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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

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May 2018

Daily Bible thoughts 1675: Friday 18th May 2018: Genesis 23:1,2: Not immunised

Genesis 23:1-2: Not immunised

“Sarah lived to be a hundred and twenty-seven years old. She died at Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went to mourn for Sarah and to weep over her. ” NIV UK

Believers may experience remarkable miracles during their life-times, but they have to die. In a fallen world like this is, we all have an appointment to keep with the grave. Christianity is not an immunisation against dying. People would want conversion for the wrong reason if it was. However, it does supply a glorious hope in the face of death. Death is not the end. The parting is temporary.

But we are not inoculated against dying. Nor are we vaccinated against the experience of bereavement, loss and pain. Shortly after the death of my first wife, I took my daughter and her friend to a theme park for the day. While they enjoyed the rides, I made my way around the beautiful gardens of the estate. It was a warm, sunny day, and it felt good to be alive. But in the fresh experience of a loss which came ‘out of the blue’, I just saw couples everywhere. I remember sitting on a bench and thinking, ‘But one day, this kind of loss is going to happen to everyone you see holding hands, walking side by side.’ It wasn’t that I wished it on anyone, but the realisation dawned on me that marriage truly is only for a finite amount of time. It is: ‘Till death us do part.’ And death steals up, and parts people. You might be Abraham, but you’re not immune.

The Bible never promises immunity from death, but if we trust in Jesus, ‘’the good shepherd’’ (John 10:14), we can assert: ‘’Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me’’ (Psalm 23:4).

So, when Sarah died, we are quite sure that the Lord shepherded her ‘’through the darkest valley’’ (as Psalm 23:4a) can read; and ‘’Surely’’ His ‘’goodness and love’’ followed Abraham all through the remainder of his days on earth, until he finally found himself also ‘’in the house of the LORD forever.’’

 I can’t promise any believer the absence of trouble. I have no authority to say such a thing. But I can assure you, on the solid basis of Scripture, of the presence of God amidst earth’s darkest nights.

PRAYER: Thank you Lord for the comfort you give, which is very real, and can in turn be shared with others ( see 2 Corinthians 1: 3ff).

 

Daily Bible thoughts 1674: Thursday 17th May 2018: Genesis 22:13-24: The substitute

 Genesis 22:13-24: The substitute

“13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, ‘On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.’ 15 The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, ‘I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.’ 19 Then Abraham returned to his servants, and they set off together for Beersheba. And Abraham stayed in Beersheba.20 Some time later Abraham was told, ‘Milkah is also a mother; she has borne sons to your brother Nahor: 21 Uz the firstborn, Buz his brother, Kemuel (the father of Aram), 22 Kesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph and Bethuel.’ 23 Bethuel became the father of Rebekah. Milkah bore these eight sons to Abraham’s brother Nahor. 24 His concubine, whose name was Reumah, also had sons: Tebah, Gaham, Tahash and Maakah.”

 

‘’He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son’’ (13b).

At the heart of the Bible story we encounter the vital doctrine of ‘substitutionary atonement.’ It says, not simply that Jesus died, but that He died ‘’instead of’’ all of us. It was foreshadowed way back in this story of God providing a ‘’ram’’ to die in Isaac’s place. This ram died as a substitute, it is believed, in the same place where Jesus would die centuries later. A gospel song puts it like this:

‘I should have been crucified; I should have suffered and died.

I should have hung on the cross in disgrace,

But Jesus, God’s Son, took my place.’

Daily Bible thoughts 1673: Wednesday 16th May 2018: Genesis 22:9-12: Offering up your ‘Isaac’

 Genesis 22:9-12: Offering up your ‘Isaac’

“9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, ‘Abraham! Abraham!’ ‘Here I am,’ he replied. 12 ‘Do not lay a hand on the boy,’ he said. ‘Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.’ ” NIV UK

Although there were many things Abraham did not know for certain, He could be sure that God was in this (9). The Lord doesn’t promise to answer all our questions, but He does expect our complete obedience.  Warren Wiersbe comments: ‘Abraham loved his son, but he loved God more…If the gift becomes more important than the Giver, it becomes an idol.’

I remember being at ‘Spring Harvest’ – a Christian holiday week – many years ago. These were the days when it was held at ‘Pontins’, Prestatyn. One morning, the Bible teacher spoke so clearly and powerfully about this passage. He said God asked Abraham for Isaac. But He didn’t really want Isaac, He wanted Abraham. When it was obvious that Abraham was God’s man absolutely, He gave Isaac back. The speaker talked about how we often have the same experience when we ‘offer up our Isaac’s’.

God is totally trustworthy. You don’t have to understand all He is doing to put your hand in His. He will not let you down.

 

Daily Bible thoughts 1672: Tuesday 15th May 2018: Genesis 22:6-8: God’s provision.

 Genesis 22:6-8: God’s provision.

