Living God’s Way as a Living Sacrifice

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This was my Aunt…she had kidney failure for many years, and there were many people (besides myself) who took great care of her without any payment and even at cost to themselves.  In this picture she had just had a hair cut while she was in the hospital.  One of my friends went with me to give her one.  She loved having her hair really short.  Her neighbors mowed her grass for her, and checked on her regularly, and called for help if needed, and her friends drove her around on errands.  I lived quite far away so day to day things like that were hard for me to do.  I am so grateful for all of those people who stepped up in love and helped her.  It is not only the person who is being helped directly, but many times others who are also helping them are being helped inadvertently also. Even in the story of the Samaritan the man whom the Samaritan helped probably had a  family who may have been put into a state of poverty by his death, but the Samaritan who helped him prevented this from happening…it is hard to say how many people you will actually be helping when you are helping one person!

Romans 12 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.  For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgement, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.  Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.  We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.  If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.  If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage, if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.  Love must be sincere.  Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.  Honor one another above yourselves.  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  Share with God’s people who are in need.  Practice hospitality.  Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.  Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.  Live in harmony with one another.  Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.  Do not be conceited.  Do not repay anyone evil for evil.  Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written:”It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:  If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (NIV)

**In Chapter 12 of Romans, Paul lays it all out, exactly how you are to live in faith.  I believe this is quite clear and not in need of interpretation.

Read Luke 10:25-37 (The Good Samaritan Story),  The  Samaritan’s were a group of people who were looked down upon and hated by the general non-Samaritan jewish population.  They were considered beyond redemption and  it was not even considered possible that they could go to heaven.  Although it appears that they were of Jewish origins also, they came from mixed marriages, and were less orthodox, with some apparent paganism in the eyes of the other Jews.  They were also a violent culture.  The prevailing attitude of the non-Samaritan was that there could be no good Samaritans and outsiders avoided Samaria even though it was a long trip around the country to avoid it.  This makes the story of the Good Samaritan given by Jesus to be all the more interesting, and must have been shocking to the Jews, with whom Jesus was talking,  when he gave this parable.  Jesus makes clear that everyone is everyone else’s neighbor and that we are all God’s children, and are all to care for each other, that God doesn’t care about Nationality, or wealth, or any other earthly concerns.  God only cares about how you act towards Him and towards others.   If you are taking care of your fellow man, you are taking care of God’s interests, and so in a manner of speaking you are taking care of God himself. (Not that God actually needs you to take care of him, but he loves it when we love and care for our fellow humans as he does.) (Matthew 25:40).

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Upholding the Law

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Matthew 7:13-14  Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life and there are few who find it.

Romans 3:31 Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law. (KJV)

**Obey the law of the land as long as it doesn’t conflict with God’s law.

Read Mark 12:13-17  Jesus upholds the law of the land, the right of taxation.

Read Matthew 12:9-13 Jesus heals on the Sabbath, which was considered unlawful by the Jewish Community.  Jesus defends his actions by stating that it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath. (or Mark 2:27 The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.) 

These are two examples of times when Jesus upheld or overcame the law of the land as God dictated.  The only way to understand when you should uphold the law of the land, or set it aside is to live in faith closely with God.  You should be in contact with God through prayer, and God will guide your conscience to make the correct decisions. 

Think of some issues in society where the law of the land is in direct conflict with God’s law.  Examples are Abortion, Capital Punishment, Gay Marriage, Pornography.  As Christians we need to remember that we are living under God’s laws first and foremost, but that other people who are not calling themselves Christians are not living under God’s laws.  We cannot expect non-Christians to understand God’s laws and the need to follow them.  They simply do not have the Holy Spirit residing within them and cannot understand that God is God.  

There are many Christians today who want to go around or against God’s laws because they don’t want people to dislike them.  This is a real problem if you are calling yourself a Christian and you are doing this.  If you are looking at the world and saying…well, “I don’t see anything wrong with that!”  It doesn’t matter what “you” think is “right” or “wrong” personally.  If you start evaluating God’s laws as good or bad, or right or wrong, then you are putting yourself in the place of God.  Then it becomes a way of “self worship”  you are basically telling God that you think that you know better than he does about what is right and what is wrong!  

