January 11, 2015

Scripture and Commentary, January 11-17

January 11

Gen. 18:1-16,  Mt. 7
Gen. 18:17-33,  Rom. 9

Commentary, Genesis  18

God appears to Abraham as three Men, an obvious revelation of the Trinity.  He is drawing Abraham more deeply into Himself, and growing Abraham’s faith in the process.  Sarah, as she is now called, had been unable to conceive, but, as long as she was having her monthly issue of blood, she and Abraham had hope that God would give them a child.  In 18:11, her monthly issue has ceased, so bearing a child seems completely impossible.  She even laughs in derision at the idea of it (18:12).  But God, for His own purposes, had closed Sarah’s womb, and now, for His own purposes, He opens it.  He has waited until now so no one can doubt that the child is a miracle in fulfillment of God’s promise.

The revelation of the impending destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah continues Abraham’s education in faith.   The depravity and gross immorality of the city shows the depth of wickedness of humanity.  Their destruction graphically portrays the wages of sin.  It also shows the unfathomable greatness of the mercy of God, for Abraham, too, is guilty of sexual immorality with Hagar.  Abraham, then, deserves the same fate as the people of Sodom.  He is not spared, because he is good.  He is spared because God is gracious.    It is as though God is saying, “This is the fate of those outside of the Covenant, and you are in the Covenant because of My grace, not your goodness.”

Abraham asks God to spare the city if righteous people are found there, and God agrees.  But God knows there are no righteous people there.  All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.  If any are spared from the wrath to come, it will only happen because God has mercy on them.  This reinforces to Abraham, that he is spared by grace, not by his own goodness.

January 12

Gen. 19:1-29,  Mt. 8:1-17
Gen. 19: 30-38,  Rom. 10

Commentary, Genesis 19
Lot’s cowardice is as despicable as the sexual sins of the people of Sodom.  Lot had the benefit of knowing Abraham, and, therefore, of knowing the will and grace of God.  Yet he intentionally turned away from God, and chose to dwell in this wicked city.  When the men of Sodom learn of the presence of the angels, whom they mistake for mere men, they demand that Lot send them out to them, that they may “know” them (see also Gen. 4:1).  This is no peaceful invitation.  They have surrounded Lot’s house, and there is a threat of violence in their demand.  Lot should post himself at the door of his house and defend the angels with his life.  Instead he offers the men his two, virgin daughters to be raped, abused, and probably, killed.  This is no act of moral courage.  It is terrible wickedness coupled with incredible cowardice.  A normal man would rather die defending his daughters than allow these men to take them.  But Lot does not even have a father’s natural love and protective attitude toward his daughters.

Yet God has mercy on Lot and his family for Abraham’s sake (19:20).  He brings them out of the city, though without the flocks and servants he had before.  Sadly, his wife dies in the destruction, because she willfully disobeys God and looks back at the city.

Here is an opportunity for Lot.  He can return to God.  He can repent of his sin.  He can flee from the eternal wrath that awaits his soul if he remains apart from God. But, rather than turning to God, he sinks into depression and turns to wine for consolation.  Fearing they will never find husbands, his daughters conspire to conceive children to care for them in old age.  They entice their father to drink, then lie with him.  The sons born of this sin will become progenitors of the Moabites and Ammonites, whom God spares again when Israel returns from Egyptian slavery.  Later, a Moabite woman, Ruth, will return to the Covenant and marry Boaz, thus becoming the great, great grand mother of King David of Bethlehem.  Truly God’s grace and mercy is beyond human comprehension.

January 13

Gen. 21:1-21,  Mt. 8:18-34
Gen. 21:22-34 ,  Rom. 11

Commentary, Genesis 21

Sarah immediately becomes jealous for her son’s inheritance, not wanting him to have to share it with Ishmael.  This is pure greed and conceit.  Sarah should have loved Hagar and Ishmael.  They, in turn, should have honoured and loved her.  Together, they should have been able to live together in reasonable happiness, despite the less than ideal circumstances that caused them to become family.  Sarah’s real fear is that Ishmael, as the first born son, will become the head of the clan instead of Isaac.  This is another lapse of faith, for God has clearly indicated that Sarah’s son will be the heir (Gen. 17:21).  We would think the experience of miraculously giving birth and nursing a child would give Sarah confidence to trust God with her son.  But she does not.  Instead, she schemes and plots to secure Isaac’s headship of the clan.  Just as her plot to secure an heir through Hagar resulted in sin and suffering, so also does her plot against Ishmael.  Nor was Hagar without blame, for Gen. 16:5 says she despised Sarah.  

Sarah’s hate is so vicious she wants Abraham to expel Hagar and Ishmael.  Fortunately, God is more gracious.   He allows Hagar and her son to be expelled, and to come near death, but does so that they may know His miraculous mercy upon them.  It is only after they realise they cannot save themselves that God miraculously saves them and establishes Ishmael as the head of a great nation also.

January 14

Gen, 22,  Mt. 9:1-17
Gen. 23,  Rom. 12

Commentary, Genesis 22 and 23

In chapter 22 God continues to grow the faith of Abraham and Sarah.  They have plotted and sinned, as well well as trusted God, to get an heir by which to possess Canaan and gain the beginning of myriad descendants.  Through all of this, God has shown that He is capable of accomplishing His will, and is faithful about fulfilling His promises.  Now God stretches their faith again, by telling them to sacrifice the son on whom their desire and hope has been centered.  Will they obey God and trust Him to keep His word?  Or will they refuse Him, and cling to their son?  It is important to remember this is a test and teaching event for Abraham.  God abhors human sacrifice, He does not call us to do it.

