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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

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March 2018

Daily Bible thoughts 1631: Monday 19th March 2018: Genesis 12:11-16: Looking after number one!

Genesis 12:11-16: Looking after number one!

“11 As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, ‘I know what a beautiful woman you are. 12 When the Egyptians see you, they will say, “This is his wife.” Then they will kill me but will let you live. 13 Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.’  14 When Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians saw that Sarai was a very beautiful woman. 15 And when Pharaoh’s officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace. 16 He treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels.” NIV

‘’Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives…’’ (1 Peter 3:7).

At this point in his life, Abram was not a shining example of the above principle. In order to save his skin, he asked his wife to sacrifice her virtue. It must have hurt him too, but he was prepared to do it for safety’s sake. ‘Faith is living without scheming.’ But Abram was prepared to manipulate and deceive so that he could stay alive. It seems his trust in God had burst like a fragile bubble.

When a husband, a dad, is not walking with God, he can bring great harm upon his family. He is likely to lead them astray. How we live as husbands (and as wives) is a spiritual matter. It is of interest to God. It’s not a secondary issue.

The fact that Abram prospered materially at this time (16) did not make it right. Furthermore, as you trace the story through, you will see that the riches he acquired in these circumstances were to cause him problems in future days.

Daily Bible thoughts 1630: Friday 16th March 2018: Genesis 12:10-13: Little white lies.

Genesis 12:10-13: Little white lies.

“10 Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. 11 As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, ‘I know what a beautiful woman you are. 12 When the Egyptians see you, they will say, “This is his wife.” Then they will kill me but will let you live. 13 Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.’ ” NIV

Fear can make you a coward, and cowardice can propel you towards dishonesty. I think that’s what happened to Abram in this story. We sometimes try to justify half-truths, or partial truths as ‘just little white lies.’ But a lie is a lie, and ‘truth will out.’ You will almost certainly end up wishing you hadn’t shaded the truth. Even so, it is best to be honest for the reason you should be – because it’s how God wants us to live – and not merely because you’re afraid of being found out.  This was a half-truth. Sarai was Abram’s half-sister. Warren Wiersbe writes: ‘Abraham and Sarah brought this ‘’half-truth’’ with them from Ur (Gen.20:13), used it in Egypt and Gerar, (Gen.20), and their son Isaac adopted it (Gen 26).’ ‘Wiersbe Bible Commentary (OT)’, p.61.

Fear is an enemy of faith, but fears can also be dispelled by faith: ‘Fear knocked at the door; faith answered, and there was nobody there.’ As Wiersbe says, the fear of God is the fear that overcomes every other fear (Psalm 112; Isaiah 8:13), but ‘’the fear of man brings a snare’’ (Proverbs 29:25).

In Egypt, Abram got away from the altar. There is no record of him calling on God for guidance and help. It seems he took his eyes off the Lord. God had repeatedly said to Abram ‘’I will’’ (2,3), but Abram started saying, ‘’They will’’ (12). We are moving in the wrong direction when we fear people more than our God. Moreover, you can be sure that the sin of lying will find you out.

Prayer: God of truth, help me to abhor dishonesty; enable me please to be scrupulously honest.

Daily Bible thoughts 1629: Thursday 15th March 2018: Genesis 12: 4-10: Detour

 Genesis 12: 4-10: Detour

“4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.  Abram travelled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The Lord appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your offspring I will give this land.’ So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.  From there he went on towards the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord.  Then Abram set out and continued towards the Negev.  10 Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe.” NIV

When Abram was at his best the ‘’tent’’ and the ‘’altar’’ featured significantly in his life. The former symbolised his life as a pilgrim, ready to move at God’s direction. The latter spoke of his life of worship and prayer. Abram, at his best, walked with God and moved in the will of God. But there is no record that God told him to go to Egypt. In the Bible, people go ‘up’ to Jerusalem, but ‘down’ to Egypt. Egypt symbolises the world system. We won’t find our answers there.

As we saw yesterday, there was a severe famine in the land God had told Abram to head for. Someone has pointed out that trials not only verify faith; they also purify it. Faith cannot grow if it does not have examinations to pass in life’s school. But Abram fell at this hurdle. It seems he just made up his own mind to go and live in Egypt for a time. He did not consult the Lord. A price was paid.

