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Genesis 20:1-22:24 ~ Matthew 7:15-29 ~ Psalm 9:1-12 ~ Proverbs 2:16-22
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Old Testament - Today in Genesis chapter 20 we see that Abraham is not perfect (we have seen this humanness of Abraham earlier in our Genesis readings too). This should be good news for each of us! :) Abraham essentially tells Abimelech a half-truth - and yes, half-lie. The thing to remember here is that Abraham has received incredible promises from God and covenants - and yet, it is apparent that Abraham still has some fear of what will happen to him and Sarah. This imperfection of God's people is something that we will continue to see throughout our Bible readings. God uses imperfect people for his purposes. God does typically use those that love him. But, those that love God do still sin and make mistakes. God partners with imperfect people throughout history. God partners with people like you and me. Below is Flemish Northern Renaissance Painter Jan Provost's "Abraham, Sarah and the Angel" from the year 1520:
In Genesis chapter 21 we read about Sarah joyfully giving birth to Isaac when Abraham was 100 years old! Isaac's name means "he laughs" - which in part came from when Sarah laughed when God told Abraham she would have a son a year prior. We also read about Hagar and Ishmael being sent away. Verse 13 stands out when God is speaking to Abraham, as he was upset about having to send Ishmael away: "But I will make a nation of the descendants of Hagar's son because he also is your son."" Ishmael does later become the ruler of a large tribe in Paran and the Desert of Sinai, south of Israel. Then, one of Ishmael's daughter's marries Esau, Ishmael's nephew. From here the lineage of Esau becomes Arabic peoples and eventually the Muslim religion comes from this lineage. It is said that Abraham is the father of the world's three major monotheistic faiths - Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faiths. Below is an oil on canvas painting by the Spanish artist Giovanni Battista Tiepolo from 1732 titled "The Angel Succoring Hagar":
In Genesis chapter 22 Abraham's faith and obedience is tested in what most see as the climax of our readings about Abraham in Genesis. Some interesting things to note about this chapter. It is said that much of this chapter foreshadows what happens with Jesus. A father is called to sacrifice his one and only son - a son he loves so very much. The son is taken to a mountain to be sacrificed. On the mountain a "lamb" is sacrificed - a ram in place of Isaac's life - and Jesus as the "lamb" in place of our lives. Hebrews 11:19 has an interesting point to make about these readings in Genesis 22 today: "Abraham assumed that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead." Below is Rembrandt's famous painting from 1635 of the angel, Abraham and Isaac on Mount Moriah titled "The Sacrifice of Isaac" (this is a powerful painting - many commentators call Isaac a prefiguration / type of Christ, which I think this painting can help us visualize):
In verse 14 we read about the mountain where Isaac was taken and the altar was built - Mount Moriah. Mount Moriah was about 48 miles north of Beersheba, where Abraham and Isaac began their journey - so a 3 day journey at that time makes sense. Some scholars believe that Mount Moriah is the Temple Mount area of Jerusalem, where the first and second temples were located - and also where the Dome of the Rock mosque, built in 691 A.D., is now located. Tons more info on the Temple Mount area, including photos is online here - http://www.templemount.org/ Below is an aerial view of the Mount Moriah / Temple Mount area in Jerusalem today:
Bob Deffinbaugh from bible.org has yet another amazing article, this time on Genesis Chapter 22 - which goes into The Command, Abraham's Obedience, God's Provision, and God's Promise. Take 10 minutes if you can and check out this great article on this chapter titled "Final Exams" at this link here. Below is a painting of "Abraham Sacrificing Isaac" by the famous French baroque classical painter Laurent de La Hire from the year 1650:
New Testament - Today in Matthew chapter 7 we wrap up the Sermon on the Mount! Not a bad 3 chapters of teaching from Jesus, eh? :) Verse 20 was insightful for me today: "Yes, the way to identify a tree or a person is by the kind of fruit that is produced." I think this verse goes back to my post yesterday about how we are still to identify or perceive the types of people we come in contact with - without judging them or condemning them. And one good to way to identify someone is by the type of fruit they produce - actions they demonstrate or lives they lead. And while it may sometimes be easier to identify other people's fruit... maybe we ought to look at our own lives too. What type of fruit is your life producing? Is it life-giving fruit for those you come in contact with? And let us not forget Jesus' warning in verse 15 today about how we are to identify false teachers. Do you believe there are false teachers in our world today? What are their fruits that you will know them by?
