Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Sunday, 7 Jan 18:
1. Genesis 13:6, 7 – “Their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together, and
there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock.” Throughout the entire Bible, we are warned not to let possessions or the pursuit of possessions to get in the way of relationships. Abram and Lot had been blessed by God in a tremendous way, but greedy hearts turn God’s blessings into curses. When we get more than we need, we are told to give the rest away. Actually, we are told to give our best away and take for ourselves only what we need from the rest. Jesus warned of the man who had so much that he built new barns to store it all so he could retire and live comfortably (like worldly investment advisors recommend). Jesus called him a fool who should have stored up treasures in Heaven by caring for others with what he had today. (Luke 12:13-21) In this Genesis story, the family divided in pursuit of earthly gain, and everyone eventually paid a hefty price for choosing worldly prosperity over relationships. Consider families today – everyone goes their separate directions to make a living, and they rely on technology to maintain some degree of connection. When life’s challenges come, many turn to strangers (counsellors, bankers, etc) rather than family for support. This is so normal, we hardly question it. However, God had a different plan for families and church families.
2. Genesis 13:9-11 – “’If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if you take the
right hand, then I will go to the left.’ And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) So Lot chose for himself all the Jordan Valley, and Lot journeyed east. Thus they separated from each other.” In conflict, Abram following the godly principle of selflessly accommodating the desires of the other person. Abram’s focus was on reconciliation while Lot remained focused on getting the best deal, coming out on top. Lot chose what he thought what was the best land, and allowed Abram to take a harsh land full of enemies. No complaint was registered by Abram, though he got the raw deal. It took great faith for Abram to behave this way. It took no faith for Lot to take what he wanted. Abram’s choice was blessed by God; Lot’s choice was cursed. Do you have the faith to do what God wants even when obedience comes at a great cost to you and seems to give the advantage to more selfish people?
3. Genesis 13:13 – “Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord.”
Better to live with nothing than to live in comfort with sinners.
4. Genesis 13:16 — Abraham had to walk in faith, believing beyond human reason that his descendants would be greatly blessed by God.
5. Genesis 14:12 — Lot partnered with the ungodly and got entangled in ungodly conflicts.
6. Genesis 14:13-16 — Abraham was prepared to defend himself and his loved ones.
7. Genesis 14:14, 15 – “When Abram heard that his kinsman had been taken captive, he led
forth his trained men, born in his house, 318 of them, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. And he divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and defeated them and pursued them to Hobah, north of Damascus.” Christians not only have an inalienable right to self-defense but also an inalienable responsibility to self-defense. This responsibility cannot be abrogated. Lot’s government did not protect or rescue him, Abram did. Abram had his own fighting force, and he didn’t create them overnight – they were highly trained and obviously very capable. Abram wasn’t looking for a fight, but he was ready to win one. Christians are called to seek peace and reconciliation but also to protect themselves, their families, and other fellow believers when necessary. Jesus rebuked Peter for attacking the Roman soldier with a sword because it was not a time for fighting, but don’t lose sight of the fact that Peter carried a sword, something that could not have escaped Jesus’ attention. In fact as Jesus drew closer to His crucifixion, He warned His disciples to make sure they had enough swords to protect themselves. (Luke 22:36-38)
8. Genesis 14:18-24 — In great victory, Abraham worshipped and made offerings to God while others sought spoils of war.
9. Genesis 14:20 – “And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.” This is the first recorded act
of tithing – giving the first tenth of acquired wealth to God. Note that Abram did this before the Law required it. Melchizedek is a fascinating and mysterious Biblical figure, described here as “priest of God Most High.” Of the Messiah, Jesus, Psalm 110 says, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” This order is specifically different, set apart, and higher than the priestly order of Aaron from which was handed down the Law. Melchizedek is further mentioned and associated with Jesus in Hebrews 5-7. Hebrews 5 repeats that Jesus was “designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.” Hebrews 6 points out that Jesus is forever a high priest after the order of Melchizedek, and Hebrews 7 goes into a bit more detail about Melchizedek – “He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace. He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever. See how great this man was to whom Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth of the spoils!” Many believe that Melchizedek was a theophany, actually Jesus Himself appearing to Abraham, that Jesus is the only person in the “order” of Melchizedek and has been and will be forever, explaining why no one else is ever mentioned as part of this order. If the description in Hebrews 7 is literal, then it is indeed difficult to see how it could be properly applied to anyone but the Lord Jesus Christ. No mere earthly king “remains a priest forever,” and no mere human is “without father or mother.” However, others believe that Hebrews 7 is not intended to be taken literally and that Melchizedek was just a “type of Christ” who foreshadowed the coming Messiah. Are Melchizedek and Jesus the same person? A case can be made either way. At the very least, Melchizedek points to Christ. But it is also possible that Abraham, after his weary battle, met and gave honor to the Lord Jesus Himself. What do you think?
10. Genesis 14:22, 23 — “But Abram said to the king of Sodom, ‘I have lifted my hand to theLORD, God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth, that I would not take a thread or a sandal strap or anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’” Abram refused to partner with the ungodly, to become dependent upon the ungodly, or to be entangled in the affairs of the ungodly, which is what got Lot into trouble. Unfortunately, partnership with, dependency on, and entanglement with the world has largely disempowered to church today. As an example, according to the Evangelical Christian Credit Union, churches in an America spend 82 percent of their budgets on overhead costs, largely due to building debt to ungodly banking institutions. Churches use only 3 percent of their budget for children’s and youth programs, and only 2 percent for adult programs. Local and national benevolence receives just 1 percent of the typical church budget. Comparatively, the American Red Cross spends only 8 percent of its revenues on administrative and fundraising expenses; World Vision spends only 14 percent; and Compassion International spends just 16 percent. Also, among those Christians who claim to tithe, studies show that they actually give about 2% while they pay around 35-40% to debt. We should learn from Abram.
11. Genesis 14:22-23 – Abram had a healthy distrust of secular government which our Founding Fathers shared. Abram gave the king of Sodom what was his and wanted nothing in return – no strings attached. He did not want earthly kings to lay claim to any of God’s glory. He did not want a relationship with the ungodly to compromise his relationship with God. Abram laid the foundations for separation of church and state. Abram’s King was God. He needed no other. A church that becomes dependent upon government or any other institution will eventually comprise fidelity to God in favor of that worldly benefactor.
12. Proverbs 7:1, 2 – “My son, keep my words and treasure up my commandments with you; keep my commandments and live.” God’s commands are intended for your very best, though the sinful heart views them and needlessly restricting. Throughout the Bible, you will see God passionately warn people to obey His word for their benefit; and throughout the Bible, you will see people reject God’s impassioned plea with devastating results. This pattern continues today.
13. Proverbs 7: 6, 7 – “For at the window of my house I have looked out through my lattice, and I have seen among the simple, I have perceived among the youths, a young man lacking sense.” The Holy Spirit will use God’s word to give you a perception in life others don’t have. As you read God’s word and walk in God’s word, the Holy Spirit will reveal to you the truth of God’s word in the circumstances and activities that are occurring around you every day. You will begin to see and understand what God is doing in the lives of others around you, and you will have opportunities to help others understand the truth too. When you read God’s word in the morning, God will continue to teach it to you all day long if you keep your eyes and ears open.
14. Psalm 2:1 – “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?” The entire Bible reveals a cosmic, timeless battle over who is really King. Is God God, or are people gods? Is it, “Thy will be done on earth…,” or is it, “My will be done on earth….” This battle will continue until Jesus’ return, and until then, everyone will take a side.
15. Psalm 2:7 — God has always planned to work through His Son to accomplish His mission of world redemption.
16. Psalm 2:10-12 – “Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” God expects all earthly leaders to serve Jesus. This is part of our message and His ambassadors.
17. Psalm 3:8 – “Salvation belongs to the Lord.” People place their hope in many different things. Some place their hope in politicians, others in finances, others in friends and family; but hope, peace, and security are ultimately found only in Jesus. Build your house on the rock of Jesus. Everything else is shifting sand.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 7 Jan 18: Trust God enough today to show mercy, grace, and forgiveness to others. Mercy is choosing to not give people the bad that they deserve; grace is giving people the good that they don’t deserve; and forgiveness is cancelling their perceived debt to you (physical or emotional), and viewing them as ‘right’ with you. God showed you mercy, grace, and forgiveness through the ultimate price of His Son, Jesus – on this you place the unshakable hope of your Salvation. Your act of gratitude to God is to show the same kind of mercy and grace to others who would ‘crucify’ you in relationship. Having received reconciliation with God through Jesus, He is now calling you to me a minister of reconciliation with all others, those terrible sinners who God knows are going to hurt you because “Hurting people hurt people.” Today we read how Abram made himself vulnerable to Lot, and Lot took advantage of Abram’s graciousness; but we also read how God blessed Abram beyond anything Lot could have done for him, and God restored ten-fold anything Abram might have lost in his generosity. Abram did not show any resentment to Lot and did not seek to get even with Lot but trusted God to provide and handle the justice equation – justice comes only from God, not from people. On the contrary, Abram stood ready to rescue Lot from the consequences of his own selfishness. ‘Common sense’ rules of ‘fairness’ would have validated Abram if he had decided to let Lot face the consequences of his actions or at least to receive payment for saving him from his actions, but Abram chose to follow a higher standard, the standard of the order of Melchizedek, the order of Jesus – mercy, grace, forgiveness, reconciliation, peace, and love. Abram did not receive ‘fairness’ from the people around him; he received a higher blessing from God, and his blessings lasted for generations, for eternity. Trust God and choose the higher path of unconditional, selfless, sacrificial love. Today, sinful people will, in some way, treat you unfairly (though they will likely not literally crucify you as they did your example, Lord, and Savior Jesus). Leave justice to Jesus, and offer the gift of mercy, grace, forgiveness, love, reconciliation, and peace. But what if they don’t ask for it or don’t appreciate it? Remember the example of Jesus – “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) God gave before we asked, when we didn’t even want the gift – that is what leaders in Christ do, regardless the personal cost. (Genesis 13:6-11)