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 most 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!

The writer to the Hebrews goes on to explain 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 enforce 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, but 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, which you consider to be the weakest in your understanding of Him, and 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 wstill 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.