The Testing of Abraham – Genesis 22

Faith in God is not always easy, even in the best of life’s circumstances.  Sometimes we face trials or hardships that challenge us to the point of requiring more than basic faith to get by.  At other times, God may ask us to do something troublesome or difficult that we do not understand the reason for at all.

In the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus told his followers, “I am the bread of life.”  This was easy enough, as he had miraculously fed over 5,000 people from five loaves and two fish the day before.  However, Jesus went on to say that we must eat his flesh and drink his blood, or we will have not life in us.  With the benefit of hindsight, we know that he was talking about Holy Communion, believing in his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead, and how we remember this loving sacrifice for our sins every time we partake.  But those around Jesus at the time did not have the benefit of this context.  When they could not understand what he was saying, many chose to leave Him.

Another example of difficult faith is found in Exodus 14, when God freed the Israelites from Egypt but then led them to the edge of the Red Sea, where they were trapped by Pharaoh’s army of chariots.  As the Israelites faced certain death, they could not have known that the reason God led them here was to show them His glory firsthand by parting the Red Sea and delivering them safely through it.  They would be able to look back on that deliverance and remember to turn to God every time they were under a challenge or a threat.

Perhaps the most difficult example of faith is found in Genesis 22.  Abraham had no context in which to understand why God was asking him to do a nearly impossible thing, nor did he have any idea how important his obedience would be to God.  He couldn’t have.  But Abraham was to be faced with an extremely difficult decision to either move forward in obedience, or to turn away, leaving God.

22 After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”   Genesis 22:1-2 ESV

Impossible! Unthinkable! That is the reaction these two lines bring to everyone.  What could God possibly be asking here?  Isn’t God loving?  Isn’t God reasonable?  After waiting twenty-five years for their promised, cherished son Isaac, born to Sarah and Abraham beyond childbearing years, foretold as the father of so many, they could not even be counted, now the Lord wants him to be sacrificed as a burnt offering?  Absolutely unthinkable! 

What possible reason could the Lord have for ordering this?  Is this some mad idea of a test?  (Spoiler alert: God stops him before Abraham goes through with it).

Before we totally give up on God’s sanity, there are two clues in these verses.  The first is “mountain I will show you in the land of Moriah.”  The second is “burnt offering.”

Mt Moriah is where the Lord will direct the temple of God to be built many centuries after Abraham.  It is also where God’s only begotten, cherished son, Jesus, will be crucified as an offering for the sins of the world.  It is a very holy place, set apart for God.  It is also, in our future, where the New Jerusalem will serve as the eternal earthly throne of Jesus Christ, ruler of the entire world, as described in chapter 21 of the book of Revelation.

The second clue in God’s command to Abraham is the phrase “burnt offering.”  A burnt offering in the Old Testament was where one life (an innocent animal) was sacrificed and burned to bear the judgement and punishment for the sins of another, man.  In God’s holy creation, there must be a penalty paid for all sin or disobedience to God and his law.  And the penalty for sin is death.  Without the shedding of blood, there is no remedy or removal of sin (Hebrews 9:22).  The wages of sin is death, and the wages must be paid for one to be declared holy or set apart before God (Romans 6:23).

Initially, innocent animals were sacrificed to temporarily cover the sins of man, but ultimately, God Himself provided the sacrifice to suffer, to die and to pay the penalty for our sins.  In effect, God is not asking Abraham to do anything that God will not do in the future.  The difference is, God stopped Abraham, whereas Jesus went through with it for us.

God is a loving God, and he is asking Abraham to be willing to share in the pain that God will experience Himself when Jesus is beaten and crucified.  And without knowing the reason or result, Abraham exhibited an extraordinary willingness to obey God under this most extreme and mysterious of circumstances.  It was a magnificent demonstration of faith and faithfulness, second only to that exhibited by Jesus Christ when he surrendered Himself to the cross.

