” What sort of God asks someone to sacrifice their own kid? While not an invalid consideration, the scriptures offer a different perspective on this event: this is a prophetic reenactment of a reality to come.

Throughout the Bible, God had prophets act out things he would do and be for his people. God called Hosea to act the part of God in marrying a prostitute (Hosea 1) and told Ezekiel to lie on his side for over a year to symbolize the siege of Jerusalem (Ezekiel 4). These events represented truths greater than the present circumstances to teach future truths. That’s what is happening here. The story of Abraham & Isaac parallels and foreshadows the coming of Christ.

  • Both Isaac and Jesus are long-awaited “beloved sons” who are born in miraculous circumstances (Genesis 22.1; Matthew 3.17).
  • Both sons carry the wood that is to be the instrument of their deaths on their backs (Genesis 22.6; John 19.17).
  • In both stories, the son is obedient to the point of death (Genesis 22.3; Philippians 2.8)
  • And in both scenarios, God provides the sacrifice (Genesis 22.8; John 1.29).

The entire Bible points to Jesus, and this is especially true of Genesis 22. Although Abraham didn’t understand, his faithful obedience taught truths that would later be understood.

So, what does this mean for us? Two things:

  1. We need to trust God at his word. We can have confidence in God because of his patterns. They show his consistency and forethought. Even when we can’t see the promises, we can trust the Promiser.

  2. We need to obey God at his word. God is working according to patterns we may not understand. Our logic and think-sos can compete with the directives from God. We might reason our way out of obedience because it doesn’t make sense to us. But like Abraham, as we mature, we must be less logical and more faithful. This is not to say we should be blind in our obedience but that we should be more trusting in God’s direction. He knows what he is doing.

Our faith will be challenged as we follow where he leads. So, we must deeply root ourselves in both trust and hope. Without these we will fail in our obedience and lose sight of the great power of God at work. If he can raise Jesus from the dead, he can do far more abundantly than we could ever ask or think. We must not limit where faith takes us. Instead, let’s be willing to both go and obey when his word calls us.

The Simplicity of Faith

Tuesday, October 04, 2022

BIBLE READING: Hebrews 11.8

When God called, Abram was living with his kinsmen, had plenty of wealth and appears to have been a man of influence. We are given no indication he needed or even wanted to leave. But God wanted to do something with Abram, for Abram and through Abram. It was never about Abram and so God’s decision to offer these promises were not because of his good behavior. God made the first move with expectation of Abram taking the next step with him. And that’s what Abram did. 

God’s call and Abram’s response are the fundamental pattern for faith (Hebrews 11.8). We often focus on the magnitude of what God asked and miss the simplicity of faith. It didn't really matter what God was asking. What mattered was that Abram went because he believed God. There was nothing sacred, nothing he held back, no “yes, but…” banter with God to address the other things he had going on in his life. If I were in his place, there might be a sentence in the bible that says, ‘and Daniel asked “why”’ ... and I’m probably not alone. Human nature desires predictability and resolution. We take comfort in knowing what will happen next, even if it’s not great. But we need to consider that God has always called people of faith to simply and practically trust him. 

Faith is not an easy road. It challenges our securities, it pokes at our fears, and it questions our foundations. God is not doing this to toy with us but to draw us to him. He wants to fill those spaces and meet our every need. We need to listen when God is calling us. It may not be the same as in times past, but he certainly speaks to us today. God’s word gives us clear direction if we’re willing to listen. Sometimes it calls us to make big sacrifices to walk more closely with God. In fact, as we mature in faith, sometimes he drives us to let loose of things that make us feel competent and secure. In those moments, it becomes evident what our we trust. Other times he simply calls us to engage the opportunities in front of us. To let go of pride and serve my family and friends; to open my heart and serve those I don't feel deserve it. Faith challenges our natural wants to their very foundations. The question we must ask is, “Who will I let determine my activities today?” 

People of faith are defined by God’s control over every aspect of their lives: finances, relationships, location, service, etc. Sometimes we deny God control over certain areas of our lives, and it hinders our growth. We need to think seriously about in whom and what we trust, and we need to order our lives in faith. Only then will we experience the blessings of God because he is shown to be great in our lives.

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