Thursday, August 30, 2018

Genesis Post 37 - Here We Go Again (Chapter 20)

We now come to chapter 20, which seems to be a repeat of what happened with Abraham and Sarah in Egypt.

The same pattern shows up again. Abraham tells the same half-truth, the king takes Sarah, a plague of infertility happens, and Abraham and Sarah depart with great riches.

There are some differences, however.

Abraham had gone to Egypt because of a famine in the promised land.  Egypt is a metaphor for sin, and the big moral of that story was departure out of sin, metaphorically speaking.  This time, Abraham did not leave the land.

Also, Abimelech is open to hearing from YHVH, who shows up in a dream to the king. It is a scary dream.  Abimelech is told, The woman you have taken is married and you are about to die.

But in verses 4 and 5, Abimilech declares, Wait a minute!  The guy said she was his sister.  Plus I haven't touched her!  I am innocent in this matter!  Will you also slay a righteous nation?  (He must be referring to Sodom and Gomorrah here).

In the dream, Abimelech calls God Lord, or adonai, meaning master.  He does not know the name of God, YHVH, but he does know that this Lord is the boss.  And he has a built-in conscience that knows right from wrong... a built-in morality. He knows it is wrong to take a married woman.  And Abimelech also knows that taking Sarah would have been a sin against God Himself.

Confrontation between Abe and Abi over Sarah.

We have been given that same conscience because of the fruit eaten from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Ever since Adam took that first bite, man has had the knowledge of good and evil.  But many people allow their consciences to be seared against that knowledge.

In verse 6, God affirms Abimelech's innocence and then gives him some instructions in verse 7. Give her back to her husband... he is a prophet and he will pray for you.  This is the first time the word nevi, or prophet, is used in scripture.  Abraham the prophet is about to intercede for the foreign king.

But first they have a heated discussion in verses 9-13, after which Abraham wraps up the chapter with a healing prayer for the household of Abimelech.

So why is this chapter even in our book, this basic re-run of what took place in Egypt?

This time, Abraham is not told to leave. He is already in the promised land. He gets to stay.  In verse 15, Abimelech offers him his choice of whatever land he wants (which was really nice of Abimelech but YHVH had already given it to Abe).  And then in verse 16, the king redeems Sarah with boatloads of silver, thus clearing her.

And this time, Sarah is about to conceive the promised covenant child, Isaac.  Once again, God protects the covenant.  In fact, she may have already been pregnant at this point, although we don't read about it until the next chapter.

This story highlights the attempt of a foreign king to take away the Abrahamic Covenant.  But then we see the faithfulness of YHVH to that covenant.  And we see redemption by silver.  Does that sound familiar?  It should.  Silver represents the price of redemption and shows up frequently in the scriptures.

In the midst of all these human foibles, YHVH protects His everlasting covenant with Abraham, and His plan continues to unfold today.

Click here to see the continuing saga.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Genesis Post 36 A Lot of Awkwardness (Chapter 19)

In Genesis 19, we left off where Lot and his family ran for their lives, Mrs. Lot looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.

Pillar in the wilderness near the Dead Sea

Lot asked the LORD if he could go to Zohar, a small city.  He was not a rural dweller, preferring to live near a Starbucks instead.

Did you ever notice that it seems like the bigger the city, the greater the sin?  Perhaps because people can live anonymously there, and do whatever is in their hearts to do.  Give me a small town any day.

It is sad and tragic how sin is celebrated today.

God allowed Lot to run to Zohar before His wrath was poured out on the area. Verse 26 says,
So He overthrew those cities, all the plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.

The fertile plain was now in ruins.  If you have been to the Dead Sea, you know that nothing grows there.  It is truly a wilderness.  And the four remaining righteous people were now down to three.

By the way, why was Lot called righteous in 2 Peter 2:7?  He doesn't seem all that righteous on the surface when he was in Sodom.  But because of Abraham, who raised him like a son, he had faith.  And just like Abraham, he was made righteous by his faith.

If someone had wanted to make up a big story that was to be the foundation of their faith, they probably would have cleaned these guys up and made them look good.  But all their foibles were recorded the way they happened.  To me, this is another proof that the Bible is true.  I am so thankful for the examples of these imperfect patriarchs and matriarchs, especially when I mess up.

