Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 11 Jan 18:
1. Genesis 21:1 — “The Lord did to Sarah as he had promised.” The Lord always keeps His promises. As His ambassadors on earth, we must model His character by always keeping our promises.
2. Genesis 21:12-13 – God has plans for people you may dislike.
3. Genesis 21:23 — “Now therefore swear to me here by God that you will not deal falsely with me or with my descendants or with my posterity.” Abraham’s trustworthiness came from his relationship with God. Abimelech called upon Abraham’s faith in God as the foundation of their relationship of trust. If someone doesn’t ground their integrity on fidelity to God, their integrity will always be in doubt because soon or later, self-interest will take priority over self-sacrifice. Ultimately, the unbeliever makes themselves ‘god’ at some point.
4. Genesis 22:1, 2 — Our difficulty is not usually that we don’t know God’s will. Our discomfort comes from the fact that we do know His will, but we do not want to do it! When God first spoke to Abraham, His commands were straightforward. “Go to a land I will show you” (Gen. 12:1). Then God led Abraham through a number of tests over the years. Abraham learned patience as he waited on God’s promise of a son, which took twenty-five years to be fulfilled. Abraham learned to trust God through battles with kings and through the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The pinnacle of Abraham’s walk of faith was when God asked him to sacrifice the one thing that meant more to him than anything else. Abraham’s previous obedience indicated that he would have quickly and decisively sacrificed anything else God asked of him, but was he prepared for this? God did not ask Abraham to make such a significant sacrifice at the beginning of their relationship. This came more than thirty years after Abraham began walking with God. As the Father progressively reveals His ways to you in your Christian pilgrimage, you, like Abraham, will develop a deeper level of trust in Him. When you first became a Christian, your Master’s instructions were probably fundamental, such as being baptized or changing your lifestyle. But as you learn to trust Him more deeply, He will develop your character to match bigger tests, and with the greater test will come a greater love for God and knowledge of His ways. Are you ready for God’s next revelation? (Henry T. Blackaby)
5. Genesis 22:1-12 – God will use those who hold nothing back from Him. You cannot value something more than your relationship with God.
6. Genesis 22:8 — Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb.” This is a prophecy of Jesus. Notice that Isaac carried the wood for the sacrifice as Jesus carried His cross.
7. Genesis 22:14 — “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.” The “land of Moriah” is where Jesus was crucified. There is much debate over the various hills of Moriah and whether or not Abraham’s sacrifice was the exact location of Jesus’ crucifixion, but there really is no way of proving any theory. The key point is that this is a foreshadowing of Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice for us.
8. Proverbs 11:2 — “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.” Pride is mentioned around 100 times in the Bible, only a few times is it mentioned in a positive way. Conversely, humility is mentioned around 100 times in the Bible, either as a godly attribute possessed by someone, or something God does to the prideful through discipline and punishment. God hates pride. Do you? Watch out for any indication of pride in your life. Pursue humility.
9. Proverbs 11:12 — “Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent.” It is always good to maintain a long-term view on relationships. Your family will be with you your whole life. You will have to work with your co-workers for a long time. Your neighbors will be your neighbors for a long time. If your behavior promotes strife with the people around you, you may have to live with it for a long time. You may even be surprised one day when that stranger you argued with in a parking lot or shopping center checkout line (exposing your bad side) turns out to be your new neighbor, church member, etc. — someone you didn’t realize you would see regularly. Best to always treat people in a way that promotes peace, whether they deserve it or not. Additionally, the people closest to you are you first responsibility in ministry and discipleship. They will see more of you than anybody and, therefore, have the best opportunity to see Christ in you. Make the most of the opportunity to bear fruit for the Kingdom.
10. Matthew 9:6 – “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—‘Rise, pick up your bed and go home.’” God uses miracles to glorify Himself and to validate His messenger, in this case His Son. We often pray for miracles for our reasons, but God uses miracles for His ultimate purpose — to reconcile people to Him.
11. Matthew 9:8 – “When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.” Jesus transferred His authority to His disciples and said that they would do even greater things than He:
– “And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction.” (Matthew 10:1)
– “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
– “Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.” (Titus 2:15)
– “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12)
12. Matthew 9:13 – “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” When you think you are righteous, you have a hard time forgiving others. The self-righteous believe their deeds (such as sacrifices) make them more righteous than others. Mercy comes from the truly humble sinner who understands the price Christ paid for them in mercy and grace. Mercy is a true act of worship. There is not greater indicator of what we really think about God and how much we really love Him than how we treat others. We worship primarily, first and foremost, through relationships. The Bible says, “He who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20) Love is the evidence of our salvation: “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.” (1 John 3:14) Jesus said that if we truly love Him, we will obey Him, and the primary commandment He gave us was to love one another – “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34) How did Jesus love us? “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Therefore, we must ‘lay down our lives’ before those who sin against us and who the world would consider ‘unworthy’ of love, the unlovable. How much we value the mercy and grace we have received through the blood of Jesus is not revealed in songs, rituals, sacrifices, or other religious activities but rather in the mercy and grace we show others. This is how we glorify God: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35) This is how we change the world, not through personal successes, parades, conventions, protests, speeches, or politics, but by changing hearts, one heart at a time — “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Luke 20:25) God gave us our mission; it is a mission of reconciliation: “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5: 18, 19) The messenger is known for shocking love, mercy, generosity, and holiness: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:27) “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1) This is how we change the world.
13. Matthew 9:15 – “The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.” Now is the time of fasting. Do you fast along with your prayers?
14. Matthew 9:18-25 — The woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood made Jesus “unclean” as a Rabbi when she touched the fringe of his garment. (Leviticus 15:25-27) She acted selfishly without considering the needs of others. However, Jesus did not scold her. Now Jesus was unclean, but now Jesus could enter the house of the dead girl and touch her without intentionally making Himself unclean (touching a dead body made priests unclean by Levitical Law). God will not let the sins of others get in the way of Him using them for His glory, and our sins do not change God’s plan. God uses all things, good and bad, for His glory and in accordance with His plan, though we cannot see how all things are coming together.
15. Matthew 9:36 – “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” You see all types of people in a crowd. Crowds often bring out the best and worse in human nature, some are courteous towards others, and some aren’t. Some people simply hate crowds because of how people act. Jesus had compassion on crowds, understanding that they were simply “harassed and helpless”. How you feel about crowds reveals more about you than the crowd.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 11 Jan 18: Seek to be a righteous leader today by leading everyone to Jesus. (Proverbs 12:26)