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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

Daily Bible thoughts 155: Friday 20th April 2018: Genesis 18:9-15: God knows.

Genesis 18:9-15: God knows.

” ‘Where is your wife Sarah?’ they asked him.  ‘There, in the tent,’ he said.  10 Then one of them said, ‘I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.’  Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. 11 Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, ‘After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?’  13 Then the Lord said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh and say, “Will I really have a child, now that I am old?” 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.’  15 Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, ‘I did not laugh.’  But he said, ‘Yes, you did laugh.’” NIV UK

God knows everything about us, but still loves us. This is not an excuse for sin, nor should it be a motivation to spiritual complacency. But it should cause us to be grateful that we are deeply loved; that we are engulfed in an unfathomable sea of mercy; that grace is all around us. Sarah’s laughter, and her lying, were known to God. This did not stop Him keeping His promise regarding Isaac. How good is our God.

Daily Bible thoughts 1654: Thursday 19th April 2018: Genesis 18: 1 – 8: Ready to serve.

Genesis 18: 1 – 8: Ready to serve.

“The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.  He said, ‘If I have found favour in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way – now that you have come to your servant.’  ‘Very well,’ they answered, ‘do as you say.’  So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. ‘Quick,’ he said, ‘get three seahs  of the finest flour and knead it and bake some bread.’  Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree.” NIV UK

‘Resting in the afternoon is a normal practice in the East, and don’t forget that Abraham was nearly a hundred years old. Sometimes the most spiritual thing we can do is take a nap!’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘With the Word’, p.28. Wiersbe also makes the point, in his Old Testament Commentary, that few people travelled when the sun was so hot, so Abraham was immediately curious and courteous. ‘Hospitality is the first law of the East, and Abraham faithfully obeyed it.’

God may ‘appear’ to you any ordinary day as you do what you usually do. You may sense Him come close as you sit quietly, or as you contemplate nature. Be alert; be ready. He still ‘visits’ homes. Are you prepared for Him today? Ready to worship; to give Him the reverence He deserves? (2) Will you be quick to respond? (It’s been pointed out that this was an elderly man running around in the heat of the day). Will we be eager to serve Him; to give our absolute best? (3-8). Wiersbe makes the point that although Abraham had 318 servants, He served the Lord personally. He then stood by (8), presumably to be available for further service, if needed.

When asked why he spent so much time doing practical jobs in the church building, one man who had been a works manager, replied, ‘I have a good Master.’

‘All ministry must first be to the Lord, for if we fail to be a blessing to the Lord, we will never be a blessing to others.’ The Wiersbe Bible Commentary (OT), p.76. (See also Colossians 3:24, 25).

 

Daily Bible thoughts 1633: Wednesday 18th April 2018: Genesis 17:23-26: Painful obedience.

Genesis 17:23-26: Painful obedience.

“23 On that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household or bought with his money, every male in his household, and circumcised them, as God told him. 24 Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised, 25 and his son Ishmael was thirteen; 26 Abraham and his son Ishmael were both circumcised on that very day. ” NIV UK

I simply want to make the point that Abraham fully obeyed God, even though there was pain involved. Doing what God tells you do can be costly. There must be no hiding of this truth. But it’s always the right, and best, way to live. The price of disobedience is far greater and far worse.  Amy Carmichael, missionary to India, wrote to a friend who was perplexed about a painful experience, “I will say what our Heavenly Father said to me long ago, and says to me still very often: ‘See in it a chance to die.’” Warren W. Wiersbe.

As followers of Jesus, we also know that any opportunity to die is equally one to rise again. Good Friday and Easter Sunday go together in Christian history and experience. If ‘it’s Friday’, we know for sure that ‘Sunday’s coming.’

PRAYER: Lord, I need your strength. Help me, please, to obey you fully in every area of my life.

 

Daily Bible thoughts 1652: Tuesday 17th April 2018: Genesis 17:18-22: How good of God

 Genesis 17:18-22: How good of God

“18 And Abraham said to God, ‘If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!’ 19 Then God said, ‘Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. 20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. 21 But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.’ 22 When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him.” NIVUK

Abraham wanted to re-visit his own ‘plan B’ – a strategy which had already caused him and Sarah much grief. But he just couldn’t see how he could father a child at the age of a hundred, and Sarah at 90. So his prayer was:

‘’If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!’ (18).