Anyway, something about Zohar did not sit right with Lot.  Perhaps because he saw the burning sulfur raining out of the sky, completely destroying the city where he had lived, Lot now might think he still isn't safe in Zohar.  So he and his daughters take off for the mountains.

Lot had became afraid. There are probably several reasons why he’d be afraid.  Maybe the trauma of the destruction of his city and his wife gave him PTSD.

So in fear, Lot goes and hides in a cave.

Now the story gets awkward to our modern ears.

One of the biggest themes in the Bible is the importance of family, geneology, and one's name.  The concept eventually got written into the Mosaic Law... if a Jewish man died leaving no heirs, his brother was required to produce an heir with the dead man's wife, in order to carry on the name of the dead man.

What was behind the tower of Babel?  Come, let us make a name for ourselves.  

The worst thing that can happen in Judaism is to have your name erased from the Book of Life... it is the main theme of the fall holidays in Judaism today.  May your name be inscribed in the Book of Life for another year is the common new year's greeting.  And then they have ten days to make amends with anyone they are at odds with.

Lot's oldest daughter understood this concept. She took action.  Verses 31-33 tell us, 
Now the firstborn said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is no man on the earth to come in to us as is the custom of all the earth. Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve the lineage of our father.” So they made their father drink wine that night. And the firstborn went in and lay with her father, and he did not know when she lay down or when she arose.

The account continues with the younger daughter following suit the next night.

Then, scripture tells us this:
Thus both the daughters of Lot were with child by their father. The firstborn bore a son and called his name Moab; he is the father of the Moabites to this day. And the younger, she also bore a son and called his name Ben-Ammi; he is the father of the people of Ammon to this day.

Moab means progeny of a father, so the older daughter basically just named her child incest.  Cringe.

And Ben Ammi means son of my people.

And this action created two of Israel‘s worst enemies… The Ammonites and the Moabites.

The Ammonites were the first ones to bring child sacrifice into Israel.

These two people groups were like thorns and Israel side.

In the gardening world, thorns come up virtually overnight. Two nights, two daughters, two pregnancies.

To keep the family line, they had to bring out the wine…

But Isaac took a long long time to come forth. He was not a thorn.

However, something good did come out of this drunken night of incest hiding in a cave. Fast forward 1000 years, to the time of Judges, to my personal biblical hero, Ruth the Moabite.

The family line that began in that cave in fear and drunkenness became the part of the lineage of King David and of Yeshua Himself.  Talk about redemption!

The story of Ruth is one of the most beautiful and messianic stories in all of Scripture.

The first coming of the Messiah required a Gentile joining with Israel. The second coming of the Messiah will take a Ruth-like company joining with Israel.  Are you in?

For the next post, click here.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Genesis Post 35 - The Sad Saga of Sodom (Chapter 19)

We now come to the sad and tragic chapter 19.  Sodom and Gomorrah.  I'd rather skip this chapter, but alas, I cannot.

It starts out with two of the visitors who had come from Abraham's tent.

The messengers find Lot sitting in the city gate, which is very telling.  In the ancient Middle East, the gate of a city is where the leaders and important people would hang out.  Lot had become one of them, or was at least trying to be.

It is clear from the way Lot greets the messengers that he somehow knows that they are very important visitors.  And when the visitors said they would spend the night in the open square, Lot strongly insists they accompany him to his home.  Perhaps Lot knew how dangerous it would be for these two visitors to be out at night.

Lot takes them to his home and immediately shows them some good old Middle Eastern hospitality, just like Abraham had done.  An interesting detail is mentioned in the menu:  unleavened bread.  Leaven represents sin.  The meal was prophetic, in that sin was about to be dealt with!

Eventually, the perverts of the town come calling.

Lot pleads with his "brethren" to not do this thing that they threaten.  Notice, he calls them brothers.  These are his homeys.  His squad.  Apparently, Lot's squad has different goals than he does.

I have a hard time understanding what Lot does next... he offers his two virgin daughters to the crowd.  It sounds like a crazy thing for Lot to do, but it helps to understand an ancient custom, which was once you brought someone into your house, you were obligated to protect them.

