Turmoil, Tithing, and Timing (Genesis 14:18-15:21)

Three things are addressed in this passage: the end of a turmoil with the area kings in which Abram had to do battle to save Lot and his family, the giving of a tithe to Melchizedek in honor of God’s blessings, and the explanation of God’s timing in Abram’s life with additional prophetic indicators for his future.

God favored Abram and his servants as they went to battle to save Lot’s family.  The battle was over and God’s man had been victorious.  As they returned from the battle, Melchizedek came out to meet them, offering bread and wine–possibly a type and shadow of the lord’s supper that would come hundreds of years later.  Melchizedek was definitely a type of the priesthood of Jesus Christ, as discussed later in the book of Hebrews.  He blessed Abram and blessed the “God Most High (v. 19).”

At this point, Abram gave Melchizedek a tithe of all.  That simple phrase does not seem to be especially telling of the details and specifics this first recorded event of tithing.  However, it is interesting to note that Abram did this as if it was a very natural reaction to the goodness of God.  It is funny to me how Christians today chafe against the idea of tithing.  “It’s an Old Testament principle, part of the law.  We now live under grace.  Tithing does not apply.”  However, as we see here, tithing preceded the law by several generations, and was a natural response to God’s favor.  Have you received God’s favor lately?  Then tithing should seem like the minimum we would want to give God in recognition of His mighty blessings.  Pay tithe and give offerings in honor of our King.  Do not view the practice as an obligation or a tax, but rather as a privilege!

Abram then gave all the possessions and people of Sodom back to their king, not wanting to take from him.  Abram was just thankful to have his family back safe again.  However, God spoke to Abram again to assure him of His promises.  Abram had heard from God, had been given the great covenant promises, but still at times had doubts.  Again, though, God’s timing is perfect timing.  Event though we may not understand why gratification is delayed, God knows exactly what we need and exactly when we need His blessings.  God came down to Abram and sealed the covenant in the blood of sacrifices by walking between the sacrifices with a smoking oven and a burning torch.  He even foretold of the future of Israel in bondage and their eventual deliverance.  God expanded the Abrahamic covenant and made Himself clear to Abram.  He let Him know that His timing was perfect, and His blessing was worth waiting for.  Let that be your lesson today.  Even though you may not see the promise fulfilled yet, God’s promises are true.  You can depend on Him!

Don’t Judge a Book… (Genesis 13:1-14:17)

Abraham began to experience the blessings of God as he journeyed into the land promised to him by God. He and Lot, his nephew, were abounding in flocks and herds–so much so that they were not able to travel together and feed their flocks. Abraham, being the humble man he was, gave Lot the choice of what area he would like to take for his residence. Lot looked on the valley of the Jordan and saw that it was well-watered. But he could not see the sin and degradation of Sodom and Gomorrah from his vantage point. He could not see the future of death, destruction, and judgement.

We often think that an opportunity, a temptation, or an enticement is better than our current state of being. Another man or woman, a different job, a different church, etc., all can seem like the greener grass we have been looking for. But just because the appearance of something is enticing does not mean it is better. The most important factor in our choices is not appearance or the wrapping of the thing, but rather the substance within. Borrowing from an old saying, “You cannot judge a book by it’s cover.” I have seen some great slip covers on books with pictures, graphics, well-laid-out text that catches the eye and the imagination. However, some of those books were very good, and others did not match up to the cover. in the same way, I have seen some powerfully interesting trailers for movies that ending up being nowhere near as exciting as the trailer.

In life, it is extremely important that every individual look at every situation and opportunity with a godly view. Samuel went to anoint a king at Jesse’s house, but the oldest and the best looking did not get the nod. Only the one that God chose was anointed. In our lives, we cannot be hasty, but should look at very opportunity and temptation and seek the face of God. A hasty decision based on outward appearance and initial impressions can lead one to a place that will invoke the judgement of God. Pray about your decisions. Be humble and prefer your brother in every decision. As we see from this passage, Abraham was generous, humble, and listened to the voice of God. He was highly favored and blessed of God. Lot took the easy way and chased the perceived riches of a land destitute of God’s presence, and eventually faced a fiery judgement.

Before your next decision, take the time to seek God’s will, and to think of others first, and to be generous in your thoughts. With God’s leadership, and a selfless attitude, you can make a decision that will glorify God and bless your life. Don’t choose the book with the flashiest cover, but choose the book with the greatest story to tell!

Fear and Deceit (Genesis 12:10-20)

Abram had received a powerful promise from God.  He would have a son, father a nation, and be a source of blessing to all the families of the Earth.  Yet in the midst of this place of favor with God, Abram faced a famine and went to Egypt to find food.  While he was headed to Egypt, he thought of a possible scenario that raised his concerns.  Sarai was a “woman of beautiful countenance(v. 11).”  The surrounding nations were, perhaps, a bit less civilized than most of our society today.  Abram feared that he may be killed so that Pharoah or another powerful man could have her as his wife.

Abram asked her to tell a partial lie.  I have often heard people, sometimes jokingly, about saying something that was not a complete lie, but also hid some of the truth.  Any attempt to deceive, through active lying or through a calculated attempt to hide the truth, is never wise and is always immoral.  Obviously, I am employing a bit of Oriental Hyperbole here, using the words never and always.  However, no Christian should intentionally deceive.

Pharoah did notice Sarai, and took her into his house.  She did say she was Abram’s sister–which she was his half-sister–but did not share that she was also his wife.  Abram would have allowed his wife to be the sexual partner of another man in order to save his own life.  How can this be!?

