Daily Devotional Guide

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 Daily Bible Reading Notes

These notes are designed to help you reflect a little each day on the Biblical story of Abraham. Each day we focus on just a few verses, and give a couple of paragraphs of notes followed by some questions to reflect upon. We do give some further thoughts if you want to go deeper, but would encourage you to invest in a fuller Bible Commentary, if you want to study this passage in real depth. This is just an introductory and devotional study which you can use for a few minutes each day.

 

The text for each day is set out in bold with surrounding text also included in normal print to provide a bit more context. Once more, we’d be happy to hear from you with any questions, thoughts or encouragements arising from your study.

Be blessed,

Colin and Melissa Piper

 

Day 1        Day 2             Day 3            Day 4           Day 5            

Day 6        Day 7             Day 8            Day 9           Day 10

Day 11      Day 12           Day 13          Day 14         Day 15

Day 16      Day 17           Day 18          Day 19         Day 20

Day 21      Day 22           Day 23          Day 24         Day 25

Day 26      Day 27           Day 28          Day 29         Day 30   Day 31

 

 

Daily Bible Reading Notes Day 1-7

Day One Genesis 11 v 27-30

Bible Reading

27This is the account of Terah. Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran. And Haran became the father of Lot. 28While his father, Terah, was still alive, Haran died in Ur of the Chaldeans, in the land of his birth. 29Abram and Nahor were both married. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife was Milcah; she was the daughter of Haran, the father of both Milcah and Iscah. 30Now Sarai was barren; she had no children. 31Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Haran, they settled there.

Notes

From the very outset of Abraham’s story the Bible makes it very clear that his was just an ordinary family like any other, regardless of time or culture. They enjoyed the celebrations of births and marriages, and suffered the pains of death and barrenness. This is therefore to be a fascinating and hugely relevant tale of how God can impact a real-life family. The only way this story can be irrelevant to you and your family, is if you choose to let it be so, by not letting it impact your life. As long as faith remains theoretical, and we don’t give our Father access to the realities of the joys and pains of our lives, then the Bible will not impact us. So make a decision now, not just to open your Bible, but to open your life too.

Reflections and Prayer

What are your joys and your pains? What hurts and disappointments do you carry? Have you laid these before your Father and given Him permission to speak into them? Why not do so now?

Going Deeper

  • Abram is named first in the list of sons, but probably wasn’t the eldest. The Bible probably just focuses on him as the key character in the story.
  • Abram married his half sister, and Nahor married his brother’s daughter. This was customary for the time.
  • Sarai’s barrenness would have been a major cause of heartache for both Abram and Sarai. However there is no indication Abram sought another bride as would have been common at the time and in the culture. This could say much about the man, and the relationship he enjoyed with Sarai.

Day Two Genesis 11 v 31-32

Bible Reading

27This is the account of Terah. Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran. And Haran became the father of Lot. 28While his father, Terah, was still alive, Haran died in Ur of the Chaldeans, in the land of his birth. 29Abram and Nahor were both married. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife was Milcah; she was the daughter of Haran, the father of both Milcah and Iscah. 30Now Sarai was barren; she had no children. 31Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai,, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Haran, they settled there. 32 Terah lived 205 years and he died in Haran.

Notes

Terah had a dream and Abram a call. Both were to go to Canaan. Terah failed. Perhaps he wasn’t being honest about his true intentions and only ever really meant to go to Canaan. Perhaps he lacked resolve. Perhaps he got distracted. We don’t know. But it isn’t just dreamers who fail to realise their potential. It is possible to miss or limit the call of God on our lives too. In fact very few seem to realise their potential or God’s purposes, and tragically live in regret or denial. Wonderfully though, as Abram was to find out, it is never too late to work out your call. Don’t live and die unfulfilled.

Reflections and prayer

What have been your dreams or God’s call on your life? Can you differentiate the two? Have you laid down your dreams before Him and allowed Him to give you back what is His call? How far have you gone in fulfilling your call? Have you got distracted, disheartened and stopped half way? How committed to achieving them have you really been? Give them back to God, and let Him pick up what is truly of Him.

Going Deeper

  • The Bible records the journey as being Terah’s initiative even though it says the Lord had called Abram to go to Canaan. 
  • Nahor isn’t mentioned among the travellers but Haran became known as the town of Nahor, so it is probable he did go along. He just wasn’t central enough to the story for specific mention.
  • Sarai is recorded as Terah’s daughter-in-law. In fact she was his daughter by another probably less senior wife.
  • Terah probably came from Haran where it is recorded he died.
  • There is some discrepancy over when Terah died. He is recorded as being 70 when he had his sons, and Abram was 70 when they began the journey. Abram left Haran five years later, and Stephen in Acts 7v4 says Terah had died in the meantime. These dates can be reconciled if it is accepted that Abram was the youngest son, and Terah was 70 when the eldest son, Haran, was born. He would though have then been 130 when Abram was born!

Day Three Genesis 12 v 1-3

Bible Reading

31Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai,, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Haran, they settled there. 32 Terah lived 205 years and he died in Haran 12v1 The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave you’re your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.. 2 “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; And all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” 

Notes

No pain no gain! Abram had to sacrifice to know a blessing. He was called to go, and the Lord then promised to bless. True blessing can only be known this way. However blessing shouldn’t be the motivation for our sacrifice and going. Christ went to the cross for our sakes, because His Father loves us. We should take up our crosses for Christ’s sake, because we love the Father. And for no other reason. This is obedience the Lord can truly bless. He could bless Abram knowing that he would be a channel of blessing to others, in fact a nation, the whole world, and indeed all generations.

Reflections and prayer

If your Christian life seems to lack reality, passion and fruit, consider what risks you have taken, and what sacrifices you have made for Him? Reflect too that it must all be for Him! What matters most to you: to bless your Father or be blessed by Him? Do you limit His blessing by seeking it for yourself? If you simply lived to bless God and be a blessing to others, what would the Father be able to do through you?

Going Deeper

  • It is uncertain whether this is a new call or a record of a previous call Abram had in Ur.
  • The promise is to bless all peoples, and the rest of the Bible needs to be read in this context, even when later the Lord commands the Israelites to drive out and destroy those foreigners in the land. 

Day Four Genesis 12 v 4-5

Bible Reading

12v1 The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. 2 “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; And all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” 4So Abram left, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran. 5He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.

Notes

Abram left as the Lord had told him; BUT Lot went with him. The call was to leave his father’s household and largely he did, but not completely. Perhaps no-one else knew the call God have given him, so no-one knew of his little compromise. Anyway in the wider sphere of things, it really was only a very little compromise. But the Lord knew! He is gracious, and copes with our compromises, but that isn’t the point. Our Christian life shouldn’t be defined by what we can get away with, but rather by how true we have been in our love to our Father; especially when no-one else can see!

Reflections and prayer

What hidden compromises do you know you carry in your life? Can you lay them before your Father as a token of your love?

Going Deeper

  • Abram probably felt an obligation to Lot to care for his dead brother’s son, but we have no idea just how old Lot was at this point, and it is very likely he was a mature adult who shouldn’t have needed a particularly high level of care.

