THE GOD WHO SEES

Scripture Reading: Genesis 16:6-16

“She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me.'” (Genesis 16:13)

Hagar was a young slave woman who had fled from her mistress (v. 6). She was pregnant and all alone in the wilderness. She had been terribly mistreated and had no one to whom she could turn. In the eyes of the world, she was an insignificant person who had no one to care for her.

The angel of the Lord found Hagar by a spring of water in the wilderness (vs. 7,8). God sought her; she was not seeking Him. She was running away from everyone, but God came to her. God is more interested in us that we can ever be interested in ourselves.

Genesis 16:7 contains the first mention in the Bible of “the angel of the Lord.” Many Bible scholars agree that the angel of the Lord is a per-incarnate manifestation of Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity. It was obvious that Hagar was meeting God (v. 13). God saw her distress and came to her aid.

God told Hagar to return to her mistress (v. 9). This would be no easy thing for Hagar to do. But when we have made a bad decision, we have to do all we can to make it right and we have to be willing to face the consequences.

The angel of the Lord promised Hagar that she would have many children (v. 10). He went on to tell her that she would have a son and that she should name him Ishmael (v. 11). The name Ishmael means “God hears.” By giving this name to Hagar’s son, God was saying that He hears the cries of the afflicted. The angel of the Lord gave Hagar a prophecy about her son — “He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers” (v. 12). It is interesting to note that Ishmael became the father of the Arab people.

After the encounter with God, Hagar gave this name to Him — “You are the God who sees me.” The God who heard Hagar was also the God who had first seen her. In her rebellion, God sought her out. How comforting it is to know that God hears us in our misery and sees our needs. Even when we are running from Him, He comes after us!

Lord Jesus, You hear my cries and You see all my troubles. It is so comforting to know that You are aware of all the struggles I face. You are with me in them and will come to may aid. Even when I am running from you, I know You are coming after me. You will never let me go!

NOTE: I will be on vacation next week and will not be posting devotionals. I’ll resume the week of June 28th.

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SEEKING WORLDLY SOLUTIONS

Scripture Reading: Genesis 16:1-6

“Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; so she said to Abram, ‘The Lord has kept me from having children. So, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.’ Abram agreed to what Sarai said.” (Genesis 16:1,2)

One of the great temptations we face is to seek worldly solutions to spiritual issues. It is easy for Christians to be conditioned by the ways of the world. This almost always leads to compromising our spiritual values, and often these bad choices bear severe consequences. This was the case with Sarai and Abram.

Sarai was still barren in her old age. By all human calculation, the heir of the promise could not come through her. Sarai blamed God for her barrenness — “The Lord has kept me from having children.” When we stop trusting God, it is easy to blame Him and others for the difficulties we are facing.

Sarai offered Abram a solution from the custom of the Ancient Near East. If a couple was not able to have children naturally, the wife could give one of her servants to her husband. Just because this was an accepted custom did not make it the right thing to do. God had promised to Abram and Sarai that a descendant would come from their union. Both Sarai and Abram became weak in their faith and took matters into their own hands.

Abram, the man of faith, became the man of unbelief. Instead of walking by faith, Abram began to walk by sight and he got in serious trouble because of it.

Hagar conceived a child by Abram. When Hagar realized that she was pregnant, her attitude toward Sarai changed — “When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress” (v. 4b). The Hebrew word suggests the idea that she “looked with contempt” upon her mistress. Hagar may have thought that she had the upper hand now.

The situation caused tension between Sarai and Abram — “Then Sarai said to Abram, ‘You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my servant in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord Judge between you and me” (v. 5). Sin almost always produces tension between people. Often the effects of sin are multi-dimentional.

Abram yielded to Sara’s frustration — “Your servant is in your hands. Do with her whatever you think best” (v. 6). Sarai mistreated Hagar so badly that Hagar fled from her.

The problem is clear. Once the way of faith was abandoned and the ways of the world were adopted, the family was caught up in a continuing chain of cause and effect that troubled them for ages. Abram and Sarai failed to trust God. They did not wait on Him, but turned to the ways of the world. Waiting on God can be difficult; but failing to do so can be disastrous.

