January 9: Noteworthy Stories
Genesis 16–17; Matthew 12; Ecclesiastes 3:16–22
When God’s promises are lavished on Abram in Genesis, we can’t help but feel a bit surprised. It seems undeserved—mainly because we know nothing about Abram. We haven’t had a chance to weigh his wisdom or foolishness, something Ecclesiastes endorses. Yet God promises to make Abram’s children as numerous as the stars in the sky (a blessing in the ancient Near East). “I will make your name great,” He says. “I will make you a great nation.” He also promises protection: “I am your shield.” Even after the fact, God doesn’t disclose why He wants to bless and protect Abram.
The greater context of the Genesis narrative shows that God’s blessing is certainly not just about Abram. Just before God promises to give Abram a great name, a nation, and land in Gen 12, He had scattered the nations over all the earth. At the Tower of Babel, God dispersed those who were grasping for a relationship with Him on their own terms.
But God doesn’t leave humanity this way. He presents Abram with a promise and a gift—a plan of salvation for humanity. God re-establishes relationship on His terms.
What about Abram, then? His faith is renowned throughout Scripture (Gal 3:6; Rom 4:9; Heb 11:8–12), but it’s not because he did anything particularly noteworthy—at times he even deceives others (e.g., Gen 12:10–20). It’s because of his response to God’s particularly noteworthy promises: “He believed the LORD, and he counted to him as righteousness” (Gen 15:6). He responded to God’s promises with faith, and God counted it as righteousness.
In Christ, we have an even greater promise and a greater hope. God has lavished promise and deliverance on us. We can only stand in complete awe of His goodness, and respond with trust.
Do you rest too much in your own work or failings? In what ways can you shift the emphasis to Christ’s work?
REBECCA VAN NOORD
- Now Sarai Abram’s wife bore him no children, and she had a maid an Egyptian, Hagar by name. And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now,the Lord hath restrained me from childbearing, I pray thee go in unto my maid: it may be that I shall receive a child by her. And Abram obeyed the voice of Sarai. Then Sarai Abram’s wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelled ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram for his wife. And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived: and when she saw that she had conceived, her dame was despised in her eyes. Then Sarai said to Abram, Thou doest me wrong. I have given my maid into thy bosom, and she seeth that she hath conceived, and I am despised in her eyes, the Lord judge between me and thee. Then Abram said to Sarai, Behold, thy maid is in thine hand: do with her as it pleaseth thee. Then Sarai dealt roughly with her: wherefore she fled from her. But the Angel of the Lord found her beside a fountain in the way of Shur. Then the Angel of the Lord said to her, Return to thy dame, and humble thyself under her hands. against the Angel of the Lord said unto her, I will so greatly increase thy seed, that it shall not be numbered for multitude. Also the Angel of the Lord said unto her, See, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael: for the Lord hath heard thy tribulation. And he shall be a wild man: his hand shall be against every man, and every man’s hand against him, and he shall dwel in the presence of all his brethren. Then she called the name of the Lors that spake unto her, Thou God lookest on me: for she said, Have I not also here looked after him that seeth me? Wherefore the Well was called, Beer Lahai Roi: lo, it is between Kadesh and Bered. And Hagar bare Abram a son, and Abram called his son which Hagar bare, Ishmael. And Abram was four score and six years old when Hagar bare him Ishmael. When Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am God all sufficient, walk before me, and be thou upright. And I will make my covenant between me and thee ,and I wil lmultiply thee exceedingly. Then Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying, Behold, I make my covenant with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations, Neither shall thy name anymore be called Abram but thy name shall be Abraham: for a father of many nations have I made thee. Also I will make thee eceedingly fruitful, and will make nations of thee, yea, Kings shall proceed of thee. Moreover, I will establish my covenant between me and thee, and thy seed after thee in their generations, for an everlasting dovenant, to be God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. And I will give thee and thy seed after thee the land, wherein thou art a stranger, even all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possessin, and I will be their God. Again God said unto Abraham,Thou also shalt keep my covenant, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. This is my covenant which ye shall keep between me and you, and thy seed after thee, Let every man-child among you be circumcised: That is, ye shall circumcise the foreskin of your flesh, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. And every man-child of eight days old among you, shall be circumcised in your generations, as well he that is born in thine house, as he that is bough with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed. He that is born in thine house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: so my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. But the uncircumcised man-child, in whose flesh the foreskin is not circumcised, even that person shall be cut off from his people, because he hath broken my covenant. But the uncircumcised man-child, in whose flesh the foreskin is not circumcised, even that person shall be cut off from his people, because he hath broken my covenant. Afterward God said unto Abraham, Sarai thy wife shalt thou not call Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. And I will bless her, and will also give thee a son of her, yea, I will bless her, and she shall be the mother of nations: Kings also of people shall come of her. Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him, that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah that is ninety yearss old, bear? and Abraham said unto God, Oh, that Ishmael might live in thy sight. Then God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed, and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him. And as concerning Ishmael, I have heard thee: As I have blessed him, and will ake him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly: twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make a great nation of him. But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee, the next year at this season. And he left off talkingwith him, and God went up from Abraham. Then Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house, and all that was brought with his money, that is, every man-child among the men of Abraham’s house, and he circumcised the foreskin of their flesh in that selfsame day, as God had commanded him. Abraham also himself was ninety years old and nine, when the foreskin of his flesh was circumcised. And Ishmael his son was thirteen yearss old, when the foreskin of his flesh was circumcised. The selfsame day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son: And all the men of his house bothborn in his house, and bought with money of the stranger, were circumcised with him. Genesis 16–17
