Feb 23, 2011

Only God walked through the valley of blood

Continuing with my study of Genesis 15, I am awe struck at the level of theology contained in this chapter. I’ve even read where some theologians write that Verse 6 is the most important verse of the Bible. I don’t know about that claim, but I understand their point.

The fact that Verse 6 explicitly spells out that Abram was accounted as righteous by the Heavenly Father by belief in His promise makes it an important verse. But studying the passage on this occasion, I am taken by the fact that it was God alone who passed through the sacrificed animals to ratify the covenant with Abram.

Covenants of this nature were usually ratified by the two parties joining hands and then walking between the halved sacrifices. The point of note here in Verse 17 is that this covenant is not a promise bound to two parties. In this covenant, God bound Himself to His own promise to Abram. Abram didn’t walk through the pieces with God, only God passed between the pieces.

I love how this scene reinforces the truth that salvation is by God’s grace alone, it is not merited by man, but a free gift of God.

Feb 18, 2011

God’s great reward

I was reading over what theologians call the Abrahamic Covenant in Genesis 15. I was especially struck this time with the notion that God’s provision for Abram – and us – far outshines anything we can envision for ourselves.

Dr. Constable’s notes on Genesis indicate God was determined “to give Abram great ‘reward.’” This was in light of Abram’s recent victory over the four kings, rescuing Lot and all Lot’s estate. Yet Abram refused any spoils of war. What was Abram’s response to the victory? We can learn from his response.

When Melchizedek, king of Salem, came out to bless Abram upon his return to the Promised Land, they shared in a worshipful celebration giving God blessing. Abram’s response was to worship God in light of the victory and then he turned over first-fruit gifts to Melchizedek, broadening his worship of God and demonstrating he understood the source of the victory and the source of his provision.

Scholars write that Abram put himself in a vicious loop of violence when he defeated the four kings, which likely would have put him into a life of retaliation and defending against retaliation, which was the custom for this period of time.

Yet, that doesn’t seem to be what’s on Abram’s mind. Abram is “legitimately concerned about God’s provision for the Promised Land as well as his need for an heir,” (Constable). God meets with Abram and reassures him of the promise of a seed and a great nation. This reward of a seed and a nation, this God-given reward, would make the spoils of war seem minuscule.

Then, when we continue reading, we see that Abram wasn’t questioning God, but communicating his legitimate concern. We can be happy in the report that Abram believed God’s promise and it was this belief that God accounted righteousness to Abram.

Trust is God’s word, His promise, is what results in justification; and, worship of God is what results in our sanctification.

What greater reward of our trust in God than our being rescued from the penalty of sin through belief in the promise of Jesus Christ? All other rewards pale in comparison.

Understand what we ask for

Heady days in the Middle East, to be sure. Popular protests turned to popular uprisings in Egypt and ousted the country’s autocrat of three decades. But, much Western hope may have turned to concern when the Armed Forces Supreme Council announced a constitutional panel, led by an Islamist judge with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. The temporary ruling council gave the panel just 10 days in which to offer a new constitution, which has led many analysts to believe that a long-term secular state is going to be difficult to maintain.

In London’s online version of The Telegraph, Richard Spencer wrote, “the make-up of the new committee, and the fact it has been given just 10 days to come up with a new constitution, has dashed hopes that it will remove Article 2, which makes Islam the state religion and says Shariah is the main source of law.”

One would have to be living in a cave the last 30 years to not understand that Shariah law is not conducive to a free, politically diverse state that sees evangelical Christians equally with Jews or Muslims.

With public protests taking place still in Egypt and in several other Middle East nations and the protesters’ demands not fulfilled, there exists a growing place for someone or some system to step into place to capitalize on the proclivity for uprising, independent of national borders.

As alarmist as this may sound, I think there could be a case made that these events in Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, and Iran are foundational to an evolutionary change among millions of people to adopt a propensity to accept a universal rule or structural system.

