Jacob – The Older will serve the Younger

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Genesis 25:23 The Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.”

Read Genesis 25:21-34  This is the story of Isaac praying for Rebekah to have children, and the birth of Jacob and Esau, along with Esau selling his birthright to Jacob for some red soup.  This is where Esau got the name Edom (which means red). Jacob’s name means “he grasps the heel” or he deceives figuratively speaking. Note: The birthright was essentially the family’s leadership and priesthood, it was very significant, and Esau treated it lightly, he basically sold his role as head of the family and priestly inheritance for a pot of soup.  Jacob did deceive Isaac, his father, in the end by pretending to be Esau to receive the blessing that was Esau’s birthright. (Genesis 27). 

***Take note that at this time the Levitical Priesthood did not yet exist….the role of keeping the family on track with God fell to the head of the family…they made the offerings on behalf of the family as were necessary.  

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Genesis 25:21-34 New International Version (NIV)

21 Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. The Lord answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. 22 The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, “Why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the Lord.

23 The Lord said to her,

“Two nations are in your womb,
    and two peoples from within you will be separated;
one people will be stronger than the other,
    and the older will serve the younger.”

24 When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. 25 The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau.[a] 26 After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob.[b] Isaac was sixty years old when Rebekah gave birth to them.

27 The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was content to stay at home among the tents. 28 Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob.

29 Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. 30 He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” (That is why he was also called Edom.[c])

31 Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.”

32 “Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?”

33 But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob.

34 Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left.

So Esau despised his birthright.

Footnotes:

  1. Genesis 25:25 Esau may mean hairy.
  2. Genesis 25:26 Jacob means he grasps the heel, a Hebrew idiom for he deceives.
  3. Genesis 25:30 Edom means red.

 

Genesis 27 New International Version (NIV)

27 When Isaac was old and his eyes were so weak that he could no longer see, he called for Esau his older son and said to him, “My son.”

“Here I am,” he answered.

Isaac said, “I am now an old man and don’t know the day of my death. Now then, get your equipment—your quiver and bow—and go out to the open country to hunt some wild game for me. Prepare me the kind of tasty food I like and bring it to me to eat, so that I may give you my blessing before I die.”

Now Rebekah was listening as Isaac spoke to his son Esau. When Esau left for the open country to hunt game and bring it back, Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “Look, I overheard your father say to your brother Esau, ‘Bring me some game and prepare me some tasty food to eat, so that I may give you my blessing in the presence of the Lord before I die.’ Now, my son, listen carefully and do what I tell you: Go out to the flock and bring me two choice young goats, so I can prepare some tasty food for your father, just the way he likes it. 10 Then take it to your father to eat, so that he may give you his blessing before he dies.”

11 Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, “But my brother Esau is a hairy man while I have smooth skin. 12 What if my father touches me? I would appear to be tricking him and would bring down a curse on myself rather than a blessing.”

13 His mother said to him, “My son, let the curse fall on me. Just do what I say; go and get them for me.”

14 So he went and got them and brought them to his mother, and she prepared some tasty food, just the way his father liked it. 15 Then Rebekah took the best clothes of Esau her older son, which she had in the house, and put them on her younger son Jacob. 16 She also covered his hands and the smooth part of his neck with the goatskins. 17 Then she handed to her son Jacob the tasty food and the bread she had made.

18 He went to his father and said, “My father.”

“Yes, my son,” he answered. “Who is it?”

19 Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me. Please sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may give me your blessing.”

20 Isaac asked his son, “How did you find it so quickly, my son?”

“The Lord your God gave me success,” he replied.

21 Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Come near so I can touch you, my son, to know whether you really are my son Esau or not.”

22 Jacob went close to his father Isaac, who touched him and said, “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” 23 He did not recognize him, for his hands were hairy like those of his brother Esau; so he proceeded to bless him. 24 “Are you really my son Esau?” he asked.

“I am,” he replied.

25 Then he said, “My son, bring me some of your game to eat, so that I may give you my blessing.”

Jacob brought it to him and he ate; and he brought some wine and he drank. 26 Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come here, my son, and kiss me.”

27 So he went to him and kissed him. When Isaac caught the smell of his clothes, he blessed him and said,

“Ah, the smell of my son
    is like the smell of a field
    that the Lord has blessed.
28 May God give you heaven’s dew
    and earth’s richness—
    an abundance of grain and new wine.
29 May nations serve you
    and peoples bow down to you.
Be lord over your brothers,
    and may the sons of your mother bow down to you.
May those who curse you be cursed
    and those who bless you be blessed.”

30 After Isaac finished blessing him, and Jacob had scarcely left his father’s presence, his brother Esau came in from hunting. 31 He too prepared some tasty food and brought it to his father. Then he said to him, “My father, please sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may give me your blessing.”

32 His father Isaac asked him, “Who are you?”

“I am your son,” he answered, “your firstborn, Esau.”

33 Isaac trembled violently and said, “Who was it, then, that hunted game and brought it to me? I ate it just before you came and I blessed him—and indeed he will be blessed!”

34 When Esau heard his father’s words, he burst out with a loud and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me—me too, my father!”

35 But he said, “Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing.”

36 Esau said, “Isn’t he rightly named Jacob[a]? This is the second time he has taken advantage of me: He took my birthright, and now he’s taken my blessing!” Then he asked, “Haven’t you reserved any blessing for me?”

37 Isaac answered Esau, “I have made him lord over you and have made all his relatives his servants, and I have sustained him with grain and new wine. So what can I possibly do for you, my son?”

38 Esau said to his father, “Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father!” Then Esau wept aloud.

39 His father Isaac answered him,

“Your dwelling will be
    away from the earth’s richness,
    away from the dew of heaven above.
40 You will live by the sword
    and you will serve your brother.
But when you grow restless,
    you will throw his yoke
    from off your neck.”

