Tag Archives: Bible Christianity

Forsaken by Man, But not By God! (Genesis 45)

Scripture reading – Genesis 45

Joseph, unable to contain his emotions, cried out suddenly, “Cause every man to go out from me” (45:1b). With only his brethren present, he wept so forcefully that his servants, and even those of Pharaoh’s household heard of it (45:2). Speaking for the first time without an interpreter, Joseph cried out in Hebrew, “I am Joseph; doth my father yet live?” (45:3)

Imagine that moment! They had betrayed, sold their brother as a slave, but now he stands before them. He is a powerful ruler in Egypt, and a man to whom they bowed in fear and reverence. With the authority of a sovereign, and the compassion of a brother, Joseph stated in their tongue, “Come near to me, I pray you”(45:4a). With fear, awe, and dread, his brothers drew near, and he confessed, “I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt” (45:4b).

Calming their anxieties, he consoled his brothers, saying, “be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life” (45:5).

Take a moment, and meditate on the last phrase: “God did send me before you to preserve life” (45:5).

Rather than bitterness, and vengeance, Joseph’s words conveyed a reassuring spirit of faith and forgiveness. He had come to see the hand of God’s providences in his life. Confessing his faith, Joseph said, “8So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler [with power and authority] throughout all the land of Egypt” (45:8).

There were yet five years of famine (45:6, 11); therefore, Joseph commanded his brothers, “Go up to my father, and say unto him, Thus saith thy son Joseph, God hath made me lord of all Egypt: come down unto me, tarry not” (45:9). He promised his brothers, “thou shalt dwell in the land of Goshen, and thou shalt be near unto me, thou, and thy children, and thy children’s children, and thy flocks, and thy herds, and all that thou hast” (45:10).

When he had finished speaking, Joseph “fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck, and wept; and Benjamin wept upon his neck. 15Moreover he kissed all his brethren, and wept upon them: and after that his brethren talked with him” (45:14-15). Imagine the conversation that passed between Joseph and his brothers. Through tears, and laughter, Joseph conveyed all that had passed in the twenty-two years he had been apart from them.

The news of Joseph’s reunion with his brothers had reached Pharaoh’s household, and the king of Egypt was pleased (45:17-18). Pharaoh decreed that wagons should be taken to Canaan, and the children, wives, and Joseph’s father be conveyed to Egypt (45:19).  He promised that the “good of all the land of Egypt” would be theirs, and they would have need of nothing (45:21-25).

Stunning News: Joseph is Alive! (45:25-28)

Imagine the spectacle when an Egyptian wagon train came within sight of Jacob’s encampment in Canaan (45:25). When he heard that Joseph was alive, and was “governor over all the land of Egypt, [his] heart fainted, for he believed them not” (45:26). Seeing the wagons, and all the provisions that had been sent to him by his son, Jacob’s spirit was revived (25:27). “Israel (Jacob) said, It is enough; Joseph my son is yet alive: I will go and see him before I die” (45:28). He was content. The LORD had preserved his life into his old age, and answered the longing of his heart: He would be reunited with Joseph.

Let us take a moment and reflect on God’s providences in Joseph’s life.

His mother died giving birth to his brother Benjamin. He grew up resented, and hated by brothers who would have killed him had they not elected to sell him as a slave. He was falsely accused by his master’s wife, and was a prisoner, until the LORD directed Pharaoh to promote him to the second most powerful throne in Egypt.

Joseph was rejected, tried, and forsaken by man, but not by God!

Psalm 34:1919Many are the afflictions of the righteous: But the Lord delivereth him out of them all.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Beautiful Dreamer (Genesis 37)

Scripture reading – Genesis 37

Our chronological study of Genesis brings us to Genesis 37, and a new crossroads in the Scriptures where the focus begins to shift from Jacob, now known as Israel, to his son Joseph. Joseph stands out as one of the most honorable, and upright men of the Old Testament.

A key detail to understanding the dynamics in this period of Joseph’s life is to remember that his mother had recently died giving birth to his brother Benjamin, Jacob’s twelfth born son (35:16-19). Recalling Rachel was Jacob’s favorite wife, and his first love, helps us to appreciate the tragic events that are recorded in Genesis 37.

Being reminded that Jacob was a shepherd, a sojourner, he was “a stranger, in the land of Canaan” (37:1). The LORD had promised him, his father Isaac, and grandfather Abraham the land of Canaan for an inheritance (Genesis 12:1; 35:12); however, the possession of that land would not come to fruition until Israel returned from four hundred years of slavery in Egypt, and conquered and possessed the land.

Joseph was seventeen years old, and was tending sheep with his half-brothers, the sons of Bilhah, and Zilpah, Jacob’s concubines who had each borne him two sons (37:2). We are not told what prompted Joseph going to his father and delivering an “evil report” concerning his brothers, but I feel there is good reason to believe that jealously might have prompted them to treat him with disdain.