Lot's squad turns on him and attacks him, and he has to be pulled back into his house by his visitors.  And then the LORD strikes the evil crowd with blindness.  (A lesson here:  choose your squad wisely)

The angelic messengers then tell Lot to gather his family together... his sons, his daughters, his sons-in-law, and get 'em outta here.  Lot goes to visit his sons-in-law, who had probably married two more of Lot's daughters, and they treat Lot's plea as a big joke.

Side note:  It is also possible that Lot only had two daughters, the virgin ones that he offered, and that they were betrothed to these sons-in-law.  Betrothal was as binding as marriage, if not more so.  But the virgin daughters would still have been in their father's home.

In the morning, Lot hesitates. It appears that he had become addicted to a luxurious lifestyle. He really didn’t want to go. The angels had to grab Lot, his wife, and the two daughters who lived at home. We are told that the LORD is merciful to Lot's family.  The angels tell them to flee to the mountains and don't look back!

The expression run for your lives comes from right here in Genesis.

For some reason, we find out that Lot was not a mountain man.  He begs to go to a little city (which was sure to have at least a Starbucks and a grocery store, perhaps?)  The angels relent and allow him to escape to Zoar, which means little city.

And then, this:
The sun had risen upon the earth when Lot entered Zoar. Then the LORD rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the LORD out of the heavens. So He overthrew those cities, all the plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.
But his wife looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.

Why did she look back?   It is my opinion that Mrs. Lot was not simply curious. I believe she did not want to give up her luxury. She was looking back, yearning for it.

We then see Abraham, looking toward the ruins of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the Word tells us that Lot was saved because of his connection to Abraham.   And I believe Lot had his own measure of faith, also thanks to Abraham, who had raised him like a son.

So why did all of this happen?  Chapter 18 told us that the outcry against Sodom was great, and that their sin was very grave.

The word for outcry in Hebrew means a cry of distress. Who is crying out?  As we examine the sin of Sodom, we can see that the cries would have been both figurative (as in Abel's blood crying out from the ground) and literal - coming from the oppressed that were inside and outside of the city.

Was homosexuality the big sin of Sodom and Gomorrah?


Stay with me here. The Bible shows us that Sodom's sexual perversion was the resulting fruit of something much deeper and darker.

Look at the prophetic words of Ezekiel 16:49-50, in a rebuke to backslidden Israel:
Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me; therefore I took them away as I saw fit.

Notice what comes first in Ezekiel's list of sins: Pride.  Is this why cities have their Pride fests?  How interesting that the gay agenda is driven by pride.  Did they pull the idea from Ezekiel and Genesis?  Did they intentionally steal the rainbow from the Bible, too?

In the Gospel of Luke, God compares the end-times world to the days of Noah and the days of Lot. In Noah's case, there was a rainbow.  And in Lot's case, there was homosexuality.  And in both cases there was destruction.  Pride, homosexuality, rainbows, destruction.  Ouch.

Ezekiel continues.  The next sin hits closer to home for me:  fullness of food.  In other words, gluttony.  Then comes idleness, and ignoring the poor and needy.  Notice that their abominable acts were the end result.

So the people were arrogant, overfed, under concerned. They lived in careless ease. They did not help the poor, they were prideful and they did detestable things.

Can you say uh oh?  Is this our world today, or what?

In the New Testament, we see the same idea in the first chapter of Romans. Verses 18-24 say this:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,  because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.

Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature.  Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.

Notice that this passage opens with God's wrath over both godlessness and wickedness.  Just as in Sodom, the sexual sin comes later and is a consequence of denying God and living for ourselves.

Look at the list of last days sins in 2 Timothy 3.
But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.

Despisers of good reminds me of Isaiah 5:20, which says,
Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness;
Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

Notice that Timothy's list doesn't even mention sexual perversion.  But just like Ezekiel and Romans, Timothy mentions the sins that lead up to its final manifestation.

One more thing:  God uses the destruction of Sodom in the New Testament to warn us of the destruction that comes from ungodly living.  See 2 Peter 2 and Jude 7.