How long will people tolerate oppression? One can only guess. However, when this kind of disenfranchisement becomes as widespread as it appears to be in the Middle East, it increases the opportunity for a single system to offer change for these people and unify them in a way that we’ve seen only on rare occasion during the last century.

I’m not advocating for oppressive regimes, believe me. I am asking a question that I hope helps us all understand how easy it would be for a single system to unify people of different nationalities and faiths by promise of relieving their oppression and promising to give them a voice.

I can also see how this system, once in place, would make a peace accord with Israel. When this happens, we will know the future course of events with great precision.

Feb 13, 2011

Biblical foreshadowing?

I've been studying the life of Abram and have come to see an amazing biblical repetition.  In standard literature analysis we'd call it a foreshadowing, but I cannot see into the mind of God know if that is what our Creator is doing in His word.  Let me tell you what I've been seeing.

God promised Abram a land to possess, descendants so many they can't be numbered and that his family would be a blessing to the nations.  Of course this promise was reinforced several times ... even when that promise seemed very unlikely.  The the scenes of this promise and it's repetition didn't happen in isolation, they happened in the context of Abram's life.  What I see repeating is a divinely given victory in battle for the nation of Israel starting before there was even a nation.

Note that when Abram learns of Lot's capture by the Mesopotamian kings who were victorious in the battle of nine kings of Genesis 14, we read of an amazing victory by a small band of Abram's trained men.  The Bible records that he took 318 of his trained men and went up against the recently victorious armies of four city-states.  God gave Abram and his men the victory and returned back to the promised land with Lot and his entire estate as well as the spoils of war.  God's man going against insurmountable, overwhelming odds after hiking at least 180 miles and coming away victorious.  No other explanation can be given except that it was a divinely given victory.

Now, race centuries ahead.  Picture yourself in what is modern Israel.  You've been a nation for less than 24 hours and you are attacked.  Attacked not by one or two nations, but by five nations: Egypt, Syria, Transjordan, Lebanon and Iraq.  This is commonly known as the War of Independence.  Israel has regularly been attacked in major offensives by the regional peoples in each of the successive three decades.  And, beginning with that first victory in 1948 against insurmountable and overwhelming odds, God has delivered Israel and awarded victory to His people -- even when His people are rebellious against Him. Despite the numerical superiority of the Arab armies, Israel was defended by God to the degree that it not only repelled the opposing forces, but returned with blessing just as Abram did when he defeated the Mesopotamian kings.

Now, race ahead in time, after the believing church has been caught up with Christ in the air and just before His second advent.  The armies of the entire world will be poised to attack Israel once again in one final conflict.  All nations will stand against Israel (Rev. 16:12ff) with what seems insurmountable and overwhelming odds ... that is from a secular point of view.

You see, that is our weakness as men.  We usually view our situation and conditions from a human perspective.  What we face seems impossible. Yet, if God is for us, who can stand against us?  As we read on in Rev. 16 we see that God, once again delivers Israel and provides the victory when none should be seen to be had from man's perspective.  Christ is victorious and Israel will rule with Him.

Look at Rev. 16:12 as the origin of a portion of the invading armies, "And the sixth poured out his bowl upon the great river, the river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way might by made ready for the kings that come from the sunrising."  Is this the same region of the four kings who came from Mesopotamia in Genesis 14?  And, God's word reassures us of the victory in this future case too.

Was God foreshadowing the battle of Har-Magedon in the supernatural victory He gave to Abram so long ago?  Was God reinforcing His supernatural protection of Israel in the 1948 War of Independence and in the 1956 Sinai War and the 1967 Six-Day War and the 1973 Yom Kippur War?

I won't be dogmatic to say definitively that these are foreshadowings of the Har-Magedon conflict. And, I've come to realize that it's not nearly as critical to know if these are.  What's of much greater importance is to know that the future is already defined and our God is victorious and His plan will be executed with flawless precision and in the exact time He has defined.  Something of which we can have confident assurance.