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 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 

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 16v2-4

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 where in the intervening period, the journey in and out of Egypt, the split of the party, the rescue of Lot and the covenant of chapter 15 fit isn’t defined.

• 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 traumatic 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.