Jesus was almost always at odds with society about right and wrong, but he did not try to change society’s rules to fit with God.  He wasn’t interested in society’s rules; if it was a rule that was against what God intended he didn’t follow it, and if it was a rule that was in line with God’s laws, or had nothing to do with God..(such as taxation) he did follow it.  

Jesus was interested in those who were interested in following God…he was interested in how they behaved.  Jesus told his disciples to do what the Pharisees and teachers of the law said because they knew the laws, but not to behave the same way that they behaved! (Matthew 23) That is because the Pharisees did not behave in a loving and Godly manner when dealing with the people whom they were supposed to be leading.  They were more interested in being seen as an elite group who were more important than everyone else than they were interested in following God.  They were sitting in Mose’s seat (the seat of the law giver) and they were putting heavy burdens on the people by misusing the power God had given them.  Essentially, they were misrepresenting who God was to the people they were leading.  They had made God into a harsh condemning God, instead of a patient, loving and forgiving and gracious God.  There is a heavy penalty for that behavior!  Moses struck a rock in anger when leading the Israelites in the wilderness, and God was so angry with him for misrepresenting him,  as an angry God, to the people that he did not let Moses enter the promised land.  (Numbers 20:9-12)

If a Christian is following whatever society says is right and agreeing with it, even when it conflicts with God’s rules then not only are they putting themselves in the place of God, but they are misleading others as to what God requires.  That means they are misrepresenting who God is to other people, and misrepresenting how serious God is about his laws to others also.  He is so serious about his laws that he felt it was necessary to send Jesus to die for our sins in order to enable us to be reunited with God.  The fact of the matter is that if a person cannot see that breaking God’s laws are a serious matter, then they cannot accept that they have sinned, which in turn makes it impossible for them to repent and accept the salvation that Jesus’ death makes possible for them.  That is why Jesus said that he did not come to save the righteous. (Mark 2:16-17)  In order to be saved, you must be able to admit that you are a sinner!  The Pharisees could not do this!  As Christians we should be living in peace with others as much as we are able,(Romans 12:18) but we also must not just follow along with the crowd of society when they say something is okay, yet we know that God does not think that it is okay at all!  If we are true followers of Christ, then we will many times find ourselves in conflict with the ways of the world. Following God’s law is not always popular, but it is always the right law for the Christian to follow.   (Incidentally, I am not speaking of whether you eat pork or not.)  God is a God of love, but he is not a wishy washy, mushy marshmallow…he is still a serious God who is firm about what is right and what is wrong.

Psalm 111:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.

Supporting Others in Their Faith

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This is the Great Theatre at Ephesus where Paul stood and spoke to the Ephesians about the Gospel.  He was so effective that a man who sold idol statues caused a riot because it affected his business (Acts 19)

Acts 14:22 Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. (KJV)

**Paul’s first converts in each house church became Elders and were to preach the Gospel to others and live as an example to the new converts.  Paul fasted and prayed for each of these people, turning them over to the Lord for support of their conversion.  He offered advice and corrections, as needed, but relied on God to build and maintain their faith.  He wasn’t responsible for MAKING them stay Christian, Paul left that to God, but he didn’t desert them completely – he maintained contact through letters and occasional visits.  Training and growth was his focus.

Read the book of Ruth.