God sent plagues on Pharoah’s house.  He finally figured out that Sarai was Abram’s wife, and questioned him as to his motives.  He then sent them away.  What can we learn from this?  While Abram seemingly dodged a bullet in this case, he still set a dangerous precedent, which he will repeat later, and so will his son!  Be sure that your sins will follow you.  Sow evil and you will reap evil.  Sow righteousness and righteousness will follow you all the days of your life!

Barren, But Blessed (Genesis 11:27-12:9)

Abram (later Abraham) was called to be the Father of a Nation that would occupy the promised land of Canaan and be blessed in it.  But there was one tiny snag: his wife Sarai (later Sarah) was BARREN!  In the times of the Bible, having children, especially a male heir, was a sign of blessing and favor from God.  To be barren was to be thought of as somehow inferior or cursed.  Wives who could not produce children for their husbands were considered not as valuable as women who could produce offspring.

In the midst of this predicament, God made (and keeps making) a promise to Abram that seems far-fetched:  you will be the progenitor of a great nation, and that in him all the families of the Earth will be blessed.  How can this be, God?  We are coming to the end of our child-bearing time and we have no child.  Sarai even went to extreme measures (discussed in a later blog) to try and help God fulfill his promise, but that was not God’s plan.  I cannot bless the nations if I have no nation myself!  When God makes a promise, though, He is worthy to fulfill it.  This is the first stage of the Abrahamic covenant, another covenant of promise.

While we often cannot see the blessings right before our eyes, we can trust God to deliver what He promises.  Abram did not see the blessing of a son right before his eyes, but he had a son of promise years later.  This experience solidified Abram’s faith and he fulfilled the plan of God.  Are you aware of God’s promises to you?  Has He given you a promise that you have yet to see fulfilled?  If so, learn a lesson from Abram and don’t stop believing, even if you cannot see.  God is faithful!!

From Babel to Babbling (Genesis 11:1-26)

Babel was a place of unity, but it was not unity around a valid cause.  Instead, it was a unity around an egotistical, arrogant cause:  to make a name for themselves(v. 4).  The men of the city purposed to build a tower whose top was in the heavens.  This signified their desire to be equal with God in fame and renown.  While unity can be a powerful force for good, if the motive and purpose are pure, unity around a negative or impure purpose is equally powerful, but negative.  People have amazing abilities and gifts, some of which are used for the Lord, and some which are used for negative or selfish ends.

While some sinful pursuits are successful, there are cases where God intervenes in circumstances and changes history in order to effect his purpose.  There are those purposes which God knows are so contrary to His purpose or plan, that He stops them in their tracks.  For whatever, reason, this was one of those purposes.  Perhaps what God did had a higher purpose.  With their languages confounded, the people felt the need to scatter, or perhaps the necessity to scatter.  God’s purpose to cover the earth was fulfilled through the confounding of the languages.  Without this event, the people may have stayed in one general area of the earth.  Overcrowding would have occured, and parts of the earth would not have been inhabited.

God’s purposes often confound man’s plans, but that is okay.  God knows best.

Starting Over (Genesis 9:18-10:32)

Unfortunately, there is a pattern in humanity.  Sin, judgement, grace, restoration, then more sin, judgement, grace, and restoration.  Even though God had judged man’s sin by a flood, then extended grace to Noah, then restored the earth and entered a covenant of promise, sin entered into this new start in the form of Noah being drunk and his son looking on his nakedness.  Noah judged his son for his actions, offering a curse.

Even in the midst of this seemingly immediate failure on the part of Noah and his son, there is a long list of descendents, some of whom were mighty men(Nimrod), pioneers(Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh who settled in Assyria), and many other great men who produced great families that repopulated the earth.

So, what is the moral of this story?  No matter how many times you fall, get up again.  An old adage goes, what boxer wins the fight even when he is knocked down?  The one who keeps getting up!  God will forgive and strengthen you if you will get up and ask Him for a new beginning, a fresh start, a chance to try again.  No matter how many times Satan tries to knock you down, get up one more time, and God will give you the victory!

The First Covenant of Promise (Genesis 8:1-9:17)

One year on a boat with hundreds of animals, cramped space, pungent odors, stale air, and no idea how long until the water subsided made for a marathon experience.  Noah sent out birds to try and find dry land to no avail until exactly one year after the rains began.  Noah could have lost his mind, but instead he kept his head about him and persevered until the very end, carrying his family and the animal life of the earth to safety.

After this experience ended, God instructed Noah to leave the ark with his family and the animals, which he did.  The first thing he did was to build and altar and make a sacrifice to God.  This was a strong indicator of his character and dedication to God.  It seems clear why God chose him to be the progenitor of the earth after the flood.  “Be fruitful and multiply (9:1,7)” was God’s command to Noah.

In verse 8 of chapter 9 we see the first covenant with promise.  The covenant was a promise from God to never again destroy the Earth by flood.  Although there have been localized floods in many places on the Earth, there has never been another flood that destroyed all humanity.  God is true to His word in all cases!

The sign of the covenant was unique, and is still present in today’s world:  the rainbow.  Up until the time of Noah, there had never been a rainbow.  How do we know this?  Genesis speaks of their being a firmament between the earth and the heavens, and that there was no rain on the earth until the time of Noah.  According to Genesis, there was a mist that came up from the Earth to water the plants, and there was water on the Earth for drinking.  At the flood, the springs of the Earth and the firmament of the heavens were both opened up to provide the water that covered the earth.  Therefore, there had been no rain, and therefore no rainbow!

But then here we have an environment where there was rain, clouds, and possibly a shower happening when Noah exited the ark, and God showed him the first rainbow.  Verses 12 through 17 all talk about the covenant and the sign: the rainbow.  Today, when I see a rainbow, I remember the grace, protection, and provision of God to humanity.  We are able to trust God for safety and salvation today because of God’s grace upon Noah.  Even in the midst of judgment, God’s grace is available to those who will hear His voice like Noah.