Growing up in a household we would describe in our day as a “blended home,” there was constant strife and contention between Joseph and his brothers. His mother’s recent death had no doubt left him vulnerable, and his father favoring him with a “coat of many colours” (most likely a long sleeve tunic), indicated his favored stature in the home (37:3). “When his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him” (37:4).

In the providence and plan of God, the LORD prophetically revealed to Joseph in two dreams that he would one day have a position of authority in his brother’s lives, and they would bow before him (37:5-11). Unwisely in my opinion, Joseph shared the prophetic nature of his dreams with his brothers, and they “envied him” (37:11).

A fateful day came when Joseph was bid by his father to leave the safety of the home, and go out and inspect the welfare of his brothers and the flocks they were tending (37:12-14). Joseph traveled from his home in Hebron, a distance of 40 miles to Shechem (a place that has already been infamous for it was where Simeon and Levi had slain the men of that city, 34:25-31). Joseph arrived in Shechem, but learned his brothers had moved on to Dothan (37:15-17), a city that was one hundred miles from home, and was on a main trade route to Egypt.

Perhaps recognizing Joseph’s coat from a distance, the brother’s conspired together, at first to kill him (37:18-20). Reuben, the oldest brother, intervened and convinced his brothers to put Joseph in a pit, planning to return later and free him (37:21). Stripping Joseph of his tunic (37:23), the brothers cast him into a pit (37:24). When they spied the approach of Midianite merchantmen traveling to Egypt, Joseph’s brothers, in the absence of Reuben the oldest, sold him as a slave for twenty pieces of silver, and he was taken into Egypt, where he was then sold to “Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, and captain of the guard” (37:25-28, 36).

Joseph’s brothers, determined to deceive their father, and convince him that Joseph had been killed by a wild beast, dipped his coat into the blood of a goat. Seeing the frayed condition of Joseph’s coat covered in blood, Jacob believed he was dead, and “rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days…[and saying], “I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning” (37:34-35).

The stage is set for Joseph to one day deliver his brothers from a famine, and fulfilling his dream, stand in authority as they bowed before him.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Getting Back to Bethel, the House of God (Genesis 35-36)

Scripture reading – Genesis 35-36 

The LORD had commanded Jacob to return to Canaan after an absence of 20 years (Genesis 33). Receiving news his twin brother was coming, Esau came to meet him, and instead of exacting revenge, gave Jacob a loving embrace and they wept for joy. Although he had been received in peace, Jacob refused his brother’s invitation to enter the land, and traveled instead to Succoth where he lived among the heathen of the land (33:17); a decision that brought great sorrow upon his household (34:1-2, 13-29).

Genesis 35 – Journey to Bethel

Genesis 35 opened with the LORD commanding Jacob to go up to Bethel (“the house of God”), and fulfill the promise he had made to the LORD two decades prior (28:19-22). Knowing he and his family were returning to the place where the LORD had first appeared to him, Jacob commanded his family to make ready to be in the presence of the LORD.

Genesis 35:2-4 records three preparatory steps Jacob commanded his family to observe before going to Bethel.

The first step, was to “put away the strange gods that are among you” (35:2b).

How did these “strange gods” come to be with Jacob’s family? Remember that Laban, Jacob’s father-in-law, had accused him of stealing away with his gods (31:30, 34). Unbeknownst to Jacob, Rachel had taken her father’s idols. There is also a possibility that the people who had been taken captive after Simeon and Levi killed the men of Shalem, had taken their gods with them (34:28-29).

The second step in preparing to go to Bethel was to “be clean” (35:2c). Jacob commanded his people to put their lives and households in order, and to purify themselves and be holy according as God had said.

Finally, the people were to “change [their] garments” (35:2d). They were to replace the old robes that would have reminded them of their past, and put on new garments. Such is to be true of believers when Paul observed, “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Arriving at Bethel, Jacob built an altar, and most assuredly offered sacrifices, and led his family to worship the LORD there (35:6-7).

Jacob’s return to Bethel, however, was not without its sorrows, and was marked by the deaths of three loved ones.  Deborah, the elderly nurse of his mother Rebekah, and who might have assisted with raising Jacob, was the first to die (35:8). Jacob honored his beloved servant by burying her under an oak tree, and calling the name of the place “Allonbachuth,” “oak of weeping” (35:8).

Jacob’s beloved wife Rachel, the mother of Joseph, died giving birth to Benjamin, Jacob’s twelfth son (35:16-18).  Adding to his sorrows was the death of his father Isaac, the longest living patriarch, who died “being old and full of days” when he was 180 years old (35:28-29). Isaac’s death gave occasion for his sons to be reunited, and give him a proper burial (35:29).

Genesis 36 – Esau’s Lineage

Genesis 36 is the record of the births of Esau’s five sons, born of his three wives (36:1-5), and the births of his son’s sons (Esau’s grandsons).

