Prophecy Update #696 – Chips Ahead

I came across this quote: “Because the Bible is the only book which gives us an accurate forecast of the future, we must turn to its pages in order that we may be delivered from inexcusable ignorance in the present and be prepared as God unfolds His prophetic program.”

We reserve a few minutes to discuss current trends that you’d expect from reading Bible prophecy.

We are futurists. We interpret all unfulfilled prophetic passages as future events that will occur in a literal, physical, apocalyptic, and global context.

Biometrics, Artificial Intelligence, cashless commerce, the manipulation of human DNA, global government, the exponential growth of human knowledge, and the rebirth of national Israel are End Times phenomena the Bible predicts. All of these are increasingly trending in the news.

I can give you an example of what we mean. In the last book of the Bible, the Book of the Revelation, there is a passage that describes a future world-leader. We know him most commonly as the antichrist. Working with him is a guy called the False Prophet.

In the Revelation we read, “[The false prophet] causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name” (13:16-17).

I put my Bible down, go to the internet, and I discover an article titled, The microchip implants that let you pay with your hand.

Excerpts:

A tech company is rolling out a microchip that can be implanted in people’s hands with the goal of making contactless payments easier.

London-based Walletmor said the chip will work with the Purewrist app, a digital wallet.

After downloading the app, users will go to a specialist to have a chip installed in their hands that would act in conjunction with the app and businesses that use the app.  Once users are completely set up with the microchip and app, they can make payments using the funds in their accounts. 

https://www.fox5ny.com/news/hand-implanted-microchip-could-be-used-for-contactless-payments

A companion article was titled, Swedish company showcases microchip that can download COVID19 passport status.

Excerpts:

Microchip technology introduced in recent years by the Stockholm-based startup, Epicenter, is being presented as a means to store one’s COVID19 vaccine passport under the skin, according to a video from the South China Post that went viral.

The firm has showcased an implant capable of storing a COVID passport that can then be read by any device using the near-field communication (NFC) protocol, according to the video.

https://www.fox5dc.com/news/swedish-company-showcases-microchip-that-can-download-covid-19-passport-status

Doesn’t the news sound a great deal like the prophecy in the Revelation? Do you not find it amazing that the Bible could predict the possibility of global commerce with contactless payment?

Combine this technology, or some other biometric technology, with the digital dollar and the government will be able to control everything about you.

If the government wants you to go green, they could shut-off your ability to purchase fuel.
If they mandate a vaccine, they could restrict you enough to comply.
If they want to redistribute our wealth, it would require only a push of the button.

The apostle John saw all this.

We believe the resurrection and rapture of the church are imminent. It could happen any moment; nothing needs to happen before it. It will happen before the Great Tribulation.

Jesus will return in the clouds.
He will raise the dead in Christ.
He will transform the bodies of living believers to glorified, resurrection bodies.

We will all join Him in Heaven while the earth endures one final seven-year campaign of severe evangelism.

Are you ready for the rapture? If not, Get ready; Stay ready; Keep looking up.

Ready or not, Jesus is coming!

He Ain’t Heavenly, He’s Our Brother (John 7:1-24)

All I really need to know I learned on Saturday mornings watching The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle.

• I learned history from Mr. Peabody.
• I was exposed to the Classics from Fractured Fairy Tales.
• Dudley Do-Right of the Mounties provided a moral compass and taught me that ‘character counts.’
• Critical thinking was the purview of Aesop’s Fables.

I later learned that Aesop was a sixth-century Greek storyteller. His fables would illustrate a wise saying. For example, the following is attributed to him:

“Beware that you do not lose the substance by grasping at the shadow.”

We have no way of knowing if Aesop plagiarized the apostle Paul’s first-century letter to the church in Colossae. Paul wrote, “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ” (2:16-17).

Shadow and substance are illustrated during the only recorded conversation between Jesus and His brothers.

The brothers were rushing out the door to attend the annual Feast of Tabernacles. They would join the other pilgrims and erect makeshift shelters, camping outdoors for a week, to remember the Exodus from Egypt and the subsequent forty years in the desert.

God was among them in the wilderness in His own ‘tent.’ His glory was in the Ark of the Covenant housed in the portable tent sanctuary called the Tabernacle.

God tabernacled with Israel.

In the opening chapter of the Gospel of John we were told, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (1:14).

“Dwelt among us” can be translated tabernacled among us.

The brothers of Jesus, and the nation of Israel, were intent on observing a feast commemorating God tabernacling with them when all the while God was tabernacling with them in the Person of Jesus Christ.

The Feast of Tabernacles, and the six additional feasts, were shadows prefiguring the substance, Jesus.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 The Shadows Diminish Jesus, or #2 Jesus Dispels The Shadows.

#1 – The Shadows Diminish Jesus (v1-10)

At the end of the Michael Mann crime story, Heat, cop Al Pacino is chasing crook Robert Di Nero in a gun battle in a field at night between runways at LAX. Di Nero positions himself behind a barrier so he can surprise Pacino and shoot him. The runway lights come on causing Di Nero to cast a shadow, alerting Pacino, who shoots him dead.

He didn’t shoot the shadow. The shadow revealed the substance. We don’t want to mistake shadows for substance in our relationship with Jesus.

Joh 7:1  After these things Jesus walked in Galilee; for He did not want to walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill Him.

Jesus was no coward, but followed His Father’s schedule. It was too soon for Him to be killed, so He remained in Galilee.

He used the time to travel around ministering to folks. His calling was the Cross, but it did not keep Him from serving all along the way to Calvary.

Stay busy serving the Lord. Or get busy. Exhaust yourself. Serve with everything you’ve got. “I am coming quickly,” He promised us in the Revelation.

Joh 7:2  Now the Jews’ Feast of Tabernacles was at hand.

The Feast of Tabernacles is also called sukkoth, the Hebrew word for “booths” or “tents.” It coincided with the harvest and was intended to be a joyful seven days of National Night’s Out.

Joh 7:3  His brothers therefore said to Him, “Depart from here and go into Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works that You are doing.
Joh 7:4  For no one does anything in secret while he himself seeks to be known openly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.”

Jesus had brothers and sisters (Mark 6:3):

His younger brothers were James, Joses (or Joseph), Judas and Simon.
He had sisters who are unnamed.

His brothers sounded like political pundits or admen with their advice. They told Jesus He needed better promotion. Maybe a manager.

The world has its methods and will always try to impose them upon the church. We must exercise discernment and not fall into the trap of thinking that a spiritual end justifies worldly means.

Joh 7:5  For even His brothers did not believe in Him.

Jesus had been living with them over thirty years.

They did not believe He was God in human flesh, tabernacling among them. It is part of what makes this exchange an intriguing substance/shadow issue.

We are not given much detail about Jesus’ life before He begins His ministry, but I think it is safe to assume that He was unique. He was, after all, without sin. Think about how being sinless might have impacted their family life:

Did His brothers ever get frustrated and say to Jesus, “You think you’re SOO perfect, don’t You?”
Did they try to get Jesus to do something wrong?
Did they blame Him for things He did not do?

Come on. You know how siblings can be.

Joh 7:6  Then Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always ready.
Joh 7:7  The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil.

His brothers could come and go as they please, attend the Feast or not. They were not rocking the proverbial boat. Jesus was following a prescribed course that brought Him into conflict with the world.

The “works” of the “world” are “evil.”

We are being nuked in a campaign to obliterate biblical marriage, which includes (among other things) God’s roles for men and women; God’s gift of sexuality; and His plan for the home to be the building block of a righteous society.

The apostle Paul says Satan causes spiritual blindness. “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (Second Corinthians 4:4).

Satan blinds, then binds, in the sense that he influences nonbelievers to do his will. A kind of spiritual Stockholm Syndrome sets in.

No earthly argument, no human wisdom, not even common sense, can open blinded eyes and set free bound captives. What’s our response?

Satan’s tactics tell us that what he fears most is the preaching of the Gospel.

Spiritual problem; spiritual solution. God opens blind eyes and sets captives free. Let’s keep Him the main thing.

Joh 7:8  You go up to this feast. I am not yet going up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come.”
Joh 7:9  When He had said these things to them, He remained in Galilee.

Jesus refers to “this Feast.” It sounds like He was referring to at least two feasts. One commentator offers this insightful analysis: “What makes this statement remarkable is that the implied other feast is the same feast, the Feast of Tabernacles. The contrast Jesus makes suggests that there is a distinction between the annual Feast of Tabernacles and the true tabernacle – Jesus Himself.”

Joh 7:10  But when His brothers had gone up, then He also went up to the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.

Jesus did not deceive His brothers. He wasn’t trying to ditch them.

D.A. Carson explains, “He is not going to the Feast when they say He should. The “counsel of the wicked” could not be permitted to set His agenda.”

Sabbatarians are the easy example of diminishing Jesus by living in the shadows. They ‘observe’ the Sabbath on Saturday in conformity with the letter of the fourth commandment. Jesus is our sabbath rest, everyday.

If you go back to the shadow, you end up becoming a Pharisee.

Peter Pan’s is the most famous shadow of all. It seems to have a life of its own, and it is mischievous.

As long as we remain in our current unredeemed bodies, we will be drawn to the shadows.

Watch out for mischievous shadows. The apostle Paul names some of them, saying, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ… Let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels” (Colossians 2:8 & 16-18).

It has become popular in the last few years for believers to return to what is called a higher church experience.
Robes and rituals from medieval times seem more spiritual when in reality they are distancing us from Jesus, diminishing Him. Be careful.

#2 – Jesus Dispels The Shadows (v11-24)

We have been saying that Jesus is the substance. If it makes it any easier to understand, we can say that Jesus is the fulfillment of all things that prefigured Him, e.g., the Feasts, foods, holy days, etc. He therefore dispels anything that He has fulfilled. We are not to continue in them, or return to them as if they would make us more spiritual.

Joh 7:11  Then the Jews sought Him at the feast, and said, “Where is He?”

“The Jews” is the term the apostle John uses for the religious authorities. They put out a BOLO for Jesus, pressuring the worshippers to be their CI’s.

Joh 7:12  And there was much complaining among the people concerning Him. Some said, “He is good”; others said, “No, on the contrary, He deceives the people.”

“You are without doubt the worst pirate I’ve ever heard of,” said Norrington. Captain Jack Sparrow replied, “But you have heard of me.”

The name of Jesus was on everyone’s lips. Whether for good or for ill, they were judging Him.

If by judging him we mean evaluating His works, that’s great. Jesus was going about proving He was the Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament.

Why did the Jews fail to see Him for who He was? For one, they were evaluating Him by their first century politics. The ‘Jesus’ they were looking for was a military man who would deliver Israel from Rome. They wanted to Make Israel Great Again.

Is my Jesus the One I read about in the Bible? Or am I interpreting Him through some strong bias?

Joh 7:13  However, no one spoke openly of Him for fear of the Jews.

Gestapo tactics have no place in the church. Maneuverings and manipulations, guilting and goading, are not Christ-like. Don’t succumb to them.

Joh 7:14  Now about the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught.
Joh 7:15  And the Jews marveled, saying, “How does this Man know letters, having never studied?”

The Jews would later likewise marvel at the teaching of the apostles. Today we’d say, “The apostles never went to seminary.”

God gifts His followers as He sees fit. He will often gift you in harmony with your natural abilities, but natural abilities must never be confused with an anointing from God the Holy Spirit. In fact, natural abilities can distract from the Lord.

Joh 7:16  Jesus answered them and said, “My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me.

“Doctrine” is another word for teaching. Jesus’ teaching came directly from God the Father. It was not His rabbinical opinion or interpretation.

Teach verse-by-verse through the inspired Word of God and you can (with humility) say, “My doctrine is not mine, it came from the Father.”

Joh 7:17  If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.
Joh 7:18  He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him.

Is someone promoting himself in the ministry? Is someone behaving unrighteously? It isn’t ministry. It is dangerous.

Don’t be overly critical, or overly skeptical. Be discerning and check things out.

The prerequisite for recognizing and receiving the Word of God is that you “will” to “do His will.” Simply put, you have predetermined to be a doer of God’s Word before you hear it. No matter what it says, you will obey it once you hear it.

Dr. Michael Svigel writes, “Obedience is the effect of sanctifying grace, not the cause of it.”

If you are willing to do God’s will, you can do it. His will is presented in His Word, and obedience enabled by God the Holy Spirit.

Nike’s Just Do It ad slogan has been wildly successful. Ours could be, I Read It & Just Do It.

Joh 7:19  Did not Moses give you the law, yet none of you keeps the law? Why do you seek to kill Me?”

Jesus will explain what He meant by “none of you keeps the Law” beginning in verse twenty-one. Before He does, He wants to talk about the elephant in the Temple. The authorities wanted Him dead.

Joh 7:20  The people answered and said, “You have a demon. Who is seeking to kill You?”

Is it woke to say to someone, “You have a demon,” if it’s true? We can’t say “crazy,” or “insane” anymore.

Joh 7:21  Jesus answered and said to them, “I did one work, and you all marvel.

We deduce from verse twenty three that the “one work” was the healing of the lame man at the Pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath.

These Jewish authorities never missed the opportunity to criticize. They would have loved blogging. Have you noticed how critical everyone is on the Internet? It seems to empower the worst in us.

Joh 7:22  Moses therefore gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath.
Joh 7:23  If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath, so that the law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath?

Certain laws overrule others. Jesus offered the command for circumcision as the prime example. The child must be circumcised on the eighth day of life. When the eighth day fell on a Sabbath, the command to circumcise took priority.

It was the Jews who were not “keeping the law” by refusing to do good on the Sabbath.

Joh 7:24  Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”

Jesus only appeared to be violating the Sabbath. In fact, He was keeping it as it was intended, making people whole.

We are told in the New Testament that Jesus comes “in the volume of the book” (Hebrews 10:7). One of the things that means is that He has dispelled all the shadows of the Old Testament.

One of the problems that the writer of Hebrews was dealing with was Jews returning to Judaism in order to alleviate persecution. Living in the shadows was not the solution. They must embrace the substance and receive the empowering of grace sufficient to endure.

Shadows are a danger to us all. The apostle Paul describes the tendency among believers, all of whom begin in the Spirit, to attempt to live the Christian life in the energy of their flesh.

We retreat to the shadows of legalism or traditions or intellectualism or programs or methods. We trust in material resources rather than spiritual.
We must become convinced that we are complete in Jesus, having all we need for life and godly living. It is our uncertainty about this that makes the shadows so appealing.

Listen to these trustworthy saints:

A.W. Tozer writes, “The Spirit-filled life is not a special, deluxe edition of Christianity. It is part and parcel of the total plan of God for His people.”

Oswald Chambers writes, “When it is a question of God’s almighty Spirit, never say, ‘I can’t.’ ”

The almighty Spirit; the Spirit-filled life. You have the first, therefore you can live the second.

God’s Almighty Spirit tabernacles in each believer. He tabernacles in our church.
If you are saved, He is in you. He is among us right now, saved or not.

How would your life look if you were walking in the power of the Holy Spirit, with what Christians like to call victory? To paraphrase Aerosmith, “Walk that Way.”

Prophecy Update #695 – Crispr Critters

Tim La Haye once said, “Prophecy is not so difficult that we can’t understand it, or else God would not have put it into Scripture. There has never been a more urgent time when God’s people have needed to know His wonderful plan for the future, and it can be found in the one book that tells us the truth about eternity – the Bible.”

We reserve a few minutes to discuss current trends that you’d expect from reading Bible prophecy.

We are futurists. We interpret all unfulfilled prophetic passages as future events that will occur in a literal, physical, apocalyptic, and global context.

Biometrics, Artificial Intelligence, cashless commerce, the manipulation of human DNA, global government, the exponential growth of human knowledge, and the rebirth of national Israel are End Times phenomena the Bible predicts. All of these are increasingly trending in the news.

In His prophetic sermon we call the Olivet Discourse, Jesus said the End Times would be like the days of Noah.

Jesus specifically referenced the strange marriages in the days of Noah.

In Genesis chapter six we’re told that certain fallen angels were marrying human women.

Their offspring were called Nephilim. They were a race of giants.

The angels mating with human females were able to affect and alter human DNA to produce this weird race. It was an attempt to destroy humanity at a genetic level.

We are told that Noah was “a just man, and perfect in his generations.” The word “perfect” does not mean sinless, but complete or whole. It is used to describe health and physical condition.  From this we infer that Noah was chosen to carry on and to restart humanity after the flood, because his genetic blood line and ancestry were 100% human.

We should expect a trend towards the manipulation of DNA that will alter
what it means to be human.

We have previously discussed the gene-editing tool known as Crispr that allows researchers to make precise changes to almost any element of DNA, permanently altering cellular biochemistry. It could help treat tens of thousands of diseases linked to variations in a single gene and lead to the creation of better antibiotics. The latest advancement is called prime editing and is more accurate than older Crispr methods.

Sounds great. It isn’t. Listen to these quotes from secular sources:

“A [big] concern is the prospect of editing germ-line cells, so that altered DNA gets passed on to future generations, forever changing our collective human genome.”

“Bioethicists warn the biggest risks from Crispr and other gene-editing techniques won’t be unfortunate physical side effects, but cultural risks of another kind entirely, as the technology could irreversibly alter our experience of being human… The risks are staggering, and probably beyond our capacity even to imagine.”

“As science advances, biologists may well learn how to use gene editing to improve traits like intelligence, beauty and physical endurance, even though these depend on many genes, not just one. This could forever change the relationship between parents and their children, who might become more like manufactured products, their character shaped entirely by parental choice, subject to pressures of fashion and marketing. The best such technology won’t be cheap, and it would likely increase the gap between haves and have-nots.”

“This is the threat posed by technology that is capable of rapidly changing the human genome.”

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2019/11/26/commentary/world-commentary/gene-editing-might-alter-dna-destroy-humanity/

We aren’t predicting anything. We are pointing out that what Jesus predicted about the Days of Noah is exactly what we see trending in the world.
We believe the resurrection and rapture of the church are imminent. It could happen any moment; nothing needs to happen before it. It will happen before the Great Tribulation.

Jesus will return in the clouds.
He will raise the dead in Christ.
He will transform the bodies of living believers to glorified, resurrection bodies.

We will all join Him in Heaven while the earth endures one final seven-year campaign of severe evangelism.

Are you ready for the rapture? If not, Get ready; Stay ready; Keep looking up.

Ready or not, Jesus is coming!

No One’s Ever Really Gone (Genesis 25:1-18)

In The Last Jedi, the Skywalkers and company deal with passing the torch from the older generation, who are dying off, to the younger, amidst significant family drama. In the movie, Luke Skywalker famously says, “No one’s ever really gone.” That may have been a screenwriter’s attempt at being profound, or it may simply be that Disney wants to be able to bring back any marketable character when necessary.

Our text tonight catalogs the death of two characters and the passing of the torch to the next generation. Of course, we Christians already know that death is not the end. That is a truth that secular science is once again starting to admit. Recently the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences published a piece examining rarely-studied phenomena at the time of physical death.[1]https://nyaspubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/nyas.14740

Though clinical death is marked as the moment the heart stops beating, brain signals continue for a time after cardiac arrest.[2]https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/when-are-we-really-dead-new-study-sheds-light?c=444988160808#Accidental-discovery “Researchers found the presence of gamma activity and electrical spikes when people are technically dying. This is typically a sign of a heightened state of consciousness.”[3]https://www.braintomorrow.com/2022/04/08/near-death-brain-activity/ The lead author of the piece writes, “The advent of [CPR] showed us that death is not an absolute state.”

The Bible reveals that death is not an absolute state. It is a passageway from this life to the next – the ultimate life, where we are gathered together among one of two groups. Tonight, Abraham and Ishmael are both “gathered” into the afterlife, while the family lives on and God’s work continues.

Genesis 25:1 – Abraham had taken another wife, whose name was Keturah,

Who is Keturah and where did she come from? When did she and Abraham get together? We’re not told any of these details. Scholars fight it out over whether she came on the scene before Sarah died or after, and over whether Abraham should’ve been in a relationship with her or not. But the text does not comment on it. Apparently it’s not important for us to know, or perhaps it’s simply better for us to meditate on the situation and have the Lord speak to us through it.

Should Paul have allowed John Mark to go with him on another missionary journey or should Barnabas not have invited him? The Holy Spirit doesn’t take a side in the text, so we assume that there are things we can learn from either perspective. In a similar way, the Bible doesn’t endorse or condemn Abraham’s relationship with Keturah. It simply gives us something to think about.

Genesis 25:2-4 – 2 and she bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah. 3 Jokshan fathered Sheba and Dedan. Dedan’s sons were the Asshurim, Letushim, and Leummim. 4 And Midian’s sons were Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abida, and Eldaah. All these were sons of Keturah.

A few of the names are recognizable – Midian, as well as Sheba and Dedan who show up especially in the book of Ezekiel. Asshurim here is not the Assyrians we meet later in the Old Testament.

There are 16 descendants listed. And in them we see a literal fulfillment of some of the promises God had made to Abraham. He had told Abraham that He would multiply him greatly and that many nations would come from Abraham.[4]Genesis 17:2, 5 That has been proven true. In fact, in this passage we see at leasts 6 specific promises that were truly and literally fulfilled for Abraham. There are the promise of multiplication and many nations, but also that Abraham would live to old age,[5]Genesis 15:15 that even though he would produce many nations, his truest offspring would be traced through Isaac,[6]Genesis 21:12 that Isaac would be his heir,[7]Genesis 15:4 that Ishmael would produce 12 tribal leaders,[8]Genesis 17:20 and that Ishmael would settle near his relatives.[9]Genesis 16:2 All these promises were specifically made and particularly fulfilled.

God really keeps His promises! Not halfway. He doesn’t move the goal posts. He never fakes us out. He keeps all He has promised for this world, for Israel, for you, and for me.

Keturah’s descendants settled in places we identify today as Arabia and Syria.[10]See Waltke, Kidner And some of them would have dealings with the children of Israel, generally acting in hostility toward them.

Genesis 25:5-6 – 5 Abraham gave everything he owned to Isaac. 6 But Abraham gave gifts to the sons of his concubines, and while he was still alive he sent them eastward, away from his son Isaac, to the land of the East.

In verse 1 Keturah is called a wife, but her legal status was that of a concubine, which means her offspring would not have any right to inheritance.[11]Genesis 25:6, 1 Chronicles 1:32 We feel weird about that, but our modern view on family is different than it was in previous generations, really up to even the recent past.

For example: I was surprised to learn that until 1969 in Germany, children born out of wedlock weren’t even legally considered to be related to their father. As far as the law was concerned, they had a right to sustenance, but not to inheritance.[12]Josué J. Justel The Rights Of A Concubine’s Descendants In The Ancient Near East

Now, admittedly, in the Old Testament we are heartbroken when we see parents playing favorites with their kids. Isaac loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob. It’s not a good thing in light of how God has taught us to love now that Christ has come and given us a new perspective on what it means to be a loving human being – what it means to be a spouse and a parent and a new creation in Christ.

At the same time, we recognize that the Old Testament is the story of God’s faithfulness to deliver the Messiah. There’s a lot more to learn, but that is the great theme of the Bible: God reconciling man to Himself by sending His Son. He did so through a specific nation which came from a specific family which bottlenecked down to one guy from time to time. Abraham was one guy. Isaac was one guy. And our enemy the Devil has wanted to derail the work of God from the beginning. Throughout the centuries, there has been a concerted effort to destroy that one, specific family through whom the Lord would bring the Messiah. And so, it was important that Isaac be protected and preserved. These other sons might threaten Isaac or be incentivized to attack him.

Now, on a devotional level, this sending away of Keturah’s sons gives us at least four things to think about. First, we are reminded that God the Father does not owe us anything. These sons had no claim on anything that belonged to Abraham. And that would not have been a surprise to them.

You and I deserve nothing from God but to be sent away from His presence. In fact, that leads us to our second devotional thought: In the end, there are those who seem like they are children of God, but the Lord will ultimately say to them, “I never knew you, depart from Me, you lawbreakers.”[13]Matthew 7:21-24 Many will play the part, but in reality are not members of the new covenant given by Jesus. Just as these sons of Keturah were not covenant sons and so were sent away, so too, those who do not do the will of the Father in heaven will be sent away from the Kingdom, denied heaven’s inheritance.

But, that leads us to the third devotional thought: Consider what God has done for sinners. We were like the these sons. We have no right to heaven. We should be sent far from the presence of the Father because only the true Son of Promise deserves the glory. But, God, in His grace, has adopted us. He redeemed us and adopted us by His good pleasure![14]Galatians 4:5, Ephesians 1:5 You see, in the ancient world, when a father adopted a son he had with a slave or a concubine, then they were legitimized and made heirs of the household. Then they were made citizens of the city and given access to those things they had no right to claim for themselves.[15]Justel No longer were they slaves, no longer were they outcasts, they were now family members who enjoyed inheritance. This is what God has done through us, not in spite of His only begotten Son, but with full participation with the Son.

And the fourth devotional thought here: God gives us everything but still has more to give. I love how it’s phrased: Abraham gave everything he owned to Isaac and he still gave gifts to these other sons. God’s supplies of grace and peace and wisdom and help cannot be exhausted. He gives to the full and then keeps giving. He gives us everything that is required for life and godliness and we can continually supplement our faith day by day with the more that He gives.

Genesis 25:7 – 7 This is the length of Abraham’s life: 175 years.

I was thinking about these long lifespans in the Old Testament. Young earth creationists give the earth an age of about 6,000 years.[16]https://answersingenesis.org/age-of-the-earth/how-old-is-the-earth/ Abraham lived for 3% of that time. Adam lived for 15% of the entire history of earth!

We tend to think God is taking too much time to accomplish His promises. But the days of our lives really are a vapor in comparison to the unending span of eternity. Paul tenderly reminds us that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.[17]Romans 8:18 God is not slow or slack, He’s right on time.