I like Warren Wiersbe’s comment that faith involves ‘living without scheming.’ Now there’s a thought to carry into the day.

PRAYER: Lord, help me to acknowledge you in all my ways that you may direct my paths.

 

 

Daily Bible thoughts 1628: Wednesday 14th March 2018: Genesis 12:10: The trials of faith.

Genesis 12:10: The trials of faith.

“10 Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe.” NIV

The life of faith is not trouble free. God does not inoculate against all pain. So we see the early onset of trial during Abram and Sarai’s pilgrimage. It was not just the case that there was a ‘’famine’’ in the land. This famine was ‘’severe.’’ But it didn’t indicate that this couple were out of God’s will. They were very much in it. A time of trial is an opportunity to grow in faith and prove God. In this next story we are going to learn how not to handle a crisis.  For now, let us note that the presence of trouble does not indicate the absence of God. Nor does it mean that you are out of His will.

‘The God of glory, who had sent him forth, was responsible for his care in Canaan, even though famine prevailed. He ought to have stayed quietly in the position to which God had called him, leaving the Almighty to provide.’ F.B. Meyer: ‘Devotional Commentary,’ p. 19.

But he didn’t, as we will see.

Daily Bible thoughts 1627: Tuesday 13th March 2018: Genesis 12:4: ‘’So…’’

Genesis 12:4: ‘’So…’’

“So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran.” NIV

This could have been a different story. What if Abram had put his hands over his ears – metaphorically or literally – and refused to hear? What if he had not obeyed? It doesn’t bare thinking about.  Whenever God speaks; when you hear his call (1), there has to be a ‘’So…’’ (4).

There needs to be a positive ‘’So…’’

For Abram this meant following the God he was just getting to know into the largely unknown. It entailed leaving behind a sophisticated culture for the life of a pilgrim.

When God calls He may only show you the next step. But that’s fine. Take that one, and then you’ll have light for the next.

What has God been saying to you? What is your ‘’So…’’ going to be?

PRAYER: Lord, teach me to know that I can trust you, and help me to follow wherever you lead. As daunting as it may seem when you call, I know I will never regret following you.

Daily Bible thoughts 1626: Monday 12th March 2018: Genesis 12:2,3: ‘Sea of Galilee Christian’?

Genesis 12:2-3: ‘Sea of Galilee Christian’?

“‘I will make you into a great nation,
    and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
    and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
    and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
    will be blessed through you.’” NIV

Abraham was blessed that he might be a blessing.  This will always be true. God blesses His people, not that we may be containers of blessing, but conduits.

Somebody asked, ‘Do you know why the Dead Sea is dead, whereas the Sea of Galilee is teeming with life?’ The answer he gave was along these lines: ‘The Dead Sea only has an inlet, but Galilee has both an inlet and an outlet.’ What comes in goes out; there is a flow through.

God gives to us that we may share. As we have freely received, so let us freely give.

PRAYER: Make me a channel of blessing today

Daily Bible thoughts 1625: Friday 9th March 2018: Genesis 12:2: Fame

Genesis 12:2: Fame

” ‘I will make you into a great nation,
    and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
    and you will be a blessing.” NIV

‘’I will bless you and make you famous…’’ (New Living Translation).  God has undoubtedly done this with Abram. He is as good as his Word. Centuries after his death, people are still speaking and writing about Abram. His name is esteemed by Jews and Muslims as well as Christians. But all that God did with him and through him was, in the final analysis, about Jesus.

On the day when I was reflecting on these words about Abram, there was a news announcement to say that the ‘famous’ evangelist, Dr. Billy Graham, had died at the age of 99. Ultimately, I suggest, there is no explanation for the phenomenon of Billy’s ministry other than God. He chose this man for a big purpose. He gave him a large platform, high visibility and enormous spiritual influence. His brother-in-law, Leighton Ford, himself a great preacher, said, ‘We young evangelists used to joke that Billy would just have to say, ‘John 3:16, come forward’, and people would come to Christ!’ Such was the anointing on him. I believe God raised up this fine man, and made him well known.

