The Covenant Story Begins

Genesis 12-15

Genesis 12 1 CSB

Genesis 1-11 details the heartbreaking story of a perfect world and people, created lovingly by God, turning away from him to pursue the desires of their heart. The consequences for this sin is great, but like the rainbow after the flood symbolizes, the redemption God provides is also great. In Genesis 3, God promises a future savior who will fight for and redeem mankind. In today’s reading, we see the plan set in place since the beginning start to take shape.

 

In Genesis 12, God tells Abram, a man from Ur (in Mesopotamia), “Go out from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation, I will bless you. I will make your name great and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse those who treat you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (vv. 1-3).

 

These verses are so important, because in them, we see the storyline of the redemption begin. God chose Abram, the man from whom the Jewish people would be descended, and made a covenant or promise with him. If Abram followed God’s plan, then he knew that he would be blessed by God. This covenant was built on and changed over the course of scripture, but ultimately, it is still being fulfilled even now through Christ’s death on the cross. Abram began the chain reaction that led to Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection. Because Abram listened to God, we are blessed through him.

 

Abram is a prime example of a faith filled life. He didn’t know anymore of God’s plan than just to go and leave everything that he knew. Despite this, he eagerly followed God. This pattern of obedience continues throughout the rest of his life. When presented with God’s new covenant, the promise of salvation in Christ, do we faithfully trust that he will keep his promises? Do we faithfully obey when we hear his call?

 

As we read through the Bible this year, keep an eye out for the word covenant. God continues to refer to both this first promise and the promises he made after this as he faithfully pursues his covenant people.
Cayce Fletcher
You can read or listen to today’s passage at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+12-15&version=CSB
Tomorrow’s passage will be Genesis 16-18 as we follow the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

The Rest of Ruth

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When Hope Seems Lost – Ruth 4
Naomi at the beginning of Ruth acts as if she has no hope. She knew she wouldn’t have more children and had nothing to offer Ruth. She was bitter and would rather go back to her homeland to live out her days as a jaded widow. However, this was not at all God’s plan and we can see God’s redemptive plan in 3 major areas. The first starts with Ruth. She is adamant in her conviction to stay with Naomi—God had captured her heart in Moab and he was able to work out his redeeming plan for Naomi’s family through her. Secondly the preserving of Boaz for Ruth shows God at work. In an online article on Ruth from desiringgod.org the author states, “But all the while God is preserving a wealthy and godly man named Boaz to do just that. The reason we know that this was God’s doing is that Naomi herself admits it in 2:20. She recognizes that behind the “accidental” meeting of Ruth and Boaz was the “kindness of God who has not forsaken the living or the dead.” Lastly, Ruth was previously married for 10 years and bore no children. In God’s redemptive work once Boaz and Ruth were married he opened Ruth’s barren womb and she bore a son. In some of the most hopeless situations God chooses to work mightily for his glory and to make himself known. So many pieces had to align in this account that we see God’s hand at work. Make sure to be fervent in prayer over hopeless situations. You never know how God is planning to work—His ways are higher than our ways!
Lineage of David – Covenant Blessing
Family is very near to God’s heart and has been an integral part of the Jewish culture since antiquity. In the earliest prophecies we see allusions to lineage such as “the seed of the woman” in the first messianic prophecy in Genesis. The Abrahamic covenant is a blessing pertaining to the descendants out numbering stars in the sky and sand in the sea shore. Then we see the importance of the birthright blessing between Jacob and Esau. God works through families and heritage and blessing being passed through the family line is a very important aspect to Jewish culture. For this reason Naomi thought her line had ended and that she also had no immediate hope of being cared for by her family. However, God blesses this faithful and righteous family by including them in the line of David. The last verses of Ruth 4 may seem like an after thought but it is a monumental indication of God’s favor. We find that the child of Ruth and Boaz is the grandfather to David, one of the greatest kings of Israel and ultimately in the line of Christ—the awaited Messiah and Savior of the world. What an honor to be included in the line God chose to keep his covenant with Israel and the world! We may not be part of the lineage of Christ but we can be part of the family of God. As we continue pursuing God we are co-heirs with Christ to the coming kingdom of God. This hope and blessing to come has the power to keep us rooted and grounded in love, steadfast in our perseverance as we await the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.
-Shelby Upton