When Abraham died, Isaac was 75 and his twin boys (Jacob and Esau) were 15.

Genesis 25:8 – 8 He took his last breath and died at a good old age, old and contented, and he was gathered to his people.

Sometimes we talk about a person going out “in a blaze of glory.” Abraham went out in a blaze of contentment. Your version may simply say “full” with ‘of years’ in italics, meaning that was added by translators. What made his life full and contented? It was the Lord! Because Abraham walked with God and kept his heart near to the Lord, God was able to bring great things to Abraham’s life and through his life. In chapter 24, Moses wrote that the Lord had blessed him in every way. Even unbelievers looked at his life and said, “God is obviously with you, helping you in everything you do.”[18]Genesis 21:22 That’s what gave a vulnerable nomad peace in an unpredictable world. He made mistakes, he made miscalculations, but he walked with God, and God led him to fullness and contentment.

Commentators point out an important theological idea in this verse. Abraham was not buried with his ancestors – only Sarah was in that tomb – so “gathered to his people” means there is a life after this one. Abraham took one last breath in 2,000 B.C., Canaan and woke in eternity. Awaiting him were Adam and Noah and Abel, the very first inhabitant in that abode we call Hades. It must have been an interesting moment, because that place where Abraham went was named after him! Sometimes when people die we name auditoriums or hospital wings or stretches of freeway in their honor. Abraham got down to Paradise and someone would’ve told him, “Welcome to Abraham’s bosom! Let us show you around!”

It speaks to us of how much care God takes to prepare a place for us. You and I may not have a chamber named after us in eternity, but on the other hand, we might! God does not love and reward us generically. He has a deep, personal, individualized affection for us. In Revelation 21 we’re told that the names of the Apostles are written on the foundations of the city walls in the New Jerusalem. We need to not think less of God’s love for us and His future plans for us.

Genesis 25:9-10 – 9 His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah near Mamre, in the field of Ephron son of Zohar the Hethite. 10 This was the field that Abraham bought from the Hethites. Abraham was buried there with his wife Sarah.

I wish we knew more about this dynamic. At age 89, Ishmael, the exile, returns to join with Isaac in burying their dad. The other sons do not seem to be there. By this point, Ishmael was an established clan leader. Perhaps he arrived with an entourage, whereas Isaac had only a wife and two teenage boys who don’t get along very well.

Genesis 25:11 – 11 After Abraham’s death, God blessed his son Isaac, who lived near Beer-lahai-roi.

After Abraham’s death, I’m guessing Isaac felt a little exposed. From one perspective he was weakest among the brothers. The ‘second son’ who usurped the firstborn. He was no archer, he had never battled against Chedorlaomer. He had no face-to-face meals with the Angel of the Lord. But we don’t have to worry about building ourselves. Instead we walk with the Lord and He strengthens us and blesses us in whatever ways He knows we need.

Genesis 25:12 – 12 These are the family records of Abraham’s son Ishmael, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s slave, bore to Abraham.

We’re reminded of several things here. First, that Ishmael was not who God had appointed for His purposes. Ishmael represents for us the work of the flesh – man’s scheme to do God’s work for Him.

Second, we’re reminded that even though he was the son of the slave, God had not failed to reach out to him. God involved Himself in Ishmael’s life. He saved his life there in the desert. He did not reserve grace only for Isaac, but showered it on Ishmael as well.

There is common grace God pours out on all people. Jesus said, “God causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” God is a God of unfailing grace and goodness, even to the undeserving. That doesn’t mean everyone receives His saving grace – that is received through faith in Jesus. But God shows kindness to unbelievers as well.

Genesis 25:13-16 – 13 These are the names of Ishmael’s sons; their names according to the family records are Nebaioth, Ishmael’s firstborn, then Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, 14 Mishma, Dumah, Massa, 15 Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah. 16 These are Ishmael’s sons, and these are their names by their settlements and encampments: twelve leaders, of their clans.

The prophecy that Ishmael would father 12 tribal leaders was literally fulfilled. God is in charge of the flow of human history, the rise and fall of clans and kingdoms. That does not negate free will, but God knows and, in many cases, has reported to us future history. His will cannot fail.

Genesis 25:17-18 – 17 This is the length of Ishmael’s life: 137 years. He took his last breath and died, and was gathered to his people. 18 And they settled from Havilah to Shur, which is opposite Egypt as you go toward Asshur. He stayed near all his relatives.

Will we see Ishmael in eternity? I’m not sure. It causes us to think about where we will be gathered when we pass from this life to the next. There are only two peoples we can be gathered to: The saved and the lost. It gives our lives great purpose to consider where we’re headed and how we want to be received when we get there. Do we want to be saved “as through fire?” No. We want that fullness of contentment and reward that God wants for us. We want to finish well, the way Abraham finished well.

We seem to live in a time when many Christians are not finishing well, at least not many prominent Christians. It’s not necessarily an easy thing to do, but it should be a natural development as we walk with the Lord. Or, really I should say, it should be the expected supernatural culmination of our lives as we follow the Lord and submit to His guidance and commands.

When we go the way of Abraham, we can take great comfort in the facts that life greater than we’ve ever known is waiting for us on the other side and that we can trust God to care for those loved ones we leave behind. He always got more to give to us, He keeps His promises, He will lead us home at gather us into glory at just the right time.

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 https://nyaspubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/nyas.14740
2 https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/when-are-we-really-dead-new-study-sheds-light?c=444988160808#Accidental-discovery
3 https://www.braintomorrow.com/2022/04/08/near-death-brain-activity/
4 Genesis 17:2, 5
5 Genesis 15:15
6 Genesis 21:12
7 Genesis 15:4
8 Genesis 17:20
9 Genesis 16:2
10 See Waltke, Kidner
11 Genesis 25:6, 1 Chronicles 1:32
12 Josué J. Justel The Rights Of A Concubine’s Descendants In The Ancient Near East
13 Matthew 7:21-24
14 Galatians 4:5, Ephesians 1:5
15 Justel
16 https://answersingenesis.org/age-of-the-earth/how-old-is-the-earth/
17 Romans 8:18
18 Genesis 21:22

The Newness Of The Spirit (Sunrise 2022)

The Christian life is one of discovery. As we walk with Christ the Holy Spirit through His word reveals to us our new position and power in Christ by grace.

Paul in Ephesians 1:17-20 prayed,

17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him,
18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,
19 what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power
20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places,

The moment you put your faith in the gospel you were spiritually placed in Christ. In Christ we have blessings, a glorious hope, an inheritance, and the exceeding greatness of God’s power, which is the indwelling Holy Spirit, the one that raised Christ from the dead.

As we read the Bible we discover our position, apply that truth and walk in the truth.

This was Paul’s focus in Romans 6:3-6 when he said,

3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?
4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection,
6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.

The believer has been positionally identified with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection and therefore we can have power over sin and walk in the newness of life.

Paul in Romans 7:1-6 gives us another illustration, interpretation and application of our freedom and power because of our new position in Christ.

First in verses 1-3 we see the illustration.

1 Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives?

Paul begins this question as he did the question in Romans 6:3. Do you not know? Both illustrations being presented would have been common knowledge to believers in Rome.

The common knowledge was regarding the jurisdiction law in general. These believers knew that laws were only binding on a person as long as they were alive, once a person died they were free from the obligations of the law.

A dead person does not have to pay taxes, or fulfill their civic duty to report for jury duty.

Paul narrows his focus to Jewish marriage law in verses 2-3.

2 For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband.

Paul looks at Israeli marriage law from the perspective of a Jewish woman. I’m told by Jewish scholars that in Israel a women had no right to divorce her husband, only the husband could divorce his wife if he found some uncleanness in her.

This being the case the law bound the wife to her husband as long as he was alive. Once the husband died the widow was free from that marriage law and could go and marry another man.

3 So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man.

The wife was to obey the law not only for conscience sake, it was a capital offense under Jewish law for a women to be convicted of adultery.

But if the husband dies, the wife was free from both the obligation and therefore the curse of marrying another man.

Second in verse 4-6 we see the interpretation and application of Paul’s marriage illustration.

4 Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.

The word therefore indicates that Paul in now interpreting and applying this illustration..

Notice Paul says nothing in verses 4-6 about marriage and divorce. This passage is not addressing the principles of marriage and divorce for believers, it’s only an illustration our freedom and blessings in Christ.

The focus of this illustration is the individual believer, those who come to faith in Christ through the gospel.

The old husband who died refers to our life before Christ when we were controlled by our flesh and dominated by our sin nature that we inherited from Adam.

The law refers to the law of Moses, the Old Covenant that the Jews were under until the death and resurrection of Christ.

The wife represents the believer who has a new relationship with the law and a living and powerful relationship with Christ.

5 For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death,

Paul in this verse describes our life before Christ and why we needed to be delivered from the Old Covenant.

We were in the flesh. Before we came to Christ we were controlled by the sinful impulses of our human mind, emotions and body. We were slaves to our lusts and had no power over them because our the old man, our sin nature lorded over us and dominated our lives.

Notice Paul included himself as those who were in the flesh. Even Saul of Tarsus the devote Pharisee was in the flesh before he was saved through the gospel.

The law could not save Saul, but only reveal his sin and a need for God’s grace and righteousness. Paul describes his experiences under the in verses 7-12.

The law could only restrict outward behavior, it could not bring inward transformation and power to keep the law. Rather than bring life, the law revealed that the Jew was dead in trespasses.

The law also provoked the sin nature and made it want to sin more. The law said, “you shall not,” but the sin nature said, “oh yes I will.” The Law said, “you shall,” the sin nature said, “I will not.”

Our life before Christ can be summarized in the words flesh, sin, law, death.

6 But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.

The believer in Christ has been delivered from the law, that held us or bound us to the flesh. The believers deliverance came in their identification with Christ on the cross.

Paul in Galatians 2:19-20 said,

19 For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God.
20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

The believer through the gospel has died to the law and therefore has been delivered from the Old Covenant. The word delivered does not mean the law has been destroyed or annihilated, it means to render inoperative.

The believer in Christ like the wife illustrated in verses 1-3 is free from the written code and that bound us to the old life. The believer is now a new creation in Christ, raised to the newness of life, so we can walk in the newness of the Spirit.
The newness can be seen in our new intimate relationship with Christ, standing under grace, and empowering by the Holy Spirit.

First newness of the Spirit speaks of a new intimate relationship with Christ.

Under the Old Covenant there was a priesthood, temple, ritual, ceremonies. The believer in the Old Testament was bound to the letter of the law, today in Christ we have been freed from the law to enjoy a new intimate relationship with a resurrected bridegroom.

Christianity is a love relationship with Christ, we serve Christ with the same love and excitement that lovers express during their engagement.

We live in expectancy and preparation for our wedding day. Jesus went to prepare a place for us and promised He would come again to receive us to Himself (John 14:2-3).

Second newness of the Spirit speaks of our new standing under grace.

Paul in Romans 6:14 says, For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

The law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. When God lead Israel out of Egypt by Moses He lead them to Mount Sinai.

At Mount Sinai God established a conditional covenant with Israel and gave them His law. God said if Israel obey His law they would be blessed, but if they disobeyed His law they would be judged and cursed.

The history of the Old Testament reveals that when Israel kept the law they were blessed, but they often did not, and therefore were placed under the judgement by God.

During the days of the Prophets when Israel was failing to keep the law God through the Prophet Isaiah, Ezekiel and Jeremiah promised a New Covenant that would take the place of the temporary Old Covenant, the law. The New Covenant would be unconditional, based on God’s grace alone.

Jesus at His first coming offered to the nation of Israel the blessing of the New Covenant and His Kingdom, but Israel rejected His offer.

On His last night with His disciples took the bread and cup and instituted the Lord’s supper. Jesus took the cup and told His disciples that it was the blood of the New Covenant (Luk 22:20). Christ through on the cross signed, sealed and inaugurated the New Covenant with His death.

The New Covenant was promised to Israel and will be fulfilled with Israel at Christ’s second coming after the Tribulation, at this time all Israel will be saved (Rom.11:25-27)

Until then, all who are in Christ through the gospel are partakers of the spiritual blessings of the Jewish covenants.

One aspect of this blessing is we do not relate to God by the works of the law but we stand in grace.

Paul in Romans 5:1-2 says,
1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Paul in Romans 8:1 says, There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

There is no condemnation for the born again believer since we’re not under the law, but under grace. In Christ we are justified, declared righteous. The believer serves because we are blessed, not in order to be blessed as before under the law.

Third the newness of the Spirit speaks of our new power to walk in righteousness because of the permanent indwelling Holy Spirit.

Every covenant had a sign or token. The token of God’s covenant with Noah was the rainbow, with Abraham was circumcision, the Old Covenant (law) was the Sabbath Day. The New Covenant’s sign is the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Ezekiel 36:25-27 speaking of the New Covenant says,
25 Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.
26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
27 I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.