41 Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”

42 When Rebekah was told what her older son Esau had said, she sent for her younger son Jacob and said to him, “Your brother Esau is planning to avenge himself by killing you.43 Now then, my son, do what I say: Flee at once to my brother Laban in Harran. 44 Stay with him for a while until your brother’s fury subsides. 45 When your brother is no longer angry with you and forgets what you did to him, I’ll send word for you to come back from there. Why should I lose both of you in one day?”

46 Then Rebekah said to Isaac, “I’m disgusted with living because of these Hittite women. If Jacob takes a wife from among the women of this land, from Hittite women like these, my life will not be worth living.”

Footnotes:

  1. Genesis 27:36 Jacob means he grasps the heel, a Hebrew idiom for he takes advantage of or he deceives.

Read Genesis Chapter 28,This is where Isaac instructs Jacob not to marry any Canaanite women, but to go to his Mother’s brother’s house and find a wife there from his mother’s people.  Jacob dreams of a stairway to heaven and God renews his covenant with Jacob that he had with Abraham and Isaac.  God reassures Jacob that he will be with him where ever he goes. God again reassures the next generation of Abraham’s progeny that he is with them and renews again his covenant that he made with Abraham two generations before with Jacob, Abraham’s Grandson.  God is stable and faithful to his agreements.  Jacob is also in the Ancestry of Jesus the Christ.

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Genesis 28 New International Version (NIV)

28 So Isaac called for Jacob and blessed him. Then he commanded him: “Do not marry a Canaanite woman. Go at once to Paddan Aram,[a] to the house of your mother’s father Bethuel. Take a wife for yourself there, from among the daughters of Laban, your mother’s brother. May God Almighty[b] bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples. May he give you and your descendants the blessing given to Abraham, so that you may take possession of the land where you now reside as a foreigner, the land God gave to Abraham.” Then Isaac sent Jacob on his way,and he went to Paddan Aram, to Laban son of Bethuel the Aramean, the brother of Rebekah, who was the mother of Jacob and Esau.

Now Esau learned that Isaac had blessed Jacob and had sent him to Paddan Aram to take a wife from there, and that when he blessed him he commanded him, “Do not marry a Canaanite woman,” and that Jacob had obeyed his father and mother and had gone to Paddan Aram. Esau then realized how displeasing the Canaanite women were to his father Isaac; so he went to Ishmael and married Mahalath, the sister of Nebaioth and daughter of Ishmael son of Abraham, in addition to the wives he already had.

Jacob’s Dream at Bethel

10 Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. 11 When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. 12 He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 There above it[c] stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. 14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.[d] 15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

16 When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” 17 He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”

18 Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. 19 He called that place Bethel,[e] though the city used to be called Luz.

20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear 21 so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord[f] will be my God 22 and[g] this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.”

Footnotes:

  1. Genesis 28:2 That is, Northwest Mesopotamia; also in verses 5, 6 and 7
  2. Genesis 28:3 Hebrew El-Shaddai
  3. Genesis 28:13 Or There beside him
  4. Genesis 28:14 Or will use your name and the name of your offspring in blessings (see 48:20)
  5. Genesis 28:19 Bethel means house of God.
  6. Genesis 28:21 Or Since God … father’s household, the Lord
  7. Genesis 28:22 Or household, and the Lord will be my God, 22 then

Read Genesis 32:22-32  This is where Jacob’s name was  changed to Israel because he struggled with God and with men and overcame both.

Genesis 32:22-32 New International Version (NIV)

Jacob Wrestles With God

22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”

“Jacob,” he answered.

28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel,[a] because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”

But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.

30 So Jacob called the place Peniel,[b] saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”

31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel,[c] and he was limping because of his hip.32 Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon.

Footnotes:

  1. Genesis 32:28 Israel probably means he struggles with God.
  2. Genesis 32:30 Peniel means face of God.
  3. Genesis 32:31 Hebrew Penuel, a variant of Peniel

There is a lot more information on Jacob.  He had twelve sons for whom the 12 tribes of Israel were named.  If you look at historical maps of Israel you will see that there are regions named after each tribe except for the Levites who were to be priests (Exodus).

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Abraham – Blameless before God

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Genesis 17:1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty, walk before me and be blameless.”

Read Genesis 15:3-6, Gen. 16: 1-4, 15-16.

Genesis 15:3-6 New International Version (NIV)

And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”

Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring[a] be.”

Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

Footnotes:

  1. Genesis 15:5 Or seed

Genesis 16:1-4 Hagar and Ishmael

16 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slavenamed Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.”

Abram agreed to what Sarai said. So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years,Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife.He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.  When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress.

71c047c7371335e79f7c1c7d1386fe1a-1Genesis 16:15-16 

15 So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne. 16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.(NIV)

 

God promises Abram a son, Sarah takes matters into her own hands by giving Abram her servant to get a child by, as Sarah doesn’t trust God to give Abram a son by her.  This causes them a lot of grief and stress in their lives, but God is faithful and does provide Sarah with the pregnancy of Isaac.

Read Gen. 17:16-22, and Gen. 18:10-15, Gen. 21. 

Genesis 17:16-22 New International Version (NIV)

16 I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”

17 Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” 18 And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”

19 Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac.[a] I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. 20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. 21 But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.” 22 When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him.

Footnotes:

  1. Genesis 17:19 Isaac means he laughs.

Genesis 18:10-15 New International Version (NIV)

10 Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”

Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. 11 Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”

13 Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”

15 Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.”

But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.”

 

Old_Woman_Laughing_on_the_MarketGenesis 21 New International Version (NIV)

The Birth of Isaac

21 Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. Abraham gave the name Isaac[a] to the son Sarah bore him. When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.

Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” And she added, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”

Hagar and Ishmael Sent Away

The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abrahamwas mocking, 10 and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.”

11 The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. 12 But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring[b] will be reckoned. 13 I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring.”

14 Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the Desert of Beersheba.

15 When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. 16 Then she went off and sat down about a bowshot away, for she thought, “I cannot watch the boy die.” And as she sat there, she[c] began to sob.

17 God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. 18 Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.”

19 Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.

20 God was with the boy as he grew up. He lived in the desert and became an archer.21 While he was living in the Desert of Paran, his mother got a wife for him from Egypt.

The Treaty at Beersheba

22 At that time Abimelek and Phicol the commander of his forces said to Abraham, “God is with you in everything you do. 23 Now swear to me here before God that you will not deal falsely with me or my children or my descendants. Show to me and the country where you now reside as a foreigner the same kindness I have shown to you.”

24 Abraham said, “I swear it.”

25 Then Abraham complained to Abimelek about a well of water that Abimelek’s servants had seized. 26 But Abimelek said, “I don’t know who has done this. You did not tell me, and I heard about it only today.”

27 So Abraham brought sheep and cattle and gave them to Abimelek, and the two men made a treaty. 28 Abraham set apart seven ewe lambs from the flock, 29 and Abimelek asked Abraham, “What is the meaning of these seven ewe lambs you have set apart by themselves?”

30 He replied, “Accept these seven lambs from my hand as a witness that I dug this well.”

31 So that place was called Beersheba,[d] because the two men swore an oath there.

32 After the treaty had been made at Beersheba, Abimelek and Phicol the commander of his forces returned to the land of the Philistines. 33 Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called on the name of the Lord, the Eternal God. 34 And Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines for a long time.

Footnotes:

  1. Genesis 21:3 Isaac means he laughs.
  2. Genesis 21:12 Or seed
  3. Genesis 21:16 Hebrew; Septuagint the child
  4. Genesis 21:31 Beersheba can mean well of seven and well of the oath.

Abraham was faithful to God, and had a feast after Isaac was weaned.  Note:  Abraham cared about Ishmael as his son, and did not want to send him away, but God promised to make Ishmael a father of many nations also, but said that his covenant was with Abraham through Isaac, not through Ishmael.  So, Isaac is the son of promise. 

It is important to note that God was faithful to Abraham and Sarah, even when they were not patiently trusting of him.  Sometimes we hear God, and we naturally want to make God’s words happen on our own and in our own way. 

 That is what happened with Sarah and Abraham.  This sometimes causes us to sin. Sometimes, there are actions that we can take that are okay in preparing ourselves for God’s promise to be fulfilled.  If that is the case we should take those actions,  but there is never a time, when sin is the answer to making God’s promise come true. 

We should always strive to remember that God’s timing isn’t always right away when he promises something.  Sometimes we are just not ready for that fulfillment to take place.  We may have some growing to do first on a spiritual level.  Ultimately, the reason Isaac was the chosen child was that God had already determined that mankind needed a savior and who his chosen people were, and that the savior was going to be a member of his chosen people, I am sure that Abraham’s feast when Isaac was weaned was a feast of Thanksgiving. 

Something to recognize is that God’s chosen people were chosen, not to Lord it over others, but in order to be developed into people who could show the world the character and love of God.  

Sometimes, in our world, we find ourselves falling into the sin of jealousy and resentment whenever we hear someone has been chosen for something instead of ourselves…that is because we have the idea that if they are being chosen, then we are not being chosen, so we are being rejected.  That is a worldly idea…God doesn’t reject people automatically, just because someone else is chosen for a particular task or mission. We each have our own task or mission to accomplish in our lives.  No one person’s task is more important or notable than the one that each of us has been given.  That is part of being in the body of Christ…we all have a task, and each task is important…if the foot is not there, then the body cannot move…the foot is not less important then the arm, or the head, or the body…each is important in its own right.  We cannot forget that, we are all to work together for the good of the kingdom of God.

We just need to follow God and be blameless due to our willingness to follow God, and be faithful in this journey we have…just like Abraham.  If you refer back to Matthew Chapter 1 you will see that Abraham was the first person listed in Jesus’ list of ancestors…yet Abraham was not a perfect person, he was a forgiven person!

 

Jesus – Son of David

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Luke 1:69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David.

Read 2 Samuel Ch. 7  This is God’s promise to David to make his kingdom and his house last forever. 

Read Matthew 1:1-17  This is the genealogy of Jesus Christ from Abraham onward.  So you can see that God kept his promise to Abraham to make his children as numberless as the stars, and to David to make his kingdom and house be eternal, through Jesus.

Read Luke 1:26-33  This is when the Angel Gabriel visits Mary and tells Mary that her son will be called the Son of the Most High, and he will rule on the throne of his father David and over the house of Jacob forever.

Note:  Jesus’s title of the Son of David is a racial title which reminds us that Jesus was a descendant of the Jewish King David who was a descendant of Abraham.  In short, it reminds us that Jesus is Jewish.

Genealogy is very important throughout the bible.  It demonstrates continuity of life.  It also gives us a glance at what a forgiving God we have.  Looking at the people listed in Jesus’ ancestry we see all kinds of sinners.  Yet, those people were so forgiven by God due to their faith that he put them in Jesus’ ancestry to show us how total and completely God forgives you.

We know that God keeps his promises, no matter how long it seems to take him to fulfill a promise…when God makes a promise…he keeps it…you can count on it!

 Look at the number of generations from Abraham to Jesus…Abraham did not live to see the promise kept, but God kept it anyway!