Following their father Isaac’s death (35:29), Esau accepted that the birthright and inheritance of Canaan belonged to Jacob, and soon after moved his family to Mount Seir, in the land of Edom (36:6-8).

Genesis 36 gives no more of Esau’s history; however, the title “Duke,” given his grandsons (36:15-19), indicates they were commanders of men, and soldiers who, as was prophesied of Esau, would live by the sword (27:40).

The Edomites, who were the descendants of Esau, will play a significant role in our future study of the Twelve Tribes of Israel.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Confess Your Bitterness, and “Dig Another Well” (Genesis 25-26)

Scripture reading – Genesis 25-26

Our chronological study of the Scriptures continues today as we come to some major spiritual crossroads in the Genesis account of Abraham, his chosen heir Isaac, and Ishmael, Abraham’s son born to Hagar, Sarah’s handmaiden.

Genesis 25 – The Death of Abraham, and Isaac and Rebekah Become Parents

With Sarah dead, and Isaac happily married to Rebekah, Abraham was no doubt lonely, and took a second wife named Keturah (25:1). The Scriptures do not say, but perhaps she was one of Abraham’s maidens in his household. Keturah gave birth to six sons (25:2-4), and they were a further fulfillment of God’s promise that Abraham would be a father of nations (Genesis 12). Though a father of many sons, Abraham remembered that Isaac was the son whom God had chosen to be his heir.  Therefore, “Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac” (25:5) his spiritual and legal heir. The other sons he sent away with gifts, and therefore settling his obligation to them as a father (25:6).

Abraham lived an incredibly long life, and when he was “hundred threescore and fifteen years (175 years old),[he] gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years; and was gathered to his people” (25:7-8). He was content with his life, and ready to entrust his spirit to the LORD.

As is so often true, their father’s death gave occasion for Isaac and Ishmael, son of Abraham and Hagar, to be reunited and give their father a proper burial in the tomb he had purchased for Sarah (25:9-10). Ishmael’s lineage is recorded (25:12-16), and true to God’s promise to Abraham and Hagar (21:13, 18), his twelve sons were fathers of tribes, and nations (25:16). Ishmael died when he was “an hundred and thirty and seven years: and he gave up the ghost and died; and was gathered unto his people” (25:17).

The Bible narrative now focuses upon God’s providences in Isaac’s life. Isaac had taken Rebekah to be his wife when he was forty years old; however, another twenty years passed before she conceived. (25:26).  Like his father before him, Isaac longed for children to be born to his beloved Rebekah, and when she conceived she was blessed with twin sons (25:21). Taking her concerns to the LORD (25:22), He revealed that the sons in her womb were opposites in almost every way imaginable (25:23), and contrary to the culture, the older son would become servant to the younger).

Those two sons had not only struggled in their mother’s womb, but when they were born the younger son, Jacob, took hold of the heel of his firstborn brother, Esau (25:25-27). Esau was red haired, and stunning in his physical appearance, preferring the outdoors, he was a skilled hunter (25:25, 27). Jacob, was plain in his appearance, and preferred a quiet, pastoral shepherd’s life (25:28).

The most stunning difference, however, was in the brother’s spiritual values. As the firstborn son, Esau was the rightful heir of the “birthright,” meaning he was destined to be the spiritual leader, the priest of the family clan. Esau, placed no value on his spiritual birthright, and for the price of a bowl of soup, sold his birthright to Jacob (25:29-34).

Genesis 26 – Famine, Conflict, a Peaceful Resolution, and Unhappy Parents

Isaac and his household faced the hardship of famine, the first noted in the Scriptures since Abraham had gone down into Egypt one hundred years earlier.

Like Father, Like Son (26:1-11)

The famine had forced Isaac to move his household, and he relocated to Gerar, where the Philistines lived. Lest he be tempted to do as his father, the LORD warned Isaac that he must not go down into Egypt (26:1-2). Commanding him to remain in Gerar, God renewed his covenant promise to bless Isaac, and give him and his lineage “all these countries” (26:3-4).

Fearing for his life, Isaac was frightened that men in the land might look upon Rebekah’s beauty and desire her, and he would be killed (26:7). He foolishly sinned as his father had, and told others, “She is my sister” (26:7). His deceit was exposed when King Abimelech (the title of Philistine kings), confronted him for “sporting with Rebekah his wife” (meaning the familiarity of a husband who loves the wife of his youth, 26:8-9). Abimelech rebuked Isaac for his lie, and took Isaac’s household under his protection (26:10-11).

“Dig Another Well” (26:12-33)

God continued to bless Isaac, and “the Philistines envied him” (26:14). Moved by envy, they began to stop up the wells that Abraham had digged in his days for his flocks and herds, and “filled them with earth” (26:14-15). Rather than the warring spirit with which Ishmael was born, Isaac was a peacemaker and he continued moving from one well to the next seeking peace (26:12-22).