Jesus was amazed that Nicodemus one of the leading Jewish scholars did not know that he needed to be born again. Only through water and the Spirit could he enter the Kingdom of God.

Water and the spirit does not refer to water baptism, but the cleansing from sin and regeneration by the Spirit that Ezekiel 36 promised. This work comes to all believe in Christ because of His death, resurrection and ascension to the right hand of the Father.

Paul speaking of the gospel of grace said in 2 Corinthians 3:5-6,

5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God,
6 who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Through faith in the gospel the believer receives the blessing of the permanent indwelling Holy Spirit.

People often make picture collages to remind them of special events or seasons of life.

Here’s a New Testament scripture collage to remind us of the blessing and power of Holy Spirit that we have in Christ.

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches… (Rev.2:7a)…He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified (Joh.7:38-39)… Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you (Joh.16:7.

And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you (Joh.14:16-18)…In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory (Eph 1:13-14)…Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? (1Cor.3:16)… Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? (1 Cor. 6:19)…But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you (Rom.8:11)… Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us (1 Jon 3:24)…and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come (Heb.6:4b-5)…

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (Eph.4:30)… For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death (Rom.8:2)…Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Do not quench the Spirit. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Cor.3:17-18)…I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish (Gal.5:16-17). And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit (Gal.5:24-25).

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law (Gal.5:22-23)…(for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord (Eph.5:9-10)…In sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ (1Pet.1:2b) There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit (1 Cor.12:4)… But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all (1 Cor.12:7)…But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills (1 Cor.12:11)…Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them (Rom.12:6a)…

But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit (Jud.1:20)…Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God (Rom.8:26-27)…And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God (Eph.5:18-21)…

And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God (1 Cor. 2:1-5)…”EYE HAS NOT SEEN, NOR EAR HEARD, NOR HAVE ENTERED INTO THE HEART OF MAN THE THINGS WHICH GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM.”But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual (1 Cor. 2:9-13)…

But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him (1 Jon.2:27)…But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you (Jon.14:26)… “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me (Jon15:26)… and when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment (Jon.16:8)…However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you (Jon.16:13-15)…

Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high (Luk.24:49)…for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now (Act.1:5)… But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth (Act.1:8)…This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?— Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? (Gal.3:2-3)…He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (Rev.3:22)”

Since Christ died, rose again and ascended into Heaven God has given His Holy Spirit to those who believe the gospel. The believer is not to rely on the works of the flesh, but we are to abide in and depend on the indwelling Holy Spirit.

In closing, the Christian life is one of discovery. God reveals to us through His word our position and power in Christ. The believer is to reckon these to be true and then respond by walking in faith.

As we walk in the word and the Spirit we’ll be like trees planted by rivers of water, that bring forth their fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever you do shall prosper (Ps.1:3).

The Runaway Bride (Genesis 24:1-28)

Every year, around 10,000 mail-order bride marriages occur in the United States.[1]https://healthresearchfunding.org/17-incredible-mail-order-brides-statistics/ Maybe, like me, you didn’t know that in 2005 the US instituted the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act. One news article trying to put a positive spin on this practice wrote, “The idea that men are buying women and the women have no say and no free will is not true. The mail order brides are very much in control – or at least, they should know what they’re doing.”[2]https://www.wytv.com/news/daybreak/mail-order-brides-are-a-real-thing/ Not very reassuring.

Genesis 24 gives us the longest, single episode in this book.[3]Bruce Waltke Genesis: A Commentary It tells the saga of Abraham’s servant leaving Canaan to find a wife for Isaac. As we go with him, we’re swept away in a story about God’s fabulous providence, human faith, and the hard tensions we face when seeking the will of God.

Genesis 24:1 – Abraham was now old, getting on in years,, and the Lord had blessed him in everything.

What does it mean to be blessed? At 140, Abraham was wealthy – he had a great house with servants and riches and flocks and all that – but the best blessings of his life were spiritual. He was the friend of God. Being blessed didn’t mean that Abraham continually got more of everything. After all, he still only had one son and he didn’t own any of the land other than a single field and tomb. God’s blessing for us isn’t necessarily more stuff. Psalm 1 describes a blessed life as one that is continually growing in understanding of the Lord and His ways – one full of heavenly success.

Genesis 24:2-4 – 2 Abraham said to his servant, the elder of his household who managed all he owned, “Place your hand under my thigh, 3 and I will have you swear by the Lord, God of heaven and God of earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites among whom I live, 4 but will go to my land and my family to take a wife for my son Isaac.”

In this text, the focus is on this nameless servant, sent out by the father to do his duty on behalf of the son. He is a wonderful type for us of our own service to the Lord. He’s a fantastic example of how to serve faithfully, expectantly, prayerfully, and effectively, while also having to navigate real-life tensions we face in the exercise of Christian faith.

It’s essential to Abraham that Isaac not marry a Canaanite woman. Once again Genesis gives a subtle teaching on Biblical marriage: Don’t marry outside the family. Of course, we’re applying these examples on the spiritual level. In First Corinthians Paul says, “[a woman] is free to be married to anyone she wants – only in the Lord,”[4]1 Corinthians 7:39 meaning only a born again Christian. You single people looking for a spouse, stay within the spiritual family of Christians, don’t settle for a Canaanite. It won’t go well for you.

We notice two things about this commission Abraham gives his servant. First, the master invests a great deal of authority in him. He lets the servant act as his agent, going in his name, on a very significant quest. We’ve, too, have been given great authority to go in the name of the Lord and do His will. You may feel unqualified, you may have a lot of questions, like this servant did, but the Master is confident that you are adequate to do what He has asked you to do. And He provides guidance and principles to direct you in your efforts.

Second, this commission would be a long haul. The servant would be traveling over 450 miles,[5]Bible Knowledge Commentary down new roads with lots of uncertainty along the way. The Christian life can be described the same. It’s a long road, but the Master knows the way, He knows where we’re headed and so we have to follow His guidance in order to get where we need to go.

Genesis 24:5 – 5 The servant said to him, “Suppose the woman is unwilling to follow me to this land? Should I have your son go back to the land you came from?”

One of the things I enjoy about this servant is that he’s a regular guy with honest questions. He’s not cynical, but he’s also not unrealistic about what might happen. He’s thoughtfully working through the situation. But he’s also full of faith. He believes in the quest. He believes God will go before him. He believes God answers prayer and directs and will provide. Even here we see his faith. He calls this mystery bride “the woman.” He believes there is a specific woman whom God has prepared for Isaac and one that he (the servant) will be able to identify.

But he also acknowledges that human beings are free to choose. “What if she is unwilling?” She might say no to his offer, just as those we go out to fetch into God’s Kingdom might say no to us.

Genesis 24:6 – 6 Abraham answered him, “Make sure that you don’t take my son back there.

Another translation puts it this way: “Watch yourself!”[6]Robert Alter The Hebrew Bible: A Translation With Commentary Abraham is very serious about Isaac not leaving the promised land.

We need to think about what God prioritizes in our lives. Those priorities will often not be in the same order that we naturally place things. For example: Does God prioritize your school district over which church He wants you to be a part of? Which is more important to Him: Your neighborhood or your workplace? I can’t answer that for you, because those answers will vary from person to person and I’m not the Holy Spirit. But, we see that, in this case, it would be better for Isaac to not have a wife than to leave the promised land to get one. God has priorities for you. And you are responsible to discover what they are.

Genesis 24:7-8 – 7 The Lord, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from my native land, who spoke to me and swore to me, ‘I will give this land to your offspring’—he will send his angel before you, and you can take a wife for my son from there. 8 If the woman is unwilling to follow you, then you are free from this oath to me, but don’t let my son go back there.”

It’s clear Abraham believes in God’s providence, but does not believe in what is called “meticulous determinism.” God is not forcing humans to do the things they do. We are free moral agents and God is so sovereign and so powerful that He is able to both do His will and allow for us to choose. To those determinists who say our view of free will limits the sovereignty of God, we would answer, that they limit the power of God, not to mention the goodness, justice, and mercy of God.

There is wonderful comfort in verse 7. When God calls us into service, He goes before us. That’s why it’s so important that we concern ourselves with where He’s leading us individually. Abraham had lots of servants. Only a few were meant to be about this particular business.

Christians today have endless opportunities and ideas of how we might serve God. That’s great. But what’s good is for us to go where He’s sent us, where He’s leading us. We see this very clearly in Acts. Paul and friends try very hard to get into Asia, which is a great idea, except it’s not what God wanted these guys to be doing. Instead, He’s wanted them in Greece, where the Lord had gone before them to accomplish a specific and timely work. Paul was Godly enough to do what the Lord wanted instead of what he wanted and the result is that the Gospel was brought to Europe.

In verse 7 we have a gentle reminder of God’s gracious work in our lives. He brought us out of the household of sin and into the Kingdom of Promise. He’s the God who speaks to us and swears to us by His love. And now He sends us back into the world to invite others out, that they might be brought into the household of faith, too.

Genesis 24:9 – 9 So the servant placed his hand under his master Abraham’s thigh and swore an oath to him concerning this matter.

There was a lot of tension here. The servant has a great responsibility. The trip would be challenging. They had big expectations, but, in the end, they recognize that the woman might refuse to join the family. Along the way there would be many unknowns. So, the servant would need to stay focused and alert and keep his master’s directions in mind.

Maybe the servant found himself thinking, “This is never going to work. This is impossible.” It probably felt that way at certain points. We feel that way sometimes as we try to follow the Lord and obey our duties in the Christian life. In those moments remember that God goes before us and remember that God rewards those who seek Him, He will make your paths straight, and everything is possible for the one who believes.[7]Hebrews 11:6, Proverbs 3:5-6, Mark 9:23

Genesis 24:10 – 10 The servant took ten of his master’s camels, and with all kinds of his master’s goods in hand, he went to Aram-naharaim, to Nahor’s town.

Your translation may say he took, “all his master’s goods,” but what is meant was all sorts. It could be read this way, “Every good thing of his master was in his hand.”[8]NET Study Bible NotesNET Study Bible Notes God has not only sent us out in His name and with great authority, He sends us out with unyielding heavenly supplies. You and I have all kinds of our Master’s goods, not to be hoarded, but used and delivered to others.

Genesis 24:11 – 11 At evening, the time when women went out to draw water, he made the camels kneel beside a well outside the town.

The servant was practical. The goal was to find a wife, so he went where women would be found. Practicality doesn’t make us less faith-filled. Being Spirit-led doesn’t mean we’re not thoughtful and that we’re just weirdly mystical all the time. But, neither should we try to manufacture ministry and then claim God did it. What does the servant do? The entourage finally makes it to where they want to go and then he says, “Now we wait.” I think it may have been a comical scene trying to hold back 10 thirsty camels from drinking when they’re at a well. But he wants to be in step with God’s providence, not getting out ahead, and so they wait.

Genesis 24:12-14 – 12 “Lord, God of my master Abraham,” he prayed, “make this happen for me today, and show kindness to my master Abraham. 13 I am standing here at the spring where the daughters of the men of the town are coming out to draw water. 14 Let the girl to whom I say, ‘Please lower your water jug so that I may drink,’ and who responds, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels also’—let her be the one you have appointed for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.”

Should we pray this way? We see this passage as a type of how we’re to serve the Lord. We see these great principles working themselves out through this faithful man. We admire his reliance on God. And, I’ve suggested that God wants to specifically direct us in our real life choices – things like spouses and where to live and ministries to be a part of. So, should we mimic this style of prayer, asking for tangible proof of what God wants us to choose?

Jesus said, “an evil generation demands a sign.” He said it right after saying “blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it.”[9]Luke 11:28-29 Now, Jesus was speaking specifically to those who didn’t want to believe He was the Messiah – which He obviously was – but He demonstrates a difference between those who have the Word of God to refer to and those who don’t. Abraham’s servant didn’t have the Bible or the indwelling Holy Spirit, Who is given to us as a Counsellor and a Teacher, and convicts us of right and wrong and Who reveals the things of God to us.[10]1 Corinthians 2:9-10

We have these powerful sources of direction which inform our decision-making. But, when choosing between two ‘goods’ – “should I go preach the Gospel in Asia or Macedonia?” – then we’re to go to the Word of God, seek the Spirit of God, and go to prayer, not asking God to jump through hoops but asking Him to give us peace.[11]Philippians 4:6-7 As we choose to love God and honor Him and listen to what He has said, He is then able to conform us and give us the mind of Christ, and we become fuller and fuller with the knowledge of His will, which then gives us all we need to make heavenly decisions that align with God’s desires.

The focus of the servant’s prayer was not, “Lord, let me off the hook and make it easy for me.” It was, “God, I want to do what I’ve been called to do. I’m unable to do it in my own power, so I trust You to be with me and do this great thing to bless my master, his son, and his future bride. Help me that I might be a profitable servant.”

Notice what he prays: Not, “God, bring me the most beautiful woman.” He prays, “Lord, bring me a lady who is full of kindness and compassion – a lady who is willing to serve and bless those around her.” This bride would need to be ready for a strange life, based on faith and service and others.