The same with David, King David did not live to see Jesus, hundreds of years later, still representing his throne, his authority, and kingship…yet, Jesus is an eternal King, to a Kingdom without any ending!  How is that for promise keeping?!!  Yes, there were times when the King was not actually sitting on the throne in Israel.  Just because a king is not actively sitting on the throne doesn’t mean there is no king.

Jesus told us that we are to preach the Kingdom come…because the Kingdom is here!   We refer to this as the gospel.   The word gospel means the good news!  The good news is that God loves us and sent his son so that those who believe in his son, Jesus the Christ, and ask for God’s forgiveness of their sins, can receive that forgiveness and begin a new life living for God with the Holy Spirit dwelling within them.  This is a promise that God made to us!  We can count on God to keep his promise!  That is one of the things that knowing Jesus as the “Son of David” means to us!

Luke 9:1-2   When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.

Psalm 103:10-12 New International Version (NIV)

10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

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Bible Verses listed in lesson from biblegateway.com

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2 Samuel 7 New International Version (NIV)

God’s Promise to David

After the king was settled in his palace and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.”

Nathan replied to the king, “Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the Lord is with you.”

But that night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, saying:

“Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’

“Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth. 10 And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning 11 and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders[a] over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies.

“‘The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: 12 When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands. 15 But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me[b]; your thronewill be established forever.’”

17 Nathan reported to David all the words of this entire revelation.

David’s Prayer

18 Then King David went in and sat before the Lord, and he said:

“Who am I, Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?19 And as if this were not enough in your sight, Sovereign Lord, you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant—and this decree, Sovereign Lord, is for a mere human![c]

20 “What more can David say to you? For you know your servant, Sovereign Lord. 21 For the sake of your word and according to your will, you have done this great thing and made it known to your servant.

22 “How great you are, Sovereign Lord! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears. 23 And who is like your people Israel—the one nation on earth that God went out to redeem as a people for himself, and to make a name for himself, and to perform great and awesome wonders by driving out nations and their gods from before your people, whom you redeemed from Egypt?[d] 24 You have established your people Israel as your very own forever, and you, Lord, have become their God.

25 “And now, Lord God, keep forever the promise you have made concerning your servant and his house. Do as you promised, 26 so that your name will be great forever. Then people will say, ‘The Lord Almighty is God over Israel!’ And the house of your servant David will be established in your sight.

27 Lord Almighty, God of Israel, you have revealed this to your servant, saying, ‘I will build a house for you.’ So your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to you.28 Sovereign Lord, you are God! Your covenant is trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant. 29 Now be pleased to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue forever in your sight; for you, Sovereign Lord, have spoken, and with your blessing the house of your servant will be blessed forever.”

Footnotes:

  1. 2 Samuel 7:11 Traditionally judges
  2. 2 Samuel 7:16 Some Hebrew manuscripts and Septuagint; most Hebrew manuscripts you
  3. 2 Samuel 7:19 Or for the human race
  4. 2 Samuel 7:23 See Septuagint and 1 Chron. 17:21; Hebrew wonders for your land and before your people, whom you redeemed from Egypt, from the nations and their gods.

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Matthew 1:1-17 New International Version (NIV)

The Genealogy of Jesus the Messiah

This is the genealogy[a] of Jesus the Messiah[b] the son of David, the son of Abraham:

Abraham was the father of Isaac,

Isaac the father of Jacob,

Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,

Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,

Perez the father of Hezron,

Hezron the father of Ram,

Ram the father of Amminadab,

Amminadab the father of Nahshon,

Nahshon the father of Salmon,

Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,

Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,

Obed the father of Jesse,

and Jesse the father of King David.

David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,

Solomon the father of Rehoboam,

Rehoboam the father of Abijah,

Abijah the father of Asa,

Asa the father of Jehoshaphat,

Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram,

Jehoram the father of Uzziah,

Uzziah the father of Jotham,

Jotham the father of Ahaz,

Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,

10 Hezekiah the father of Manasseh,

Manasseh the father of Amon,

Amon the father of Josiah,

11 and Josiah the father of Jeconiah[c] and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.

12 After the exile to Babylon:

Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel,

Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,

13 Zerubbabel the father of Abihud,

Abihud the father of Eliakim,

Eliakim the father of Azor,

14 Azor the father of Zadok,

Zadok the father of Akim,

Akim the father of Elihud,

15 Elihud the father of Eleazar,

Eleazar the father of Matthan,

Matthan the father of Jacob,

16 and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.

17 Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah.

Footnotes:

  1. Matthew 1:1Or is an account of the origin
  2. Matthew 1:1Or Jesus Christ. Messiah (Hebrew) and Christ (Greek) both mean Anointed One; also in verse 18.
  3. Matthew 1:11That is, Jehoiachin; also in verse 12

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Luke 1:26-33  New International Version (NIV)

The Birth of Jesus Foretold

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

 

 

Upholding Man’s Freewill

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John 8:34-36 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (NIV)

Read John 8:34-36 and 1 Samuel Chapter 8, Jesus talks about being a slave to sin and how to escape that slavery. The people of Israel wanted a king, so Samuel took it to God in prayer, and God told him to give them a king, and sent him to anoint Saul.  God upholds mankind’s freedom of choice, even when we are wrong. 

Why do you think that the Israelites asked for a King? I mean they already had God personally available to them through his prophets and through prayer. If you think about it, the only thing they didn’t have was the Holy Spirit living within them and salvation through Christ.  However, when Jesus came he died for all who accept him, whether they died before he was born and was sacrificed or not.  

I know, you are say, “How does that work?”  “How could they have accepted Jesus as their savior if Jesus had not been born yet?!!”

