Day 10, January 10, 2021
Scriptures: Genesis 21-23, Matthew 4
Theme: On the Mountain of the Lord, He provides!
In Genesis 21-23, we have life and death. The life of Isaac, the potential death of Isaac, the life of Sarah, the death of Sarah. In the midst of life and death, Sarah finds her joy complete in what God has given her. She has had laughter. She never thought she would laugh, and those who knew her well, they certainly would not attribute joy and laughter to her name.
But she has a son, in her ripe old age of 90 and she delights and laughs with joy, that God has provided her a son.
Abraham would have a test come some years after the birth of Isaac. The leading question, will the Lord again provide? The test on Abraham is to see if he will sacrifice his son Isaac. The question I’m sure perpetually on the mind of Abraham is, “will the Lord provide?” God provides a ram, caught in the thicket. They named the location, “The Lord Provides.” A big question of why this is necessary remains with us. But certainly having the recent narrative fresh in our minds, Abraham has had problems trusting in the provision, power and presence of God. He doesn’t trust God to provide a son, so he sleeps with Hagar. Doesn’t trust in God’s provision, power and presence in Egypt, and tells others that Sarah is his sister, and not his wife. There is stark evidence that Abraham is having difficulty trusting God. For all the times he believed in the Lord, there are equal, if not more times that he failed to trust. I suppose we know what that is like.
In today’s New Testament reading of Matthew 4, we see Jesus, tempted in the wilderness. The aim of this temptation, I see a fairly similar test that was given to Abraham. That temptation being, at its most foundational level, questioning: “Will the Lord provide?” Test one: Turn these stones into bread. It begs, “Will the Lord provide for my hunger?” Test two: Will the Lord provide protection if I were to jump from the temple? It asks, “Will the Lord provide His protection?” Finally, Test three: Will the Lord provide power or should I take the easy path? It leans in to Jesus’ identity, “will the Lord provide me power or do I achieve it through some other means?”
And Jesus, deeply and intimately familiar with the story of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the life of Israel, Jesus knows the Lord will provide. He can trust Him! And he puts it on display. And will display that trust in the provision of God through the rest of his earthly life and ministry. Even unto death.
And from that time on, Jesus began to preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God. The good News that God is providing a way forward for us all. A way of comfort and strength, a way of God’s power, presence and provision in our everyday lives. Shortly he will tell us to “Seek first the Kingdom of God, and everything will be provided” (My paraphrase of Matthew 6:33). This is Good News. The Lord Provides. He did for Abraham, He certainly did for Jesus, and in the kingdom of God, He will for you too.
The Lord will Provide!
Day 9, January 9, 2021
Scriptures: Psalm 11, Genesis 19-20, Matthew 3
Theme: The consequences of sin is death. But the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus!
The very real problem of sin comes to the foreground in our Bible reading today. Enough to make your skin crawl, we have the terrible story of Lot, His family, and townspeople bent on evil acts.
The grotesque nature of the story, makes it a difficult read, for certain. But we are reminded that there is a way forward, there is One who redeems and saves. God rescues Lot, and while not everyone makes it out, Lot and His daughters are rescued.
The Moabites and Ammonites are going to come into the picture soon enough in the grand narrative of scripture. The Israelites will continuously be in contention with them. Remember that Ruth is a Moabite woman. So we will see that the narrative of Scripture will continuously bring about these people and it is important to know their origins. That’s why we get it here.
But the sin, the ugliness of what is happening and the heartache of the death that comes, to Sodom and Gomorrah, the unrighteous getting what is coming to them…this whole scene is heart wrenching.
Matthew 3 comes as a reprieve, a cooling balm on the burning angst over Genesis 19. There is one in the desert announcing the Good News of one who is greater than him, who is coming to make things new. John the Baptist is preparing the way for Jesus and announcing the Good News of the Kingdom of God.
Instead of destroying the cities filled with corruption, God is rescuing them, calling them out, to bear fruit worthy of repentance.
The Savior is coming, and so John baptizes people after they confess their sins. They begin to bear the fruit that is worthy of repentance.
This is how God is dealing with sin in the world today. There is a way out of our certain death. We are also encouraged to bear fruit that is worthy of repentance. We don’t look back with fondness of our previous life that brings death. We look ahead, we look to the cross, we look to Christ! There is a rescue plan in place. Look to Christ, the one who is greater!
Remember your baptism!
Day 7, January 7, 2021
Scriptures: Genesis 14-15, Psalm 47 and Matthew 1
What a great connection between the scriptures today, between Abraham and Jesus. We are just coming out of the Christmas season, so the text of Matthew 1 is fresh in our minds and hearts. What we often overlook, or skim past is the opening Genealogy.
Genealogies have become increasingly popular, whole television programs show a celebrity discover part of their family tree and their story.
I’m not sure why people tune in for a celebrity genealogy, but I know why Matthew includes his genealogy. At least, in part, it is tied to what God says to Abram in Genesis 15:2-6
2But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”
4Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir.” 5He took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
6Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
When we reflect on Matthew and Genesis together, we get a wonderful reminder of the faithfulness of God, to accomplish His purposes.
God will accomplish His purposes. Right out of the gate in Matthew’s Gospel, He is communicating that Jesus is King, an heir of Abraham, and God has accomplished His purposes through His son, Jesus Christ.
Will you believe this? You are a part of something that is more numerous, and more glorious than the multitude of stars in the sky. You are a child of God and belong to the family of God. We will come to see this story draw out in both Genesis and Matthew. For now, we are encouraged to know that God is with us, Emmanuel.
God be with you.
Jordan Ickes, Minister of Etna Green Church of Christ.