Day Five Genesis 12 v 6-7

Bible Reading

4So Abram left, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran. 5He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there. 6Abram travelled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. The Canaanites were then in the land, 7but the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.

Notes

The excitement of having arrived in the land didn’t last long for Abram. The Canaanites were there, BUT the Bible continues the sentence with a BUT! The Lord appeared and spoke to Abram. Our Father doesn’t promise to take away the obstacles to us fulfilling our calling but promises to give us the resources to overcome them. Primarily these resources are His revelation and Word. As long as we live in the revelation and Word, we will have a healthy perspective on everything else. It is when we lose sight of God, and forget His Word, that the real trouble begins.

Reflections and prayer

What obstacles are you confronting as you seek to be faithful to God’s call? What are their causes, and how can they be overcome? Are you taking time to reflect upon the Lord through the day, especially when facing trouble? Imagine whatever it is which scares you exposed before the throne of God! “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”

Going Deeper

  • The phrase “Site of the great tree of Moreh”, suggests that when Genesis was written the tree was still known.

Day Six Genesis 12 v 8-9

Bible Reading

6Abram travelled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. The Canaanites were then in the land, 7but the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him. 8From there he went on towards the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord.9 Then Abram set out and continued towards the Negev.

Notes

Abram’s response to the revelation of God was to worship. Wherever he went he seemed to build altars and call on the name of the Lord. We are called to be living sacrifices. This is our spiritual worship, Romans 12v1-2. Our whole lives should be worship. However, we are also encouraged all through the Bible to keep the name of the Lord on our lips and praise Him at all times. Bringing worship into all our lives, wherever we go, whatever we’re doing, dramatically impacts our lives. There are practical things we can do to facilitate this, and this doesn’t necessarily require building altars! Instead it might mean stopping over a coffee from time to time and meditating again on whom our Father is and worshipping Him for a minute or two. In fact, we can use any of those moments of down time positively like this: driving, waiting, or showering. Carve out those moments and let focusing on Him become a habit.

Reflections and prayer

Is your Father an integral part of your day to day life? What extra space could you carve out for Him? How can you use that time to meditate on Him and worship Him? Ask Him to reveal Himself and speak to you through those times today.

Going Deeper

  • Abraham built four altars, Isaac dug four wells, Jacob built four pillars, Joseph had four dreams. Some have seen in these a preface to the work of Christ through the cross, the giving of the spirit, the birth of the church, and the revelation of the Father through the Son.
  • Man began calling on the name of the Lord in Genesis 4v26
  • The Negev in Abraham’s day almost certainly wasn’t the desert it is today. It is still uncertain though why Abram headed down into the Negev.

 

Day Seven Genesis 12 v 10-13

Bible Reading

8From there he went on towards the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord.9 Then Abram set out and continued towards the Negev. 10 Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. 11 As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. 12When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. 13Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.”

Notes

Rationally it may have made sense to go to Egypt where there was no famine, but Abram was called to go to Canaan, not Egypt. Taking the rational decision is fine as long as it doesn’t take us out of the will of God. As soon as it does, then we can expect problems. It is better to be where it’s tough but where we’re in the will of God, than where it’s seemingly easier but where we’re outside of the will of God. Note Abram’s intention was only to go for a while! Perhaps he justified his decision this way!

Often, we don’t even involve our Father in our day to day decisions. Instead we rely totally on our common-sense. Common-sense is God given but isn’t always right. Our Father wants to direct our steps through the use of mind and spirit. Pray at all times!

Reflections and prayer

Have you made decisions which look sensible, but you know are wrong? Have you allowed yourself to go to a place you know you shouldn’t be “just for a while”, and then found yourself staying there a while longer than you intended? How were those decisions made? How much do you pray through your decisions, both the mundane and the extraordinary? What do you need to do to put right your wrong decisions and to ensure you don’t make the same bad decisions again?

Going Deeper

• We don’t know for sure why Abram chose to go into Egypt.

• Sarai was Abram’s half-sister so what they were saying was true. It was also culturally acceptable for a husband to protect himself in this way.

Day Eight Genesis 12 v 14-16

Bible Reading

10 Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. 11 As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. 12When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. 13Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.”14When Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians saw that she was a very beautiful woman. 15And when Pharaoh’s officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace. 16He treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, menservants and maidservants, and camels.

Notes

Nearly all our decisions have an impact upon others, for better or for worse. If we don’t pray into them, our decisions can become very selfish and consequently have a very negative impact upon others. Even the most godly of us, when left to our own devises are still capable of acts of incredible thoughtlessness even to those we love. What Abram did wouldn’t have necessarily been seen as wrong at the time, and in deed things did go well for him personally in Egypt. However the mere fact that what we do is accepted by our society and culture, and that it seems to be blessed doesn’t make it right! For us, the test of what would Jesus do and want us to do is the only one which applies to our lives. Sarai had little choice but to go to the harem. Once there however it was very possible to let the truth of her relationship with Abram slip! She didn’t. We don’t though know of her feelings at this time, whether for instance she felt betrayed or let down. She was after all only human, and the probability is that she felt angry and somewhat bitter about it all.

Reflections and prayer

Have others been hurt through your decisions? Have you sought the forgiveness of God and where appropriate those you’ve hurt? Similarly, where you have been hurt, have you sought to forgive, or does bitterness dominate your thoughts? Your Father can set you free.

Going Deeper

• Abraham gained huge wealth through what happened. Camels in particular would have been a tremendous acquisition. This sort of wealth though is often bought at the expense of our relationships

• Sarai was elderly by this stage but was obviously still strikingly beautiful. What was the nature of that beauty, and what does this tell us about true beauty?

Day Nine Genesis 12 v 17-20

Bible Reading

14When Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians saw that she was a very beautiful woman. 15And when Pharaoh’s officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace. 16He treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, menservants and maidservants, and camels. 17But the Lord inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram’s wife, Sarai. 18So Pharaoh summoned Abram. “What have you done to me,” he said. “Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife? 19Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her to be my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and go!” 20Then Pharaoh gave orders about Abram to his men, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and everything he had.

Notes

Whether in or out of the will of God, He still goes with us. Because of His grace and love, He protects us. There are though still consequences when we make poor decisions: particularly in terms of our relationship with Him, with those close to us and indeed with all those with whom we come into contact. Abram’s call was to be a blessing to all peoples on earth. However, in this instance he was the cause of serious diseases! We too are called to be a blessing to all we meet, and yet if we are honest, we have little or no impact on most, and are a real pain to some.

It is time to take responsibility for our lives. Instead of living to please ourselves and trusting God’s love and grace to bail us out when our decisions reek havoc; we need to live to please God and bless others, trusting Him to fulfil the hope of our calling.

Reflections and prayer

Am I a blessing, a pain or an irrelevance to those I meet? Why? How can my Father use me to be more of a blessing? What would it take on my part to allow this to happen?

Going Deeper

• Our Father does have His way and works His purposes out. The Bible records many ways He does this, including inflicting disease or defeat and causing barrenness. Lying and manipulating our way may appear expedient but ultimately the Lord’s way will prevail. This should both encourage and challenge us.

