Israel 2016

Israel 2016
Roman architectural influence in Bet Sean, Israel

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Canonical Reading Plan for Jan 4, Gen 12-15

Today's readings are Gen 12-15.

What we have established so far is that there are no truly righteous men. There are good men but no one is fit nor righteous enough to be in an intimate relationship with a holy and pure God. Adam fell and that original garden relationship was severed. Yet even then there was a promise of redemption and restoration (Gen 3:15). How would it be accomplished? Noah was spared but stumbled soon after. It would be up to God to implement a plan of redemption. Abram is a key element of that plan. 

Who was Abram? We don't know much about him. There doesn't seem to be much to distinguish him from other men. He doesn't seem to have any outstanding qualifications. As a matter of fact, he has a few major hindrances. He is older in age (Gen 12:4). His wife is barren and aged as well. But, Abram is from Haran, the area where Shem settled and was one of Shem's direct descendants.  God had made a promise to bless Shem. We see that promise being fulfilled in Abram. 

But Shem had many descendants. Why choose Abram? Perhaps it has something to do with Abram's situation. God calls this old man who is the father of no one, to be the father of nations. He tells Abram to go to a land that is not his and it will be given to him. Everything God tells Abram is impossible and improbable. If any of it is to happen, it will have to be by supernatural power and authority. God chooses Abram because Abram is incapable of doing any of this on his own. If it is to be done, Abram, those around him and those who read about him will have no alternative other than to give God the glory. 

Abram leaves his home and travels. He comes to Shechem, an area settled by the Canaanites. God promises the land to Abram’s descendants. This is the “Promised Land”. We see Abram build an altar. Abram’s response to God’s impossible-sounding promise is to worship and revere Him.

As Abram heads toward Egypt, we see he has his own struggles (Gen 12:10-20). Abram doesn’t lie regarding Sarai; she is, by law, his sister. But, he doesn’t reveal the whole truth either. Withholding vital elements of the truth can cause problems and in Abram’s case, it does. He is another good but imperfect man like Adam, like Noah. Still, God has chosen Abram to be the one from whom His chosen people will come. God redeems, transforms and equips. We see it all played out in Abram's incredible story. 

Despite Abram’s flaws, God blesses him richly and he returns to Shechem a wealthy man, sharing his blessings with Lot, his nephew (Gen 13:1-7). Lot moves toward the Jordan Valley while Abram moves to the hill country north and south of Jerusalem (Gen 13:8-13).

We continue to see hints of godliness in Abram. He graciously rescues Lot in Gen 14:8-16, even though Lot took the good land of the Jordan Valley for himself and left the highland for Abram. Lot wanted the good land not thinking it would also be desirable to other tribes and countries. When they came storming in, Lot was unable to rescue himself (sound familiar?) He needed help he had not earned nor was he worthy of. Abram, in an act of grace, rescues Lot. Abram is not the perfect redeemer. But he models the One who is. 

As a result of Abram's expression of grace, he receives a reward, another biblical pattern. Godly behavior is rewarded. Abram honors Melchizedek the priest and king of Salem (which will eventually become Jerusalem) 
then receives a blessing from him.

We know God is a God of covenant from Noah, the ark, and the rainbow (Gen 6, 9). God explains details of His covenant with Abram in Gen 15. The covenant with Abram is one of blood and sacrifice. It comes in the form of a vision. The smoking fire pot and flaming torch he sees moving between the sacrifices are symbols of the presence of God. The pot and torch symbolize the initiation and completion of the covenant. What it all means is this: it is God who establishes the covenant, ratifies it, authors it and carries it out.  Abram is the recipient of the blessing but it is God alone who will accomplish the work of the covenant. 

This is God's plan to restore His people into an intimate relationship with Him. He chooses Abram, an unqualified and incapable man, imperfect in many ways. Abram and his offspring will be the recipient of His blessing while God will do the work of redemption and restoration. Abram becomes the template for how God saves us. We are saved by the hand of God and by His grace, moving sovereignly through history, setting patterns, showing us examples, teaching us His ways and preparing us for His perfect solution to our problem of sin.  

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