Genesis 24:15-16 – 15 Before he had finished speaking, there was Rebekah—daughter of Bethuel son of Milcah, the wife of Abraham’s brother Nahor—coming with a jug on her shoulder. 16 Now the girl was very beautiful, a virgin—no man had been intimate with her. She went down to the spring, filled her jug, and came up.

In this case, God’s providence worked out with millisecond precision. Before he finished praying, there she was. That’s incredible! At other points, God’s providence can be put on hold for decades or centuries. His providential work for the nation of Israel is currently on hold, for example. But it will also be accomplished down to the specific day during the time of Jacob’s trouble.

So why pray at all when God’s providence can work this well? Well, the Lord uses human agents to accomplish much of His will. Without prayer, Rebekah would’ve seemed like every other woman at the well. As we seek the Lord, He’s able to reveal His movements and these opportunities that He is working out. God has, in His infinite wisdom, decided to include us in the things that He does. We see that interplay here. This incredible, miraculous providence is happening in conjunction with a willing servant who took the long trip and made himself available.

Genesis 24:17 – 17 Then the servant ran to meet her and said, “Please let me have a little water from your jug.”

Now, this would’ve been an interesting scene. Because he’s well-stocked for a long trip. He would’ve had water and skins to drink from. They would’ve had all their gear to tend the camels. And Rebekah would’ve seen it. Yet, here he is asking for a drink.

Genesis 24:18 – 18 She replied, “Drink, my lord.” She quickly lowered her jug to her hand and gave him a drink.

Now, he was waiting for her to offer about the camels. But at first, no such offer comes. One commentator points out there is a moment full of pressure.[12]See Alter I wonder, how long did he drink?

Genesis 24:19-20 – 19 When she had finished giving him a drink, she said, “I’ll also draw water for your camels until they have had enough to drink.” 20 She quickly emptied her jug into the trough and hurried to the well again to draw water. She drew water for all his camels

Scholars estimate this likely would’ve been hundreds of gallons of water. Rebekah is bringing back and forth 2,500 pounds from the well to the trough.[13]CSB Study Bible Notes And, remember, she does it all while other servants are just standing around! What a heart she has! Both she and Abraham’s servant give us such great examples of how to honor God in our service with hearts full of faith and humility.

Genesis 24:21 – 21 while the man silently watched her to see whether or not the Lord had made his journey a success.

Wasn’t that obvious? After all, she did the thing he asked for, right? But he still wanted to make sure that it was all in line with what his master had said. She still had to be one of Abraham’s family. The sign had to fit the command. This guy is just a great example of how to balance faith and fidelity to the Word and seeking the Lord and moving forward with thoughtfulness and expectation.

Verse 21 also reminds us that it is the Lord who makes our work a success, not us.

Genesis 24:22-23 – 22 As the camels finished drinking, the man took a gold ring weighing half a shekel, and for her wrists two bracelets weighing ten shekels of gold. 23 “Whose daughter are you?” he asked. “Please tell me, is there room in your father’s house for us to spend the night?”

This is quite a tip for her service – it’d be worth at leasts $7,500 today. Recently, a group of businessmen went to a restaurant planning to each give their waitress a $100 tip. They ended up giving their server $2,200 in gratuity. Great story. Except, then the restaurant fired her for not giving the tip to be pooled among all the wait staff.[14]https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/arkansas-waitress-fired-after-4-400-tip-shows-why-tipping-ncna1286076

Abraham’s servant was very generous, even if Rebekah wasn’t the lady he was hoping for.

Genesis 24:24-25 – 24 She answered him, “I am the daughter of Bethuel son of Milcah, whom she bore to Nahor.” 25 She also said to him, “We have plenty of straw and feed and a place to spend the night.”

What a remarkable lady Rebekah is. She immediately extends hospitality and provision to them. She doesn’t wait for someone else to offer it, she’s ready to welcome these guys. Between her and the other servant we see absolutely no stinginess or covetousness, just warmth and generosity.

Genesis 24:26-27 – 26 Then the man knelt low, worshiped the Lord, 27 and said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not withheld his kindness and faithfulness from my master. As for me, the Lord has led me on the journey to the house of my master’s relatives.”

Our God does not withhold kindness from those who walk with Him. Looking back, Abraham’s servant recognized the incredible providence of God. The tensions of how would he find her and would she say yes and how could it happen were all real, but all dealt with by God’s ability. And so, through this story we see that God can be absolutely trusted to lead you right where you need to go in life. He knows what we need, He knows what is best, He know all the things we can’t possibly know, and His great desire is to include us in His work. As we seek Him and His Kingdom, all these things will be provided for us. God delights to give us His Kingdom. Our part is to be ready for service – to focus our attention on the Word which directs us, to fill our hearts with faith, knowing the Lord has gone before us and wants us to experience His providence, and expect Him to be engaging in our lives in all sorts of ways.

What a mind-blowing series of events this all was. And then…

Genesis 24:28 – 28 The girl ran and told her mother’s household about these things.

Wait! Where are you going? She ran away! This is hilarious. She becomes the original runaway bride. What must the servant be thinking? He’s left at well while Cinderella disappears into the night. For now, we end on the cliffhanger.

You can never tell what might happen next in life, but we know the Lord is with us. So, we can have joy, even when things are out of our control. Our part is to be ready, to serve, to seek the Lord, and to surrender our paths to Him.

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 https://healthresearchfunding.org/17-incredible-mail-order-brides-statistics/
2 https://www.wytv.com/news/daybreak/mail-order-brides-are-a-real-thing/
3 Bruce Waltke Genesis: A Commentary
4 1 Corinthians 7:39
5 Bible Knowledge Commentary
6 Robert Alter The Hebrew Bible: A Translation With Commentary
7 Hebrews 11:6, Proverbs 3:5-6, Mark 9:23
8 NET Study Bible NotesNET Study Bible Notes
9 Luke 11:28-29
10 1 Corinthians 2:9-10
11 Philippians 4:6-7
12 See Alter
13 CSB Study Bible Notes
14 https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/arkansas-waitress-fired-after-4-400-tip-shows-why-tipping-ncna1286076

Fails Of Our Fathers (Joshua 5:1-9)

The Battle of Iwo Jima was a monumental endeavor. Over 100,000 soldiers, sailors, and marines were part of the fight. Though ultimate victory was assumed, it wasn’t going to be easy. The US forces would have no element of surprise[1]https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/pacific-harry-george/ – the enemy knew they were coming. In fact, the Japanese garrison on the island was surprised that no attack came in the summer of 1944. Instead, the onslaught began in February of 1945. That gave the Japanese ample time to dig in and fortify their position, creating miles of underground tunnels, bunkers 75 feet deep,[2]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Iwo_Jima and beach pillboxes whose walls were made of four foot thick, reinforced concrete.[3]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planning_for_the_Battle_of_Iwo_Jima Having that extra time to prepare led to one of the bloodiest battles in American history.

There were other troubles. Coming out of the water, Marines found that the beaches were not as they had been described by the battle planners. There were tall slopes of volcanic ash blocking their advance. And then there was also an issue of personal cargo. One historian writes:

“Marines were trained to move rapidly forward; here they could only plod. The weight and amount of equipment was a terrific hindrance and various items were rapidly discarded. First to go was the gas mask…regarded as an unnecessary trapping.”[4]Derrick Wright Iwo Jima 1945: The Marines Raise the Flag On Mount Suribachi

The Book of Joshua gives us the history of the nation of Israel finally entering into their Promised Land and the battles fought there. Israel’s fighting force was huge, but that doesn’t mean the conquest would be easy. In chapter 5 we see God’s people just after they have crossed the Jordan river. They’ve established a sort of beachhead camp and now all that is left to do is start the invasion. Except, the Lord holds them back and shows them that there is an obstacle they need to deal with. There’s unnecessary weight hindering them that must be shed before they can proceed. It will mean a significant delay, they’ll lose the element of surprise, but in this passage we learn that God cares much more about our closeness with Him than any conquest we’re attempting. Our connection with Him is the most important consideration in any advance, any endeavor, any phase or arena we find ourselves in.

Joshua 5:1 – When all the Amorite kings across the Jordan to the west and all the Canaanite kings near the sea heard how the Lord had dried up the water of the Jordan before the Israelites until they had crossed over, they lost heart and their courage failed because of the Israelites.

Terror had gripped the hearts of the entire land from the mountains to the sea.[5]Marten Woudstra The Book Of Joshua Joshua had sent spies to Jericho to bring back a report and they verified this fearfulness. Through Rehab the Israelites learned that the people of Canaan were in a panic. They knew God had dried up the Red Sea to allow them to cross. They knew that Kings Sihon and Og had already been destroyed with their armies.[6]Joshua 2:9-11 Their courage had failed. But, at least (they thought) they’d have the natural barrier of the Jordan river. It was the time of year when the Jordan flooded, overflowing its banks. But that was no more a barrier than the Red Sea had been. Imagine the fear the scouts of Jericho and the other cities of the land would’ve felt as they watched the hosts of Israel stepping into Canaan, unhindered and months sooner than expected.

These incredible feats caused Rahab to conclude, “Your God is God in heaven above and earth below.” And she pled for mercy. She asked for her life and the lives of her family to be spared.

This opening verse is a good place to pause and address any person listening today who is not a Christian. The God of the Bible is real and He is God of heaven and earth. You may not worship Him, but that doesn’t change the fact that He is true and that He is coming. When He comes, He comes with wrath in His hand to judge the earth. The fate of those who will not believe is just like those in Canaan. You face a battle you cannot win with an unstoppable God – One who is not hindered by rivers or oceans. Human power or fortifications cannot stop the Lord’s coming. And He has promised, very clearly, that He is coming again to save His people and judge His enemies.

Zephaniah 1:18 – 18 Their silver and their gold will be unable to rescue them on the day of the Lord’s wrath. The whole earth will be consumed by the fire of his jealousy, for he will make a complete, yes, a horrifying end of all the inhabitants of the earth.

Romans 2:5-8 – 5 Because of your hardened and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment is revealed. 6 He will repay each one according to his works:, 7 eternal life to those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor, and immortality; 8 but wrath and anger to those who are self-seeking and disobey the truth while obeying unrighteousness.

If you aren’t a Christian, we would plead with you today to be like Rahab. Maybe you know the story. She and her family were the only people in all Jericho who raised a white flag. She talked with the spies from Israel and said, “We see what’s coming. We believe your God is true. Please save us.” And God did. Anyone else in the city could’ve made that choice, but they wouldn’t, and so they perished. Don’t make the same mistake. Today, if you hear His voice, don’t harden your heart.

Joshua 5:2 – 2 At that time the Lord said to Joshua, “Make flint knives and circumcise the Israelite men again.”

Back at the camp there is a delay. Human strategists would’ve said, “We can’t wait. We need to take advantage of this momentum we have.” They had reliable intelligence that enemy morale was completely destroyed. Now was not the time to hesitate, but to rush forward to victory.

But God doesn’t care about any of that. He tells Joshua, “We’re going to be here awhile, because there is a nationwide issue we need to deal with.” All the men needed to be circumcised.

The text says “again,” but that doesn’t mean these fellows had been circumcised before. In fact, it’s explained for us in verses 4 and 5.

Joshua 5:4-5 – 4 This is the reason Joshua circumcised them: All the people who came out of Egypt who were males—all the men of war—had died in the wilderness along the way after they had come out of Egypt. 5 Though all the people who came out were circumcised, none of the people born in the wilderness along the way were circumcised after they had come out of Egypt.

The big question is: Why was this whole generation of men uncircumcised? Some think that, after their fathers had refused to enter the promised land 40 years earlier, God had forbidden it as a symbol that they were breakers of the covenant.[7]Irving Jensen Joshua: Rest-land Won Some suggest that since they had to follow the pillar of cloud around and they never knew when it was going to move, it was impractical to carry out the procedure there in the wilderness.[8]Kenneth Gangel Holman Old Testament Commentary: Joshua Others point to the spiritual indifference of their parents’ generation,[9]Bible Knowledge Commentary which was demonstrated so many times in Exodus. We’re not explicitly told the reason, though disobedience is highlighted in verses 6.

But here is the important thing: After decades of wandering, after crossing the Jordan, after finally stepping foot into that land that had been the focus of God’s promise to Abraham’s descendants for hundreds and hundreds of years, God says, “Wait: We have a spiritual issue we need to address. There’s a gap in your faith that needs to be made right and nothing is more important.”

Using flint knives wasn’t something that God had required of Abraham back when circumcision was first instituted for the Hebrews. It draws our thoughts back to that moment when Moses had set off toward Egypt to be the deliverer, yet he had failed to circumcise his own son. That failure led to a strong reaction from God – God was going to kill Moses, until his wife, Zipporah, took a flint knife and circumcised their boy on the spot. In both cases, the urgency and the opportunity and the significance of what God wanted to do was all secondary to faithful obedience.

The Bible Knowledge Commentary puts it this way: “Consecration must precede conquest. There was some unfinished business and it was spiritual in character. It was time for renewal.”