3 So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4 On the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place from afar. 5 Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.”6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So, they went both together.7 And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So, they went both together.  Genesis 22:3-8 ESV

It has been noted that for the three days of the journey, Isaac was as good as dead in Abraham’s grieving mind.  This parallels with Jesus being in the tomb until he was raised on the third day.  This span of time also presented Abraham many opportunities to change his mind, waking up each morning to a new, horrible reality he faced.  And yet, each day, he marched on in obedience to the Lord.  How challenging an existence, yet what faith he demonstrated!

During these three days, Isaac is apparently unaware of what is about to happen, and his innocence must have added to the burden Abraham felt in his heart.  In like manner, how God the Father must have been deeply troubled as the totally innocent Jesus voluntarily went to his suffering and crucifixion for our eternal well-being and salvation.  The love of God for us exceeded both of their suffering and grief.  The obedience of Abraham may even have served as an emotional support for them Jesus faced the cross because of his love for us.  

9 When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son.  Genesis 22:9-13 ESV

The ram was substituted as an offering for Isaac just as Jesus was substituted as an offering for us.

14 So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.” Genesis 22:14 ESV

Jesus provided his sacrifice by being crucified for us on Mount Moriah, the mount of the Lord, on the north side of the temple.

15 And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven 16 and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, 18 and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”  Genesis 22:15-18 ESV

God’s testing of Abraham by asking him to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, is a most challenging chapter of the Bible to comprehend.   The Lord was testing Abraham’s willingness to obey under the most extreme of circumstances.  And God himself would later provide the sacrifice of Jesus on this very mountain.

This “blessing of all nations” happens in the context of the genealogy of Jesus Christ.  Abraham, the first person named in the genealogy, was asked to offer up his precious son, exactly as God the Father willingly did with Jesus Christ over two thousand years later.  Jesus, the fulfillment of the genealogy, obediently went to the cross as a sacrifice for you and me, a fulfillment of the punishment that our sins demand in the holy accounting of God and his creation.  

When we see a loved one suffering, we would give anything to take the pain off them and put it on ourselves. This is what the Father experienced with Jesus at the cross, and why Jesus went all the way through with what He did for us.  The wages we earned from our sin is death, so Jesus paid the penalty that we may experience eternal life with Him.  The symbolism of Abraham being willing to sacrifice his only son is made all the stronger as this took place on Mount Moriah, the site of Jesus’ crucifixion.

“Because you have done this…in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”  Genesis 22:16, 18 ESV

Abraham’s demonstration of faith was clearly very important to God, the loving Father of his only begotten son, Jesus.  Because Abraham obeyed, all the nations indeed will be blessed through the fruit of his lineage, Jesus Christ.

Reflection:

What is one of the hardest things God has ever asked you to do? How did you bear up under it?

Do you currently have a loved one in a difficult situation, one that you would willingly take their place in?

Why do you think Abraham’s obedience in this extreme situation was so important to God?  What does the Father’s and Jesus’ willingness to go through this say about God’s love for you? 

We experience complete forgiveness when we come to the cross.  Instead of punishment or rejection, we come under the eternal care of a God who loves us.  Despite many failings in his own life, Abraham is known as a man of faith.  His greatest moment of coming to Mount Moriah in faith in the most difficult of circumstances was, in a sense, his coming to the cross.  Take a moment to reflect on, share or even experience the first time of your “coming to the cross”.

God’s Second Chance – Genesis 15

In calling and reaching out to Abraham, God was also reaching out to us, to humanity, for a second time.  The first time, before the judgement of Noah’s flood, man chose to ignore the call and existence of God and to disregard Him and His words.  The result of this choice was global misbehavior, including murder, violence, theft and bloodshed.  Few on the earth walked with a consciousness of God in their daily lives and most lived only for themselves.  This self-centered nature of mankind can be seen throughout much of history.  Virtually all of us have experienced the downside of human behavior at one time or another in our lives.

