Abraham and the God of Impossibilities, Genesis 17:15-27

The following is a short summary of Genesis 17:1-14, which I broke into my last two posts:

Thirteen years slipped by since Abram last heard from God. Abram had believed God’s promise. But perhaps he misunderstood the piece about many descendants coming from his wife, Sarai.

For Sarai (age 89) and Abraham (age 99) failed to conceive. And their window of opportunity slammed shut, humanly speaking.

But since Abram had followed Sarai’s advice—taking Hagar as his wife—the promise of many descendants would surely come through their thirteen year-old son, Ishmael.

God’s plans, however, rarely line up with ours (humankind).

So God visits Abram again, reminding him of His covenant. After changing Abram’s name to Abraham—meaning “father of a multitude”—He outlines His expectations of Abraham: “Walk blameless before me.” And circumcision will be the sign of the covenant (Genesis 17:1-14).

You may read Genesis 17 here: Bible Gateway.

Change is in the air as the clock counts down to God’s launch of His covenant. For God also changes Sarai’s name to Sarah, (the names are two different forms of a word meaning “princess”).  And He declares that she will bear a son by this time next year.

I will bless her [Sarah] and surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” – Genesis 17:16

God’s covenant would be established through this son.

Abraham’s Response

With this crazy news, Abraham falls facedown again. This time—instead of in worship—he tries to hide his laughter.  For at the age of ninety-nine, Ishmael had been his only son for the past thirteen years!

Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?”

Ironically, God names their promise baby: Isaac, meaning “laughter”.

As the truth soaks in, Abraham implores God for Ishmael’s blessing in an “if only” sort of way.

God hears Abraham’s plea and outlines both sons’ future in verses 19-22: Although Ishmael wouldn’t be the covenant child, God still blessed him. As Isaac’s descendants would stream from 12 tribes, Ishmael would also have 12 sons/rulers who would become a great nation (see Gen. 25:13-15).

"As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead." - James 2:26

“As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” – James 2:26

Chapter 17 ends with Abraham’s obedience in circumcision: a sign of participation in God’s covenant.


Abraham, the man God credited righteous due to his faith, struggled to believe the “how” of God’s plan. Yet, he still obeyed.

The NIV Life Application Study Bible challenges us: “When God seems to want the impossible and you begin to doubt his leading, be like Abraham. Focus on God’s commitment to fulfill His promises to you, and then continue to obey.”

I hope you have a blessed week and Thanksgiving! May we take time to reflect on God’s goodness!

Abrahamic Covenant Terms, Genesis 17:9-14

My last post covered God’s perfect timing as He clarified His covenant with Abraham prior to launch (Gen. 17:1-8). This post covers God’s expectations of Abraham and his descendants in relation to His covenant. We’ll explore Abraham’s reaction to God and the remainder of chapter 17 next week.

You may read Genesis 17 here: Bible Gateway.

God’s Terms

A covenant is a contract. While most contracts require an even trade, God’s terms were quite lopsided.

What exactly were God’s terms?

Abraham’s responsibility: “Walk before me and be blameless. . . . This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised . . . . It will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.” – Gen. 17:1, 10-11

And God’s part?

He would give Abraham property, heirs, wealth, and power (Gen. 17:4-8).

God’s requirement for Abraham to circumcise the males in his household, however, was not conditional to His promise. But disobedience to this command would be costly: “Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”

Typically, this is a reference to execution, sometimes by the Israelites, but usually by God, in the form of premature death.” – Layman’s Bible Commentary

Circumcision: The Sign of the Covenant  



The word circumcision means ‘cutting around.’ It refers to a minor operation that removes the foreskin from the male organ. Only males underwent circumcision. In the patriarchal society of the ancient Near East, people considered that a girl or woman shared the condition of her father if she was single, or her husband if she was married. . . . It [circumcision] is to an Israelite what a wedding ring is to a bridegroom.” – Layman’s Bible Commentary

Circumcision was personal for the individual concerned, his parents, and his wife. This outward sign symbolized an inward commitment.


Although following God requires commitment and obedience, His benefits and blessings far outweigh our cost of discomfort or inconvenience.

How does the biblical command for circumcision relate to us today?

Once an individual was circumcised, there was no turning back. Similarly, God wants us to commit our lives to Him, walking blamelessly before Him by not turning back and indulging in sin. Deuteronomy 30:6 speaks of the kind of circumcision that counts—circumcision of the heart—operated by the Holy Spirit. It involves cutting away the old sinful nature instead of mechanically observing the written code.

For more on this concept please see The Meaning of Circumcision. . . .  Have a wonderful week!

God’s Perfect Timing: Abrahamic Covenant, Genesis 17:1-8

Thirteen years passed since Ishmael was born. Although Abram seemed to be doing well financially and Ishmael was growing into young manhood, Scripture is silent during this time. It would be easy for Abram to give up hope of having a son through Sarai and forget God’s covenant promise.

But God—who is not bound to our time table or expectations—didn’t forget. He would carry out His plan in His perfect timing.

And His time was ripe.

Although God had spoken His covenant to Abram four different times (Gen. 12:1-3; 12:7; 13:14-17; 15:5-21) and used the term “covenant” (Hebrew berith) once defining the boundaries of the promised land (Gen. 15:18), God sharpens the focus by using the term “covenant” thirteen times in chapter 17.

The adjectives attached to the word (covenant) are significant. Nine times it is called “my covenant,” three times it is called “an everlasting covenant,” and once it is called “the covenant betwixt me and you.” – Henry Morris (The Genesis Record)


This post covers Genesis 17:1-8. But you may read the entire chapter here: Bible Gateway.

When God appears again, Abram is 99 years-old. He and Sarai are well beyond child bearing age. In response to God’s powerful and glorious presence Abram falls face down.

I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.” 

"The LORD will have compassion on Jacob; once again He will choose Israel and will settle them in their own land. Aliens will join them and unite the house of Jacob," Gen. 14:1. God intended for the world to be blessed through His faithful people (Gen. 12:3). Through King David's family line, the entire world would have opportunity to be saved through faith in Jesus Christ.

“The LORD will have compassion on Jacob; once again He will choose Israel and will settle them in their own land. Aliens will join them and unite the house of Jacob,” Isaiah 14:1.
God intended for the world to be blessed through His faithful people (Gen. 12:3). Through King David’s family line, the entire world would have opportunity to be saved through faith in Jesus Christ.

God’s admonishment to be blameless is not conditional to His covenant. Rather, it is a command.

God sharpens His promise: 1) He would give Abram many descendants. 2) Many nations would descend from Abram. God changed Abram’s name to Abraham “father of a multitude”. 3) God would keep His covenant with Abraham’s descendants. 4) God would give the land of Canaan to Abraham’s descendants.

Only God’s strong arm would accomplish all of this in His perfect timing.

Morris writes: “No action on the part of Abraham’s descendants can ever permanently sever the land from them . . . . ‘I will be their God’: Though many have gone astray, and the history of Abraham’s seed has been long and sad, there has always been at least a remnant in every generation that continues to worship and obey the God of Abraham. . . . This promise no doubt applied primarily to those who are his seed according to the flesh, but also encompassed the spiritual seed of Abraham, who is the father of all them that believe.”


God’s command to Abram, “Walk before me and be blameless” still applies to us today. My NIV Study Bible sums it up: “We are to obey the Lord in every respect because He is God – that is reason enough. If [we] don’t think the benefits of obedience are worth it, consider who God is – the only One with the power and ability to meet [our] every need.”

Next week we’ll look at the covenant terms God gave Abraham (Gen. 17:9-27). Have a great week!

Hagar and Ishmael, Genesis 16

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; so she said to Abram, ‘The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.’ Abram agreed to do what Sarai said.” –Genesis 16:1-2

Genesis 16 is bittersweet.

Bitter from the consequences of Abram and Sarai’s efforts to “help God by helping themselves”, which have snowballed into the Israeli-Arab conflict we see today. (The Arabs descended from Ishmael.)

But this chapter is not without some sweet spots. In compassion, God reaches out to Hagar—who is forced into an ugly situation—and graciously promises that her son, Ishmael, will also have many descendants.

You may read Genesis 16 here: Bible Gateway.

The Back Story 

“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.” – Hebrews 10:35-36

Abram and Sarai, now 85 and 75 respectively, have demonstrated great faith in God’s promise of many descendants. But after years without conceiving—not to mention the human impossibility to birth babies in their old age—the thin scraps of their faith finally snap.

Unwilling to forfeit the possibility of having a family, Sarai proposes a last-ditch effort that aligns with the common practice of their day.

Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.”

Since Hagar is their own personal property, any children she might bear to Abram would belong to Sarai (according to customs).

Abram concedes. And Hagar conceives.

Naturally, sparks begin to fly between Sarai and Hagar with this newly arranged marital affair. As tension builds, Sarai—who instigated this plan—blames Abram. So Abram allows Sarai to handle Hagar however she pleases.

The result? Sarai’s burning anger and frustration—against Abram, herself, and Hagar—boil into harsh mistreatment. In desperation, Hagar runs away.

El Roi: The God Who Sees

As the journey through the wilderness (probably towards her home in Egypt) would be tough, the “angel of the Lord” meets Hagar and tells her to go back to Abram.

This is the first use of the “angel of the Lord” in the Bible. The context (vs. 13) implies that this “angel” was God Himself, another preincarnate appearance of the Messiah.

I love that God addresses Hagar by name. Although He gave special promises to Abram, His love and concern for individuals are shown here. And though it wasn’t God’s will for Abram and Hagar’s union, He promised Hagar a son who would also have many descendants. God gave him the name, Ishmael, which means “God hears”. Hagar would likely remember how God met her need. She also named the well where God spoke to her “the well of the Living One who seeth me” (Beer-lahai-roi), and called God El Roi: “the God who sees”.

God also reveals Ishmael’s future disposition to Hagar: “a wild donkey of a man” who will live in hostility toward all his brothers (vs. 12).

Hagar Returns

Encouraged from her encounter with God, Hagar returns to Abram. She must have told Abram her experience because when their baby is born, Abram (86 yrs.) names him Ishmael.


  • Sometimes our biggest test is waiting for God to act. The temptation to fix things is strong, but even our best intentions—apart from God—interfere with His plans. Although our motives may begin with a pure heart, God never justifies sinful means.
  • Anger, if left unchecked, can be dangerous. . . . Instead of blaming others, do we need to fess’ up and ask forgiveness in an area?
  • God often wants us to face our problems head-on instead of running away (even though it may be justified) . . . . Do we need an attitude adjustment? Which promise(s) of God do we need to stand on?

God Seals His promise to Give Abram the Land: Part 2, Genesis 15:12-21

My last post covered God’s renewal of His promise to give Abram the land (Part 1, Genesis 15:7-11).

In Summary

After inquiring God about possessing the land of Canaan, Abram obeys God’s instructions regarding an animal sacrifice. On completion of the sacrifice, Abram’s patience and perseverance are stretched as he drives away birds of prey swooping down on the carcasses. In the meanwhile, Abram waits for God’s response to his question.

We pick up with Genesis 15:12-21. You may read this section here: Bible Gateway.

As the sun sets Abram falls into a deep sleep. God is about to connect Abram’s sacrifice with His promise through a vision.


“Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him (Genesis 15:12).”

Although fear is often the response of people in the Bible who have encountered God, Henry Morris (The Genesis Record) suggests: “This [dreadful darkness] could only symbolize death itself, from which Abram was to be delivered by God’s covenantal grace. In the case of the nation sired by Abram, it also symbolized their long tribulation in the land of Egypt before they could inherit the promised land. Perhaps ultimately it also symbolized, as Adam’s ‘deep sleep’ had symbolized, the death of Christ and the glory that would follow.”

During Abram’s vision God prophesies the enslavement of Abram’s descendants in Egypt for 400 years. (The book of Exodus tells this story and how God powerfully delivers them.) Abram wouldn’t live through this horrible enslavement, however, or see the fulfillment of the promised land. But God advised him that he would die peacefully at a ripe old age.

Why Did God Delay His Judgment on the Canaanites?

The reason God delayed judgment on the people of Canaan was that “the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure” (vs. 16). God—not willing that anyone perish (2 Peter 3:9)—delayed His judgment just as he did with the Flood for 120 years.

Legalized Agreements

In Abram’s day involved parties legalized an agreement with a graphic ceremony. The dividing of an animal sealed the covenant. After the animal was cut in half the two parties would pass between the halves and repeat the covenant’s terms. In this way they were agreeing: “If I fail to fulfill my commitments to this covenant, may I suffer the same fate as this animal.”

Although Abram had divided the animals in his sacrifice, he could now only observe God pass between the animal halves as he was still engulfed in terrified darkness.

d3faee8c7577df9fa2d9c3a5bc2ea8b5God Seals His Covenant

In an unforgettable scene, God portrays Himself as a smoking firepot with a blazing torch as He alone passes between the pieces and seals His covenant. God—in response to Abram’s believing faith—was not dependent on Abram to fulfill His part of the contract.

The fire and smoke suggests God’s holiness, His zeal for righteousness, and His judgment on the nations. God took the initiative, gave the confirmation, and followed through on his promises.” (The NIV Life Application Study Bible)

After sealing His covenant God specifies the boundaries of the promised land (vs. 18-21). (For more on God’s covenant land borders see: Israeli Frontline.)

Next week we’ll see how Sarai, impatient with God’s timing, devises a plan in hopes of jump-starting God’s promise of many descendants. Have a terrific week!

God Renews His Promise to Give Abram the Land: Part 1, Genesis 15:7-11

I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.” – Genesis 15:7

This is my third post from Genesis 15 on the Abrahamic Covenant. You may read the first two posts here: The Word of the Lord; God Renews His Promise to Abram.