Spiritual Adultery

Ezekiel 14-16

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Wednesday, March 22

Chapter 14 gives us a picture of the heart of God.  Elsewhere in the Bible it says that God is a jealous God.  God loves His people Israel as a husband loves his bride.  Israel turned away from God’s love, their hearts were no longer given to God.  God wants more than anything else to recapture the hearts of His people who deserted him to pursue idols.  God wants them to repent and turn back to Him.

God wants to have His people love Him exclusively.  He will not let them worship idols, yet still come to him for prophecy.  This would be similar to a woman who both goes to her lover but then comes to her husband as well.  God will have none of this, no two timing wife.  Israel must have a change of heart and that will only happen through judgment.  The prophets were not permitted to prophesy for people who were also consulting idols.  If the prophets did prophesy to those seeking idols, they too would be punished.

God tells Ezekiel that His judgment is certain and that no human being, no matter how righteous or faithful can stop that judgment.  He warns that even if such great men of faith as Noah, Daniel or Job sought to keep Israel from judgment that their righteousness would not be able to save Israel.

In Chapter 15 God promises to make Jerusalem as desolate and useless as a dried up vine that has been thrown into a fire.  Just as the vine will be totally consumed by the fire, so too, will Jerusalem be consumed by the fire of God’s judgment.

Chapter 16 is one of the most graphic passages in all of the Bible.  If the Song of Solomon was rated PG-13, Ezekiel 16 would probably be rated R or NC-17.  It is extremely disturbing to read.  God compares Israel to an unwanted, discarded child whom God rescued from its disgrace.  God later came along when Israel was old enough to be married, but she was naked and dirty.  God cleaned her up, covered over her nakedness, dressed her up like a princess and made her his bride.  Israel was blessed beyond imagination by God her husband.  But then, tragically, Israel turned to prostitution.  Here Idolatry is likened to a form of spiritual adultery.  Israel had brought great shame upon her husband.  In fact, she was worse than a prostitute in that she paid others her gold and silver to sleep with her.  It’s such a disturbing picture.  And it’s designed to give us a visceral reaction.  It’s a gut punch.

The fact that God must punish Israel for her spiritual adultery is not surprising.  Israel is only getting what they deserve.  What is surprising is that God is going to restore Israel.  Not because Israel deserves it now any more than it deserved it when God first cleaned her up and made her His bride.  God is doing it because God is faithful to His Covenant promises.  God made a promise to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their descendants, Israel.  God does not forget His covenant or break his promises.  God is filled with steadfast love for His people.

After punishing Israel, God will then make atonement for them.  He will cover over their sin and guilt and forgive them and take them back.  Then they will remember their vows and be ashamed of their guilt and will become a faithful wife and turn away from idols.

As Christians, we have been grafted into God’s family and we are now included as God’s bride.  Through Jesus Christ God has found us in our sin, cleaned us up and made us His own.  Are we sometimes guilty of idolatry?  Do we ever act unfaithfully toward God and give our hearts to someone or something else instead of God?  Remember, Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to Love God with all your heart.  God wants All your heart.  God is jealous when we give our hearts to another.  May Israel’s spiritual adultery remind us that we must give our hearts fully only to God and no one else.  Otherwise, God may have to win our hearts back the way he did Israel, and we can see how unpleasant that process was for them.  Let’s always keep our hearts faithful to God alone.

-Jeff Fletcher

 

 

How Do You Handle Things?

Jeremiah 9-11

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Wednesday, March 1

Chapter 9 is moping about how things are. Jeremiah 9:12 And who is he to whom the mouth of the Lord has spoken, that he may declare it? Why is the land ruined, laid waste like a desert, so that no one passes through?

