Tag Archives: Bible Study

Are you Committed to God?

 

The Word of the Lord

 Genesis 21.32-34: After the treaty had been made at Beersheba, Abimelek and Phicol the commander of his forces returned to the land of the Philistines. Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called on the name of the Lord, the Eternal God. And Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines for a long time.

Meditation

Abraham was living near Beersheba in Canaan. By this time, he had a son, Isaac, dug a well, found water, and negotiated peace with neighbors. Then, Abraham planted a grove of trees and called on El Ôlām, naming God “the Eternal God.” This site near Beersheba is the only place Abraham planted trees. Trees that Abraham planted were tamarisk.  

Tamarisk trees make the desert heat more bearable. At night, moisture increases in the cool air and water adheres to salt particles excreted from branches of this salt cedar. In the morning tiny water droplets appear on branches. As morning sun warms the air, water droplets evaporate, cooling both trees and the shade below trees.

These tamarisk trees were a memorial to Abraham’s commitment to God. God welcomes all individuals to turn to Him. God said, “If a wicked man turns away from all the sins he committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, he will surely live; he will not die. None of the offenses he has committed will be remembered against him” (Ezekiel  18.21-22).

I’m so happy that God forgave all the sins that I committed as a college student and young woman. This forgiveness means that I’m not going to live my immortal life without God because of my lack of commitment to God in my early years.

God also said, “The eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him” (2 Chronicles 16.9). God’s roaming eyes see us. God wants to see a fully committed person.

Reflection: Do you think that you need to be more fully committed to God or are you doing okay at your current level? How can you demonstrate a fuller commitment to him?

Copyright 6/21/2020

Entangled

The Word of the Lord

Genesis 22.2-14: 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 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.”

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. 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. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham! “Here I am,” he replied.

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.” 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. 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.”

 Meditation

 Isaac was the son that God promised Abraham and Sarah, the son through whom the Messiah would come. When Isaac was about 16 years-old, God commanded Abraham to take him to Mount Moriah and sacrifice him as a burnt offering. Abraham didn’t hesitate or question God’s command.

On Mount Moriah, Abraham built an altar, arranged wood on it, and tied Isaac on the top of the altar. Abraham picked up his knife. Abraham was fully prepared to sacrifice his heir as God directed him. At the last minute, an angel told Abraham not to kill Isaac. The angel commended Abraham for being willing to obey God.

Abraham saw a ram caught by the horns in a nearby thicket. The thicket held the ram in place in much the same way that Isaac’s bindings held him in place on the altar. Abraham killed the ram and substituted the ram for Isaac as a burnt offering to God.

Thickets are entangled branches, i.e., branches twisted together.  Often entanglements cause confusion. Imagine the confusing thoughts that Satan brought to Abraham’s mind during the three-day walk to Mount Moriah.

Abraham didn’t become entangled in Satan’s lies or become confused by his limited understanding of God or God’s instructions to him. Abraham focused on obeying God.

Most of us have been in situations when our minds are entangled with a problem. We worry the problem as a dog gnaws at a bone. Our minds go around and around trying to focus on every possible solution. Perhaps, we need to focus on how Abraham solved the problem. To him, the solution was simple—obey God.

In this episode, God communicated with Abraham directly, perhaps by voice, in a dream, or in Abraham’s mind. Generally, God doesn’t communicate with us in one of these three ways. Instead, God communicates with us through the Bible. To get his communications, we must read the Bible.

Reflection: Did you ever become entangled in Satan’s lies? Looking back, what did you learn? Was there a better way to proceed through the situation than the one you opted for?

Copyright 6/22/2020

Expel

The Word of the Lord

 Genesis 21.8-14: 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, 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.” The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. 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. I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring.” 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.

Meditation

 When Abraham sent Hagar and Ishmael from his camp, he gave them food and water. Although types of food wasn’t specified, bread was included.

Very likely, the bread was made from barley grain. Barley was a sustaining food source from about 7000 BC in Canaan. Barley, a drought-resistant grain, grew in the arid habitat around Beersheba where Abraham made his primary camp during this Bible episode.  Barley was the first grain that ripened in the new year; thus, ancient Israelites associated it with “first fruits.”

