Saturday, July 28, 2018

Genesis Post 33 - Names, Name Changes, and Circumcision (Chapter 17)

Chapter 17 sees the Abrahamic Covenant being completely revealed.  It was introduced in chapter 12, it continued in chapter 15, and now we will see its completion.

Chapter 16 wrapped up when Abram was 86 years old, so we have a break in the action, so to speak.  Ishmael grew up.  Chapter 17 opens with Abram's age:  99.

Verse 1 says,
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless.

In chapter 15, we saw God first introduced as YHVH Adonai, which is a covenant name of God.  Now in this chapter, we see a new name:  The LORD appeared to Abram and called Himself El Shaddai, which is usually translated Almighty God.  This is the first time El Shaddai appears in the Word.

Almighty probably isn't the best translation of that word.  It is a variation on the Hebrew word shad, which means breast.  God is the one who provides sustenance, comfort, and protection, just like a nursing mother provides for her child.  Shaddai is used 48 times in the Hebrew scriptures.  Each time it is used in Genesis,  the context is childbearing and fruitfulness.  In the other places, Shaddai is used in the context of our great Protector.

This can be seen in the ancient Hebrew letter shin, which looked like our letter W, but was written both smoothly and with sharp lines.  It can represent sharp teeth and also breasts.  In the meaning of the letter, we can see the meanings of both sustenance and protection.

When the Hebrew priests would bless the congregation, they would hold their hands like the letter shin.  Are you a Trekkie?  Leonard Nimoy, an orthodox Jew, had that in mind when he came up with this gesture:

Live Long and Prosper:  A paraphrase of the Aaronic Blessing

The chapter continues with some mind-blowing promises, and the name change we have been waiting for!

Starting with verse 2...
And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly.” Then Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying:  “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations.  I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you.  And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.  Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.”

Did you see how this section wrapped up with the connection to the land?  They are inseparable.  The land of Canaan is promised as an everlasting possession to Abraham's descendants.

We need to note that even though he is a child of Abraham, the land was never promised to Ishmael.  Further on in Genesis we will see that Abraham's covenant will pass to Isaac and then to Jacob.  Ishmael received his own prophecy from YHVH, but no land was connected to it.

Also, we finally see the name change. Abram means exalted father.  Now, Abraham means father of many nations.  The only thing that took place in the Hebrew to change Abram's name was that the letter hey was added.

This letter carries the meaning of  look, check it out, take notice!  Is this where our exclamation hey! comes from?  The letter also appears twice in the name of God, YHVH.  In fact, all forms of the name of God have this letter hey in it.

Hey! The LORD wants us to pay attention to what He is doing in the life of Abraham.

Hey!  (Doesn't that earliest form look like someone trying to get our attention?)

What follows next is the sign of the covenant, which is this:  Every male child shall be circumcised on the eighth day of his life, plus every male who lived in Abraham's household, including all his servants and also his son Ishmael.

Ishmael was 13 when this happened.  To this day, Muslims circumcise their sons at age 13.

Circumcision was a  perfect sign for 99-year-old Abraham, who had a 90-year-old wife.  Childbearing?  No way.  They can’t. It’s over.  Why did God wait so long? So He would get all the glory. Every last smidgen of it!

God was about to do something supernatural, so He endeavored to cut away part of the natural.  The natural part of man that makes babies had to be cut away.  Ouch!  The New Covenant speaks of the circumcision of our hearts, when the natural is cut away and we become saved supernaturally.  New children of God, born again, being shaped into His image.  We see a separation here, of the cutting of the flesh.  God gives us the picture of the physical, and then the figurative.

I can only imagine the popularity of Abraham's announcement

Abraham was justified by his faith before he was circumcised.  So with us, God does the first part and we participate in the second part... justification by our faith and then sanctification through the circumcision of our hearts.

God wants our hearts, so let us allow Him to cut away any barriers to Him.

In the midst of all this cutting, God also changed the name of Sarai to Sarah. Sarai means my princess, but Sarah simply means princess, or mother of many.  The same letter that was added to Abraham's name, hey, was added to Sarah's name.  God then promised a son to Abraham through her.

BTW, the name Israel comes from this same root word of Sarah's name... sar.  Israel means prince of God, but it can also mean struggles with God. 

So now that the supernatural has been added to Abraham and Sarah, we have this old couple who are about to have a miracle baby. Without God in the equation, it was impossible.

God told Abraham that kings of peoples would descend from Sarah.  Abraham fell down laughing.  (Is this where that acronym ROLF comes from?)  Abraham's laughter was not of disbelief or mockery, but he was stunned and delighted. His was the laughter of rejoicing in faith.  I will write more on this laughter in my next post.

So what is with verse 18?
And Abraham said to God, “Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!”

It sounds like Abraham was asking that the covenant go through Ishmael, but that was not what he’s asking. When you read it in the Hebrew, Abraham was asking if Ishmael might live in God's presence.

God then assured Abraham that Ishmael would be great, and he would produce 12 rulers (and he did).  But then the LORD clarified to Abraham that the covenant will be established with Isaac, who would be born in a year. 

Chapter 17 ends with all the menfolk (and boyfolk) recovering from their painful surgery.  The next post features heavenly visitors!  Click here to read it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Genesis Post 32 - Abram Jumps the Gun (Chapter 16)

Any book that is devoid of conflict is not usually a very good book. Traditionally, conflict in literature is a major literary element that creates challenges for the characters in the story.  Perhaps this literary tradition came from the Bible itself?