This story illustrates Naomi as the faithful of God, who converts Ruth a Moabitess woman from an idol worshipping country to love God, and then loves Ruth enough, that when it is time to return to Bethlehem, she is willing to leave Ruth behind with her own family.  Ruth, however, chooses to accompany Naomi and live the life of a stranger in a strange land.  Naomi, is faithful in guiding Ruth in the customs of the land, and continuing to build Ruth’s love of the Lord, by demonstrating her love for Ruth.  Naomi’s life was full of sadness, and tribulation.  She lost everything that she valued, except for God,  and was forced to return home to a life of poverty living off the generosity of local farmers. (Leviticus 23:22 and Deuteronomy 24:19)  God rewarded her faithfulness by giving her the position of grandmother, when she had no hope of ever having anymore direct descendants.  He rewarded Ruth for her faithfulness by giving her a good marriage.  He also made Ruth and Boaz a direct ancestor of Jesus Christ, his son.(Matthew 1:1-17)

Being Ready for the Lord

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These people were my Grandparents and they really loved each other and worked in partnership to serve each other. My Grandmother was the ultimate housewife, she treated it as if she were working and earning a wage. Both my Grandmother and Grandfather taught us that “if a job is worth doing, it is worth doing right!” My Grandfather was someone whom everyone in the neighborhood came to in order to find out what was wrong with their car. He could just ride around the block in it, and would be able to tell them exactly what was wrong. Both of these folks were very humble and never wealthy, but really knew how to honor and serve God. Although, neither of them attended church, they were firm believers.  I consider them a shining example of how to treat others properly and in a Godly loving manner.

Luke 12:37 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes.  I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them.  It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the second or third watch of the night.  (NIV)

Luke 12:37 Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meath, and will come forth and serve them. (KJV)

Luke 12:41-48 Peter asked, “Lord, are you telling this parable to us, or to everyone?” The Lord answered, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time?  It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns.  I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.  But suppose the servant says to himself, “My master is taking a long time in coming, ” and he then begins to beat the menservants and maidservants and to eat and drink and get drunk.  The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of.  He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.  That servants who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows.  From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (NIV)

The parable Peter asked about starts in verse 37, and 41-48 is a version of the same parable.  The meaning is the same: 1) Always be ready for the Lord’s return, 2) If you act badly and you know better you are ranked with unbeliever’s and will be severely punished, 3) If you act badly and don’t know better you will be punished, but not as severely, 4) To whom much is given, much is required.  This connects with Luke 12:27-32 which talks about God blessing us and granting us our desires.  God may ask, but it is like a parent’s request – it is really an order requiring obedience.Worry is a sin, you are to rely on God.

Luke 17:7-10 Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep.  Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, “ Come along now and sit down to eat”?  Would he not rather say, “Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink”? Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do?  So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, “ We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.” (NIV)

** Live by faith, be obedient, without expectation of reward. (Servants are workers, without reward or worldly appreciation) God appreciates you even when man doesn’t – Be obedient to God.

Read the story of Joseph Genesis 37:1-36,  39:1-41:44.  Joseph has a pretty hopeless outlook as a slave, but is lifted through his obedience and waiting on the Lord in all things, to a position of power, second in all the land only to Pharaoh himself, in order that he might be ready to help his people.

God Takes Care of You

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Although buttercups are not a member of the lily family they are still taken care of in the same way by God…just coming up each Spring with no care done by anyone.

Luke 12:27-32 Consider how the lilies grow.  They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!  And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about I.  For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them.  But seek his kingdom and these things will be given to you as well.  Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.  (NIV)

**In other words, don’t worry, God will meet your needs and shower you with blessings because He enjoys giving us everything we desire.  Look how he beautifies flowers like the lilies every spring, yet they do no activity to deserve their beauty or God’s care.  God gave us his only begotten son, which is His most precious gift, anything else we could ask for is minor in comparison – why would He deny us anything else.  However, you must look towards God, and what He wants you to do.  If you are doing this, then, of course, you are not going to ask for anything that goes against God’s nature.  God is Holy, so He does not go against His holy nature.  That means He will not give you anything you ask for that is unholy.  If you are actively seeking to live in faith and be obedient to God you will not ask for anything unholy, so He will grant your requests. 

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.(KJV)

John 3:16 says it ALL!!! God sent his son to die for us so that we might be saved from sin and live with Him eternally.  All we have to do is have belief or faith that this is a true statement from God, and that if we do what it says we will be saved.  So believe in Jesus Christ, and believe that you are a sinner who is forgiven through your acceptance of Jesus’ sacrifice for us.

