God is Sovereign Despite Our Faults

The account of Isaac and his family found in Genesis 25-27 is very interesting when discussing the importance of God’s sovereignty, man’s free will, and man’s sinfulness.

We read very little about Isaac in the Genesis account of the Hebrew patriarchs. We know he is the promise given by God to Abraham (Genesis 21). We see that God tests Abraham by requiring that he sacrifice Isaac , and how God provides a substitute when Abraham is faithful (Genesis 22). We read the account of Abraham sending his servant to find Isaac a bride (Genesis 24), we read about his dysfunctional family, and some of his poor decisions in Genesis 25-27.

In the account of the birth of Isaac’s sons, we briefly see that Rebekah has been without child and Isaac is petitioning God to bless them with a child (Genesis 25:21). This seems like a common occurrence with the early patriarchs. God wanted them to understand that he was building this family and the future nation of Israel was by his work.

God is faithful to his promise, and Rebekah becomes pregnant with twins! I am sure Isaac and Rebekah felt like they may have prayed a little too hard. Of course this was before ultra sound and I am uncertain if they were able to distinguish two heart beats, but the twins movements alarm Rebekah. And God comforts them with the news of twins (Genesis 25:22).

With this news there is also revelation of what will take place in the boys future. God actually chooses one of the boys, before birth, to continue his covenant with and also shares his plans with the expecting couple. No mystery here, God’s sovereign plan is clear, the second born will be used by God to bring about his promises to mankind (Genesis 25:23).

We often discuss (and sometimes argue) the roles of God’s sovereignty and our own free will. I think this account is an excellent example of how God’s sovereignty is supreme despite the fact we have free will.

The author of Genesis wrote that Isaac favors Esau (the first born) over God’s chosen twin, Jacob. We also see that Rebekah favors Jacob (Genesis 25:28). This favoritism creates a lot of resentment within the home and should be a warning to all parents on the impact we can make on our children’s futures both positive and negative.

It is apparent that Isaac attempts to give Esau the eldest son’s birth right despite God’s revelation. However, Jacob manages to swindle the birth right from his brother with what must have been the best bowl of soup, ever (Genesis 25:34). Then, Jacob tricks his father, with his mothers insistence, to giving him Esau’s blessing as well (Genesis 27).

From the account in Genesis it is clear that Isaac favored Esau so greatly that he was willing to defy God’s will. Twice Jacob manages to secure what was ordained by God as his, through deception. Despite Isaac’s unfaithfulness in this matter, God was faithful to his promise and again we are left in awe of his ability to orchestrate the outcomes of history.

 

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A Summary of the OT Book of Leviticus

The Old Testament book of Leviticus has been a pain in my daily devotions for years. I struggled through its pages many times trying to understand all the rules and why they were important to me to no avail. Leviticus has honestly been the butt to more than one of my sermon jokes about struggling with the Old Testament as a Christian. 

I am very thankful that as my Bible course is wrapping up I took the time to read through Leviticus with a new understanding of the OT book of Law. I was tremendously blessed through its pages as I saw more clearly what God was orchestrating by giving these precepts to His people. I hope you enjoy, and I pray this summary encourages you to take a closer look at some of the more difficult texts of the OT.

Leviticus

The book of Leviticus is one of the five Jewish books known as the Pentateuch and is mostly a book of law. The writer is not named, but most believe the author to be Moses. The instructions contained in Leviticus were given to the writer directly from God with instructions to be given to His people. Since Moses was established as God’s voice to the people at this time, Moses is the most plausible author.

Leviticus begins one month after the instructions for the Tabernacle in Exodus. By now the Hebrew have completed the holy place where God will dwell among them, and they will be required to keep themselves holy for God to remain in their presence.  Leviticus provides the priests with instructions for the five major offerings, it establishes the priesthood, instructs rules of cleanness and uncleanness, details rituals for the Day of Atonement, instructs how Hebrews are to handle blood and why it is important, contains a call to holiness by the people, establishes holy holidays and festivals, explains blessings for obedience and punishments for disobedience, and instructs the proper way to offer vows and dedications to God.