Enter Genesis 16.

This ancient conflict will get worse and worse until the Messiah comes.

Let's unpack it.

Verse 1 says,
Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. 
And she had an Egyptian maidservant whose name was Hagar.

Do you remember that Sarai's childlessness was mentioned at the end of chapter 11?  And now chapter 16 opens up by reiterating that fact. It is key to the story.

Oh, and Hagar.

The plot thickens.

Can you say "uh oh"?

Abram, great man of faith that he was, had been waiting 10 years for the promise of descendants.  Sarai had been waiting too, and she got impatient.

Has God ever asked you to wait for something?  If this chapter tells you anything, it's this:  Keep waiting. Do NOT take matters into your own hands.

Sarai had what we would think of today as a crazy idea, but then later on she would blame her husband for it when it did not go well.

The idea actually was not crazy in the ancient world. This was a thing that was often done in that culture. If you were not able to have children, you would have one of your servants do it for you. But in Abram's case, it was not what God intended for the seed line.

It is quite possible that Hagar was given to Abram and Sarai as a servant, as part of the riches that they received when they left Egypt. The Jewish rabbis even say that she was pharaoh's daughter, making her an Egyptian princess. We have no biblical proof of this, however.

Sarai's move was logical, but not faithful.

In verse 2, Abram heeded the voice of his wife.  I'm sure it was no great hardship for Abram to go along with Sarai's suggestion.  Hagar was probably young and beautiful.

As soon as Hagar conceived she despised her mistress.  This is the birth of anti-Semitism.

Sarai then gave her blame over to her husband in verse 5, because of the conflict with her pregnant servant.  She even played the God card by saying, May the LORD judge between you and me.

Abram told Sarai to do whatever she wanted with Hagar.  (Don't you just want to say, Man up, Abe?)

Sarai mistreated Hagar, and Hagar took off.

This sets up an extreme event. Hagar went out into the desert and just sat there by a desert well, probably despairing over her situation.

At that moment, the angel, or messenger, of the LORD showed up for the first time in the Bible. It’s a theophany, a visitation from Yeshua Himself.  And then He said some things that were pretty crazy.

First, He told Hagar that she must return to her mistress Sarai and submit to her authority.  We will soon see that this submission will last 13 years.

And then the LORD promised Hagar that her descendants would be greatly multiplied.  I believe that this is attached to the promise that the LORD had given to Abram regarding countless descendants.

And then, He prophesied over Hagar's unborn son.
“Behold, you are with child,
And you shall bear a son.
You shall call his name Ishmael,
Because the Lord has heard your affliction.
He shall be a wild man;
His hand shall be against every man,
And every man’s hand against him.
And he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.”

The name name Ishmael means God will hear.

In the Hebrew, it actually says he will be a wild donkey (or ass, for you KJV folks), and he will be hostile. In other words, a man of violence, a man of war.

We still see this prophecy playing out today through Ishmael's descendants. Islam was raised up beginning in the seventh century, but it is just now coming into its full demonically-inspired purpose. Their main purpose is to come against Israel in these last days.  Islam is anti-peace, and actually means submission.  Yeshua, on the other hand, is the Jewish Messiah, the Prince of Peace.

Hagar then called the LORD El Roi, or the-God-who-sees.   She said, I have seen the one who sees me. 

The Hebrew word for shepherd, rohe, comes from this word - the one who sees.  What do shepherds do all day?  They watch.

And she named the well Be'er Lahai Roi, literally Well of the One Who Lives and Sees Me.  Hagar met the LORD, and Hagar had faith!

So Hagar heeded the command of the LORD and returned to Sarai.  And Abram heeded the word of Hagar, because he named his son Ishmael, just as the LORD had instructed Hagar.

And Abram was 86 years old.

The bible does not tell us how life was for Abram, Sarai, Hagar, and Ishmael for the next 13 years.  I imagine that Ishmael thoroughly enjoyed his position as Abram's only son. While it lasted.  Stay tuned for the unfolding drama!

Click here to continue the saga.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Genesis Post 31 - The Animals Consumed (Chapter 15)

In verse 7, the plan of God continues to unfold.  The LORD reminded Abram of His promise to give him the land - another reminder of how intertwined the land is to this covenant.

The LORD's directions that follow seem very odd to our modern ears: Get some animals and cut them in half.  But don't cut the birds in half.

Weird to us, but a very common practice in the ancient Middle East.  When two parties made an agreement, they would slice animals in half as a picture of what would happen to either party if they broke the agreement.  In other words, the agreement was binding.

There is a hint of this practice in a wedding ceremony today, although not quite so bloody.  The bride is a picture of the marriage covenant when she walks down the aisle, in between the bride's people and the groom's people.  Did you ever wonder why you were asked, "Bride's side or groom's side?"

Cutting a covenant

The devil does not like the plan of God, as we see in verse 11.  Vultures came down after the carcasses of the animals, but Abram shooed them away.

I believe those vultures represent those throughout history and today who would come against the Abrahamic Covenant:
  • Pharaoh killing the Hebrew baby boys
  • Herod murdering the Bethlehem babies
  • The Spanish Inquisition
  • The Holocaust
  • Falsely accusing Israel of apartheid and ethnic cleansing
  • Threats to cut Israel off from being a nation
  • Blaming Israel for all the woes in the world
  • Pressuring Israel into giving up land
  • United Nations resolutions against Israel
  • Boycotting Israel
  • Criticizing Israel at every turn
Are you a shoo-er?  Abram was.  We want to have faith like Abram.  Would God‘s covenant with Abraham stand up if there was no one to defend it? Yes. God is God, and unconditional means unconditional. But we are called to take part. We are called to be biblical scarecrows. We are invited to participate!