“6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, ‘Father?’ ‘Yes, my son?’ Abraham replied. ‘The fire and wood are here,’ Isaac said, ‘but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?’ Abraham answered, ‘God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.’ And the two of them went on together.” NIV UK

The name ‘’Moriah’’ (vs 2: Then God said, ‘Take your son, your only son, whom you love – Isaac – and go to the region of Moriah) means ‘The Lord will provide’ (see also 9, 14).

Again, the gospel resonance continues. We are reminded of the cross being placed on Jesus (6). Also, there is no record of protest on the part of Isaac. It seems he submitted to his father’s will. The unity between father and son is reflected in the words of verses 6b and 8b: ‘’…the two of them went on together.’’ This is a distant echo of the oneness between God the Father and God the Son that we are going to witness in the gospels.

The ultimate provision of ‘’the lamb for the burnt offering’’ (8) would come centuries later. John the Baptist announced it when he said of Jesus: ‘’Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’’ (John 1:29; see also v.36). Christ is not just a lamb; He is the Lamb. That is why He can take away sin, and not just cover it. In this wonderful story in Genesis, we see a foreshadowing of the central act of salvation. Isn’t it wonderful how the whole Bible hangs together?

Daily Bible thoughts 1671: Monday 14th May 2018: Genesis 22:1-5: Gospel resonance.

Genesis 22:1-5: Gospel resonance.

“Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, ‘Abraham!’ ‘Here I am,’ he replied. Then God said, ‘Take your son, your only son, whom you love – Isaac – and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain that I will show you.’ Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, ‘Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.’” NIV UK

There are words and phrases here which resonate for those familiar with the New Testament, and who love the gospel well. I’m thinking of expressions such as ‘’only son…love…Sacrifice…third day.’’ We can tell the story of Jesus from these few words.  When God called to Abraham, he showed exemplary obedience. He was available: ‘’Here I am.’’ He acted promptly. How could he do this when he, and Sarah, had waited so long to have this boy? The promises of God were bound up with him. How could he lay Isaac, and all he represented, on the altar of sacrifice? The answer is surely found in verse 5. Abraham passed the ‘test.’ He believed that he and Isaac would return.

The book of Hebrews says it well:

‘’By faith, Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, ‘’It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’’ Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death’’ (Hebrews 11:17-19).

PRAYER: I pray, Lord, for a faith that trusts you, even when it cannot understand.

Daily Bible thoughts 1670: Friday 11th May 2018: Genesis 22:1,2: ‘Here is love’

Genesis 22:1-2: ‘Here is love’

“Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, ‘Abraham!’ ‘Here I am,’ he replied.Then God said, ‘Take your son, your only son, whom you love – Isaac – and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain that I will show you.’” NIV UK

I read somewhere that this is the first use of the word ‘’love’’ in the Bible. It’s interesting that it comes in the context of a father being willing to sacrifice his son. If you are familiar with the Bible story as a whole, your mind will almost inevitably turn to what is, perhaps, the most famous statement in God’s Book:

‘’For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life’’ (John 3:16).

There you have the gospel in miniature; in a nutshell.

In the story of Abraham, as we will see, he did not have to sacrifice his son. His faith was being tested, but his boy, Isaac, did not die. But, centuries later, on this very spot it is believed, God’s Son, Jesus, gave His life for the sins of the world.

What can we say? ‘Here is love vast as the ocean, loving-kindness as the flood…’

PRAYER: Thank you Lord for your immeasurable love for the world; your love for me.

 

Daily Bible thoughts 1669: Thursday 10th May 2018: Genesis 21:22-34: The anointing.

Genesis 21:22-34: The anointing.

“22 At that time Abimelek and Phicol the commander of his forces said to Abraham, ‘God is with you in everything you do. 23 Now swear to me here before God that you will not deal falsely with me or my children or my descendants. Show to me and the country where you now reside as a foreigner the same kindness that I have shown to you.’ 24 Abraham said, ‘I swear it.’ 25 Then Abraham complained to Abimelek about a well of water that Abimelek’s servants had seized. 26 But Abimelek said, ‘I don’t know who has done this. You did not tell me, and I heard about it only today.’ 27 So Abraham brought sheep and cattle and gave them to Abimelek, and the two men made a treaty. 28 Abraham set apart seven ewe lambs from the flock, 29 and Abimelek asked Abraham, ‘What is the meaning of these seven ewe lambs you have set apart by themselves?’ 30 He replied, ‘Accept these seven lambs from my hand as a witness that I dug this well.’31 So that place was called Beersheba, because the two men swore an oath there.32 After the treaty had been made at Beersheba, Abimelek and Phicol the commander of his forces returned to the land of the Philistines. 33 Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called on the name of the Lord, the Eternal God. 34 And Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines for a long time.” NIV UK

The ‘anointing’ is something people can recognise, even if they can’t explain what it is. They can sense it; feel it. It can even cause them to fear. But Abimelech was able to articulate it. He recognised that God was with Abraham (22). It’s not surprising that Abimelech was able to say this. In the first place, God had spoken to him in a dream about Abraham (20:3). Secondly, he had experienced healing in his family through Abraham’s prayer (20:17, 18; see 20:7).

