Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Sunday, 16 January 2022:
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)
Genesis 14:18-24 — In great victory, Abraham worshipped and made offerings to God while others sought spoils of war.
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?
Genesis 14:22, 23 — “But Abram said to the king of Sodom, ‘I have lifted my hand to the LORD, 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.
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.
Psalm 5:3 – “O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.”
Start your day the right way, rededicating yourself to God, and then keep your eyes open to see what God is doing, prepared to join Him in His activity. One of the best things you could do this year is commit to beginning every day with prayer and Bible study.
Psalm 5:4 – “For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you.”
Don’t let sin hinder your relationship with God. He can forgive your sin, but He cannot tolerate it. He cannot bless sin. God hates sin. He will deal with it.
Psalm 5:5 – God does hate some people.
Psalm 5:7 – “But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house.”
We can approach God because of His steadfast love, not because of our own merit. We are unworthy apart from Jesus who covers us over with His righteousness.
Psalm 5:8 – “Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me.”
We cannot know the way; we must be led by the Holy Spirit. Only God can make our way straight.
Psalm 5:11 – “But let all who take refuge in you rejoice.”
Taking refuge in God requires obedience to Him.
Psalm 6:1 – “O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath.”
This is what we want from God; are we willing to give this type of grace to others?
Psalm 6:8, 9 – “Depart from me, all you workers of evil, for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping. The Lord has heard my plea.”
When persecuted, don’t try to take matters into your own hands. Turn to the Lord, and wait on Him to deliver you. God will hear your prayer and do only what is very best. Again, you cannot know what is very best from your very limited perspective and understanding. God knows what you cannot know. God can do what you cannot do. When you try to act from your perspective, you only add to sin and make matters worse. Be patient and persevere through persecution. Trust and obey and watch what God will do. When He sees you through, you will grow in faith and have more strength to follow Him than you did before.
Proverbs 16:1, 2 — “The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit.”
When you humbly study God’s word. The Holy Spirit will challenge you by revealing to you the difference between what you are doing and what He wants you to do and by revealing the truth of your heart, showing to you the difference between how He sees you and how you have seen yourself.
“How quick we are to question the motives of others, yet we are so slow to question our own! When others harm us, we may assume the worst of intentions. When we are guilty, we often excuse our offenses, concluding that others are far too sensitive! Regardless of how we monitor our motives, God weighs them in His scales of righteousness. It is futile to try to deceive God with our pious justifications, for He sees our hearts. Is it possible to do the right thing for the wrong reason? Of course! You can attend worship services with a heart that is far from worshipful (Isa. 1:10-17). Could you show concern for the poor and yet have a heart that is opposed to God? Judas did (John 12:4-8). Could you make bold statements of love for Christ and actually be aiding the work of Satan? Peter did (Matt. 16:21-23). Could you offer sacrifices to God and be in total disobedience to Him? King Saul did (1 Sam. 13:8-9). Could you pray with the wrong motives? James said you can (James 4:3). Many things cause us to do what we do. We can be motivated by good things, such as love for God, compassion, generosity, and faith. Or our actions can come from unhealthy motives such as pride, insecurity, ambition, lust, greed, guilt, anger, fear, and hurt. It is even possible to do the best things based on the worst motives. When the Lord measures our motives He looks for one thing: love. All that we do should proceed from our love for God and for others (1 Cor. 13). Take time to look past your actions to what lies behind them. Ask God to show you what He sees when He examines your motives.” (Henry T. Blackaby)
Proverbs 16:3 — “The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.”
God’s plan accounts for human nature and free choice. No one’s choices or actions can change God’s plan. God brings all things together for His ultimate good. Even evil people who attempt to rebel against God are a part of His plan.
Proverbs 16:9 — “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”
Though people may choose to reject God and go their own way, God is still in control of their lives.
Proverbs 16:20 — “Whoever gives thought to the word will discover good, and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord.”
When you are willing to study God’s word and walk in it in trust to God, you will be blessed.
Proverbs 16:25 – “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”
“Things are not always what they seem. Proverbs warns that we can be deceived into believing we are going down the right path and yet be heading toward death, the opposite direction from God’s will. People do not naturally seek God or pursue righteousness (Rom. 3:10-18). Only as the Spirit awakens our hearts to the Person of Christ are we able to desire God’s will. If we make decisions apart from the guidance of the Spirit of God, we will be like a ship trying to sail without a compass. We will do what makes the most sense, based on our own wisdom. But what looks attractive may actually lead to sin, ultimately destroying what is precious to us, for our most profound human thinking is mere foolishness to God (1 Cor. 1:18-20). Only God knows the way that leads to life, and He wants to lead us to walk in it (Matt. 7:13-14). Don’t assume every opportunity that arises is from God. Satan will disguise himself as an “angel of light,” and his invitations will seem to be in your best interest (2 Cor. 11:14). Yet his way leads only to death (John 8:44). The word of God will be like a light to your path, guiding you in the ways of righteousness (Ps. 119:105). It can be perilous to follow a path that seems right without first consulting the Holy Spirit for guidance (John 16:13). Take time to seek the Holy Spirit’s direction when you face decisions. He knows the full ramifications of your choices. The Holy Spirit will assist you to understand truth and to experience abundant life. Trust Him as He leads you.” (From Henry T. Blackaby)
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) — 16 Jan 22: Pray that God will expose to you your true motives for your actions and purify in you a love for Him which will motivate you to true, selfless love for others, even for your enemies, all to His glory.