So anyway, Abram fully expected to walk through the cut animals.  Three-year-old animals were the prime age, the most expensive ones, for sacrifices.

But God put Abraham into a deep sleep.  A dreadful, horrible sleep, the scriptures say in verse 12.

Why the dark, dreadful sleep? Abraham is told in his dreams that his descendants will become slaves, driven out of their land, and they will be afflicted.  Did Abraham see his descendants being persecuted?

Truly Abraham had a nightmare during his deep sleep, but the nightmare changed in verse 14 to a positive note. They would depart from that nation of affliction with great wealth, and they would possess the land after the sin of the Amorites (a reference to the Canaanite peoples) was complete.

People might think it was unfair of the LORD God to displace the people that were in the Promised Land before the Israelites, but scripture tells us that their wickedness had reached a point where the LORD could no longer tolerate it.

Abram was then promised a long life and peace to the end in verse 15.

In verse 17, the LORD Himself passed through the animal carcasses and consumed them.  This is a one-sided action; Abram did not have to do anything.  The covenant was permanent and unconditional.

Gods divine presence showed up in smoking fire. There’s a picture here of the pillar of fire and smoke that will eventually deliver Abraham's descendants from Egypt in the Exodus.

When God went through the animals, the first thing he mentioned was the land, in verse 18:
To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates—  the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites,  the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.”

It is interesting to note that the land promised here to Abraham's descendants reaches far beyond what it is today.  From the Nile to the Euphrates.  But someday, in the coming kingdom, it will happen.

Just a quick note on Replacement Theology - the disturbingly prevalent doctrine in the church today that says God is done with Israel and all His promises are transferred to the church.  The land promise destroys the doctrine of Replacement Theology.  When did the LORD ever give land or national boundaries to the New Testament church?

The church was never driven out of their land due to sin, because they never had any God-given land. Israel was driven out of the land twice because of sin.

But the prophecies say that God will bring them back to the land and that they will not be driven out again.  In fact, there are 64 places in the scriptures that foretell the return of Israel to the land.  If you would like to study these scriptures for yourself, a friend of mine in Israel has listed them on her ministry website.  Click here to read them.

To the New Testament believers, Romans 11 warns us not to be arrogant or ignorant.  Unfortunately, Replacement Theology does both.

For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.  And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:
“The Deliverer will come out of Zion,
And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob;
For this is My covenant with them,
When I take away their sins.”

Romans 11:25-27

The Abrahamic Covenant is still unfolding in our walk through Genesis, but we now come to a chapter that seems out of place but is absolutely strategic.  Click here to continue.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Genesis Post 30 - God Our Shield and Abram's Faith (Chapter 15)

In Genesis chapter 15, we are going to see the continued unfolding of the Abrahamic Covenant, since Abram is now in the land.

Right off the bat, the LORD gave Abram a vision, and said to him:
“Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.”

The Hebrew word for shield is magen.

I want to pause for a moment and speak of the Israeli flag.  There are many who believe that the emblem on the Israeli flag represents the star of various pagan deities that appear in Amos 5:25-26 and repeated in Acts 7:43, and that this particular six-pointed star is used in witchcraft.  This view is ridiculous and also anti-Semitic.  It is another way that anti-Zionists try and discredit the modern State of Israel.  I have heard the accusation numerous times, and I have even heard it from lovers of Israel!

First of all, the emblem on the Israeli flag is known as the Magen David, which actually means David's Shield and not star of David.  It is actually incorrect to refer to the symbol as the star of David.

Secondly, the six-pointed emblem is actually a representation of the name of David, which in Hebrew is spelled dalet vav dalet.   In ancient Hebrew, the letter dalet was represented by a triangle.  The vav carries the meaning of something that connects; we would call it a conjunction in English.

The Magen David is an ancient dalet pointing up to heaven, and an ancient dalet pointing down to earth, and intertwined - or connected - together.  What a beautiful representation of King David, to whom God gave a beautiful covenant and the messianic promise of a kingdom that would never end through one of his offspring.  Dalet vav dalet.

Thirdly, the "star" most often used in witchcraft is the five-pointed pentagram, and even then it has a circle around it.  The six-pointed star is rarely used in witchcraft, and when it is, it is always with a circle around it.  And it is never interconnected the way the Magen David is.

If you are one of those people who are going to freak out about the six-pointed "star" on the Israeli flag, then I hope you are at least consistent and have extreme misgivings about the 50 five-pointed stars on the United States flag as well.

And anyway, aren't stars technically round?

Anyway, in verse 1, The LORD assured Abram that He was his shield, which carries the meaning of protector.  And the LORD is also the protector, or shield, of Israel.  David's shield on Israel's flag is a perfect fit.

Right away, Abram questioned the LORD because in his old age, he was childless and his heir was his servant Eliezer.  (This was a very common custom in the Middle East, in the event that a man had no heir).

And even though he was questioning God in verse 2, Abram addressed the creator as Adonai Yehovah, and this is the first of many places that this name is used of the LORD.  He is saying "O Master YHVH," a term that demonstrates Abram's absolute faith that YHVH is in charge.  This compound name of God, Adonai YHVH, shows up again and again in the scriptures, always in the context of the everlasting covenant.  It cannot be seen in our English translations, which typically use Lord GOD or sovereign LORD.