In summary (Genesis 15:1-6):

  • God’s word came to Abram in a vision. He told Abram to not be afraid, for He would be his shield and very great reward (15:1-2).
  • Abram questioned God: “What can you give me since I remain childless?”
  • As God’s vision to Abram continued, He told Abram that his son would come from his own body. Once again, God renewed His promise to give Abram many descendants. This time He told him to count the stars—if indeed he could count them—“So shall your offspring be,” (15:4-5).
  • Abram believed God, and God credited (imputed) it to him as righteousness (15:6).


This post covers Genesis 15:7-11. You may read it here: Bible Gateway.

God renews His promise to give Abram the land, (Part 1).

Unlike us, Abram didn’t have access to a Bible for guidance. We know that Abram believed God’s words (Gen. 15:6). So Abram’s questions were more of an inquiry, seeking confirmation of details and assurance, rather than an expression of doubt:

O Sovereign LORD, how can I know that I will gain possession of it [the land of Canaan]?” – vs. 8

God’s answer ends in an unforgettable ceremony. But first, God gives Abram specific instructions.

Abram’s Sacrifice

God tells Abram to bring: a heifer, a goat and a ram, (each three years old), along with a dove and a young pigeon.

Animal sacrifices in the Old Testament sound strange. But when Abram practiced God’s instructions, he knew that sin’s curse could only be removed by sacrifice in the shedding of blood.

Layman’s Bible Commentary notes: “The sacrifice that God instructs Abram to make involves the same ceremonially clean animals that are used later in the sacrificial system under the Law of Moses. The use of five different kinds of sacrificial animals underlines the solemnity of the occasion. The text implies that Abram is familiar with the ritual to take place, because God does not explicitly state what to do with the animals; he also sacrifices them and lays them out as an offering (15:9-10).”

God’s Timing

In His perfect timing, God would connect the sacrifice with His promise. When God finally responded, (which we will explore next week), Abram could only observe in an unforgettable, sensory enriched ceremony (vs. 12-21).

But after Abram prepared his sacrifice, God was silent.

Abram waited. . . . And he waited. . . . And he waited.

In the meanwhile, birds of prey swooped down on the carcasses. But Abram held his ground and successfully drove them away.

Why Did God Wait to Respond?

(Picture Source: bklynmed.tumbler.com) Henry Morris suggests: “The delay possibly symbolized the fact that, although God’s covenant would be sure, its accomplishment would take a long time. . . . This experience [having to drive off the birds of prey] no doubt symbolized the attempts of Satan to thwart the plans of God, plus the need for alertness in the believer in order that the enemy not succeed.”

Satan’s tactics include:
  • Doubt – of God and His Word
  • Discouragement – taking our focus off of God and onto our problems
  • Diversion – making the wrong things appear more attractive than the right things
  • Defeat – making you feel like you’ve failed, so why try?
  • Delay – convinces us to procrastinate, so we don’t act on the right choice

When you find yourself waiting on God, keep praying and hold tight to His promises (Eph. 6). Our all-knowing God will act in His perfect timing.


Stay tuned . . .  Next week we’ll discover how God seals the deal concerning the land (Part 2, Genesis 15:12-21).  Have a great week!

God Renews His Promise to Abram, Genesis 15:2-7

After God promises Abram that He will be his shield and very great reward (Gen. 15:1), Abram voices his concern:

O Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus? . . . .You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir,” (Gen. 15:2-3).

You may read Genesis 15:1-7 here: Bible Gateway.

The custom in that day held that if Abram died without a son, his oldest servant would become his heir. Even though Abram valued Eliezer, his chief administrator (Gen. 24), he yearned for a son to carry on the family line. And his nephew, Lot—with no record of appreciation for Abram saving his life—had returned to Sodom.

God’s promise of many descendants didn’t align with Abram’s present reality.

But our God—being the God of the impossible—reminded Abram that his son would come from his own body.

Once again, God confirms His promise to Abram (12:2; 13:15-16).

“Before, God said Abram’s seed would be as the dust of the earth. Now, He says they will be as the stars of heaven. Not only does this imply a great number, but perhaps also that the sphere of activity of the promised seed in the eternal ages will be both on earth and in heaven.” – Henry Morris

God Credits Abram with Righteousness

Abram’s response in Genesis 15:6 is considered by some to be the most important verse in the Old Testament: “Abram believed the LORD, and He credited [or imputed] it to him as righteousness.”

For the first time, the principle of true salvation is set forth in the Bible. The New Testament not only confirms salvation by faith, but also sets Abraham as a type of all who would be saved (Rom. 4:3; Gal. 3:6; James 2:23).

God declared Abram clean and morally right—righteous—not from his outward actions of obedience and/or works, (although these are by-products of faith), but rather on the basis of his faith.

In Noah’s case, ‘grace’ comes before ‘righteousness’; in Abram’s case, ‘faith’ comes before ‘righteousness.’ The one stresses God’s sovereignty, the other man’s responsibility. Both are true and necessary. ‘By grace are ye saved through faith. . . . For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works” (Eph. 2:8, 10).  – Henry Morris, The Genesis Record


  • There are many times when we can’t see God’s big picture for our lives, but He is constantly working to accomplish His purposes. “In all things He works for the good of those who love Him (Rom. 8:28).”
  • God has always yearned for His people to trust Him: to believe He is who He says He is and does what He says He will do.
  • Today, we live under God’s new covenant: God graciously provides forgiveness of our sins and gives salvation (unto righteousness) through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, because of His atoning sacrifice on the cross.
  • Have you taken this step of faith? (For more on salvation and righteousness see: Peace Through Christ.)

The Word of the Lord, Genesis 15:1

After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.’ – Genesis 15:1

Because there are so many great insights in chapter 15, I am breaking this chapter into four sections/posts.

It’s easy to gloss over Genesis 15:1. But a deeper inspection reveals many great firsts in Scripture. This is the first time the words “vision”, “shield”, and “reward” are used. More importantly, this is the first of the great “I am’s” mentioned. God’s very name is: “I am that I am” (Exodus 3:14). Christ began many of His words with “I am”:

  • the light of the world
  • the way, truth and life
  • the door
  • the Alpha and Omega
  • the root and offspring of David, and the bright and morning star

    Proverbs 30:5

    Proverbs 30:5

This is also the first time “word” is used. It is significant that this first occurrence of “word” conveys God’s message to man—not man’s message—and communicates a huge claim and promise to Abram.

God considers His word so important that He values it over His name (Psalm 138:2).

Henry Morris (The Genesis Record) writes: “The concept of the Word of God includes both the written Word, Holy Scripture, and the living Word, God the Second Person [Jesus]. . . . He is the sum of all that can be communicated. [His title] “Alpha and Omega” are, of course, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, the language chosen by God in which to inscripturate His new covenant with man. This proclamation seals the oneness of the written and living Words.”


Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.”

God had just given Abram victory over the eastern kings. So why was he afraid? Like everyone else, Abram fought fear. Maybe he was exhausted and feared the wrath of the kings he just defeated. Or—as verse two implies—maybe he feared that his servant, Eliezer, would inherit his estate since he was childless.

Whatever the root of Abram’s anxiety, God knew, just as He knows our fears.

I love how God encouraged and comforted Abram with a familiar hands-on tool. The Old Testament warrior’s primary defensive weapon was the shield. This mobile fort protected the soldier’s flesh from the enemy’s blade.

Not only would God be Abram’s great reward, He would also be his defender.

So What?

When fear knocks on our doors, remember: God is the great “I am”. Not only is He near, but He is also bigger than the sum of all our fears.

I like Morris’ commentary: “For the believer, Christ is both protection from all harm and provision of all needs. He provides our ‘shield of faith’ (Eph. 6:16)—indeed the “whole armor of God,” so that we can be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might (Eph. 6:10-11). He is also our ‘exceeding great [literally abundant] reward. . . . He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us’ (Eph. 3:20).”

Abram Rescues Lot, Genesis 14

Bleak, costly, and consuming, from ancient times to the present its ugly head still strikes:


The first war recorded in Scripture—between five southern kings and four eastern kings—is found in Genesis 14:1-14.

You may read Genesis 14 here: Bible Gateway.

Verses 1-14 not only serve as an introduction, but also relay the political and geographical climate of this large territory in Abram’s day. This area stretches north and west of the Sea of Galilee, and winds south through the Jordan Valley to the Red Sea. This prime land bridge between Egypt and Mesopotamia would seal a monopoly on international trade for the king in control.

NortheasternInvasionShinar, (Babylon, modern day Iraq) launches this war after being subdued for 12 years—along with the other southern kings—to Kedorlaomer. Thinking that the tar pits in the valley of Siddim will be a natural defense, Sodom and Gomorrah kings, along with their southern allies, prepare for battle. But instead, they meet defeat.


Lot and his family—who separated from Abram and moved to prosperous Sodom—find themselves trapped in a nightmare as they are taken captive by the eastern kings.

Although Abram could have left Lot and his family to the consequences of their new move, he didn’t.

Abram and 318 of his trained men march a great distance—240 miles one way—in pursuit of the enemy.  Their tough trek begins in the hill country south of Jerusalem to Dan, (the most northern region that came to be called Israel).

As the enemy revels in their victory at night, Abram divides his men and launches a counter attack. They successfully rescue Lot’s family and all his possessions.

Victory Credits

Abram’s victory stemmed from his desire to save his nephew, but the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah also benefited. Sodom’s king confers a reward upon Abram for being a conquering hero. But Abram denies the gifts. Before all the people he tells the king of his oath to God. He would take nothing—except for his men’s rewarded share—so that the king couldn’t say: “I have made you rich.”

Melchizedek’s Blessing

Melchizedek, “king of Salem and priest of God Most High” (vs. 18), tributes Abram’s success to God as he blesses Abram. In response, Abram recognizes his priestly role and gives him a tithe.

Who is Melchizedek?

The NIV Life Application Study Bible notes: “Melchizedek means ‘king of righteousness,’ and king of Salem means ‘king of peace.’ He was a ‘priest of God Most High’ (Hebrews 7:1-2) who recognized God as Creator of heaven and earth.”

Four main theories have been suggested about Melchizedek:

  1. He was a respected king of that region. Abram was simply showing him the respect he deserved.
  2. The name Melchizedek may have been a standing title for all the kings of Salem.
  3. Melchizedek was a type of Christ [illustrating a lesson about Christ] (Hebrews 7:3).
  4. Melchizedek was the appearance on earth of the pre-incarnate Christ in temporary bodily form.


  • Prosperity can be enticing. But like Lot, we can easily become enslaved if our aims don’t line up with God’s agenda.
  • What trial(s) are you going through? The trouble we face today is training us to be stronger for the more difficult tasks of tomorrow.
  • Like Abram, we should: Prepare for difficult tasks; seek courage from God; and be willing to act immediately when others need our help.

Does Archaeology Support the Bible?

Over and over again the Bible has been vindicated from Genesis to Revelation. The superiority of Genesis 1–11 has been established, and the patriarchal backgrounds have been endorsed.”  – Clifford Wilson

Before moving on to The Abrahamic Covenant, Genesis 14-17, I thought it would be interesting to investigate archaeology discoveries that confirm the account of Genesis. Although I believe the Bible is God’s revealed Word and that God doesn’t need further proof of His truth, archaeology is a great tool for understanding Bible history and growing one’s confidence in the accuracy of biblical accounts.

Henry Morris in The Genesis Record writes: “It is significant that these excavations do not show primitive, half-bestial cultures, newly evolved from an animal ancestry, but high civilization, exactly as suggested in Genesis. . . . Not only did the ‘intelligentsia’ of Ur know how to read and write long before the time of Abraham, but so did even the ordinary citizens. When Abraham lived there, Ur had already begun to decline somewhat from a former glory.”

Although the exact chronology of Genesis 11 is uncertain, there is ample archaeological evidence that suggests the names and events in Genesis are not just legendary Jewish heroes and places, but were real people and places.

Clifford Wilson in “Does Archaeology Support the Bible?” writes: “Archaeologists are scholars, usually academics with interest in the Bible as an occasional source book. A substantial number of scholarly archaeologists are committed Christians, but they are a minority. Many people believe that all archaeologists set out to verify biblical history, but that is not the case. Many excavators have virtually no interest in the Bible, but there are notable exceptions.”

Dead Sea Scrolls

Dead Sea Scrolls

“Where confirmation is possible and has come to light, the Bible survives careful investigation in ways that are unique in all literature. Its superiority to attack, its capacity to withstand criticism, and its amazing facility to be proved right are all staggering by any standards of scholarship. Seemingly assured results ‘disproving’ the Bible have a habit of backfiring.”

“The more this new science of archaeology touches the records of the Bible, the more we are convinced that it is a unique record. At many points it is greatly superior to other writings left by neighboring people.”

Clifford Wilson’s article may be found at this link: Does Archaeology Support the Bible? It’s long, but an interesting read. Wilson delves into three major evidences for each of the following biblical accounts:

  • Genesis 1–11, 11-36, 37-50
  • Exodus to Deuteronomy
  • Joshua to Saul
  • David to Solomon
  • the Assyrian Period
  • the Babylonians and Nebuchadnezzar
  • Cyrus and the Medes and Persians
  • Ezra and Nehemiah
  • the Dead Sea Scrolls
  • the Person of Our Lord Jesus
  • the New Testament, the Early Church, and the Early Years of Christianity


I hope you are enjoying the end of summer. It rained most of today, which is a refreshing change. Have a wonderful weekend! :)

Abram’s Third Revelation, Genesis 13:14-18

Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.” – Genesis 13:14-17

This is the second part from last week’s post, Abram and Lot Separate.


The idea of walking through the land (vs. 17) appears to be symbolic. Armies in the ancient Near East declared their victory by marching through a defeated territory.