• The Bible always tells things as they are. Despite what Abram may have said of Sarai, the Bible reiterates she was his wife! V17

Day Ten Genesis 13v1-4

Bible Reading

17But the Lord inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram’s wife, Sarai. 18So Pharaoh summoned Abram. “What have you done to me,” he said. “Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife? 19Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her to be my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and go!” 20Then Pharaoh gave orders about Abram to his men, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and everything he had. 13v1So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, with his wife and everything he had, and Lot went with him. 2Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold. 3From the Negev he went from place to place until he came to Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier 4and where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the name of the Lord.

Notes

In returning to Canaan, Abram had to retrace his steps. It must have been a sobering journey as he thought about all that had happened in each place he went. Taking time to reflect upon our lives -what has happened and who we have become, for better and for worse- are important and fruitful exercises. There will be things to give thanks for, questions to be asked, times to laugh and probably times to cry. We don’t give enough time and space to such reflection, but without it, we will find it hard to understand ourselves and appreciate all our Father has done. We will also fail to learn the lessons from the past with which to face the future. Abram returned to the place of worship and was then ready to face the challenges which lay ahead. A word of warning: wealth, as Abram was soon to discover, brings its own problems and often distracts us from reflection and clarity of perspective!

Reflections and prayer

Take time to reflect upon your life so far. Ask the Lord to show you those significant moments, both good and bad, their causes and their outcomes. Then come to a place where you can lay all the past, both good and bad, before Him, and declare Him Lord of the whole of your life: past, present and future.

Going Deeper

• Abram left Egypt a very wealthy man. But wealth isn’t necessarily a sign of God’s approval, merely of His grace!

• Abram returned not because the famine had ended but because he was expelled from Egypt. It is doubtful whether the conditions to which he returned were any different from those which he left. He did though call on the name of the Lord again.

Day Eleven Genesis 13v5-7

Bible Reading

131So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, with his wife and everything he had, and Lot went with him. 2Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold. 3From the Negev he went from place to place until he came to Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier 4and where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the name of the Lord. 5Now Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. 6But the land couldn’t support them while they stayed together, for their possessions were so great they were not able to stay together. 7And quarrelling arose between Abram’s herdsmen and the herdsmen of Lot. The Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land at the time.

Notes

Having faced challenges from outside his household, Abram now has to face up to challenges from within. These challenges are a fact of life. As they were there for Abram, so they are for us too. We can deny them but they won’t go away. They come from all quarters, but the ones from within tend to hurt us the most. We don’t expect them and aren’t prepared for them. Particularly as Christians, we tend to believe that everything about church will be good, because we all love God and one another. Sadly though, we aren’t perfect. Sin and hurt is as evident in the church as it is outside of the church. The temptation is to deny them, and not deal with them. Alternatively, we are scared of them, and let them be, hoping they will go away. They won’t! If we deny them or don’t deal with them properly, it all ends pretty messily. Remember the world watches us as much as the Canaanites and Perizzites could have been watching the quarrelling in Abram’s camp.

Reflections and prayer

What challenges are there among those you love: family, church, friends? Don’t deny them, or delay! Lay them before our Father and ask Him to show you how to deal with them.

Going Deeper

• God had called Abram to leave his father’s household, so the problem of tensions with Lot was probably caused by disobedience on Abram’s part. So many of our problems flow from disobedience!

• Wealth can cause as many problems as deprivation. Read Proverbs 30 v8-9.

Day Twelve Genesis 13v8-9

Bible Reading

5Now Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. 6But the land couldn’t support them while they stayed together, for their possessions were so great they were not able to stay together. 7And quarrelling arose between Abram’s herdsmen and the herdsmen of Lot. The Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land at the time.8So Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarrelling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers. 9Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.”

Notes

Conflict in close relationships is of course nothing new. Four thousand years ago family quarrelling led to a split. Three thousand years ago we read of it in David’s family, and two thousand years ago even Jesus’ family struggled to understand and at times accept Him. The Bible gives models of response to the pain of conflict. Jesus said: Blessed are the peace maker while Paul encourages us to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Abraham and David both submitted to others in their family even though they had every right not to. Both then trusted their Father and found an opportunity to prove His faithfulness. These are though models of response and not rules. Submission isn’t always right, not just for our sakes, but also for the sake of others, and ultimately our Father Himself. The one thing we do need to do is submit to the heart and mind of our Father.

Reflections and prayer

Where I am in conflict, am I submitting my will to the Lord’s? And am I prepared, if His Spirit prompts, to submit and yield to others out of reverence for Christ? Ephesians 5v21. Pray for grace and freedom to yield where you find it hard to do so. You will find Jesus there.

Going Deeper

• Abram takes responsibility and initiative. There is no attempt to apportion blame, pull rank or demand rights. Anything his herdsmen did was done in his name and he took full responsibility for it. He was courageous and unconditional in giving his “brother” first and absolute choice. This is probably the noblest act recorded in the first few chapters of Genesis.

Day Thirteen Genesis 13v10-13

Bible Reading

8So Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarrelling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers. 9Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.” 10Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of Jordan was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, towards Zoar. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) 11So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out towards the east. The two men parted company; 12Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. 13Now the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord.

Notes

Lot looked, saw and chose. The decision was instant and totally his. What he saw reminded him of the garden of the Lord and ironically his decision was made in a similar way to Eve’s fatal decision in Eden. Genesis 3v6. How many of our decisions are made this way? Even the most godly of us can look, see and choose wrongly. David was a man after God’s heart but looked at a woman bathing, saw her beauty and desired her. The consequences of making our own decisions in this way can be catastrophic.

It is tempting to think our Father isn’t interested in our small decisions. After all He has given us minds to make decisions. Our Father is interested in all our lives, including the minutia. It is true He has given us minds to make decisions but we should be untrusting of the motivation and judgment of our minds, unless we have also committed our ways and decisions to our Father and asked Him to direct our paths. Then He will open the eyes of our hearts by His Spirit so we can know Him and His mind, His call on our lives and purposes for us, His power and provision. Read Ephesians 1v18-23.

Reflections and prayer

What decisions have you to make today and over the coming days? Commit them to your Father, and ask Him to enlighten your heart, that it may be in tune with His. Be aware though that seeing the world through the eyes of the Father can be a challenging, and even painful experience.

Going Deeper

• Going to Sodom wasn’t wrong in itself. The city was part of the land the Lord would give to Abraham. The problem was the heart with which Lot appears to have gone to region. In the same way, the mere fact a place is wicked doesn’t turn it into a no go area for people of faith. Far from it, we should be there! We aren’t called to opt out of the world. However, we must go in faith, called by our Father and trusting in His protection.

Day Fourteen Genesis 13v14-18

Bible Reading

10Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of Jordan was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, towards Zoar. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) 11So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out towards the east. The two men parted company; 12Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. 13Now the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord. 14The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. 15All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring for ever. 16I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. 17Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.” 18So Abram moved his tents and went to live near the great trees of Mamre near Hebron, where he built an altar to the Lord.