In fact, when King David was given his own covenant in 2 Samuel 7, Adonai Yehovah was used 7 times in David's prayer.  The context is the forever throne, which links the messianic Davidic Covenant to the everlasting Abrahamic Covenant.

The LORD then brought Abram outside and had him try and number the stars (which of course Abram could not) and promised him numerous descendants, just like those beautiful stars.

Here it is again.
Abraham said, "I got zero." God said, "You’re going to have millions." Can you say contrast?

And verse 6 tells us one of the very things that Father Abraham is known for: his great faith!
And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.

The Hebrew word for righteousness is tzadik.  Remember Melchi-Tzadik from the previous chapter, the King of Righteousness?  Tzadik is also the Hebrew word for saint.  Abram became a saint through his belief in the LORD, just like we do when we put our faith in the Messiah our LORD.

In verse 6, we have the first mention of that word believe.  The Hebrew word is aman, from which we get the words for faith (emunah), truth (emet), and amen (amen!).


The words are all intertwined.  In Revelation 3:14 we read,
‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness 

My next post will continue with the unfolding Abrahamic Covenant.  Click here to read it.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Genesis Post 29 - War and a King out of Nowhere (Chapter 14)

Chapter 14 opens up with the first biblical war. Genesis, the book of beginnings, is filled with firsts. And sadly, one of them is war.


There were five kings on one side, lining up for battle with four kings on the other.

For twelve years, verse 4 tells us, they served Chedorlaomer king of Elam, who appears to have been the head honcho of all these kings.  In the thirteenth year, the other kings rebelled.

Then in the fourteenth year, war broke loose amongst all these kings.  The war took place around the Valley of Siddim - that is, the Salt Sea.

The four kings, led by Chedorlaomer, actually defeated the five, who had been led by the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah - kind of like scoring a short-handed goal in hockey.  And guess who got captured in the spoils of war?

Lot, we are told in verse 12. Abram's nephew.

Abram took action.  This was family, after all.

In verse 13, Abram was first called a Hebrew.  The word Hebrew, referring to Abram's ancestor Eber, means the region beyond, or to cross over.  And indeed, Abram crossed over when he departed Ur, Haran, and Egypt, crossing over to the promised land.  The word will continue to have significance all the way through the scriptures.  We ourselves cross over when we turn to Yeshua in faith.

So Abram gathered 318 men against Chedorlaomer and his minions, and then he and his tiny army drove these kings clear to Damascus.  They rescued Lot, and brought back a bunch of spoils as well.  The grateful king of Sodom went out to meet Abram in a place called King's Valley.

How was this huge victory possible?

It was supernatural.  This first war is a prophetic picture of the last war, in which Messiah comes and conquers all.  It is also a picture of the spiritual warfare that we wage every day on behalf of the Lord.  Humanly speaking, we often feel vastly outnumbered.  But we have a King who fights with us and for us.

What happened next is mind blowing.  Let's look at verses 18-20:

Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said:
“Blessed be Abram of God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
And blessed be God Most High,
Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.”
And he gave him a tithe of all.

What is going on here?  This priest, Melchi-Tzadik (which means King of Righteousness), king of Salem (actually shalem, or peace) showed up out of NOWHERE after Abram's battle, and then whipped out the bread and wine.

These three verses explode the theology of the universe.

First, what or where is Shalem?  In Hebrew, the city of Jerusalem is actually yerushalayim, or city of peace.  It is technically a plural word, since there is a physical Jerusalem here on earth and also a new Jerusalem that will someday come down from the heavens.  Melchi-Tzadik represents this place.

What will the New Jerusalem look like?  I can only imagine.

In this “Tale of Two Cities” that I spoke of several posts ago when writing about Babel (Babylon), here is the first veiled mention of God’s holy city, Jerusalem.

This righteous Priest and King of El Elyon (God Most High, another first mention), then blessed Abram, and Abram turned around and gave this King a tenth of the war booty.

In these three verses, we have the first mentions of a priest, of God Most High (three times in fact), Jerusalem, bread and wine, a prophetic word, and the first mention of tithing. (Even though Abraham technically didn’t give away anything of his own, just spoils from the king of Sodom, who happened to be standing right there).

Notice that Melchi-Tzadik served Abram.  Not only was he a priest, a king, and a prophet; he was a servant.

Just in case you haven't identified this king, let's look to scripture for clarification.

The Messianic psalm 110 tells us,
“You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek.”

This verse from Psalm 110 is quoted in Hebrews 5:6, clearly linking Yeshua to Melchi-Tzadik.

Hebrews continues the clarification for us in Hebrews 6:19...
This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.

And in Hebrews 7:
For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him,  to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being translated “king of righteousness,” and then also king of Salem, meaning “king of peace,” without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually.

Now consider how great this man was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils. And indeed those who are of the sons of Levi, who receive the priesthood, have a commandment to receive tithes from the people according to the law, that is, from their brethren, though they have come from the loins of Abraham;  but he whose genealogy is not derived from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. Now beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better. Here mortal men receive tithes, but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives.  Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.

What we have here in Genesis 14 is a theophany... a pre-incarnate visit to earth by the King of kings, Yeshua the Messiah.  Our King of kings is not only our Passover Lamb, but He is our great High Priest, appearing right here in Genesis!  And Abraham worshiped Him and even shared communion with him!

I love how Levi is described as still being bound up in the loins of his father Abraham, meaning that Yeshua is not from the natural priestly line of Levi.  He is our supernatural High Priest.

