Monday, January 10, 2011

Daily Bible Reading: January 10-16

Below are the Bible readings and commentary for our Daily Devotionals for the upcoming week. This week we will be looking closely at the life of Abraham and Sarah and the wonderful things the Lord promised to do through them.

David Barrett, Director

January 10th

Reading: Genesis 10:1-32

In chapter 10 of the Book of Genesis, we come upon another of those chapters, like Genesis 5, which is a listing of fathers and their children. As it was when we encountered this listing in chapter 5, it is easy to read through this listing and feel like there is not much to be gained. Yet, as I mentioned back then, we need to prayerfully consider why God would take the time to have this kind of information listed in His inerrant Word. One of the great challenges made against the Bible is its accuracy and historical reliability. In defense of the Bible we find two very important aspects. One, we find "internal reliability or consistency." By this, I mean that, such things as individuals and people groups mentioned in one part of the Bible (like these in this chapter of Genesis) will be brought up again in other books of the Bible. Often these other books were written by different authors in different locations. Yet, what is written later in Scripture is in agreement with what is said of these people in earlier books of the Bible.

A second very important aspect in the defense of the Bible is "historical accuracy." The Bible, like in this and other similar chapters, names people, places, and events that are helpful for archeological and other historical studies. Time and time again, the information in the Bible has been demonstrated to be true and accurate. Passages such as what you have just read testify to the accuracy of Scripture.

In reflecting on this chapter think about some of the key people and people groups that are mentioned here. Many of them will be mentioned again in Scripture, some of them in the very next chapter. If you are familiar with the Bible, you might take some time to note, either mentally or on paper, some of these individuals and groups, and see if you can identify key reasons they are being mentioned here. Besides Noah's three sons, did you consider Canaan and the various Canaanites? Did you notice the father of the Philistines that Israel will have so much trouble with? What about Nimrod and Babel? We will read of God's dealing with his city and tower in the next chapter.

If you are not familiar with Scripture, then you may not know of the people I mentioned above or several of the others in this chapter. However, after you read through the Bible during this 3-year program, you will develop knowledge of them and the next time through this passage will have even greater meaning to you.

The person I want you to particularly notice this time through is Eber. He is spoken of in verses 24 and 25. Not much is said about him here, as this chapter is simply giving an overview of key descendents of the sons of Noah. The next chapter will narrow the focus down to a few key people and Eber will be one of them. What is so unique about Eber is that it is through his direct descendents that God is going to work His special plan of bringing forth a special people to whom He will give His Word - the very Scriptures you now hold. The Israelites, who you will read about later in Scripture, will be a nation that God will use to receive and preserve His Word. The Israelites were known as the Hebrews or the Hebrew children. The word Hebrew comes from the word Eber, the name of this person mentioned in these verses.

Isn't it fascinating how God has made His Word so consistent and well organized? Thank God for His Word and ask Him to help you gain a greater appreciation for it.

January 11th

Reading: Genesis 11:1-32

Like a well written novel, the author of Genesis keeps moving us toward the Key characters of the story. Only, this is not a novel, it is the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God. And, through these various genealogies the author of the Book of Genesis, Moses, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, has now introduced us to one of the most key persons in history - Abram. Abram was the son of Terah, who was the son of Nahor. Nahor is a descendent of Peleg who was the son of Eber. Eber, descended from Shem who was the son Noah blessed in Genesis Chapter 9. Noah declared Shem a believer in the one true God when Noah said, "Blessed be the Lord God of Shem" in Genesis 9:26.

In the first part of chapter 11 our author showed the futility of man attempting to live his life by his own means without any concern for God. In fact, these men were trying to build a tower that would allow them to act like they had reached heaven by their own efforts. God would have none of this and confounded their efforts. And, now, God is going to show us how He works. How He provides the true answers to man's problems by His own sovereign will.

The stage is being set for God's sovereign will to take place. Abram has married Sarai, "But Sarai was barren, she had no children." And, at the close of this chapter, we see that Terah has brought Abram and Sarai, as well as Lot, out of the land of the Chaldees. He has separated them from the comfort of their home land. Now God can speak and Abram can hear His voice.

We, too, can get comfortable in our everyday surroundings and will just "go along to get along." We need to take the time to separate ourselves from everyday life and meditate upon the Lord and His Word and see if God does not have something special He desires us to do.

January 12th

Reading: Genesis 12:1-20; 13:1-8

According to the last of Chapter 11, Abram's father Terah took Abram and led him from Ur of the Chaldees and began the journey toward the land of Canaan. The Scriptures do not tell us if Terah began this journey because of a righteous reason. It does not tell us if Terah took Abram to get away from the paganism of the Chaldeans or because he believed God had a calling upon Abram's life in the land of Canaan. But it does indicate that Terah had an urging to head for the land of Canaan. Like this situation in Abram's life, God often uses circumstances and people to direct us to where He desires us to be.