Isaac’s response to the Philistines’ aggression is a worthy model for us all to follow when conflicts arise. Fresh water wells were invaluable in a land known for its deserts, and we can imagine the hardships and personal offence Isaac felt as the wells dug by his father were destroyed.

How did Isaac respond?  Did he become embittered?  Did he plot a way and path of revenge?  

No, he kept digging wells (26:18, 21, 22), and not only built and repaired the wells of his father, he also “builded an altar there, and called upon the name of the LORD” (26:25).

I invite you to follow Isaac’s example, and set aside bitterness and disappointments, and “dig another well.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Here Comes the Bride” (Genesis 24)

Scripture reading – Genesis 24

Faithful to His promises, God had blessed Sarah in her old age, and as a 90-year-old wife, she had given Abraham a son when he was 100-years-old. She died when she was “an hundred and seven and twenty years old” (Genesis 23:1), meant that Isaac was 37-years-old at the time of his mother’s death.

Genesis 24:1-9 – An Urgency to Find a Suitable Wife for Isaac

We read, “Abraham was old, and well stricken in age: and the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things” (24:1). The three years that had passed since Sarah’s death (25:20), had impressed Abraham with an urgency to prepare his son to become not only the master of the household, but also the heir of God’s covenant with Abraham’s lineage. An essential part of that preparation was the choosing of a wife for Isaac.

Burdened that Isaac would have a fitting wife, Abraham summoned his eldest servant (24:2), and charged him that Isaac “shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites [a heathen, idolatrous people], among whom I dwell: 4But thou shalt go unto my country [the country out of which God had called him, Genesis 12:1-3], and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac” (24:3-4).

The servant questioned Abraham concerning the considerations for choosing Isaac’s wife, and was admonished that, should a young woman be unwilling to return with him to Canaan (24:5), he must not permit Isaac to leave the land God had given him as an inheritance (24:6-9).

Genesis 24:10-67 – The Search for Isaac’s Wife

A caravan of ten camels, servants, and supplies accompanied Abraham’s trusted servant for the 500-mile journey across the desert, from Canaan to the city of Nahor in Mesopotamia (24:10).

Arriving at the well in Nahor in the evening, the servant was aware the young women of the households would come to the well for water, and there he compelled the camels to kneel (24:11-13). Abraham’s servant made a passionate plea to the LORD to guide him (24:11-14), and “before he had done speaking…Rebekah came out, who was born to Bethuel, son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, with her pitcher upon her shoulder” (24:14).

Rebekah was God’s answer to the servant’s prayer, for she was “very fair to look upon, a virgin, neither had any man known her: and she went down to the well, and filled her pitcher, and came up” (24:16). Beautiful, chaste (24:16), considerate (24:18), diligent in serving (24:19-20), and of a household that called on Jehovah (24:31a), the servant broke out into a prayer of praise and thanksgiving, testifying, “I being in the way, the LORD led me to the house of my master’s brethren” (24:27).

Rewarding Rebekah with “a golden earring of half a shekel weight, and two bracelets for her hands of ten shekels weight of gold” (24:22), she invited Abraham’s servant to her family’s household where he would meet Laban, Rebekah’s brother (24:23-29).

The servant refused to be comforted by food or shelter until he had stated his mission, and given testimony of God’s providences in leading him to their home (24:30-50). Declaring, “I am Abraham’s servant” (24:34), he shared how God had blessed his master with great wealth (24:35), and a son who would be his heir (24:36).

Hearing how God had providentially led the servant to Rebekah, her brother and father gave their blessing for her to become Isaac’s wife (24:50-56). When Rebekah was requested to give her consent to depart with Abraham’s servant, and to be the wife of Isaac, she consented saying, “I will go” (24:58). With the blessing of her family (24:59-60), Rebekah departed with her attendant, and journeyed with the Abraham’s servant to Canaan (24:61).

As they entered the land Abraham and Isaac called home, they spotted Isaac coming toward them (24:62-63), and Rebekah covered herself with a veil, expressing both modesty and humility (24:64).

Isaac listened to the servant’s report, and how the LORD had led him to Rebekah (24:66), and “Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent… and she became his wife; and he loved her” (24:67).

Though their marriage was not always a picture of peace and happiness, the union of Isaac and Rebekah has served as an enduring testimony of God’s personal interest in our lives, and His providential leading in our marriages, and families.

Oh that we all might choose to walk in righteousness, be able to say with Abraham’s servant, “I being in the way, the LORD led me” (24:27). 

Do Right, and you will not only do the will of the LORD, you will be confident in it!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Where is the Lamb?” (Genesis 22-23)

Scripture reading – Genesis 22-23

We cannot be certain how many years passed between the close of Genesis 21, and the events recorded in Genesis 22. It is not unreasonable to suppose that Isaac was a young man, and perhaps in his early twenties at this point in his life.  One thing is for sure, he was “the apple of his father’s eye,” and the joy of his old age. Abraham’s task was to prepare his son to become not only the master of all that he owned, but also the heir of God’s covenant that promised “in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (12:3).