- At that time Jesus went on a Sabbath day through the corn, and his disciples were an hungered, and began to pluck the ears of corn and to eat. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the Sabbath. But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did when he was an hungered, and they that were with him? How he went into the house of God, and did eat the showbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the Priests? Or have ye not read in the Law, how that on the Sabbath days the Priests in the Temple break the Sabbath, and are blameless? But I say unto you, that here is one greater than the Temple. Wherefore if ye knew what this is, I will have mercy and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the innocents. For the son of man is Lord, even of the Sabbath. And he departed thence, and went into their Synagogue: And behold, there was a man which had his hand dried up. And they asked him, saying, be it lawful to heal upon a Sabbath day? that they might accuse him. And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that hath a sheep, and if it fall onthe Sabbath day into apit, doth not take it and lift it out? How much more than is a man better than a sheep? therefore, it is lawful to do well on the Sabbath day. Then said he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth, and it was made whole as the other. Then the Pharisees went out, and consulted against him, how they might destroy him. But when Jesus knew it, he departed thence, and great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all, And charged them in threatenig wise, that they should not make him known. That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the Prophet, saying, Behold my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved in whom my soul delighteth: I will put my Spirit on him, and he shall show judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not strive, nor cry, neither shall any man hear his voice in the stress. A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he bring forth judgment unto victory. And in his Name shall the Genties trust. Then was brought to him one possessed with a devil, both blind and dumb, and he healed him, so that he which was blind and dumb, both spake and saw, And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this that son of David? But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This man casteth the devils no otherwise out but through Beelzebub the prince of devils. But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said in them, Eery kingdom divided against itself, is brought to naught, and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand. So if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself: how shall then his kingdom endure? Also if I through Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then is the kingdom of God come unto you. Else how can a man enter into a strong man’s house and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man, and then spoil his house? He that is not with me, is against me: and he that gathereth not with me, scatereth. Wherefore I say unto you, Ever sin and blaspheme shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever shall speak a word against the son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whomsoever shall speak against the holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in the world to come. Either make the tree good, and his fruit good: or else make the tree evil, and his fruit evil: for the tree is known by the fruit. O generation of vipers, how can you speak good things, when ye are evil? For of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of an evil treasure, bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you, that of every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give an account thereof at the day of judgment. for by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned. Then answered certain of the Scribes and of the Pharisees, saying, Master, we would see a sign of thee. But he answered and said to them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh a sign, but no sign shall be given unto it, save that sign of the Prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly: so shall the son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and condemn it: for they represented at the preaching of Jonah: and behold, a greater than Jonah ishere. The Queen of the South shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the utmost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon: and behold, a greater than Solomon is here. Now when the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh throughout dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into mine house from whence I came: and when he is come he findeth it empty, swept and garnished. Then he goeth, and taketh unto him seven other spirits worse than himself, and they entere in, and dwell there: and the end of that man is worse than the beginning. Even so shall it be with this wicked generation. While he yet spake to the multitude, behold, his mother, andh is brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him. Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. But he answerd, and said to him that told him, Who si smy mother, and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples and said, Behold my mother, and my brethren. For whosoever shall do my Father’s will which is in heaven, the same is my brother and sister and mother. Matthew 12
- And moreover, I have seen under the Sun the place of judgment, where was wickedness, and the place of justice, where was iniquity. I thought in mine heart the state of the children of men, that God had purged them: yet to see too, they are in themselves as beasts. For the condition of the children of men, and the conditions of beasts are even as one condition unto them. As the one dieth, so dieth the other: for they have all one breath, and there is no excellency of man above the beast: for all is vanity. All go to one place, and all was of the dust, and all shall return to the dust. Who knoweth whether the spirit of man ascend upward, and the spirit of the beast descend downward to the earth? Therefore I see that there is nothing better than a man shold rejoice in his affairs, because that is his portion. For who shall bring him to see what shall be after him? Ecclesiastes 3:16–22