Monday, January 23, 2017
Daily reading assignment: Genesis 12-15
Genesis 12 records one of the great pivotal crossroads in the Scriptures’ narrative of God’s plan of redemption. Genesis 11 closed with Abraham (Abram) departing from “Ur of the Chaldees” with his father Terah (Genesis 11:32). Located in today’s Iraq, some 150 miles north of the Persian Gulf, ancient Ur was in the vicinity of what would become Babylon.
God came to Abraham in Genesis 12 and commanded him to separate from his country, his relatives, and the influence of his extended family (12:1). God promised if Abraham obeyed, He would covenant with him to fulfill seven promises (Genesis 12:2-3). Although Abraham was elderly and childless, God promised He would bless him with a son, make him great, his name famous, and through his lineage all people would be blessed (a promise fulfilled in Jesus Christ).
Abraham obeyed God, departed from Ur and traveled to Canaan, the land God had promised He would give to him as an inheritance. Arriving at Bethel, in today’s central Israel, Abraham built an altar and worshipped the Lord (12:7-8).
Although he was in the place God had called him, Abraham soon faced a crisis of faith when we read, “there was a famine in the land” (12:10). Abandoning his faith in God to provide and keep His promises, Abraham left the land and journeyed to Egypt, a decision that put in jeopardy God’s covenant promises (12:10-13).
Sarah, Abraham’s wife, was a beautiful woman and, fearing for his own life, Abraham asked her to tell others she was his sister should anyone enquire (12:11-13). As he feared, Sarah’s beauty was soon noticed and Pharaoh took her into his harem to become one of his wives, putting God’s covenant promise of an heir and making of his lineage a great nation in peril. God spared Sarah and mercifully intervened sending a plague of judgment on Pharaoh’s household and revealing to the king he had been deceived by Abraham (12:17-20).
In Genesis 13 we find Abraham facing the consequences of another failure to obey God and leave his father’s household (12:1) when we read that strife arose between his servants and those of his nephew Lot (13:1-7). Contrary to God’s command, Abraham had journeyed from Ur with Lot, his brother’s son, a decision he would regret. God had promised him the land, but to avoid strife, Abraham suggested to Lot that they divide their households, servants, and flocks, graciously offering his nephew the first choice of the land (13:8-9). Betraying the covetousness in his heart, Lot chose the best of the land that included the cities in the plain, among them the wicked city of Sodom (13:10-13). After Lot departed, God again renewed His covenant promises with Abraham (13:14-18).
Genesis 14 gives us a history of the nations and people who inhabited the land of Israel in ancient times, but in the midst we read, “the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled…And they took Lot…and his goods” (14:10-12). Genesis 14:14-24 not only records Abraham’s rescue of “his brother” (the word “brother” meaning kindred or family), but also offers us insight into how rich and powerful Abraham had become in the land. We read that Abraham led three hundred and eighteen armed servants of his household (14:14) in a successful attack on the kings who had taken Lot and the citizens and material possessions of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (14:15-16).
Abraham returns victorious and was greeted by a king identified as “Melchizedek king of Salem” (14:18) [scholars identify “Salem” as the ancient name for Jerusalem]. This Melchizedek is described as “the priest of the most high God” (14:18) who pronounced a benediction upon Abraham and rewarded him with a tithe, a tenth of the spoils (14:19-20).
Acknowledging Abraham as victor and, with the exception of the citizens of his city, the king of Sodom offered him all the riches he had retrieved in battle (14:21). Refusing to set his heart on the riches of wicked Sodom, Abraham revealed he had covenanted with God that he would take none of the spoils of Sodom less the king boast he had enriched Abraham (14:22-24).
Genesis 15 begins a narrative regarding Abraham’s longing for a son, an heir of God’s covenant promises. God assured Abraham he would have an heir, a son born to him and his wife Sarah (15:2-4) and his lineage would be as great in number as the stars in the heavens (15:5). Revealing Abraham was a man of faith in God, we read, “he believed the LORD; and He (the LORD) counted it to him for righteousness” (15:6).
God revealed to Abraham in the closing verses of Genesis 15, that his heirs would be “strangers”, foreigners, in another country for 400 years (15:13), but would then return to the promise land with great possessions. This revelation would be fulfilled when the Twelve Tribes of Israel departed Egypt after 400 years of servitude (Exodus 12-14).
Genesis 15 closes with God once again rehearsing His covenant promise of giving the land to Abraham’s heirs, marking the boundaries of that land with the Nile River in the south, the river Euphrates in the east, and naming the heathen nations that were occupying the land in Abraham’s day (15:18-21).
A thought as I close today’s devotion: God assured Abraham he had no cause to fear, for the LORD was his “Shield”…his protector and defender (15:1). Abraham had not only God’s promises, but His assurance that He was with him! My friend, God is no less for us.
Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith