“At last the LORD has created enough space for us to prosper in this land.”

Journeys Through the Word

“At last the LORD has created enough space for us to prosper in this land.”

Verse(s) considered:

Genesis 26:19-25

(19)  Isaac’s servants also dug in the Gerar Valley and discovered a well of fresh water.

(20)  But then the shepherds from Gerar came and claimed the spring. “This is our water,” they said, and they argued over it with Isaac’s herdsmen. So Isaac named the well Esek (which means “argument”).

(21)  Isaac’s men then dug another well, but again there was a dispute over it. So Isaac named it Sitnah (which means “hostility”).

(22)  Abandoning that one, Isaac moved on and dug another well. This time there was no dispute over it, so Isaac named the place Rehoboth (which means “open space”), for he said, “At last the LORD has created enough space for us to prosper in this land.”

(23)  From there Isaac moved to Beersheba,

(24)  where the LORD appeared to him on the night of his arrival. “I am the God of your father, Abraham,” He said. “Do not be afraid, for I am with you and will bless you. I will multiply your descendants, and they will become a great nation. I will do this because of My promise to Abraham, My servant.”

(25)  Then Isaac built an altar there and worshiped the LORD. He set up his camp at that place, and his servants dug another well.

 

Thoughts along the road:

It seems that Isaac had a very difficult time finding a place where he and his household could dwell without issues over water. They needed water for all of life’s daily needs. They needed water for their livestock. But, it seemed that no matter where they dug a well, someone else claimed the water rights. It sounds a bit like an old western movie, only there were no guns, gunslingers, or barbed wire involved.

So, Isaac kept moving on until, finally, they dug a well and no one was argumentative or hostile over it. That did not end his migration, however, he moved one more to Beersheba and the Lord greeted him in a dream the very night he arrived.

The Lord took the time to reassure Isaac that he was with him, that he should not be afraid, and restated the promises that he had made to his father, Abraham. In response, Isaac built an altar there, set up camp, and dug another well.

He was finally in the place he belonged. He was with the Lord.

Where to go from here:

We will often have troubles similar to Isaac trying to find our place in the world. Very rarely will someone move through life settled and stationary in one place. It’s nice when it happens, I guess. It is certainly not something that has ever happened in my life. I could count all the places I have lived even if I used all my fingers and my toes. My family moved a fair amount when I was young. After high school, I had an abortive attempt at college and then went into the Navy. I moved, on average, every year and a half for the nine years I was enlisted. That continued after my discharge and right up until we bought a house in 2001 and lived there for fifteen years. We now live in another town and have no expectation that we can stay in the place we are at beyond the length of our current lease.

My point with all of that is that lots of things can cause us to move from one place to another, but one thing that needs to stay constant is our relationship with the Lord. Isaac had developed a relationship with the Lord from observing his father. He continued that relationship as a two-way relationship as evidenced by verse twenty-four above. Keeping the Lord in mind when considering a move is not something that we always do. It’s pretty much an add-on after the fact. When we moved this last time, I spent time researching churches before we moved. I wanted to make sure that we would have a solid church home wherever we landed. God honored that and we now live in our new town and are members of a fantastic local body that has embraced us and allowed up to feel free to participate in the ministries of the church.

The next time you have to move, whether you are moving homes or just changing jobs, make God a partner in that process. While not explicitly stated in today’s selection, we can see God’s hand in guiding Isaac to the place God wanted him to be. Don’t you want that for your life too?

 

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“Anyone who speaks against the Son of Man can be forgiven, but …”

Journeys Through the Word

“Anyone who speaks against the Son of Man can be forgiven, but …”

Verse(s) considered:

Matthew 12:22-32

(22)  Then a demon-possessed man, who was blind and couldn’t speak, was brought to Jesus. He healed the man so that he could both speak and see.

(23)  The crowd was amazed and asked, “Could it be that Jesus is the Son of David, the Messiah?”

(24)  But when the Pharisees heard about the miracle, they said, “No wonder He can cast out demons. He gets His power from Satan, the prince of demons.”

(25)  Jesus knew their thoughts and replied, “Any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed. A town or family splintered by feuding will fall apart.

(26)  And if Satan is casting out Satan, he is divided and fighting against himself. His own kingdom will not survive.

(27)  And if I am empowered by Satan, what about your own exorcists? They cast out demons, too, so they will condemn you for what you have said.

(28)  But if I am casting out demons by the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom of God has arrived among you.

(29)  For who is powerful enough to enter the house of a strong man like Satan and plunder his goods? Only someone even stronger—someone who could tie him up and then plunder his house.

(30)  “Anyone who isn’t with Me opposes Me, and anyone who isn’t working with Me is actually working against Me.

