God’s Covenant with Abraham – Genesis 15:1-6

15 The word of the Lord came to Abram (Abraham) in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” 3 And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” 4 And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” 5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.  Genesis 15:1, 3-6 ESV

Abram was in a difficult situation. He had been promised an impressive lineage by God, but he and his wife Sarai were aging and, at this point, had no offspring to show for it.  God had blessed Abram and made him wealthy, but none of the promised descendants were yet on the horizon.  And Abram and Sarai were getting a little impatient with God.

The Lord responded to Abram, “Trust me.  Don’t fear, I will protect you and bring you descendants as numerous as the stars that I have created above you.”  And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted his belief as righteousness.

What is “righteousness?”  Some possible responses are 1) living a life pleasing to God, 2) honoring God’s commandments and 3) making morally correct choices in God’s eyes.  In all cases, there is a standard of behavior set by God that He wants us to sincerely honor, both within our hearts and with our actions.  The unfortunate situation is that, aside from Jesus, we humans do a poor job of this.  That is why Jesus Christ had to come – to personally bear the consequences we deserve from continually falling short of God’s standard of goodness.  But God offers us a life rope – by Jesus’ suffering, crucifixion, burial and victorious resurrection, we believers are thoroughly cleansed and given the new clothing of God’s righteousness.  God did for us what we absolutely could not do for ourselves.  He continues to extend new mercies to us each day, forgiving us and healing us of our failures and shortcomings. He restores our fallen state to one of righteousness.

God gave Moses the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:2-17) to help define the types of behavior God seeks from us, and Jesus clarified these further in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).  In fact, Jesus tells us that even having the desire to do wrong causes us to fall short of righteousness. 

Because our thoughts and actions are so easily entangled with sin, we cannot reasonably expect to earn our way into Heaven on our own credentials. But there is good news. Jesus lived a righteous life that met this godly standard.  Because of the sacrificial price He paid on the cross, we are credited with all of the rich benefits and blessings of His righteousness when we open our heart to receive Him.

The Apostle Paul points to Abraham as a demonstration of how we are saved and made righteous with God through our faith in Christ.

4 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter? 2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. 3 What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Romans 4:1-3 ESV

Jesus also talks about the basis of eternal salvation in John 5:

24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.  John 5:24 ESV

The very act of believing God and receiving His son, Jesus Christ, is a life-giving act of righteousness. 

From the smallest mustard seed of faith, new life is given and continues to grow.  In Abraham’s case, his faith was the cornerstone of his righteousness. As we learn more about Abraham in the book of Genesis, we see that, like us, he was not perfect.  He was a human being with plenty of shortcomings, but his faith pleased God, and God used his faith to credit Abraham with righteousness. 

How can our faith please God today?

Reflection

God told Abraham to “Fear not”.  There is a difference between a rational concern about a serious situation and being consumed with fear, worry and anxiety about it.  God wants us to live without crippling anxiety, and to approach Him in prayer about every fear-causing situation.

We all face situations that bring us to the point of fear.  What is happening, or not happening, in your life right now that is a major concern for you?  Have you have brought it before the Lord? 

Is there an anger or a resentment associated with this situation?  Fear may underly anger, and anger may manifest itself as a simmering or boiling resentment, a feeling of desperation or even a depression.

Have you been able to share about this difficult situation with a trusted friend of faith?  When we safely share our burdens with faithful friends, they help to support us by listening, loving and joining us in prayer.  This helps to relieve our burdens while we, like Abraham, wait for God’s promises to materialize.  Some Christians are especially gifted in this type of support.


The Call of Abraham – Genesis 12

12 Now the Lord said to Abram (Abraham), “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”  4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot (his nephew) went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran.  Genesis 12:1-4 ESV

Abram, later renamed Abraham, was God’s first step in restoring His relationship with man that was broken by sin in the Garden of Eden.  As evidenced by Cain rising up and murdering his brother, Abel, man’s nature has always had a bent towards sin. We are independent thinkers, and prefer to walk in our own ways rather than God’s. 

One man, Noah, did live his life choosing to make God a priority, but most of his peers rejected that lifestyle, and God was grieved by their choice.

Many of us today have lived our lives away from God. Some of us were once close to God and walked away, and others never gave God much of a thought at all. 

Like Abraham, God has called each one of us to come out from where we are and to begin following Him.  A loving, holy God wants to touch us and bless our lives.

God called Abram out of his comfort zone in the city Ur (now in Iraq), through Harran (now in Turkey), and into a new land that is now Israel.  He did this to begin a new relationship with mankind that is based upon faith. He is reaching out to us, those who are willing to believe in Him. He was us to walk with Him, and to experience Him daily. 

Some believe that God is distant and aloof, and not interested in our daily life.  But God’s interactions with Abraham, his son Isaac and with all his descendants throughout the genealogy of Jesus Christ show that this is not the case at all.  God loves us and wants to be an intimate part of our daily experience.  He also wants to use us for the good of others, to be the “hands and feet” of Christ reaching out to help them experience the blessings of God firsthand.