Read the story of Elijah, and the widow woman of Zarephath.  (1Kings 17:7-24)   This widow woman was ready to die, and at the last hour when she was about out of everything, God sent Elijah to meet the need of her and her son.  She stepped out in faith and took the last of her food and shared it with Elijah and because of her obedience God took care of her.  Later in the story, she felt abused when her son suddenly died.  Yet again, Elijah was there, and God used him to show her how much he cared for her by bringing her son back to life.  Imagine the amount of faith and trust she must have had for God to do that for her.  She lived in a time period where there were no Hollywood special effects teams to use tricks to undermine people’s faith in what they see.  In her time period, if someone was a prophet of God there were expectations that God would use them to solve their problems for them.  It was a much simpler time, but also in many ways no different from our time due to the fact that we also undergo many trials and challenges in our lives.  We should all attempt to trust God as much as possible, and to pray that when we don’t feel trusting that God will “help our unbelief.”  If we trust God then he is always faithful to come through for us, and in consequence our faith is built up so that we worry less about the future the closer we draw to God.

Faithful Obedience and Total Commitment Answers to the Thought Questions

1.) What is the first thing that God asks Abraham to do to demonstrate his faith to God?  He asks Abraham to take his wife and leave his homeland to move to a strange land.

2.) How does Abraham respond to God in this situation?  He takes a step of faith and follows God’s instructions.

3.) We find that after many years Abraham and Sarah have the long awaited son of promise, Isaac.  They had to wait about 25 years from the time of the promise that they would have a son who would be the father of a great nation.  Now God is asking something else of Abraham.  God tells Abraham to go and sacrifice his son Isaac on an altar on Mt. Moriah (which later becomes Jerusalem).  What is Isaacs response to this? Again we find that Abraham sets out with every intention to do what God has told him he was to do.

4.) Why do you think God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac?  God wanted Abraham to willingly give back his greatest treasure to God.  He also wanted Abraham to know that God would take care of his treasure for him, that he could be trusted with everything.

5.) What do you think went through Abraham’s mind when God asked him to do this?

Probably some thoughts about how much he loved his son, and also that God had promised to make him the father of a great nation.  He knew that God kept his promises.

6.) How do we know that Abraham knew that everything would be all right even when he was heading toward Mt. Moriah? One of the key phrases that tell us of Abraham’s confidence in God is when he tells his servants to wait that he and Isaac were going to make an offering to God and that “they” would then return.

7.) What is so unique about Abraham’s faith in this situation? His absolute trust in God.  He did not stop to question God about how he was going to make everything turn out in a way that would allow Isaac to be the father of a great nation; he just went right ahead and acted.  It is pretty obvious that Abraham who had never witnessed God raise anyone from the dead, recognized that even if he sacrificed Isaac, that God could and would give him back to him.  That is the kind of faith God desires from all of us.

8.) For what reason did God give Abraham credit for righteousness?  Because he believed God. It was based entirely on his faith. Romans 4:20-21

9.) What does the Bible say about child sacrifice?  Leviticus 18:21, and Deuteronomy 12:31  after Exodus God is very explicit in forbidding this act as a form of worship.

10.) What parallels do you see between Abraham’s offering Isaac, and God’s offering of Jesus?  How are they similar and how are they different?  Abraham offered his son and God offered his Son.  Isaac carried the wood, Jesus carried the cross. Isaac was laid on the alter, and Jesus was nailed to the cross.  Abraham was willing to put his son to death.  The Father willed that his Son should die.  The ram was offered in the place of Isaac and Christ was offered in the place of sinners.  Abraham received his son back “figuratively.” and Jesus literally rose from the dead.