Although Ishmael was the first fruit of Abraham’s body, God directed Abraham to force Ishmael and his mother to leave his camp. Abraham expelled them; he no longer fed Hagar and Ishmael, protected them, or supported them.  Abraham took away rights and privileges that Ishmael had as Abraham’s first-born son.

This story makes me uncomfortable. I’m between knowing that God and all his decisions/actions are  for good, while imagining how the approximately 16year old Ishmael must have felt. True, Ishmael was complicit in mocking Isaac at his weaning ceremony. Still, my heart hurts when I read the story and imagine how the characters, i.e., Abraham, Ishmael, Hagar, felt.

Abraham followed God’s directions no matter how much following them hurt him. Likely, Abraham hurt when he left his family at Haran, hurt when he believed that his nephew Lot was destroyed in Sodom, and hurt when he expelled Ishmael. Through all of these hurts, Abraham obeyed and his obedience was credited to him as righteousness.

Rarely, do Americans obey God to the point that they hurt emotionally.  Many decades ago a Christian said that she prays that if the time  comes that she is tortured for her belief in God that she can stand firm. That is a prayer all of us could pray. The prayer can include that if we ever feel  pain, emotional or physical, for following God, that we can bear that pain.

Reflection: Have you ever obeyed God to the point that it hurts?

Copyright: 6/20/2020

Live Long and Prosper

The Word of the Lord

Genesis 14.13:  Now Abram was living near the great trees of Mamre the Amorite, a brother of Eshkol and Aner, all of whom were allied with Abram.

Genesis 18.1: The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre.

Meditation

Abram traveled through Canaan and settled at the great trees of Mamre near Hebron. The great trees at Mamre were most likely Palestinian oak trees. The oak trees would have provided shade for Abram’s tents and individuals in them.

In the Bible, oaks were associated with power, strength, and longevity in the sense of a long life. The great oaks of Mamre symbolized Abram’s long life. A Palestinian oak near Hebron, named Abraham’s Oak, is thought to be over 850 years old.

God promised that he will be with his servants through life, even into their old age and gray hairs (Psalms 71.18). Christians don’t have to worry about what they will do in retirement. They can use Abram as their role model. God called Abram to a new adventure when Abram was 75 years-of-age.

If you are retired, think about adventures you have  experienced since retirement. What are some of them? How did they enhance your life? Do you anticipate new adventures in your life going forward? Adventures can include ministering in your home church and community as well as travel.

The religious order that I belong to includes women in their 70s, 80s, and 90s. At monthly meetings, women report the numerous activities they are involved in. Each is totally excited by what she contributes to the church as well as to her community. An Israelite proverb is that the fear of the Lord adds length to life; but, the years of the wicked are cut short (Proverbs 10.27).

Reflection: Is having a long life important to you? How do you think a long life is related to fear of the Lord? Is a long life span more important that what you do with that life span?

Copyright 6/19/2020

Going it Alone

Pistacia terebinthus

The Word of the Lord

 Genesis 12.1-7: The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran. He took his wife, Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there. Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.

 Meditation

God called Abram to leave Haran and travel to Canaan. There, God promised to make Abram the father of a large nation. Abram didn’t worship God when God called him. In fact, Abram worshiped the gods of the Chaldeans; yet, Abram complied with this strange new God’s direction.

 Abram was approximately 75 years-of-age and childless. He had been married for decades. I believe that part of Abram’s motivation for following God’s direction was God’s promise that Abram would be the father of a nation. This promise implied that Abram would sire at least one son.

When Abram reached Canaan, Abraham stopped at the great tree of Moreh in the vicinity of Shechem. There, Abram offered a sacrifice to God. Some of the underlying motivation for his sacrifice at Moreh could have been Abram telling God, “I’m here in Canaan; now remember your promise.”

Notice, the Bible’s description was of a tree, not trees. Modern-day Bible scholars believe the tree was a terebinth. Normally, the terebinth tree tops out at 33 feet; however, this tree may have been larger than the norm.

In the ancient near East, terebinth trees didn’t grow in groves or groups.  Usually, they grew alone without other trees around them; thus, were seen from far distances and/or used to identify locations. Abram was the first Israelite patriarch. Similar to the terebinth growing alone, Abram and his family traveled to Canaan alone.