I know it seems a difficult concept, but if you realize that God is timeless, and that time is not an issue for Him, then it becomes more easily acceptable.  The main thing is that the Jews were living with the prophets and the prophecies that were being made about the Messiah and they accepted that there would be a Messiah who would come to save them.  Although for the most part they didn’t understand what to expect from that Messiah, and believed that he would form an earthly kingdom in the there and then when he came.  The most important thing is that they had faith that what God said would happen would happen, so they accepted the Messiah, Immanuel – God with Us, would come and save them.  God gave them “credit” for following him and believing in him and his promises.

We are told that God justified those in the Old Testament who followed and believed in Him by their faith.  Habakkuk 2:4 Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him;
But the just shall live by his faith. (NKJV) and Galatians 3:11 quotes Habakkuk in this to reiterate what is said in the Old Testament  But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. In Romans 4:3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” we are further told that it is faith that justifies not anything that we can physically do for God.  However, to show that we love God we are told that the way to do that is to be obedient to him…John 14:23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.

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So now, back to the idea of a King…why would anyone want one?  If you look at all the things that God had Samuel tell the Israelites would happen to them when they got a King it is a daunting list of undesirables.  Samuel was heartbroken about them wanting a King, but God told him that it wasn’t his fault..that the one who was being rejected was God himself, not Samuel who was only God’s prophet.  The person who conveyed God’s words to the people.  

So looking at the Bible we were told that the primary reason the Israelites wanted a King was “so that we can be just like everyone else around us….just like our neighbors”  1Samuel 8:4-5 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, “Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.” (NKJV)

So if we look at what they are saying, 1) they wanted to be just like the people around them in the neighboring nations, and 2)  they didn’t trust God to provide another good prophet for them.

After all, just because Samuel’s sons were the sons of a prophet and Samuel appointed them to be judges over the people, does not necessarily mean that God would make them his prophets…or let them remain the corrupt judges that they were.  Samuel should have understood that from what happened with Eli’s sons.  They didn’t get to take over for him either…God took care of that situation.  Apparently, Samuel wasn’t any better at parenting and teaching his sons to be honest and Godly than Eli was…they were bribe takers.

Now God, chose Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the people of Israel to be his people so that they could be different from the nations around them.  He wanted them to be in close contact with Him so that they could be living examples of God’s grace and love to the other nations.  So that they could show the other nations the character of God and bring the other nations closer to God.  God wanted them to trust Him and let Him lead them.

By asking for a King they were failing to trust God in all circumstances.  They were not trusting God for the future…they were trying to plan around Samuel’s sons.   They should have done that by praying and then asking Samuel to tell them what God was going to do about the future when he, Samuel, wasn’t there to lead them anymore.  That would have been the correct response of trust in God.  However, they didn’t and so we have the Israelites distancing themselves from God instead of drawing closer to Him.

God is kind enough to warn them of the consequences of their actions…but they don’t listen.  This is kind of like when a parent tells the kid not to eat too much candy, that it will make them sick to their stomach.  Then allowing the kid to eat too much candy anyway because they keep insisting on more candy.  This is a case of the parent allowing the kid to learn their lesson the hard way.

God was doing the same thing, allowing the Israelites their “freewill choice” of accepting or rejecting God.  He was allowing them to have a King and see that it was just as bad as He said it would be.

How many of us in our various nations are still looking for that next “leader” who will “fix” everything?  I know that my own nation is doing that.  Every time there is an election everyone talks about the candidates and what they are and are not going to do.  Although they are elected instead of appointed, they are still our leader….in a smaller vein we find in work places and churches and groups when things are not going so well that people are more likely to look to finding a new work place, church, or group, or finding a new “leader” for that work place, church, or group, than they are to sit down as a group and pray and look to God to see how the group can be made to be functional and unified and Godly again.  So it appears that it is rather hard to sit in “judgment” on the Israelites in this case, as man has not changed…people are still looking in the wrong place for leadership.  God keeps allowing that, because He wants us to voluntarily without reservation choose to follow him. He doesn’t want servants who are reluctant, God wants his people to love him and obey him because they want to do so!  God does not want people who are obeying him because someone else made them do it, but by their own free will.  The choice is always up to us.

Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (NIV)

Hebrews 12:2 Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (NASB)

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If there are 10 Righteous Men…

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Genesis 18:32 Then he said May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only 10 can be found there?

Read Genesis 18:20-33 God tells Abraham that he will destroy Sodom and Gomorrah that their sin is too great.  Abraham prays to God that he not destroy the city of Sodom if 10 righteous men could be found in either one of them.  God agreed, but could only find 1 righteous man, Lot, and so saved Lot and his family and still destroyed  the city.  So although  the city was destroyed, God listened to Abraham, and looked for righteous people first thereby saving Lot.  Without Abraham’s intercessory prayer, God may have destroyed the entire city.  Prayer affected the outcome for Lot.

There is a bunch of history between Abraham and Lot.   Lot is Abraham’s nephew by one of his deceased brothers.  When God told Abraham to pick up and move to a new country with his wife and family, Abraham took Lot along.  He and Lot ended up having to go their separate ways after a while because their family groups were too large and their flocks were too large.  This caused a bunch of fighting between their herdsmen.  Abraham was kind enough to let Lot choose which of the new land he wanted for himself.  Lot demonstrates a bit of his character to us by choosing the best and greenest land, and leaving the desert area for Abraham. Later his area is raided and he and his family members are kidnapped…Abraham goes to the rescue with a few hundred men and gets them back.

John 3:16-21  

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” (NKJV -Biblegateway)

Now in this story we find that the town that Lot is living in (Sodom) is about to be destroyed by God.  God has found the town to be so filled with sin that he considers it irredeemable.  In our society there is a belief that everyone is going to be redeemed.  That is simply not true.  It is purely wishful thinking…however, it is good that we have that desire to see everyone redeemed.  God has the same desire, and wants us to have that desire also.  He wants us to love others to that point where we wish the best for them, and would like to help them achieve it.

2Peter 3:9  The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

The promise that is spoken about in 2Peter 3:9  is the return of the Lord…he is not slow in returning because he wants us to suffer more, but because more can have time to make the decision to follow Jesus, and gain their salvation and restored relationship with God.  God leaves people here on earth who have already gained their salvation so that they can be instrumental through their knowledge of God, and through the way they live out their faith….in bringing others to the knowledge of salvation also.

Abraham always loved Lot and wanted him to be saved, but he also did not want the people of Sodom to be destroyed either…he was hoping that there would be enough people in the town of Sodom that Lot could continue to live his life there, and that God would not destroy the town.  That there were enough people still in Sodom that they could witness to those who were living in sin and thus help them to repent and return to God.  However, as we know from the Bible, Lot was the only person left in that town whom God considered to be righteous.  If you read more about Lot in the Old Testament you will find that he wasn’t really all that righteous…he had a knowledge of God, but not necessarily a very strong character.  He tried to be obedient to God, but he didn’t seem to cling to him the way he should.  It is a good thing that Abraham was around to look out for his nephew, and to pray to God for him.  God wants us to look out for others, especially for other Christians who may be new to the faith, or weaker spiritually.  We are to lift them up in prayer and bolster their faith as much as we can.

Notice that God never got mad at Abraham for how he questioned him repeatedly about his actions.  God does not get mad at us either for wondering about what his plan is and what he is doing.  God wants relationship with us, if we have a question about what God is wanting us to do, or what is happening or why…we should feel free to pray and ask God to help us to resolve these questions, and to have a closer understanding of him and his plan.  God is gracious and loving and understands us more than we understand ourselves.  Use prayer to relate to him and he will give you answers and contentment about how he is doing things.  When there isn’t prayer/communication..there isn’t understanding either.  So pray and ask God what is going on and how to proceed whenever you are in doubt…it will definitely build your faith up…beyond your dreams!

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Grace for Everyone

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Peter Preaching at Pentecost by Benjamin West 1738-1820

Romans 4:16 Therefore the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all of Abraham’s offspring, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, he is the father of us all.

Read 1Timothy 1:13-15, Romans 5:1-2, Romans 5:14-21, Titus 2:11  God’s grace is extended to all of humanity not just the Jews. You gain access to God’s grace through your faith in Jesus.  All of mankind were condemned through the sin of Adam, who was one man, and all mankind can be saved through the righteousness and obedience of one man (God in the flesh) Jesus Christ.  Where there is no sin, there is no need for grace.  Where there is no law, there is no sin.  The law was given to show us that we are sinful, if we didn’t know of our sin, then we wouldn’t ever feel the need for grace. Grace came about through the righteousness of Jesus.  In the old testament, God’s grace was demonstrated through sacrifice and cleansing from sin was by sacrifice. 

It’s not that anyone could actually be cleansed by the blood of an animal…(Hebrews 10:2-23) it was that God loved his people so much that he gave them a method by which they could obediently do an atonement so that they wouldn’t live feeling guilty.  After all, once a person feels their guilt, the first thing they want to do is do something to get rid of that feeling of guilt.  Until the Messiah came, God gave them a method that would allow to regularly face their guilt and acknowledge that sin had a penalty, and that penalty was death.

Think about it, each time that person had to go and do a sin offering at the temple they were required to think about their guilt during the time of picking out the “perfect” animal, then when they went to the priest to have the offering made they would naturally see the horror of death that their sin guilt brought about.  (Hebrews 9:22, Leviticus 17:11)All of those temple sacrifices in the Bible were precursors to the perfect last sacrifice which would actually atone for the sins of man.

Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice, so any other sacrifices we make now in the belief that they are going to do anything to earn us salvation are insulting to God, because they belittle Jesus’ sacrifice. After all, God gave his son, how can anything that we sacrifice be compared to that sacrifice.  If you have experienced being a parent you know that there is nothing that you wouldn’t do for your children.  You would rather die yourself than to have them suffer.  Yet God allowed his son to die for us because he loved us so much that he wanted us to be cleansed from sin and drawn close to him.

Note: To use the time period before Easter known as Lent as an example; Many times we chose to give up something that is important to us, or that we spend a lot of time doing.  We are doing this not to make an atonement to God, but in honor and remembrance of Jesus’ sacrifice for us.  It is also to give us a feeling of what sacrifice is all about, and how hard it can be.  Therefore if you choose to give something up for Lent, it should be something which is challenging to give up, otherwise giving it up is not much of a sacrifice. You can chose to give something up in honor of God at any time of the year and for any period.  That is just a traditional time period.  The thing about doing this is that if the thing that you give up is something that you really enjoy, each time you are faced with the temptation of it you are also faced with the thoughts of God.  For my part, I have thoughts like, “oh, no, I can’t eat this right now”…then it goes through my head, “Why not?”  Then, “Oh, yeah, because I promised God that I will give up eating this item that I really crave for this particular time period, and I need to honor my promise to God!”  So you see how it is that each time you are confronted with temptation you are also confronted with thoughts of God.  It becomes a way to also put your focus more on God during that time period, all the while understanding more clearly how hard it is to give something up, and how hard it is to resist temptation.  And we are only tempted a little bit.  Jesus was tempted completely and thoroughly day in and day out for 40 days in the desert, and he was by himself. There was no one there to help him by talking to him and advising him how to overcome the temptation.  Ultimately, when we are being tempted we are alone, as we are the only ones who can decide whether to give in to a temptation or not.  What did Jesus use to overcome the tempter?  He used the word of God.  He battle the Devil with scripture.  An important reason to have God’s word written on our hearts and minds.

Read Genesis 17:1-18:15, Genesis 21:1-7  The story of God’s Covenant with Abraham.  This could alternately be called the first covenant, or the covenant of the Old Testament.  It is the covenant of Circumcision.  The Gospel is under the new Covenant which is a Covenant of grace, whereas the Covenant with Abraham was one of the flesh.  The continuation of that covenant of the flesh was passed down with the 10 commandments in the Old Testament after the Exodus from Egypt that became the covenant of the Law.

The Burden of the Law

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This is a pic of the statue of the lady of justice.  The statue is blind folded because Justice doesn’t care who you are or what they see.  It is only the weight of the evidence that they care about.  The sword in the other hand depicts the punishment that is forthcoming if the person on trial is found guilty.  God is not blindfolded, he knows exactly who you are, and he is a God of justice and grace.  Thank God that we don’t have to “get what we deserve” that he provided his grace for us.

Acts 15:11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.

Romans 7:21-23  So I find this law at work, when I want to do good, evil is right there with me, for in my inner being I delight in God’s law, but I see another law at work in the members of my body waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.

Read Acts 15:1-12, Philippians 1:7  This passage fills in the gap between the old testament and the new testament.  It states that the law was too big of a burden to bear, that the disciples Paul and Barnabas believe that since God settled the Holy Spirit on the Gentiles, through their faith, those who were not circumcised, that it is through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as the gentiles were saved, that there is no longer a difference between the gentiles and the jews in terms of how they are saved by grace.  Grace is for everyone.  If you believe in Jesus Christ as the son of God, then you will be saved. God’s grace is limitless.  

Read Genesis 20:1-7  The story of Abraham being deceptive about Sarah’s status as his wife.  Sarah was his half sister also, but in that time period rules about blood relationships and marriage were different, but rules about adultery were not different from today.  They may have been different because of the lack of understanding of genetic diseases, or it may be that there were not the number of genetic diseases back then that there are today.  Primarily because mankind was closer to the genetic perfection of the Garden of Eden, but that is just a supposition on my part.  They would certainly have known something about animal husbandry and diseases being passed down to the next generation.   Anyway, back to the point at hand….

Abraham lied to protect his own skin, and nearly caused Sarah to commit adultery.  He definitely wasn’t consulting God about his fears.  God visited Abimelech in a dream to tell him not to take Sarah as his wife because she was already married to Abraham.

God forgave Abraham for his deception and protected his marriage in spite of his lies. This is an example of the burden of law being too much for Abraham to deal with because of his fear for his life.  The law said that adultery was punishable by death.  Abraham couldn’t keep the law because he let his fear for his life overwhelm his sense of what was morally right and what was morally wrong.   God recognizes our inability to be perfect under the law, so he gave us his grace through Jesus Christ.

People generally have a view of God where they say, “Yeah, but if we just do more good things than bad things then when we die and go to heaven we should be let in because we are more good than bad.”  I once read something that really gives a wonderful illustration for the “more good than bad idea” and so I will share it with you.  I cannot tell you where it came from, or I would certainly credit the person as this is a great example.

There was once a man whose children wanted to go to see a movie later in the evening with some friends and they requested permission from their father.  While requesting to go it came out that the movie had some violence and a few swear words in it, but as the children explained to their father, “Dad it is only a little bit of violence and just a few bad words.”  Their father said, “well, then, let me have an hour or so to consider this and I will get back with you.”  An hour later he called his children together and asked them if they would like some of the fresh brownies that he had just finished baking.  These brownies looked delicious, so the children were really happy to say yes, but the father said, “there is just one thing about these brownies that you should know before you decide if you want one.”  The children said, “Really, and what’s that, because they look really great!”  The father said, “Well, these brownies have a special ingredient in them…I have added a bit of dog poop into them…but well, there’s only just a little bit of dog poop in them, so you won’t even notice it when you eat them.  Do you still want them?”  Well, it is pretty obvious that no matter how good those brownies looked, no one would want to eat them if they had even a small amount of dog poop in them.  The kids were the same.  So their father made his point quite well, that a little bit of something bad, is as bad as a lot of something bad.

God looks at sin that way too, a little bit of sin in you when you are trying to get into heaven and be close to God is as bad as a lot of sin.  A little bit is too much.  That is why just doing more good than bad things is not enough.  That is why we all need a savior, why we all need Jesus Christ…because by accepting him and his having gone to hell instead as your stand in, you have been wiped clean of guilt in God’s eyes.  (This does not give you a license to keep on sinning and it does not make you a perfect person…if it did then there would be lines of people trying to become Christian so they could be perfect on earth!  What it means is that you have taken full advantage of the grace that God has offered you through his son, Jesus Christ!  You are forgiven, not perfect.  Perfection does not need grace!  All human beings are imperfect, and thus require grace.

The whole idea of good outweighing the bad is a worldly view, not a Godly view of sin.

The God of the Living is the God of 2nd Chances

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Angel statue in the ruins at Ephesus, Turkey

Exodus 33:12-23 Moses found grace in God’s sight and told God that he would like to know him personally, and that if God will go with him he will leave that place, but if God won’t be with him, he will stay where God is.  God assured Moses that He was with him, and knew him by his name.  Also God, let Moses see his backside, when he went to get the ten commandments the second time, after the Golden Calf incident.  The second set was obviously the one which was put into the ark of the covenant.

Read Exodus 32 This is the story of the Golden Calf.  Notice that God allowed everyone a chance to repent and come back to him, and if they did then he forgave them, but those who didn’t accept his grace were put to death.  This is symbolic of Christianity’s grace, in which you live your life, and if you accept God’s grace, and recognize your sin, and ask for forgiveness, God is faithful to forgive you, and accept you back to Him.  However, if you don’t repent and accept God’s grace, then when your life is over it is too late, and you will die the eternal death,  instead of living in Heaven in the presence of God.  That is why we have this phrase:  “Where there is life…there is hope.”  Hope for redemption…hope for a return to the side of God.  There is all manner of hope when we are alive.

