Genesis 23:1-24:51 ~ Matthew 8:1-17 ~ Psalm 9:13-20 ~ Proverbs 3:1-6
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Old Testament - Today in Genesis chapter 23 we read about the burial of Sarah. I think an amazing thing to note in this chapter is that Abraham is determined to bury Sarah in Canaan, based on God's promise (Gen 15:9-21) to Abraham that Canaan would be his and his descendant's homeland. Verse 4 stands out in this chapter and I think can speak for us today as well: "Here I am, a stranger in a foreign land, with no place to bury my wife." We will see this type of phrase throughout the Old Testament - the idea of being an alien and a stranger. In Abraham's case, he was literally living in a tent - a very temporary structure. But yet, Abraham was confident in God's promise of the Promised Land. And for us today - we are called to be "in the world, but not of the world". In a sense, we are also aliens and strangers. The question we might need to ask ourselves - are we acting like we are aliens and strangers in this world? Are we awaiting our promised land with God in heaven? Or, are we maybe getting a bit too comfortable in this world? And maybe even loving the material things of this world - more than eternal things? And maybe are we forgetting sometimes about the amazing promised land God has in store for us? Below is a painting by American artist Tom Lovell from 1967 titled "The Burial of Sarah" that I think corresponds nicely with verse 19: "So Abraham buried Sarah there in Canaan, in the cave of Machpelah, near Mamre, which is at Hebron."
Genesis chapter 24 is a just a wonderful narrative story about Abraham sending his servant Eliezer to find a wife for Isaac! What I like a lot about this chapter was how God was honored by Abraham, and by the servant at the well, and by Laban and Bethuel at the end of today's readings. It was evident that everyone was making their plans and prayers based on God! And not based on their own ideas or will power. God was being consulted. The last half of verse 7 stood out to me: "He will send his angel ahead of you, and he will see to it that you find a young woman there to be my son's wife." What I noticed about this verse, is that we didn't read about Abraham praying to God that an angel would go ahead of the servant - nor did we read about God telling Abraham this would be the case. Perhaps one of these two things happened outside of the text. But, what struck me was that maybe Abraham had been walking with God for so long now, that he may have been in such close relationship with God that he may have just somehow knew this angel would go ahead - and he wouldn't of said it otherwise. I just wonder if we are obedient to God and walk with God for a good portion of our lives, as Abraham did, if the will of God and God's works just become more and more evident in our lives? I'm kind of just thinking out loud here... :) Hopefully this makes sense. I do believe that as we go forward in our spiritual walk, God will continue to share more and new insights with us. Which is great news! Our walk with God will not be boring! Even in the midst of trials and hardships, I believe if we are faithful and obedient and continually seek God's will in our lives, we will come to know Him more and more - and, like Abraham, come to know more and more of the Peace that surpasses all understanding. I love this image below of Abraham in his later years...
Verse 15 stands out in this chapter: "As he was still praying, a young woman named Rebekah arrived with a water jug on her shoulder. Her father was Bethuel, who was the son of Abraham's brother Nahor and his wife, Milcah." As the servant was just finishing his prayer, God was answering it! Have you ever had this experience? I am not 100% sure that I have, but I think I have. I think maybe sometimes God encourages us to pray and sometimes he immediately delivers on that prayer - just so it becomes clear that what happened was the work of God, and not our own work. Now, don't get me wrong - sometimes we pray for something specific, and God does not answer immediately. Or... perhaps that's the answer in and of itself - no answer. It's a mystery - but an adventurous mystery to be sure! What a great thing to experience though, as this servant did, when a prayer is immediately answered. Below is 19th century American stained-glass artist John La Farge's "Rebekah at the Well":
New Testament - Today we read Matthew chapter 8, which is an amazing look at Jesus' healing ministry. While we do read about someone with leprosy, and a paralyzed man, and others with sicknesses and demons - don't we all need some sort of healing in our lives today? Maybe we can learn something from the man with leprosy in verse 2: "Suddenly, a man with leprosy approached Jesus. He knelt before him, worshiping. "Lord," the man said, "if you want to, you can make me well again." Do we have this kind of faith? Do we believe that Jesus can heal us of what is ailing us? Again, I don't mean just sicknesses - but addictions, and dependencies, and bad habits, and sins? Do you believe that Jesus can make you well again? Will you kneel before Jesus, worship Jesus, and ask for healing?
I will give a caveat here - I do know people that have prayed for healing from various sicknesses and diseases - and it has not always been healed. Please don't see this as any shortcoming in your faith - or in Jesus' power. Oftentimes God's ways are much more of a mystery than we can comprehend on this side of heaven. "For now, we see in part. But, then - in heaven - we will see in full." (my paraphrase of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13:12) Please don't give up on God or Jesus if the healing is not coming as you'd prayed for it to. Ultimately, all who have faith in the born, crucified, and risen Jesus will have perfected bodies in heaven. Please stay focused on this "hope of glory", as Paul also wrote about.
The passages on the faith of the centurion are powerful - especially his words in verse 8: "Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed!" Verses 10 & 11 are significant to Matthew's primarily Jewish audience of this gospel: "When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to the crowd, he said, "I tell you the truth, I haven't seen faith like this in all the land of Israel! And I tell you this, that many Gentiles will come from all over the world and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the feast in the Kingdom of Heaven." Jesus is making it clear that heaven will not be just for Jews, but will be made available for all who come to believe in Jesus as Messiah and in his life, his death for the forgiveness of sins, and his resurrection. Can we learn something from the faith of the centurion in our lives today?
Bible.org's commentary on our readings today in Matthew chapter 8 titled "Speak the Word Only" is at this link.
Psalms - Psalm 9 verse 18 is so true and powerful: "For the needy will not be forgotten forever; the hopes of the poor will not always be crushed." This is a great reminder that God's heart is for the poor in this world! If God's heart is for the poor - should our heart be for the poor too? How is your heart for the poor these days? How do you remember the poor and their hopes?
Proverbs - Proverbs 3:1-6 today mentions the "heart" 3 times. I think this is significant! Our hearts - and the state of our hearts are of utmost importance. Proverbs 3:5-6 is a verse I have committed to memory and repeat to myself often. It is a beautiful verse to meditate upon. I'll share it with you in the NIV version that I have it memorized in: "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight." Will you join me in memorizing these 2 verses? I do believe they will bless you immensely whenever you are feeling worried or anxious about anything in life.
Worship God: Psalm 9:18 today reminded me of this great video below set to the amazing Sara Groves song "Add to the Beauty." This video shows the urgent work of Blood:Water Mission, an organization drilling wells in Africa. (among other important work) The band Jars of Clay are very involved in this great organizaton. Please take a few minutes to watch this video and then explore www.bloodwatermission.com.
Do you know our God of Beauty? Click here and add to the Beauty!
Please join me in memorizing a verse of Scripture today: "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV
Prayer Point: Pray that you would indeed trust God will all of your heart. Pray that you won't lean on your own understanding. Pray that you will acknowledge God in all that you do. And pray and trust that God will lead you down straight paths as you follow Jesus.
Comments from You and Questions of the Day: Based on our Matthew readings today about Jesus' healings - do you believe that Jesus still heals people today? What does he heal people of today? Does he heal sickness? Addictions? Laziness? Pride? All manner of sins? Has Jesus healed you of anything? Do you believe He can? Also, what verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up by clicking on the "Comments" link below!
p.s. Download our monthly Small Group study notes for our One Year Bible readings at this link.
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