January 31

January 31

Esau & the Birthright — God chooses, the second birth & Esau’s shortsighted trade.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Genesis 25
Reading 2: Romans 9:10-12
Reading 3: Hebrews 12:14-17

Have you noticed in our readings that there is a thread of heritage in the story of humanity? Starting with Adam, and restarting with Noah and his sons, there is a thread of generational inheritance running through all the stories we have read. This is because God is our Father and inheritance is integral to God’s blessing. We do well to remember God’s plan has always been for our blessing, but today we read a story of someone who did not recognize that foundational principle.

With our logical and rational mindset we might see Jacob as the wrongdoer in this story. He is living true to his name (which means deceiver or supplanter). Esau seems to be the victim of unfairness until we remember the principle of blessing. Instead, it is Esau we see as the sinner – he disregards the grace of God and rejects the  inheritance God has planned for him. The writer to the Hebrews describes him as immoral and godless; quite an indictment! And Paul writes to the Romans that “God chooses people according to his own purposes; he calls people, but not according to their good or bad works” and God had a purpose for Jacob – we will see that in the coming days.

Today, remember that God has a purpose for you, and his plan is to give you a full inheritance of his blessing!

Have a great day!

Mark.

January 30

January 30

Isaac & Rebekah — The servant’s prayer for God’s direction & God’s guidance.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Genesis 24
Reading 2: Psalm 37:3-8
Reading 3: Proverbs 3:5-6

As the story of God’s covenant with Abraham unfolds, we see God’s faithfulness to Isaac. This chapter has much to teach us about guidance. Notice how the servant follows his instructions carefully, but also how much his master trusts him. The servant asks God to guide him in specific ways, and God is pleased to do so. Clearly this is a household that has learned to trust God and to live in close relationship with Him.

Our cross-references in the Psalms and Proverbs relate to this principle also: “delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” and  “Trust in the lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”

Both of these scriptures have been directional for me in my life. The Psalm 37 verses were used by God to call me into ministry after a one year training course – my heart was torn between the educational path I knew my family would understand, and the ministry path that I felt God was calling me to take. As I delighted myself in God, the heart desire to be in ministry increased, the desire to train as a teacher decreased, and the door opened for me to work in a church; the guidance was complete. A year later I met Jane!

Let’s also remember the warning in these verses: don’t trust your own understanding. God has designed us to listen to His wisdom and to obey His guidance. Today’s story shows the fruit of such a close relationship. May it be so in each of our lives.

Have a great day!

Mark.

January 28

January 28.

Abraham & Isaac — Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac foreshadows Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Genesis 22
Reading 2: Romans 8:31-39
Reading 3: Hebrews 11:17-19

A wonderful story today – the account of Abraham’s faith and obedience to God, prefiguring the sacrifice God Himself would make in Jesus. And there are many glimpses of that sacrifice in this chapter:

“Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.”

Abraham told the servants. “The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back.

“God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son,”

“You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.”

All these foreshadowings of the coming death of Jesus, and Paul writes to the Romans about what that means for us today: “I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love.”

This chapter is the first glimpse we have in the Old Testament of God’s plan for resurrection. The writer to the Hebrews confirms this: “Abraham reasoned 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.”

Now we are the beneficiaries of the faith of Abraham and Isaac, and the beneficiaries of God’s sacrifice of His own Son. Let’s rejoice!

Have a great day!

Mark.

January 27

January 27.

Sarah & Isaac — Sarah’s faith in God & Isaac’s promised birth.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Genesis 21:1-7
Reading 2: Romans 9:6-9
Reading 3: Hebrews 11:11-16

After the hard reading of yesterday, today we come to a story which is more positive and shows God’s heart for His people. Sarah has a son, and they name him Isaac (meaning laughter) which is likely the reaction of anyone who hears that a woman of Sarah’s age has just given birth!

This is the son of the promise – the one God intended to give Abraham and Sarah from the very beginning. Yet the picture is complicated by their own efforts to fulfill God’s promise. Romans shows us that there is a difference between trusting God and working things out in our own strength. One leads to glory for God, the other leads to trouble!

And Sarah’s bearing of Isaac was by faith – clearly she has grown in her relationship with God to the place where she can believe His promises and so receive His gifts. Let’s pray for one another today; that we can do the same.

Have a great day!

Mark.

January 26

January 26.

Lot & Sodom — The Lord delivers Lot & judges the city of Sodom.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Genesis 19
Reading 2: Luke 17:28-36
Reading 3: 2 Peter 2:6-9

Today we return to the story of Abraham and Lot, in a chapter that does not make easy reading.

We are confronted with several unpleasant insights today: firstly Lot has slipped inexorably into a place of leadership in the most sinful city around. When Abram originally rescued him, he chose to go toward Sodom (chapter 13) and then went to live in the city (chapter 14). Now his position in the city gate shows he is a leader in the city. Sin has a way of slowly pulling us in.

Secondly, we see the power of impurity to corrupt widely. This is true of sexual impurity (as seen in Sodom) and of religious power (as seen in the Pharisees of Jesus’ day), even of gossip or negativity.

Today, proponents of the homosexual agenda argue that the sin in Sodom was failing to welcoming visitors, but this ignores God’s original instruction that marriage is the union of one man and one woman (Genesis 1&2) as well as multiple instances where homosexual practice is forbidden. For more on this whole topic, I suggest you read this article at Bible.org.

Let us be careful not to place homosexual sin in a category above other sins. Sin is sin, and we all need a Savior. Some are drawn to sexual sin, others to religious sin. Some struggle with sins of thought or word rather than sins of deed. All are sin and fall short of God’s glory.