One feature of the terebinth tree is its deep root system. Botanists claim that the tree’s deep root system gives it stability. Abram’s root system was God. Abraham was willing to be planted where God wanted him even if he was the only one of his nationality in Canaan.

Reflection: What is your root system? What makes your life stable? Are you rooted in God?

Copyright: 6/18/2020

 

Drunk on Wine

The Word of the Lord

Genesis 9.20-29: Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father naked and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s naked body. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father naked. When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, he said, “Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers.” He also said, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem. May God extend Japheth’s territory; may Japheth live in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be the slave of Japheth.” After the flood Noah lived 350 years.

Meditation

 After emerging from the ark, the farmer Noah planted a vineyard. In the ancient near east, grapevines were valued. From grapevines, individuals made wine, ate fresh grapes,  and dried raisins to eat during times when food was scarce. Despite the clear value of vineyards, often the grapevine didn’t elicit positive images in the Bible.

Frequently, when Old Testament prophets referenced vine or vineyard, they spoke about judgment that God would bring. Noah made wine from the grapes. He drank the wine and became drunk. This  Bible story as old as 5000 years recounts the effect of over-indulgence in alcohol.

My discomfort with this Bible narrative in which Noah became drunk and his offspring ridiculed his nakedness,  is that the righteous Noah took no responsibility for his own actions, i.e., over-indulging in alcohol to the point of drunkenness. Instead, Noah cursed his grandson, Canaan, for displaying and ridiculing Noah’s nakedness. True, Canaan’s actions weren’t admirable; but, neither were Noah’s in the matter of drinking wine to the point of drunkenness.

So many things in our world are intoxicating, even addicting,  besides alcohol. It is possible to be addicted to things that we don’t eat or drink. We can become addicted to television programs, pornography, romance novels, praise, money, shopping, etc. I wonder if an accountability partner can assist us to be free of addictions.

Reflection: Have you ever over-indulged in alcohol (or something else)? What happened? Did you harm yourself? Do you have regrets? Where does blame lie?

Copyright: 7/17/2020

Burning Bright

The Word of the Lord

Genesis 8.6-12: After forty days Noah opened a window he had made in the ark and sent out a raven, and it kept flying back and forth until the water had dried up from the earth. Then he sent out a dove to see if the water had receded from the surface of the ground. But the dove could find nowhere to perch because there was water over all the surface of the earth; so it returned to Noah in the ark. He reached out his hand and took the dove and brought it back to himself in the ark. He waited seven more days and again sent out the dove from the ark. When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth. He waited seven more days and sent the dove out again, but this time it did not return to him.

 Meditation

The first place that the olive tree was mentioned in the Bible is when Noah sent a dove out of the ark and it returned with an olive leaf. Olive trees may have survived the torrential rain and lived submerged in water for as long as a year. Alternatively, God may have newly created this olive tree after the flood.

Olive trees are known to live 1000 years. That means that some of the trees on the Mount of Olives are two-to-three-generation offspring of those present when Christ walked the earth.

Olive trees produce olives from which olive oil is made. In ancient times, olive oil fueled lamps, i.e., in the Tabernacle, Solomon’s temple, and individual homes. Olive oil was used in cooking. Olives were eaten both green and ripe.

To ancient Israelites, the olive tree, branch, and leaf were associated with peace and prosperity. Other symbols could be resiliency and light. Jesus told believers: “You are the light of the world…. let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5.14-16).

When I read these three Bible verses, my mind remembers the words of William Shakespeare, “How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.”

Your small kindnesses can be the beam of light in the world.

Reflection: The interesting point of Jesus’ words is that he didn’t limit them to Sundays, or to interactions only with fellow Christians.

Copyright: 6/17/2020

Do you want to live forever?

The Word of the Lord

Genesis 6.9-22: Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God. Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth. Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways.So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out. This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be three hundred cubits long, fifty cubits wide and thirty cubits high.Make a roof for it, leaving below the roof an opening one cubit high all around. Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle and upper decks. I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you.You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive. You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them.” Noah did everything just as God commanded him.

