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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

Month

April 2018

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.

Daily Bible thoughts 1646: Monday 9th April 2018: Genesis 16:7-16: Go back.

Genesis 16:7-16: Go back.

“7 The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, ‘Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?’  ‘I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,’ she answered.  Then the angel of the Lord told her, ‘Go back to your mistress and submit to her.’ 10 The angel added, ‘I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.’  11 The angel of the Lord also said to her:

‘You are now pregnant
    and you will give birth to a son.
You shall name him Ishmael,
    for the Lord has heard of your misery.
12 He will be a wild donkey of a man;
    his hand will be against everyone
    and everyone’s hand against him,
and he will live in hostility
    towards all his brothers.’

13 She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me.’ 14 That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.  15 So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne. 16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael. ” NIV UK

It can be the hardest thing in the world to go back to a situation you are running from; or to remain in circumstances you’d rather flee. But if God tells you to go back, then you can return with confidence, and know that he will bless you there. Even if it entails humble work, involving submission, that will not prevent God blessing you if a blessing is what He intends (10). God will never take His eye off you, like a loving parent ever watching their child. He is the One who sees you. You will never be out of His sight, not even for a fleeting moment.  Thinking again of the part played by Abram and Sarai in the story, consider this:  ‘We must trust God not only for His plan but also for His timing…When we walk by sight and not by faith, we get impatient; we scheme and blame others. Then when things go wrong, we try to get rid of our mistakes. God sent Hagar and Ishmael back to Abram and Sarai, and they had to live with their mistake for at least another seventeen years…Had Abram and Sarai waited on God instead of running ahead of God, they would have avoided all that pain.’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘With the Word,’ pp.26, 27.

PRAYER: Lord, I ask for grace to stay true and faithful to you in the difficult circumstances of life.

Daily Bible thoughts 1645: Friday 6th April 2018: Genesis 16:1-6: Reason to the fore

Genesis 16:1-6: Reason to the fore

“Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, ‘The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.’  Abram agreed to what Sarai said. So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.  When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram, ‘You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me.’  ‘Your slave is in your hands,’ Abram said. ‘Do with her whatever you think best.’ Then Sarai ill-treated Hagar; so she fled from her.” NIV UK

The Scottish novelist George McDonald said, ‘In whatever man does without God, he must fail miserably, or succeed more miserably.’  God called Abram and Sarai to walk by faith and not by sight. But time went by and sight began to take over. In fact, Sarai couldn’t see how the promise would be fulfilled. So she dipped her bucket down deep into the well of reason and came up with an idea. Her servant girl, Hagar, could have a child for her, with Abram as the father. Abram was still biologically able to have a child. This decision led not only to a major problem in their lives (and Hagar’s and Ishmael’s), but also to the Arab-Israeli conflict in the world

‘’Abram agreed to what Sarai said.’’ That’s not what we want to read. We want to see Abram being a strong spiritual leader in his home; reminding his wife of God’s promises, and calling her to trust Him. Instead, he went along with this human plan. Once again, it’s a flawed Abram we find here. (See also verse 6. It was a terrible abdication of responsibility to allow Hagar to be treated badly).

When things began to go wrong with her plan, Sarai pointed the finger away from herself. Neither Abram nor Sarai come out well in this sorry tale. It shows that people of faith can become distracted, getting their eyes off God and onto themselves. There is a way that seems right to a man, but it ends in death.

‘The detour is always worse than the main road.’ Vance Havner.

PRAYER: Lord, please help me to trust in you with all my heart and not lean on my own understanding.

Daily Bible thoughts 1644: Thursday 5th April 2018: Genesis 15: 8-21: The end from the beginning.

Genesis 15: 8-21: The end from the beginning.

“8 But Abram said, ‘Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I shall gain possession of it?’  So the Lord said to him, ‘Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.’  10 Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. 11 Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away.  12 As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. 13 Then the Lord said to him, ‘Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and ill-treated there. 14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterwards they will come out with great possessions. 15 You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16 In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.’  17 When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking brazier with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, ‘To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates – 19 the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 20 Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.’ ” NIV  UK

God knows the end from the beginning. Today’s reading contains a remarkable prophecy (13-16). It is a breathtakingly accurate prediction of events to take place at a much later date. It’s interesting that this revelation came to Abram in the context of ‘’a deep sleep’’ (12). I’m not saying ‘this is that’, but I just mention the fact that it has been a recurring feature of revivals that people have sometimes fallen into trance-like states in which God has spoken to them and shown them things they would not otherwise have learned. Just recently I heard a talk given by Duncan Campbell about the Isle of Lewis revival. These sort of things were happening there, and I couldn’t help but think about it as I read this part of Abram’s story.

It’s also appropriate to remember the passage in Hebrews 6:13-20. The thirteenth verse says: ‘’When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no-one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself…’’

In those days, when someone made a covenant with someone else, they would walk between the pieces of the sacrifice. In fact, both parties in the covenant would. But here, only God did it. He can be trusted. He is deeply committed to His people, to His Word and to His promises.

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