Truly death is a hopeless state of being, unless you are dead in Christ.  Mark 12:26-27 tells us that God is a God of the living and not the God of the dead.  Jesus says this in answer to the Pharisees’ question about the the woman who was married to one brother after another, so when they would be resurrected whose wife would she be?  Jesus starts the statement about God being a God of the living and not the dead with the statement that God spoke to Moses at the burning bush and said “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.”  Then Jesus makes the statement that “God is the God of the living and not the God of the dead.”  Reading that line in the Bible,  there is a detail that I always missed…  The statement made by God to Moses is in the present tense…not the past tense.  How does this fit with what Jesus is saying?  Jesus is saying that these people who in Moses’ time had been dead from the earth for more than 400 years were still alive in God and with God.  God was telling Moses the same thing, that although Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were no longer alive on this earth, they were yet alive with Him.  We know this is what God meant because of Jesus statements in Mark 12:26-27…Logically speaking…God cannot be the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the present tense if they are already dead…because He is not a God of the dead!

There is no other way to take this statement when they are combined like this because otherwise they would be in conflict.  Usually, when we read that God is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob..we don’t really hear the tense.  We think of this as God stating that he is an eternal and generational God.  We think that he is simple identifying himself to Moses in terms of: “I am the God of your ancestors…”

While it is true that God is the God of Moses’ ancestors, that is not what God was trying to convey to Moses.  As Jesus tells us, this is one of those “ears to hear, eyes to see, and heart to understand” moments.  A moment when you go…”ah ha!  So that’s what he means!”  or in Sherlock Holmes version, “By jove, Watson!  I think I’ve got it!”

So this is what it means when we are promised “eternal life in Christ Jesus” John 3:16.  Right about now, you are probably thinking, but Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were dead before Jesus was born, so how does that work for them?  Well, they lived under the old covenant, which was a covenant of the law…they followed what God had told them to do faithfully, and were obedient to him…they were saved and considered righteous by their faith.  (Genesis 15:6)  As the Apostle Paul said, they lived and died and never saw the promise fulfilled, but their faith was credited to them as righteousness…(Hebrews 11) Jesus said that the disciples were those who had seen and believed, but so much more honored is the person who has believed, but has not seen. (John 20:29)

We can rejoice in the fact that God is the God of the living…so much so that in the fact of our death we need have no fear as long as we are in Christ during our life…we will continue to be in Christ in our death.  My favorite verse in the Bible is this:  1Philippians 1:21  For me to live is Christ and to die is gain!  Paul goes on to explain that while living this life we can serve Christ, and when we are dead to this life we will be living with Christ so that as Christians we have nothing to lose either way.  This is the grace and promise of God.

Grace Defined

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The empty cross is a reminder of God’s grace toward us that he wipes our sins clean as though they never existed to him. 

Grace Defined:   Grace is when you are forgiven for something which you should have been punished for, and you have done nothing and there is nothing you can do to deserve not being punished.  It is simply a demonstration of grace that you continue to not be punished in spite of your wrongdoing.  You must accept the fact that you were forgiven, and that something happened in the person’s or God’s eyes which mitigated your sin, but was not of your own doing.  You cannot get to heaven by doing good things.  You only get there by accepting Jesus as your Savior who died for your sins, which mitigated them because he already paid for them.  Then by accepting Jesus, you are living under God’s grace.  You may still fall into sin, but as long as you continue to genuinely repent, and accept God’s gift of his son in your life, you will continue to be saved by Grace.  As you grow in grace you will find that your old self is put aside, and that many things which you enjoyed which were sinful are not things which you want to do now.  With God’s help and the Holy Spirit living within you, you won’t want to do things outside of God’s approval. In the old testament, people lived under the law of Moses, not under Grace.  However, there were times when God demonstrated grace towards old testament people.  For instance in Lot’s case, Abraham used intercessory prayer and God spared Lot as a righteous person out of Sodom.  The Old Testament shows us that grace can be a synonym for mercy.  Traditionally by Christian definition there is no grace without Jesus Christ.

Note:  When I say you may still fall into sin and you will repent…it is not to say that sin is acceptable if you just plan to repent later…the Bible clearly warns against doing that sort of thing.  

1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Read:  Genesis 18:17-Genesis 19:29.  This is the story of Abraham praying for Sodom and Gomorrah.  It was evident that Lot was the only righteous man in Sodom.  Therefore, due to Abraham’s prayer Lot was spared along with his family.

Remember that Lot was only marginally righteous at best, he was Abraham’s nephew, and when given the choice of land he chose for himself the “green land” and left Abraham the desert.  This speaks to Lot’s character of greed, and his need for personal comfort which makes you believe that he probably didn’t go to any great lengths to discipline his children.  However, he did stand up for the angels in Sodom, when the crowd came to harass them. 

Thought questions:  Were there times when you were forgiven for things you did wrong when you weren’t expecting it.  How did that  make you feel?  Think about times when you have been unforgiving!  How did being unforgiving toward others affect you?  Did you feel bad or good about still harboring a grudge?  Was it easy to keep harboring a grudge, or was it hard work?  How do you feel when someone is unforgiving to you?  Grace, and mercy and forgiveness are all linked together!  God directs us to forgive.  We are to forgive repeatedly as God forgives us repeatedly.  Even when the person  doesn’t deserve forgiveness.  You forgive in obedience to God.  He forgives you repeatedly and you don’t deserve it either. 

Do you know that being unforgiving toward others and toward yourself stands in the way of your relationship with God and also stands in the way of your happiness and contentment in life?

Matthew 5:22-24  “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.“Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.…(NIV)

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?