Saturday, January 31, 2015

Psalm 55: The Wound Of Betrayal

An old German proverb states, "Better an honest enemy than a false friend."  Based on Psalm 55, David would agree.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Genesis 36: Esau Is Edom

Why do we have a whole chapter devoted to Esau and his descendants (the Edomites)?  For the nation of Israel, Edom became an antagonistic neighbor even though the Edomites were their distant cousins.  God's chosen people would have been naturally curious to know their ancestral connection to another people-group.

Genesis 35: Back to Bethel

In chapter 35, Israel visits some of the places that he knew when he was just known as Jacob, returning to the sites we read about earlier in Genesis.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Genesis 34: Bad Ideas

Genesis 34 is full of ideas that probably seemed justified at the time, but, in retrospect, were not that wise.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Genesis 33: As He Saw Esau

After 20 years, the twins Jacob and Esau come face to face again.  A lot has happened in the interim: Jacob is now "Israel," with two wives, two concubines, eleven sons, a daughter, and many servants and animals.  He has indeed been blessed by God, and is the heir of the covenant promise made by God with their grandfather Abraham.

Genesis 32: Out Of The Frying Pan

No sooner is Jacob free of the troublesome Laban behind him when he realizes he has an even bigger, hairier problem ahead of him: Esau.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Genesis 30: Baby Boom

Reuben.  Simeon.  Levi.  Judah.  Dan.  Naphtali.  Gad.  Asher.  Issachar.  Zebulun.  Joseph.  Benjamin (coming soon).  You may want to remember these names, as they will come up again and again in your study of the Bible.  Jacob's sons will become the patriarchs of the twelve tribes of Israel.

Genesis 29: The Trickster Is Tricked

Jacob had once benefited from dressing up and pretending to be someone else, stealing his brother's identity in order to gain their father's blessing.  How ironic, therefore, that he himself should be tricked into marrying Leah, who had disguised herself so as to be thought to be her sister Rachel!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Psalm 54: Deliver Me!

They say that when you get to the end of your rope, you will find God there.  If anyone knows the truth about that saying, it's certainly David!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Genesis 28: Stairway to Heaven

As we saw God's covenant with Abraham pass to his son Isaac, the promise now extends to the next generation, to Jacob and his descendants.  Isaac had wished such a thing for Jacob in verse 4, and before the end of the chapter it indeed comes to pass with Jacob experiencing an encounter with God.

Genesis 27: The Stolen Blessing

The ancient concept of a "blessing" is rather foreign to our modern ears.  This was a sacred moment when the patriarch of a clan would take aside the next leader (i.e. the firstborn, like Esau) and pass on to him the family blessing.  It was like a prayer and a consecration - putting that person in charge and commissioning him to lead and thrive by having the rest of the family serve him.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Genesis 26: His Father's Son

Genesis 26 shows us how Isaac followed in his father's footsteps.  Most importantly, he inherits the covenant promise that God extended to Abraham.  Isaac, not Ishmael, will receive the blessings (vs. 3-4, 24).  Like his father, Isaac grows powerful and wealthy with flocks and herds (vs. 13-16).  Also following his father's example, Isaac digs wells and builds altars (vs. 18, 25).  Surprisingly, Isaac even uses his father's old line of "She's not my wife, she's my sister" with Abimelech - the same guy that Abraham said it to in Genesis 20!  (This is one part of the story I will always struggle to understand!)  Fortunately, Abimelech finds out the truth before any harm is done.  I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same!

Genesis 25: Sibling Rivalry

A page turns in Genesis 25 as we focus on the next generation of the heirs of the covenant promise.  We say good-bye to Abraham, who dies at the age of 175.  Meanwhile, Isaac and his wife Rebekah, after 20 years with no children, welcome twin boys into their home: Esau and Jacob.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Genesis 24: A Match Made In Heaven

"There are no such things as coincidences."  You may have heard that expression before.  Personally, I believe that simple coincidences do occur on occasion.  But I also believe that miracles sometimes happen in the guise of coincidence, and that what the world writes off as chance can be something much greater.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Genesis 23: Ancient Customs

Trivia Question: Who is the only woman whose age at death is mentioned in the Bible?  That's right - Sarah, at 127 years old.

Genesis 22: When God Provides The Sacrifice

Genesis 22 is rich in theology, while also rather disturbing in psychology!  I often wonder what went through the mind of Isaac as he was bound and prepared to be a sacrifice, as well as what when through the mind of Abraham when he was called upon to offer his son, his only son, to God.  It would have put an awkward strain on their father-son relationship, to say the least!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Genesis 21: Laughter Is Born

"...the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised" (verse 1).  God always keeps His promises.  And so it came to pass that what God had promised Abraham and Sarah was fulfilled.  Sarah became pregnant and gave birth to Abraham's son.  His name was Isaac, which means "Laughter."  Here, in their old age, Abraham and Sarah had something to rejoice about.  For a man 100 years old a woman who was 90, I'm sure many joined in their laughter!

Genesis 20: A Close Call

Remember when Abraham tried to pass Sarah off as his sister back in Genesis 12?  Yeah, well he's back to his old tricks again in Genesis 20.

Psalm 53: Psalm 14

Do you ever get a sense of deja vu?  That would be very understandable when you read this psalm!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Genesis 19: And You Thought The Bible Was G-Rated!

Wow.  Genesis 19 is an eye-opener, and not in a good way.  There's something to make just about anyone offended, or at least unsettled.