Genesis 22 – Faith Tested: Abraham Commanded to Sacrifice Isaac

Genesis 22 puts Abraham to the test, and God determined to prove his faith by commanding him to take Isaac (22:1-2), “and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of” (22:2).

With a spirit of submission, Abraham obeyed God, and early the next day set out on the journey with his son, and the wood that would be used for “the burnt offering” (22:3). The trip from Beersheba (21:33), to the place where God had commanded him to sacrifice Isaac, was a three-day journey (22:2). Arriving at Moriah, Abraham instructed his servants to stay while he and Isaac went up the mount to worship, promising they would “come again” (22:5).

Placing the wood on his son, much like Jesus carried the beam of His cross, Abraham “took the fire in his hand, and a knife [symbols of judgment]; and they went both of them together” (22:6). Isaac questioned his father, “Where is the Lamb?” (22:7), and Abraham assured him, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together” (22:8). Two thousand years later, John the Baptist would answer Isaac’s question, pointing to Jesus Christ and saying, “Behold the Lamb” (John 1:29, 36).

We might wonder what emotions stirred in Abraham’s heart as he climbed the Mount, knowing he had been commanded to, “take now thy son…whom thou lovest” (22:2), and sacrifice him (22:8-9). Arriving at “the place which God had told him,” Abraham built the altar, laid the wood in place, and “bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood” (22:9).

Faith, trust, and hope are readily identified in that event on Moriah. Abraham’s faith went beyond himself, focusing on God who would “provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering” (22:8). Isaac’s trust, went beyond himself and focused on submission to his father’s will who placed him on the altar (22:9). The hope was that God would be faithful to His covenant promises, and Isaac would be Abraham’s heir (Hebrews 11:17-19).

When “Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son…the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. 12And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me” (22:11-12).

When Abraham looked up, he spied a ram “caught in a thicket by his horns,” and he took it and “offered him up for a burnt offering” in Isaac’s stead (22:13). Abraham “called the name of the place Jehovah-jireh,” meaningthe LORD will provide (22:14).

What spiritual lessons did Abraham and Isaac take from this trial of faith?

Abraham learned how far he was willing to trust God, and walk by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7), even at the sacrifice of the one he loved. He and Isaac learned, in the moment of trial and testing, God is there, and He will provide.

The LORD renewed His covenant with Abraham, and said, “for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son… I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven…18And in thy seed [Isaac, and his lineage] shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice” (22:16-18).

Genesis 23 – The Death of a Mother: “Sarah Died in Kirjatharba” (23:2)

Reminding us that we are all sojourners in this world, we read, “Sarah was an hundred and seven and twenty years old: these were the years of the life of Sarah. 2 And Sarah died in Kirjatharba; the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan: and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her” (Genesis 23:1-2).

To my knowledge, Sarah is the only woman in the Bible whose age is given at her death. She has served as a model for godly women who aspire to be wives and mothers down through the ages (1 Peter 3:1-6). In a figurative spiritual sense, she is the mother of all believers, and her loving submission to her husband as the head of her household, evidenced her enduring love and commitment not only to her husband, but to her God.

To honor his wife, with a proper burial, Abraham purchased land on which there was a cave (23:3-20).  That cave would serve as a tomb for Sarah, Abraham, Isaac and his wife Rebekah, and Abraham’s grandson Jacob, and his wife Leah.

Hebrews 11:11–1211Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. 12Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The God Who Hears, and Answers Prayer (Genesis 20-21)

Scripture reading – Genesis 20-21

Genesis 20 – Post-Sodom Excursion from the Promised Land

After witnessing the devastating judgment of God upon Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19, Abraham and Sarah made their journey south “and dwelled between Kadesh and Shur, and sojourned in Gerar” (20:1). We are not told why he departed from the land where he had sojourned; however, I speculate it was to put a distance between himself and the ruins of Sodom and the other cities that had been destroyed in the plains. Whatever his reason, Abraham made a fateful decision to journey from the land God had promised, and traveled to Gerar and the land ruled by the heathen king Abimelech (20:1-2).

Upon arriving in Gerar, Abraham fell back into a faithless pattern he had followed when he went down into Egypt (Genesis 12:11-16), and urged Sarah to tell others that she was his sister, and not his wife (20:2). Although she was 90 years old, God had evidently preserved her beauty, and Abraham was concerned that he might be killed, that she might be taken (20:2). Once again, Abraham’s deceit not only put his wife at risk, but God’s promise that she would bear him a son.

Providentially, God intervened, and warned Abimelech in a dream that he was a dead man should he violate Sarah, for she was Abraham’s wife (20:3-8).  Rising early the next morning, Abimelech wasted no time in putting his household in order, and confronted Abraham who excused his dishonesty by explaining that Sarah was indeed his half-sister (20:9-13).