Layman’s Bible Commentary makes three observations about God’s third revelation to Abram:

  1. God will give the land to Abram and his descendants forever.
  2. Abram’s heir will be his own child.
  3. Abram’s descendants will be innumerable.

These promises were great news for Abram, especially 3a6bfc15a12e519590af3c1b7018482eas Lot parted east toward the more fertile plain of Jordan and Abram headed back into the hill country of Canaan. The reality of God’s promises, however, would not come into fruition for a long time.

For neither Abram, nor his descendants (especially the promised seed Isaac) owned the land for most of history. And although Israel regained possession as a nation in 1948, they currently possess only a fraction of the land God has promised.

The Land of Canaan

Of the promise of the land, Henry Morris in The Genesis Record notes: “This promise must either be taken in the spiritual sense (applying it to a spiritual land of promise, as so interpreted by many expositors) or else ascribed to a time yet future. Since God promised the land to Abram and his seed forever, this can ultimately, if taken literally be fulfilled only in the new earth of Revelation 21. It will quite probably be fulfilled precursively, however, during the coming millennial age.”

Innumerable Descendants

Along with the Jews, Abram’s descendants include the Arabs. Although these two groups add up to a large number, the literal promise of Abram’s seed numbering “as the dust of the earth” and Abram becoming a great nation still awaits fulfillment.

Morris observes: “The New Testament makes it clear that ‘Abram’s seed’ was Christ Himself (Gal. 3:16), and that Abram is ‘father of all them that believe’ (Rom. 4:11), so that he also has a spiritual seed. It is evidently not a case of either this or that, but of both! The Jewish nation is to be eternally blessed as a nation, chosen of God in Abram. Likewise, the Christian Church, genuine believers in Christ from all nations, is itself a ‘holy nation’ (1 Peter 2:9), ‘Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise’ (Galatians 3:29). Abram indeed was to be the ‘father of many nations’ (Gen. 17:5).”

Chapter 13 ends with Abram building another altar where he makes his home base in Hebron (18:1), which means “communion.” This is also where he is later buried (25:9).

Abram and Lot Separate, Genesis 13:1-13

So Abram said to Lot, “. . . . If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.” – Genesis 13:8-9

I am breaking Genesis 13 into two posts. This post will look at Abram and Lot’s separation. Next week, I’ll explore Genesis 13:14-18 where God gives Abram a third revelation concerning his offspring and the land of Canaan.

You may read Genesis 13:1-13 here: Bible Gateway.

How long did Abram spend in Egypt due to famine? Scripture doesn’t say. Scripture also doesn’t mention Abram seeking God, or building an altar in Egypt. And instead of being a witness for God, Abram receives a rebuke from Pharaoh for not telling him Sarai is his wife. Even though Abram left Egypt very wealthy, he probably also carried shame and embarrassment with him.

Lot may have felt jilted as he had no choice in this Egyptian detour, which probably also served to escalate the tension between his herdsmen and Abram’s as they journeyed back through the Negev. No doubt, the damaged goodwill and trust set a poor example to the unbelieving Canaanites and Perizzites as they once again entered Canaan.

Divided Company

In this passage we see different attitudes in the heat of conflict from Uncle Abram and Lot.

Cherry tree blossom

Abram went back to the altar he built between Bethel and Ai and called on God (13:1-4). He most likely asked for forgiveness and once again enjoyed fellowship with God. When Abram and Lot’s combined possessions became so large that the land couldn’t support them together and their herdsmen began quarreling, Abram took initiative. He graciously offered Lot the first choice of land—at the risk of being cheated and denial of personal desires—in effort to resolve family peace.

Lot, on the other hand, should have insisted that Abram—his elder Uncle—choose first. But after surveying the fertile oasis of the Jordan—and not thinking through the influence wicked Sodom might have on his family—he made his decision. By outward appearance, Lot single-handedly won the trophy land. However, his choice revealed his character and priorities: greed, the desire for immediate gratification over long-term benefit, and vocation over family.

Questions to Consider

  • How do you handle family conflict?
  • How did Abram and Lot’s attitudes differ?
  • What can we learn from Abram’s approach to conflict and/or disunity?

Abram in Egypt, Genesis 12:10-20

I hope you are enjoying summer. Despite lingering smoke from lots of wildfires here in the northwest, our family has enjoyed a full summer of sports, outdoor activities, and good times with family and friends. We recently celebrated my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. Congratulations Dad & Mom! And Happy 49th Anniversary to my second parents (in-laws)! We are blessed to have godly examples in our lives.

This is the second part to last week’s post, Abram’s Call, Genesis 1-9. In summary, Abram obeys God by journeying to Canaan (Shechem). He then sets up camp between Ai and Bethel where he worships God. But when a severe famine strikes, Abram detours to Egypt: a land of plenty for both food and good land for his flocks.

You may read Genesis 12:10-20 here: Bible Gateway

Why would God call Abram to a land of famine?

Commentators say this was a test of Abram’s faith, which Abram passed with flying colors. Instead of questioning God in the face of difficulty, he used his intelligence to temporarily move and wait for new opportunities.

However, verses 10-20 sound more like an ancient soap opera. We glimpse a crack in Abram’s shield of faith and see he is human after all.

In fear of Pharoah noticing Sarai’s beauty (his wife)—and killing Abram—he devises a half-lie. Seventy-five year old Abram instructs Sarai, who is also his half-sister, to say she is only his sister if questioned. Beauty in those days was viewed differently than in our time and culture.

Medieval commentators suggest that what Abram hopes to get out of being Sarai’s brother is the right to receive and deny all suitors’ requests to be Sarai’s husband, in this way protecting her from adultery or bigamy. However, Abram is also acting in fear to save his life.

As if on cue, Pharoah does notice Sarai and takes her into his household. He also showers Abram with provisions of gifts: sheep, cattle, donkeys, camels, menservants and maidservants (12:15-16).

However, this arrangement is short lived. God inflicts Pharoah and his household with serious diseases. After pinpointing when and where his troubles began, Pharoah summons Abram and confronts him with the truth. For absolute truthfulness was a central feature of Egyptian ethics.

(Source: theBibleproject.com) Genesis 13:1,

(Source: theBibleproject.com)
Genesis 13:1, “And Abram went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the south.”

Abram appears to get away scott-free as Pharoah sends Abram, Sarai, and all their gifts away with just a scolding. But Layman’s Commentary Bible observes: “Everything Abram receives in Egypt later causes him trouble. Because of the great wealth he acquires from Pharaoh, Abram and Lot choose to separate (13:5-6). Hagar, the Egyptian maidservant who Pharaoh gives to Abram, brings division and sorrow with far-reaching consequences (16:1-16).”

Food For Thought

  • Have you ever told a half-lie only to find it spiral out of control? I’ve found that half-lies usually make matters worse.
  • “Faith is holding on to things your reason has once accepted in spite of your changing moods.”  – C.S. Lewis

Next week I’ll pick up on Genesis 13, Abram and Lot Separate. Have a great week!

Abram’s Call, Genesis 12:1-9

The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go 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.”                            Genesis 12:1-3

I broke Genesis 12 into two posts since this was getting long. This first part tells of Abram’s journey to Shechem in Canaan. Next week’s post will be about Abram’s detour to Egypt due to famine in the land, Genesis 12:10-20.

You may read Genesis 12:1-9 here: Bible Gateway.

Genesis 12:1-3 unveils God’s covenant with Abram. God promises a great blessing to Abram. He would create a special nation through Abram’s offspring, but there is one condition: Abram would have to obey and leave the comfort and security of his home.

In Genesis 12:1 the word “had” suggests that God’s message to Abram happened in Ur, even though 11:31 ends with Abram in Haran. Abram respected his father’s leadership, but after Terah died Abram obeys and sets out for the land of Canaan. Lot probably also believed God’s promises since he voluntarily went with Abram.

The original Hebrew wording “you will be a blessing” in verse 2 means, “Be a blessing.” Not only would God bless Israel—the nation God would craft from Abram’s family—but they would also bless the other nations. Israel was to be set apart, follow God, and influence those around her.

Through Abram’s family tree, Jesus Christ was born to save all people. Jesus also made a personal relationship with God possible.

Abram Worships God                                                                                                 


Altars not only memorialized significant encounters with God, but also reminded the people of His provision and protection.

Abram stops at Shechem (12:6-7), near the middle of Canaan (Joshua 20:7), where the LORD appears to him a second time. Again, God promises to give this land to Abram’s offspring. Abram responds with worship and builds an altar.

Layman’s Commentary Bible notes: “The word translated worship carries the idea of not only acknowledging, but also proclaiming the name of the Lord.”

Abram Camps Between Ai and Bethel

Abram heads out again. This time he and his group camp in the hills east of Bethel (12:8) as Abram continues worshiping  God.



So What?

  • Is God leading you to a place of greater service and usefulness to Him? Like Abram, don’t let your present comfort and security keep you from God’s plan.
  • Regular worship reminds us of what God desires and motivates us to obey.
  • Although geographically small, the land of Canaan was the main area for most of Israel’s history. Not only are Christianity’s roots from here, but Christianity has spread and positively impacted the world.
  • America has been richly blessed as our forefathers and people honored God and sought to live by His principles, including the support of Israel. But when we as a nation turn our backs on God and His teaching we are inviting His judgment.

Shem’s Descendants to Abram, Genesis 11:10-32

This section begins a new division in Genesis. Almost one-third of this book is spent on Abraham, the forefather of the Israelite nation (11:27-25:18), even though Genesis covers more than 20 generations and 2,000 years.

You may read Genesis 11:10-32 here: Bible Gateway.

Although humanity struck out three times—in Eden, the flood, then the Tower of Babel—God had a plan. Abram probably had no idea just how big God’s overarching plan was when He called Abram to leave his home and journey to Canaan. But Abram’s obedience would result in the development of the nation that God Himself would come down and visit through His sinless Son, Jesus. Through His sacrificial death and resurrection, Jesus would make atonement for the worlds’ sins, for all who accept His gift of forgiveness and eternal life through faith.


Shem’s genealogy is highlighted in verses 10-26. This section may seem dry and redundant (also listed in Gen. 10:22-31), but as we continue the Genesis saga we’re given a backstage pass to witness the setup for Noah’s blessing on Seth’s descendants. (Noah’s curse on Ham’s descendants is fulfilled when the Israelites conquer the land of Canaan in Joshua’s days.)


Terah: Abram’s Father (11:27-32)

Like Noah, Terah also had three sons, Abram being one of them. This account records Terah as the first to set out to Canaan with Abram and his family from Ur of the Chaldeans to settle in Canaan (vs. 31-32). But they end up in Haran instead. Scripture doesn’t say why. Perhaps he became sick. However, Joshua 24:2 and 24:14-15 identify Terah (and possibly his family) as worshippers of many gods. Ur and Haran were also significant places for the moon worship cult. Many of the names from Gen. 11:29 stem from this false religion as well.

Archaeologists have uncovered clues that indicate the ancient city of Ur in Abram’s day was a flourishing civilization. Not only did the city carry out a large trading system with their neighbors, they also boasted a huge library. Abram was most likely well educated from growing up in Ur.

Other Family Members

  • Lot, Terah’s Grandson and Abram’s nephew, is given a short introduction here. Lot, who becomes a main character in Gen. 13:1-14:24, is cast in contrast to Abram. Lot also traveled to Haran with Terah and Abram. His father, Haran, died in Ur.
  • Sarai, whose name is later changed to Sarah, married Abram (whose name is later changed to Abraham). She is also his half-sister (20:12), which was common and not in contradiction to God’s will at this time. Sarai’s childlessness in the ancient Near East brought social ridicule and shame. This also implied that the woman, or the couple, were disfavored toward the gods.

The Tower of Babel, Genesis 11:1-9

Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”  – Genesis 11:1-4

This incident happens before the worldwide scatter of nations described in Genesis 10. You may read Genesis 11:1-9 here: Gateway Bible.

Why Build a Tower?

The Building of the Tower of Babel, by Abel Grimmer (1570-1619)

The Building of the Tower of Babel, by Abel Grimmer (1570-1619)

The people in this story wanted to pay tribute to their own greatness. The NIV Life Application Study Bible notes: “The tower of Babel was most likely a ziggurat, a common structure in Babylonia at this time. Most often built as temples, ziggurats looked like pyramids with steps or ramps leading up the sides. Ziggurats stood as high as 300 feet and were often just as wide; thus they were the focal point of the city.”

Although this tower was a success from man’s perspective—a wonder to the world—the act came from self-preservation and pride instead of paying tribute to God.

Why Scatter the people?

God judges the people for their rebellion: placing trust in their own efforts instead of His provision. The word Babel means “confusion” in Hebrew and “the gate of gods” in Babylonian. Instead of settling in one place, God scatters the people over the whole earth by confusing their language.

The language of verse 6 may sound like God is worried, however, He is not threatened by man’s words or actions. Instead, He acts to protect man from himself.

Other Interesting Facts

  • “But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower.” Verses 5-6 are described as anthropomorphic: a description of God’s response in human terms. God really doesn’t need to leave heaven to know what is happening on earth.
  • Verse 7, “let us”, refers to the Godhead (Trinity) by using the same plural form of God as in the creation account (Gen. 1:26).
  • The area later known as Babylon carries a reputation of evil and has a long history of being Israel’s enemy.
  • Josephus and Genesis Chapter 10 by Bodie Hodge gives an insightful summary and excerpt from the great historian, Josephus, in his work: Antiquity of the Jews. Josephus’ research provides evidence of biblical accuracy in the Bible’s table of nations. You may read this article here: Answers in Genesis.

So What?

Achievements in themselves may not be wrong, but when they take God’s place in our lives they become idols. God gives us freedom to develop in many areas, but we are never free to replace Him.

I have been guilty in the past of building my tower of self-worth and identity based on achievements and/or success. How about you? Are there any towers in your life that need to be torn down?

The Table of Nations, Genesis 10

These are the clans of Noah’s sons, according to their lines of descent, within their nations. From these the nations spread out over the earth after the flood.” – Genesis 10:32

You may read Genesis 10 here: Gateway Bible

The title “table of nations” is given because it tracks the connected beginnings of several people groups, all descendants of Noah’s three sons.

Chapters 10 and 11 record the division of nations that develop into individual cultures. The Tower of Babel described in chapter 11 is first referenced in chapter 10 with Noah’s descendants separating into nations.

Noah’s Descendants


Japheth (10:1-5)

This is the shortest section and lists fourteen of Japheth’s descendants that split into two groups. The group that settled in Europe became the coastline people that the apostle Paul later shared the Gospel with. The other group landed in India (Asia Minor). Bible nations that formed from Japheth are the Greeks, Thracians, and Scythians.

Ham (10:6-20)

Ham’s descendants settled in Canaan, Egypt, and the rest of Africa. Other Bible nations carved from Ham include the Philistines, Hittites, and Amorites.

The Canaanites played a significant role in Israel’s future history. Because Ham’s descendants were still in conflict with the original readers of this letter, they (readers) found this history important.

Shem (10:21-32)

The Bible nations that emerged from Shem (Semites) are the Hebrews, Chaldeans, Assyrians, Persians, and Syrians. Although Shem was older, his offspring is mentioned last because his offspring dominates the remaining recorded history in Genesis.

Shem’s genealogy splits with Eber’s sons (10:25). The word Hebrew originates from Eber. The Hebrews are later called the Israelites (beginning with Abraham’s grandson, Jacob) and Jews (descendants of Jacob’s son, Judah). David and Jesus both descended from Shem.

Noah’s Sons, Genesis 9:18-28

The sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham and Japheth, (Ham was the father of Canaan.) These were the three sons of Noah, and from them came the people who were scattered over the earth. 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.” – Genesis 9:18-21

(You may read the entire section here: Gateway Bible.)

This section darkly contrasts to the previous section of God’s grace and colorful rainbow. It’s sad to find Noah—the great hero of faith—in this scenario. But perhaps this scene is included in Scripture as a reminder that even godly people can fall to sin and its disastrous consequences.



The word translated uncovered in this text means “to be disgracefully exposed.” Ham makes no attempt to preserve his Dad’s dignity when seeing him like this. In fact, some scholars say the verb used to describe Ham seeing Noah portrays a nasty punch: “He gazed with satisfaction”.

Unlike Ham’s bold delight in gloating over Noah’s shame, his brothers Shem and Japheth honor their Dad by walking in backwards and covering him. In doing so, they win Noah’s approval and God’s blessing (9:23). Japheth is blessed with an extended territory and a large number of descendants (9:26-27) for protecting Noah. Japheth would also find protection in Shem’s tents.

But not Ham.

When Noah learns of Ham’s actions, he curses Canaan (Ham’s son): “The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers” (vs. 25). The NIV Life Application Study Bible notes: “This verse has been wrongfully used to support racial prejudice and slavery. Noah’s curse, however, wasn’t directed toward any particular race, but rather at the Canaanite nation—a nation God knew would become wicked.”

Verse 18, which speaks of Ham as Canaan’s father, was especially relevant to Moses’ original audience regarding Ham’s descendants. For it set the stage for the Israelite story under Moses’ leadership. The book of Joshua shows the fulfillment of this curse when the Israelites finally enter the promised land and drive out the Canaanites.

The end of chapter 9 records Noah’s lifetime after the flood, 350 years, and his total lifetime: 950 years.

The Rainbow Covenant, Genesis 9:8-17

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.” – Genesis 9:8-11

God’s promises to Noah covered several items concerning responsibilities of Noah and his descendants, (as mentioned in my last post), but the word “covenant” is first used in Genesis 9:9.

Covenant means “a binding promise”.

Alongside God’s judgment of the devastating flood is a promise. No doubt, God’s repetitive promises brought great hope to Noah and his family who had experienced great stress.

(Found on letschipit.com) "Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth. . . . This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth."  - Gen. 9:11-13

(Found on letschipit.com)
“Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth. . . . This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.” – Gen. 9:11-13

(Chiastic Structure of Gen. 9:8-17)

Layman’s Bible Commentary observes: The Hebrew word for rainbow is also the word for a battle bow. The point seems to be that the bow is now put away, hung in place by the clouds, suggesting that the storm is over.

God’s special sign is a beautiful reminder to both Him and to us: There would never again be a universal flood.

I like Henry Morris’ observation in The Genesis Record: The rainbow demonstrates most gloriously the grace of God. The pure white light from the unapproachable holiness of His throne (1 Tim. 6:16) is refracted, as it were, through the glory clouds surrounding His presence (1 Kings 8:10, 11), breaking into all the glorious colors of God’s creation. In wrath, He remembers mercy. The glory follows the sufferings; and where sin abounded, grace did much more abound!

Three Other Rainbow Appearances in Scripture

Morris also points out that the rainbow reappears only three more times in Scripture. The first two cases paint a picture of expected judgment and suffering, but they are limited judgment and suffering. We also see God’s grace, which rules over all.

  1. Ezekiel 1:28 – The rainbow surrounds God’s throne as He prepares to judge His people Israel.
  2. Revelation 4:3 – The rainbow surrounds God’s throne again. This time preceding the Great Tribulation.
  3. Revelation 10:1 – This verse speaks of a mighty angel, which is Jesus Christ Himself. He pronounces “seven thunders” of judgment. And instead of wearing a crown of thorns when Jesus bore sin’s curse for us, there will be “a rainbow above His head” as He comes to claim dominion over the world.

God never changes (Psalm 55:19). He is faithful; His promises are sure (Numbers 23:19). Which promises of God do you need to remember today?

Bite Into A Chiastic Sandwich (Genesis 8:15-9:7)

In my last post, Chiastic Structures, I shared my discovery of Chiasms in the Bible.

A quick review of a chiasm: Repetition of similar ideas in the reverse sequence, put together much like a sandwich with the meat (main idea) in the middle.

2ec030e9692958b3b3fd8d0ff77da859The Chiastic Sandwich of Genesis 8:15-9:7

You may view this chiasm in a Word document here: Chiastic Structure of Gen. 8:15-9:7.

Okay, I’m reverting back to the American linear approach with the main idea first (meat of the sandwich); the bread second, and the condiments last.

The Meat/Main Idea:


God keeps His promises (Nehemiah 1:5).

God smelled the soothing aroma of Noah’s sacrifice and declared three promises (8:21-22). In response to Noah’s obedience and grateful sacrifice, God speaks openly to Noah (9:1-17), which includes the great Noahic covenant for post-flood mankind.

Covenant—a binding promise—is a common theme throughout Scripture, initiated by God with His people. The first covenant mentioned in the Bible is found in Gen. 6:17-18.

What are the three promises God declares?

  1. “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood.”
  2. “Never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.”
  3. “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”

The Bread/First and Last Points

(1a, 2a) “Be fruitful and multiply” (8:15-19; 9:7).

God renews the mandate given to Adam with Noah: Repopulate the earth (Gen. 1:26-28). In this sense, we are all related.

The Mayo & Mustard/Second and Second to Last Points

  • (1b) Noah blessed God by offering the lifeblood of an animal sacrifice (8:20).
  • (2b) God blessed Noah; instructions of lifeblood concerning animals and men (9:1-6).

God instructs Noah on setting up a government system, emphasizing justice and the regard of the sacredness of God’s divine image stamped on man. Because we are made in God’s image, He considers man’s blood—representing life—even more sacred than animals.

God also gives Noah the okay to eat animals for food with the restriction of draining the animal’s blood first (9:4-5).

What is so significant about lifeblood?

“For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul” (Lev. 17:11).

The Old Testament sacrifices were temporary and figurative, pointing towards God’s ultimate sacrifice of His beloved Son: Jesus Christ, the Lamb who “now once in the end of the world hath appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself,” (Heb. 9:26).


Yes, I know. School’s out for the summer. Yes, I know. Most of you believe you’re no longer in school. But we’re all in this school of life together. And besides, this homework is fun!

Your assignment:

  1. Make a sandwich. So you’ve already eaten lunch or dinner, how about a dessert sandwich like S’mores?
  2. In the process, recall the themes in this chiastic structure (Genesis 8:15-9:7): the bread (first and last points), the condiments (the second and second to last points), and the meat (central point).
  3. Eat and enjoy your real sandwich (or S’more).
  4. Digest . . . . How are you going to apply these truths to your life this week?
  5. Have a terrific week! :)

Chiastic Structures (Genesis 8:15-9:17)

The Bible is more than just great stories with wonderful prose and poetry – it is personal instructions from our loving God who sometimes speaks in unexpected ways.” – Thomas B. Clarke
(Author of Joshua’s Spiritual Warfare: Understanding the Chiasms of Joshua)

I’ll be honest. This section in Genesis has thrown me for a loop.

It’s not the comprehension, but the structure of this passage that feels scattered to me: similar themes repeated, but in random order, kind of like a math pattern. (Math has always been a challenge for me.)

How Lord, I asked, can I organize this section without messing up the order. . . . Is there an order?

And then my husband told me about the chiastic structure of Matthew that our pastor taught one Sunday when I was gone. After looking up chiastic structure, I realized, there is an order to this passage! But it’s nonlinear, not in the kind of sequence I’m used to. And, I learned, the Bible is full of chiastic structures.

What is a Chiasm?

A quick definition: A chiasm is a repetition of similar ideas in the reverse sequence.

Chiastic structure is a literary structure used in the Torah, the Bible, and some other works. Concepts or ideas are placed in a pattern for special emphasis, such as ABC….CBA, with the main point in the middle, (much like a sandwich). This structure often places the same concept at the first and at the last, the second concept also appears second to last, etc.

Chiasm Structure in Gen. 6:10-9:19 (Source: michaeljloomis.wordpress.com)

Chiasm Structure in Gen. 6:10-9:19
(Source: michaeljloomis.wordpress.com)

So now you’ve been forewarned. This post strays from my usual linear approach. But I thought this was a neat discovery, another proof of the power and beauty of God’s inspired Word.

You may open the following Word Documents to see more chiasms in this Genesis section: 

Chiastic Structure of Gen. 8:15-9:7

Chiastic Structure of Gen. 9:8-17

For more on chiasms in the Bible see: What is a Chiasm?

Next week I’ll pick apart these chiasm sandwiches. :) Have a great Fourth of July weekend!

The Ark: A True Type of Christ, (Genesis 8)

But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and He sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded. Now the springs of the deep and the floodgates of the heavens had been closed, and the rain had stopped falling from the sky.”    Genesis 8:1-2


Read Genesis 8 here: Bible Gateway

The Hebrew term for remember means “began again to act on their behalf”.

After 150 days of reeling on the water the ark finally came to rest, most likely on Mount Ararat since it was the highest mountain in the region, Gen. 8:5.

After another seven months—totaling 371 days—Noah, his family, and the animals finally exited the ark.

The Ark: A true type of Christ

The Bible is full of parallels or “types.” We can see God arranging the affairs of several Old Testament people and events to show us similarities to Jesus Christ, the focal point of the Gospel. Consider the following parallels:

  • After five months of providing refuge and laboring to accomplish its work of saving its occupants from judgment of sin, the ark finished its mission. After Christ came to earth and provided refuge and healing for many, He died on the cross and finished His mission: the work of salvation (John 19:30).
  • The ark’s construction was made to be waterproof and resistant to decay by sealing it with “pitch” inside and out. The Hebrew word for pitch—kopher—means a “covering”. But it’s also the Hebrew word for atonement. This is the Bible’s first mention of atonement. Henry Morris writes: “It sufficed as a perfect covering for the ark, to keep out the waters of judgment, just as the blood of the Lamb (Christ) provides a perfect atonement for the soul.”
  • The Jewish date that the ark rested (Gen. 8:4) and the date Jesus Christ rose from the dead are the same: “the seventeenth day of the seventh month”.
  • The ark became the bridge from the old evil world to the present one (Gen. 7:7, 2 Peter 3:6-7). God would help Noah and his family with their new life in their new world. God also graciously provides deliverance from spiritual death to us through His Son, Jesus. This is symbolized through water baptism (1 Peter 3:21). He saves us from God’s judgment of sin. He not only gives us the opportunity for a new beginning, but also offers help in our daily walk.
  • Although Noah wasn’t perfect, he is described as a “righteous man who walked with God” (Gen. 6:9). Jesus was the perfect, blameless man who consistently obeyed His Father (Heb. 4:15).
  • Noah was like a “second Adam” since all people come from him (Gen. 8:15-9:17). Christ is called “the second man (Adam)” since He is the only source of eternal life (1 Cor. 15:47; Acts 4:12).
  • Human evil had reached a deplorable high, so God decided to undo his creation with a flood (Gen. 6:6-7). In God’s timing, He will undo His creation again; this time by fire (2 Peter 3:12-13) and then re-create it (Rev. 21:1).


Each of us share some similarities with Noah as we look forward to the removal of sin and its curse.

  • How is Jesus like a bridge for us to God the Father and new life?
  • Have you accepted God’s gracious invitation of new life through Jesus Christ?
  • How should we be living today? (2 Peter 3:12-14)

*For scientific evidence of the worldwide flood, read Starling Evidence for Noah’s Flood. Also, The Genesis Flood by Henry Morris is a comprehensive geological book that includes Biblical commentary.