Genesis 18: Haggling With God

Abraham's tactic with God in Genesis 18 is not recommended.  Still, the exchange demonstrates much about God, Abraham, and faith.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Genesis 17: Ch-Ch-Changes

An encounter with God never leaves you the same as you were before.  In Genesis 17, Abraham is deeply changed, in his identity and even bodily.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Genesis 16: Plan B

Have you ever noticed that we get in trouble when we think we know better than God?  For instance, disregarding God's rules because we don't think that they should apply to us, or assuming we know how to fix a problem better than God does?  Usually, the mess just gets bigger and we dig a deeper hole.  Abram's wife, Sarai, makes that unfortunate discovery in Genesis 16.

Genesis 15: A Pivotal Moment

It's still early in the Bible, but a pivotal moment occurs in Genesis 15 that you will want to remember later.  God shows up in a dramatic vision to Abram, and reiterates the promise to bless him.  Abram will have a son, God says, and his descendants will one day be as numerous as the stars in the sky.  The territory of the promised land is also mentioned: from the Nile to the Euphrates.  In the midst of all this, we have Abram's expression of faith, and the Lord's extension of a covenant.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Genesis 14: Melchizedek The Priest-King

Some people can find almost anything in scripture.  You've probably seen the banner ads promising "secrets of the Bible code" or other such far-fetched numerology claims.  While those types of insights are likely to be fruitless, sometimes scripture is shocking in the detailed foreshadowing and hidden meanings we can discover.  Such is the case with Melchizedek, the priest-king of Salem.

Genesis 13: More Than Meets The Eye

Abram and Lot had a problem in Genesis 13.  They were both so wealthy with livestock that their herdsmen were getting in each other's way and sparring with one other.  Rather than allow this to become a source of division between them, Abram suggests that they part ways to give each other more space.  He offers Lot first choice of the land before them.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Genesis 12: The Adventure Begins

God does something amazing in Genesis 12 - something that will alter the course of human history.  He picks one man out of a multitude and invites him to step into a life of adventure following the Lord.  In faith, this man responds, and the destiny of his family and of humankind is changed forever.

Genesis 11: Say What?

What we've got here is a failure to communicate.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Psalm 52: Judgment Is Coming

Psalm 52 reads as yet another impassioned defense of the "base case" of righteousness: though it seems like the wicked prosper, this is just a temporary state of affairs.  A time is definitely coming when God will settle up with the evildoers, and the harm that they wanted to inflict on others will be inflicted on them instead.  As we have seen, many psalms contain this theme, with the occasional one questioning why the day of reckoning appears to be delayed.  No one who reads through the Psalms should ever be able to claim that they weren't warned that God is on the side of the righteous and will deliver them, and that He opposes the evildoers and will judge them.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Genesis 10: The Table Of Nations

According to the Bible, everyone alive today is descended from the survivors of the Flood: Noah and his family.  This section of Genesis has come to be known as "The Table of Nations" as it traces the spread of the family of humanity around the world.  Shem, Ham, and Japheth become the progenitors of their lines from which the nations take their names.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Genesis 9: New Covenant, New Rules?

Some scholars view the biblical story as a series of "dispensations."  Dispensationalism is the idea that there are different eras or ages throughout history in which different rules or expectations are subsequently laid out for God's people.  For instance, one dispensation or administration of God's rule is experienced in the Creation, while a second occurs from the Fall to the Flood, a third from the Flood to Abraham, etc.  Each one brings its own unique standard.

Genesis 8: The End - Or The Beginning?

Last year's "Noah" movie with Russell Crowe disappointed me greatly.  I felt there were a lot of unnecessary liberties taken with the Genesis account of the Flood.  (Spoiler Alert!)  Like the rogue stowaway aboard the Ark and the "fightin' Noah" action scenes.  And don't even get me started on those "rock creature" things!

Genesis 7: Finality

Noah's Flood certainly left a big impression.  We continue to talk about it (and decorate nurseries with it!) thousands of years later.  We argue about its historical reality.  We look for evidence of remnants of the Ark.  And we remember the lesson about the finality of its judgment upon the earth.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Genesis 6: Reasons For The Flood

As we awaited the birth of our oldest child, Daniel, my wife and I prepared a nursery in our first parsonage.  We diligently scraped off the wallpaper and painted the walls yellow.  We brought in new baby furniture and cleaned the carpet.  And we chose to decorate the room with the theme of Noah's Ark.  The colorful border featured a mighty wooden boat, cute animals walking two by two, and majestic rainbows arcing through fluffy white clouds. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Genesis 5: When Lives Were Measured In Centuries

One of the classic biblical questions that every preacher needs to be able to field is this one: "Why does the Bible report that our ancestors lived such incredibly long lives?"

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Genesis 4: The Fall Continues

An important truth about sin is demonstrated in Genesis 4.  It continues corrupting and growing.  What began as an act of disobedience in eating forbidden fruit quickly become fratricide - the killing of one's brother in the first act of murder.

Genesis 3: Half-Truths And The Blame Game

After two chapters of Paradise, the Bible takes a dark turn in Genesis 3.  What happens in this chapter involving the original sin of humanity will affect everything else to come.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Psalm 51: Penitent Pleading

Say what you will about David's sin with Bathsheba.  The tone of Psalm 51 demonstrates the depth of his repentance and desire to be made right with God.

Genesis 2: Ground Rules

Genesis 2 gives us some specifics undergirding God's creation of the world.  We learn of the Garden of Eden, the making of Adam out of the dust of the earth, the formation of Eve out of Adam's rib, and the two Trees: the Tree of Life and of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.