Abimelech extended kindness, and grace to Abraham and restored Sarah to him, extending an invitation to live where they pleased in the land (20:15), and paying to Abraham the restitution of a “thousand pieces of silver,” assuring that Sarah’s had not been dishonored (20:16).

Abimelech’s kindness was a rebuke to Abraham and Sarah, for he had demonstrated greater integrity than they. In humility, “Abraham prayed unto God: and God healed Abimelech, and his wife, and his maidservants; and they bare children” (20:17).

Genesis 21 – Promise fulfilled: Isaac is born!

Fulfilling God’s covenant promise, “I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee” (Genesis 12:2), we read the news of the miraculous conception and birth of Isaac, the son of Abraham born to Sarah (21:1-3).

Genesis 21:1–31And the Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did unto Sarah as he had spoken. 2For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, [when she was 90 years old, and he 100 years old] at the set time of which God had spoken to him. 3And Abraham called the name of his son that was born unto him, whom Sarah bare to him, Isaac.

Abraham had waited twenty-five years for God’s promise of a son to be fulfilled (Genesis 12:4). The thought of a 90-year-old woman conceiving a son of the seed of a 100-year-old man seemed impossible; however, nothing is impossible with the LORD and “at the set time of which God had spoken,” Isaac was born (21:5).

The happiness of Isaac’s birth, his circumcision and identity as Abraham’s heir, and the feast that celebrated his being weaned from his mother’s milk turned to sorrow (21:6-9). Ishmael, Abraham’s son born to the Egyptian Hagar, was observed mocking Isaac (21:9), and Sarah demanded, “Cast out this bondwoman [slave] and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac” (21:10).

Abraham, understanding the weight of his transgressions was also borne by his family, yet, comforted when God said unto him, “Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called. 13And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy seed” (21:12-13).

Heartbroken, but trusting God, Abraham arose early the next day and sent Hagar and his son into the wilderness with “bread, and a bottle of water” (21:14), and God’s promise that Ishmael would be the father of a nation. There, in the wilderness when all seemed lost, God heard the cry of Hagar and her son, and “the angel of God” spoke to hear, reminding her of His promise, “I will make him a great nation” (21:18).

I close, being reminded again that, God hears the cries, and the prayers of His people.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Tragic Consequences of Sin and One’s Father’s Sinful Choices (Genesis 19)

Scripture reading – Genesis 19

Abraham had interceded with God, and prayed that the city of Sodom might be spared “peradventure ten [righteous souls] shall be found there” (18:32a). The LORD honored Abraham’s request, and agreed saying, “I will not destroy it for ten’s sake” (18:32b).

Genesis 19 – The Tragic Judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the Cities in the Plain

After separating from Abraham, Lot had inched his way from pitching his tent toward Sodom, to finally becoming one of its leaders and judges who “sat in the gate” (19:1), the gate of a walled city being a place where government and commercial business was transacted. The two angels that had appeared in front of Abraham’s tent (18:2, 16), arrived at the gate of Sodom, and were immediately greeted by Lot who “rose up to meet them…bowing himself with his face toward the ground” (19:1). Knowing those “men” were not like the wicked of Sodom, Lot urged them to accept refuge in his home (19:2-3).

Lot made his guest “a feast, and did bake unleavened bread,” (19:3), but “before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: 5And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them” (19:4-5).

The wickedness and depravity of the city was displayed that night as the sodomites (homosexuals) of the city encircled Lot’s house, and demanded that he turn his visitors out into the street to be violently, and sexually assaulted (19:4-6).  Lot pleaded with the sodomites, defining their lusts as wicked (19:7), and offered his virgin daughters to satisfy their lusts (19:8-9).

Though he had been a citizen of the city, and one of its leaders, his righteous judgment of their sinful desires infuriated the men who mocked and ridiculed his hypocrisy as a sojourner, an alien, and an outsider. The angels saved Lot when they “pulled [him] into the house, and struck the sodomites with blindness (19:10-11).

Displaying God’s grace, the angels pressed on Lot to go to his married sons and daughters, and urged them to flee Sodom before the LORD destroyed the city for its wickedness (19:12-13). His family refused to heed his pleas, and despised him (19:14).

As the morning light crested the mountains surrounding the cities in the plain, “the angels hastened Lot, saying, Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters, which are here; lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city” (19:15).  Though knowing the judgment of God was imminent, Lot “lingered,” and the angels mercifully took hold of him, his wife, and daughters and “brought him forth, and set him without the city” (19:16).

Though admonished to “escape for [his] life; [and] look not behind…escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed” (19:17), Lot protested God’s place of safety and pleaded that a nearby city, “a little one” (19:20), might be spared as his refuge (19:19-20). The LORD heeded Lot’s request (19:21), and spared the city called Zoar (19:22).

With the sun risen, and Lot safely removed from Sodom, the fire of God’s judgment “rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven; 25And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground” (19:24-25). It was as though hell itself rained from heaven upon the wicked.