Notes

Lot looked for himself with eyes of lust. Abram looked when instructed by his Father and saw with eyes of faith. The Lord’s command though was not simply to look but also to experience. To walk it. To get to know it. To claim it! The dream was to be lived and worked out. He was to understand the extent of what his Father was saying. He was to prepare for it and believe it! How many of our dreams remain unfulfilled not because our Father is unable, unready or unwilling to fulfil them, but because we haven’t prepared for them, mentally, spiritually even practically? We don’t really understand them, can’t truly believe them, and aren’t ready for them. We wait for something to happen, when all the time our Father is saying: Go on, have a look, get down there and understand what I’m on about and prepare yourself for it. Perhaps for all our talk of our dreams, we fear them, and prefer to leave them as vague indeterminable concepts. We may even call this trusting and waiting on God! Abram looked and went. Then he worshipped. He didn’t hold back, nor did he rush ahead. He acted upon what he had been told, and even if the land wasn’t his, he declared it to be the Lord’s. In years to come the land nearby would be the first which was legally his. In fact, it would be the place he and Sarah would be buried. It was a small beginning, but he had made the first claim to the promise of his Father.

Reflections and prayer

What call or dreams, large or small, do you believe your Father has given you? How has it been worked out so far? What steps do you think you need to take at this stage? Is it time to research or seek to understand these dreams? Or am I happier to leave these dreams as abstracts where they are safe?

Going Deeper

• Trees are important in Abram’s life. We get three records of trees in his story and each time he builds an altar and worships. The beauty of creation inspires worship, if we have eyes to see. Take time and space today to study some aspect of creation, maybe a tree, and see how the Spirit can reveal the Creator through it. When we open our eyes like this on a daily basis, then worship of our Father becomes a habit.

• Abram probably didn’t realise it at the time, but Mamre and Hebron were to become places of huge significance to him and his family. When our ways are committed to the Lord, He directs our paths in ways we simply can’t imagine.

Bible Reading Notes Day 15-21

Day Fifteen Genesis 14v1-4

Bible Reading

1314The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. 15All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring for ever. 16I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. 17Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.” 18So Abram moved his tents and went to live near the great trees of Mamre near Hebron, where he built an altar to the Lord. 141At this time Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Kedorlaomer king of Elam and Tidal king of Goiim 2went to war against Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is Zoar). 3All these latter kings joined forces in the Valley of Siddim (the Salt Sea). 4For twelve years they had been subject to Kedorlaomer , but in the thirteenth year they rebelled.

Notes

Politics affect our lives whether we like it or not. They always have! Bad leaders make bad decisions. Good leaders on the other hand, as Paul recognised, allow us to live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. (1 Timothy 2v2). In Lot’s day one big question was the payment or non payment of tribute- an early form of protection money- to a powerful neighbor. Miscalculations could be very costly. Bera and his allies got it wrong, very wrong, and the repercussions were war, defeat and slavery. Christians simply can’t afford to opt out of the political arena. If we do, we have no right to complain about decisions we disagree with. At the very least we need to pray for our leaders, 1 Timothy 2v1. But more to the point we are called to make a difference, not just for our own sakes but for the lives of all. We are called to be salt and light in our communities. This means getting involved.

We need first of all to be able to make informed decisions and ensure as far as we possibly can, the best leaders are elected to lead. Secondly, we need to pray for Christians to be involved in politics. But be careful here: just because someone is a Christian doesn’t necessarily make him, or her, the best leader. Christian leaders are capable of bad decisions just as much as anyone else. On the other hand, God has used leaders who don’t know Him for His purposes. In 1 Timothy the leaders Paul was praying for were non Christians! Thirdly, when you pray, be warned: you may find you become the answer to our own prayers! This was the disciples’ experience of prayer,

Luke 10v2-3!

Reflections and prayer

Who would you prefer to see in power: a very capable leader who isn’t a Christian or a less experienced and able leader who you know is prayerful and has integrity? Pray for your leaders and for wisdom to know how to support and challenge them. Ask your Father if he wants you to get involved in your community in some way.

Going Deeper

• Tribute was a payment made by a smaller community to a larger one which bought off the stronger and persuaded them not to attack them. It could take many forms. Rebellion meant refusing to pay the tribute!

• Lot would have known the power of the kings coming to attack Sodom. They were neighbors to his home town of Ur. Their territories included the cities of Susa and Babel. It was a formidable force.

Day Sixteen Genesis 14v5-12

Bible Reading

141At this time Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Kedorlaomer king of Elam and Tidal king of Goiim 2went to war against Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is Zoar). 3All these latter kings joined forces in the Valley of Siddim (the Salt Sea). 4For twelve years they had been subject to Kedorlaomer , but in the thirteenth year they rebelled. 5In the fourteenth year, Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him went out and defeated the Rephaites in Ashteroth Karnaim, the Zuzites in Ham, the Emites in Shaveh Kiriathaim 6and the Horites in the hill country of Seir, as far as El Paran near the desert. 7Then they turned back and went to En Mishpat (that is, Kadesh), and they conquered the whole territory of the Amalekites, as well as the Amorites who were living in Hazezon Tamar. 8Then the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboiim and the king of Bela (that is Zoar) marched out and drew up their battle lines in the Valley of Siddim 9against Kedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of Goiim, Amraphel king of Shinar and Arioch king of Ellasar- four kings against five. 10Now the Valley of Siddim was full of tar pits, and when the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some of the men fell into them and the rest fled to the hills. 11The four kings seized all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their food; then they went away. 12They also carried off Abram’s nephew Lot and his possessions, since he was living in Sodom.

Notes

When the defending kings lined up against their attackers at Siddim, the enormity of the mess they had got themselves into would have become apparent, if it hadn’t already! There is no record of a battle. The narrative goes straight from the king of Sodom and his allies drawing up battle lines to them fleeing for their lives. It is likely there was no battle to speak of! It was a total mismatch. In fact, the casualties were caused not by battle but by the tar pits prevalent in the region. We all make mistakes and have to face up to consequences we hadn’t anticipated at the time. Often there is no way back or out. Sometimes running away from them just makes them worse. Normally we have to own up to our misjudgements and accept their consequences. Practically speaking this is often humiliating and painful, which is why running away seems a better option. But it is as we confess our mistakes that we discover the grace of God. As Jonah was to find out, we can’t discover his grace as we run away, but only when we stop and face up. Jonah puts it this way: “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace which could be theirs.” Jonah 2v8. Many things cause us to run- pride, fear, selfishness, and as we bow to these, we forfeit God’s grace.

Reflections and prayer

Are there decisions you have rushed into which you now regret? Are there consequences of your decisions which could get out of control, unless you face up to them? What stops you facing up? What grace are you forfeiting as a result? Pray about them and ask your Father what it is you should do about them?

Going Deeper

• The Raphaites were known as a particularly tall race, and the Zuzites and Emites had an equally fiercesome reputation but all were swept aside. The attackers then went past the Transjordan cities to take out the people of El Paran before doubling back to take out the Amelekites and Amorites, (the race to which Abram’s friends belonged). The last attack was very close to Sodom at a place later called Ein Gedi where a thousand years later David was to hide from Saul.

• Defeat was total, and the spoils were to be taken back to Mesopotamia. The narrative records almost incidentally that Lot was included in the booty taken away.