Take a look at The Hymn by Frances Havergal:  Take my life and let it be consecrated Lord, to Thee.  Think about the words….The truth is that God wants us to trust him without needing to question what he wants us to do.  We have to start out by trusting him as Abraham did, then we will only have our trust grow.  God will free us from our need to fill our hands with the treasures he has given us, so that when we trust him with the treasures that he has given to us, by putting them down…he can fill our hands with Him…then we are free indeed as the Bible tells us those whom the Lord has set free are free indeed.

Take My Life and Let It Be (CFNI version – with Lyrics) Cody Christopher Baker Cody Christopher Baker

Faithful Obedience and Total Commitment

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This is the house of Mary the Mother of Jesus in Ephesus.  John the Disciple took her there to live on top of a hill after Jesus’ commended her to his care from the cross, and at some time after Pentecost, there Mary and John lived out the remainder of their days in Ephesus.  I was skeptical but then I entered the house, and it made me cry.  Mary, of all people, would have best understood what Abraham was thinking when on his way to sacrifice Isaac. 

Read Genesis 22, Hebrews 11:17-19, Genesis 12:1, Genesis 15:6, Romans 4:20-21, Hebrews 7:27, Mark 8:34, Matthew 22:37-39, 1John 4:20, Matthew 12:50, Isaiah 43:18-19, Leviticus 18:21, Deuteronomy 12:31, Matthew 19:26-26

Matthew 19: 16-26 (KJV) And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?  And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and they mother, and Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.  And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.

Genesis 22 (Abraham/Isaac Sacrifice) Some time later God tested Abraham.  He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied.  Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah.  Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”  Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey.  He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac.  When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about.  On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance.  He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the goy go over there.  We will worship and then we will come back to you.”  Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife.  As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”  “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.  “The fire and wood are here, “ Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”  Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.  When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it.  He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.  Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.  But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”  “Here I am,” he replied.  “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said.  “Do not do anything to him.  Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”  Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns.  He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.  So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide.  And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.” The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore.  Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed because you have obeyed me.”  Then Abraham returned to his servants, and they set off together for Beersheba.  And Abraham stayed in Beersheba.  Some time later Abraham was told, “Milcah is also a mother; she has borne sons to your brother Nahor:  Uz the firstborn, Buz his brother, Kemuel (the father of Aram), Kessel, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph and Bethuel.”  Bethuel became the father of Rebekah.  Milcah bore these eight sons to Abraham’s brother Nahor.  His concubine, whose name was Reumah, also had sons:  Tebah, Gaham, Tahash and Maacah.

**God wants us to focus on him, so we must be willing to give away/ or set aside all we have and be obedient to God.  Let nothing or anyone come between you and God.

Just as a parent removes toys of children in order to discipline and teach them to pay attention and be obedient – God works likewise as our Father.

Here are some questions for you to think about: (I will publish the answers I have found through research and prayer the next day and you may compare to yours.  Please remember, these are questions to think about, my answers are not always the only way to look at it, you may disagree now and then and if you do, please feel free to do so.  You will learn just by wrestling with the questions.

1.) What is the first thing that God asks Abraham to do to demonstrate his faith to God?

2.) How does Abraham respond to God in this situation?

3.) We find that after many years Abraham and Sarah have the long awaited son of promise, Isaac.  They had to wait about 25 years from the time of the promise that they would have a son who would be the father of a great nation.  Now God is asking something else of Abraham.  God tells Abraham to go and sacrifice his son Isaac on an altar on Mt. Moriah (which later becomes Jerusalem).  What is Isaacs response to this?

4.) Why do you think God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac?

5.) What do you think went through Abraham’s mind when God asked him to do this?

6.) How do we know that Abraham knew that everything would be all right even when he was heading toward Mt. Moriah?

7.) What is so unique about Abraham’s faith in this situation?

8.) For what reason did God give Abraham credit for righteousness?

9.) What does the Bible say about child sacrifice?

10.) What parallels do you see between Abraham’s offering Isaac, and God’s offering of Jesus?  How are they similar and how are they different?