Meditation

Noah was over 500 years old when God told him to build an ark, a giant water-proof vessel. The ark saved Noah, his family, and animals from a flood that destroyed the known world. The ark was rectangular (450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high).

Most of us remember seeing pictures of the ark from childhood Bible story books. The front (prow,  bow) of the ark was pointed. Sometimes, the back (stern) was pointed. In reality, the ark didn’t have a prow or stern. It didn’t move forward through the water while being steered by a rudder. Instead, the ark was built to floated on the top of the water.

Noah used cypress wood, also called gopher wood, to build the ark. I’m not sure why Noah used gopher wood; but, surmise it had something to do with the long, central tree trunk. Using a long piece of wood reduced the number of trees Noah had to cut down. Also, cypress wood contains resins which prevents wood from absorbing water, which could sink the ark. Cypress wood’s odor makes it unattractive to insects, such as wood termites, which could destroy logs.

In the past centuries, gopher wood became associated with immortality. In the upward tip of the columnar-shaped cypress tree and in every shoot and leaf, cypress branches and needles point upward to immortal life with God.  Today in ancient near east areas, cypress trees are often planted in cemeteries where they denote immortality.

Receiving immortality from God doesn’t absolve men and women from acting right (or righteously). The Bible is the ultimate “self-help” book for a successful life. The Bible tells us (believers and non-believers) how to have immortal life with God. In reality, every individual’s life will have immortality. The question is where we spend that immortal life. By our choices in this physical life, we decide where we will spend our immortal life.

Reflection: How much time do you spend each day reading the Bible, the Christian’s self-help book?

Copyright 6/16/2020

Good News in Nature Book Trailer

Are you malicious?

Zilla spinosa plant

The Word of the Lord

Genesis 4.17-24: Cain made love to his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son Enoch. To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad was the father of Mehujael, and Mehujael was the father of Methushael, and Methushael was the father of Lamech.Lamech married two women, one named Adah and the other Zillah. Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock. His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play stringed instruments and pipes.Zillah also had a son, Tubal-Cain, who forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron. Tubal-Cain’s sister was Naamah. Lamech said to his wives, “Adah and Zillah, listen to me; wives of Lamech, hear my words. I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for injuring me. If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times.”

Meditation

In Genesis, individuals are named after plants and plants are named after individuals. Zillah, the second wife of Lamech, was named for a relatively ugly, spiny plant with beautiful lavender flowers. We know little about Zillah; perhaps she was ugly in words and actions. Alternatively, she may have been like a lovely flower.

We are told that Zillah’s husband, Lamech, was a murderer. He admitted to his wives that he murdered a young man because the young man injured him.

A brier that Ezekiel identified is associated with the zilla plant. Briers are ugly with sharp spines that can tear skin. Ezekiel wrote, “No longer will the people of Israel have malicious neighbors who are painful briers and sharp thorns (Ezekiel 24.28).

The maliciousness that Ezekiel referenced means a desire to cause pain, distress, or injury to another. Malicious isn’t an inadvertent causing of pain, distress, or injury; it is intentional. When Lamech murdered a young man, he acted with purpose and was malicious. Equally true, adjacent countries’ peoples treated Israelites maliciously, that is, intentionally ugly.

Recently, a dear friend told me that a mutual friend’s words hurt, i.e., she believed the friend was intentionally ugly to her.  At about the same time, the mutual friend shared that she was hurt by my dear friend’s malicious words.

Ponder the best response to each person’s belief that the other was malicious. Dear Abby would advise that you tell each friend to talk with the other. The question is what should be a loving Christian response?

Reflection: Let’s each look at our own behaviour. Do you ever act in a malicious way to another individual? Think about those comments you post on social media.

Eternal God, you do not change. You have revealed yourself to me in your Word. You call me to worship you in spirit and in truth. But I confess that I often worship not your true self but who I wish you to be. I too often ask you to bless what I do rather than seeking to do what you bless. Forgive me for seeking concessions when I should be seeking guidance. Forgive me when my worship shapes you into what I want instead of shaping myself into what you want. Help me to meet you here, that I might bow before your unspeakable majesty and so live for you now and ever, in Christ. Amen.

Copyright 6/16/2020