God is Patient and Long-suffering (Genesis 7)

I didn’t watch Hollywood’s version of the movie, Noah. But I’ve read about their false representation of God, portraying Him as a mean and cruel God.

The reality, however, is: Although our holy God and Judge won’t tolerate rebellious sinners forever, He is also long-suffering and extremely patient.


For an entire century, God used Noah—as he obediently finished the ark—to warn people of the coming worldwide flood and to turn from their wickedness (1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 2:6; Luke 17:26, 27).

God desires a relationship with us, but He gives us free will. He’s a gentleman and won’t force Himself on anyone.

Because Noah walked with God and demonstrated his faith through obedience, God delighted in having fellowship with him. The Bible records God speaking to Noah seven times, each time in blessing and/or fellowship (Gen. 6:13; 7:1; 8:15; 9:1, 8, 12, 17).

This contrasts with Psalm 29, which speaks of the flood. Here the “voice of the Lord” thunders seven times in judgment and majesty before those who have turned their backs on Him. This also corresponds to the “seven thunders” and their “voices” that will be uttered in the future judgment (Revelation 10:3, 4).

Time Frame of the Flood

Noah was 600 years old when the flood waters came upon the earth (7:6-9). This initiates the postdiluvian age.


Read Gen. 7 here: Bible Gateway

It’s significant that the Lord told Noah, “Come into the ark” instead of “Go”. For God would be with Noah and his family, keeping them safe just as He promised (6:18) long before they even chose to enter (7:7).

Just as God kept Noah and his family safe, we can also be assured that God will deliver us from certain coming judgment through a faith saving relationship in Jesus Christ (Jude 1:24).

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”  – Acts 4:12.

Noah, Saved By Grace

But Noah found favor in the eyes of God the LORD . . . . Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.” – Genesis 6:8, 10

Sin grieves God’s heart. The flood of wickedness in Noah’s day prompted God to cleanse the earth by destroying all mankind, beasts, birds, and creeping things with a worldwide flood. But there was one exception: Noah.

Why did Noah find favor (grace) from the Lord?

(found on Pinterest)

(found on Pinterest)

Noah wasn’t perfect; Genesis 9:20 shows that his sin nature traveled with him on the ark, (along with his family and the animals God designated).

So what set Noah apart from the people around him?

The Bible says that Noah was justified by God through his faith.  Noah is an exemplary model of one who had great faith. Of all the people listed in the “Hall of Faith” (Hebrews 11), his description is the only one that both begins and ends with “by faith” (Hebrews 11:7). Noah believed God’s promises and followed God’s will.

Walk describes the closest communion with God. It represents fellowship and obedience. Since Enoch, Noah was the only one left in his long life span who “walked with God” (vs. 10).

Noah was also recorded as a “preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5). Although no one responded to his message except his family.

Noah Declared Righteous By God

With unmerited favor, God looked upon Noah as a righteous man and enabled him to walk closely with Him step by step, day by day. It’s here in Genesis where grace is first mentioned; God giving undeserved favor to sinners (Noah and his family).

God deemed Noah righteous not because he was perfect, but because he believed and wholeheartedly loved and obeyed God (Gen. 6:22; 7:5, 9, 16):

  • Even though it had never rained before—the earth had been watered by underground springs—Noah didn’t question God.
  • When God told him to build this huge boat—the length of one and a half football fields and height of a four-story building—Noah got right to work.
  • Even though he was most likely ridiculed and labeled “crazy”, Noah chose to obey God rather than cave to the expectations and temptations surrounding him (1 Peter 3:20).
  • For 120 long years—longer than our life span—Noah pressed on to build the ark according to God’s detailed specifications.

So What?

Noah is our antediluvian link. Because Noah believed God and obeyed, he is a model of faith of how we too can please God.

As Noah and his family were saved by entering through the ark’s door, we are also saved by entering through the narrow door (gate) of Jesus Christ: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it,” (Matthew 7:13-14).

As in Noah’s day, living God’s way may not be popular, but it is true and right.

Have you entered through the narrow gate by placing your faith in Jesus Christ? Trust in Christ is the only way to heaven because He alone died for our sins so we can be right before our holy God.

Conditions Before Christ’s Return (Genesis 6-8; Mt. 24)

No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left.” – Matthew 24:36-41

The door to Noah’s ark represents salvation. As the door to the ark was the only way to preserve life, so Jesus is the only way to eternal life with God (Jn. 14:6).

(Source: alittleperspective.com)

(Source: alittleperspective.com)

Although we don’t know the exact time Christ will return, Jesus tells us to be watchful (Matthew 24; Mark 13:32-37; Luke 21:34-38). As the pre-flood days of violence and evil foreshadowed the coming world-wide flood, so will conditions in the last days foretell an even greater destruction for those who have rejected God’s son, Jesus Christ.

What Are these Conditions?

Henry Morris summarizes some similar characteristics of the pre-flood era to conditions in these last days preceding Christ’s return:

  1. Preoccupation with physical appetites (Luke 17:27)
  2. Rapid advances in technology (Genesis 4:22)
  3. Grossly materialistic attitudes and interests (Luke 17:28)
  4. Uniformitarian philosophies (Hebrews 11:7)
  5. Inordinate devotion to pleasure and comfort (Genesis 4:21)
  6. No concern for God in either belief or conduct (2 Peter 2:5; Jude 15)
  7. Disregard for the sacredness of the marriage relation (Matthew 34:38)
  8. Rejection of the inspired Word of God (1 Peter 3:19)
  9. Population explosion (Genesis 6:1, 11)
  10. Widespread violence (Genesis 6:11, 13)
  11. Corruption throughout society (Genesis 6:12)
  12. Preoccupation with illicit sex activity (Genesis 4:19; 6:2)
  13. Widespread words and thoughts of blasphemy (Jude 15)
  14. Organized Satanic activity (Genesis 6:1-4)
  15. Promulgation of systems and movements of abnormal depravity (Genesis 6:5, 12)

Sound familiar?

As the flood in Noah’s day was swift and sudden, so will the return of Christ be. This should motivate us to obey Him every day. Jesus’ warns us to be ready for His return (Mt. 24).

Like Noah, are we in right standing with God?

Will Christ find faith and obedience in us when He returns?

Next week I’ll explore more of Noah’s life and why he found favor (grace) in God’s eyes.

Have a great week!

Precursors to Noah’s Flood, Genesis 6:1-6

The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.” – Genesis 6:5-6

This next section—Genesis 6-8—covers a lot of territory: the society’s degradation, Noah and the great flood, and life after the flood with Noah’s three sons.

But before we get too scholarly, let’s not miss verse 6 (above).

God grieved. His heart was filled with pain. 4305becdcf62a8d04a95ff62ee2f8fcb

God has emotions like us. Or better stated: Since we are made in God’s image, we have emotions like God. Because God loves us, our attitudes and choices can either grieve Him or bring Him joy.

Precursors to the Flood

Two groups are named at the beginning of chapter 6: the sons of God and the daughters of men. The result of these two groups mixing brings an explosion of evil in the antediluvian period.

“And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose,” Genesis 6:1-2.

This passage brings both mystery and controversial views on the “sons of God”. There are three interpretations. The first two interpretations are naturalistic, but have some gaps. The third interpretation sounds more like a scene from a Sci-Fi movie, but appears to have more backbone in biblical research.

Three Interpretations

  1. The descendants of Cain (daughters of men) intermarried the descendants of Seth (sons of God), (4:1-25). This view helps explain the erosion of righteousness on earth through intermarriage of the godly and ungodly. However, the Sethites—with the exception of Noah and his family—were also destroyed in the flood as God’s judgment on their wickedness. Also, Seth’s descendants were never mentioned as “the sons of God” in the spiritual sense.
  2. These marriages are between aristocrats and commoners. (Neither of these first two interpretations explain why the unions would result in giants or universal corruption and violence.)
  3. The “sons of God” were fallen angels acting in violation to God’s will. Henry M. Morris in The Genesis Record writes: “. . . . The only obvious and natural meaning without such clarification is that these beings were sons of God, rather than of men, because they had been created, not born. Such a description, of course, would apply only to Adam (Luke 3:38) and to the angels, whom God had directly created (Ps. 148:2, 5; Ps. 104:4; Col. 1:16). . . . Some commentators have said that, since the phrase “took them wives” is the same phrase as normally used throughout the Old Testament for “taking a wife,” there can be nothing involved here other than normal human marriage. . . . The word used for “wife” (Hebrew ishah) is commonly also used for “woman,” regardless of whether or not she was a married woman.”

Furthermore, Morris believes that these fallen angels (demons) likely indwelled (possessed) individuals in an organized rebellion against God. The offspring of this violation resulted in giants (Nephalim). They were people probably nine or ten feet tall. (Goliath—nine feet tall—appears in 1 Samuel 17.) The Nephilim took advantage of their height and strength by oppressing those around them.

Truthnet.org also offers insight into this view. After a short summary of Genesis 4-5, they delve into chapter 6 and show fossil and rock records. Although it’s long (as is this post) it’s also interesting. For more details, you can read Truth Net’s article here: Noah’s Ark: Genesis 6. Henry M. Morris’ book, The Genesis Record, also offers a comprehensive study for all of you scholars.

I will pick up on Jesus’ comparison of the pre-flood conditions and the last days next time. Have a great week!

Genealogy: Adam to Noah, Genesis 5:1-32

Although this second genealogy, (the first is Gen. 4:17-34), doesn’t appear inspiring at first glance, there are some cool findings here.

Genealogies show that people as individuals, not just nations, are important to God.

This fifth chapter in Genesis lists the ten descendants of Adam to Noah and spans at least 1,600 years—the longest period in world history. The development of the human race and showing the time lapse between these two major individuals seem to be the primary purpose for this genealogy. Of the ten people listed, the average age is about 900.

I would love to see that many candles on a birthday cake.

Come to think of it, I would love to visit with a 900 year-old!

How did our ancestors live so long?

The NIV Life Application Study Bible offers three explanations:

  1. The human race was more genetically pure in this early time period, so there was less disease to shorten life spans.
  2. No rain had yet fallen on the earth, and the expanse of water “above” (1:7) kept out harmful cosmic rays and shielded people from environmental factors that hasten aging.
  3. God gave people longer lives so they would have time to “fill the earth” (1:28).

Grace Trumps

Although the death theme rings loud in this chapter as a reminder of the consequence of sin, God’s grace trumps. References to fertility (sons and daughters), life, and other blessings illustrate God as a loving parent who provides an inherited blessing and insures the future well-being of His children, (Seth down to Noah’s family).

I find Enoch’s story mysterious and fff9ade3efebdb1f86636aed7f01af0aintriguing. Interestingly, Enoch and Lamech (Cain’s descendant) were both the seventh generation from Adam. They exemplified the contrasting positions toward God.

Only two men have been recorded as “walked with God” (NEV): Enoch and Noah (5:22; 6:9). Walk describes the closest communion with God—as if walking by His side—representing fellowship and obedience. Divine blessing are the results.

Enoch never experienced death. He was just 365 years when God took him to be with Him.

Our History: Two Distinct Groups Arise (Genesis 4:16-26)

So Cain went out from the LORD’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden. Cain lay with 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.” – Genesis 4:16-17

Cain’s Descendants         

This account begins a history of Cain’s descendants. Since Nod means “wandering”, it’s likely that this was a figure of speech rather than an actual geographical area that Cain and his wife journeyed to after he murdered his brother, Abel.


Cain may have tried to derail God’s prophecy of him becoming a wanderer by building a city. The Hebrew verb “was building”, however, is indefinite and suggests that he never finished. But Cain’s descendants did prosper by taking the lead in building cities, developing music, advancing agriculture, creating weapons, and spreading civilization.

Cain’s family record jumps down to Lamech, the seventh generation from Adam. His family not only epitomizes the variety of talent and ability God gives people, but also shows the rise of sin.

Lamech held a high view of himself and wore polygamy, murder, and revenge as a badge of honor. He defied God’s principle of monogamy (Gen. 2:23, 24) by taking two wives. He also killed a young man in self-defense, then arrogantly bragged to his wives: “If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times.”

Henry M. Morris notes the significant elements that modern evolutionary archaeologists and anthropologists identify of evolving men from the stone age into true civilization—namely urbanization, agriculture, animal domestication, and metallurgy. These were all accomplished quickly by the early descendants of Adam. It did not take hundreds of thousands of years as evolutionists suggest.

Two Distinct Groups Arise

Another branch of Adam’s family tree takes shape. Seth—born to Adam and Eve—took Abel’s place as leader of God’s faithful people. Seth’s name means “appointed” or “substituted”.

Two distinct groups arise: 1) Those who are apathetic to sin and evil, (although the Cainites sought to exercise dominion over the earth as God commanded, their motivation stemmed from rebellion against God); and 2) those who call on the name of the Lord (the descendants of Seth, 4:26). This shows the probable shift from individuals personally meeting with God to the beginning of regular public worship and prayer. It also shows faith on the part of those who “called upon His name”.

Although Seth and his family line also inherited Adam and Eve’s sin nature, they would carry the “seed of the woman” (God’s prophecy to Eve) that would eventually defeat the Serpent: Jesus Christ through His death and resurrection.

Cain and Abel: Our History and More (Not So Great) Firsts, Part 2 (Genesis 4:3-15)

One’s attitude of heart toward this matter of approaching and knowing God actually determines his destiny in eternity. . . .”  – Henry M. Morris

Adam’s first two sons, Cain and Abel, show the first great division of humanity concerning their attitude toward God. Where Adam and Eve sinned only against God, sin quickly snowballed into tragedy through their firstborn son, Cain, who sinned against both God and man.

Adam’s first two sons, Cain and Abel, show the first great division of humanity concerning their attitude toward God. Where Adam and Eve sinned only against God, sin quickly snowballed into tragedy through their firstborn son, Cain, who sinned against both God and man.