Chapter 12 begins with God's calling of Abram. Isn't it interesting that God would call Abram and not his brother Nahor or one of his other relatives. Why would God choose to call Abram and then tell him of the great blessing He is going to give Abram and the wonderful thing He is going to do through Abram? The answer to that question is simply this, we don't know. God, in His mysterious wisdom and according to His Sovereign will, chose to act graciously in Abram's life.

We do know this, however. From the time of the Fall in Eden, God has promised that He will provide an answer to the Devil and the curse of sin. The story of Scripture up to this point that has emphasized the family of Shem, has identified the life of Noah and his child Seth, has brought to our attention Eber and his descendent Terah, and now focuses on the life of Abram, is showing us God working out His beautiful plan for the salvation of mankind.

That wonderful hope of salvation of all men is seen in the promises that the Lord told Abram when He called him. Yes, the Lord promised to do great things for Abram ("I will make of thee a great nation;" "I will bless thee, and make thy name great", Gen. 12:2). Yes, the Lord promised to place a special providential care upon the life of Abram ("I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee," Gen. 12:3a). But, there was one more part to the promises God gave to Abram that was not just for Abram and his descendents, but for all people and all nations. God said, "and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed" (Gen. 12:3b). In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul will tell us that in those few words that God said to Abram, the gospel (or, good news of man's salvation from sin and the power of the Devil) were being preached (see, Galatians 3:8).

Remember, how we emphasized after the Flood that God was faithful and that He keeps His covenants? Well, from the time of the Flood to the life of Abram has been hundreds of years and several generations. God has been silently working in the lives of the descendents of Seth. And, now, He makes Himself overtly known to Abram and, in essence, says 'I have a covenant promise to fulfill in the earth, and I am going to do it through the life and family line of Abram.' Praise God for His plan to save mankind and for His covenantal faithfulness.

January 13th

Reading: Genesis 14:1-24

In the age of Abram, as in our day, nations and groups of people went to war against each other. In the situation in this chapter, Chedorlaomer King of Elam had apparently been able to get the Kings of Sodom and Gomorrah to serve him. Usually, this means that they had to pay him a tribute (or a tax). This went on for 12 years and, then, in the thirteenth year the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah rebelled. That is, they refused to pay the tribute.

This, of course, did not sit well with King Chedorlaomer, so he gathered some of his fellow kings and went throughout the land fighting and conquering all these different people. It seems that he was wanting to show how powerful he was. Eventually he comes up against the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah and does the same with them. He defeats them and captures people and goods. Included among the people is Lot, the nephew of Abram.

Now, my picture of Abram is one who is a quiet, easy-going shepherd. But, he must have been quite the soldier as well. He takes 318 servants, arms them, defeats king Chedorlaomer, and rescues Lot. That is quite a feat after Chedorlaomer had just defeated all those other groups.

Abram is then blessed by Melchizedek, king of Salem. Melchizedek is a very interesting person in Biblical history, but we will have to look closer at him the next time we come through this passage. For now, just realize that he is called "the priest of the most high God" and that he refers to Abram as being "of the most high God" as well. Abram's victory was because God made it possible.

We may not face literal armies in our every day life, but we do have challenges and hardships. We, like Abram, have friends and relatives that fall on hard times. By trusting in God and relying upon His strength and wisdom, we, too, can be used of God to "rescue" someone we love.

January 14th

Reading: Genesis 15:1-21; 16:1-16

In this chapter God once again tells Abram that he will have descendents. Abram can't understand how this will be because he is still without a child, but God assures him that he will have his own child. Abram had wondered if God was going to use his house steward Eliezer to build his family dynasty, but God said it would not be through Eliezer.

To assure Abram that His covenant was still with Abram and that He would see that the promises of the covenant were accomplished, God had Abram gather some animals and divide them. Then in the night God came down as a "smoking furnace" and a "burning lamp" and passed between the pieces of the animals. This had some special significance to Abram which we will discuss the next time through this text, but for now, realize that God was assuring Abram that the covenant He had made with him stood.

Can you imagine how hard it was for Abram and Sarai to wait for God to fulfill His promise and give them a son? Have you ever had to wait a long time for something special you knew, or hoped, you were going to receive? Children often get anxious waiting for their birthday or for Christmas to come because of a special gift they are sure they will be getting. But, Christmas and one's birthday comes every year. Abram and Sarai had been brought to the land of Canaan and were told by God that He would give this land to Abram's descendents. Well, to have descendents, Abram and Sarai are going to have to have a child and both of them are getting older and older. In fact, they had now waited for 10 years in Canaan without having a child.

What would it be like for you to be promised that you would receive a very special gift some day and, then, ten years later, still not have the gift? Most of us would begin to doubt if the promise was really true. Well, Sarai was beginning to doubt that God was really going to fulfill His promise, at least through her. She was getting old and as she said, "the Lord hath restrained me from bearing" (Genesis 16:2). In her impatience, Sarai encourages Abram to have a child through her handmaid, or servant, Hagar. At least this would still be a child of Abram, she probably thought.