Living by Faith

Habakkuk 2:4 See, he is puffed up; his desires are not upright – but the righteous will live by his faith. (NIV)

Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith. (KJV)

Matthew 17:20 – 21 (also covered in Mark 11:22, Luke 7:6)  Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, remove hence to yonder and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.  Howbeit, this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting. (KJV)

Note: (NIV has no verse 21 which is the statement about fasting.)

Matthew 21:21-22 Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.  And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.

Mark 4:30-32 Again he said, what shall we say the Kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it, it is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground, yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches, that the birds of the air, can perch in its shade.

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You can imagine that a scene like this may have been what the Israelites saw when they were standing at the edge of the Red Sea before Mose’s with God’s power parted it for them to cross.  

Read the story of Mose’s (Exodus 14:13-31) parting the Red Sea using God’s power, through his faithfulness.  God told Moses to part the Red Sea, and to lead the people through it. Through an act of Living Faith and trust in the Lord, Moses demonstrated God’s glory to his people.  This is also an active example of the above verses regarding moving mountains.

Sometimes, living by faith can be difficult, but at those times you just need to remember that to live by your faith and trust God, or to not live by your faith and not trust God is always a decision that you make….it is not a feeling that you have!  If you have trouble believing then you can always pray to God for him to help you with your unbelief. (Mark 9:24)

Who is Melchizedek?

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This is a picture from the area of Ephesus as seen in modern times.  The Region is similar to where Lot and Abram settled, with many of the same plants Olives and Grapes growing as the main crops.

 

Read Genesis Chapters 13-15.

In this narrative of Abraham’s life we find more insight into Abraham’s character (he is still being called by his original name “Abram”).  Abraham and Lot have become very wealthy yet are still dwelling in tents, not “houses” as we know them.  This being the case the herdsmen of Abraham and the herdsmen of Lot have started to fight over grazing rights as the land cannot sustain them and also the original inhabitants of the land.  This is a big problem.  Since Abraham and Lot do not wish to fight with each other, they decide to separate.  Abraham said told Lot to take his pick of the land, that whatever Lot chose, Abraham would go the the other direction and settle.  Now, it turns out that Lot just naturally took the best greenest looking place that he could see, which happened to be the well watered plain of the Jordan river (right next to Sodom).

After a while due to his closeness to Sodom, Lot is embroiled in a war and taken as a captive.  Abram hears about this from a survivor who got free, and gets together 318 trained men born in his household to go after Lot and his family and all of Lot’s possessions and rescue them.  Abram follows them to Dan, and succeeds in one night to rescue Lot, his possessions and the women and other people who had been taken captive.

After this, Abram returns home.  The King of Sodom comes out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (aka The King’s Valley).  Then we have this mysterious person suddenly show up in the story by the name of Melchizedek (Mel-key-zed-ek) who is named as the King of Salem (aka Jerusalem).  Melchizedek is also identified as priest of the God Most High.  Anyway, Melchizedek brings out bread and wine and he blesses Abram, saying, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, who delivered your enemies into your hand.”  Then an amazing thing happens…Abram gives him a tenth of everything.  The king of Sodom tells Abram to give him the people and to keep the goods for himself.  Abram tells him no, that he will accept none of the goods belonging to Sodom as he has made a promise to God not to so that the King of Sodom cannot say that “he made Abram rich”.  He would only take a share for the men who were with him and for his allies, and what his men had eaten.

After all of this we read in chapter 15 that God blesses Abram and promises him an heir and a land.  God tells Abram that he will get a “son from his own body.”  Abram had long given up on having a son from his own body and had declared his heir to be Eleazar who lived in his household.  God told him this was not going to be the case.

Now there is a lot of info about who people think Melchizedek actually is, but nothing is listed in the Old Testament other than this, and then in Psalm 110:4, which is identifying the Messiah as being from the order of Melchizedek and a priest forever.  We also read about Melchizedek again in Hebrews in the new testament. Hebrews chapters 5 thru chapter 7.