Lord God, I confess that I am an impatient person. Forgive me when I fail to wait on You and take matters into my own hands. Forgive me for turning to worldly solutions instead of being obedient to You. You are so patient and gracious with me. Let me learn from my past mistakes.

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GOD’S COVENANT

Scripture Reading: Genesis 15:6-21

“When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking fire pot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram.” (Genesis 15:17,18a)

We have seen how Abram put his faith in God’s promises. Through faith Abram was justified before the Lord — “Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness” (v. 6). God established His covenant with Abram in which He promised to give Abram a land (12:1;13:6), and a people (12:2;13:16). In our passage today, God ratified His covenant promises to Abram. God established a unique relationship with Abram which consisted of promises and privileges, which were sealed by God Himself. This is the very nature of what a covenant is.

The covenant ratification which took place with Abram was a common practice among the people of that day. When two people made a covenant with each other, they stated the terms of the covenant. Then they had a ratification ceremony, which consisted of taking animals, splitting them in halves, and laying the halves opposite to one another. The two people making the covenant walked between the carcasses of the slain animals together. The idea was — “If one of us breaks this covenant, may we be like these slain animals.” It was a serious matter when covenants were established.

Notice what happened when God made His covenant with Abram. God alone passed through the carcasses of the slain animals. He did so in the form of a theophany (a physical manifestation of God). God revealed Himself as a smoking fire pot with a blazing torch. In this theophany God’s glory was enveloped in fire and smoke, both symbols of the wrath of God whose fiery zeal consumes whatever opposes it.

God alone passed between the pieces of slain animals. This was a monolithic covenant, meaning it was one sided. God was saying to Abram, “If I do not fulfill My promises to you, may I be like these slain animals.” God demonstrated to Abram His wonderful mercy and infinite kindness in binding Himself to a weak and sinful man. The infinite God drew near to Abram and made a covenant with him.

God has done the same with us. His Son, Jesus Christ, is the Mediator of the covenant. God assures us, just as He assured Abram, of His covenant faithfulness. God will always do what He promises.

Lord God, thank You for the wonderful mercy and infinite kindness You have shown me in Your gracious covenant. You have promised to be my God and You have said that I belong to You. Thank You for sealing Your covenant with the blood of Your Son. I know that You will always do what You promise.

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JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH

Scripture Reading: Genesis 15:1-6

“And he believed the Lord, and He counted it to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6)

This is one of the most important verses found in the Bible. It is the first time the Bible tells us how sinful men and women can become right with God. We are told that Abram believed the Lord. What did Abram believe? Galatians 3:6,7 tells us — “The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you.’ So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.” Abram believed the gospel!

Abram believed that salvation was by grace through faith (Galatians 3:6-9). He look forward in faith to the redemption that was to be accomplished by Christ — “The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds,’ referring to many, but ‘and to your seed,’ meaning one person, who is Christ” (Galatians 3:16).

Through Abram’s faith, God acted. He counted it to Abram as righteousness. Abram was given righteousness by God Himself. He was declared righteous by God. For the first time in Scripture God lays out the doctrine of justification by faith. Now the theme of the entire Bible is set before us.

It is absolutely necessary for us to understand clearly the importance of the doctrine of justification by faith. The Westminster Shorter Catechism defines justification for us — “Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein He pardons all our sins and accepts us as righteous in His sight only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone” (Westminster Shorter Catechism #33).

Justification is an act of God’s free grace. It happens only once in a believer’s life. The two aspects of justification are: God pardons us of all our sins, and He accepts us as righteous in His sight. The righteousness we receive in an alien righteousness; it comes from outside us. It is the righteousness of Christ that is imputed (credited) to us. The instrument through which we are justified is faith.

Lord Jesus, You made my justification possible through Your sacrificial death and glorious resurrection. You paid for my sins so that I could be pardoned for them. And Your provided the complete and perfect righteousness that has been imputed to me. Thank You for the gift of salvation and for the glorious hope I have because of it.

