Bible Reading Notes Day 29-35

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”.

 


Day Thirty-Two Genesis 16v13-16

Bible Reading

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.” 13She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,”  for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” 14That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; it is still there between Kadesh and Bered.15So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne. 16Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.

Notes

Most of us struggle to believe we are significant or good enough for the Lord to bother revealing anything to us. Yet this is the first mention in the Bible of God appearing as the Angel of the Lord, and it was to an Egyptian maidservant with a bad attitude! Hagar sees, believes and marks the spot for ever!

Revelation isn’t based upon our worthiness, but upon the grace of God and our openness to receive. In fact seeing the Lord normally reveals our true state of unworthiness, (Job 42v5-6, Isaiah 6v5, Luke 5v8). As we’ve reflected over the past few days, it is often only when we reach the very end of ourselves that we are finally able to see the One who has always been looking out for us. It doesn’t though necessarily need to be this way. If we have eyes to see, Jesus says we will see! Paul prays for the Ephesians that the glorious Father may give them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that they may know him better, and that the eyes of their hearts may be enlightened. Ephesians 1v17-18. It would be too awful to know what revelation of the Father we have missed out upon so far in life. Rather it will be more productive, to commit the rest of our lives to seeing and knowing as much of Him as we possible can by His grace.

Reflections and prayer

Reflect upon those times and places where you have seen and heard from your Father. If you can, it may even be good to revisit one of those places. Then ask the Spirit to reveal more of the Father over the day ahead. Ask Him to invade the mundane, ordinary places of life with His supernatural revelation of Himself, His heart and mind.

Going Deeper

• The appearance of God in human form is called a Theophany. 

• V13 is ambiguous and could actually be rendered: “I have now seen the back of the One who sees me.” This would fit other revelations of the Lord for instance to Moses in Exodus 33v23.

• Isaac would later come to live in Beer Lahai Roi, although we don’t know whether he knew it was here his God spoke about his brother.

 


Day Thirty-Three Genesis 17v1-5

Bible Reading

13She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” 14That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; it is still there between Kadesh and Bered.15So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne. 16Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.171 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. 2I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”3Abram fell face down, and God said to him, 4“As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. 5No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.

Notes

Revelation is so often life changing. Moses would come from the presence of God literally glowing. Jacob on the other hand came away limping. For his part, Abraham was renamed. But this was more than a mere re-branding exercise. The new name was evidence of the covenant entered into: a name given by the grace of God and received in faith by Abraham.

We may all long for such an experience and a fresh touch from God, but the Bible tells us Abraham’s experience came after a thirteen year hiatus between chapters 16 and 17, and when it did come, it was a fearful thing for Abraham who falls face down before God. If our experience of God is limited maybe it is because we want everything instantly, and aren’t prepared to wait for Him. Then again it may be because our understanding of God is so superficial that we simply couldn’t cope with seeing Him as He truly is. 

We don’t know what caused the thirteen year delay in revelation. It may be that God had been speaking in the interim, but the Bible simply doesn’t record what He said. However if God does seem to be quiet in our lives, it doesn’t mean He has given up on us. Rather he may be waiting for us to be ready to receive what He wants to say to us. Only He knew when Abraham was ready to receive this renewed covenant, new name and fresh instruction. He knows best in our lives too.

Reflections and prayer

If God were to speak to you in a life changing way today, would you be in the place to receive it? Are you prepared to trust Him: truly trust Him, as much with timing as with everything else, and as much through the quiet and seemingly dry times, as times of revelation and intimacy? Ask Him to prepare you to receive more of Him, His heart and His love. 

Going Deeper

• Abram means Exalted Father, Abraham means Father of Many.

• Although the Lord had spoken to Abraham before, each time He speaks he reveals a little more of His plan. His first promise was to bless all peoples through Abram. Now it was for Abraham to be the father of many nations. 

• The name God uses of Himself is El-Shaddai, emphasising His power, and therefore ability to fulfil the covenant He was about to make.

 


Day Thirty-Four Genesis 17v6-8

Bible Reading

171 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. 2I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”3Abram fell face down, and God said to him, 4“As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. 5No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.6I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you, 7I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. 8The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; I will be their God.”

Notes

The promise is a future one and the covenant an everlasting one. When the Lord will take His leave, Abraham would have a new name, but his situation wouldn’t have changed. He still would be an alien in a foreign land, disparagingly called the Hebrew, or wanderer. But Abraham could cope with this. The writer to the Hebrews, interjects into his account of Abraham’s faith in Chapter 11v13 with these thoughts about those like Abraham:

They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth… They were longing for a better country, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.

As long as our hope is fixed on the here and now, our Father will always be limited in what He can show us and do through us. He delights to give us good things, but ultimately He wants to give us a deposit or foretaste guaranteeing our inheritance: the Holy Spirit. If we are the sort of people who live in the here and now, but for a future hope, then He can truly begin to share His heart and use us.

Reflections and prayer

Where is your focus? Is it on the immediate, or can you take an eternal perspective? 

Is Christ by His Spirit our all in all, or is He merely the means to get our own ends? Ask your Father for a heavenly perspective which makes sense of life now. 

Going Deeper

• This is the first promise of a royal line which would ultimately go through David to Christ 

• Abraham was to die without possessing any more of the land than his burial site. But the promise to give him the land was worked out after his death through Joshua. A heavenly or eternal perspective is needed to receive the promises of God.

 


Day Thirty-Five Genesis 17v9-14

Bible Reading

6I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you, 7I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. 8The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; I will be their God.”9Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. 10This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. 12For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner- those who are not your offspring. 13Whether born in your household or bought with money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. 14Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”

Notes

The sign of the covenant the Lord asked Abraham and all his male descendants to make was irreversible, visible and very intimate. It called for a sacrifice and would act as a constant reminder of the covenant made for the rest of their lives. And yet it was limited. It was a physical, outward sign and commitment; whereas the Lord makes it very clear all through scripture what He is really interested in is the heart. A man after God’s heart, David, put it this way in Psalm 51v17: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” Paul gets more explicit still and says in Philippians 3v3: “It is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh- though I myself have reasons for such confidence.” Our circumcision is of the heart by the Spirit, Who is the sign of our new covenant with the Lord. For all the pain at the time, physical circumcision actually makes fewer demands than spiritual circumcision. It is possible to bear a physical mark of the covenant, without it actually impacting the heart; in the same way as it is possible to go to church, give financially, and live an apparently clean godly life without it truly impacting our hearts. All these are good things but it is the heart which really matters. Abraham’s limited covenant was fulfilled at Calvary where we were invited to give Him our broken hearts, and He would mark them with His Spirit.

Reflections and prayer

What are the signs of your response to Christ? Are they inward, a desire after Him and for His glory? Or outward, activity focused? Lay your heart bear before Him for the day ahead and see what mark He makes upon it and upon those you meet through it.

Going Deeper

• Abraham would have been aware of circumcision as a rite, although not something he or his household had practiced. Circumcision like many of the Old Testament rites and practices had health benefits but these were never the Lord’s primary purpose in giving them.

• The first Christian believers had to wrestle with the question: Should gentile believers be circumcised. The debate dominates sections of Acts and some of Paul’s letters like Galatians. It even seems to have sparked something of a falling out between Peter and Paul! The matter was settled by a Council at Jerusalem reported in Acts 15, which sends a written report of its findings and declares Gentiles needn’t be circumcised.