In Hebrews it is explained that Melchizedek is obviously the greater person when dealing with Abram because the lesser person is always blessed by the greater person.  We are also told that his name means “king of righteousness” then also, “king of Salem” which also means “king of peace.”  Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son  of God he remains a priest forever.  The writer of Hebrews (no one is really sure who wrote this letter to the Hebrews) goes on to remind us how great Melchizedek must have been that Abraham would give him a tenth of the plunder.  The writer also reminds us that in the Law handed down after Exodus to the Israelites the Levite priests were ordered to collect a tenth from their brothers, and that by virtue of being descended from Abram… Levi was in a sense present when Abram made the offering of a tenth to Melchizedek. (This is a reference to the idea of being present because the genes from Abram came to Levi through his genetic relationship with Abram.)

Then we are told that Jesus is a perfect priest in the order of Melchizedek one who has become a priest not based on regulation as to his ancestry (all priests per regulation after Exodus were from the tribe of Levi), but one who came to priesthood on the basis of the power of an indestructible life.  Meaning Jesus was to be a priest forever in this order of Melchizedek.  All of the former priests are human and fallible and had to first make an offering to atone for their own sins, before they could make an offering for the sins of the people.  Jesus is sinless, and therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. (NIV paraphrased)

Now the prevailing thought about who the Old Testament Melchizedek, King of Salem, would be is that he is Shem, son of Noah.  If that is the case, then he would definitely still be alive at the time of this story of Abraham’s encounter with Melchizedek…he was 390 years old when Abram was born, and lived to be 500 years old in total.  I am willing to follow this line of reasoning, as Noah would have died in Abram’s father Tera’s life time before Abram was born.  Shem would have been the elder of mankind who would be living at that time…we know that Noah was a man who raised grapes and made wine…Shem presented the group with bread and wine (I found this interesting in relationship to Jesus and the Last Supper).  Shem was the only person of Noah’s sons, who we are given a definite life length of in years, and can calculate that he would be there.  He also was not a Levitical priest, but would definitely be the “tribal” leader and a “priest” trained by Noah, and selected by God.  Considering his age and that he was the probably the oldest man alive at this time, his priesthood had been “forever” to the others alive on earth in Abram’s time.  Although we are given a finite age for him he still lived another 110 years after this meeting with Abram.  We are never told whether Abram met him again, or before this time.  If it really was Shem,  then he probably was very familiar with him, otherwise, we would be wondering how Abram would know to even make an offering to him.  So when we look at Jesus and compare him to Melchizedek, we know that Jesus was to be a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.  It is hard to say whether the Melchizedek in the Old Testament was actually Shem who at some point since the flood had been give the name Melchizedek which I will mention again means “King of Righteousness”.  We are told by the author of the book of Hebrews that this Melchizedek is “Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son  of God he remains a priest forever.”  We know that this cannot be Jesus because we are given very specific lineage for Jesus’ ancestry.  This Melchizedek is a precursor to Jesus’ priesthood because of his non-Levitical standing, and that he is the “Priest of the Most High God” he however, unlike Jesus has an end of life that is clearly given in the Old Testament.  Most of the time in Hebraic prophecy there is a two fold time component….a “this is going to happen soon in your life time so you can witness it” part of the prophecy, and a “this other part is going to happen later own, and you won’t live to see it” part of the prophecy.  The reason God does this with prophecy is so that the witnesses to the first part can attest to its fulfillment in documentation to the people who will witness the 2nd part of the prophecy..so that the people (like us who are awaiting Revelation) will be able to trust that the prophet is a true prophet of God.  It is to help us to tell the difference between a false prophet and a true prophet.  For the writer of the Hebrews the Old Testament and also for us, Melchizedek was certainly a person without a specific genealogy…we will not know exactly who he was beyond that he was a priest of the Most High God, Creator of the Universe, who lived and interacted with Abram.  Someone whom Abram thought enough of that he gave him an offering in gratitude for the victory God gave him when he went to rescue his nephew Lot.  Considering that Abram was God’s chosen, we really have to wonder…who exactly is Melchizedek of the Old Testament?  Logically speaking, Noah’s son Shem is an excellent candidate.