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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

Month

June 2018

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)

Daily Bible thoughts 1690: Friday 8th June 2018: Genesis 25:19-21: Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Genesis 25:19-21: Take it to the Lord in prayer.

“19 This is the account of the family line of Abraham’s son Isaac. Abraham became the father of Isaac, 20 and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah daughter of Bethuel the Aramean from Paddan Aram and sister of Laban the Aramean. 21 Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. The Lord answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant.” NIV UK

There are certain repeating patterns in Biblical history. One of these is the case of the barren wife who conceives in answer to prayer. This is also part of a repeating pattern in the Abraham and Sarah/Isaac and Rebekah stories. Sarah was barren, but miraculously bore Abraham a son. Here we read:  ‘’Isaac prayer hard to GOD for his wife because she was barren. GOD answered his prayer and Rebekah became pregnant.’’ The Message.

‘Once more we see God’s active intervention in ensuring that the covenant promises given to Abraham and Isaac would be fulfilled. God’s purposes cannot be fulfilled by human effort alone.’ Tom Hale: ‘Applied Old Testament Commentary’, p.168.

‘Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah. For twenty years, they waited for a family that did not come. God blessed Isaac in everything but the thing he wanted most. He and Rebekah knew that God had promised descendants (Gen.15:5), so Isaac laid hold of the promise and prayed. True prayer lays hold of God’s Word (John15:7) and seeks to accomplish God’s purposes.’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘With the Word’, p.33.

Wiersbe also says that the purpose of prayer is to get God’s will done on earth, not to have man’s will done in heaven. He emphasises that Isaac’s prayer was not selfish. He must have heard the covenant promises made to his father repeated in the home again and again. How could they be fulfilled if he and Rebekah remained childless. Furthermore, he makes the point that Genesis emphasises the sovereignty of God, and shows the wisdom of His ‘delays’. Abraham and Sarah had to wait 25 years for Isaac to appear; Jacob had to toil for fourteen years to obtain his two wives, and Joseph had to wait over twenty years to be reconciled to his brothers. ‘Our times are in His hands (Ps.31:15), and His timing is never wrong.’ ‘The Wiersbe Bible Commentary, OT’, p.96.

PRAYER: Lord please teach me how to marry your Word with my praying. I feel like I am just ‘in the infants’ in this school of prayer. Please be my teacher, and make me a powerful intercessor like Abraham was, and his son Isaac.

Daily Bible thoughts 1689: Thursday 7th June 2018: Genesis 25:12-18: Brotherly hostility!

Genesis 25:12-18: Brotherly hostility!

“12 This is the account of the family line of Abraham’s son Ishmael, whom Sarah’s slave, Hagar the Egyptian, bore to Abraham. 13 These are the names of the sons of Ishmael, listed in the order of their birth: Nebaioth the firstborn of Ishmael, Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, 14 Mishma, Dumah, Massa, 15 Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish and Kedemah. 16 These were the sons of Ishmael, and these are the names of the twelve tribal rulers according to their settlements and camps. 17 Ishmael lived a hundred and thirty-seven years. He breathed his last and died, and he was gathered to his people. 18 His descendants settled in the area from Havilah to Shur, near the eastern border of Egypt, as you go towards Ashur. And they lived in hostility towards all the tribes related to them.” NIV UK

‘’And they lived in hostility towards all their brothers’’ (18b).

Conflict, division, hostility, murder are all consequences of the fall (see Genesis 4). They are the bad fruit of sin entering into the world. Christians should endeavour to ‘’seek peace and pursue it’’ (1 Peter 3:11), but we do so with realism, recognising the sinful forces constantly at play in the world, and in our own hearts, which would tear us apart if left unchecked.

As previously noted, Abraham and Sarah chose their own path when Abraham slept with Hagar. Although they could be forgiven, and Ishmael could be blessed, the consequences of sin could not be undone. The world continues to suffer from them today.

Daily Bible thoughts 1688: Wednesday 6th June 2018: Genesis 25:1-11: Gathered to his people.

Genesis 25:1-11: Gathered to his people.

“Abraham had taken another wife, whose name was Keturah. She bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak and Shuah. Jokshan was the father of Sheba and Dedan; the descendants of Dedan were the Ashurites, the Letushites and the Leummites. The sons of Midian were Ephah, Epher, Hanok, Abida and Eldaah. All these were descendants of Keturah. Abraham left everything he owned to Isaac. But while he was still living, he gave gifts to the sons of his concubines and sent them away from his son Isaac to the land of the east. Abraham lived a hundred and seventy-five years. Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years; and he was gathered to his people. His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah near Mamre, in the field of Ephron son of Zohar the Hittite, 10 the field Abraham had bought from the Hittites.[a] There Abraham was buried with his wife Sarah. 11 After Abraham’s death, God blessed his son Isaac, who then lived near Beer Lahai Roi.” NIV UK

After a great loss, although the pain is keenly felt, life does not have to come to an end. We have already seen how, following the death of Sarah, there was a new chapter in Abraham’s story, and we can see something more of that in today’s passage. There is also the further comment that: ‘’After Abraham’s death, God blessed his son Isaac…’’ (11). A bereavement – especially of a close family member – is likely to leave a deep imprint on you. But it doesn’t have to be the end of your life. It certainly doesn’t dry up the flow of God’s blessing.

But in life, we, being mortal, not only love and lose; we ourselves have to die. Although Abraham lived a long, long time, death eventually came knocking on his door. I love the line which says ‘’and he was gathered to his people’’ (8b). That phrase may mean nothing more than that he was laid with other dead relatives in the same cemetery. But I instinctively feel it means more. As believers, we have the confidence that we will see God after we have died. That is the greatest blessing to anticipate. However, we also carry in our hearts, the joyful prospect of meeting fellow-believers again, and enjoying their company – just as the disciples came to recognise Jesus and shared fellowship with Him again after His resurrection. As the hymn-writer rightly expressed: ‘What a gathering!’

PRAYER: Thank you so much Lord Jesus, you who are the Resurrection and the life, for the wonderful hope we have in you.

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