But when the Lord makes someone’s name great, it is for the sake of His Name. It is that He might be glorified in and through that person. I thought it entirely appropriate that on the BBC news’s coverage of Graham’s death, Jesus was mentioned several times. The evangelist would have liked that. He was all about glorifying Jesus. He knew that if God had given him fame, it was so that he might spread abroad the fame of Jesus’ Name.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether you serve in anonymity or in the spotlight; whether you minister to thousands or just a few. The key thing is to know your calling, and serve God’s purpose for you in your generation.

PRAYER: In my life, Lord, be glorified…today.

Daily Bible thoughts 1624: Thursday 8th March 2018: Genesis 12:2,3; Divine pottery.

Genesis 12:2-3; Divine pottery.

‘I will make you into a great nation,
    and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
    and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
    and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
    will be blessed through you.’

‘Great lives are trained by great promises.’ Dr.Joseph Parker.  I like Warren Wiersbe’s comment that: ‘We are not saved by making promises to God; we are saved by believing Gods’s promises to us.’ ‘The Wiersbe Bible Commentary (OT),’ p.58  God repeatedly said to Abraham: ‘’I will.’’ It was for Abraham to believe that God would do as He said, and set out in confidence. I heard Rick Warren say that the Holy Spirit meets us where we step out in obedience. We don’t wait to feel Him before we obey. Rather, we do what God tells us to do, and in that place of obedience we experience the Holy Spirit’s power to enable us. We are to trust that God will do what He says He will do, when we do what He tells us to do. For example, don’t wait to feel the Spirit before witnessing. Witness because the Lord tells you to, and there you will experience the Holy Spirit. But, ‘If you want to walk on water, you’ve got to get out of the boat.’ Ronald Dunn said, ‘Too many Christians are looking for the feeling of the Holy Spirit.’ He may well have been right.

Christianity starts with a call: ‘’…follow me, and I will make you…’’ God has the right to shape us and form us as He chooses. We are clay. He is the Potter. He knows what He is doing. The big issue is not who we are, or who we think we are (or what we think we are not, even). It’s who He is, and what He wants to do in and through us.

When God called Moses, the man who was to become a great leader, was not short of an excuse or two. When Moses said to God, ‘’Who am I…?’ (Exodus 3:11), the Lord didn’t answer that question. He said, ‘’I will be with you…’’ (Exodus 3:12). That was enough. It always will be.

PRAYER: Have your own way Lord, have your own way. You are the Potter, I am the clay.

Daily Bible thoughts 1623: Wednesday 7th March 2018: Genesis 12:1: The call

Genesis 12:1: The call

“The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.” NIV

Note: ‘’The LORD had said to Abram…’’ This was the beginning of the process. When Abram was in Ur of the Chaldees, God called him out of idolatry (see Joshua 24:2). It was a work of grace. The inhabitants of the city of Ur were devoted to Nannar, the moon-god. At one time, Abram did not know the true God and he did not do anything to deserve knowing Him, but God graciously called him. ‘’You did not choose me, but I chose you…’’ (John 15:16). That’s how it was with Abraham. This is still how it is with everyone called to faith in Jesus.     Stephen, in his speech recorded in Acts 7, says: ‘’The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran’’ (2). We are not told how He appeared to Abram (as he was then called), but in the encounter Abram must have realised the vanity and folly of idol worship He was called ‘out of darkness’ into ‘marvellous light.’

However, not only was Ur an idolatrous centre, archaeological findings have revealed that it was also a sophisticated place. They had running water available in their homes, for example. It can’t have been easy to ‘’Leave’’ the luxury they enjoyed, but that is just what Abram was instructed to do. Nevertheless, first steps in the life of faith may be tentative. Abram’s were. Looking back through (11:27-32) you will see that Abram did not immediately leave his ‘’father’s household.’’

 His brother Nahor did not leave Ur at all. Warren Wiersbe characterises him as ‘the man who ‘stayed’, while Terah he describes as ‘the man who stopped’, and Lot as ‘the man who strayed.’ But his story is still to unfold.

Jesus’ call to discipleship is a costly one, no less than Abram’s was. Anyone embarking on the life of faith must be willing to pay a price (Luke 14:25-27). ‘God must reduce us to a minimum before he can work through us to the maximum.’ F.B. Meyer.

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