Day Seventeen Genesis 14v13-16

Bible Reading

8Then the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboiim and the king of Bela (that is Zoar) marched out and drew up their battle lines in the Valley of Siddim 9against Kedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of Goiim, Amraphel king of Shinar and Arioch king of Ellasar- four kings against five. 10Now the Valley of Siddim was full of tar pits, and when the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some of the men fell into them and the rest fled to the hills. 11The four kings seized all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their food; then they went away. 12They also carried off Abram’s nephew Lot and his possessions, since he was living in Sodom. 13One who had escaped came and reported this to Abram the Hebrew. Now Abram was living near the great trees of Mamre the Amorite, a brother of Eshcol and Aner, all of whom were allied with Abram. 14When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called out the 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit as far as Dan. 15During the night Abram divided his men to attack them and he routed them , pursuing them as far as Hobah north of Damascus. 16He recovered all the goods and brought back his relative Lot and his possessions, together with the women and the other people.

Notes

Abram is something of an enigma. The coward who, for whatever reason, left Canaan for Egypt and lied before Pharaoh, now goes in pursuit of four kings who he knew well enough to fear. These kings had just destroyed every recognised army in the district while the only forces Abram and his friends had were those men trained to defend their camps. Their victory was all the more extraordinary given the fact that almost certainly none of them had any military experience, and yet their plan was one of veterans.

All of which begs a question: just what might we be capable of if we put God’s mind to it? We simply don’t know why Abram responds so heroically here and elsewhere and then on other occasions flops so very badly. We can hazard a guess by a quick look at our own lives. The problem is we are so inconsistent in our walk with God and are consequently equally inconsistent in our day to day lives. To respond aright, we need to be ready! We never know quite when someone or something will turn up on our doorstep challenging us to act, and we can’t afford not to be in the right place with God, if we want our response to be the right one. The difference between success and failure is often a mere matter of our intimacy with the Lord at that moment.

Reflections and prayer

Think back over the times in your life over which you are rightly proud and those about which you are most ashamed. What distinguishes them? Lay them all before the Lord and then lay yourself before Him too, that nothing will hinder His voice at any time today.

Going Deeper

• This is the first reference to a Hebrew in the Bible. It probably came from a word meaning “wanderer”. It’s amazing how nicknames can stick and even define people!

• There is no record of Abram going to war again. He appears a very reluctant soldier. He did though do a very thorough job when it was needed. He routed the enemy and chased them beyond Damascus.

Day Eighteen Genesis 14v17-20

Bible Reading

13One who had escaped came and reported this to Abram the Hebrew. Now Abram was living near the great trees of Mamre the Amorite, a brother of Eshcol and Aner, all of whom were allied with Abram. 14When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called out the 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit as far as Dan. 15During the night Abram divided his men to attack them and he routed them , pursuing them as far as Hobah north of Damascus. 16He recovered all the goods and brought back his relative Lot and his possessions, together with the women and the other people. 17After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh, (that is, the King’s Valley). 18Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, 19and he blessed Abram, saying,“Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. 20And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.”

Notes

Melchizedek is perhaps the Bible’s greatest mystery character. His name we’re told in Hebrews 7v2 means King of Righteousness while King of Salem means King of Peace.

The writer to the Hebrews goes on to tell us that he was without genealogy, and without beginning or end of life, and as such he remains a priest for ever. Just like the Son of God! He then explains that Christ came like Melchizedek from outside of the normal line of priests, (who, subsequent to Melchizedek, came through Aaron’s line). Christ too wasn’t a priest on the basis of regulation according to his ancestry but like Melchizedek on the basis of an indestructible life. We really have no idea, where Melchizedek came from, who he was, and what happened to him subsequently, and it probably isn’t worth speculating. However, what is worth considering is that 2000 years before Christ, the Bible introduces a King of Righteousness who offers bread and wine and blesses those who believe in his God.

The astonishing thing about the Bible is its consistency. Like a jigsaw which is pieced together to finally reveal the picture of Christ, or like a symphony in which the themes build to a crescendo in Christ, the gospel is intricately woven throughout the whole of scripture. Melchizedek is just one example of this. No man could make this up. We are reading the very Word of God.

Reflections and prayer

Consider again that what you hold in your hand is the Word of God. What confidence does this give you in your faith? What response should this elicit from your life?

Going Deeper

• Read Psalm 110 and Hebrews 7 and their interpretation of this passage.

• Note Melchizedek gives all the credit of Abraham’s victory to the Lord. Abraham fought the battle, but it was the Lord who won the victory. What does this teach us?

Day Nineteen Genesis 14v21-24

Bible Reading

17After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh, (that is, the King’s Valley). 18Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, 19and he blessed Abram, saying,“Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. 20And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.”Then Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. 21The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself. 22But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have raised my hand to the Lord, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, and have taken an oath 23that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the thong of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, ‘I made Abram rich.’ 24I will accept nothing but what my men have eaten and the share that belongs to the men who went with me- to Aner, Eschol and Mamre. Let them have their share.”

Notes

Abram has a healthy disinterest in wealth. Perhaps he could afford to as a wealthy man! But then again, often those who have such a disregard, the Lord can trust with wealth, knowing they will use it well and not be corrupted by it. Abram gave freely, to Melchizedek, to his friends and his men. He was committed though not to take anything for himself. He may have seen Sodomite money as tainted, but more significantly he wanted his life to be a testimony to the Lord and nothing and no one else.

This is a big challenge to many of us. How much do our lives tell others of the grace and provision of God? The more we have, the foggier the message seems to become. Most of our lives speak of our own self-sufficiency, a well paid job or a handsome inheritance. Perhaps Abram still felt the guilt of coming back from Egypt a rich man at the hands of Pharaoh and the expense of Sarai. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with wealth but nor is there anything particularly good about it. What makes the difference is what we do with it: how we hold it and how we give it. Note though there is no hint of a bargain with the Lord here: “I will bless you, if you will bless me.” The oath was utterly unilateral. “I will honor you.” Full stop!

Reflections and prayer

What story does your wealth tell of you? How has it impacted for better and for worse, your trust in God, and your witness to the Lord? Lay it freely before the Lord and see what He does with it.

Going Deeper

• This is the first Biblical reference to tithing, and its importance is noted in Hebrews 7. The fact Abram gives to Melchizedek is seen as evidence that Melchizedek was somehow superior and the fact he gave a tithe, something later due to priests, is seen as evidence that he is to be viewed a priest himself.

• Abram doesn’t force his own oaths on others. He ensures his friends have their share of the wealth.

Day Twenty Genesis 15v1

Bible Reading

Then Abraham gave him a tenth of everything.21The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself.” 22But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have raised my hand to the Lord, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, and have taken an oath 23that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the thong of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, ‘I made Abram rich.’ 24I will accept nothing but what my men have eaten and the share that belongs to the men who went with me- to Aner, Eschol and Mamre. Let them have their share.” 151After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield,Your very great reward.”