Consider what the Lord said to Moses:

7 Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, 8 and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey.  Exodus 3:7-8 ESV

12 Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.”  Exodus 4:12 ESV

God was with Moses, He was with Abraham, and now He is with us. He cares deeply about each one of us, and all of those around us.

Abraham was seventy-five years old when God called him to new life.  At that age, he might not have been thrilled about picking up and moving to a foreign, unknown territory.  People did live longer in that day, but even so, being in late middle age, he might have been fairly settled in a comfortable lifestyle.  

But when God reaches out to touch us, it is thrilling. Abram was also thrilled to hear that he would, at long last, have descendants. His deeply held desire for this had long looked like it would go unfulfilled.  But though God’s promise to Abram came at age 75, he and Sarai would not receive their child for another 25 years. By that time, she was 90 and well beyond normal child-bearing age.  But God is not limited by anything.

It is interesting that God would choose this way to miraculously fulfill his promise.  A similar pattern was used for the birth of John the Baptist in the New Testament, when his mother, Elizabeth, was also well beyond normal child-bearing age.  This establishes and confirms that the hand of God alone was behind these miracles.

God warned Abram that he was going to be a sojourner in a new land, a land currently occupied by others. But God also promised Abram some incredible things: 1) he would become a great nation, and 2) through his descendants, all the families on the earth would be blessed.  This would ultimately be accomplished through his biological and spiritual lineage, which culminated in the appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary. 

The Kingdom of God started with the calling of Abraham. It culminated in the birth, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, who will return one day to reign on David’s throne in the New Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit is now moving throughout the earth, bringing a blessing to all who would respond to His call. As God had promised Abraham – through him, all the nations on the earth would be blessed.

Reflection

I have a friend who refers to “divine inconveniences,” times when God nudges us to do something when we are busy or focused on doing something else.  Can you recall a time this occurred to you?   What was the occasion?  What was the result?

God had divine reasons to lead Abram and his descendants over a bumpy, inconvenient road. He led him down to Egypt and eventually towards Mount Moriah, which would one day become the city of Jerusalem.  Can you recall a time that you asked the Lord for a different path than the one He had chosen for you? Did you get your way?  Can you look back now and see God’s plan in a different light than you did then?  If not, do you have faith to believe that, one day, God’s comfort will come, and His purpose will be revealed?

God’s call to Abram led to a major life change.  How are you with change?  What changes have you made in your life as God has led you?  What change is God calling you to make today?

Your Father Abraham – John 8

The first book of the New Testament, Matthew, begins like this:

1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.  2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers.  Matthew 1:1-2 ESV

Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and his sons are referred to as the Fathers of the Faith or the Patriarchs.  Jesus referred to them often, and his disciples and the crowds He spoke to were all well acquainted with them, and their importance to the origins of the family of God. 

For example, in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus said:

11 I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.  Matthew 8:11 ESV

Abraham gets a lot of discussion time throughout the New Testament.  Jesus referred to him on multiple occasions, as did Paul in his letters (sometimes called epistles).  The writer of Hebrews includes Abraham in the faith “Hall of Fame” (Chapter 11).  He was clearly a person of great importance in the word of God, but many are not quite sure who he was or why he is so important.

Abraham is important because he is the first to be called out to begin a family of faith in God. His lineage would become the kingly line of Jesus Christ, who would save and justify believers throughout the world from their sin.  Abraham is the father of all believers in God.  If you are a Jewish worshiper, you may have a blood connection to Abraham, but the rest of us are spiritually connected to Abraham by our faith in God.

When Jesus Christ came, He tore down doctrinal walls and unified all believers as one in Himself.

In the New Testament books of Romans and Galatians, the apostle Paul writes how we are all joined as one in faith, after the Man of Faith, Abraham.  We will see how Abraham demonstrated his faith, most notably with his son Isaac at Mt. Moriah, in Genesis 22.  Mount Moriah would later be named the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and is the place where Jesus Christ would be crucified as a divine sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins. 

Jesus had many discussions with his opponents who sought to kill him because he “claimed” to be God and they did not believe Him. One of these discussions centered around Abraham:

31 Jesus said… “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”  34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you.  John 8:31-37 ESV

Jesus, himself a descendant of Abraham through the genealogy, tells us that the power of truth and freedom lie in Christ and His word.  His word becomes alive within us and, with the Holy Spirit, is a “power greater than ourselves”.  

Our practices of sin may have led to any of several forms of addiction, which rob us of our freedom and the joy of life.  Once entrenched, we may be unable to throw off the bondage on our own, and need to rely on a “power greater than ourselves” to break those chains that hold our mind, spirit and body.  Jesus tells us that He is that power, and that the power comes through His word.

Jesus’ opponents were angered by his statements about Abraham and freedom:

53 Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets who died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” 54 Jesus answered… 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” 57 So (they) said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?”  58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.  John 8:53-57 ESV

Jesus claimed both an intimate personal relationship with Abraham and that He existed even before Abraham.  Furthermore, Jesus used the term “I am,” which his audience knew was the name God revealed about himself to Moses at the burning bush in the desert.  Jesus was referring to himself as God.  Hearing this, those who rejected Jesus were enraged enough to seek to stone him to death.