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ABRAM BELIEVED THE LORD

Scripture Reading: Genesis 15:1-6

“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.’ And He brought him outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.’ Thus He said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be,’ and he believed the Lord, and He counted it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:4-6)

After the warfare had ended and Abram had the encounter with Melchizedek, the Lord came to Abram in a vision — “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great” (v. 1). Surely Abram had some fear. Would the kings come back after him? He had only 318 trained fighters (14:14). What would be consequences be? It was precisely at that moment that the word of the Lord came to Abram — “Fear not, for I am your shield.”

God comes to us and assures us of His protection and presence. When we are facing fearful circumstances, God is always with us. He is our shield and we can find great comfort in those words — “Fear not, for I am your shield.”

God also said to Abram — “Your reward shall be very great.” Abram had forfeited the spoils of war (14:21-24). Now God made a promise to be his reward. There is no greater reward than this. Many have given much for the sake of the kingdom, but no matter what you give up, it is worth it, for God is your reward.

Earlier God promised Abram that he would have many descendants (13:16). The problem was that Abram had no children of his own. He was 75 years old when he left Haran. This event took place over 10 years later. His only heir was Eliezer of Damascus, who was probably his favorite servant. Abram was struggling — “O Lord, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?”

This is when God repeated His promise to Abram — “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” God went on to assure Abram that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in heaven.” All of this seemed impossible. It was too good to be true.

But Abram responded to God’s promises — “And he believed the Lord, and He counted it to him as righteousness” (v. 6). We will see the significance of this verse in the next post. The question for us today is — Do we believe the promises of God, even when they seem impossible? Remember — “Nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).

Lord God, give me the faith to believe You even when things seem impossible. I know that Your promises are true and that You will never fail to do what You say You will do. I confess that there are times when I am weak in faith. In the end, I know that You will always be faithful to me and You will fulfill all your promises. You are my shield and my very great reward. I know I can trust You to protect me and to provide for me.

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TWO OFFERS

Scripture Reading: Genesis 14:17-24

“The king of Sodom said to Abram, ‘Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself.'” (Genesis 14:21)

We have seen how Abram defeated the army of the confederation of four kings who had captured Lot and all his possessions. Afterwards, two kings met with Abram. One was Bera, king of Sodom; the other was Melchizedek, king of Salem. Each of the kings made an offer to Abram.

Melchizedek, the king of Salem, offered him bread and wine, and a blessing — “Then Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram” (vs. 18,19a). Abram already had all the spoils of war. He must have had plenty of bread and wine available to him. Melchizedek was a pre-incarnate manifestation of Jesus Christ. When Christ became incarnate many centuries after these events in Genesis, He too offered bread and wine. He still does to this day when His people celebrate Communion.

Melchizedek also blessed God Most High — “And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand” (v. 20). Melchizedek gave God credit for the victory Abram had over the confederation of kings.

Bera, the king of Sodom, offered Abram riches — “Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself” (v. 21). What is interesting is that the king of Sodom was in no position to offer Abram these things. They did not belong to him for he was a defeated king.

Abram accepted Melchizedek’s offer and honored God. Abram gave a tenth to Melchizedek. He gave Melchizedek the first and the best of the spoils of war. Abram was the first person in Scripture to tithe. Tithing has been a practice Christians have honored since that time. The tithe is an expression of our love and gratitude to God for all He has done for us.

Abram refused the offer of the king of Sodom because he wanted God to get all the glory — “I have raised my hand to the Lord, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, and have taken an oath that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or thong of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, ‘I made Abram rich'” (vs. 23,24).

Daily we must make choices of which offer to take — the empty promises of the world or the riches of God’s grace.

Lord Jesus, enable me to resist the ways of the world. Thank You for the grace that You have lavished upon me. Thank You for making the ultimate sacrifice for me and for the sacramental reminder of Your work when we take Communion.

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SALEM OR SODOM?

