Search

Home thoughts from abroad.wordpress.com

Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

Daily Bible thoughts 1699: Thursday 21st June 2018: Genesis 26:17, 18: Re-opening wells.

Genesis 26:17-18: Re-opening wells.

“17 So Isaac moved away from there and camped in the Valley of Gerar, where he settled. 18 Isaac reopened the wells that had been dug in the time of his father Abraham, which the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham died, and he gave them the same names his father had given them.” NIV UK

We should read church history not just for information, but also for inspiration: to allow it to stir our hearts and pray that the best of the past may be experienced again in the present. Recently, I have been re-visiting some of the history of early Pentecostalism, as I have been reading a new biography of George Jeffreys, the founder of the ‘Elim’ Pentecostal denomination. He was a dynamic evangelist (and apostle, I believe). Thousands of people came to faith in Christ through his preaching; multitudes were miraculously healed; numerous new churches were ‘planted’ – many of which are still flourishing today. I have studied the history of Pentecostalism before, but reading this book has taught me things I didn’t know, as well as giving me reminders of what I already knew. God was powerfully at work through George Jeffreys, and many other people at that time. ’Wells’ of fresh water, you might say, were being dug. But it does not all make for edifying reading. The friend who kindly gave me the biography, warned me that I would feel sad about the end of the story. The book does demonstrate, sadly, that ‘the best of men are men at best.’ You could say that ‘’the Philistines’’ came and filled the wells with dirt. I mean to say that some very fine things got spoiled, in a way, and I can only feel that our diabolical opponent had an influence on what happened.

But more than anything, reading the story makes me want to re-dig those ancient wells our fathers drank from. No, I know we can’t pour out the Holy Spirit on ourselves. That is Jesus’ work alone. But I believe we can position ourselves to receive, as our Pentecostal forbears did, when they earnestly sought this outpouring. How hungry are we though? How thirsty?

One day I was praying in my little study at the bottom of the garden. Outside, it was pouring with rain. I suddenly thought, ‘If I wanted to become soaked, all I would need to do would be to stand outside with no protection. I would soon be saturated.’

If you want to have a soaking, spiritually-speaking, you can position yourself to do so. Will you?

‘We are, at this moment, as close to God as we really choose to be.’ J.O. Sanders.

 

Daily Bible thoughts 1698: Wednesday 20th June 2018: Genesis 26: 12-16: The green-eyed monster.

Genesis 26: 12-16: The green-eyed monster.

“12 Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the Lord blessed him. 13 The man became rich, and his wealth continued to grow until he became very wealthy. 14 He had so many flocks and herds and servants that the Philistines envied him. 15 So all the wells that his father’s servants had dug in the time of his father Abraham, the Philistines stopped up, filling them with earth. 16 Then Abimelek said to Isaac, ‘Move away from us; you have become too powerful for us.’” NIV UK

Jealousy! Who has not felt at some time or other? But it’s not an acceptable emotion for a Christian. It’s a sin – one of many sins for which Jesus died. Those of us who trust Him, and have a new nature because of him, must fight and resist every form of jealous, in the power of the Spirit God has given to us.. We must not enter into a tenancy agreement with it; not allow it to occupy one single room in the building of our life. Show it the door. Today’s reading shows something of the pettiness of jealousy. What peevish forms it can take. Have you ever looked back on feelings you had at one time, or certain ways of building, and felt ashamed? ‘How could I have been like that?’, you may wonder.

Apparently, this actually happened. Many years ago, during a time of scarcity (I think in the years of World War 2), a little boy won a box of chocolates at a Sunday School party. That would be quite something to take home to his mother. But his ‘friend’, who was sat next to him, was obviously unable to feel ‘blessed’ by this happening to someone else. He placed his hand under the box, and knocked it flying up into the air, so that the chocolates went everywhere.

Whether this story is correct in ever detail or not, we know it is true to how jealousy often acts. It produces malicious, and downright silly responses.

God kept His Word to Isaac (12, see also 3). It is a sad fact of life in a fallen world, that we don’t always act with joy when we see the evident blessing of God on another.

I am also reminded, in today’s story, of Paul’s words to the Galatians:

‘’So let’s not get tired of doing good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up’’ (Gal.6:9 New Living Translation).

Daily Bible thoughts 1697: Tuesday 19th June 2018: Genesis 26:7-11: History repeats.

Genesis 26:7-11: History repeats.

“7 When the men of that place asked him about his wife, he said, ‘She is my sister,’ because he was afraid to say, ‘She is my wife.’ He thought, ‘The men of this place might kill me on account of Rebekah, because she is beautiful.’ When Isaac had been there a long time, Abimelek king of the Philistines looked down from a window and saw Isaac caressing his wife Rebekah. So Abimelek summoned Isaac and said, ‘She is really your wife! Why did you say, “She is my sister”?’ Isaac answered him, ‘Because I thought I might lose my life on account of her.’ 10 Then Abimelek said, ‘What is this you have done to us? One of the men might well have slept with your wife, and you would have brought guilt upon us.’ 11 So Abimelek gave orders to all the people: ‘Anyone who harms this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.’” NIV UK

‘The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.’