Later, they would crucify Jesus unto death. But this sacrifice was an essential part of God’s plan of salvation.  The blood of bulls and goats in the Old Testament Jewish ritual sacrifices were important expressions of obedience and faith, but could not truly atone for the sins of mankind, which separate all of us from God.  Only the sacrifice of Jesus Christ could fulfill the requirement of holiness needed to remove our separation from God and make us holy enough to allow His Holy Spirit to reside in us.  The Holy Spirit cleanses us daily, thanks to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the washing of the word of God.

Reflection

Jesus said we must abide in his word.  To “abide” means to “accept or act in accordance with.”  Some synonyms include to obey, observe, follow, uphold, respect and remain.  What does Jesus tell us will happen for us if we do remain in his word (see John 8:31-32 above)?

What areas of obedience do you struggle with the most?  Despite our deepest yearnings and best efforts, we all struggle with sin at one time or another, which strains our relationship with God.  God loves us deeply even when He disapproves of our actions, and always forgives us when we confess to Him and turn away from our sin.  He does not seek to condemn us, but rather to help us turn back to Him and to become a stronger and more fruitful believer.

What steps do we take if we do have an addiction?  First, an honest, open and willing self-appraisal is needed.  If we conclude “yes, we have an addiction”, where can we go to get help to achieve freedom and victory, and to begin joyful living?  We can seek out a safe recovery group, a trusted friend in recovery, an understanding clergy or a qualified professional to help guide us so that we can learn to seek and follow God’s path to freedom.  Jesus often works through other men and women of faith to help us grow and to experience a daily victory in our lives.

Freedom and healing are also available if we experience extreme fear, depression or grief.  We can reach out to others in faith-based support groups to help us overcome in these areas as we reach out for the love Christ has for us.

The Genealogy of Jesus Christ – Matthew 1

Upon first opening the New Testament, we see in the first chapter of the gospel of Matthew a list of 42 curious names.   This list, referred to as the genealogy of Jesus Christ, is often greeted by the reader with a quick scan, a brief look at some of the unfamiliar names, and a skip ahead to the next section.

Not so fast!  While the first reading may not be the optimum time to delve into the list, there are many benefits to going back and following up on the rich stories behind each individual, as found in the Old Testament.

This genealogy is the royal lineage of the now and eternal king, Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the fulfilment of God’s promise that there will always be a king from the line of David on the throne of Israel into the Kingdom of Heaven (2 Samuel 7).

Here is Matthew’s version of the genealogy of Jesus:

1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 3 and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, 4 and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5 and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, 6 and Jesse the father of David the king.

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, 7 and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, 8 and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, 9 and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10 and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, 11 and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

12 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13 and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14 and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, 15 and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.

17 So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.  Matthew 1:1-17 ESV (English Standard Version)

The genealogy can be divided into three sections, 1) the early fathers of the Jewish faith in God Most High, known as the Patriarchs, and their descendants up to the time of Israel’s King David, 2) the era of the kings of Israel, from David through Jechoniah, and 3) the governors of Judah, who fill the gap between the kings of Israel and the coming eternal King, Jesus Christ. 

Notice that several women play key roles in the genealogy of the Christ.  These include Rahab, Ruth, Tamar and Mary, Jesus’ mother.  In addition, we will learn that Esther played a very key role in the preservation of the lineage.

The genealogy is a love story between God and His people. It is a story of preservation through hardship, of redemption and the offer of eternal life that is extended to all because of the genealogy and its Fruit.

The format for the blog is a series of daily meditations. We invite the Holy Spirit to instruct each of us in the way that He chooses, and to use the blog all over the globe, bearing fruit until the return of Jesus Christ. Along the way, we ask Him to unlock the treasures found in the lives of the people who make up the genealogy.  Help us to find new gold daily as we sift through Your precious word, and silver as You bring us new truths about Yourself and Your desire to play a role in our daily lives.

I pray that you will find much encouragement and guidance for living as we witness our loving God in action as He leads us on our spiritual journey.

Reflection

Had you read the genealogy before today?  What is your reaction to it? 

What is leading you on your journey today?

What is one thing you would like to get out of this daily study?  It may be worth keeping a diary or prayer journal to record your goals, thoughts and prayer requests.  It is often exciting to go back and see how God has answered our prayers, often after we had forgotten we prayed them.

Holy Spirit of God, be with us to teach us and guide us as we proceed through Your Word in the genealogy of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Introduction

Hello, my name is Brother Bruce. I am a Christian from the USA. I have been actively involved in jail and prison ministry since 1997.

Please join me from wherever you are on this earth as we together invite the Holy Spirit to guide us through a daily nourishment of His word. This blog is a study of the lineage of the Messiah Jesus Christ through the Old Testament.

There are many rich manifestations of a loving God that we will discover as we go through His interactions with His people. We ask the Holy Spirit of Jesus to speak to each of us in love, to spiritually enrich us with His Presence, and to come close to each one of us as we journey through His genealogy.

May you and your loved ones be richly blessed and protected by the Lord today as you seek to grow closer to Him.

Brother Bruce