Scripture Reading: Genesis 14:1-24

“Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, ‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, and bless be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.’ Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.” (Genesis 14:18-20)

Lot made a selfish choice to move to the land near Sodom (13:10-13). Lot eventually lived in Sodom and became one of the city’s leaders. His choice had serious consequences.

The battles in Genesis 14 took place between a confederation of four kings from the cities of the Euphrates River area and five kings from the cities located in the lower Jordan area. The four kings defeated the five kings and then raided Sodom and Gomorrah (vs. 10,11). Lot, who was living in Sodom, and his possession were taken captive (v. 12).

When Abram heard about Lot’s captivity (v. 13), he assembled a small army and attacked the armies of the four kings. He defeated the kings and brought back Lot and all the goods the kings had confiscated. Obviously God gave Abram the victory. Abram’s army was considerably smaller than the armies of the four kings. Now Abram had the right to possess all the spoils of war.

After the defeat something interesting happened. Two kings came out to meet Abram in the King’s Valley. These two kings were very different from one another. The first king was Bera, the king of Sodom. He ruled over a very wicked city and certainly was wicked himself. The king of Sodom lost all his possessions and wanted to get back what he could. He crawled out of the tar pits into which he had fallen and came to appeal to Abram. The king of Sodom is an illustration of the things of the world. He was bankrupt and really had nothing to offer.

The second king, the king of Salem, is a mysterious person in Scripture. His name, Melchizedek, means “king of righteousness.” Melchizedek stood for righteousness in contrast to the king of Sodom who stood for all the unrighteous world. Melchizedek was the king of Salem. The word “salem” means “peace.” Melchizedek was the king of peace who stood in contrast to the king of Sodom who stood for warfare. Melchizedek was also identified as a priest of God Most High. He was both a priest and king. Many Bible scholars believe Melchizedek was a type of Jesus Christ. Some suggest that he was a pre-incarnate manifestation of Jesus.

These two kings represent the choices we have. One is to follow the shallow ways of the world (Sodom). The other represents the righteousness of Christ (Melchizedek, king of Salem). The question is which will we choose– Salem or Sodom?

Lord Jesus, my King and Priest, I bow before You. You are the king of righteousness. You are the Prince of Peace. I choose to follow You. Grant me grace to honor You in all that I do and say.

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CHOICES AND THEIR CONSEQUENCES

Scripture Reading: Genesis 13:5-18

“Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, toward Zoar. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company.” (Genesis 13:10,11)

Both Abram and Lot had many possession (Genesis 13:1-5). This presented a problem. The land could not sustain both men and their possessions while dwelling together. Strive developed between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock. They fought over who would have the choice pastures and who would be first at the wells (vs. 5-7).

Abram took the lead in resolving the conflict (vs. 8,9). He gave Lot the first choice for his dwelling place. Keeping a good relationship with Lot was more important to Abram than choosing where he would live. Abram was the older man and the leader. He had the first right to choose. Yet, he yielded his right to Lot. It is amazing how many families are split apart because of conflicts over things! Abram did not want that to happen to his family.

Lor chose what seemed to be the choicest land (vs. 10,11). Possession were more important to Lot than relationships. Lot’s selfish choice had disastrous consequences later. Lot made a series of compromises that eventually led to disaster. This is the way it usually works — we make one compromise that leads to another that, in turn, leads to more compromises.

We must remember that our choices always have consequences. Lot’s selfish choice of what seemed to be the better land led to more selfish choices. Lot eventually moved his tents toward Sodom (13:12). Later he actually lived in Sodom (14:12). These choices cost Lot dearly. Remember how wicked Sodom and Gomorrah were — “Now the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord” (v. 13).

Nowhere in this passage do we see Lot seeking God’s directions. His decision was based on his human perception of what would profit him most. We need to be very careful when we are faced with choices. Our first action should be to seek God’s direction and will in the matter. Then we must be wise and consider all the factors before making the choice. Sometimes looks can deceive. What may seem best according to our human perspective may not be the better choice. Choices always have consequences.