Thirdly, we see how hard it can be to turn away from sin. Sin is addictive, and we need God’s power to reject it. The angels had to urge Lot and his family to leave a place which was being judged for blatant sinfulness. Abraham had interceded to the point where the judgment could have been averted if just ten righteous people could be found in Sodom. But even Lot and his family, despite being believers, were not strong enough in their faith to draw anyone else toward righteousness, and so the city is destroyed for lack of godly example.

May that never be said of anywhere you or I live!

Have a great day!

Mark.

January 25

January 25.

Abraham & his Three Visitors — The LORD visits Abraham & Sodom’s sinfulness.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Genesis 18

Reading 2: Isaiah 3:8-11

Reading 3: Hebrews 13:1-2

I hope you are ready for a full reading – there are two huge stories in one chapter today! As you read, marvel at God’s generous heart, and the close relationship between Abraham and God.

First the visit of the three “men” to Abraham and Sarah – remember this couple is old, but it doesn’t stop them offering traditional hospitality to these three visitors. The “men” (for these were really two angels and the Lord) must have stayed around for a while because in that culture all the cooking was done over a fire so meat and bread do not cook rapidly. This was not a fast-food pit-stop on the interstate, it was more like visiting friends for Thanksgiving!

Notice the humor and kindness in the way God speaks to Abraham and Sarah. It is understandable that she should find the promise of a son humorous – she and Abraham are both well beyond the prime of their reproductive years! But God seems to smile as He asks “Why did Sarah laugh?” and then gently teases her “No, but you DID laugh!” when she denies it in embarrassment. God’s heart toward us is full of love and generosity. He is patient with our weakness and understands our failings. He is seeking hearts that want to do His will by having a living relationship with Him.

Then the second half of the chapter shows the depth of Abraham’s relationship with God. Remember, this is not a Christian asking God to forgive sin with the knowledge of the cross and resurrection; Abraham’s understanding of relationship with God is likely rooted in honor and awe, with some healthy fear mixed in!

Notice how it is God who begins the conversation: He wants to be known and understood, His desire from the beginning has been to partner with humanity in stewarding this world. Now He has a man whom He can trust more than many. And in God’s explanation of what He is about to do, we see another glimpse of God’s heart. This is not an angry God on the warpath against sinners, but a loving God responding to the outcry from part of His creation when men violate God’s design and cause great suffering, yet justify it as right by the approval of the majority. God says “I have heard a great outcry” and “I am going to see” then He adds: “If not, I want to know.” This shows me that God’s desire is to find our sins less blatant if possible. He would prefer to lead us out of sin than to judge us for sin. We see the same heart in Jesus’ ministry.

Catching this heart for mercy, and knowing that his nephew Lot and family are in Sodom, Abraham starts to intercede with God until he reaches the point where it might be possible for his relatives to escape the inevitable judgment. Ten people is all that is needed for Sodom to be spared. What a strong relationship with God for Abraham to do this! Many of us would hesitate to do that with a stranger, let alone a friend!

And there we leave it… in the manner of the best suspense stories… we will see what happens tomorrow!

Have a great day!

Mark.

January 24

January 24

Abraham & Circumcision — The sign of circumcision vs. spiritual circumcision.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Genesis 17

Reading 2: Romans 4:7-13

Reading 3: Colossians 2:11-13

Today Abram and Sarai are given new names by God, indicating their change of covenantal relationship with Him. Both names have a breathy “h” syllable added: Abram to AbrAHam, Sarai to SarAH. this syllable sounds like the name of God YAHweh and indicates God’s nature being incorporated into their natures.

And as a sign of this covenantal relationship, Abraham and every male from then on is to be circumcised. This is not the means of entering the covenant, but the external sign of an internal change. It is similar to the sacrament of water baptism in the Church – it does not impute salvation but it is a sign that salvation has been received. Paul explains to the Romans and the Colossians the spiritual significance of circumcision and the relationship between faith and salvation.

Today, you can celebrate that you are saved by faith, and that any external signs of that transformation are simply that… …signs. Have you been baptized as a believer? Why not ask to be baptized if you have not?

Have a great day!

Mark.

January 23

January 23

Abraham & Hagar/Ishmael — Abraham doubts God’s promise & God blesses Ishmael.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Genesis 16

Reading 2: Genesis 21:8-21

Reading 3: Galatians 4:21-31

If you think back to the very start of our readings, in the first three chapters of Genesis, we see a woman who is guided by her own understanding, yet deceived, and a man who is willing to do what the woman says, even when it contradicts what God has told him. This combination leads directly to sin.

We could say exactly the same thing about today’s chapter. Sarai comes up with an idea to help God out and fulfill the promise from years earlier by human means. And Abraham agrees with her, even though this was NOT what God had said. The result is Ishmael, the father of the Arab nations today. When we see Arab terrorists wreaking havoc in the world, and seeking the destruction of Jews and Christians, it is part of the fulfillment of the promise given to Hagar by the angel in Genesis 16: “This son of yours will be a wild man, as untamed as a wild donkey! He will raise his fist against everyone, and everyone will be against him. Yes, he will live in open hostility against all his relatives.”

But we can also trace the redemptive hand of God in these readings. God promises to bless Ishmael because he is Abram’s son, just as God promises to bless us (despite our wildly sinful tendencies) because we are trusting Jesus.

At the same time Hagar gets a different view of God through her sufferings.

How about us? Do we try to help God out, or hurry His plans? Maybe you identify more with weak Abram who would not stand up for what was right and allowed his wife to lead him into sin? Perhaps you have experienced the redemptive power of difficulties and suffering – giving you a new perspective on God? As you read today, I suggest you journal parallels in your own life as you read the story of Abram and Hagar, and reflect on the heritage and influence of Ishmael.

Have a great day!

Mark.