How interesting that in the near future, right after a war, there will be a king in Jerusalem.  This same Prophet, Priest, and King of Righteousness and Peace, will reign the globe for 1000 years!

Genesis 14 wraps up with Abram telling the king of Sodom that he doesn’t want his stuff, except that which was eaten by his chiefs who went with him.  So after giving one tenth of the spoils to Melchi-Tzadik, Abram apparently gave everything back to the king of Sodom anyway, minus expenses, not wanting it to be known that the king of Sodom made him rich.

God's story continues to unfold... stick around!

Click here for the next post.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Genesis Post 28 - Abram and Lot Split Up (Chapter 13)

Chapter 13 opens with the account of Abram back in the land, only now he is loaded with riches.  He journeyed back to the altar that he had built in Bethel (which means House of God).

It is quite possible that this altar near the House of God spoken of  was built on the Mount of Olives which was located in what was to eventually become Jerusalem.  The Mount of Olives overlooked the future site of the Temple, or the House of God.  That particular spot was and is highly prophetic in the plan of God.

And it was at this place that Abram called on the name of the LORD, which is not really "LORD" but Yehovah (some say Yahweh or Jehovah).

We read that Lot came along, too.  Was Lot in Egypt?  We don't know.  Either he was, or he met up with his uncle somewhere when Abram returned.

These guys were now so wealthy that the land where they were was not able to support all their flocks and herds together.  Their respective herdsmen - probably the locals who were Canaanites and Perizzites - were fighting with each other.  They were fighting over every blade of grass and every drop of water, both of which were scarce in the land.  It was time to part ways.  

Abram, wanting to keep the peace with his nephew, kindly offered him the first choice of land.  Lot looked around and chose the well-watered plain of Jordan, which at that time included the fertile land of Sodom and Gomorrah. 

Lot journeyed east.  I've spoken about the direction of east before.  It is the direction that is opposite of blessing. 

Abram stayed to the west, and Lot pitched his tent in Sodom.  Big mistake.  The residents there were very bad dudes, as we will soon see.  But the land was lush, and that is why Lot chose it.  At the time, it was the best land.

In verses 14-17, the LORD reiterated His promise to Abram:
And the LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him: “Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are—northward, southward, eastward, and westward; for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever. And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered. Arise, walk in the land through its length and its width, for I give it to you.”

Can I just share my favorite Abrahamic art again?
Look at all that prophetic dust on the ground!

The chapter wraps up with Abram moving his tent to the grove of terebinth trees at Mamre, which was in Hebron.

Wait.  Terebinth shows up again.  What exactly is it?  According to botanists, it is a varietal of a pistachio tree, from which turpentine is extracted.  The botanical name is pistachia terebinthus.

Scholars have identified a symbolic meaning to this tree to include as memorials to death, and also mighty or sturdy, and also representing knowledge of right and wrong which leads to peace and smoothness.

Wow.  Having visited Hebron myself, I can clearly see how these meanings are manifested even today.  The burial place of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, and Leah is right there today in Hebron.  The site is covered by a massive building that was erected by Herod the Great.

Tomb of the Patriarchs, Hebron
One side of the building is the Jewish side, and the other side is the Muslim side, and never do the two meet.  In fact, the Jews were only allowed back into the building when Hebron was liberated in 1967.  Before that, the Muslims would only let them ascend to the seventh step on the outside of the building.

So what does Mamre mean?  And Hebron, for that matter?

Mamre means strength or fatness.  And Hebron means conjunction, or joining.  

Some day, when the Messiah returns, the knowledge of right and wrong will be complete and will lead to peace and smoothness.  The two divided sides of the tomb will be joined together under the rule of one Messiah!

But once again I am getting ahead of myself.  In a few chapters, we will come back to this very significant place.

To continue this series, click here.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Genesis Post 27 - Abram's Journeys (Chapter 12)

Picking up in Genesis 12:4, we see that Abraham finally departed from his father's house in Haran, at age 75.  It was time for his social security checks to be forwarded to the land of Canaan.  So he took his wife, his nephew, and everything he owned and loaded up his camels.  (At this point, Abram still had another century to live!)

Abram made his way to the city of Shechem, and went up a hill called Elon Moreh, as far as the terebinth tree. And the scripture tells us, there were Canaanites in the land.

I have driven up this hill, with three screaming women in my car.  I am trying to imagine 75-year-old Abram making that climb!  It is worth it though.  It is still one of my favorite places in all of Israel, and there is still a terebinth tree at the top.  Is it THE terebinth tree?  I don't know, but I climbed it anyway.

In verse 7, God showed the land to Abram, and Abram immediately built an altar and worshiped the LORD.  This was the very first reveal of the promised land to Abram, and the very first altar to YHVH built in the land.  The context of the first worship in the land is the land itself.

The view from Elon Moreh is astounding.  It is on Mount Kabir and overlooks the Valley of Tirzah, through which Joshua would some day lead the Israelites coming up from the Jordan River.  The mounts of blessing and cursing (Gerazim and Ebal; see Deuteronomy 11:29) are fully in view.  It is easy to picture Abram looking in every direction, seeing the beautiful mountains and valleys that the LORD was giving to his descendants.

Abram's view from Mount Kabir

But those Canaanites.

Is God trying to start a conflict or something?