Notes

So often whenever the Lord or one of His angels speak, the first words are: “Do not be afraid.” This suggests both that the voice of the Lord is a fearsome thing, and that He doesn’t want us to be frightened. This in turn tells us so much about our God. He isn’t some soft touch, we can follow when it suits us and discard when we no longer need him. He is holy, and when we see Him we will be afraid. Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Perhaps one reason He doesn’t reveal Himself or speak more to us is that we wouldn’t cope with seeing or hearing Him. Perhaps only when we have that wise fear of Whom we approach, will we be ready and able to know the intimacy of his presence and whisper. But, then His heart is not for us to live in fear of Him. He speaks encouragement to Abram, protection, appreciation, even intimacy. He doesn’t want us to stand back in fear, but to run into His arms of love. The picture these verses, and in deed the whole Bible paints, is of a Holy God who reaches out to us as our Father. Without understanding that He is holy, we can’t appreciate Him fully as Father. Without knowing Him as Father, we will never understand the beauty of His holiness.

Reflections and prayer

Is your view of God deficient? Do you stand in awe of holiness and rest in His arms of love? Reflect upon the attribute of the Lord: His holiness or His love, whichever you consider to be the weakest in your understanding of Him. Then ask your father to show you more of Himself in this regard.

Going Deeper

• So often one verse reveals so much and yet creates many more questions which it leaves unanswered. The nature of revelation is one of these questions. Abram saw a vision and heard the word of the Lord. We can guess the vision was of a shield, but whether the voice was audible or inner, we don’t know.

• The Bible is also very inexact over timing, so phrases like: “After this” could mean anything from that night to months or, on occasions, even years later. (Understanding the event itself is more important than knowing its sequence!). Given the reference to a shield though, it would appear that the memory of the battle was still fresh in Abram’s mind.

• A shield is often used as a symbol of royalty. The picture was both more relevant to Abram at this time after his first and only battle, and also hugely significant.

Day Twenty-One Genesis 15 v2-4

Bible Reading

151After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:“Do not be afraid, Abram.I am your shield,Your very great reward.”2But Abram said, “O Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”4Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be you heir.”

Notes

Abram’s relationship with the Lord is developing. This is the first record we have of him replying to the Lord and even questioning Him. Abram here sets a trend of honesty before God in scripture. Moses, Elijah, David, Job and Jonah are just a few who tell it as it is. The Psalms and Jeremiah 20v7+ are perhaps the best examples of heartfelt honesty before God.

The great thing is the Lord never rebukes honesty. He does rebuke complaining, but that has more to do with the spirit than the sentiments. He seems to appreciate us telling Him we are fed up, confused or tired. In fact, when we are straightforward with Him, He seems to become just as straightforward with us. His word isn’t just vague spiritual truths, but He speaks specifically into our lives, our questions and our doubts.

Of course, there may still be periods of silence when God doesn’t seem to have heard or at least be willing to answer. But that isn’t because He can’t. Furthermore, if He is silent, as he was with Job and evidently many of the Psalmists, then it isn’t because He doesn’t want to speak. He is our Father, the God of Revelation. Be honest before Him and patient with Him.

Reflections and prayer

How has your relationship with your Father developed over the past few months and years? Are you able to tell Him your heart, and can you trust Him to answer at the right time?

Going Deeper

• If Abram was to die heirless, then it could have been his estate would pass to his Chief Servant. On the other hand, it is also possible that he had actually willed it to Eliezer.

• Later Abram may have been able to justify sleeping with Hagar because of what the Lord said! We must be careful not to twist the Word of God to fit in with our own ideas.

Bible Reading Notes Day 22-28

Day Twenty-Two Genesis 15v5-6

Bible Reading

2But Abram said, “O Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”4Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be you heir.” 5He took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars- if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”6Abram believed the Lord and he credited it to him as righteousness.

Notes

And so we come to one of the most profound verses in all scripture. Genesis 15v6 sets out a truth which the rest of the Bible develops. Later Habakkuk the prophet was to put it this way: “The righteous shall live by faith.” (2v14). Paul then quotes Habakkuk in the great statement of the gospel, Romans 1v16-17, and goes on to develop what we now know as the doctrine of Justification by faith. And yet this great doctrine is introduced in the Bible by an old man looking up into the night sky. Abram simply heard God, looked at His handiwork and believed Him. Christian truth is not the result of the cleverness of man, but the revelation of God substantiated by what we can see in creation, know in our hearts, and discover in Christ. It is truth. Remarkable, glorious and yet utterly believable. Sadly, we have so little space these days to go outside, look up at the heavens and reflect upon these truths. We live crazy, claustrophobic lives, and then wonder why we’re riddled with doubts. Let the Lord speak. Give yourself time and space to reflect upon what He says, and know faith rise in your heart.

Reflections and prayer

When did you last step out under a night sky, look up, be still and know that He is God. If that time can’t be yet, at least stop and reflect for a few minutes upon what you believe and why. Ask your Father to reveal His truth to you in a fresh way.

Going Deeper

• Hebrews 11 acknowledges the faith of Abel, Enoch and Noah before Abraham, but then focuses on the faith of Abraham, including this moment in Genesis 15, more than any other Old Testament character.

• To be right with God, we need to be righteous. And yet this is impossible. To work out our own righteousness tends to end in self-righteousness, which is another thing entirely. Rather we can only trust in the righteousness of God to work out our salvation. The best Abraham could do was look at creation and trust the Creator was the sort of God who was willing and able to keep His promises. We though can look at Christ and see these promises worked out through His death on the cross. He has worked salvation for us, and through faith it is credited to us as righteousness.

Day Twenty-Three Genesis 15 v7-9

Bible Reading

5He took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars- if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”6Abram believed the Lord and he credited it to him as righteousness.7He also said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.”8But Abram said, “O Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?”9So the Lord said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.”

Notes

James 2 v23 reflects upon this tremendous passage of scripture and sums it by saying that Abraham “was called God’s friend”- an amazing phrase! The great thing about being true friends of course is that there is no need for pretence. You can be who you are, without fear of rejection. Abram demonstrates this by expressing his doubt immediately after the Lord had commended his faith! Someone less sure of the Lord’s favor might have been tempted to fake faith! Abram knew that although the Lord responds to his faith, His love was unconditional and absolute.

We do please God with our faith, (Hebrews 11v6), but only true faith. We can’t fool Him! What’s more we don’t need to. His love isn’t based upon our faith. He first loved us, before we believe in Him, and He and His love doesn’t change. He loves us whether we are being faithful or not! Knowing this unconditional love is liberating.

We don’t need to pretend any more. We can let our defences down, ask the questions we need to ask, and just be who we are, before our all loving God. The problem is we spend so much time pretending before men, because of the fear that we might otherwise lose their love or respect, that it can be hard not to pretend before God.

Reflections and prayer

Do you believe your Father loves you unconditionally, or do you need to impress Him, or even attempt to pretend before Him? How different might life look if you were totally secure in the Father’s love? Pray that He might shed that love abroad in your heart.

Going Deeper

• If Abram had faked faith and nodded wisely to his Lord’s promise of taking possession of the land, he would have missed out on the Lord’s response. As it was, The Lord’s response to his question would inspire him to believe His promise for the rest of his long life.