Chapter 10 is about recognition that they were wrong. Jeremiah 10:23 

Chapter 11 How do you handle being wrong? What do you do when you hurt someone?  This chapter is about their covenant being broken and the plot to hurt Jeremiah.

The question for these chapters should be how do you handle things?

For many its lying, anger, resentment and shame.  But God has been very clear in spite of how we act, He will not break His covenant.  How you handle that is the real question.

-Andy Cisneros

He’s Not Abstract

Psalms 103-105

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Thursday, January 12

If you attend a church (and I encourage you to do so), you probably hear prayer requests and prayers. Sometimes, in the interest of time, I have been known to say prayers and thank God abstractly for “all the good you have done” or “for another day of life” or something along those lines. In many worship services, the songs we sing tend to reinforce that kind of language as we talk to God. As kids we learn “Jesus Loves Me” and “Zacchaeus”, but these songs, while teaching us Bible stories and abstract truths, don’t make life real.
The psalmists don’t let things stay in the level of the abstract. They would think the way we think about theology is rather silly. We use big words like “omnipotent” (all-powerful) or “omni-benevolent” (all-good) to refer to God. The authors of psalms 103-105 are focused on the tangible ways God is working in the world, the concrete way he interacted, is interacting and will interact in creation. When you read psalm 104, the created order that is being displayed there is beautiful. It is a different look at creation, one that is intimate and yet shows God working in creation. He gives water even to a wild donkey. The dangerous and powerful leviathan is a work of God. The creation of trees and valleys all point to the wonder of the Almighty. Psalm 105 tells the work of God in the covenant people of Israel. The psalmist retells (probably with music) the great movement of God with Israel. The Exodus is such a significant moment, because God defeated the gods of the most powerful empire and proved that God is the only true God. He saved Israel and led them through the desert. In psalm 103, the author (David?) is speaking to his own soul when he says “He forgives all your sin”(3) and “he satisfies you with goodness” (5). The author is declaring his own story, that God saves him and gives him good things. Even though we are sinners, God takes care of us and makes sure we have all that we need.
The point is that when we praise God, there are times to tell of his “omni-“ qualities and there is a time to get down and talk about what he did. For me, God not only gives me love, but he has given me a wife that makes me laugh and makes my heart sing because she is wonderful in every way. He has given me a daughter that is fun, joyful and sweet. God gives me hope, and He assures me that though I have lost loved ones, that there will come a day that I will see them again. I praise God not just because he is loving or hope-giving in some abstract way, but because in my life and in the world God has clearly shown that he cares. He is a God that moves in concrete ways.
Live it Out Challenge: After you read the psalms, think of 7 concrete and specific ways God has worked in your life. Don’t make them abstract (“He loves me”) but make them concrete (“He has given me a wife and a daughter that mirror His love”). Make them about you, and take your time. Work and meditate on them all day if you need to.
-Jake Ballard
(Photo credit: http://www.spiritradio.ie/the-word-for-tuesday-psalm-1032/)

A Second Chance Squandered (I Kings 13-15)