Spiritual renewal – faithful, obedient devotion to God – is more important than any effort we’re undertaking, even if we’re doing it for the Lord. Put together here, we have this wonderful example of how a living faith in the God of the Bible operates. God sat them down and said, “I see you believe, but your belief in My promises has to work itself out in real life obedience to Me.” They did believe. They crossed the Jordan, they were ready to receive what had been offered to them, but first, they would have to personally obey. Faithfulness is demonstrated in obedient activity. In the New Testament, James puts it this way: Faith without works is dead. Faith without works is useless.[10]James 2:20-26

At the same time, it wasn’t just that God wanted each of these men to do this physical thing and check a box. This was about personal devotion – personal fidelity. God wanted their hearts. This generation of Israelites had been given Deuteronomy, a re-telling of God’s Law and His intentions for them. And again and again the Lord spoke to them about their hearts and filling the heart with the Word of God and following the Lord from the heart. In Deuteronomy 30 we read:

Deuteronomy 30:6 – 6 The Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the hearts of your descendants, and you will love him with all your heart and all your soul so that you will live.

That’s what God wanted. The physical circumcision was the act of a faith that was rooted in the heart. It was an acknowledgement that the spiritual relationship between God and man was the most important part of everything they were doing. Everything else was secondary. Everything else could wait. And this is not just an Old Testament, tribes of Israel principle. This is still the truth for us today. Not that we are to follow the Mosaic Law – Christ fulfilled the Law. We “no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, [we] live under the freedom of God’s grace.”[11]Romans 6:14 NLT But in this Joshua story we learn that the most important objective we have in life is to be in step with the Lord – to be devoted and set apart to Him, obeying what He says not just in thought but in real action.

For the New Testament believer, “circumcision is of the heart—by the Spirit.”[12]Romans 2:29 It means to be a person submitted to the Word of God and in a personal relationship with Him. A relationship where we “worship by the Spirit of God, boast in Christ Jesus, and do not put confidence in the flesh.”[13]Philippians 3:3

That must come before any effort we hope to succeed in. If you want to have meaningful life success in your place in history, in your marriage, in your parenting, in your field of study, in whatever campaign you find yourself, the first consideration is heart circumcision. Because from the heart comes obedience and when we obey, God’s grace works out through our lives in powerful ways that we can not accomplish on our own.

And we can see God’s astounding grace on display in this passage. None of these men were circumcised, the one thing that had designated Hebrews as being members of a covenant with God since the time of Abraham. And yet, even though they were all outside the agreement, even though none of them were even qualified to observe the Passover, still God walked with them. For forty years! He led them and He made the way for them and He did the impossible for them because He loved them so much. When they were faithless, He remained faithful. That is the grace of God. But now they were at a turning point and they were brought to a decision: Would they submit and do what God asked even though it would be difficult and contrary to human wisdom?

Joshua 5:3 – 3 So Joshua made flint knives and circumcised the Israelite men at Gibeath-haaraloth.

There’s no montage here of training the troops or making weapons of war. You always have that in battle movies like Shang-Chi or The Last Samurai or The Two Towers. The only thing that Joshua makes are ceremonial knives. There would be no combat practice, just long days of recovery.

Most of us can think of that image of the flag being raised at Iwo Jima. It’s an incredible image that makes us consider what it cost and what it was for and why it mattered. There’s a symbol like that here in verse 3. The name Gibeath-haaraloth means “Hill of the Foreskins.” According to the census given in Numbers, more than 600,000 men would’ve been circumcised that day.[14]Number 26:51 Though somewhat grotesque, what an incredible testimony this was of their obedience and their faith – a monument to their willingness to cut away that which would put distance between them and the Lord and slow down that which He wanted to accomplish in their lives. A symbol of trust in God.

Joshua 5:6-7 – 6 For the Israelites wandered in the wilderness forty years until all the nation’s men of war who came out of Egypt had died off because they did not obey the Lord. So the Lord vowed never to let them see the land he had sworn to their ancestors to give us, a land flowing with milk and honey. 7 He raised up their sons in their place; it was these Joshua circumcised. They were still uncircumcised, since they had not been circumcised along the way.

It’s striking to see that earlier generation described as “men of war.” The Lord had wanted so much to give them the land and the victories in it. Instead of becoming the men of war God wanted them to be, they became men of complaining, men of grumbling, men of resentment and disbelief. They chose a fleshly way of living with a human mindset instead of trusting the Lord. And so, others were raised up in their place. They fought in a few battles, but they gave away the chance to become the conquest generation.

Their unwillingness to obey the Lord and trust Him resulted in a life of wandering. They ultimately made no progress. They just moved from place to place, wasting year after year of life.

God does not bless those who won’t submit to His leading. In the Proverbs we’re told that to reject God’s wisdom and His commands makes you a fool and a fool wastes any treasure he finds. God isn’t going to help us waste our lives. He wants incredible things for us, but if we refuse Him, then He will raise up others to be used in our place. This was Mordecai’s message to Esther.

Joshua 5:8-9 – 8 After the entire nation had been circumcised, they stayed where they were in the camp until they recovered. 9 The Lord then said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the disgrace of Egypt from you.” Therefore, that place is still called Gilgal today.

This was a time before ice and Tylenol. A few medical sources I consulted put the recovery time between 10 days and 6 weeks. Not only would they lose the element of surprise and give their enemies time to fortify (which they did),[15]Joshua 6:1 they actually became weak and vulnerable, with only God to protect them. From a military planning perspective, this was folly.

Sometimes God’s commands put us in a position like this. But we don’t have to fear being vulnerable in God’s hands. Remember: “God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.”[16]1 Corinthians 1:25 Life isn’t about strategy, it’s about trust.


Any battle strategist would’ve said, “We’ve lost our advantage. It’s going to be much harder now to win a victory because we spent all this time doing something that seems so unimportant.” But, in reality, this was the most important thing they could’ve done. One of the lessons the book of Joshua teaches us is that the only thing that could defeat Israel was Israel. If they sinned, if they forgot God, if they embraced their own wisdom instead of the Lord’s, that was the only thing that could stop what God wanted to do in and through their lives.

The same principle is spiritually for us. No weapon formed against us can succeed. Nothing in the world can overcome us. No temptation is too great for us to withstand. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. But we can fall into traps by failing to believe and obey what He has told us and where He is leading us. When we leave the camp of His grace and go far afield after our own desires and our own strategies and our own destinations, that is when we fall into defeat. When we trust God and stand in His truth, there’s nothing to fear. Because the Lord’s strength is vast and with it He prepares us for every circumstance and adversary of life.

What was the disgrace of Egypt? Bible scholars don’t agree. What’s important is that it was God who rolled it away. They weren’t earning God’s grace through circumcision. They were agreeing to receive it and demonstrating that they believed the Lord and trusted Him and wanted closeness to Him more than they wanted plunder or glory in battle or anything else. And they trusted Him enough to obey. They had seen first hand how the Lord had been faithful to their parents’ generation, yet their parents had been unfaithful. This group didn’t want to make the same mistake.

Of course, in the end, Joshua will say to them, “Hey, you’ve all seen what the Lord has done for us. But you are drifting away. Choose this day who you will serve. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Again, Joshua renewed his faithful obedience to this loving and faithful God. Will we be faithful? Will we follow the Lord, setting aside anything He asks us to, trusting that He knows the best way forward? Settling that issue is the most important thing any of us could do today.

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word

What a glory He sheds on our way!
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/pacific-harry-george/
2 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Iwo_Jima
3 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planning_for_the_Battle_of_Iwo_Jima
4 Derrick Wright Iwo Jima 1945: The Marines Raise the Flag On Mount Suribachi
5 Marten Woudstra The Book Of Joshua
6 Joshua 2:9-11
7 Irving Jensen Joshua: Rest-land Won
8 Kenneth Gangel Holman Old Testament Commentary: Joshua
9 Bible Knowledge Commentary
10 James 2:20-26
11 Romans 6:14 NLT
12 Romans 2:29
13 Philippians 3:3
14 Number 26:51
15 Joshua 6:1
16 1 Corinthians 1:25

Keep Your Disciples Close, And The Devil Closer (John 6:60-71)

More than 200,000 people volunteered for what some call a ‘suicide mission.’

“We will send humans to Mars in 2023,” Mars One founder Bas Lansdorp told Fox News in 2015.

Ten volunteers would have a one-way ticket to the Red Planet.
Space flight experts said Mars One had no chance of succeeding. It didn’t.

No worries. SpaceX boss Elon Musk has vowed to establish a permanent Mars colony by 2050. He ominously added, “a bunch of people will probably die at the beginning.” It’s amazing what some people are willing to die for.

The Jews in our verses were not willing to die for Jesus.

Jesus told a crowded synagogue, “I am the living bread which came down from Heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world” (v51). That last phrase, about giving His flesh, described a sacrificial death.

“From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more” (v66).

These disciples ‘counted the cost’ of following Jesus:

Jesus did not seem to be in any hurry to be their King and establish the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.
He was talking about dying. It was Passover, the annual celebration of the Exodus from Egypt. Thousands of lambs would be offered in the Temple. John the Baptist had called Jesus, “the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world. It wasn’t hard to put two and two together.

Death was too great a cost for the majority.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 When You ‘Count The Cost’ Of Being A Disciple, Consider What You Receive, #2 When You ‘Count The Cost’ Of Being A Disciple, Consider Who You Reveal.

#1 – When You ‘Count The Cost’ Of Being A Disciple, Consider What You Receive (v60-66)

It is trendy to call believers “Christ followers.” I prefer Christian. We might want to start using the name “disciple” more frequently.

The word was loaded with meaning in Jewish culture and custom. Listen to this description:

The best students continued their study in Beth Midrash (secondary school) taught by a rabbi of the community. A very few of the most outstanding Beth Midrash students sought permission to study with a famous rabbi, often leaving home to travel with him for a lengthy period of time. These students were called talmidim in Hebrew, which is translated disciple. There is much more to a talmid than what we call student. A talmid wants to be like the teacher, to become what the teacher is. That meant that students were passionately devoted to their rabbi and noted everything he did or said. The rabbi-talmid relationship was a very intense and personal system of education. As the rabbi lived and taught his understanding of the Scripture his student talmidim listened and watched and imitated so as to become like him.

We are to be talmidim in our thinking.

Joh 6:61  When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you?

“Knew in Himself” doesn’t necessarily indicate divine knowledge or a word of knowledge. They had already been complaining earlier in the chapter.

You always have a choice: You can complain, or you can be content in the Lord. If you are not expressing contentment, you’re complaining, and it is sin. We are to “[learn] in whatever state… to be content” (Philippians 4:11).

“Offend” is also translated “stumbling block.”

In Galatians 5:11, the apostle Paul writes, “And I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why do I still suffer persecution? Then the offense of the cross has ceased.
Paul and the apostle Peter quote from the Old Testament, “THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED HAS BECOME THE CHIEF CORNERSTONE, A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE.”

The “offense of the Cross” is not just the fact that Jesus died on the Cross, but that it convicts human beings as guilty sinners.

The Jews believed they were saved by their self-righteous works according to the Law of Moses. They were therefore offended at the suggestion they were yet in their sins. The thought that their Messiah must die as a sacrifice for their sins stumbled them.

The Cross is an offense because it says to every human being, Jew and Gentile, that you are a sinner in need of a Savior to die as your substitute.

Of all the insults we could level against people, “sinner” is the worst. It describes them as depraved individuals who deserve Hell. You are saying something like, “Do you see Jesus on the Cross? That should be you, beaten, blooded, naked, dying a slow, shameful, agonizing death.”

Joh 6:62  What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before?

Jesus spoke of dying and now ascending into Heaven. He would need to be resurrected.

This is all information readily available to us in the New Testament. It would be mind-boggling for a first century Jew.

Joh 6:63  It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.

Think back to when Jesus met with Nicodemus. The Lord said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (3:6). He informed Nicodemus that he must be born again, born spiritually. Same here, only stated differently.

John has a habit of saying the same thing in many different ways. God wants us to “get it” when it comes to spiritual things.

President Ronald Reagan was known as the Great Communicator. Our God is the Greatest Communicator. “At various times and in various ways [He] spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, [and] has in these last days spoken to us by His Son” (Hebrews 1:1-2). S.D. Gordon writes, “Jesus was God spelling Himself out in language humanity could understand.”
When you get saved, God the Holy Spirit immerses you into the greater body of Christ, and He comes to live in you. You are so transformed by His presence that you can be described as a new creation. “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (Second Corinthians 5:17).

Joh 6:64  But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him.

“From the beginning” is too much like “In the beginning” to be coincidence. Jesus is God, and He was with the Father and the Spirit forever, with perfect knowledge of the future. He obviously knew “who would betray Him.” More about that in a minute.

We cannot understand the relationship (for lack of a better word) between Jesus’ deity and humanity. Jesus was fully God and fully human. He did not cease to be God while being human. He rose from the dead in a glorified human body and remains the God-man for eternity.