It was understandable that Abraham loved his boy, but it was the wrong prayer. How good of God to answer it though:

‘’And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers’’ (20).

What an insight into the power of prayer. I wonder how many of our prayers are ‘wrong’ in a sense – we’re not quite asking the right thing – yet God still graciously, mercifully answers them, and He is able to fulfil His purposes through them.

(Note: The first baby in the Bible to be named before his birth was Ishmael, Gn. 16:11: the second was Isaac.)

PRAYER: Thank you Lord that you can sort out the tangled threads of good prayers interlaced with bad ones. It’s not that we want to ask amiss, but we often do. I marvel that you can still answer prayers that may not be the best, but somehow bring your purposes to pass through them. This is amazing grace.

Daily Bible thoughts 1651: Monday 16th April 2018: Genesis 17:15-17: No super-hero.

Genesis 17:15-17: No super-hero.

“15 God also said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. 16 I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.’               17 Abraham fell face down; he laughed and said to himself, ‘Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?’” NIV UK

I love the gritty, down-to-earth reality of the Bible stories. These are characters I can identify with. They are flawed, and I can relate to that! They might love God, and be seeking to follow him in faith; they may be living sacrificially. Abraham was doing all of that and more. But in this short passage he could not believe what God was saying to him. On the face of it, that might trouble you. You might think, ‘Well surely if God spoke to you, and you knew it was God, you would have to believe him.’ But Abraham didn’t – and there is something incredibly real about that. Why would any author make that up? If the writer were spinning a yarn, surely he’d want to make him out to be a super-hero? But that’s not what you have here.

Note:

  • The definite promise of God: ‘’I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her’’ (16a);
  • The disconnect in Abraham’s response. His body was worshipping, but his heart was questioning (17). He was no doubt torn between wanting to believe and being unable to.

I take encouragement in the grace and mercy of God, that He did not write him off.

Daily Bible thoughts 1650: Friday 13th April 2018: Genesis 17:9-14: Marked men.

Genesis 17:9-14: Marked men.

“9 Then God said to Abraham, ‘As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. 10 This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner – those who are not your offspring. 13 Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.’ ?NIV

In any covenant made there was an ‘’As for me’’ (3), and an ‘’As for you’’ (9). In other words, there were two sides. We now discover what Abram’s response was to be. He was to be circumcised, and every male in his household, down through the successive generations was to be too. I remember an Old Testament lecturer saying to my group in college that every time a Jewish man went to the loo he would be reminded who he was – that he belonged to the covenant people of God. That lecturer was not being crude. He was making an accurate point. Warren Wiersbe points out that the surgical procedure of circumcision was fitting since God’s covenant involved Abraham’s ‘’seed.’’

 But we must not think that circumcision saved anyone. Genesis 15:6 says: ‘’Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.’’ That was before he was circumcised. Circumcision was the sign, not the means, of belonging to God. (Romans 4:9-12 is a most important passage to read in this regard, and I suggest you take the time to have a look at it, if you are able). An eight day old baby would not be able to understand what was going on. Later on in life it would have to be explained to him. It was the obedience of the parents that mattered.

Here is another essential text to bear in mind: ‘’A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God’’ (Romans 2:28, 29).

Under the New Testament we are not marked by the external rite of circumcision, but by the internal reality of receiving the Spirit: ‘’Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit…’’ (Ephesians 1:13b).

We too are marked men – and women!

PRAYER: Thank you Lord that you have done something, and are doing something, on the inside of my life that is totally transformational. You are changing me from the inside out.

Daily Bible thoughts 1649: Thursday 12th April 2018: Genesis 17:1-8: God gives the growth

Genesis 17:1-8: God gives the growth

“When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.’  Abram fell face down, and God said to him, ‘As for me, this is my covenant with you: you will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.’” NIV UK

‘We say that we depend on the Holy Spirit, but actually we are so wired up with our own devices that if the fire does not fall from heaven, we can turn on a switch and produce false fire of our own.’ Vance Havner.

Jesus said: ‘’…apart from me you can do nothing’’ (John 15:5)

Abraham and Sarah had tried their own plan and failed miserably. But now God keeps saying: ‘’I will.’’ When I first began to read this passage last week, the thought came to me that God gives the growth (1 Corinthians 3:7b). ‘’Abram’’ means ‘’exalted father ‘’, but ‘’Abraham’’ means ‘’father of a multitude.’’ Warren Wiersbe comments that whenever anyone called Abraham by name, he would be reminded of God’s gracious promise to give him many descendants. God gives the growth.