Tragically, Lot’s “wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt” (19:26). She had deliberately disobeyed God’s command. Why did she look back? Was it a look of disbelief? Did she look with longing upon all that she was leaving behind? Perhaps it was a look of sorrow, for her sons and daughters were suffering the consequences of Lot and she moving their family into a city of such great wickedness.

Abraham rose early that morning, and he went “to the place where he stood before the LORD” (19:27). There he “looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah…and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace” (19:28). Perhaps anxious that Sodom might have been spared, he saw the severity of God’s judgment upon that wicked city and its inhabitants.

Why was Lot, and his daughters spared God’s judgment? Because “God remembered Abraham,” and honored him by sparing his family (19:29).

One would hope Lot’s straying from the LORD would end with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; however, he became drunk with wine and his daughters committed incest with him (19:30-36).  The eldest daughter conceived a son she named Moab, the father of the Moabites (19:37).  The youngest daughter conceived a son she named Ammon, the father of the Ammonites (19:38).  Both nations, the Moabites and Ammonites, would become a curse and perpetual trouble for the nation of Israel.

We are once again reminded of the tragic consequences of one’s man’s sinful choices.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Too Late!” (Genesis 17-18)

Scripture reading – Genesis 17-18

Genesis 17 – The Temptation to Settle for Second Best

God had renewed His covenant promise that He would give Abram a son and heir in Genesis 15, and we read, “Abram believed in the LORD” (15:6). Thirteen years would pass, and when Abram was 99 years old and Sarai was 89 years old, God rehearsed his covenant with Abram, reminding him, “I am the Almighty [El Shaddai] God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. 2And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly” (17:1-2).

Realizing a covenant is a binding agreement between two parties, Abram was bound by two responsibilities: “walk before me, and be thou perfect” (17:1). To satisfy God’s covenant expectations, Abram was to “walk before” the Lord; he was to be conscious of God’s abiding presence, as a servant is conscious of his master’s supervision. The perfection God commanded was a conformity to God’s will. God’s expectation was for Abram to be an upright man; a man of integrity (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Now, “Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, 4As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations” (17:3-4). As an assurance of His covenant with Abram, God honored him by changing his name to Abraham, meaning “the father of a multitude” (17:5).

Another confirming sign of God’s covenant was His command for Abraham, and all the males of his household, to be circumcised (17:9-14). While circumcision did not make a man a part of the covenant, it did serve as a physical reminder, an outward sign of a son’s identification with God’s covenant promise to Abraham and the sons of his lineage.

A third reminder of God’s covenant promise was to be fulfilled with Abraham’s wife, Sarai. Her name would become Sarah, meaning princess, for she was to be the mother of the heir of God’s covenant promise.

When God announced that 90-year-old Sarah “shall be a mother of nations” (17:15-17), Abraham “fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, “Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?” (17:17)

Betraying his lack of faith, and willing to content himself with less than God’s best, Abraham protested and suggested that Ishmael should be his heir (17:18). God, however, renewed His covenant with Abraham, and stated that Sarah would bear him a son and his name would be Isaac (17:19).  While God refused Ishmael as Abraham’s heir, He comforted him promising Ishmael would be father to a “great nation” (17:20).

God repeated His assurance that Sarah would bear the son who would be Abraham’s heir (17:21), setting the time for the child’s birth “the next year” when Abraham would be 100 years old, and Sarah 90 years old. Abraham accepted God’s will, obeyed His command, and circumcised every male of his household (17:22-27).

Genesis 18 – A Heavenly Visitation (18:1-15)

A “theophany,” the LORD appearing in the form of man, occurs in Genesis 18 when He and two angels appeared as men before Abraham’s tent, and bringing news within Sarah’s hearing that she would bear a son. Sarah “laughed within herself” at the thought that she, a woman “waxed old” (past child-bearing years) should bear Abraham’s son (18:12).

The LORD questioned Abraham, “Wherefore did Sarah laugh?” (18:13).

Sarah was surprised that Abraham’s visitor not only knew she scoffed at the promise that she would bear a son in her old age, but that she laughed at the thought of it!  The LORD asked Abraham, “Is any thing too hard for the LORD?” (18:15), and asserted that He would return when the promised son was born (18:14).

Sarah, perhaps fearing the visitor who knew her thoughts, denied she laughed at the birth announcement, and the LORD rebuked her for lying (18:15).

Genesis 18:16-33 – Standing on the Precipice of God’s Judgment

The closing verses of Genesis 18 contain the fateful message that the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were to be judged, and destroyed for their wickedness (18:20-22).  Knowing his nephew Lot, and his family lived in Sodom; Abraham interceded that the LORD might spare the city (18:23-33). Six times Abraham entreated the LORD for His grace and mercy, and requested that the cities might be spared for the sake of the righteous souls who lived there. When Abraham proposed that the city of Sodom be spared if only ten righteous souls be found there, the LORD mercifully agreed.