Genesis 4:5 tells us that God rejected Cain’s offering, but accepted Abel’s. Beyond being the first shepherd, Abel is listed as the first member of the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11. (For more on faith, see Abraham Justified By Faith, Faith Factor, Growing in Faith). Abel is also recorded as the first martyr for truth (Matthew 23:35).

Although the Bible doesn’t give specifics why God rejected Cain’s offering—fruits of the soil—both brothers knew God’s expectations. Maybe Cain resented Abel’s insistence of obeying God. (Abel was deemed the first prophet, Luke 11:49-51.) Maybe Cain determined to prove his self-sufficiency with his own produce, regardless of God’s curse from sin.

Whatever the reasons, God evaluates both the quality and motives of our offerings (Prov. 21:27). Cain’s offering failed God’s standards and specific instructions.

Instead of evaluating why God disapproved of his offering, Cain reacted in hot anger.

In response to Cain’s anger, God replied: “. . . . If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it,” (Genesis 4:6-7).

(This is the first time sin is mentioned in the Bible.)

God’s reply to Cain identifies his haughtiness, pride, and probable growing resentment toward his brother. Although God graciously gave Cain a second chance to right his wrong, Cain refused.

Seeds of jealousy, envy, and anger soon blossomed into hatred and eventually cold-blooded murder of his brother, Abel (Gen. 4:8).

God is patient and merciful, but He won’t always put up with sin. Although Cain stilled his brother’s prophesying voice, God’s voice had the final say: “Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground . . . . When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth,” (Gen. 4:10-11).

(This is the first mention of blood in the Bible.)

Although God views human life as very sacred, He didn’t demand capital punishment as commanded later (Gen. 9:5). Instead, “He put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him,” (Gen. 4:15). Maybe Cain would still repent. Maybe Cain would remind others of sin’s consequence.

So What?

  • God deserves our best in time, talents, and money.
  • Satan is real and will do anything to get us to follow his deadly path. We may not think of ourselves as murderers, but as long as we live on earth: sin still “crouches at our doors”. Only through God’s Holy Spirit can we master sin.
  • Is there a small sin that needs to be uprooted in your life?

Our History of “Firsts”, Part 1 (Genesis 4:1-5)

There is a time for everything, and a season for everything under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot . . .”  Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

The following “first times” are recorded in the short passage of Genesis 4:1-5.

First Sexual Intercourse

Genesis 4:1 records Adam and Eve in this intimate act.

God created sex not only to populate the earth, but also for our pleasure. His design for this act is modeled between one man and one woman, within the boundary of marriage. This sacred gift seals the spiritual, physical, and social relationship between husband and wife when exercised God’s way. (See also Gen. 2:18; Jer. 29:6; Isa. 62:5; 1 Cor. 11:11-12)

First Births

Although childbearing pain entered the picture, Eve acknowledged God’s help in conceiving her firstborn son, Cain. She later gave birth to Abel. Both sons occupied honorable occupations: Cain grew to become a farmer, while Abel became a shepherd.

First Struggle in Daily Living

Abel means “vapor” or “vanity.” At this point, Adam and Eve no doubt realized the full impact of God’s curse from their sin (Rom. 8:20). Food, clothing, and shelter would no longer be provided freely as in the Garden of Eve, but wrought with much struggle against the elements.

First Recorded Offerings to God

Although Adam and Eve had been driven out of the Garden away from God’s presence, God graciously still made Himself available for counsel under certain conditions. Although the Bible doesn’t record these first conditions to Adam and Eve in approaching Him, He probably instructed them in regards to sacrifices and offerings given to Him; possibly when God provided the first clothes—coats of animal skins—for them (Gen. 3:21).

It’s likely that Abel’s sheep were to be used for sacrifice since atonement (“covering”) required shedding of blood.

"In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast."  - Genesis 4:3-5

“In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.” – Genesis 4:3-5

Cain and Abel may have made many offerings to God. But this was the first recorded time God rejected Cain’s offering. Why? Although we don’t know all of the reasons, my next post will explore some clues as we continue Cain and Abel’s sad saga.

I hope spring is treating you well. Thanks for dropping by!

Made In God’s Image

Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So He created man in his own image, in the image of God He created Him; male and female He created them.” – Genesis 1:26-27

In these verses God shifts from third person, “And God said, ‘Let there be . . .” to first person, “Let us make man in our image.” Although it’s difficult to comprehend, we see the triune Godhead at work (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). One member is speaking to the other member(s).

It’s like God is holding a divine meeting on the sixth day of Creation and decides to “place the cherry (mankind) on top” of all He has created. After breathing life into them, He gives them charge over all the earth, fish, and animals.

“Man” is used here as a generic term, which includes female. (Genesis 2 details the first man, Adam, and the first woman, Eve.)

What Does “Made In God’s Image” Mean?

Although we probably can’t grasp the full significance of this truth now, we know that humans are the most complex and highly organized of all God’s earthly creatures. Besides physical bodies, other attributes that we don’t share with the animals include:

  • Moral consciousness
  • Understanding of emotion and beauty
  • Ability to think abstractly
  • The capacity to worship, fellowship, and love God. Henry M. Morris (The Genesis Record) writes, “This eternal and divine dimension of man’s being must be the essence of what is involved in the likeness of God.”

But if God is spirit (John 4:24) and omnipresent, how can we be made in His image?

Morris writes: “God designed and formed man’s body to enable it to function physically in ways in which He Himself could function, even without a body. God can see (Gen. 16:13), hear (Psalm 94:9), smell (Gen. 8:21), touch (Gen. 32:32), and speak (II Pt. 1:18), whether or not He has actual physical eyes, ears, nose, hands, mouth. Furthermore, whenever He has designed to appear visibly to men, He has done so in the form of a human body (Gen. 18:1-2).”

Christ Himself was the image of God (Heb. 1:3; Col. 1:15; II Cor. 4:4). Morris continues: “It does not seem too much to infer that God made man in the image of that body which He would Himself one day assume (Heb. 10:5; Luke.1:35; Phil. 2:7).”

Although we are marred by sin—and are not equal to God—His original, unique work of the human body manifests a part of God’s glory. When God redeems an individual, He begins to renew him/her in the original image of God. He creates a “new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). His redemption is made possible through faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior from the sin that separates us from Him (Eph. 2:8-9). We are made new creations—in the likeness of God—through Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).

If—or when—you feel insignificant, remember: You are uniquely crafted by the Master Creator of the universe. He has put much thought and pleasure into designing you. Not only does He have a special purpose specifically for you, but He also declares His work “very good!”

*This article is also posted in the Gospel Blog by FEBC at http://blog.febc.org/made-in-gods-image/

Creation Days (Genesis 1)

How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all.”        Psalm 104:24

God took great care to show us the chronology of His creation in six literal days.

The Meaning of Day

Yom—the Hebrew word for “day” in Genesis 1—is used both in the singular and plural form 2,301 times in the Old Testament. Although yom can have different meanings, similar to our English word “day”, the context in the Old Testament outside of Genesis 1 points to the literal 24-hour interpretation. Consider the following (Ken Ham, The Foundations):

  • The Hebrew word for day with a number [e.g., “. . . and the evening and the morning were the first day”] occurs 410 times, and always means an ordinary day.
  • The phrase “evening and morning” occurs 38 times, and always means an ordinary day.
  • The word “evening” with “day”, or “morning” with “day”, occurs 23 times, and always means ordinary day.
  • The word “night” with “day” occurs 52 times, and always means an ordinary day.
  • We also structure our week from God’s six 24-hour day creation week and seventh day of rest.
Creation Days  
(source: AnswersinGenesis.org) "For in six days God the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day.”  - Exodus 20:11

(source: AnswersinGenesis.org)
“For in six days God the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day.” – Exodus 20:11

  • Day One – Light (so there was light and darkness)
  • Day Two – Sky and water (waters separated)
  • Day Three – Land and seas (waters gathered); vegetation
  • Day Four – Sun, moon, and stars (to govern the day and the night and to mark seasons, days, and years)
  • Day Five – Fish and birds (to fill the waters and the sky
  • Day Six – Animals (to fill the earth), man and woman (to care for the earth and to commune with God)
  • Day Seven – God rested and declared all He had made to be very good
God’s Creativity and Power

God capped off His creation with Eve. (When Adam saw her, he whistled and said “Whoa! Man!”) :) Instead of making her from the dust of the ground like Adam, He chose to sculpt her from Adam’s flesh and blood. This illustrates God’s intention of marriage between man and woman—beyond becoming best friends—to become one in unity and purpose. Marriage is also used to describe Christ and the church (Eph. 5:23, 32).

Of God’s other creation, Francis Chan, in Crazy Love, writes: “Why would God create more than 350,000,000 galaxies (and that is a conservative estimate) that generations of people never saw or even knew existed? Do you think maybe it was to make us say, “Wow, God is unfathomably big”? Or perhaps God wanted us to see these pictures so that our response would be, “Who do I think I am?”

Chan also reminds us of God’s detailed intricacy and diversity in His smaller creations:

  • A caterpillar has 228 separate and distinct muscles in its head.
  • The average elm tree has about 6 million leaves on it.
  • God made hundreds of different kinds of bananas; 3,000 different species of trees within one square mile in the Amazon jungle; and quite a variety of laughs—wheezes, snorts, silent, loud, obnoxious.

This list could go on and on. Chan has a great video called “Just Stop and Think”. When you have 15 minutes, I encourage you to see it below.

Do We Really Need a Savior? (Genesis 1-3)

For young children, chocolate bunnies and colorful egg hunts mark Easter. But for many, Easter reminds us of the implications of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. Questions arise as we sift through the facts, including:

  • Was Jesus’ death really necessary?
  • Why do people die in the first place?
  • And if God is so good and loving, why is there so much suffering in this world?

Genesis 1-3 brings clarity to these common questions, including our need for a Savior.

Summary of Genesis 1-3

God created a perfect creation in six ordinary days. There was no death. In fact, God looked at His creation and declared it, “very good”.

Then why did death enter the scene?

Our Great, Great, Great (many, many “Greats” . . . .) Grandparents, Adam and Eve, disobeyed God’s command.

(irisheyes2490.deviantart.com) As illustrated with the two trees in Genesis—the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life—God repeatedly holds out two options for us throughout the Bible: life or death. Like our ancestors, Adam and Eve, it's an individual decision.

As illustrated with the two trees in Genesis—the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life—God repeatedly holds out two options for us throughout the Bible: life or death. Like our ancestors, Adam and Eve, it’s an individual decision.

Consequences of Sin

Knowing the consequence of their actions, Adam and Eve took the fruit and ate.

  • Enter painful childbearing (3:16).
  • Enter painful toil (3:17).
  • Enter thorns and thistles (3:18).
  • Enter death (3:19).

Alongside the good and beauty in this world exists suffering and pain. Sin, disobedience to God’s command(s), marred God’s good and perfect creation. And, “the whole creation groans and labors with birth pains together until now” (Romans 8:22). But one day, God will restore His perfect creation, banishing all pain and suffering (Rev. 21:1).

Adam and Eve started this downward spiral of sin and decay. As their descendants, we’ve inherited their sin nature. But before we point our fingers at them, we need to examine our own lives. We are free to make our own choices. And our perfect, holy Creator God—who searches our hearts—has declared: “We, all like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way,” (Isaiah 53:6). Every one of us has rebelled against God’s commands at one point or another (Romans 5:12).

Not one of us is worthy to join the Creator of the universe. Romans 3:23 says, “the wages of our sin is death.” This gets uglier, because this death refers to spiritual death: eternal separation from God in hell.

Our holy God will not, (can not), dwell with our rebellious, sinful nature for eternity.

Of the tempter, Satan the serpent, God declared: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel,” (3:15). “You will strike his heel” refers to Satan’s repeated attempts to defeat Jesus during His time on earth. Fortunately, Jesus didn’t waver. God foreshadowed Satan’s demise and salvation offer through Christ with: “He [Jesus] will crush your head”.

Life in the Blood

After the Fall, God killed an animal(s) to clothe Adam and Eve. But animal blood (bulls and goats) can’t take away our sin. The Israelites later sacrificed animals repeatedly. Why? God gave this picture to summarize what was to come in His Son, Jesus: the Last Adam and final sacrifice (Hebrews 10).

Although God owes us nothing, the sinless 3909dbcb32924b3e374ebadfb81334b2 Jesus—both God and man—stepped down into history and took the death penalty we deserved for our sin. “The LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all,” (Isaiah 53:6).

For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive,” (1 Corinthians 15:21-22).

Because of Jesus’ great sacrifice on the cross, God offers us His righteousness and new life through faith: “But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord,” Romans 6:23.

It’s free for the asking.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound!


The Foundation of Foundations, Genesis 1:1

The first verse in Genesis is foundational to this foundational chapter. Chapter one is also foundational to Genesis 1-11, which in turn is foundational to the rest of the Bible. I’m not trying to throw you a tongue twister. But . . . .

How one interprets this beginning statement/verse will affect one’s belief (or disbelief) in God. For if God created all things, He can also do all things.


Henry M. Morris breaks down each word in this foundational verse. The following is a summary from his book, The Genesis Record.


The Hebrew name Elohim—which is used throughout the first chapter—stresses God’s majesty and omnipotence. Elohim is a plural name, but used with a singular meaning here, a “uni-plural” noun, suggesting the uni-plurality of the Godhead (Trinity). God is one, yet more than one.


Bara means: only the work of God. Only an eternal, transcendent God can call into existence that which had no existence; the work of creation is God’s unique work (Rom. 4:17, Heb. 11:3). The only other alternative is to believe in eternal matter. But this violates the scientific law of cause and effect, since random particles of matter can’t—by themselves—form an orderly, complex, intelligible universe.


This word in Hebrew is shamayim. Like Elohim, it is a plural noun, and can be used either as “heaven” or “heavens”. It doesn’t mean the stars of heaven (Gen. 1:16), which were made on the fourth day of Creation Week and make up the “host” of heaven rather than heaven itself (Gen. 2:1) . . . . In context, this word most likely refers to our modern term space: a component of space in our space-mass-time universe (“outer space”, “inner space”, “atmospheric space”).


Originally the earth was formless (Gen. 1:2). The Hebrew word erets means “ground” or “land”. This also refers to the basic elements of matter, which would be organized into the structured earth and later into other material bodies (planets, stars, etc.). It can refer to either a portion of earth, or the earth material in general (e.g., “Let the earth bring forth grass” -Gen 1:11).

“In the beginning”

This notes the beginning of time. Morris paraphrases Gen. 1:1 as the following: “The transcendent, omnipotent Godhead called into existence the space-mass-time universe.” These three components— space, mass, time—work together in our space continuum. Morris makes an interesting analogy: “God’s creative activity resulting in a tri-universe strongly suggests the Trinity of the Godhead. Elohim – God is one, but more than one: a continuum in which each component is itself coexistent and coterminous with the whole. That is, the universe is not part space, part time, and part matter, but rather all space, all time, all matter, and so is a true tri-unity/Trinity.” (Also see John 1:1: Jesus, “the Word” transcends the universe and was active in the creation process.)

So What?

Our world is not a product of random chance, but the result of a purposeful, powerful, loving, orderly Creator: God (Elohim).

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” Genesis 1:1.

Genesis Overview

Starlit skies, cascading waterfalls, towering mountain peaks . . . . How does one look at creation and not be amazed at God’s creative power? But with evolution smothering truth in most western schools, modern minds more likely ask: “How did I get here? Did God create the world? Or am I the result of a cosmic accident?”

Many theories abound on our origins, but only the Bible records a personal God who purposely created the universe and everything in it.

Genesis means “beginning” and sets the stage for the entire Bible. It records the origin of our world, human family, and civilization history from Creation to God choosing Israel as a nation through whom all nations would be blessed.

Creation Museum

The Creation Museum outlines seven major events in our history. The first four events are recorded in Genesis. The last three events result from God’s interventions to our disobedience:

  1. Creation
  2. Corruption
  3. Catastrophe
  4. Confusion
  5. Christ
  6. Cross
  7. Consummation
Interesting Facts about Genesis
  • Author: Moses
  • Date: Around 1450-1410 B.C.
  • Genesis covers more time than all 65 books in the Bible combined (about 2,400 years).
  • The first 11 chapters—from Creation, the fall, the flood, and establishing the nations—span more than 2,000 years and 1,500 miles in the Fertile Crescent.
  • 200 years span the middle section in Canaan (12-36).
  • Egypt dominates the final chapters (37-50) where God moves 70 people.
11 Accounts in Genesis:
  1. Introduction to the Generations 1:1-2:3
  2. Heaven and Earth, 2:4-4:26
  3. Adam, 5:1-6:8
  4. Noah, 6:9-9:29
  5. Sons of Noah, 10:1-11:9
  6. Shem, 11:10-26
  7. Terah, 11:27-25:11
  8. Ishmael, 25:12-18
  9. Isaac, 25:19-35:29
  10. Esau, 36:1-37:1
  11. Jacob and Sons, 37:2-50:26

God’s character, promises and faithfulness are woven into this historical account. Master of using ordinary people in extraordinary ways, God’s plans light our darkest moments.

Genesis is our history.

Genesis sparks hope.

For a creative summary of Genesis 1-11, see the following video.

Winter/Spring Update

Although it’s not official, spring has been knocking on our door the past few weeks. Bunnies, robins, tulip greens—along with a few weeds—have arrived in the Inland Northwest.

Living on the Palouse with its rolling hills and maze of changing colors is breathtaking, especially in spring! I love that the deadness of winter gives way to new life and growth.


New life. I’m thankful for the new life God offers us through His Son, Jesus, as revealed in His Word.

Growth. Yes—as my kids remind me—growing pains hurt! But I’m grateful God pursues and stretches us as He shapes us more into His likeness. I’m thankful He doesn’t leave us in our wretched sinful condition, unless we choose. But, rather pursues us with His great love and patience, orchestrating all our seasons.

Speaking of seasons, all three of my kids have wrapped up their basketball seasons.








Cameron (14) and Jon (12) are stepping into baseball, while Annie (9) looks forward to volleyball.

Our local girls’ varsity had a fantastic season with their seventh consecutive WA 1B State Championship and record setting 71 consecutive wins.

Coming from one of the smallest schools, from the smallest class, and still being so successful is a sweet reminder: God’s not limited by our “smallness”. (Related post: Training or Trying.)

Thank you for your visits and for hanging in there with me through the lengthy study of Romans. God has taught, challenged, and encouraged me through this study. Wherever you are in Bible Study and/or Christian walk, I wish God’s blessings for you.

My next Bible study will journey back to our beginnings: Genesis. I hope you’ll join me. Your thoughts and insights are always welcome.

Although I can’t meet most of you personally over coffee, know that you are loved and appreciated!

And if you live in the eastern U.S., hang in there, spring’s coming!

The Salvation of Israel, Romans 11:25-36


Paul’s response to God’s grace. Only God could turn disobedience into an opportunity for His mercy toward those who would believe.

I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.” -Romans 11:25

Paul then boldly declares: “. . . . all Israel will be saved,” (vs. 26). This surprising statement should be studied within the big picture of Paul’s previous statements about the nation Israel.

What is the basis of Paul’s claim?

Shepherd’s Notes suggests the following:

  • Although interpreters differ widely in their understanding of this difficult passage, the most probable interpretation of the phrase “all Israel” is that it indicates a great turning of Israel to Christ, without specifying the conversion of every individual Jew, just as the “full number of Gentiles” does not mean that every Gentile will be saved.
  • Israel’s salvation will be like all other people—responding in faith to the forgiveness made possible by Jesus Christ through His death and resurrection.
  • Paul describes this as a “mystery”, which had been previously kept secret, but now revealed. This mystery contained the revelation of God’s will made known to all (1 Cor. 2:1,7; 4:1), which included Gentiles (Rom. 16:25-26; Col. 1:26-27; Eph. 3:3-6).
  • The mystery of the New Testament is described as an open secret: “Christ in you, the hope of glory”.
So What?

God—who is always at work in people’s lives—is gracious. He is extremely patient and longs for all to turn to Him for forgiveness and eternal life (2 Peter 3:9). He desires that everyone share in the blessings of the gospel (Eph. 2:11-13), made possible through Jesus’ work (Col. 2:2, Eph. 1:9), and His indwelling Holy Spirit (Col. 1:26-27).

Living Sacrifices, Romans 12:1-2

Paul moves from the theological to the practical in this last section of Romans, laying the groundwork for believers in discipleship. Chapter 12 deals with commitment, spiritual gifts, and relationships.

Call to Commitment

What comes to mind when you think of worship? Many people—including myself—think of Sunday services and singing worship songs. You don’t have to dig deep into the Bible to realize that sincere praise through singing and music pleases God (Psalm 107-150). In fact, about 500 verses speak of worshiping God in this way. But Paul takes our Sunday worship one step further:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.”  – Romans 12:1

The word “therefore” directs us to make a connection between Paul’s previous section and his following advice.

3 Qualities of the Believer’s Sacrifice (Shepherd’s Notes):
  1. It is living. This concept may provide a contrast with the [Old Testament] dead bodies of animal sacrifices, or it could denote the new life that the believer possesses in Christ.
  2. It is holy. The Christian is set apart for and belongs to God [sanctification].
  3. It is pleasing. Sacrifices offered to God are not enough in themselves. The offerings must be acceptable to Him.

The greatest motivation for offering ourselves as living sacrifices stem from God’s mercy to us.

A Threat to the Believer

A great threat to the believer appears in verse 2: pressure to conform to this world.


Credit: Jessica Meggs

The word “world” means “age”. As in Paul’s day, our present age opposes God’s coming world/values. Instead of settling for the world’s standards of living—behaviors and customs—we are to be “transformed by the renewing of our minds”. This goes beyond strict adherence to moral living. It begins by surrendering our thoughts and attitudes to God.

So What?

Believers become living sacrifices by daily setting aside selfish desires. God is pleased when we devote our time, energy, talents, and spiritual gifts to Him. We do this out of gratitude for His forgiveness and free gift of eternal life.

Like salmon swimming upstream, Christians must work hard to not drift (conform) with the world’s current of values and immorality. The Holy Spirit enables us to swim upstream against the corrupting current when we surrender our thoughts/attitudes to God. He is the One who transforms our lives and gives discernment for His perfect will.

Spiritual Gifts, Romans 12:3-8


“Sober Judgment”

Robert Mounce, in Shepherd’s Notes, writes: “The use of this term suggests how out of touch with reality the Roman Christians were in their opinions of themselves. Since the metaphor suggests intoxication, we might say they were in danger of becoming ‘egoholics!’”

Knowing the devastating consequences of pride, Paul cautioned believers to not think of themselves more highly than they should. Next, he reminded them that they were members of one body (vs. 4-5), and encouraged them to use their varying gifts to build up the church (vs. 6-8).

Unity in diversity is the theme of this passage: working together as parts of the body function together. This is made possible through Jesus Christ, the head and chief commander of the church.

Paul listed seven different gifts and how they should be utilized (see 1 Peter 4:10, and Seven Primary Spiritual Gifts). Although these gifts differ in power, nature, and effectiveness—according to God’s wisdom and distribution—they are not used in proportion to our willpower. The NIV Application Study Bible suggests: “The ‘measure of faith’ (vs. 3) or the ‘proportion to his faith’ means that God will give spiritual power necessary and appropriate to carry out each responsibility . . . . These are gifts to His church, and He gives faith and power as He wills. Our role is to be faithful and to seek ways to serve others with what Christ has given us.”

So What?

What is your spiritual gift(s)? What do you do best?

Maybe the best gift we can give God this coming New Year is through seeking out the spiritual gift(s) that He has graciously given us, and using them to build up His body—the church.

Related Posts: Seven Primary Spiritual Gifts, God’s Plans—Who Me? What? Why?, God’s Plans—Where? How?, God’s Plan for Spiritual Gifts

A Visit from Jesus Christ

I hope all of you had a wonderful Christmas and New Year. THANK YOU for being a part of my blog. I appreciate all of your “likes” and visits! I hope 2015 holds the best for you and your family.

As it was the Christmas season and I mulled over the practical implications of Romans 12:9-21, the idea of reworking the poem, A Visit from St. Nicholas, came to mind. While this passage in Romans refers to general instructions on personal relationships, I took the liberty of placing Christ’s return (the rapture) in my poem. The question I ask while writing is: What if we are found obeying God’s commands when Christ returns?


‘Twas the end of the age, when all through the land

God’s children were stirring, obeying His commands;

Hearts were cleansed through confession and prayer,

In hopes that our Messiah soon would be here;

Pretense and envy were laid to bed;

While visions of God’s love danced in our heads;

And honor and devotion graced the church halls,

As unity and peace adorned all the walls,

Then in a wink of an eye there arose a great blast,

No time for goodbyes, it happened so fast!

Away in the sky we flew like a flash,

Source: lightinspired.deviantart.com

Heartache and grief—gone at last.

The moon cast red shadows on the new-fallen snow,

Giving a strange blush to the chaos below,

When what to my wandering eyes did appear,

But a radiant light—so bright and clear,

Surrounded by angels in one accord,

I knew in a moment, it must be our Lord.

More rapid than eagles His angels they came,

And He whistled, and shouted, and called us by name:

“Now, Chandler! Now, Tanner! Now Paiton and Nickson!

Come, Connie! Come, Reuben! Come, Conner and Kristen!

You who believed and followed my call,

Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”

Like birds with wings we soared into flight,

Such exhilaration, and what a sight!

Up past the stars, with the angels we flew

With new found strength and agility too,

And then, in a twinkling, I heard Him speak—

Like rushing waters, or a bubbling creek.

As I scanned the galaxies and looked around,

My Savior and Lord came with a bound.

He was dressed in a robe of brilliant white,

And His eyes dazzled like beacon lights;

A bundle of crowns He had flung on His back,

Then He winked and grinned when I stared and gasped.

Everything dimmed while near His side,

Even this incredible, soaring joyride.

Then He led us before His Bema Seat Throne,

But instead of dread, I felt quite at home.

No condemnation came from His lips,

Only reviews, pointers, and tips;

Because Christ’s blood conquered sin’s curse,

Eternal life was granted and crowns dispersed.

Then I heard Him exclaim as He greeted each one:

“Welcome home to all—faithful daughters and sons!”


You may visit here for more on the rapture and Bema Seat of Christ.

Submission to Authorities, Romans 13:1-7

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”  Romans 13:1

In the wake of recent uproar against police officers, this isn’t a popular passage, at least by the world’s standards. But Paul sets the bar high for believers concerning divinely sanctioned government offices and our response to them. For to rebel against authorities is rebelling against what God has instituted and will incur God’s judgment (vs. 2). God’s purpose of rulers and their use of force is to keep order in society by rewarding good conduct and punishing wrongdoers (vs 3).

Paul doesn’t expand on his remarks—such as duties of rulers to those under them, or limits of Christian obedience—and many modern believers struggle with this. But the context implies that the officials are just and are “God’s servants” (verse 4).