Verse 24 is strong: "Anyone who listens to my teaching and obeys me is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock." Have you really listened to Jesus' teaching these past few days as you read through the Sermon on the Mount? And - will you now obey Jesus' teaching? Would this be wise? Would this be like building a house on solid rock? Will you stay out of the sands of sin?
Matthew 7:25 I think is an important verse for us to meditate upon in our own lives: "Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won't collapse, because it is built on rock." I never paid too much attention to this verse - I always focused on verse 24 and building a strong foundation on solid rock. But, I had lunch with a friend recently and he shared with me that this verse 25 - and verse 27 too - should be a reminder to each of us that storms will come in our lives. And I think this is so true. Sometimes we go through wonderful seasons of blessing, and we may think that storms will never come our way - but guess what, they will. If we are followers of Jesus - Jesus who endured an unimaginable storm during his passion and crucifixion - storms will come our way too. So, then, the key becomes if we know storms will come, we really should pay attention to verse 24 and build up a strong foundation of faith during the times of calm. It's kind of like the idea of saving for a rainy day - the day will come when it rains. So let us build up our faith and love in God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit today! So that when the storms of life come our way, we will not collapse, but will remain faithful to the beautiful end. My friends, the storms will come. But with Jesus, we do not need to fear them or collapse under them when they come!
Bible.org's commentary on our readings in Matthew chapter 7 today titled "Mistaken Identity" is at this link.
Psalms - Psalm 9 verse 9 stood out at me today and reminded me of Matthew 7:25 above too: "The LORD is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble." When we are in trouble, do we run to God for shelter? Or do we look elsewhere? Where will we ultimately find true peace and rest from the storms of life? Do you believe that the Bible is a haven for you in the midst of the storms of life?
Proverbs - Proverbs 2:16-19 I believe can be viewed as woman or man. There are both immoral men and women out there today who will talk flatteringly - which will lead down an incredibly dark path if we entertain the lust. Verse 20 reminds us there is another path to take: "Follow the steps of good men instead, and stay on the paths of the righteous." Will you evaluate all of all the paths that present themselves to you in your life - and stay on the paths that are taken by good men and women? Will you stay only on paths full of light, and avoid at all costs paths that lead quickly to darkness?
Worship God: Jesus' teachings about storms in Matthew today and Psalm 9:9 above both reminded me immediately of the incredible Casting Crowns song "Praise You in This Storm." I don't know what it is about all these storm songs on the radio that are resonating with me lately - MercyMe's "Bring the Rain" being another favorite song - other than I know this: It's not a matter of "if" storms will come in our life. It's a matter of "when." Storms will come. And when they do, we have the option to try to weather the storms all on our own. Or we have the option to invite God into the storms with us. Well, I believe God's already there with us in the storms even if we don't realize it - so, I think we can simply open our hearts and praise God in the storms! He will never abandon us or leave us. Even in the midst of the worst storms this fallen world might bring, God is there with us. Will you praise God in the storms?
Do you believe there is a God who is worthy of being praised even in the midst of storms in your life? Click here to get to know God of heaven and earth who is worthy of being praised in the storms!
Please join me in memorizing a verse of Scripture today:
"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock." Matthew 7:24 NIV
Comments from You and Questions of the Day: Based on the knowledge that storms will come into our life, what are you doing in your life to build a firm foundation of faith? Reading the Bible regularly? Going to church regularly? Being part of a small group or community group or Bible study with other Christians regularly? Praying regularly? What else? Do you think that storms will come to your life? Have you experienced storms in your life in the past where your faith has been your firm foundation and has gotten you through the storm? Also, what verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up by clicking on the "Comments" link below!