Tuesday, November 1

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written by: Melissa New
It is amazing how kind our Father is. Previously, we saw that Solomon deliberately disobeyed God and because of his sin, which in turn led many others to sin by worshipping idols, God did what He said He would do. He would “tear the kingdom away from you (Solomon) and give it to one of your servants.” (I Kings 11:11) He sent the prophet Ahijah to tell Jeroboam of some spectacular news for his future.  God was making a new covenant promise for Jeroboam! Solomon broke his covenant promise from God, and now Jeroboam is given the opportunity to enjoy a covenant promise. Could he learn from the mistakes he saw Solomon make? If he would be wholeheartedly devoted to God, as David was, then Jeroboam could have the benefits of a similar promise!
We find in these chapters that Jeroboam’s god was “power.”  He was unwilling to risk losing any of it. He didn’t trust the promise of God. He thought he could better rule the people of Israel without God. So he made golden calves for the Israelites to worship. He led the people into idolatry. But God gives Jeroboam a second chance! Just as he warned Solomon, he sent a man of God to tell of his demise.  Jeroboam’s life would come to a nasty end because of his sin.  He didn’t listen to the man of God even though he proved that what God says comes true. In chapter 13 we see that another prophet learns that what the “man of God” said was, indeed, true, but Jeroboam would not “turn from his evil ways.” In chapter 14 we see that Ahijah no longer has good news for Jeroboam. His prophecy for Jeroboam is dishonorable death and a future dispersing of the Israelites.
The legacy of Jeroboam is wickedness. Israel will have 20 kings until they are taken over by Assyria, and all of them will be BAD. Many times Christians think that a little sin in their lives only affects themselves. And it’s true that leaders, like Jeroboam, have a lot more influence, but sin has consequences for any who see or are around it. In some cases, it could have an impact on people not even born yet.

Consequences (Deuteronomy 28 & 29)

Tuesday, September 20

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By Jill McClain

Moses had previously told the people all of God’s directions and commands.  He gave them very detailed instructions about what type of behavior God expects.  Next Moses lays out the consequences for either following or disobeying God’s rules.  God has created all humans with a free will.  We are free to walk in his ways or to defy his directions.  However, there are definite consequences for the choices we make.  Chapter 28 first lists a series of blessings that the people will receive if they observe God’s decrees.  There are blessings for individuals and the entire nation.  Crops, livestock and children will all flourish, enemies will be defeated, and the people will be granted “abundant prosperity” (verse 11).  Conversely, there is also a list of curses that the people will face if they are disobedient.  Diseases, plagues, famine, and the loss of their land are just some of the curses listed.  Ultimately, God’s people are always free to choose if they will follow in his ways, but there will be consequences for their actions.

Forty years earlier God and his people had made a covenant.  God promised to bless the Israelites, and they in turn, vowed to love and obey God.  In Chapter 29, Moses once again urges the people to honor their commitment.  The chapter concludes with verse 29, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.”  There are some secrets that God has not revealed to us.  However, he has shared with us all that we need to know to have eternal life. It is up to us to diligently study the Bible and apply all we have learned to our own lives.

 

How to Please God, The Promise Keeper (Deuteronomy 24-26)

Monday, September 19

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By Jill McClain

Moses gives more instructions to the Israelites about what they should and should not do to please God in Deuteronomy 24-25. He gives some clear directives about what should be done under some specific situations.  Then in chapter 26 the people are instructed to give a special tithe to the Lord when they enter into the Promised Land.  

Following many chapters of instructions and laws, the people are explicitly reminded that they must follow all of these laws.

 “The LORD your God commands you this day to follow these decrees and laws; carefully observe them with all your heart and with all your soul.  You have declared this day that the LORD is your God and that you will walk in his ways, that you will keep his decrees, commands and laws, and that you will obey him.  And the LORD has declared this day that you are his people, his treasured possession as he promised, and that you are to keep all his commands.  He has declared that he will set you in praise, fame and honor high above all the nations he has made and that you will be a people holy to the LORD your God, as he promised.”  (Deuteronomy 2:16-19)  

When God had initially led his people out of Egypt he had set up a special covenant with them.  There were vows taken by both God and his people that must be kept by both sides.  The LORD promised that if he was their God and they walked in his ways, then they would be his special people. Now in this passage the next generation of God’s chosen people were again repeating the promises of their covenant relationship before they entered the Promised Land.  Humans are extremely forgetful. By nature we often forget about the important commitments that we make to others, even important commitments to those we care deeply about.  On occasion, married couples will choose to renew their marriage vows.  The renewal of vows by a married couple do not make them “more married”, but it can serve as an important reminder of their commitment to each other.  In Deuteronomy 26 God’s chosen people are remembering the special commitment they have to God.  God is a promise keeper.  He will always be true to the promises he has made.  Are you keeping your commitments to God?  Are you following his decrees and walking in his ways?