The modern name is Nablus, and it is located deep inside the contested areas of the Holy Land.  It is interesting to note that in Arabic, Nabulus means new city.  Shechem, on the other hand, means the back; specifically the neck between the shoulders, or figuratively, as the place of burdens; a spur of a hill.

It is sad to say that Shechem is generally off limits to Jews today.  It is the location of Joseph's tomb, and also Jacob's well, both of which I have visited.   Joseph's tomb had just been vandalized right before I got there.  The Jews are allowed, once per month, to visit the tomb of Joseph.  The visit always takes place at night, with IDF soldiers accompanying them for protection.

Moving on...

Abram continued on a southward journey through the land, building yet another altar as he went.

Then we come to verse 10:
Now there was a famine in the land. 

Goodness gracious, can't Abram catch a break?

In the south (Negev in Hebrew), there is no water, nothing green, only death. Gotta go!  Abram had to leave the promised land and go to Egypt.

At this point, we get to learn a little bit about Sarai. She was cute. Sixty five years old and still a looker. Abraham thought, hmm, they’re going to like her… I better say "She’s my sister."  He actually begged Sarai to go along with it.

So, this great man of faith was afraid of the king of Egypt. Sarah was that good looking. Apparently, she was to die for... so he lied.

Technically, she was his half sister, as scripture later tells us.  So it was a half-truth.  Was Abram the first politician?  Telling a lie based on a partial truth, for self-preservation?

All the princes of Egypt concurred that Abraham's sister was a hottie, so they brought her to Pharaoh's harem.

Yikes.  It was time for Godly intervention, because Sarai getting pregnant by the ruler of Egypt would have messed up the line of the promised Redeemer.  So Pharaoh's household was stricken with a terrible plague.

God was preserving and protecting Sarai - and the line of the Messiah - through this plague. The Jewish rabbis say that the plague was some kind of painful STD.

In verse 18, we see that Pharaoh was angry and he sent Abram and Sarai away, along with all of their treasures that they accumulated in Egypt.

Dude, take your wife and get outta here!

We see here a foreshadowing of future exodus, when Israel departed the land amidst great plagues and with great treasures.  Also, scripture will show us yet another exodus, when Yeshua returned from Egypt with His parents.

Hosea 11:1 says,
“When Israel was a child, I loved him, And out of Egypt I called My son.
This is quoted in Matthew 2 when Yeshua made His own exodus.

It's almost like the LORD wants us to pay attention to these departures from Egypt!  Egypt is used sometimes as a metaphor for sin in the scriptures.  So chew on that for awhile!  Deliverance from sin?  Both Abraham and Moses departed Egypt with great treasure.  Yeshua departed Egypt, being the great treasure Himself!

Let's look at another prophetic picture that we can see in the lives of Abram and Sarai.  (Sorry, I keep using those names because we haven't gotten to the name change yet.)

Anyway, if Abraham is known as the father of our faith, then this makes Sarah the mother.   And she is beautiful! Is Father Abraham a prophetic picture of the Messiah? And is Sarah a picture of the bride of Messiah?  Is the bride of Messiah beautiful?

We don't know what Sarai looked like.  But we know
she was beautiful.

In the context of husbands and wives, Ephesians 5 tells us this:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Messiah also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.

I could say so much more right now about this prophetic picture, but I would be getting ahead of myself.  So stay tuned for more crazy adventures now that Abram and Sarai have returned to the Promised Land. 

Click here to read about the breakup between Abram and Lot.

Genesis Post 26 - Introduction To Abraham's Covenant (Chapter 12)

We now reach Genesis 12, a key chapter in Genesis.

My absolute favorite artistic depiction of Father Abraham

This new beginning is going to be accompanied by an unconditional covenant. This covenant is still in effect today, as we will soon see.  This is the third covenant that we have seen between God and man since Genesis began.  (The first was with Adam and Eve, and the second was with Noah.  If you are not familiar with the seven covenants, click here for a refresher of this scriptural framework).

Verses 1-3 say,
Now the LORD  had said to Abram:
“Get out of your country,
From your family
And from your father’s house,
To a land that I will show you.
I will make you a great nation;
I will bless you
And make your name great;
And you shall be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Most believers have no idea how important these verses are today.  All the last days happenings stem from this covenant.  Everything going on in the Middle East today starts here. And the devil knows it.

The covenant was announced here, but was not initiated here, because Abram was not yet in the Promised Land.

The covenant is absolutely tied to the land. The land is very important.  It cannot be separated from the Abrahamic Covenant.

The covenant has three main parts to it, and they are all connected:
  • The Land  (God would take him to a new land)
  • The Seed (God would bless him, and make from him a great nation and a great name)
  • The Blessing  (All the nations of the earth would be blessed through him)
The covenant starts with the land. Then it turns into a nation.

And then the promise is given that his name would be great... and today, all three monotheistic religions claim Abraham as their father.

When God told Abraham he would make him into a great nation, he was speaking of the separate nation of Israel, who was to be separate from the nations.  As we will soon learn, Ishmael would be given his own covenant, and told he would be a great nation, but the Abrahamic covenant was passed on to Isaac and then to Jacob.  We will see this in upcoming chapters in Genesis.

This section ends with the promise of blessing to all nations of the world.  It extends through the very end of the Bible.

Four times in these verses, the LORD God says I will, and He does.  This covenant contains no ifs.  It is unconditional.  As the covenant unfolds in future chapters, we will continue to see the unconditional and permanent nature of the covenant.

Embedded into the covenant is a warning to the world.
I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;

Lovers of Israel such as myself know Genesis 12:3 very well.