There is an implied question in this chapter: what does Abraham desire most?  Is it the land and descendants?  Or is it God?  The real gift God is giving to Abraham is God Himself.  Fields and flocks and worldly fame are fleeting.  Abraham will lay them down when he lays down his body in death.  But God will be the true dwelling place for Abraham and all generations of his true descendants, those descended by faith rather than flesh.  They will dwell in Him forever.

We also need to know that God is calling Abraham for the purpose of blessing all nations through him.  He is not calling Abraham merely for Abraham’s benefit.  He is calling him to use him in His mighty work of redemption.  Abraham is another person in the line through which the Saviour will come into the world.

Abraham chooses to trust God.  He seems to have two ideas firmly in his mind.  First, he will obey God.    Second, he believes God will not require this.  This God, who has proven Himself to be full of grace and mercy, who has forgiven sins and blessed those who deserve His wrath, will not murder this child.  He will provide a substitute (22:8).

Abraham was right.  God stayed his hand and provided a lamb to be sacrificed in Isaac’s place.  Many believe Mount Moriah is the very place where the Temple was later built; the very Mount Zion where the sacrificial lambs were offered for generations.  Those lambs, like the one sacrificed in Isaac’s place, were symbols of Christ, the Lamb of God.  Just as God provided the lamb to die for Isaac, He provides The Lamb of God to die for us.

Chapter 23

Hebron holds a prominent place in God’s work of redemption.  Mamre, where God appeared to Abraham was in Hebron.  The future sites of Jerusalem and Bethlehem are within the bounds of Hebron, so the capital  of Israel, the Temple, and the birth, crucifixion and resurrection of Christ will take place in the area known to Abraham only as Hebron.  Its prominence begins humbly, as the burial ground of Sarah and Abraham.  This may seem an odd thing to be a cause of prominence, but the cave of Machpelah, where Sarah is buried, is the only part of Canaan to belong to Abraham.  After all the years of growing Abraham and Sarah in the faith, including the death of Sarah (who goes to the real Promised Land in Heaven), Abraham finally owns a piece of Canaan.  And there his tabernacle of flesh will lie beside that of Sarah until the Resurrection Day.

January 15

Gen. 24:1-32,  Mt. 9:18-38
Gen. 24:33- 67 ,  Rom. 13

Commentary, Genesis 24

Abraham is beginning to show his age, and now turns his concern to finding a wife for Isaac.  Unlike his failure of faith and morality with Hagar, finding a wife for Isaac meets God’s approval and is blessed by Him.  Mesopotamia means “between the waters” and refers again to what is now Iraq.  In Abraham’s day it was called the land of the Chaldees, the land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.  Here Eleazar is divinely guided to the people of Abraham’s brother, Nahor, and meets Rebekah.  Though of a family of substance, she draws water for the flock, and also willingly draws it for Eleazar’s people and animals.  Eleazar realises this is the woman God has chosen for Isaac.  It is interesting to note that Rebekah’s brother is Laban, who will cause her son, Jacob much trouble in the future.  She willingly goes to Canaan to marry a man she has never met, because she knows this is the will of God.  She is very much like Abraham, who also left his father’s house and people, and, by faith went into a new land which God would show him.  Like all of us, she has her faults, particularly in her dealings with her sons.  Nevertheless, she is a noble example for us.

January 16

Gen. 25:1-18,  Mt. 10
Gen. 25:19-34  ,  Rom. 14

Commentary, Genesis 25

Isaac and Ishmael have been able to repair their relationship well enough to attend their father’s funeral together.  Perhaps the foolish acts of youth seem small and less harmful in the light of maturity, making forgiveness and brotherly love something to be sought and cherished.  Abraham is buried beside Sarah in what is still the only part of Canaan he ever owns personally.  His family and clan still roam the area as nomads, following their flocks and herds.  We see God’s faithfulness to Ishmael in giving him many descendants and land in the area.  Isaac also begets many offspring, and chapter 25 hurries toward its main points, the birth of Jacob and Esau, and Esau selling his birthright.

By law Esau was to be head of the clan after Isaac.  But God had chosen Jacob, and we have run into the confusing subject of election and predestination.  Esau cares nothing about his birthright.  He is more concerned about having fun than becoming the leader of God’s people.  Jacob wants Esau’s position, but for selfish and vain reasons, not because he wants to serve God and His people.  The two are completely unfit for the task, yet God passes over Esau and chooses Jacob.  He even chooses Jacob before the boys are born ( Gen. 25:23, Rom. 9:6-18).  We cannot know the why or how of election.  We can only conclude with Paul that God has “mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will, he hardeneth” (Rom. 9:18). 

January 17

Gen. 26:1-17,  Mt. 11
Gen. 26: 18-35,  Rom. 15

Commentary, Genesis 26

Another famine in Canaan.  This time God instructs Isaac to stay in the land.  He stays with the Philistines, who occupy the area we know today as the Gaza Strip.  The Philistines are not yet enemies of the Hebrew people.  But Isaac suffers the same fear his father had in Egypt.  Fearing the Philistines will kill him to take Rebekah, he tells her to say she is his sister. 

Abimelech, learning Rebekah’s true identity, orders the Philistines not to touch her.  Feeling safe among the Philistines, Isaac sows crops and reaps a great harvest.  His flocks and herds increase, and the rest of the chapter records his increase in wealth.  This is the blessing of God on him in fulfillment of the Covenant with Abraham, renewed with Isaac in 26:2-5. 

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