Thursday, April 12, 2018

Treasure in Genealogies

Image result for adam and eve family chart to Jesus

One of the ladies in my church bible study group made a comment after one of our studies .
 She said, "I don't think there is any scripture that is not interesting ... " and then she qualified ... "except maybe genealogies." But, then in an afterthought added that even these contain interesting details of interest.
I so agree with her !!

That same night, in my personal bible reading I opened to the genealogies at the end of II Kings that carry on into I Chronicles. My attention was immediately engaged.

In I Chron. 1:28 it says this ... "The sons of Abraham were Isaac and Ishmael...." 
Wait ... something is out of order.  Genealogies are very orderly - always from father to sons in order of birth. Here we have the order reversed, since we know Ishmael was 13 years old when Isaac was born.
Then in I Chron. 1:32 we are given another surprising detail.  Abraham had six sons born to him after Isaac.  When his beloved wife Sarah died, Abraham took another wife, whose name was Keturah. In Genesis 25:1 she is referred to as his wife, yet in the genealogy of I Chronicles she is not referred to as his wife but as his concubine.
There is another strange detail .. in the genealogy wording the six sons born by Keturah are not 'given to' Abraham.
Check references such as Gen. 35:5, Genesis 46:22, II Sam. 3:2, 5, I Chronicles 3:5 and you will see the standard pattern.  If sons are born to a man by more than one woman/wife/concubine the wording is that they were 'born to' the man 'by' the woman who bore the children.  But here, the only reference to Abraham is that these sons were born to a woman who 'happened' to be his concubine, not even giving her the respectful status of wife.

We know very little about the lives of these six sons. We do know that from one of them, Midian,  descended the Midianites who were enemies of Israel. So to surmise that these sons were not blessed, or that they chose - as Ishmael did - a wild side of life, is not unreasonable.

But .. the question arises - "Why would God reverse the birth order of Isaac and Ishmael? Why would God not record the six sons of Keturah  as 'belonging to' Abraham? And why is Keturah identified as a concubine and not a wife?

The starting point in any bible search has to be that no detail in the bible is by accident and that all scripture comes by inspiration of God -- not by the intellect or experience or opinion of man.

So the reversal of order of birth for Isaac and Ishmael , and the sons by Keturah not recorded as Abraham's  sons must have significance for us.

Perhaps it is not such a difficult thing to understand.

In Gen. 22:2 God, in speaking to Abraham, refers to Isaac as "your only son Isaac, whom you love..."  Isaac was not Abraham's only son at that time, but he was the the only son of Sarah.

God had promised Abraham a son, a promised son that would be a miracle birth, a son born to him and Sarah. (Gen. 18:10)  From the descendants of  this son, God would bring forth His people and through this son would be shown the prophetic picture that pointed to Jesus' , the coming Promised Son, who would be the sacrificial Lamb.
Abraham was the father of faith , Rom. 4:11,16.   It was only through Isaac that this blessing came down to us.  Ishmael was rejected, "cast out" as Gal. 4:30 states in a  quote from Gen. 21:10-12.

So the sons born to Abraham through Keturah, would also have to be cast out, and could not be joined to what God had purposed through the one promised son - Isaac, who would picture the One Promised Son, Jesus. God needed to keep the descendant line without confusion from the promised son to the Promised Son.   Abraham was both the father of the physical nation of Israel and  the father of faith of the spiritual people in the New Covenant. 

Thursday, April 5, 2018

I Wanna be a Pansy!

"He's such a pansy!"   Not something we consider a complement.
To call someone a 'pansy' is to insinuate that he is a wimp, weak, a sissy, someone without a backbone.
I don't know who coined the phrase or the intended meaning ... but they had it all wrong !!

My prayer is ... "Lord, make me a pansy!!!"

I bought a lovely pot of purple pansies earlier in fall -- so pretty !  and I had them sitting outside my kitchen window on the patio table, where I could enjoy them.  The temperatures changed, they turned unseasonally cold.  And then we had a snow storm!  In two hours the accumulated snow measured 6 inches on my patio table, completely covering my sweet pansies ... I looked at them and thought ... 'poor things, you'll never survive this !' .  It was not the first time they had been covered in snow and freezing temperatures but I was sure this time would be their demise.