So what is the solution for us as believers in these last days, as an antidote to the unrighteousness of the world?  I believe a hint is given to us in the Romans 1 passage.  It tells us that the wicked people did not glorify God, nor were they thankful.

That's it!  Glorify God, and be thankful!  Worship Him alone, and with a heart of gratitude.  And then be His light in the darkness that surrounds us today.  And know that He is coming soon!

Click here for the next post in this series.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Genesis Post 34 - The Visitors (Chapter 18)

Chapter 18 starts out with a zinger:
Then YEHOVAH appeared to him by the terebinth trees of Mamre, as he was sitting in the tent door in the heat of the day. 

This is the first time that the tetragrammaton - YHVH - shows up as a human being in the Word.  He visits Abraham in the heat of the day.  And there's that terebinth tree again!

Abraham beholds three visitors, whom he must have immediately perceived as divine because he bowed low before them.  He addressed one of them as Adonai, which means My Lord (always in the context of God).  Abraham, although he himself was a master to many servants, calls himself a servant of the one particular visitor - Adonai.

In keeping with Middle East custom of showing hospitality, the first thing Abraham does is take care of their physical needs... water for drinking and washing, rest, and food.

In fact, the Jewish rabbis deal with this chapter by focusing on the hospitality of Abraham, and they divert from God Himself appearing as a human. It perhaps sounds too much like Yeshua, which of course, it is.  This is one of Yeshua's numerous pre-incarnate visits to earth.

So Abraham has his servants prepare a meal for the visitor faster than a Food Network episode of Chopped, so it seems.  The ingredients in his basket were flour, milk, butter, and veal.  

Abraham had it easy:  it could have been worse!

(It is interesting to note that Abraham mixed milk and dairy in a meal that he served to God Himself.  Perhaps the Torah command not to boil a calf in its mother's milk was a very straightforward command that meant: do boil a calf in its mother's milk, quite possibly because it used to be a pagan fertility ritual and God wanted Israel to be set apart).

Apparently the visitors enjoyed the meal very much, because what they tell him after they were done eating is great news indeed.

First, they inquire of Sarah's whereabouts in verse 9.  After being reassured that she was eavesdropping from the tent (even though He already knew it), Yehovah announces His great promise, finally!

And He said, “I will certainly return to you, according to the time of life, and behold, Sarah your wife shall have a son.”  (Sarah was listening in the tent door which was behind him.)

After 24 years of waiting, what does Sarah do?  She laughs to herself in verse 12.

Well, the LORD heard her internal laughter (proof that this is YEHOVAH in the flesh). He calls her out.  She argues.  He wins.

Why was Sarah chided for her laughter, and Abraham was not when he laughed back in chapter 17?  It is because Abraham's was a laugh of delight and Sarah's was a laugh of disbelief.  She was rebuked.

All this laughter over the birth of a miracle baby... Abraham and Sarah wouldn't need a baby name book, as we will see in a few chapters when Sarah's mocking laughter will turn into joyous laughter.

In verse 16, we see a sudden change of subject.  The men arise and look toward Sodom.  And then we see the LORD Himself about to share His plans with Abraham.  

Scripture tells us in James that Abraham was a friend of God.  Because of this, and because of the great covenant which the LORD had just established with Abraham (that affects the entire world still today), the LORD shares His plan him.

The other two angelic messengers leave, but the LORD remains behind and Abraham stands before Him.

In that moment, Abraham becomes an intercessor.  He pleads for Sodom for the sake of the righteous that might be within.  Abraham begins with 50 and ends at 10.  This is where the Jewish concept of a minyan (10 men praying together) comes from.

Prayer minyan of ten men

Today, as part of God's household of faith, we also have the privilege of being intercessors before the LORD, to plead for His mercy in place of judgment.  And we don't need ten people to do it, although community prayer certainly is a powerful thing.  Abraham interceded alone.

Also, the LORD does not hide from us when he is going to do in these last days. We know that there is a righteous judgment coming soon... His word says so. Because we are children of Abraham by faith, God has shared His plan with us. We too are his friends. God shares his plans with his friends.

When Abraham finishes pleading for mercy, the LORD departs and Abraham returns to his place.  He's got a baby to father!  And the LORD has to go deal with some serious sin.

Click here to read all about it.