Sadly, this is often true of personal histories. Isaac did what his father had done on two previous occasions. He sought to deceive. He lied about his wife. History repeated itself. A few days ago, I wrote about how Isaac made a good start. Indeed, he did. When God told him to stay put in Gerar, he did so. But then things went rapidly downhill from there. As was the case with his father, Isaac was exposed, and had to suffer the humiliation of being rebuked by a pagan king.

My wife, Jilly, and I were having a conversation recently about how ‘truth will out.’ It is common among worldly people to tell lies. Not everyone does, of course. Some non-Christians are more scrupulously honest than certain professing Christians. But many people lie as a matter of course. They may see it as being justifiable dishonest; perhaps explain it away as just ‘little white lies.’ But what this passage shows, and a lesson life teaches, is that you can’t keep all those lying plates spinning endlessly. Sooner or later they will come crashing down.

‘Truth will out.’

‘Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.’

In the New Testament the apostle Paul, both in Ephesians 4 and Colossians 3, calls for honesty as a definite mark of those who are ‘’in Christ’’ have a new nature. A truthful life, free from falsehood, is a sweet fruit of being rooted in Jesus.

 

Daily Bible thoughts 1696: Monday 18th June 2018: Genesis 26:2: ‘’Do not go down to Egypt…’

Genesis 26:2: ‘’Do not go down to Egypt…’

“2 The Lord appeared to Isaac and said, ‘Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live.”

Egypt was, and is, a place on a map. You can learn about it in Geography (and history) lessons. But, in the Bible, it also symbolises (along with Babylon), the present world system. Believers face the perennial temptation to ‘’go down to Egypt’’. Note, it is a going down. It speaks of declension, of backsliding. It’s a down-hill slope. When you feel yourself tempted by the alluring charms of ‘Egypt’; drawn to her provisions, her abundant supplies of food; when, as church leaders, you look for your answers in business management books, rather than praying to God and seeking His wisdom, realise that you are feeling the seductive magnetism of Egypt. How much Egypt wants your heart and soul – yes, and even your body. I’m not saying we can’t learn from books written by non- Christian leaders. Not at all. I believe that ‘all truth is God’s truth.’ If a thing is true, it is true. A prayerful person can be open to learn from many sources. His/her ears will always be attuned to God, wherever they are, and whatever they are doing. But let’s be clear that we are seeking our wisdom from God, and not from the world. By all means read your books, but above all, and in it all, look to God.

 

PRAYER: Lord, help me to keep my eyes on you. As the hymn says, ‘I see the sights that dazzle, the tempting sounds I hear…O Jesus draw thou nearer, and shield my soul from sin.’

Daily Bible thoughts 1695: Friday 15th June 2018: Genesis 26:1-6: A good start

Genesis 26:1-6: A good start

“Now there was a famine in the land – besides the previous famine in Abraham’s time – and Isaac went to Abimelek king of the Philistines in Gerar. The Lord appeared to Isaac and said, ‘Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live. Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham. I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because Abraham obeyed me and did everything I required of him, keeping my commands, my decrees and my instructions.’ So Isaac stayed in Gerar.” NIV UK

‘’So Isaac stayed in Gerar’’ (6).

It was a good start. I say that because he was obedient to what the the Lord told him in (2-5). God did not want him making the same mistake as his father (2). Possibly he was on his way to Egypt at this point. It probably seemed logical to head for Egypt, where there was bread, and counterintuitive to stay put, but when God directs you to stay, you’re in a safe place, even though it may appear dangerous. What assurances the Lord gave him!

As believers, we are not promised immunity from difficulties. We may well find that famines (and even ‘’severe’’ famines) in the land recur (1). The person who walks with God, however, has an unfailing ‘Satnav.’ Listen to the Divine voice on your guidance system. There is safety in that.

PRAYER: Lord, help me to keep in step with you at all times.

Daily Bible thoughts 1694: Thursday 14th June 2018: Genesis 25:27-34: Careless about things that matter.

Genesis 25:27-34: Careless about things that matter.

27 The boys grew up, and Esau became a skilful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was content to stay at home among the tents. 28 Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob. 29 Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. 30 He said to Jacob, ‘Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!’ (That is why he was also called Edom.  31 Jacob replied, ‘First sell me your birthright.’  32 ‘Look, I am about to die,’ Esau said. ‘What good is the birthright to me?’  33 But Jacob said, ‘Swear to me first.’ So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left. So Esau despised his birthright. “ NIV UK

It is fascinating to note how different two children can be – even twins. Esau grew up to be an active and impetuous man, while Jacob became a quiet schemer, always looking for a chance to get one over on someone. But he could only take advantage of his brother because Esau’s heart was not right. Esau typifies the man of the world who lives for temporal rather than eternal gain.  ‘Every one may build up a strong and beautiful character by yielding to the Holy Ghost’s gracious promptings. That grace knocks, like sunshine, at the windows of every soul; but how often it is sold for a mess of pottage? The choice between these two is constantly being presented to us. God help us always to choose the divine, the spiritual, the eternal!’ F.B. Meyer: ‘Great verses through the Bible’, p.18. The book of Hebrews speaks in clear terms about Esau’s sin, and holds him up as an example to avoid:

‘’See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears’’ (Hebrews 12:15-17).

Every day, and moment by moment, people sell the supremely valuable things of life for that which is empty and worthless. Determine, by God’s grace, that you will not follow in Esau’s steps. Down that road you will find days, and possibly years, of burning regret.

 

 

Daily Bible thoughts 1693: Wednesday 13th June 2018: Genesis 25:24-26: What’s in a name?

Genesis 25:24-26: What’s in a name?

“24 When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. 25 The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau. 26 After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when Rebekah gave birth to them.” NIV UK

My dad was a Sunday School Superintendent for a time. He was always good at communicating with children. On one occasion he gave an object lesson, using sweets for visual aids. One of the pieces of confectionary he used was a barley sugar stick. The point he made was that it was twisted, and there is nothing anyone can do to remove the twist. I believe he may well have drawn a link to Jacob. Certainly, Jacob was as bent as a barley sugar stick, and no-one could change this man, but God did.  The first of the twin boys to be born was ruddy and hairy, and he was named ‘’Esau.’’ In Hebrew this sounds like the word for ‘hairy.’ He was also named ‘’Edom’’, meaning ‘red.’ This was because of his ruddy complexion, and also because he later traded his birthright for a bowl of red stew (30). As Esau was born, his twin brother could be seen holding on to one of his heels, so he was given the name ‘’Jacob’’, which means ‘he grasps the heel.’ That is a figurative way of saying that he deceived people. As his story unfolds, we will see how twisted he was; how cunning and deceptive were his ways.

F.B. Meyer wrote a wonderful biography of Jacob, crammed with rich insights. The book shows clearly how God worked on his character to make him ‘a prince with God.’ Whereas he could not change himself, and others could not alter him, the Lord made the difference. It’s not difficult for us to identify with a scallywag like Jacob, and what an encouragement to see how God transformed him.

PRAYER: Lord God, I don’t like what I see in the mirror. I have so much changing still to do. But I do thank you for all the ways you are changing me, and I rejoice that you will finish what you have begun.

 

 

Daily Bible thoughts 1692: Tuesday 12th June 2018: Genesis 25: 22, 23: The war within

Genesis 25: 22-23: The war within

“22 The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, ‘Why is this happening to me?’ So she went to enquire of the Lord23 The Lord said to her, ‘Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the elder will serve the younger.’” NIV UK

We saw yesterday how Rebekah became aware of the babies jostling in her womb. She may not, however, have known at the time that she was expecting twins. But the Lord showed her that she was. Furthermore, the tussle between these two boys was to continue through their lifetimes, and between their descendants for generations to come.

‘That the younger son should rule the elder was contrary to human tradition and logic, but the sovereign God made the choice (Rom.9:10-12), and God never makes a mistake.’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘The Wiersbe Bible Commentary (OT)’, p.97.

This story pictures, for me, the inner struggle that takes place in the life of the Christian – a battle between the sinful nature and the Holy Spirit. By the grace of God, the old self can be subdued by the Spirit. But there can be no doubting the intensity and ferocity of this war within.

‘’Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life’’ (Galatians 6:7,8).

The great preacher, John Stott, spoke in very clear terms about how we cannot repeatedly sow to the ‘flesh’ and expect to reap holiness. What you sow in the field is what eventually comes up. You can tell what was sown by looking at the crop

PRAYER: Lord, please strengthen me that day by day I may feed my spirit, and starve the carnal nature.

Daily Bible thoughts 1691: Monday 11th June 2018: Genesis 25: 22,23: Take it the Lord in prayer, part 2.

Genesis 25: 22-23: Take it the Lord in prayer, part 2.

“22 The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, ‘Why is this happening to me?’ So she went to enquire of the Lord23 The Lord said to her, ‘Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the elder will serve the younger.’” NIV UK

Matthew Henry makes the point that not having children was Rebekah’s problem before; now having children was her problem. She had a difficult pregnancy. Perhaps she felt so disturbed by the inner tumult that she thought it might be the death of her. She must have felt uncomfortable at very least. I understand the Hebrew language used indicates that the foetal movements were abnormal. Whatever, Henry is surely right to say: ‘(1.) The comforts we are most desirous of are sometimes found to bring along with them more occasion of trouble and uneasiness that we thought of, vanity being written upon all things under the sun. God thus teaches us to read it. (2.) We are too apt to be discontented with our comforts, because of the uneasiness that attends them. We know not when we are pleased; we know neither how to want nor how to abound.’

In her perplexity, Rebekah sought understanding. She took it to the Lord in prayer. Prayer is not just about asking for things (i.e. making requests), as in yesterday’s reading (21). It can also entail asking about things (seeking wisdom). It is a good thing to ‘’enquire of the LORD’’, as Rebekah did (22,23). I have often referred to the wonderful promise in James 1:5-7, and I feel the need to do so again. God is not obliged to answer any of our questions, but He often chooses to do so, as here. It is so good to enter ‘’the sanctuary of God’’ (Ps.73:17)

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: