Through the Bible, January 18

Read: Genesis 20-22

Summary: The child of promise finally arrives.  God then asks Abraham to do the unthinkable and Abraham obeys.

Devotional Thought:

God Promised

Simplicity can mask profundity.  Such is the statement, “the Lord did to Sarah as he had promised” (Gen. 21:1).

The long promised child finally arrived.

From Sarah’s vantage point, “she considered him faithful who had promised” (Heb. 11:11).  Not that she contentedly waited 25 years for the fulfillment.  After eleven years with no child, she took some regrettable action trying to fulfill God’s promise for Him (Gen. 16).  Still later the whole notion seemed laughable to her (Gen. 18:12).

Still, God did as He had promised.

That assures us that He will continues to do as He has promised.  No more genuinely profound truth can be known. No matter how unlikely, improbable, or laughable it may seem; God’s word is sure.

Sarah counted on it and so can we.

Through the Bible, January 17

Read: Genesis 18-19

Summary: God’s destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (and rescue of Lot) provides a sharp contrast between the righteous and the wicked (as had also Noah and the pre-flood world).  Sin continues to exercise its diabolical effects on man.

Devotional Thought:

God is Patient

Noah was the only righteous man in his generation and God punished the rest (Gen. 6:9). Lot was the only righteous man in his city and God punished the rest (2 Pet. 2:7-8).

God is awfully patient.  He waited until only one was left.

And remember Abraham’s bargaining with God, that if as few as ten righteous persons had been found in Sodom, the city would have been spared (Gen. 18:22-33)?  God is very patient.  This world–including you and me–needs that patience.

We see the wickedness in our world today and wonder why God doesn’t do something.  Instead of being troubled, maybe we should be thankful!  Not that sin and evil aren’t being punished, but that He is patient.

We may think God unresponsive to the sin around us, but that is not the case, He is being patient: patient so that men might repent. “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). Therefore, we count God’s patience “as salvation” (2 Pet. 3:15).

Sodom–in addition to the flood–is ample evidence of what God can do and sufficient warning to know He’s serious about what He will do (see 2 Pet. 3:7, 10).

“Therefore, beloved…be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace” (2 Pet. 3:14).

Through the Bible, January 16

Read: Genesis 15-17

Summary: God formalizes the covenant with Abraham, while also telling him of the bondage his descendants would experience in Egypt many years later.

Sarah and Abraham both attempt to bring fulfillment to the promise for a child.   That, of course, ends up in the consequent problems with Hagar and Ishmael. God, rather, repeats the promise that this elderly couple would indeed have a child of their own.

Devotional Thought:

Time is On God’s Side

On occasion, the promises I make require time to be fulfilled.

I have promised to pay back a loan to the bank.  Time isn’t just an incidental feature of that arrangement, it is absolutely necessary.  Without the benefit of time the loan would be pointless.

God does not require time to fulfill His promises.  He can do so immediately, if He so chooses.  By Genesis 17:1, Abraham has reached the age of 99 years.  He was 75 when God called him and promised that he would have a child (see Gen. 12:4).

It’s been 24 years!  What’s the hold up?

It certainly isn’t that God has been unable to get things worked out so He can give Abraham what He promised.  Time, when it comes to God’s promises, is immaterial.

But not to us.

That’s where the testing of our faith comes in.  Are we willing to have the patience and be satisfied in full assurance that whatever God has promised, it will come to pass? No matter how long it takes?

Through the Bible, January 15

Read: Genesis 12-14

Summary: God calls Abram (soon to be known as Abraham) and gives to him remarkable promises.  Nearly immediately Abraham faces some challenges to his faith and trust in God.

Devotional Thought:

Abraham and Me

The first thing Abraham did after arriving in the land to which God called him was to build an altar (Genesis 12:7).  The second thing he did was move to another location, pitch his tent and build another altar (v. 8).  These wouldn’t be his last.

It’s been suggested that one way to study the life of the great patriarch Abraham is to trace the smoke of the fires of the altars he built throughout his life.  Not bad.

It is no mere coincidence that Abraham was a giant of faith and that he was continually and repeatedly worshiping God.

What he did and what we are supposed to do are no different at all.  Not that we are going to build altars and offer sacrifices, but rather that “he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord” (Gen. 12:8; see also 13:4 and 21:33).

Though Abraham pre-dated even the covenant with Moses, this principle was true for him and it remains true today.  In Peter’s Pentecost sermon, the last line of Joel’s prophecy that he quoted was, “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21; Joel 2:32).  Paul uses it as well, “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom. 10:13).

Do not think Abraham has no relevance for us.  He did exactly what God wants us to do. So, let us all “call on the name of the Lord.”

Through the Bible, January Week 3

Week 3: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob

January 15-21

The stage having been set in Genesis 1-11, Moses now turns his attention to introducing Abraham.  Not only is he the man from whom the Israelites trace their origins, he is also the man known as the “father of the faithful.”  He occupies more space, by far, than any of the other “heroes of faith” in Hebrews 11 (vv. 8-19).

Though Moses is recording these accounts for the benefit of the people of Israel leaving slavery in Egypt to become a nation and people for God’s own possession, he is also tracing out the ultimate plan and working of God that will lead to Jesus Christ. Remember, this is not merely an account of the events that happened to transpire in the life of one man from ancient history, this is the record of the direct, deliberate, and planned action of God leading to Jesus Christ and humanity’s salvation.  The opening words of the New Testament are, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matt. 1:1).

Abraham’s thrilling story dramatically depicts the power and working of God through feeble and faulty men.  God’s plan worked not because of these people, but despite them.

Even so, Abraham is truly a spiritual giant.  When Paul sought to drive home the role of faith in man’s justification, it was to Abraham–who preceded the Law of Moses–to whom he turns to show genuine faith and righteousness.  One day of our reading this week will turn to those discussions from Romans and Galatians.

Through the Bible, January 14

Read: Catch up if needed

Reflection and Thought:

  1. Job’s initial response to his suffering is most impressive. His question of 2:10 challenges us greatly: “Shall we receive good from God and not accept adversity” (NASB; notice also Lam. 3:38).
  1. Many great passages are found in Job that may get lost in all the back-and-forth discussions. One important theme is that of life’s brevity and difficulty. See 5:7; 7:6-7, 17; 8:9; 9:25-26; 14:1. In what practical way does this truth impact my life?
  1. Another important theme that crops up but will not find its ultimate answer except in Jesus Christ. That theme is the question of man’s being able to be justified before God. See 4:17; 7:17; 9:2, 33; 15:14; 17:15-16; 19:25. How is justification achieved?
  1. What are your big “take aways” from the story of Job?

Devotional Thought:

Who’s to Blame?

Job suffered so much and he struggled to make sense of it all.

His initial integrity and not sinning “with his lips” (2:10) gave way to, “Therefore I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul” (Job 7:11).

Would we be–and are we–any different?  With problems and hurts far less than Job’s we get upset with God.

Remember, though; it was Satan who brought all of these terrible things into Job’s life, not God.  The devil is to blame. Yes, God allowed Satan to do this.  Just like He allowed the serpent into the Garden of Eden; and just like He allows Satan to function and to work in our world (2 Cor. 4:4; 1 John 5:19).  Everyone is touched by Satan and sin, even, at times, the innocent.

Remember, God’s own Son, though guilty of no sin of His own, suffered greatly because of it.

Perhaps we get upset with God because He doesn’t protect us from sin’s effect. We’d like for Him to so act that we don’t have to suffer its consequences, especially to suffer for other people’s sins. We don’t want to experience the consequence of Satan’s work in our lives and in this world: understandable, but also unreasonable.

The time and the place are coming where Satan will have no impact, no influence, and no presence.  None. That’s not now, in this life, but rather in heaven for which long; a place of no pain, no sorrow, and no tears (Rev. 21:4).

Through the Bible, January 13

Read: Job 40-42

Summary: God’s remaining questions and Job’s humility.

A brief exchange between God and Job (40:1-3) shows Job’s attitude is changing.  But God isn’t finished with him yet. The questions commence through chapters 40 and 41.

Job has no answers.  He’s forced to realize he has spoken from ignorance, not knowledge.   “I repent in dust and ashes,” he says (42:6).

God then turns His attention to the three men who have not helped, but further hurt, Job.

Finally, we learn “the rest of the story” for the great Patriarch, Job.

Devotional Thought:

Indebted

I am in debt to the bank.  They provided money so I could purchase my house and now I have to pay them back; incrementally, over time, with interest.

I am in debt to my parents.  They freely gave so much to me as a child–their time, food, clothes, attention, security, and, yes, love.  I owe them big time.  The beauty is, unlike the bank, they have no expectation of return payment.  But believe me, I am sensitive to ways I can return, in some way, what they have given to me, including love.

We know what it means to be indebted, financially and otherwise.

Here’s an intriguing question God asks of Job, “Who has given to me, that I should repay him?” (Job. 41:11).

God is indebted to no one, in any way, for any thing.

That includes me.  That includes my wants and my wishes, my troubles and my hurts.  That includes the food I eat and the air I breathe. He owes me nothing.  Period. But He has given, and continues to give, so very much–every day and in every way.

Not only that but He even paid a debt I did owe, but had no ability to pay.  He paid the price for my sin with the blood of His own Son (1 Pet. 1:18-19).

God owes me nothing, but I owe Him absolutely everything.

Through the Bible, January 12

Read: Job 38-39

Summary: God’s response to Job.

Finally, beginning in chapter 38, the book takes a dramatic turn.  During the course of Job’s responses to his three friends he had expressed his desire to “have his day in court.”  He longed for the chance to plead his case before God.  Along the way he had some pretty strong words in this regard.  It was Elihu’s opinion that Job “justified himself rather than God” (Job. 32:2).

At this point God tells Job that if he has so much understanding that he then should be able to answer a few questions.  God begins, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me” (Job 38:2-3).  From there God begins asking a series of some seventy questions for Job to answer if he can (chapters 38-41).

Today we’ll read the first two of these chapters.

Devotional Thought:

Thus Far and No Further

I enjoy visiting the ocean.  Particularly those parts with pretty beaches and rhythmic, calm waves lapping the shore.  That’s nice.

Besides the relaxing, therapeutic value I find in these locales, it’s also faith building.

How so?

The second question God asks Job–as He put Job “in his place,” as it were–is the identity of the one who controls the oceans.

“Or who shut in the sea with doors

when it burst out from the womb,

when I made clouds its garment

and thick darkness its swaddling band,

and prescribed limits for it

and set bars and doors,

and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther,

and here shall your proud waves be stayed?'” (Job 38:8-11)

Science may be able to explain why waves behave the way they do and tell us about prevailing ocean currents and predict the times and extent of tides and even speak with relative certainty about the effects of tropical storms and hurricanes.  But it is God who set in place the “laws” under which nature–including oceans—operate, that make it possible for man to understand and know how it behaves.

Far more remarkable than our ability to comprehend is the power of God that said, “Thus far shall your come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed.”

Through the Bible, January 11

Read: Job 32-34

Summary: Elihu speaks.

Following three rounds of exchanges with his three friends, a fourth one makes his appearance to speak to Job.  Present and hearing what is being said–and unimpressed by it all–is the younger Elihu.  He explains his silence up to this point (32:1-5) and speaks to both Job and his three elder companions.  Of interest is that fact that this time there is no response from Job.  Did Elihu say some things Job needed to hear and he knew it?

The entirety of Elihu’s speech in found in chapters 32-37.  For our reading today we’ll take a sample of chapters 32-34.

Devotional Thought:

Wisdom and Age

With age comes wisdom, or so we think.

It is true that we do associate wisdom with age and folly with youth.  All things being equal, we expect experience–which takes years–to educate us.

Advanced years, though, do not necessarily equal wisdom.  It could just mean someone has become set in their wrong thinking and entrenched in mistaken practices.

Job’s fourth friend, Elihu, does not speak up till near the end of the book.  The reason being was his relative youth compared to the other three men and Job.  His idea was to keep silent and “let days speak and many years teach wisdom” (Job 32:7).

Boy was he disappointed.  “I waited for your words, I listened for you wise sayings while you searched out what to say.  I gave you my attention…behold there was none among you who refuted Job or who answered his words” (Job. 32:11-12).

The key to wisdom is not years.  As Job earlier said, “the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom and to turn away from evil is understanding” (Job. 28:28; see also Prov. 9:10; Ecc. 12:13).

It doesn’t take advanced years to fear the Lord; many youths have and do while many elders don’t.

The key to wisdom is to fear God, and the younger one begins the better (see Ecc. 12:1ff).

Through the Bible, January 10

Read: Job 8-10

Summary: Bildad speaks and Job responds.

Here is another sampling of one of the exchanges between Job and one of his friends.

Devotional Thought:

Job Knew

Have you ever heard someone “say more than they know”?

It may be that they are telling as fact, more than they know to be true.  Or, they may simply fail to grasp for themselves the reality of a truth they “know” and espouse.

Job did that.

He told Bildad that God “does great things beyond number…he passes by me, and I see him not; he moves on, but I do not perceive him” (Job 9:10-11).

Job knew that God very well could, and often did, do things–great things beyond number–that mere men do not perceive or understand.

Yet, Job failed to grasp that this truth had application in his own circumstance.  His own suffering blinded him to the fact that not only was it possible that God was doing something that he could not see, it was a reality.

Is that not a challenge for us all? We, like Job, sometimes just need to listen to the truth we know.