We do know, from His own lips, that while He was on Earth He was 100% subordinate, by choice, to the Father’s will. He did only what His Father told Him to do, and said only what His Father told Him to say. He did it without using His deity but by yielding Himself to the Holy Spirit.

Jesus was the Father’s talmid, the penultimate disciple.

Joh 6:65  And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.”

“I have said to you” means He was saying the same thing He had earlier when He said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (v44). If this were all the information we had, we might conclude that Jesus died for a select few people. Let me take this opportunity to mention something scholars call “proof texting.” Proof texting uses a verse or verses to prove or justify a theological position without regard for the context of the passage or other verses that clarify.

Jesus will go on to clarify, in chapter twelve, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” This He said, signifying by what death He would die” (12:32-33). Jesus’ death on the Cross draws all men in that whosoever will believe can be saved. Not all who are drawn will be saved – only those who believe.

I came across this quote that you may find comforting: “God will not hold us responsible to understand the mysteries of election, predestination, and the divine sovereignty. The best and safest way to deal with these truths is to raise our eyes to God and in deepest reverence say, “O Lord, Thou knowest.” Prying into them may make theologians, but it will never make saints.”

Joh 6:66  From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.

They identified as disciples until it became clear that Jesus was seeking talmidim. For them, sadly, “the things of Earth grew strangely desirable instead of His glory and grace.”

Counting the cost can focus too much on the potential sacrifices a disciple might have to endure. What about what you will receive?

Here is a quick list of what members of the body of Jesus, the Church, receive:

Eternal life… the permanent forgiveness of past, present, and future sins, including the removal of guilt… the indwelling Holy Spirit enabling us to obey God… gifts of the Holy Spirit… a life of discovering God’s good works… the commission to share the Gospel that can change a person forever… the fellowship of the saints… the promise of being part of the First Resurrection… a glorified human body with no tendencies of sinful flesh… free-will that is like God’s and incapable of disobedience… a place of responsibility in the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth… judging angels… eternal rewards that are secure… mansions in the city, New Jerusalem… reunion with believing loved ones… everlasting life… no more tears… permanent fellowship with the God-head, etc., etc.

Doesn’t it seem silly to use the phrase, “Count the cost?” Charles Spurgeon writes,

Brothers and sisters… See the happiness which is promised to us! Behold the Heaven which awaits us! Forget for awhile your present cares: let all your difficulties and your sorrows vanish for a time; and live for awhile in the future which is so guaranteed by faithful promises that you may rejoice in it even now! The veil which parts us from our great reward is very thin: hope gazes through its gauzy fabric. Faith, with eagle eyes, penetrates the mist which hides eternal delights from longing eyes. “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love him; but he has revealed them to us by His Spirit, for the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God”; and we, in the power of that Spirit, have known, believed, and anticipated the bliss which every hour is bringing nearer to us.

#2 – When You ‘Count The Cost’ Of Being A Disciple, Consider Who You Reveal (v67-71)

There’s something fun about people doing impressions of others. Pam and I were able to see Rich Little perform. It was entertainment at its best.
The apostle Paul shared his understanding of being a disciple when he said, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (First Corinthians 11:1).

Disciples are privileged to reveal the Savior to sinners as we imitate Jesus.

Joh 6:67  Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?”

The desertion was so substantial that perhaps only the twelve remained. The title “the twelve” is a unique identifier for the twelve apostles of Jesus. It becomes important in the opening chapters of the Book of Acts.

Everything Jesus did, He did for others. He was the servant of all, not to be served but to serve. His question was for the benefit of the twelve.

Joh 6:68  But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

How much time did you spend going somewhere else looking for peace and joy?

What were the things you pursued hoping to fill the emptiness in your heart?

I would like to address any person here who is not a believer. God has placed what he calls eternity in your heart. He alone can satisfy you, both now and forever. Seeking satisfaction from any other source is like putting diesel fuel in a gasoline engine. You don’t get far before you sputter and fail. You were meant for God.

Alan Redpath writes, “So often multitudes of people gather around some broken cistern of this world, trying to satisfy their thirst for they know not what. They grumble about their troubles and complain about their lot, but how few of them run to the One who said, ‘If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.’ ”

Joh 6:69  Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Previously in the Gospel of John the twelve indicated their belief Jesus was “the Christ,” meaning the promised Messiah. A better translation of “Son of the living God” is “the Holy One of God.” Jesus spoke of sacrificing Himself. His sacrifice would only be accepted if He was “holy,” without sin, spotless. He had to be man, but more than man. He must be the God-man.

Those who quit following Jesus had ulterior motives, e.g., free food, healings, and the overthrow of Roman domination. A.W. Tozer writes,

Millions call themselves by His name, it is true, and pay some token homage to Him, but a simple test will show how little He is really honored among them. Let the average man be put to the proof. Let him be forced into making a choice between God and money, between God and men, between God and personal ambition, God and self, God and human love, and God will take second place every time. Those other things will be exalted above. However the man may protest, the proof is in the choice he makes day after day throughout his life.

The twelve were learning that Jesus is not a means to an end, but the end Himself.

Joh 6:70  Jesus answered them, Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?”
Joh 6:71  He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve.

Just when things were getting good Jesus drops this bomb. It should read, “one of you is the devil.” D. A. Carson writes, “The supreme adversary of God so operates behind failing human beings that his malice becomes theirs. Jesus can discern the source, and labels it appropriately.”

Yesterday Jesus was followed by a multitude of folks who identified as disciples. After delivering one sermon, there were twelve left. Of the twelve, one would turn out to be “the devil.”

“Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.” Do you really want “the devil” on your team? Is that a choice you would make?

I always like to point out the apparent foolishness of God’s plan of salvation. You might call them fragile.

Have you thought about what it would be like for Jesus to have this knowledge? Think of it this way: If you were the leader of a ministry, with twelve assistants, and you knew one of them was going to betray you, could you treat that person the same as all the others? By “betray” we mean betray you to be murdered.

The best in you might want to take him aside and try to avoid betrayal.
The worst in you would justify almost any negative, extreme action you can think of to eliminate the threat.

Reading the Gospels, it doesn’t seem as though the eleven had any indication it was Judas. Jesus didn’t wink, or make gestures towards him. He didn’t say anything like, “One of you will betray me, and his initials are J Udas.”

He didn’t tell the inner circle of Peter, James and John to watch His six. He never sent Judas on a mission that might get him killed or arrested.

John tells of Judas’ betrayal early in the story, and in the context of being a disciple.

One obvious lesson is that not everyone who professes Jesus possesses Jesus. We see that throughout this chapter.

Take another look. Jesus, having set aside the voluntary use of His deity, was the Father’s talmid. He was enabled by God the Holy Spirit to treat Judas the way the Father wanted Him to. He was supplied with sufficient grace. He was able to love Judas.

Are there ‘problem people’ in your life? Jesus can relate. Can you and I treat our Judas’ the way Jesus did? We can’t, but He can through us as we yield to the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Earlier we quoted the apostle Paul, “Imitate me just as I imitate Christ.” Our word “mimic” derives from it. A mimic is a person who copies someone else in behavior and speech, really in every way.

I Love Lucy and Harpo Marx performed what is called the Mirror Routine. Lucy was dressed like the famous Marx Brother.

There was no mirror between them. Lucy matched Harpo’s movements exactly. It goes on for about three hilarious minutes.

Our Mirror Routine is described this way: “But we all… beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (Second Corinthians 3:18).

We are told by James in his epistle that the mirror is the word of God. Read the word in a way to discover Jesus, to see Him reflected in it, revealing to you the nature of God so that you might reveal it to others.

D.L. Moody writes, “A rule I have had for years is: To treat the Lord Jesus Christ as a personal friend. His is not a creed, a mere doctrine, but it is He Himself we have.”

Prophecy Update #694 – The New World Oppression

Andy Coticchio writes, “Why study prophecy? Because it is in the Bible. The better question to ask is why not study prophecy.”

We reserve a few minutes to discuss current trends that you’d expect from reading Bible prophecy.

We are futurists. We interpret all unfulfilled prophetic passages as future events that will occur in a literal, physical, apocalyptic, and global context.

The last book of the Bible, the Revelation of Jesus Christ, very definitely predicts global government during the Great Tribulation. It is sometimes described as a One World government or the New World Order. That last phrase has long been attributed to fringe conspiracy theorists. Currently it’s on the lips of world leaders – like our president, Joe Biden.

FoxNews.com posted a story titled, Biden jets to Europe as ‘new world order comments reverberate.

Excerpts:

The trip [to Europe] comes after Biden said there will be a “new world order” that must be led by the United States. 

Biden warned on Monday that the world is “at an inflection point,” one that “occurs every three or four generations.”

“There’s going to be a new world order out there, and we’ve got to lead it,” Biden said. “And we’ve got to unite the rest of the free world in doing it.”

https://www.foxnews.com/politics/biden-europe-trip-new-world-order-comments

In an op-ed article, Victor Davis Hansen writes:

President Joe Biden believes the Ukraine war will mark the start of a “new world order.” In the middle of the COVID global pandemic, Klaus Schwab and [other] global elites likewise announced a “great reset.”

Accordingly, the nations of the world have to surrender their sovereignty to an international body of experts. They would enlighten us on taxes, diversity, and green policies.

The Great Reset was the name of the 50th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF). It was convened by Charles, Prince of Wales and the WEF. It brought together high-profile business and political leaders, with the theme of rebuilding society and the economy following the COVID19 pandemic.

One year ago, President Xi of China warned against economic decoupling and called for a new world order.

We don’t need to go much deeper than the headlines. Our emphasis on prophecy isn’t to make us experts about the New World order, or the Great Reset.

It is to point out that these trends were predicted in the first century and earlier in the pages of your Bible.

We believe the resurrection and rapture of the church are imminent. It could happen any moment; nothing needs to happen before it. It will happen before the Great Tribulation.

Jesus will return in the clouds. He will raise the dead in Christ. He will transform the bodies of living believers to glorified, resurrection bodies.

We will all join Him in Heaven while the earth endures one final seven-year campaign of severe evangelism.

Are you ready for the rapture? If not, Get ready; Stay ready; Keep looking up.

Ready or not, Jesus is coming!

Promises Made, Pilgrimage Kept (Genesis 22:20-23:20)

We don’t believe politicians’ promises, but we vote for them anyway. It may surprise you to learn that research over the last 50 years has found that, on average, U.S. presidents have kept 67% of their promises. Presidential promise keeping has gone as high as 80% and never below 50% since 1912.[1]https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/trust-us-politicians-keep-most-of-their-promises/ Still, we’re not satisfied. We usually give our presidents just 100 days to get things done. For some reason, 100 days is always a key marker for an administration, at which point there is a flurry of news reporting on whether they made good on all those campaign speeches. Did they do what they promised they would do after we so generously gave them an entire 14 weeks to do it?

God made astounding promises to Abraham. We find ourselves not 100 days into this man’s story, but more than 100 years! We expect to see some progress made on those more-decendants-than-the-stars-in-the-sky, and owning-all-the-land-of-Canaan promises made so long ago. Instead, we see a different picture. We see Sarah dead, having only delivered one baby. We see Abraham shelling out just to have a place to bury her. Taking stock of all of this, we’re reminded Hebrews:

Hebrews 11:39 – 39 All these [believers like Abraham] were approved through their faith, but they did not receive what was promised.

Wait a minute! I thought God kept His promises? Is this all just an empty hope? When we face the hardest parts of life, what does it mean to hold on to our beliefs? Let’s see what Abraham has to teach us about the Christian faith when it seems like God has forgotten His promises.

Genesis 22:20-23 – 20 Now after these things Abraham was told, “Milcah also has borne sons to your brother Nahor: 21 Uz his firstborn, his brother Buz, Kemuel the father of Aram, 22 Chesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph, and Bethuel.” 23 And Bethuel fathered Rebekah. Milcah bore these eight to Nahor, Abraham’s brother. 24 His concubine, whose name was Reumah, also bore Tebah, Gaham, Tahash, and Maacah.

We learn that Abraham kept in touch with his Mesopotamian family. God had called him out and they left, but they still had some contact. We’re told about his nephews and niece because this is where Isaac is going to get his wife. You probably noticed one name in the group – Rebekah.

Let’s consider the real-life emotion they might have felt. The extended family had become quite large: Twelve sons and probably many daughters, though Moses only mentions one. Abraham would need to write an update of his own. What would he have to say? The great man of faith, the great friend of God, the “father of nations,” had one kid. Well, two, but we don’t talk about Bruno…

There’s a scene in Nora Ephron’s beloved movie Julie & Julia, where Julia Child receives word that her newlywed sister is pregnant. Julia had longed for a baby but was unable. And so, Julia breaks down in heart-broken tears and says, “I’m so happy.” She was, but it was a hard piece of news to receive. There was an ache inside. Abraham and Sarah were real people who felt things.