But to my absolute astonishment and delight, when the snow finally melted, this is what I saw.

My potted pansy was not  dead at all ...  in fact it was BLOOMING !!  Several more times, this potted pansy was covered with snow, and survived.   Then in early April it was covered with hail, but yet again it emerged blooming !

 Looking at my long-suffering pansy, this quote by the apostle Paul came to mind.
It is found in II Cor. 4:8,9
 "We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed, we are perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted, but not forsaken, struck down, but not destroyed." 

And that last photo speaks to the next verse ... 
"...always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body."

Are we like my pansy? Have we persevered through the 'winters' of our life experiences?  Do our physical bodies perhaps show the destruction caused by this earthly life, but our spirits are still 'blooming', showing forth the good fragrance of His life in us ?

I love pansies and I have tried to shelter them as a house plant.  I quickly found that they did not respond well to be being 'coddled' and I watched them die.  I'm sure every one of us would choose an 'easy life' if we were given the choice- but just like the pansies, we do not do well when everything is easy and we have no challenges or struggles . We very quickly can become spiritually lazy or  die.

"Oh Lord, make me like my pansy. Let me persevere, not with gritted teeth but with grace, never failing to bloom, even in the most dark or difficult times of my life.  May I know that the things of this earthly life cannot destroy me ..  your strength is made perfect in my weakness .. and I will stand victorious on that last day !!" 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Maker of the Universe

It is once again that  time of year where we remember the One who left His place in glory to come and offer Himself as the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of man -- His death for our life. 
For those of us who were born into Christian homes and have grown up with the Esther story it is easy to take it for granted.
I came across a poem that stirred me to my depths and filled me anew with awe for what God, in His infinite love and mercy did for me.

***The Maker of the Universe ***

The Maker of the Universe,
As Man, for man was made a curse.
The claims of Law which He had made,
Unto the uttermost He paid.

His holy fingers made the bough,
Which grew the thorns that crowned His brow.

The nails that pierced His hand were mined,
In secret places He designed.

He made the forest whence there sprung,
The tree on which His body hung.

He died upon a cross of wood,
Yet made the hill on which it stood.

The sky that darkened o’er His head,
By Him above the earth was spread.

The sun that hid from Him its face,
By His decree was poised in space.

The spear which spilled His precious blood,
Was tempered in the fires of God.

The grave in which His form was laid,
Was hewn in rocks His hands had made.

The throne on which He now appears,
Was His from everlasting years,
But a new glory crowns His brow,
And every knee to Him shall bow!
The Maker of the universe.

**** Written by F.W. Pitt,  a British pastor (1859-1943)

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Rahab and the Security of the Believer

Some time ago, I wrote a post about an Old Testament character named Rahab, that you can find here but there is more to learn from this story in the Old Testament.

In I Cor. 10:11 we read  "Now all these things happened to them as examples and they were written for our admonition on whom the ends of the ages have come." 
The Old Testament scriptures for us are not simply an historical account of times long past but are still relevant and useful for us today to understand the teaching written in the books of our New Testament.

In I Tim. 3:16 we read ..  "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, "

"All Scripture " (in context) refers to the Old Testament, because at the time Paul wrote his letters, the only scripture the early church had was the Old Testament. 

In Acts 17:11 we learn of the Bereans who are commended for not taking Paul at his word, but rather searching the Old Testament to see if what he was teaching was true!  When we listen to a preacher or teacher expound on a New Testament scripture do search the Old Testament to test if what  he is teaching is true?

How do we prove New Testament doctrine by Old Testament scriptures?  
The New Testament will always give us the 'code' or 'clues' we need to find the corresponding scriptures ... we don't have to make anything up. 

Let me use the example of Rahab to show how New Testament teaching is confirmed in the Old Testament.

Rahab is a woman who is commended by Paul and also by James.  
In Hebrews 31:31 Rahab is held up as someone who 'did not perish' because of her faith. 
In James 2:25 we are told Rahab was justified by her works.  

The debates, and the books that have been written on the tension between works and faith -  between God's part in our salvation and man's part can hardly be numbered.  And yet all arguments can be laid to rest if we just look at the 'doctrine' taught in the story of Rahab. 

