Saturday, 4 January 2014

(5) January 5: Genesis 12-14 and Matthew 5v1-26

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

Read Genesis 12-14 & Matthew 5v1-26

To discover:
As you read consider the different ways Abram’s faith in God’s promise would have cost him.

To ponder:
In our youth obsessed culture it’s encouraging to see God working with someone of 75! Finally there is hope: From five curses (chapters 3-11) to five blessings (12v1-3). And these are words of grace. Abram probably worshipped the moon God of Ur and Haran (Jos 24v2). Yet God chose him.
            At Babel humanity sought to be a great people with a great name. But these things come only by God’s action and purpose (12v2). He will grant joy and protection to Abram, and the whole earth is somehow to be blessed “through” him. All this is going to be worked out in a “land” – Canaan, promised to his offspring (v7). 9v26 is being fulfilled.
            History to this point has proved the world deserves curse not blessing. So this promise implies God will provide a way for his justice to be satisfied and for sinners to be counted acceptable to him. Paul tells us Christ is the “offspring” of v7. When (like Abram) those of all nations trust God’s promise fulfilled in this offspring, they receive blessing that has therefore come “through” Abram. They then become God’s means of bringing that blessing to others (Gal 3v6-18).
            However Abram is fickle of faith. Despite the huge cost he obeys God, persevering where Terah didn’t (11v31-32, Acts 7v2-4). But when famine hits he leaves the land and lies about Sarai out of fear for his own safety. He should have trusted God’s provision and protection. But consider God’s grace. He blesses Abram nevertheless – protecting him and Sarai, and providing them with wealth from Pharoah’s coffers! 12v7-20 pattern God’s later deliverance of Israel, reminding them this fulfilled his promise too.
            Abram seems to learn the lesson. In what follows he trusts God’s provision enough to offer Lot the best of the land and God’s protection enough to rescue Lot from captivity. He even refuses booty so that God alone will be glorified for his wealth. Crowning this, he is mysteriously blessed by the Priest-King of Salem (Jerusalem) – a pattern of the one to come.
            In Christ God calls us, whatever the cost, to journey to the “land” he has promised, serving his purposes and not giving up (Heb 11v8-16). And we need not fear or compromise, for God will meet all our needs “according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4v19).

Praying it home:
Thank God that he continues to bless us despite our sin and often fickle faith. Ask him to strengthen your faith so that you will honour, obey and take risks for him, and especially in order to bring the blessings of the gospel to others. Pray that you would be able to do this no matter what the cost, trusting him to provide and protect.

Thinking further:
It seems unfair for Pharoah and his household to be inflicted with diseases when Abram is the one who has done wrong. We should remember the Egyptians were not without sin, and that this would have brought home to them Abram’s importance and the reality of his God. However, the truth is that grace often seems unfair because it is not dispensed according to merit. We receive much when so many don’t. Yet to those who are given much, much will be asked.

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