There’s something else here for us. Sharp-eyed Bible commentators have noticed that we see 12 sons born to this other family – 8 from the wife, 4 from the concubine. The same thing will happen with Jacob. 12 tribes from 12 sons. 8 born from the wives, 4 from the concubines. Ishmael, we’re told, would also produce 12 sons and 12 tribes.[2]Genesis 25:12-16

There is always a counterfeit alternative to the work of God. It will culminate in the final Antichrist. But along the way, there is so often this sort of mirror option where it looks like the real thing, but is a God-rejecting, man-centered alternative. John tells us to watch out for these counterfeits, these antichrists, many of which are in the world today and even work to infiltrate the church.[3]1 John 2:18-23, 4:1-3

One more thing: We find another subtle reminder about God’s plan for marriage. God doesn’t call everyone to be married, most but not all. For those who are being led to marriage, Genesis again presents the idea that God has a specific person prepared and in mind for you. Eve was made for Adam. Rebekah was the one the Lord had in mind for Isaac. If you’re single, choose to let the Lord lead you to the person He has had in mind for you from before the foundation of the earth.

Hearing that, perhaps you might think, “Well, I’m already married and I didn’t really seek the Lord, so what does that mean for me? Maybe I should get divorced and find the ‘right’ person.” No, that isn’t what the Lord says to do.

1 Corinthians 7:10-11 – To the married I give this command—not I, but the Lord—a wife is not to leave her husband. 11…and a husband is not to divorce his wife.

If you’re being called into marriage, there is some Rebekah for you fellows, some Isaac for you ladies. The Lord knows and will lead you to them. Trust Him and follow him.

Genesis 23:1-2 – Now Sarah lived 127 years; these were all the years of her life. 2 Sarah died in Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went in to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her.

When Sarah died, Isaac was 37. Abraham was 137 and would live another 38 years. As Sarah passes on into eternity, we readers are left outside the tent while Abraham goes in to mourn her.

It gives us a moment to think about their life together – the many things they had been through. As we read through these chapters, the focus is mostly on Abraham, but Sarah was beside him. She was also faithful. She made her mistakes, but she loved the Lord and walked with Him and grew in her faith, just like God intends for each of us.

When I mentioned Isaac and Rebekah, maybe you thought, “Well, that doesn’t apply to me.” Maybe you got married before you were a believer or just didn’t consult the Lord with that decision. That happens. It happened to Abram and Sarai! They weren’t believers. They had some real marriage problems along the way. But look what God did: He turned them into Abraham and Sarah. People full of love for each other, full of fruitfulness, and grace and a long companionship. They show us what kind of beauty God can bring from ashes. They show us how God can overcome our weaknesses and mistakes and redeem our relationships.

The New Testament tells us that Abraham had some understanding of the resurrection. And he had some understanding of the future city, whose builder and maker is God. So, Abraham believed that he and his family were going to live forever in heaven. And yet, we see him mourn when his wife departed. Grief is a normal, Godly part of life, but we are not to grieve like they who have no hope. The passing of a loved one should not derail our lives because we know death is not the end. We will see our saved loved ones again and all will be made right forever. We comfort ourselves and each other with that certain hope, but, in the meantime, death remains a painful reality.

Why do Christians have to die? If death is defeated at the cross, shouldn’t we be exempt? One practical answer is because we still live in a fallen world, in decaying bodies, impacted by sin. Glorification is coming, but it is not yet. God leaves us here to endure mortality so that we can join with Him in saving other people. But, just as God transforms our lives when we are born again, He also transforms our deaths. Death no longer has any sting. It becomes a passage, rather than a pit. In some small sense, death for the Christian is like retiring, rather than being fired. It is the process by which we are delivered into eternity. Paul goes as far as saying death is now profitable to us.[4]Philippians 1:21

Sarah was no longer with Abraham, but he knew she wasn’t gone. She was alive and he would go to her one day. Meanwhile, there was a problem. He had nowhere to place her body.

Genesis 23:3-4 – 3 When Abraham got up from beside his dead wife, he spoke to the Hethites: 4 “I am an alien residing among you. Give me burial property among you so that I can bury my dead.”,

On the human level, this would’ve been a very hard day for Abraham. He has to deal with the remains of his precious wife. His God has promised that the whole land really belongs to him, and yet, he doesn’t possess even enough to dig a grave or put a bone box.

I probably would’ve thrown up my hands and said, “Lord, what gives?” But Abraham didn’t. In fact, we see the resilient strength of his faith in his request to the Hethites. Commentators point out that Abraham didn’t make any plan to bring his wife’s remains back to his homeland – Ur of the Chaldees. No, Canaan was his home and would be his resting place. Hebrew scholars also point out that when he says, “burial property,” the word is “the possession.”[5]Bruce Waltke Genesis: A Commentary He still believed it belonged to him, just as God had said, it was just being occupied by these Hethites at the moment.

Abraham’s faith was focused on the future. The future city. The future life. The future fulfillment. That future focus gave him peace. He could navigate this painful situation with patience and meekness, even though he was having to pay for something that already belonged to him!

Genesis 24:5-6 – 5 The Hethites replied to Abraham, 6 “Listen to us, my lord. You are a prince of God among us. Bury your dead in our finest burial place. None of us will withhold from you his burial place for burying your dead.”

This whole scene is very formal. There’s no way for us to know whether these Hethites were good guys or not. Some think they were taking advantage of Abraham, some think they we truly being generous. Either way, what they’re saying here is, “We don’t really want to sell you any of our land (that’s what Abraham is asking for, by the way, not just a donation), but your family bones can crash in our tombs, if you want.” If these guys are more on the sleazy side, it’s possible they’re thinking, “This guy is wealthy and powerful, but he’s moving around all the time. Sometimes he’s down in Philistine country, sometimes he’s here, sometimes he’s there. Maybe we let him put a bone box or two in one of our tombs and then after awhile we can get rid of it.” Maybe they really did like him and were being deferential. Either way, they didn’t really want to part with their land.

What is clear is that the presence of God was evident in Abraham’s life. When they looked at him, they said, “God is with that family.” That’s still what God wants to do in our lives, by the way.

Genesis 24:7-9 – 7 Then Abraham rose and bowed down to the Hethites, the people of the land. 8 He said to them, “If you are willing for me to bury my dead, listen to me and ask Ephron son of Zohar on my behalf 9 to give me the cave of Machpelah that belongs to him; it is at the end of his field. Let him give it to me in your presence, for the full price, as burial property.”

We don’t barter in our culture. Jerry Seinfeld was once asked why there’s no haggling in our country. He said, “I guess we like to think we’ve progressed beyond a knife fight for a citrus drink.”[6]https://www.seinfeldscripts.com/TheChickenRoaster.htm But in Abraham’s time, haggling was the name of the game. He knew the spot, he had scouted this cave. Linguists let us know it was a primo double-cave,[7]Francis A. Betten A Real Estate Deal of Four Thousand Years Ago which, as far as caves go, is cool. Now he just had to do this dance with the owner. But we notice this: Even when it comes to a burial place, Abraham wants to remain separate. He lives this strange life of being in the world but not of the world. He’s a blessing to those around him but he keeps himself devoted to God. In this transaction, Abraham is gracious. He’s patient. He’s not demanding. Even though he’s fabulously wealthy and has a lot of influence, he behaves meekly and courteously.

W.H. Griffith Thomas writes, “Religion is not intended to decrease but to increase natural politeness, gentlemanliness, and courtesy. Indeed, courtesy is one of the truest marks of a genuine believer.”[8]W. H. Griffith Thomas Genesis: A Devotional Commentary

Genesis 24:10-11 – 10 Ephron was sitting among the Hethites. So in the hearing of all the Hethites who came to the gate of his city, Ephron the Hethite answered Abraham: 11 “No, my lord. Listen to me. I give you the field, and I give you the cave that is in it. I give it to you in the sight of my people. Bury your dead.”

They’re talking a lot about giving, but this is a business transaction. The term used is also translated, “I’ll grant you the land,” or, “I’ll sell you the land.” And Ephron knows he’s got a decent payday coming because Abraham is in a tight spot – he needs a burial cave – and he’s already said he’ll pay “full price.” And, notice what Ephron has done: He includes the field with the cave. Abraham hadn’t really wanted the field, but Ephron wants to parcel them together.

Genesis 24:12-16 – 12 Abraham bowed down to the people of the land 13 and said to Ephron in the hearing of the people of the land, “Listen to me, if you please. Let me pay the price of the field. Accept it from me, and let me bury my dead there.” 14 Ephron answered Abraham and said to him, 15 “My lord, listen to me. Land worth four hundred shekels of silver—what is that between you and me? Bury your dead.” 16 Abraham agreed with Ephron, and Abraham weighed out to Ephron the silver that he had agreed to in the hearing of the Hethites: four hundred standard shekels of silver.

How much money was this? Some think it was an insane asking price. The truth is, we just don’t know. Estimates of how much this is range from a few hundred dollars to over a hundred thousand dollars. In the time of Moses, this would be equivalent to eight healthy, adult, male slaves.[9]Leviticus 27:3

Rather than debate the bill, we should examine the behavior of Abraham. In the midst of his heart-ache, he’s strengthened by God to be patient, to endure the frustrations of living in this unfair world. He’s humble and not handicapped by an obsession with money. He lives on a different level.

Genesis 23:17-20 – 17 So Ephron’s field at Machpelah near Mamre—the field with its cave and all the trees anywhere within the boundaries of the field—became 18 Abraham’s possession in the sight of all the Hethites who came to the gate of his city. 19 After this, Abraham buried his wife Sarah in the cave of the field at Machpelah near Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan. 20 The field with its cave passed from the Hethites to Abraham as burial property.

Once again we see the presence of trees in Abraham’s story. We’ve seen him living by oaks and planting a tamarisk. It is a symbol reminding us of the long-term, abundant work God intended to do in the lives of His people in that specific land. It’s a picture of how God establishes and makes us strong and gives us strength to withstand winds and storms. It demonstrates how, by His grace, we grow and expand are are able to branch out into new areas of fruitfulness – how God develops us to be useful and beautiful and firm, giving help and shade to those nearby. How God faithfully discharges His responsibility to give us light and water that we might become all He wants us to be. That even in death our lives are a declaration of life and our eternal hope. That we are leaving this life but one day we’ll be back to receive everything that was promised in full. And that His promise is worth the trouble, worth the price, worth the patient endurance of our mortal lives.

The suffering of this present time is not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us. Like the creation all around, we eagerly wait with anticipation for God’s sons and daughters to be revealed in immortal perfection, redeemed into glorious freedom, receiving all God has promised, with not one good thing missing from the inheritance He’s decided to share with us.[10]Romans 8:18-20

After all God had promised Abraham, it looked like he only had one kid and one field, good only for burying corpses. How could Abraham square this with his actual experience? It’s not that he didn’t care. Remember, when God had earlier made those promises, Abraham had said, “Ok, how can I know that I will possess it?” God’s assurance to him at the time was, “I’m God and I promise.” And from there Abraham’s faith grew, not because he got deeds to the land, but because he knew more of God as he walked with Him. The closer he got with the Lord, the more Abraham was able to understand the extent of what God was promising. And he came to the realization that he didn’t want to be the Hethites now, he wanted to be God’s child in eternity. And so he was content to wait – to live as a pilgrim in a tent – because he knew God’s ultimate fulfillment was on the other side of death. Not only on the other side. After all, the Jews did receive the land, it’s still theirs, God will have a physical Kingdom with a throne in Jerusalem for 1,000 years. And, already, God has made good on the promise to give Abraham countless descendants. What was a mom, a dad and one kid is today 6.9 million Jews living in the land, with another 6 million in the USA,[11]https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/jewish-population-by-country and a countless number sustained for the last 4,000 years. But Abraham knew the best was yet to come.

In Hebrews we’re told Abraham did not receive what was promised in his mortal life. But here’s what what we find when we read both verse 39 and 40:

Hebrews 11:39-40 – 39 All these were approved through their faith, but they did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, so that they would not be made perfect without us.

Abraham knew the promise was perfect and that it wasn’t just for a dusty field or two in 2,000 B.C. It was something greater, something eternal, something this life cannot match. When the days were hard, when he dealt with death and seeing unbelievers around him seemingly prosper, Abraham didn’t despair. We see him more devoted than ever to the truth God had told him: That the promise is coming, that what we really want is not found in this world, but the next, and that we can secure our lives on that hope which will not disappoint us, because God has proved His power, He has proved His love for us, death has been beaten, we will be delivered into glory. We’ve received these promises, and they will be kept in full. Not 50%, not 67%. 100%. All the way, beyond what we can ask or imagine, our God will not fail.

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/trust-us-politicians-keep-most-of-their-promises/
2 Genesis 25:12-16
3 1 John 2:18-23, 4:1-3
4 Philippians 1:21
5 Bruce Waltke Genesis: A Commentary
6 https://www.seinfeldscripts.com/TheChickenRoaster.htm
7 Francis A. Betten A Real Estate Deal of Four Thousand Years Ago
8 W. H. Griffith Thomas Genesis: A Devotional Commentary
9 Leviticus 27:3
10 Romans 8:18-20
11 https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/jewish-population-by-country