Lord God, forgive me for the bad choices I have made when I failed to seek Your wisdom and will before making them. Let me be wise when making choices and consider all the facts before I make them. I admit that I often act too quickly. Give me the ability to discern what is best and what is in accord with Your perfect will.

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REGAINING PERSPECTIVE

Scripture Reading: Genesis 13:1-4

“From the Negev he went from place to place until he came to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier, and where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the name of the Lord.” (Genesis 13:3,4)

Abram had been in Egypt because of his lack of confidence in God. He doubted whether God would provide for him. Thus, he left his place of worship and took matters into his own hands. He suffered humiliation as a result of his unbelief. He lost his wife to Pharaoh for a short time (12:14-16). God intervened and sent a plague on Pharaoh and his house. Pharaoh rebuked Abram and expelled him him from Egypt (12:17-20).

God often uses our spiritual failures to make us stronger. Abram came back from Egypt a wiser man. God taught him a great lesson. Abram learned that he must trust God no matter what and that God would provide for him. Abram came back to his place of worship, went to the altar, and called upon the name of the Lord. I am sure he confessed his sins and repented.

When we get right with the Lord, we regain our perspective. We have God’s wisdom and power working for us. Then we are able to make wise choices as we seek the Lord in making them. Abram learned the lesson the hard way. He was now in a good state spiritually.

As I look back over my life, I well remember the time when I failed to trust God and attempted to take matters in my own hands. I had to deal with the consequences and repent before the Lord. I had to come into His presence and be still — “But the Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth be silent before Him” (Habakkuk 2:20). We need to have our places of Bethel where we can come and call upon the Lord. When we do, we will regain our perspective. The Lord allows us to fail on occasion so that He can take us to a new level of trust. We must learn from our failures, do what we can to correct them, and trust God to teach us through them.

Gracious Lord, forgive me for the many times that I have failed to trust You. Forgive me when I don’t seek Your wisdom when making choices. Thank You for the grace You have shown me over and over in my life. Thank You for forgiving me, restoring me, and enabling me to regain the right perspective.

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FEET OF CLAY

Scripture Reading: Genesis 12:10-13:4

“As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, ‘I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, “This is his wife.” Then they will kill me but let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared.'” (Genesis 12:11-13)

There is no question that Abram was a man of great faith. Paul said of him, “In hope against hope he believed” (Romans 4:18). However, Abram was none-the-less a sinner like all of us. We all have feet of clay. Even a godly man like Abram can become weak in his faith and make bad choices.

A famine took place in the land of Canaan and Abram turned from following God and went to Egypt. Abram had not had it easy. He was called by God to leave his land and family, and to go to an unknown destination. Soon after arriving in Canaan, a famine occurred. Abram chose to flee to Egypt for help. When trials come, we often fail to trust God and we begin to rely on our own resources and on those of the world for provision.

Abram chose to take matters into his own hands and fled to Egypt. Our tendency is to concentrate on the circumstances rather than focusing on God who is the ultimate provider. Abram failed to see the bigger picture. God brought him to this land and God promised to provide.

As he and Sarai approached Egypt, Abram became afraid. Sarai was a beautiful woman and Abram was afraid that the Egyptians would kill him and take Sarai. So he asked Sarai to join him in his sinful plot. Abram lied and he asked Sarai to lie as well. We can compound sin by getting others involved.

Abram had to face the consequences of his sin. Sarai was taken from him and brought into Pharaoh’s household (vs. 14,15). But God intervened and inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household (v. 17). Pharaoh discovered the truth that Sarai was Abram’s wife. He rebuked Abram and sent him and Sarai away (vs. 18-20).

When trials come our way, it is easy for us to become weak in our faith and to take matters into our own hands. No matter how strong we may think our faith is, we still have feet of clay. Bad choices always lead to bad consequences. Fortunately God does not permit His children to go their own way indefinitely. He eventually brings us back to our senses and to Him.

Lord God, forgive me when I become weak in my faith and fail to trust you as I should. I confess that I often take matters into my own hands rather than waiting on You to lead me in the way You want me to go. Thank You that you will never give up on me or let me get too far astray.

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