Historically, nations that curse Israel do not do well. Nations, people, and even congregations that actively bless Israel do favorably.

One of my very favorite things about Donald Trump is that he has actively blessed Israel, unlike any other president in our modern history.

There are numerous books available that outline the parallels of this blessing.  Several that come to mind are these:
The Israel Omen (2 books)
As America Has Done to Israel
Eye to Eye:  Facing the Concequences of Dividing Israel

In a nutshell:
The costliest insurance events, the costliest hurricanes, the largest tornado outbreaks, the " Perfect Storm," the 9/11 terror events, and Hurricane Katrina corresponded to White House pressure on Israel to divide their land.

It is very important to realize that there are two different Hebrew words used for curse.

Arar means to curse, as we understand it.
Qalal, on the other hand, means to make light of, or to trivialize. In other words, to consider something unimportant, or failure to esteem.

A more accurate translation of Genesis 12:3 would be,
I will bless those who bless you, and he who treats you indifferently I will curse.

Why is God so strict on this? To disrespect Israel is to disrespect God himself.  Scripture says that Israel is the apple of his eye, which is an idiom for pupil.  It is like poking God in the eye when you fail to esteem Israel.

Sadly, Israell gets very little respect in the eyes of the world, the United Nations, and even in the church.

Of course, it is a remnant of God’s people who do get it. God seems to do much work through a remnant of people.

Blessing Israel doesn’t make you any better than anyone else, it just makes you blessed. Do you want God blessing in your life? Give it a try. Start actively blessing Israel.

I will repeat what I said in the Isaiah class, a paraphrased quote from Mike Bickle of IHOP: If you haven’t seen what God is doing with Israel, and you’re not excited about what God is doing through Israel, you are not understanding it.

God‘s plan with Israel as a nation has been on hold for the sake of the rest of the nations, since 70 AD. You and I are included in that.  Look at Galatians 3:8...
And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.”

Israel as a nation, however, will not remain on hold forever.  The overall plan of God for humankind revolves around Israel. The first and second comings of the Messiah revolve around Israel. Israel is key.  When foreigners and strangers attach themselves to Israel, like Ruth did, they share in the blessing, like Ruth did.

How exactly can we bless Israel?  I wrote a post on it once; you can click here to read it.

All this in just the first three verses of Genesis 12!  We'd better move on.  Click here to continue on in Genesis.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Genesis Post 25 - Outline of a New Line (Chapter 11)

Genesis 11 abruptly switches gears after the account of Babel's tower.  What do we see next?

A new beginning.  More genealogy.  Suddenly, the focus is only on Shem.  Why?  Because God is preparing to dwell in the tents of Shem.  Once again, God is going to preserve the one true faith in the One True God through one family.  We have finished the once upon a time introduction of the Bible, and now the story really gets going!

Remember, there were ten generations from Adam to Noah.  We are now seeing ten more generations from Noah to Abraham.  In the midst of the second "ten," the LORD God pushed the reset button once again when He destroyed the Tower of Babel and scattered the languages.

The number ten represents righteous government, and also a time of testing.  So already God had to push the resent button twice.  But now something new is going to take place, and it is going to begin with Abraham.  Abraham kicked off a new era that is still in effect today.  This one "took."  The coming righteous government of King Messiah can be traced back to faithful Abraham.

In the genealogy of chapter 11, we see names and ages.  We see each of these post-flood generations living fewer and fewer years.  Here is the lineup:
  • Shem - 600 years
  • Arphaxad - 438 years
  • Salah - 433 years
  • Eber - 464 years (he broke the pattern and outlived his son)
  • Peleg - 239 years
  • Reu - 239 years
  • Serug - 230 years
  • Nahor - 148 years
  • Terah - 205 years
  • Abraham - 175 years
An interesting side note:  if you do the biblical math, you can go all the way back to Adam, add up all the ages, and discover that Abraham was born in the year 1948 from creation.  Hmmm, that number sounds familiar.  The state of Israel was born in 1948 on the Roman calendar.  Coincidence?  I think not.

Having even more fun with math, I discovered that Shem would have died right around the time that Peleg was born.  And Peleg, whose name means division, was born around the time of the Babel dispersion, as we saw in Genesis 10:25.  So Shem lived right up to the time of Babel!

Chapter 11 wraps up with details on Abraham's family.  See if you can wrap your head around it all:

Terah had three boys:  Abram, Nahor, and Haran.  Genesis 20:12 tells us that Terah also had at least one daughter:  Sarai, who then married her half brother Abram.  They lived in Ur of the Chaldeans. Ur was southeast of the city of Babel in Mesopotamia.  Archaeology has shown Ur to be a very wealthy city, as well as highly civilized.

While still in Ur, Haran begot a son named Lot and a daughter named Milcah, and then he died.

Nahor married his niece, Milcah.

Did they tell jokes back then about family trees, too?  As in, "You can tell ur from Ur because your family tree doesn't fork."

One very important detail is mentioned in verse 30:
But Sarai was barren; she had no child. 
This crucial detail, found here in seed form, will unfold in a big way very soon.  This might be a good place to mention that Abram means exalted father, even though his wife had no child.

So Terah, Abram, Sarai, and Lot set out for the land of Canaan, but stopped in Haran (not to be confused with Terah's son Haran - it is spelled differently in the Hebrew.  The name of the man means mountaineer and the name of the city means parched.)

