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Week 3 April 15, 2020

What we are reading this week:

• Genesis 15-21

• Isaiah 15-21

• Matthew 15-21

• Psalms 15-21

I’m a day late with this (the 15’s were yesterday), but here it is. Hope you are still on track!

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Notes on Genesis

The Book of Genesis will have a rather fast-moving story from here to its end.

Abram is struggling with the promise God gave him about obtaining an enduring family legacy. It seems as though he tried to put Lot into place as his descendant. Now in chapter 15, he considers his servant Eliezer. But God said, no, a son “of your own flesh and blood” (v 4).

Abram’s response is so powerful, it will be quoted numerous times in the New Testament. And it points to the central theme of salvation: Faith. It’s found in 15.6: “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” That is, the righteousness we need for salvation comes through faith in God, not in doing actual works of righteousness. This is the basis for salvation in both the old covenant and the new.

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God tells Abraham about the future centuries of slavery that his descendants would endure in 15.13. Though God doesn’t give him more specifics, this would begin with his great-grandchildren.

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Abram’s next attempt at helping God fulfill his promises involved Sarai’s slave Hagar. She was made to be his second wife (16.3), and as obviously a much younger woman, became pregnant and gave birth to Ishmael.

This stirred up Sarah, who forced Hagar and her son away not once, but twice. See 16.6 and 21.8-14.

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Since Ishmael was Abraham’s son, God gave him promises of a strong heritage. But he was not the son of the promise. That would be Isaac. The feud that this created is the centerpiece of world conflict today.

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There is a turn of events right before the birth of Isaac. Three visitors show up, and one of them is Jesus, as a theophany. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is imminent, the place where Lot and his family live. Abraham intercedes, negotiating down to ten righteous people qualifying to spare the judgment. God agrees to this but can’t find ten.

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We read not only of the doom of Sodom and Gomorrah, but Lot’s sorry story as well in chapter 19. The families of his two sons/grandsons of incest will become the nations of Moab and Ammon, which will be perpetual enemies of the Israelites.

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In chapter 21, Isaac is finally born. Abraham was seventy-five years old when this birth was first promised (in 12.4). He is now one hundred years old (21.5), and Sarah is ninety.

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Notes on Isaiah

Just after reading about the formation of the Moab nation in Genesis, we find a prophecy against them in 15-16, two entire chapters. Though they are not the chosen people, we still find God’s heart of compassion within this rebuke: “My heart cries out over Moab” (15.5).

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There is a chilling prophecy in 17.1 against Damascus, that the entire city would vanish. As the prominent capitol of Syria and a hotbed of conflict today, we may live to see this prophecy fulfilled. It will not be a pleasant sight.

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We find prophecies against Cush in chapter 18. Though we are unsure, this territory is thought to be two areas separated by the Red Sea, in both Arabia and northern Africa, possibly Ethiopia.

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Then, in chapter 19 after a prophecy against Egypt, we find the love and blessing of God that he has for other nations. See 19.23-25.

The chapter ends with, “In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. The Lord Almighty will bless them, saying, ‘Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.’”

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Notice Isaiah’s call to action to represent the three years of Egyptian exile in 20.1-4. Must have been a lot of days that the prophet woke up and thought, “What have I gotten myself into?”

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The Lord gave words to Isaiah for many nations. In chapter 21, he prophesies against Babylon, Edom, and Arabia. These are all negative rebukes.

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Notes on Matthew

In chapter 15, Jesus opens by confronting and explaining again to the harsh legalists that God is far more interested in our heart condition than following any specific rule or law.

The next part, the faith of the Canaanite woman, I find interesting for the way she challenges what Jesus said. He says, “It is not right to take the children’s (i.e., Jews) bread and give it to the dogs (Gentiles).” And she said, “YES IT IS!” Somehow she knew he was testing her, and she passed with flying colors, receiving her miracle.

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The feeding of the four thousand is only found in Matthew. The feeding of the five thousand is in all four gospels.

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After all Jesus had already done, the Pharisees and Sadducees still ask for a sign from heaven (16.1). Jesus didn’t perform requests, only what his Father told him to do. It’s not like there was anything he could have done that would have led them to belief, just further criticism. If you criticize for healing people, for casting out demons, and even for raising the dead, you are a hard crowd to please.

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As typical humans (and especially males), the disciples understood and crunched the numbers perfectly… yet missed entirely the point Jesus was making in using a simple analogy. See 16.5-12.

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Peter was the first of the twelve to say it: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” But within a few minutes, he messes up and suggests Jesus bypass suffering.

Jesus harsh rebuke makes me wonder if this reminded him of his encounter with Satan in the desert, where he was offered the quick, painless route to success. He had come this far, and though the horrible part was still to come, it would soon be over.

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Not only becoming like a child, but welcoming them is the stuff of the kingdom. How much our world could use both. See 18.1-5.

When it comes to harming children, Jesus doesn’t talk about repentance. He talks about capital punishment, with the dark admonition that it would have been better if such people had never been born. Nowhere else does he lay out such severe words, not even for the Pharisees et al.

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Children have guardian angels. The Bible does not tell us if adults do. See 18.10-11.

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The parable of the unmerciful servant (18.21-32) is IMHO the very best teaching on forgiveness you will find anywhere. It illustrates so clearly what God has done for us, and how much less anyone can sin against us as we do against God.

The jail and the jailers (34) are not referring to hell, but to the torment we carry when we refuse to forgive.

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Jesus’ teaching on marriage is very clear (19.3-9). He affirms the Genesis model that God made marriage for one man and one woman. This had been violated in the Old Testament (one man and multiple women), but was never endorsed or considered God’s plan. Alternate arrangements today are likewise not biblical.

And the only way out of a marriage is and was for marital unfaithfulness. I’ve seen many people work through even this and restore their marriages. People leave their marriages today for far less.

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Jesus made no attempt to counteroffer the rich young ruler (19.16-22). He asked him for a hard thing: “Give up everything you own.” When the young man turned away (a true seeker, by the way), Jesus let him go.

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Remembering how human the disciples were (and how diverse), we should expect that there would be some quarreling. And of course at the top of the list is, who here is top dog? See 20.-28. Jesus would totally embarrass them for this silly game later.

He laid out the concept of servant-leadership, an idea far off the radar of any human up to that point in history.

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Interesting that Jesus asks the two blind men what they want (20.29-34). It would seem obvious, but many times we fail to ask God for what it is we really need. We ask partially, or obtusely around the edges.

For example, instead of asking for a better job for better pay because we are in dire need, we simply ask for our car not to break down again. These guys could have simply asked for more success in begging.

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Jesus’ messing up of the Temple was the second time he did this. He did it during his first Passover in his public ministry, and here in his last (21.12-13).

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As he has come to the last four days of his life, his parables become intense. See 21.45.

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Notes on Psalms

I have never memorized Psalm 15, but it is certainly worth considering doing so. It is a very practical and handy reminder of the kind of person we need to be.

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As all of us have the high privilege of growing up in America in this era—compared with all of world history and all other places— and knowing Jesus, 16.6 applies to us all: “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places.”

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David can be harsh. In Psalm 17, he asks that God give his enemies so much retribution for their sins, that there will be leftovers for their children.

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Look at all the names of God in 18.2

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All people are responsible before God, since salvation is written in the skies (19.1-2). However, the spiritual darkness over the world keeps people from seeing it. Have you ever met anyone who got saved simply from seeing the glory of God in creation? The followers of Jesus have a mandate to follow up this revelation with witness and testimony to who God is and what he has done.

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Have a great week reading!

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