The result of God’s first outreach to man was failure and a flood.  There did not seem to be a capacity in man at that time to return God’s love and to enjoy His blessings with gratefulness and thanksgiving.  There was no attempt to walk in holiness with God in a faithful relationship.  The result was an evil and corrupt society that was full of selfishness and violence.  All people do wrong at one time or another, but at that time, God was waiting for even one person to step forward to seek to restore their broken relationship.  In the end, only Noah sought the Lord, and he was blessed with companionship, forgiveness and divine fellowship.

Noah sought to encourage others to turn to and acknowledge the Lord, but his actions were in vain. This spiraling scenario ultimately brought a flood of gigantic proportions.  Civilizations were wiped out by the catastrophic event, and God began again to build a community from faithful Noah and his seed. 

There are many aspects of this event that can raise difficult questions for us.  God’s word often presents things without fully explaining them to us.  Faith can be challenging when we do not have all the whys, how’s and wherefores in front of us, but God expects us to have the faith to trust in Him and to be willing to wait for answers.  We trust that the core events of our lives, even the most painful ones, are undergirded by His deep love for us, and that one day, answers will come.

After his calling, Noah’s descendant Abraham and his son Isaac would live mostly in the promised land of Israel.   Eventually, grandson Jacob’s family would be compelled to move down to Egypt due to a severe famine, and this exile would end up lasting several centuries.  Abraham had been warned in advance by God about this:

12 As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram (Abraham). And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. 13 Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. 14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions.  Genesis 15:12-14 ESV

God disclosed that Abraham’s descendants would go from living a life of prosperity, blessing and growth to living an oppressed life as slaves in Egypt, all over the course of several hundred years.  After this, when God’s timing was right, eighty-year old Moses would be sent to free those descendants from the bondage of Egypt, and they would be led by divine grace towards the Promised Land of Israel.

Abraham was chosen and called by God.  It was an extreme privilege, but it was not a life of ease and leisure.  Though he was blessed with many riches, Abraham also lived a life of many challenges and demands on his faith. 

Faith challenges continued throughout Abraham’s lineage.  In the eighth chapter of the Gospel of John, religious leaders who were Abraham’s blood descendants did not believe that God the Father had sent Jesus Christ as their Messiah.  This was a sin of ignorance and blindness.  They would ultimately have Jesus put to death on a cross because he claimed to be God, the son of the Father, and they just would not believe it, and considered Him blasphemous.  During their discussions with Jesus, he told them that, though they were descendants of Abraham by blood, they were not true sons of Abraham because they did not exhibit his faith.  The apostle Paul explores this further in Galatians chapter 3 where he says that the true sons of Abraham are not necessarily blood descendants, but those who believe like Abraham, the “man of faith.”

Abraham did have tremendous faith, but he was not perfect.  Consider the case of his promised son.  It had been decades since God promised seventy-five-year-old Abraham that his descendants would become a great nation.  And many years since God said his descendants would be more numerous than the stars in the heavens.  Yet, so far, no child had come along.  After ten years of waiting, Abraham and Sarah came up with their own plan in place of God’s. Using Sarah’s maid as a surrogate mother (Genesis 16), Ishmael was born.  But this did not change God’s mind in the matter of divine lineage, and He did not alter it.  God is sovereign over our lives.  We can pray to Him and ask Him to make changes, but when God’s plan is better for us, He will lovingly and gently say “No”.

The kingly line of Christ recorded in the genealogy of Jesus comes through Isaac, who was be born to Sarah on God’s timeline.  No matter how old she was or how unlikely or impossible it appeared to Abraham and Sarah at the time, God fulfilled His word and established the line of Christ through Isaac, Sarah’s son.

Reflection

What in your life are you are waiting for God to make happen?  Is there something missing that you believed He had promised you?  Something you had earnestly asked for and did not receive?  Is there a bitterness or disappointment about it in your innermost self?  Is there something you have lost that has produced tremendous grief and has formed a barrier between you and God?  Why not take a moment and share these with the Lord, who loves you?