Leviticus contains mostly instructions for the Tabernacle priests, but also includes commands for the people. Leviticus begins by explaining God’s requirements for offerings. Then the writer tells of the ordination of Aaron (Moses brother) and his sons as the priests of Israel. A couple of chapters are dedicated to narratives about a pleasing offering to God by Aaron and the time his sons’, Nadab and Abihu, carelessly offered an unauthorized burnt offering and were instantly killed. Next the book establishes the notion of ritual uncleanness, cleanness, and holiness. It is important to note, ritual states are for ritual purposes and do not indict moral holiness. The priests were required to remain ceremonially holy to perform their duties, the people were expected to strive for ritual cleanness, but God provides provisions for uncleanness. No doubt the ritual states served the purpose to guide Israel to moral holiness, but these must not be confused. Next God instructs the priests on how to perform the Day of Atonement Ritual. This is the most important of all offerings and is to be performed once a year for all of Israel’s sins. After instructions for the Atonement Ritual, God explains the necessity and significance of blood in the offerings. There are guidelines for both priests and the people on how to handle sacrifices for offerings. Proceeding God’s instructions on the handling of blood, God calls all of Israel’s camp to pursue holiness. To remind the people, God creates the Hebrew calendar around harvest times. He presents holy celebrations and ceremonies to remind His people of their history and of His presence. As the book is beginning to wrap up, God offers conditions of blessings for compliance to the Law and punishments for disobedience. The book of Leviticus ends instructing the people how they should offer vows and dedications to God and emphasize the significance of funding the tabernacle and priests.

The book of Leviticus is important to the Christian because of its emphasis on God’s demands for wholehearted devotion. The people could not keep the laws found in Leviticus without the desire to keep God in their presence. Leviticus also underscores the fact that spiritual leaders have a greater responsibility to striving for inner holiness than do laypeople. The most important section of Leviticus for the Christian can be found in God’s instructions for the Day of Atonement ritual. The ritual requires the complete cleansing of sins and uncleanness by purifying the innermost part of the tent of meeting. The significance for the Christian is that atonement is impossible without the God’s gracious atonement that cleanses us of our sin.

It Is Said…

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Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan River. He was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where he was tempted by the devil for forty days. Jesus ate nothing all that time and became very hungry.

Then the devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become a loaf of bread.”

But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone.’ ”

Then the devil took him up and revealed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. “I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them,” the devil said, “because they are mine to give to anyone I please. I will give it all to you if you will worship me.”

Jesus replied, “The Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the L ord your God and serve only him.’ ”

Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect and guard you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’ ”

Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the L ord your God.’ ”

When the devil had finished tempting Jesus, he left him until the next opportunity came.

Luke 4:1-13

In the beginning of his ministry, Jesus spent forty days being tempted in the wilderness. Luke says that the Spirit leads Jesus to this confrontation beyond the Jordan River.

There are a few things that intrigue me about this passage of scripture. But what I wonder most are the three Hebrew texts that Jesus quotes during his temptation.

And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.'” Luke 4:4 ESV

And Jesus answered him, “It is written,
“‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.'” Luke 4:8 ESV

The first thing I learn from this account is that Jesus’ response to temptation is found in scripture. He doesn’t try to argue with the devil, he exposes the deceiver’s lies with truth. Jesus had been fasting for FORTY days in preparation of the next three years Satan says why don’t you make bread from these rocks. Often when we set out to follow God we are faced with opposition and temptation. Satan was trying to step in the way of Jesus’ ministry. Then he offers Jesus the kingdoms of the world if Jesus would only bow and worship him. Lastly, Satan instructs Jesus to challenge God’s authority and test him by throwing himself from the top of Jerusalem’s temple.

In this very strange journey from the desert, to the top of the world, to the top of the Temple; Jesus does not waver in his devotion to God the Father.

When I am tempted, I do not always turn to scripture first. But it was the response of the Son of God. He tries no vain attempts to argue with Satan. He simples states truth. Next time you find yourself tempted instead of relying on your own abilities looked to God’s Word for strength.

I Need A Shepherd

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

John 10:11

If you were raised in church, or maybe you have been attending a church recently, you may have heard the analogy of Jesus as our Good Shepherd. This isn’t some imagery the church has crafted because it is cute. Jesus identified himself as our Good Shepherd (of course he also identified himself as the sheep gate, but he was working a tough crowd).

Overgrown path

Overgrown path (Photo credit: Martin Dixon)

Life has become pretty unstable recently. Not all in a bad way, but things seem to be really crazy in my life. There are some concerns at work (if you are not experiencing concerns at work I thank God for your good fortune!), I am having difficulty staying ahead of my coursework this semester, our family has experienced what seems like two months of sickness, I am struggling with the time I have to devote to ministry, and our second daughter is due in two weeks! Right now, in my life, I could use a shepherd. I know some people view religion as a crutch, and we often try to explain that away. But sometimes, when life gets tiring, I am glad that I have a Good Shepherd willing to lead me.

Life is too crazy and too fast paced to simply wander aimlessly. I want my life to be filled with purpose. And I know that Jesus is the shepherd to continue guiding me to that purpose. I am thankful for his guidance in my life, and for all of the ways he leads me in a direction I sometimes question. The path occasionally looks intimidating (He once led his disciples into a storm!), but I recognize my shepherd knows where he is guiding me. And I know that his destination for me is far greater than anything I could envision on my own.

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