Abram leaves Ur with his wife, dad, and nephew

In Acts 7, Stephen gave the high priest a little history lesson on the nation of Israel, and the story he told starts right here in Genesis 11:
 And he said, “Brethren and fathers, listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, and said to him, ‘Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you.’ Then he came out of the land of the Chaldeans and dwelt in Haran. And from there, when his father was dead, He moved him to this land in which you now dwell.

Stephen continued on for 52 verses, basically telling the whole story of the Bible to the Sanhedrin, and then the leaders got really mad and stoned him for it.

So why did Abram take his father with him when the LORD had told him to leave his father's house? And why did they settle in Haran?

In Joshua 24:2, we learn that Terah worshiped other gods. He was an idolator; possibly even an idol maker. Even though Abram was headed in the right direction, he could not cross over to the land God promised him until he actually left his father's house. And that didn't happen until Terah died in Haran at the ripe old age of 205.

There is a story that Jewish rabbis tell about a conversation between Abram and his father Terah, that goes something like this:  One day, Abram destroyed all of his fathers idols. When his father came home and saw his idols destroyed, he angrily asked, "Who did this?"  Abram said, "Why don't you ask your idols?" Terah replied, "That's ridiculous! They are just dumb and stupid wood and stone, they can’t talk!" Abram just smiled and said, "You said it, daddy!"

Coming up:  Intro to Abraham's covenant.  Click here.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Genesis Post 24 - The Tower of Babel (Chapter 11)

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way...  (A Tale of Two Cities opening line, by Charles Dickens)

After the table of nations in chapter 10, we could say that the rest of the Bible is a tale of two cities… Babylon, and God's City.  The first half of chapter 11 sets the stage.  It begins like this:

Now the whole earth had one language and one speech.

The ancient people settled on the plain of Shinar, which we called Mesopotamia in history class - the fertile crescent between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.  Today, the nation of Iraq sits on this place.  It appears that Noah's descendants were still sticking together and not obeying the command of the LORD to spread out and fill the earth.

Verse 4 says,
And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”

Isn't that what people still desire?  To make a name for ourselves?  Inherent in humans is this desire for significance. It is one of the reasons we give a memorial at a funeral or name a building after its chief donor.   We also see this on a local level when we cheer for the home team.  We want our name lifted up and glorified.  But I digress...

Anyway, these guys didn't want to spread out.  "Let's unify," they declared. They wanted a city, and they wanted to do as they pleased.  Today it seems that the bigger the city, the greater the sin contained therein. 

I live in a small town. Yes, there is sin, but we still have a lot of old-fashioned values here. We don’t have a red light district or an annual pride parade. We don’t even have a Walmart!

So anyway, these guys joined together and built a tower in a city called Babel, which eventually became Babylon. As we learned in chapter 10, the city of Babel was founded by Nimrod.

What exactly was that tower? It was probably a pagan tower, used for star watching in order to mess up God's plan. A big, idolatrous monument, a false temple. It represented the first false religion on earth, and is also the source of all false religions of the earth. God created the stars and named the constellations long before demonic forces corrupted the meanings of the stars and enslaved people with superstitious horoscope addiction.

Today, instead of the star patterns telling God's holy story, we can open up a newspaper and see how it has been twisted to tell man's story. But God's story began in the first month with Virgo (the virgin) and ended in the last month - Leo (the lion), according to the Genesis calendar which began in what we now call September. The wise men who came from the east at Messiah's birth knew how to read God's story in the heavens.

Nimrod was probably the instigator of the false Babylonian religious system. The false gods that arose from this system were the sun god (originally named after Nimrod himself), his wife the moon goddess (Semiramis), and their son Tammuz. The bible hints about these details; for instance, Jeremiah rebuked the Jewish women for baking cakes for the Queen of Heaven, who happened to be the moon goddess.

Much more information on this system can be found outside the Bible as well. For instance, the ancient Epic of Gilgamesh was written during this time and is considered the oldest surviving piece of literature, from ancient Sumeria. It highlights all kinds of pagan worship that was going on by that time.  

Most of that worship was sexual in nature. There were always temple prostitutes, both male and female. The theme was always fertility. This is why the word harlotry is often used in scripture for worshiping other gods. Idolatry and fornication are biblically linked.

Archaeologists have uncovered evidence of this same type of god/goddess worship all over the world.  Do any of these names sound familiar?  Ishtar.  Ashtoreth.  Asherah.  Isis.  Aphrodite.  Venus.  Baal.  Molech.  Kinich Ahau.  Artemis.  Diana.  And a zillion others.  Even the 300 million Hindu gods have their origin at Babel.  They simply continue to morph as needed (or invented) by man.  For a more extensive list of these false dieties, click here.

When the division happened and the languages were formed, these gods and goddesses took on new names in their new cultures.  They continued to morph throughout history and cultures.

We are told that the division happened in the days of Peleg, who was the sixth generation down from Noah.  Nimrod was the fourth generation from Noah, so it did not take long for this false religious system to take hold in man's heart.

Revelation 17 speaks of this system.
And on her forehead a name was written:

The future fall of this false system is prophesied in Isaiah 21:9 and Jeremiah 51:8.  And its final fall is prophesied in Revelation 18:
And he cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!

So in Babel, the LORD came down to put a stop to the wicked building project.  He confused their language and the people scattered throughout the earth, taking Ishtar or Isis or Aphrodite or the Mayan sun god with them.

I have written about the false Babylonian religious system before.  If you would like to review, you can click here or here.

Artist's rendition of the Babel tower

Click here to continue on in Genesis.