Are there times when believers should not submit to the government? The NIV Life Application Study Bible comments: “We should never allow the government to force us to disobey God. Jesus and His apostles never disobeyed the government for personal reasons; when they disobeyed, it was in order to follow their higher loyalty to God. Their disobedience was not cheap: they were threatened, beaten, thrown into jail, tortured, and executed for their convictions. Like them, if we are compelled to disobey, we must be ready to accept the consequences.”

So What?

Although interpretations may differ on verse one, Paul makes it clear that we are to strive for peace with the authorities. Allegiance to God does not dismiss our responsibility to secular authority. We are expected to respectfully abide by accepted regulations, including paying taxes.

Guidelines for Church Issues, Romans 14:1-15:13

Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.” – Romans 14:1

The Problem

Strong differences of opinion sparked tension in the early church. These areas included: (1) eating of meat (vs. 2); (2) observing special days (vs. 5); and (3) drinking wine (vs. 21).

Paul’s objective in writing this section was to bring unity in an atmosphere of difference. He wrote of two groups of believers whom he identifies as “weak” and “strong”. He described the “weak” Christian in a figurative way: by his lingering legalism and tendency to criticize other believers with differing opinions—perhaps viewing them as morally lax. They were uncertain how this new faith in Christ affected the Old Testament rules. The “strong” were those who recognized their boundaries within Christ’s freedom. Paul warned them to not put down believers who felt compelled to follow parts of the Mosaic Law, or have a condemning attitude.


Jewish food laws forbid the Jews to eat the flesh of certain animals, or drink their blood (Leviticus 11). Jewish observances not only set the Jews apart from other people, but also made them feel clean before God.

Although Jesus declared all foods “clean” in Mark 7:17-19, it’s no wonder many of the Jews still struggled with sharing a meal with Gentiles. (Acts 10:9-29 also shows God removing the cultural restrictions with food.)

Paul offered three guidelines to address these divisive issues. His letter is more pastoral than abstract theology. My next three posts will explore each principle.

So What?

Paul didn’t say to stop making judgments on sin. Rather, he urged us to stop launching hurtful and prideful judgments against one another. Loving other believers who differ from our opinions challenges the boundaries of our faith. But God gives us freedom to decide many nonessential issues that are not clear in His Word. He also convicts committed believers differently. As believers, it’s important to know when correct doctrine is at stake and when to be tolerant of others’ strong convictions.

The Church: Unity in Diversity (Part 1), Romans 14:1-12

God is able.

My church’s theme for 2015 is taken from Ephesians 3:20-21:



Paul’s writing to the early Jewish and Gentile Christians in Rome certainly reflects this belief. Although God was—and is—“able”, effort from every believer would be needed. In an arena immersed in vast cultural and societal differences Paul offered three guidelines to help bring about this seemingly impossible task: unity in diversity. This post will look at the first principle.

Principle # 1: Judgment is God’s Right, Not Man’s

“Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” –vs. 4 Paul made it clear: observing or not observing special days and/or food laws—the early church’s main divisive issues—wasn’t sin to God, so long as one’s conscience was clear. Rather, the flaunting and flouting of other believers’ convictions was the culprit. Convictions vary. God has accepted both the “weak” and “strong” servant by grace. Equal desire to honor God may be found in both the observer and nonobserver of special days and food laws (vs. 6).

“None of us lives to himself alone” (vs. 7)

Shepherd’s Notes comments: “This has been understood in the sense of John Donne’s statement, ‘No man is an island.’ Paul’s statement, however, was not a sociological observation regarding the oneness of the human race. What he said is that all believers live out their lives accountable to God. Decisions about such matters as special days and eating meat are not made in isolation but in accordance with the will of God as understood by the individual.

So What?

Judgment belongs to God alone. And we will all stand before the judgment seat of God (vs. 10-12; 2 Cor. 5:10). Individuals should act according to their own conviction in trivial gray areas that are unclear in the Bible without passing judgment on those with different convictions. We can—and should—rub shoulders with other believers without judging in these areas. Are there strained relationships in your church? How might this principle help bring the unity God desires?

The Church: Unity in Diversity (Part 2), Romans 14:13-22

Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.”  – Romans 14:13

With the Roman believers in disagreement about eating meat and observance of special days, Paul laid out three principles to encourage peaceful relationships.

Last week highlighted the first principle: Judgment is God’s right, not man’s (vs. 1-12) . . . . Next principle please:

Principle #2: Love requires self-limitations for the sake of others


Paul directs his advice to mature believers. He warns them to beware of placing obstacles—or occasion to sin—before the weaker Christian.

Although the old rules about ceremonial foods were dismissed by Jesus (Matthew 15:10-11; 16-20), Paul addressed the issue of those who felt compelled to follow Judaism’s regulations: Anyone who violates their conscience, and doesn’t act in faith, has sinned (vs. 23).

Shepherd’s Notes comments: “God has called us to a life of faith. Trust is the willingness to put all of life before God for His approval. Any doubt about the rightness of an action removes it from the category of what is acceptable. This principle is of special help to the Christian in what is sometimes called the ‘gray area.’ If it is gray to you, it is wrong—not in itself, but in the eyes of the one who considers it inappropriate.”

Paul warned mature believers to take into account their influential actions. Those who encouraged others to violate their conscience “no longer walked in love” (vs. 15).

So What?

We all have strong and weak areas. It’s important to continually monitor our behavior and its effects on other believers, even if we don’t feel convicted in a “gray area”. Although we don’t have to give up our freedom in Christ, if God convicts another believer differently we should avoid exercising that action in his/her presence. Mutual respect and love mark Christ’s true disciples.

What steps can believers take to ensure peace when differences arise? How does focusing our minds on Christ help promote unity?

The Church: Unity in Diversity (Part 3), Romans 15:1-13

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”    – Romans 15:5

This section wraps up Paul’s talk from chapter 14 and highlights the last principle in this series for promoting unity in the church.

Principle #3: Follow Christ’s example of mercy

Paul identifies himself as a strong Christian as he encourages the “strong” to bear with the failings of the “weak.” To help others mature in the faith, he exhorts the “strong” to build his neighbor up. How? He cites Jesus as our greatest example of self-denial for the sake of others.


The Relevance of Scripture (vs. 4)

Paul also reminds his readers that all of Scripture—although written in the past—is still alive and relevant today, meeting our deepest needs (1 Cor. 10:11; Rom. 4:23-24).

Paul’s Benediction (vs. 5-6)

Paul prayed for unity among the Roman Jews and Gentiles as they followed Christ so they would glorify God with one heart and voice.

Shepherd’s Notes comments on the remainder of this section: “In support of the universal scope of God’s redemptive work through Christ His Son, Paul cited four Old Testament Scriptures . . . . Christ’s acceptance of both Jewish and Gentile believers, played out in the universal scope of His redemptive work, is to be the measure of their acceptance of one another.”

So What?

Self-denial doesn’t mean we are to be people-pleasers (see Galatians 1:10), but rather set aside our self-pleasing actions and/or willfulness in order to build others up. If Christ—God’s Son—prioritized others above His own comforts and desires, how much more should we?

God communicates hope and encouragement through His Word, the Bible.

We can live in unity when we read God’s Word with a receptive heart, focus on Christ, and genuinely accept each other.

Paul’s Personal Notes, Romans 15:14-33

I have written you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles . . . .” – Romans 15:15, 16

Paul’s tone is warm as he closes his letter by stating his role as a minister to the Gentiles and his travel plans.

Paul’s Goal of Ministry (vs. 14-21)

When affirming the Roman church’s goodness, knowledge, and competent instruction, He also admits his boldness on some points. Why? “. . . . so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit” (vs. 16).

Paul exerted all of his energy in encouraging and exhorting Gentiles to follow and obey Christ. He sought to preach the gospel in areas where no one had heard it. From Jerusalem to Illyricum—a province bordering the Adriatic Sea—Paul endured much and persevered with the work God gave him.

Plans to Visit Rome (vs. 22-29)

Many scholars believe Paul was writing this letter from Corinth when he declared that his work was finished in the eastern regions. For a second time, he expressed his desire and delayed plans to visit the Roman church (1:10-15). But this time he added his current desire: to evangelize Spain. First, however, he would go with the Gentile church delegates to Jerusalem with the relief offering for the poor (vs. 25-28; Acts 20:3-6; 24:17). He encouraged his readers to financially support both the Jews and his mission to Spain. Paul hoped to visit them on his trip to Spain.

Prayer Requests (vs. 30-33)

Paul shared his concerns about his upcoming mission to Jerusalem. He urged his readers to join in his struggle through prayer: 1) that he would be rescued from unbelievers in Judea; 2) that his service in Jerusalem would be acceptable to them; and 3) that God would allow him his long awaited visit to Rome.

Acts 21:15-28:31 gives insights to God’s answers to these requests. Paul’s dream of visiting Rome was finally realized, but probably not in the way he had hoped. He arrived as a prisoner.


The book of Acts does not record Paul journeying further westward to Spain.

So What?
  • Although not everyone is called to preach or serve in a foreign country, all of us can support foreign missionaries through our prayers. Some can give financially.
  • We, “who have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings” (vs.27), are called to support Jewish believers.
  • Although prayer is often known as a means of comfort and making our requests known to God, it is also a weapon in the Christian’s arsenal when interceding for others in our spiritual battle.
  • God’s ways are higher than our ways (Is. 55:9). He’s always at work, for the good, even when we don’t discern it.

Paul’s Personal Greetings & Warning, Romans 16:1-23

Paul usually closed his letters with greetings and commendations (recommendations), which were well known in the ancient world. He wanted Roman believers to welcome and help Phoebe, a deaconess of the Cenchreae church. She had faithfully helped Paul and many others in the gospel work (vs. 1-2). She may well have been Paul’s letter carrier to the Roman church.



Paul’s Greetings (vs. 3-16, 21-23)

Beyond a challenging tongue twister, or finding a unique baby name, this section also reflects Paul’s lengthy list of close relationships within a broad church base. From Andronicus to Philologus, Paul listed a whopping twenty-six people in his greetings to the Roman church. These were people with various backgrounds—men, women, Jews, Gentiles, Greeks, Romans—whom Paul had met in his travels. Paul knew much about these people: their family relationships and ministries.

Paul also sent greetings from his companions, including Timothy, who traveled with Paul on his second missionary trip. Timothy held a special place in Paul’s ministry.

Paul’s Warning (vs. 17-19)

“I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.”

So What?
  • Although Paul was singular in his commitment to God’s call, he also sought ministry partnership and fellowship with the believers that God placed in his path. Likewise, we should extend our fellowship and hospitality to believers outside our circle of church small groups and denominations.
  • By studying God’s Word we can keep from being duped by smooth talkers and/or literature that strays from God’s truth (Acts 17:10-12).

Doxology, Romans 16:25-27


Paul’s final verses to the Roman church ring with praise. For God not only used him to help spread the gospel, but also share His plan for the Gentiles: God’s inclusion of them/us into His church.

Major Themes

Paul weaved major themes from Romans into these last three verses:

  • God alone establishes and strengthens the believer.
  • God alone has given direct revelation of the gospel through Jesus Christ through His life, death, and resurrection.
  • God has purposed His plan of salvation to everyone who chooses to receive it.
So What?

We should never write someone off as impossible for God to save. Paul was a prime example. From a zealous Christian persecutor to a zealous gospel preacher, God moved mightily in his life: saving, transforming, and strengthening his faith.

We too can trust God to work powerfully in our lives. He’s not limited by our backgrounds, weaknesses, and/or failures.

God used Paul to reach the ends of his world through the cosmopolitan power house of Rome. We would do well to heed God’s inspired words from Paul in Romans as we also take the gospel to the ends of our world through words, prayer, technology, and missionary support.

Have you received God’s gift of salvation?

How has God strengthened your faith?

I love the following scripture/song. It’s a great reminder that God is not only able to work for the good in our  circumstances, but also work for the good in our hearts’ invisible arena.

Abraham’s Three Visitors, Genesis 18:1-15

The LORD appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.” – Genesis 18:1-2

You may read Genesis 18:1-15 here: Bible Gateway.

God appears to Abraham again. But this time, He visits Abraham in the form of a man. Many believe that this was Jesus reincarnate (John 1:18) accompanied by two angels (also in human form).

This visit must have been only a few weeks or months after God appears to Abraham in chapter 17 with the news that his eighty-nine year old wife, Sarah, would bear a baby this time next year (vs. 21). For there is no record that Sarah was pregnant yet.



Does Abraham recognize these men’s identities? Although he addresses the leader, “my Lord”, this name was also used as a respectful title for men. But as these men suddenly appear, Abraham—possibly in prayer and reflection of God’s last baby news—seems to sense these men are important and may shed additional insight.

Although Abraham’s hospitality is common in the Ancient East, he goes beyond the call of welcome duty. Instead of handing off all the duties to his servants, he personally caters to these three visitors. First, he runs to the men and bows before them. Next, he attends to any traveling needs, namely feet washing. Then he oversees all the food preparations, ensuring the tastiest meal is served. Finally, he stands nearby waiting attentively.

Abraham doesn’t have to ask twice what The LORD says concerning Sarah: “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”

Sarah—who is at the tent’s entrance behind them—laughs to herself when she hears this incredulous news.

The LORD asks Abraham why she is laughing. “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” Then He patiently repeats that she will have a son next year.

Fearful, Sarah denies that she laughed. But God calls her out: “Yes, you did laugh.”


Fear of our motives and/or inner thoughts exposed can pressure us to lie. But God, who loves us and knows all of our struggles, wants our complete honesty.

What impossible situation are you currently facing?

When we come up against seemingly impossible circumstances and/or relationships, God wants to help us. He desires that we seek His guidance and power.

Next week, we’ll explore the remainder of Genesis 18 and learn of God’s mission for the two angels who accompanied Him. . . . I hope you had a great Thanksgiving!