Ten righteous souls; perhaps the size of Lot’s own family, would have spared a city of lost, hell-bound souls. Lot’s presence in Sodom was not the leading of the LORD, nor was Lot’s interest the lost souls of his neighbors. Abraham, however, cared for the inhabitants and interceded for the city. Sodom, however, was doomed when Lot failed to stir the hearts of his family members to flee before God’s judgment (Genesis 19).

I close by suggesting that you and I have a sphere of influence, a providential presence, among mankind.  While the fate of a whole city does not rest within our realm of influence, I wonder who might?

Compare Abraham and Lot and consider which of the two you most resemble?  Abraham, who made passionate intercession for that wicked city, or Lot who waited too late to plead even for the souls of his children?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

God Keeps His Promises (Genesis 14-15)

Scripture reading – Genesis 14-15

Genesis 13 – Review

Lot, the nephew of Abram (Abraham), had separated from his uncle, and had chosen the “plain of Jordan” (13:10), and “dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom” (13:12). Giving us a tragic indication of the direction Lot was leading his family, we read, “13But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly” (13:13).

Genesis 14 gives us a brief history of the nations and people that inhabited the land of Israel in ancient times.

Genesis 14 records the age-old drama of war and politics as nine kings were named, and each king ruled a walled “city-state” with its own governance (14:1-3). The lesser kings had been in servitude to the stronger, and paid tribute to them for twelve years, “and in the thirteenth year they rebelled” (14:4). To put down the rebellion, a coalition of kings led by Chedorlaomer king of Elam, invaded and defeated the smaller city-states. Numbered among those that were defeated was the city of Sodom and its inhabitants (14:8-11).

Lot, no longer content to pitch “his tent toward Sodom” (13:12b), had moved his family into that wicked city, and he and all his goods had been taken as spoils of war (14:10-12). Learning of Lot’s capture, Abram gathered 318 armed men of his household, and pursued and defeated the kings that had conquered Sodom and taken Lot captive (14:13-16).

Abram returned victorious, and was greeted by a king identified as “Melchizedek king of Salem” [scholars identify “Salem” as the ancient name for Jerusalem] (14:18).  This Melchizedek was described as “the priest of the most high God” (14:18), and he pronounced a benediction upon Abram who rewarded him with a tithe (14:19-20), a tenth of the spoils that had been taken in battle.

The king of Sodom came, and acknowledging Abram as victor, proposed that he should retain all the goods he had retrieved in battle (14:21), with the exception of the citizens of his city. Abram, however, refused the spoils of Sodom, less that wicked king boast one day that he had enriched Abraham (14:22-24).

Genesis 15 – God’s Covenant Promises Renewed

God came to Abram in a vision and revealed to him that He was his “Shield” (his protector), and “exceeding great reward” (15:1). Abram, however, protested that he had no son, and therefore no heir (15:2-4). The LORD once again assured Abram that he would have a son born to him and his wife Sarai (15:2-4), and his lineage would be as great in number as the stars in the heavens (15:5). We read of Abram’s faith, “he believed the LORD; and He [the LORD] counted it to him [Abram] for righteousness” (15:6; Romans 3:25; 5:18).

God revealed to Abram in the closing verses of Genesis 15, that his heirs would one day be “strangers,” aliens, foreigners, in another country (15:13), but they would return to the land with great possessions (15:14).  This prophecy would be fulfilled when the Twelve Tribes of Israel departed Egypt after 400 years of servitude (Exodus 12-14).

Genesis 15 concluded with the LORD rehearsing His covenant promise to give Abram’s heirs the land, and stating the boundaries of that land (15:18-21).

A Closing Thought: God had assured Abram he had no cause to fear, for the LORD was his “Shield,” his protector and defender (15:1). Abram not only had God’s promises, he also had His assurance that He was with him!

My friend, God keeps His promises!

A Bonus Study: An Introduction to the First Mention Principle

Genesis is a book of “Firsts,” and serious Bible students follow the “First Mention Principle” for Biblical interpretation. In his book, Principles of Biblical Hermeneutics, J. Edwin Hartill wrote, “God indicated in the first mention of a subject, the truth with which that subject stands connected in the mind of God…The first occurrence of a word, expression, or utterance, is the key to its subsequent meaning, or it will be a guide to ascertaining the essential truth connected with it….The first time a thing is mentioned in Scripture it carries with it a meaning that will be carried through the Word of God.”

There are several “firsts” found in Genesis 14-15. There is the first mention of war (14:2), and the first mention of “the word of the LORD” (15:1). There is the first mention of the LORD described as a Shield (a protector), and Rewarder (15:1) for His people.

Faith is first defined, when we read that Abram “believed in the LORD” (15:6a). Justification is described as the LORD counted it [Abram’s faith] to him for righteousness (also the first mention of righteousness in the Bible, 15:6). Those great doctrines will occur again and again throughout the Scriptures, and are rooted in today’s Scripture reading.

Copyright – 2021 – Travis D. Smith