‘’I will…greatly increase your numbers…’’ (2).

‘’I will make you very fruitful…’’ (6a).

‘’By faith Abraham, even though he was past age – and Sarah herself was barren – was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore’’ (Hebrews 11:11, 12).

‘He turns our weaknesses into His opportunities, so that the glory goes to Him.’

‘Where things impossible by faith shall be made possible, let’s give the glory to Him now.’

I read today that according to some estimates around 100,000 people were converted during the Welsh revival. God gives the growth whether it be small or big – but it can be extremely large.

PRAYER: Lord increase our faith.

Daily Bible thoughts 1647: Wednesday 11th April 2018: Genesis 17: 1-3: Face down

Genesis 17: 1-3: Face down

“When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.’  Abram fell face down, and God said to him,” NIV UK

Then God said to him, “This is my covenant with you: You’ll be the father of many nations. Your name will no longer be Abram, but Abraham, meaning that ‘I’m making you the father of many nations.’ I’ll make you a father of fathers—I’ll make nations from you, kings will issue from you. I’m establishing my covenant between me and you, a covenant that includes your descendants, a covenant that goes on and on and on, a covenant that commits me to be your God and the God of your descendants. And I’m giving you and your descendants this land where you’re now just camping, this whole country of Canaan, to own forever. And I’ll be their God.”

‘’When Abram was ninety-nine years old, GOD showed up and said to him, ‘’I am The Strong God, live entirely before me, live to the hilt! I’ll make a covenant between us and I’ll give you a huge family.’’

 Overwhelmed, Abram fell flat on his face.’’ The Message.

This is the first of two references in this chapter to Abram being, effectively, in the same bodily position before God. (See verse 17 for the other). But if God tells you to ‘’live entirely’’ before Him, this is a great response. Surely the laying of the human body before God is expressive of setting the whole life before Him. A word is used in God’s call to Abram that means to be ‘single-hearted, without blame, sincere, wholly devoted to God.’ In Exodus 12:5 it is used regarding a sacrifice without blemish. The place for a sacrifice is on the altar.

This is something we too are called to do ‘’in view of God’s mercies’’ (Romans 12:1,2) – in the light of all that God has done for us in Jesus. As the old gospel song says: ‘Lay your life on the altar for God. He’s calling to you today.’

On any old, ordinary day, God may ‘show up’ and say something to you that will change your life. What an adventure we are on!

Daily Bible thoughts 1647: Tuesday 10th April 2018: Genesis 17:1: You’re never too old

Genesis 17:1: You’re never too old

“When Abram was ninety-nine years old, God showed up and said to him, “I am The Strong God, live entirely before me, live to the hilt! I’ll make a covenant between us and I’ll give you a huge family.” MSG

You are never too old to do anything God plans for you to do. Abram (about to become ‘Abraham’) was going to father a child at the age of 99. God waited until it was physically impossible for him and Sarai (about to become ‘Sarah’) to have children. As someone said, ‘The borderline of human helplessness is the borderline of divine miracle.’

God’s ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not ours. They are so much higher. The world loves the young, the beautiful, the attractive. As you age, turn grey, start to wrinkle; as hearing and sight fade and joints stiffen, you can increasingly feel invisible. (When did you last see a really old person modelling and advertising clothes?!) The world sends you a subtle, but real message that you are finished. But not so with God. As long as you live and breathe He has a purpose for you, and He cares about you. It’s unlikely to be the same as Abram’s! But God has work for you to do. He doesn’t sit you on a shelf, with your legs dangling, when you hit retirement age. The message from heaven is by no means: ‘Just sit there and wait to die.’

Let’s take heart from Abram…and stay open and available to God.

‘’Even to your old age and grey hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you’’ (Isaiah 46:4).

’My ears are filled with the sounds of promise: ‘’Good people will prosper like palm trees, Grow tall like Lebanon cedars; transplanted to GOD’s courtyard, They’ll grow tall in the presence of God, lithe and green, virile still in old age.’’ ‘ (From Psalm 92 – ‘The Message’).

PRAYER: Lord, the world is so pervasive. I can almost unwittingly gulp down its messages with my breaths. Help me to know that you don’t just use the young; that you have a purpose for us all; that, indeed, you have a plan for me.

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