Day Twenty-Four Genesis 15v10-16

Bible Reading

7He also said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.”8But Abram said, “O Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?”9So the Lord said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.”10Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds however, he did not cut in half. 11Then the birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away.12As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. 13Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that your descendents will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and ill treated four hundred years. 14But I will punish the nations they serve as slaves, and afterwards they will come out with great possessions. 15You, however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”

Notes

There is a solemnity and intensity about this passage. You can sense it as during the day Abram chases away the birds of prey, and then in utter exhaustion at night as he falls into a very deep dark sleep. The intensity appears to be physical, emotional and spiritual. The picture painted in verse 12 of the sun setting and the resulting darkness penetrating Abram in his sleep is hugely evocative. Many of us have experienced these moments. We know the Lord is present and about to do something profound but we also know a lethargy and a dreadful darkness. The disciples and Jesus knew it in different ways at Gethsemane. Elijah knew it at Horeb. (1 Kings 19). Sometimes the Lord’s injunction is to stay awake and pray. At other times, as with Elijah, He encourages us to rest and eat, be refreshed and then pray. Then again as here, He can also speak to us through the sleep. With Lord the only rule about how He speaks is that: “Deep calls to deep”. Discerning the mind and heart of God can be draining physically as we give ourselves to study, prayer and waiting on Him, emotionally as we know His heart break and spiritually because so often revelation comes only after a battle. But it is worth it!

Reflections and prayer

Your Father wants to share His heart and mind with you, but only if you are able to receive it. Commit all you are doing over the next day to Him, and ask Him to reveal as much as you can bear of His heart and mind for those you meet, and for all you encounter.

Going Deeper

• The Lord chose to make a formal covenant with Abram who would have immediately recognised it for what it was.

• His words into Abram’s sleep were the first to foretell the future bondage and deliverance of Israel. It must have been baffling to Abram, particularly when the race of his friend, Mamre, is condemned.

Day Twenty-Five Genesis 15v17-21

Bible Reading

10Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds however, he did not cut in half. 11Then the birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away.12As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. 13Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that your descendents will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and ill treated four hundred years. 14But I will punish the nations they serve as slaves, and afterwards they will come out with great possessions. 15You, however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”17When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking fire pot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. 18On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates- 19the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 20Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.

Notes

This was the most emphatic of covenants. By passing through the carcasses in this way, the Lord was basically identifying with death and declaring that the commitment to His promise was binding even to death. It is extraordinary, even seemingly absurd, that God should go to these lengths of commitment. But in it we get our first glimpse of just how far God will go to keep His promises. Yes, even to death. There is never anything flippant about God’s commitments, which, by the way, just accentuates the superficiality of our response. What difference would it make to our lives if we could fully grasp the faithfulness of God? The resulting security and confidence would surely be revolutionary. It would be liberating, if we could truly trust Him to look after us, freeing us instead to love and serve Him. And yet of course in the covenant He made with us He passed through death, not just demonstratively, but in reality. He didn’t just make a statement about the price of His non-performance, but actually paid the price of ours. He has done it. He has proved His faithfulness. We may not have been at the foot of the cross to watch Him die, but by His Spirit we can know the truth of it.

Reflections and prayer

Reflect again upon the Father’s commitment to you in the giving of His Son to death. What should your life look like as a result? Ask your Father to reveal these truths to you in a way which really does make a difference.

Going Deeper

• Abram had travelled from the Euphrates to the River of Egypt, and would have met all the people the Lord mentions on the way. It was a long way and these were a fearsome people. No wonder the covenant needed to be so emphatic!

Day Twenty-Six Genesis 16 v1-2

Bible Reading

17When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking fire pot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. 18On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates- 19the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 20Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.161Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; 2so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.”

Notes

Being in the purposes of God brings pressures, under which many have folded, including Biblical characters like Saul and here Sarai. You have to sympathise with Sarai. The words of God about peopling a nation and even a son coming from Abram’s own body just added to Sarai’s probable ever increasing distress and insecurity. The temptation in times like this is to come up with our own solutions and fix things ourselves. That is what Saul did in 1 Samuel 13, and it is what Sarai does here. Note her words; “The Lord has kept me from having children… perhaps I can build a family…” It was unashamedly Sarai’s solution.

Does this sound familiar? God’s way is too hard and takes too long. Our faith is too limited and our patience too short. So we work it out. We mean well, but bluntly prefer to sort things ourselves than wait for God to do it. Probably most churches operate according to unashamedly human principles and solutions- perhaps because they’re led by successful men, used to running their businesses that way. Then again most of us run our lives this way too. Although when we remember, we do ask the Lord to bless our plans, and often He is gracious enough to do so. Sometimes though the quick fix doesn’t allow time for due consideration of the possible outcomes, let alone prayer. Sarai certainly doesn’t seem to have thought things through, or if she had, she was blinded or blasé about the consequences.

Reflections and prayer

Think back over decisions you’ve made in the past. In which of them could you have been working out God’s purposes for Him? What resulted? What could have resulted if you had let Him have His way? What decisions lie ahead? How are you going to make them? Pray for faith and wisdom.

Going Deeper

• Often a marriage agreement would allow for such an arrangement as the one Sarai suggests, should no heir be forthcoming from the wife. However just because something is legally right doesn’t make it right in God’s purposes.

• Had the Lord kept Sarai from having children? If so, why? How do your answers to these questions help you understand more about your Father’s purposes for your life?

Day Twenty-Seven Genesis 16v3-4

Bible Reading

161Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; 2so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.” Abram agreed to what Sarai said. 3So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. 4He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.

Notes

We don’t know how long Abram took to make the decision, whether he prayed, or whether he discussed the matter with Sarai. It just says he agreed. We don’t know why he agreed. Perhaps he too was anxious about how the Lord’s words would be worked out. Perhaps he felt guilty about what he had done to Sarai in Egypt and didn’t feel in a position to argue with her. Perhaps the prospect of intercourse with a probably young, and possibly attractive girl, persuaded him. Perhaps he just wanted an easy life, without arguments. Whatever the reason, he agreed. And not only could he interpret the Lord’s words to fit in with the plan, he could also subsequently celebrate the Lord’s apparent blessing of it. Agreements, be they active or passive, are often easily made, and equally easily justified. The implications though normally take longer to work out and it is over time we truly see where the Lord was in them.

Reflections and prayer

Reflect for a while: what makes you go along with other people’s ideas. Then ask yourself whether these are good grounds for decision making. Have you justified any wrong decisions by noting an apparent blessing from the Lord in them? Ask your Father for wisdom and strength to determine whether to stand up against or stand with the ideas others may be putting to you; regardless of the consequences.

Going Deeper

• The clouds of confusion over timing in the story of Abraham just occasionally break, and this is one such occasion. We’re told he and Sarah had been in Canaan for ten years when he slept with Hagar. Sadly, we don’t know where in the intervening period everything else fits: the journey in and out of Egypt, the split of the party, the rescue of Lot and the covenant of chapter 15.

• The name Hagar literally means “Stranger”. She is twice called Egyptian in these few verses, and could very possibly have been acquired by Sarai while in Egypt.

Day Twenty-Eight Genesis 16v4-5

Bible Reading

3So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. 4He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. 5Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my servant in your arms, and now she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me.”

Notes

There are few more disturbing experiences than friends and family, we know and love, changing. Hagar’s whole identity had changed. No longer a humble servant, she was now the carrier of the patriarch’s child, something her mistress had failed to achieve. Sarai obviously never anticipated the change in Hagar’s attitude which this new set of circumstances had created. Sarai’s reaction is to pass the blame. She seems utterly blind to the inconsistency of what she is saying. She admits the mess was her idea and initiative, but puts the responsibility absolutely on Abram’s shoulders. In her fury and her hurt, she can’t see that God may see it any other way but hers!

These characters are so real. On one level we can easily relate to them and see ourselves and others in them. On another level we are as blind as Sarai appears to have been. Like King David when confronted by Nathan, (2 Samuel 12) we can see the failings and folly of others but fail to see the irony that what we see and condemn in others, we miss and condone in ourselves.

Reflections and prayer

Take another look at these few verses, and ask yourself where you have responded or are responding like Hagar or Sarai. What are the consequences, actual now and possible later? What do you need to do to redeem the situation? Ask your Father to give you eyes to see and a heart to respond.

Going Deeper

• The only way to prevent our heart changing with our circumstances is to ensure that our identity is found only in Christ. If it is in anything else, including good things like family or ministry, then as those things prosper we will grow proud, and as those things suffer, we will grow bitter. Where is your identity?

• Friendships are very vulnerable to change and consequently can cause tremendous hurt. And yet we can lay these hurts before the Lord who suffered betrayal by someone He had invested everything in, and promises never to let us down. Try to work the hurt out for yourself though, and you will carry these hurts into every decision, every relationship and every area of your life.

Bible Reading Notes Day 29-31

Day Twenty-Nine Genesis 16v6-8

Bible Reading

When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. 5Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my servant in your arms, and now she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me.”6 “Your servant is in your hand,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai ill-treated Hagar; so she fled from her.7The Angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. 8And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?”

Notes

Abram was a patriarch, who went to war to save a family member, and was capable of the most selfless of decisions. He was a man of incredible faith, capable of trusting God even with the life of his son. And yet…. He handed his wife over to other men, not once but twice, and abdicates responsibility for the welfare of the mother of his son, again not once, but twice.

The inconsistency is startling. Abram, no longer the hero, but now weak and pathetic, and highly unlikeable. And yet…. We can all see ourselves in Abram, and the person who condemns him is either brave, or most likely not self aware! My journal tells the tale of my embarrassing inconsistency.

But our Lord is for ever consistent and trustworthy. So, as Hagar, who also had acted in an unlikeable fashion, flees from the rage of her mistress and the rejection of her baby’s father, she finds Someone who won’t abandon her. In fact, He seeks her out. It is often only as everyone and everything else around us fails, that we come to a place where we can find, or more pertinently be found by, our loving Father. We might even end up thanking God for those times of pain and loneliness, through which we went into the desert, and there found ourselves in the arms of God.

Reflections and prayer

“If we are faithless, he is faithful, for He cannot disown himself.” 2 Timothy 2v12. Reflect upon the consistency of God despite our own inconsistency and thank Him.

Reflect also that when all else fail us, we will still be sought out by our Father, who will never fail us. Dare to ask Him to take you to the place where you can be found by Him.

Going Deeper

• The Bible is stark in its record of Sarai. She is portrayed as scheming, abusive, bad tempered, cynical and lying. And yet she is called “Princess” by the Lord. Such is the incredible grace of God not only for Sarai, but each of us.

• And yet…. Despite being loved by God, Sarai and Abram’s bad decisions do have implications, not least of which are Sarai’s evident inner hurts and consequent outward reactions. Your flaws might not cause you to be rejected by the Lord, but are you prepared to let your Father heal those hurts and change your heart for your sake, and the sake of others and our Father.

Day Thirty Genesis 16v8-10

Bible Reading

6 “Your servant is in your hand,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai ill-treated Hagar; so she fled from her.7The Angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. 8And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?” “I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered.9Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” 10The angel added, “I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count.”

Notes

The angel asks Hagar where she has come from and where she’s going, but Hagar only has the answer to the first half of the question. Like us much of the time, she has no idea where she’s going! But then the Lord knew in any case where she had come from, and then proceeds to tell her where she needs to go. It isn’t of course what Hagar wants to hear. It is tough: Return to your mistress. Very tough: and submit. What makes it palatable though is the fact that the Lord speaks it as revelation and that He does so with encouragement. We normally know the right thing to do, but don’t want to admit to it, because we don’t think we can do it. When we are open to hear from God however, His revelation and encouragement is often all the inspiration we need to do the right thing, however tough and humbling. In fact, our brokenness at times like this paves the way for breakthroughs in revelation which wouldn’t have come any other way. Once again, that is why we can thank God for trials of many kinds, James 1v2.

Reflections and prayer

Are there things in your life you know you need to face up to, go back to deal with or even submit to, which are just too much for you to bear alone? Lay them before your Father and let Him speak into them and into your life His encouragement. You can face all situations through Christ who strengthens you. Philippians 4v13. Or do you simply not know where you should be going. Commit your ways to the Lord and He will direct your paths, even if the path might be a rocky one!

Going Deeper

• Ishmael wasn’t part of the Lord’s plan but He still accepts responsibility for him. He says: “I will so increase…” Ishmael’s prosperity wasn’t chance, nor was it just the result of a powerful earthly father. It was the Lord’s doing. It is extraordinary to reflect upon this, given what the angel of the Lord would go on to say about the strife Ishmael would cause. Why did God bless Ishmael?

Day Thirty-One Genesis 16 v11-12

Bible Reading

“I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered.9Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” 10The angel added, “I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count.”11The angel of the Lord also said to her:“You are now with child and you will have a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery. 12He will be a wild donkey of a man; His hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, And he will live in hostility towards all his brothers.”

Notes

Our Father hears our cry. He heard of a foreign maidservant’s servant’s cry, which probably wasn’t directed to Him. The Psalms again and again tell us He hears our cries. David in fact goes as far as saying the Lord keeps a record of our tears, Psalm 56v8. Not one tear before the Lord is wasted. For Hagar, discovering how the Lord hears would be a turning point. She would need to turn back and submit to Sarai. Her son would grow up into a world of tension and hostility. Life would be as tough as life could be. But it was possible to face it because she knew the Lord had heard of her misery. Relief came to Hagar not through rescue from pain, but from the reassurance of the Lord’s presence with her in it. This is real relief.

Our Lord knows of our pain too. In fact He knows it better than we know it ourselves because He knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows our future pain as well. But He doesn’t just know of it, He understands it. On the cross, Christ became as Isaiah puts it: a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering, (Isaiah 53v3). He cares. He doesn’t promise to lift us out of it, but does promise to stand with us in it.

He’s been there, before us, and will go with us through it every step of the way.

Reflections and prayer

Are you able to cry out to the Lord? Every tear is listed. No issue is too small for Him. He knows, He understands, He cares. Are you able to ask Him not so much to lift the cup of suffering from you, as to stand with you as you drink it? Are you prepared to trust that He knows what’s best here and now, and that He also knows the path out the other side?

Going Deeper

  • Ishmael literally means: “God hears” and this would be a testimony to Hagar through the tough times.
  • Hagar knew she was pregnant but not with a son, and not with such a son. The Lord prepares her for tough times ahead, with the encouragement that he will be called Ishmael: “God hears”.