We have to note that carrying an anointing is not necessarily a sign of special goodness or godliness. As we have seen, in the episode with Abimelech, Abraham had not acted honestly or honourably. He was not a good witness. In a way, it is sad that Abimelech had to say to him: ‘’Now swear to me here before God that you will not deal falsely with me or my children or my descendants’’ (23a). That contains an echo of Abraham’s recent deceit. It can take a long time to build trust, but it can be broken in a moment. Once lost, it be difficult to restore it – but not impossible.

We should not follow Abraham’s example of dishonesty, but it is good to know that you don’t have to be perfect know God’s presence with you.

Notice that Abraham was still living in the land as an ‘’alien’’ (23). He never did own any part of the promised land except this well at Beersheba, and, later, a burial plot for Sarah.

Daily Bible thoughts 1668: Wednesday 9th May 2018: Genesis 21:14-21: An eye-opening experience.

Genesis 21:14-21: An eye-opening experience.

“14 Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the Desert of Beersheba. 15 When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. 16 Then she went off and sat down about a bow-shot away, for she thought, ‘I cannot watch the boy die.’ And as she sat there, she[a] began to sob. 17 God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, ‘What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. 18 Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.’ 19 Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink. 20 God was with the boy as he grew up. He lived in the desert and became an archer. 21 While he was living in the Desert of Paran, his mother got a wife for him from Egypt.”

‘What a picture of our loving heavenly Father, who cares even for those who have been ‘’expelled.’’ God hears every person who cries out to Him in distress. Furthermore, being excluded from God’s covenant does not mean being excluded from God’s general mercies toward all mankind (Matthew 5:44-45). Indeed, God promised once more that Ishmael would be made into a great nation (verse 18).’ Tom Hale: ‘The Applied Old Testament Commentary,’ p.163.

It is comforting to know that God sees our tears, hears our cries and knows our circumstances. When all seems lost, the solution may well be close at hand (19). We just fail to see it. We need our eyes opening. But it doesn’t have to be a serious problem for us to be stumped by it. Whether the conundrums we face are big or small, God has the answer. May He give us His vision. You may be so close to an answer; in the vicinity of a breakthrough, but all you can feel is the scorching heat of the desert.

‘Was the well not there before? Did God suddenly and miraculously create the well? No, we must assume the well had been there all along. All that was needed was for Hagar’s eyes to be opened…There are amazing resources in our lives – both physical and spiritual – that are available to us if we will only turn to God and let Him open our eyes. Without the illuminating touch of God’s Spirit, we will miss many of His greatest blessings (see Luke 24:30-31).’ Tom Hale.

PRAYER: Lord God, I take great encouragement from this inspired story in your infallible Word. I bring to you my perplexity regarding…(you fill in the blank). Please open my eyes to see your solution.

Daily Bible thoughts 1667: Tuesday 8th May 2018: Genesis 21:8-13: Reaping what you sow.

Genesis 21:8-13: Reaping what you sow.

“8 The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, 10 and she said to Abraham, ‘Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.’  11 The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. 12 But God said to him, ‘Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. 13 I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring.’” NIV UK

No doubt Sarah saw Ishmael as a dangerous potential rival to her son Isaac. The norm was for the firstborn son to get the inheritance (10).

As I read this passage today, my thoughts go back to the choice Abraham and Sarah made, that Abraham should sleep with Hagar. As I keep saying, at that point they were not trusting but scheming. God had promised a child, but the baby was a long time coming. Instead of combining faith with patience, they took matters into their own hands. They tried to bring about what God intended, their own way. As a believer, you know your sins can be forgiven. But you will not necessarily avoid their consequences. To some extent here, Abraham and Sarah were reaping what they had sown.

You can feel for Abraham. You can empathise with him. He loved both boys. Ishmael had been around for a while, and no doubt there were strong bonds between dad and son. God was merciful, in spite of the wrong steps previously taken (11-13). (By the way, this time it was okay for Abraham to listen to his wife, because it was what God wanted. But on another occasion, doing so had led him astray. It shows that we have to try to keep in step with God, moment by moment. He doesn’t always do things the same way).

We find in the Bible that there are two lines running through the human race: the line of the Spirit (or promise), and Isaac represents this. But there is also the line of the flesh, represented by Ishmael. The point to emphasise here is that those belonging to the line of the Spirit can expect persecution from those of the flesh. Mockery may be the least of it.

‘Be of good cheer.The Lord has prepared laughter for you also, some few miles ahead on life’s journey…But in those hours think kindly of others, and do not forget that some, like Hagar, may be disappointed by what gives you joy!’ F.B. Meyer: ‘Devotional Commentary’, p.22.

PRAYER: Lord, give me the courage I pray, to take persecution for righteousness’ sake. If I am despised, scorned, ridiculed and ostracised for your Name’s sake, help me to count it all joy.

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