We all know the story found in the second chapter of Joshua .  
Rahab heard about the God of the Israelites and she 'believed'.  She knew  God had given her city to the Israelites. She knew the city would be destroyed and all the people would  'perish'. 
She had heard about the miracles the God of Israel had done on behalf of His people and she believed that He was "God in heaven above and on earth beneath." 

Not only did she believe but her actions proved her faith.  She boldly declared her faith to the spies and asked that she and her family 'be saved'.   The spies agreed to save her - on two conditions.  
One condition was that she hang out of her window a scarlet cord. 
The second condition was that she understood that anyone who she invited into the house would also be saved but only if they stayed in the house. If they left the house, for whatever reason, then their blood would be on their own head and they would be destroyed with the rest of the city.  
Rahab and those with her 'in the house' were saved and Rahab was named in the 'family' of Jesus! (see lineage in Matt. 1 and Luke 3) 

What truth or doctrine does this story teach?   

The 'key' pieces that reveal the spiritual truth embedded in this story are -- 'saved by faith',  'justified by works' -- and the 'scarlet cord'. Scarlet is the colour of blood and so scarlet is always symbolic of Jesus' sacrifice - symbolic of our salvation.   

So the key pieces unmistakably tell us this story lays out the doctrine of faith and works as they play out in our salvation. 

Rahab heard and believed --  God's invitation has gone out "whosoever will , may come !" (Rev. 22:17 , and John 3:16 )  Rahab was a heathen, a sinner, outside of God's chosen people - yet, when she heard of the true God, she believed and was saved. 

She showed her faith by her works.   Our actions will reveal what we believe.  
If I believe it is safe to put my money in the bank, I will put my money in the bank. If I do not believe my money will be safe in the bank, I will put it under my mattress.  
Rahab's works revealed her heart-belief. Not only did she hide the spies but also did according to what they told her to do.  She obeyed 'the word'. 
In hanging out the 'scarlet cord' she declared her faith in God. The one true God - by 'no other name' can we be saved, but by Jesus.  
If we put our faith in Jesus for our salvation, our walk will match our faith.  We will 'do' what we say we 'believe'.   

Rahab was not one to keep her faith secret -- she did not hide her 'light' under a bushel .  She went out to win others - her family, those she loved. She convinced them to also put their faith in the God of Israel so they too could be saved.  

'In the house'  symbolizes the 'Kingdom of God' that we are born into when we accept Jesus as our Saviour.   As Rahab was totally safe and secure in her house - no need to fear that anyone would break in or snatch her out of it  - so  we also are totally safe and secure in Jesus.  No one can harm us spiritually nor can anyone snatch us from His hand.  We belong to the 'family' of Jesus - part of His bod

But - the same warning that the spies gave Rahab is also true for us.  
 Rahab and her family were absolutely safe in the house, but they were not locked in. Their free will was not taken away.  The doors and windows were not bolted or barred from the outside.  
The spies were careful to warn  that if anyone CHOSE to leave the house their 'blood was on their own heads'.  In choosing to leave they brought destruction upon themselves.   

So we too do not lose our free will when we are saved. We have the freedom to return to the world from which we were saved. No one and nothing can take us from the hand of the Lord, except our own will to walk away. 

In John 10 the verse is oft quoted that says .. "And I give them eternal life and they shall never perish, neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand."  But that promise is prefaced by by two conditions ... "My sheep hear My voice"  and "they follow Me".  The ones who hear His voice and follow Him are the ones who never perish and have eternal life. 

When someone questions whether or not they are still 'in the house', my question to them is ... "Do you WANT to be in the house?   Do you want to know and follow the Lord?"   The answer is usually 'yes'  ... and then my reply is ... "Then you are  in the house."   
We will all stumble and fall - we are all in process of being perfected - but the Lord will hold us up, protect us and help us as long as in our heart we want to be His. 

We readily acknowledge how foolish it would have been for someone who responded to Rahab's invitation to come and 'be saved' and then decide to leave the house!  It takes a determined and willful denying of Christ and and rebelling against His commandments  to make the decision that results in  choosing to walk away from the security that is IN Christ.