GENESIS 15:1-12, 17-18
This is the story of Abram and his wife Sarai. Later on, God will rename him Abraham and his wife Sarah. Abram had it good, back in the land named Aram. But the Lord called him to leave his homeland, and travel to a distant land. God made promises to Abram (Genesis 12:1-3), and Abram obeyed the Lord. He packed up everything, and left home. In the previous chapter, there was a battle between some kings. Abram gathered some of his men, and did a good deed. Afterward, he presented an offering to Melchizedek, a priest-king.
- The “after these things” refers to the battles and offerings depicted in the previous chapter. Then, God reminds him of the promises that He made earlier (Genesis 12:1-3). (v. 1)
- But Abram has issues. God promised him to be the father of a great nation, but he has no heir. His wife is barren, and Abram is 80 years old. “What gives, God???” Furthermore, according to custom, if a successful man has no heir, his senior slave inherits his wealth. Abram can’t stomach this, apparently. God promised him an heir, and it looks like this slave from Damascus is going to get all his stuff. (vv. 2-3)
- God answers that Eliezer will not be the heir; Abram’s own issue will be the heir. He shows Abram the stars, and promises that he will have that many descendants. Abram believes God. (vv. 4-6)
- Next, God reminds Abram that the land he’s standing on is (or is going to be) his. But Abram’s not sure about that. He says “how am I to know [this]?” (vv. 7-8)
- What happens next seems weird to us, but was a common custom of the day. God instructs Abram to do what is called “cutting a covenant”. It goes like this: you take some big animals, and slaughter them. You cut them in half, and place the halves in two rows, with a pathway in between. Then, you pass through the severed carcasses. Sounds gross, eh? But by doing this, you are saying that if you break the covenant, then you deserve to be cut in two like the carcasses you’ve just passed through. It's a little like becoming blood brothers. (vv. 9-11)
- Then, Abram falls asleep, and has a dream. A smoking fire pot and flaming torch (which represent God) pass through the carcasses. By doing this, God states that if he breaks this covenant promise, He deserves to die. He will definitely keep His promise to Abram. (vv. 12, 17-18)
This story is full of Abram’s faith and God’s grace. Abram puts his trust in God, even when the details seem impossible. God stands firm in His promises. He is patient and caring, when Abram expresses doubt, or presses God for a commitment. All of this applies equally to us, in our relationship with the Lord.
This is an excerpt of a letter that Paul wrote to the tiny church in the city of Philippi. Paul was writing from a prison cell. The letter is nevertheless very upbeat, full of hope and promise.
- Paul is offering himself up as a role model to this little church. While that might appear to us as conceited, we must remember that he is writing from prison. He is in jail because of his faith. And, as we will see, this little church needs a role model. (v. 17)
- We hear of other options for role models. It is not a pretty sight. Having one’s belly as their god indicates to me that they were selfish and perhaps gluttonous. Their minds are set on “earthly things”. These are the “enemies of Christ”. We should not be like them! (vv. 18-19)
- Instead, we should remember that we are citizens of heaven. Paul does not say that we will become citizens; he says that we already are citizens of heaven. We are expecting Jesus’ return. Our humiliation will be transformed into glory, when he returns. (vv. 20-21)
- Therefore, we must stand firm in the faith, carefully selecting our role models. (v. 4:1)
These days, we are bombarded with many role models. Some are successful sports figures, some are movie or TV stars. We are also bombarded with commercials which show us all the good things to buy things that will buy us happiness. It is clear to me that we must very, very careful where we put our trust and faith. We need to carefully find a path through all this “stuff”, and find a way that is worthy of a citizen of heaven.
This week, we return to the middle part of Luke. We will be reading mostly from the gospel of Luke for the rest of the year. At this point in the story, Jesus has been healing and teaching. He has also begun to attract the attention of some of the high religious leaders. The plot is beginning to thicken.
- Some Pharisees come to Jesus, and tell him that he should go away, because “Herod wants to kill you.” Now, not all the Pharisees were as bad as the bible makes them out to be. In fact, Jesus dines with them on at least one occasion. So, maybe these were some of the good ones, looking to protect Jesus from Herod. Or maybe they were the bad ones, trying to get rid of Jesus. Maybe they didn’t want him to go to Jerusalem, and told him a lie. We’re really not sure. (v. 31)
- Jesus’ answer is interesting on two counts. First, he calls Herod a fox. Back then, this was not a compliment. Foxes were considered cunning and sinister. Next, Jesus says that he still has work to do; he says “on the third day I will finish my work.” I think we all know what he was talking about when he said this! (v. 32)
- Jesus then indicates that he knows that he must go there, and that he knows that he’ll probably be killed there. He knows what lies ahead, and he is planning to go anyway. (v. 33)
- In a sad lament, Jesus declares that he wishes to gather us up like a mother hen. Instead, he knows, he’s headed for trouble. (v. 34)
- Finally, there’s a little hint of his “Palm Sunday” entrance into Jerusalem, where the people cheer blessings and praises to him. (v. 35)
Jesus is on the road that eventually leads to Jerusalem and his death on the cross. He goes willingly. He goes for us. But he still has work to do.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
What work does God still have for us to do?