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Week 4 April 22, 2021

What we are reading this week (beginning Thursday, April 22, 2021):

• Genesis 22-28

• Isaiah 22-28

• Matthew 22-28

• Psalms 22-28

We are actually finishing up our first book this week, Matthew. With Psalms, Isaiah, and Genesis on our reading lists, we had begun with three of the four longest books in the Bible. This is the last week to be able to keep track of our reading by the day of the month. Enjoy it while you can.

Notes on Genesis

In chapter 22 we find the remarkable account of Abraham offering Isaac on the altar. The lessons and layers are many. Child sacrifice was common in that day across the religious board. Abraham loved and trusted God so much that he was willing to offer his son’s life on the altar—the only son he and Sarah would ever have. After showing this willingness, Jesus stepped in (as the angel of the Lord). God would show himself to be vastly different than the other gods, one who actually would not tolerate human sacrifice. But a picture was painted of the eventual sacrifice of the Messiah. And the ram was so incredibly symbolic here, as well.

All of this took place on Mount Moriah, where the Temple would one day stand. Some scholars believe that the place of Abraham’s altar is the exact spot where the holy of holies would someday be located within the Temple. I subscribe to that view. Some think this would have been Golgotha, Calvary, the eventual place of Jesus’ cross. You could certainly make a good case for this, as well.

Abraham called the actual location Yahweh Yireh (Jehovah Jireh), which means “The Lord will Provide”.

Sarah dies and is entombed in chapter 23. The place where she is interred will eventually hold Abraham as well, along with Isaac and Jacob, and their wives Rebekah and Leah. It is the only piece of property that the wealthy Abraham would ever own. It is called the Cave of Machpelah, or Cave of the Patriarchs, and is located in Hebron, Israel. You can visit it today.

When Abraham’s servant traveled to find a wife for Isaac (chapter 24), he put out a “fleece” before the Lord (even though that term would mean nothing for several hundred years until the time of Gideon in the book of Judges!). I always thought that this wise servant chose a most practical thing to ask. Instead of asking about hair color or some other arbitrary marker, he asked about qualities that would be terrific wife attributes: Kindness and willingness to serve. Abraham’s servant acknowledged that an angel had accompanied him to make his journey successful (24.40).

“Will you go with this man?” Rebekah is asked. “I will go.” She is about to travel a thousand miles with a stranger she has just met, believing what he has told her. Wow! But she and her family believed it was of God, and Rebekah therefore stepped into history, to become one of the heirs of the Messiah, and the grandmother of the twelve patriarchs of Israel. Abraham dies in chapter 25, and we see Isaac and Ishmael come together to bury him in what I believe is the only positive interaction the two ever have that is recorded.

At the end of chapter 25 and then in 27 Jacob manipulates to take away from Esau (who is the very slightly older twin) both the birthright and blessing. The fallout from these decisions will force Jacob to leave home. However, in spite of his treacherous ways, he will live with God’s blessing upon his life. The descendants of Esau will be the Edomites, another family branch that will eventually become another perennial enemy of Israel. We find Jacob’s famous dream in chapter 28, where God renews the covenant that he had made with Abraham and Isaac. God will be known and is known as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This is not due to the trio’s stellar spiritual condition, but simply to identify the route of the promise. Abraham is the father of the nation, Isaac is the son of the promise, and Jacob’s name will be changed to Israel, becoming the namesake of God’s chosen people.

Notes on Isaiah

The words of 22.22 bring to mind a similar reference in the letter to the church of Philadelphia in Revelation 3.7, concerning the power of God: “What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.”

Jesus, the Messiah, as a cornerstone is described in 28.16.

In 24.21-22, we see the link between the kingdom of darkness and players here on the earth, and we see that they are eventually “herded together” toward a terrible judgement.

In the midst of some rather nasty judgments, we find chapter 25 like a breath of fresh air. Here is another reminder of the blessing of God on those who seek him in spite of whatever judgments are going on around them.

Chapter 26 continues the thought, and summarizes this well in verse 3: “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”

As I call them, the abortion verses in 26.18-21, a somber warning to the USA:

“We were with child, we writhed in labor, but we gave birth to wind. We have not brought salvation to the earth, and the people of the world have not come to life.

19 But your dead will live, Lord; their bodies will rise— let those who dwell in the dust wake up and shout for joy— your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead.

20 Go, my people, enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until his wrath has passed by. 21 See, the Lord is coming out of his dwelling to punish the people of the earth for their sins. The earth will disclose the blood shed on it; the earth will conceal its slain no longer.”

God have mercy on us. We are entirely without excuse.

In chapter 27, God again foretells the deliverance of his people. But in the next chapter he rebukes the leaders for their sin.

Notes on Matthew

Already back in chapter 21 we had begun the last week of Jesus’ life. One fourth of this gospel will focus on his last eight days (from Palm Sunday to the resurrection on the following Sunday). Jesus unloads on the Pharisees and teachers of the law in chapter 23. They will have him put to death in a matter of hours, and he is giving them one last chance to see their own hypocrisy.

As Jesus is right at the very end of his time on earth, we should take note of the parables that he saved for this moment: the Ten Virgins, the Bags of Gold, the Sheep and the Goats. We find all of these in chapter 25.

Everything is moving into place in chapter 26 for the final showdown. The bad guys assemble in the palace of the high priest, Jesus is anointed at Bethany, Judas offers his services to the chief priests, Jesus hosts the Last Supper. Jesus is arrested in Gethsemane, and is taken before the kangaroo court of the Sanhedrin. Peter denies Jesus. Do you wonder if he thought that he was the one Jesus was speaking of at the last supper who would betray him?

Jesus is crucified.

Following Jesus’ appearance in 28. 17 after the resurrection, we find some really profound words: “But some doubted.” The Great Commission is the title often given for verses 18-20, even though that term does not appear anywhere in the Bible. It is one of the few places where we see all three persons of the Trinity mentioned together. An important aspect of Jesus’ words here is that he commands us to teach others “to obey everything I have commanded you.” In the church, we love to teach. I sure do. I’m a teacher. But the call is for a more organic discipleship: teaching to obey involves lifestyle and everyday interaction. There is no indication that these words were spoken right before the ascension back to heaven. Jesus appeared for forty days on earth between the resurrection and the ascension. These words were probably spoken some time before his very last day. In Acts 1 we find the very last of Jesus’ words and actions before returning to heaven.

This gathering may represent the five hundred who together witnessed Jesus following the resurrection that we read about in 1 Corinthians 15.6.

Notes on Psalms

Psalm 22 is an amazing chapter, a Messianic psalm that vividly describes the tortures of crucifixion (22.14-16), which had yet to be created, and was still 500 years in the future. The very taunts written here were given at the cross by those who would have been familiar with David’s words here (22.8).

These words are such a horribly incredible picture of the crucifixion. Image how Jesus must have felt at whatever age (probably as a teen) when he came to realize that these verses (as well as Isaiah 53) described what would happen to him.

Somehow, at least at my age, I will never be able to get over reading Psalm 23 in the KJV. It’s the only chapter or verses left for me in this regard, but there it is.

I love to meditate on all the different parts of the twenty-fourth psalm.

In the 25th and 26th psalms, David looks for God’s help for finding direction, overcoming loneliness, dealing with enemies, and struggling with shame.

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