The Lord has said, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.”  Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5 ESV.  What does this say about God’s love for you right now?

Sometimes we need to ask God to help us accept some large obstacle or hole in our life.  Something lost or missing, a regret or a failure we have experienced. Barriers like these can be like a large boulder in a field that we try to move, but cannot.  We can ask God for the grace to help us to accept the situation. While the problems are often still there, God allows us to walk around them and to move forward with our life in peace.

The Serenity Prayer can be a great tool to help with this, throughout the day:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”  Amen.

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

The call of Abram, later renamed Abraham, was God’s first step in restoring His relationship with people that had been broken by sin.  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 rebellious ways rather than God’s. 

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

Like Abraham, God has called each one of us from wherever we are to begin following Him.  A loving, holy God wants be involved to join us and to bless our lives.

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

Some believe that God is far away, distant and aloof, and not at all interested in our daily lives.  God’s interactions with Abraham 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 good, to be His “hands and feet”, reaching out to help others 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 new and unknown territory.  But when God reaches out to touch us, His presence is thrilling and energizing.

Abram was also delighted to hear that he would, at long last, have descendants. His deeply held desire for this had long looked like it would go unfulfilled.

God warned Abram that in answering the call, 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 lineage, which culminated in the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, who would bring in the Kingdom of God on earth.

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 will indeed 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 happened to you?  Where did it lead?

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?

Lord, help me to respond positively to Your call today. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Your Father Abraham – John 8

The first book of the New Testament, Matthew, begins with 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 well acquainted with them and their importance in the family of God. 

For example, in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus spoke of their presence at a future heavenly banquet:

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 is mentioned throughout the New and Old Testaments.  Jesus referred to him on multiple occasions, as did Paul in his letters, or epistles.  The writer of Hebrews includes Abraham in the faith “Hall of Fame” in Chapter 11.  Though clearly a person of great prominence in the word of God, many today are not quite sure who Abraham was or why he is so important.

Abraham is significant because he was the first person to be called out to begin the restoration of the family of faith in God. His lineage would become the royal line of Jesus Christ, who saves believers throughout all the world from our sins.  Abraham is the father of all in the family of God.  If you are a Jewish worshiper, you may have a blood connection to Abraham, though the rest of us are spiritually connected to him through our faith.

In the New Testament books of Romans and Galatians, the apostle Paul writes how we are all joined together as one after the Man of Faith, Abraham.  In the next few meditations, we will see how Abraham demonstrated his faith, most notably with his son Isaac at Mt. Moriah.

Abraham also plays a critical role in the ministry of Christ. Jesus had many discussions with opponents who sought to kill him because He “claimed” to be God. He is, but they did not believe or receive Him. One of theIr discussions centered around the person of 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’ opponents were angered by his statements and angrily protested:

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 His voluntary sacrifice was an essential part of God’s eternal 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 that separate all of us from God.  Only the pure sacrifice of Jesus Christ could fulfill the requirement of holiness needed to remove our separation from God and to make us holy to allow His Holy Spirit to reside within us.  The Holy Spirit cleanses believers daily through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the washing of the word of God.

Reflection

Jesus said that the truth will set us free if we abide in his word.  To “abide” means to accept, act in accordance with, obey, and remain in. 

What areas of obedience do you struggle with the most?  We ask God to help us. He loves us deeply even when we fail with our word and actions.

Father God, forgive and purify us from the sin we confess to You. Help us to turn away from our sin.  Thank You for not condemning us, and help us to turn to You to become a stronger and more fruitful believer.

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.  Outside of the genealogy, a queen named Esther played a very key role in the preservation of the holy 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 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 series 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 people. We ask the Holy Spirit of Jesus to speak to each of us in love, to spiritually enrich us through His Presence, and to draw 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