Hagar does have a child. She has a son and he is named Ishmael. He and his descendents will become important people in history, but Ishmael is not the "child of promise" that God said would come to Abram. Ishmael was the result of man's efforts, trying to accomplish God's purposes, but in their own ways. However, when men and women try to accomplish God's goals in their own way and time, things usually do not turn out well. In this case, there is immediate conflict between Sarai and Hagar and there will be continual conflict between the children of Ishmael and the descendents of Abram that will come through the "child of promise" who is yet to be born.

As we wait upon the Lord to fulfill His promises in our lives, may we be granted the patience to wait for His timing and the faith to trust in His ways.

January 15th

Reading: Genesis 17:1-27

Abram is now 99 years old. He was 86 years old when Ishmael was born. So, if he and Sarai had thought 10 years was a long time to wait when their faith wavered and Abram had a child through Hagar, they have now waited13 more years. Maybe Abram and Sarai thought Ishmael was the answer to the promise God had made with them, but they are about to find out that such an idea is totally wrong. We do not know if God spoke to Abram during this 13 year interval since Ishmael was born, but when Abram turned 99 God spoke to him again and let him know of the miraculous thing that God was going to do.

In preparing Abram for the announcement of this miracle, God changed both Abram's and Sarai's names. Abram's name was changed to Abraham and Sarai was changed to Sarah. Names and their meanings are important in Scripture and these name changes are significant here. According to Strong's concordance, Abram means "highest father." I am sure it was pretty difficult for Abram to know that every time he heard his name he was being called "highest father", yet, at 99 years of age, he and his wife Sarai had no child of their own. Now, almost 100 years old, God changes his name to Abraham. Not only does he hear God telling him that he will have a multitude of descendents, but even his name will declare the same promise. Abraham means "Father of a multitude." Sarai's name was changed to Sarah. Her name was changed from a word that spoke of being the head to a name that means "noble woman." God says in the Scriptures that the reason for this change in her name is because she is going to be the "mother of nations."

So, here are Abraham and Sarah. They have been living in the land God had promised to their descendents for nearly 25 years. Abraham is almost 100 years old and his name has been changed to say he is the father of a great number of people. Even Sarai who is nearly 90 years old has had her name changed to say she is not only a mother, but a mother of nations. These are tremendous promises, but things in the natural do not match up. Abraham and Sarah, looking at their lives and circumstances, see only two old childless people. In fact, the contrast between what is seen in the natural and what is being promised by God is so vast, that many people would consider this as some kind of a joke. And, laughing about it is exactly what Abraham did.

In his heart, Abraham could not even imagine that he and Sarah could have a child at this age. With his voice he suggests to God that maybe it would be better to use Ishamel to fulfill His plan. How could Sarah, at age 90 have a child? God is not fazed by the circumstances. He simply says, "Sarah, thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac."

Isn't it a wonderful thing that God's plans are not dependent upon circumstances? Nothing can keep God from fulfilling His purposes. As the God of all things, circumstances are subject to Him, not the other way around.

January 16th

Genesis 18:1-33

What an exciting time in which Abraham lived and what a fascinating occurrence when the Lord comes walking up to Abraham. Did you pay close attention to what the Bible says in the first few verses of this chapter? We are told that Abraham looked up and saw "three men" before him. He recognizes one of them as the Lord and runs to greet them and offer them hospitality.

We don't know how it was that Abraham recognized one of these men as the Lord. We do know that the Lord had come to Abraham before, though we are not sure exactly how. At least once we know the Lord appeared in a vision (Genesis 15:1). Here, we know He came when Abraham was wide awake in the middle of the day, so it was not a dream or a vision. He came to Abraham in the form of a man and they ate and drank and talked. This will not be the only place in Scripture where God will come to man in a physical form. Manifestations of God like this in the Old Testament are given a special name in Theology. People who study Scripture, that is Theologians, call these events "Theophanies."

That big word "theophany" is simply two Greek words put together that mean "to show God." A "theophany" is when God shows himself to man, or appears in some form to man. Here, He came to Abraham in the form of a man. Yet, there were three men. Who were the other two men? Well, in tomorrows reading you will see that two angels will meet with Lot in Sodom. So, the other two men with the Lord were probably those two angels.

Doesn't it seem amazing that God can make Himself appear as a man? Well, it is even more amazing to me that God could cause a woman of the age of Sarah to become pregnant. And that is exactly what the Lord promised Abraham once again. Sarah, hearing this laughed. Don't be too hard on her, you or I would probably laughed as well.

As we close our discussion today, consider this question the Lord asked of Abraham in verse 14: "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" The answer, as you might have suspected is, "No, of course not." The Lord answered His own question to Abraham this way, "At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son." Amazing, Sarah, who should be a grandmother or great-grandmother, will have a child. Praise God!

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