(31)  “So I tell you, every sin and blasphemy can be forgiven—except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which will never be forgiven.

(32)  Anyone who speaks against the Son of Man can be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, either in this world or in the world to come.

Thoughts along the road:

Jesus always helped people. Whether it was sickness, sin, or possession by a demon, he always took the time to meet that person’s need. The Pharisee’s sought to turn everything he did into an occasion for criticism. They seemed to only focus on tearing people down. Instead of ignoring their criticism, which I am sure he often did, he chose to engage to put their hypocrisy on display.

They accused him of casting out demons by the devil. Jesus takes them to task to show how just plain silly that type of logic was and to point it back at their own exorcists and ask how they did it.

He makes it clear that he is not using the power of the devil but of God and that was proof that the Kingdom of God was in their midst and they should not be in the position of opposing him.

What they accused him of was blasphemy, he pointed out that that was exactly the sin they were committing and that was the only type of sin that could not be forgiven. Pretty dangerous ground to be walking on.

Where to go from here:

In our efforts to emulate Christ, we need to think about meeting people’s needs where they are. We can’t ask that they clean up their act before we choose to help them. That is not how God works, so that is not how we should work.

We need to be careful of our judgemental attitudes for in judging others, we might be fighting against God. We sometimes are working under our own power when casting judgment or criticism against people who are doing their very best to serve and to honor God. Just because they are not doing it the way we would, does not make it wrong. Sometimes it’s just different. God quite often uses different to use different people. He made us all different in some ways. He knows how best to reach people and to meet them at their point of need. We, quite often, do not.

We need to be careful that we are not fighting against the Holy Spirit when he is working in an area in order to try to set up things of our own design. We could be working against him. Let us prayerfully approach our service to God and remember that we serve him best by serving others and meeting their needs. That is, after all, what Jesus did.

 

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“So Isaac moved away …”

Journeys Through the Word

“So Isaac moved away …”

Verse(s) considered:

Genesis 26:12-18

(12)  When Isaac planted his crops that year, he harvested a hundred times more grain than he planted, for the LORD blessed him.

(13)  He became a very rich man, and his wealth continued to grow.

(14)  He acquired so many flocks of sheep and goats, herds of cattle, and servants that the Philistines became jealous of him.

(15)  So the Philistines filled up all of Isaac’s wells with dirt. These were the wells that had been dug by the servants of his father, Abraham.

(16)  Finally, Abimelech ordered Isaac to leave the country. “Go somewhere else,” he said, “for you have become too powerful for us.”

(17)  So Isaac moved away to the Gerar Valley, where he set up their tents and settled down.

(18)  He reopened the wells his father had dug, which the Philistines had filled in after Abraham’s death. Isaac also restored the names Abraham had given them.

Thoughts along the road:

Isaac was becoming more successful than he had probably imagined. The problem was that his prosperity was causing problems with his neighbors. It was so much of a problem, they began to fill up the wells that Abraham’s servants had dug for his flocks. We can only imagine the contention and conflict that began to show up in his relations with the neighbors and indeed the country of the Philistines. Finally, the king Abimelech ordered him out of the country. He had grown too powerful for the residents to feel safe. It was time to move on.

You notice that he did not put up a fuss. He did not complain about the crops and wells that would be left behind. He packed up and moved to the Gerar Valley and set up there. Once there they found more wells that the Philistines had filled in. He just reopened them and begun to live there.

Where to go from here:

The time comes for most of us at one point in time or another when we will be required to move from where we have been planted and prospered. Sometimes it is our idea to move on and sometimes it is not. God moves us around from time to time. He wants us to be flexible in his service. There are some who serve in the same location and capacity for many years. But, for most of us, there are seasons in our lives where we serve here or there for periods of time and then in some other location or capacity for other periods of time.

We are in a new season in our life in a new town, with a new church, and in some new capacities. This type of change can be very frightening if we do not realize that the same God that enabled our connectedness and opportunities to serve where we came from will also help us to connect and find places to serve in our new home. It has been very interesting to view the landscape in our new church and to try to figure out where we could plug in. Trust me when I say that the new place will never be just like the old place. You will (as we have) struggle to figure out what giftedness God will provide you with to serve your new church.

All churches seem to have different needs. Each one of them is at a different stage in its development. Each one of them is serving a different community and has unique needs. God will provide you with some capacity to serve that your new church needs. Allow God to mold you and use you in new ways in your new church. God will provide you with the tools. My job, your job is to serve. Let us do so with all our hearts.

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And His name will be the hope of all the world.

Journeys Through the Word

“And His name will be the hope of all the world.”

Verse(s) considered:

Matthew 12:15-21

(15)  But Jesus knew what they were planning. So He left that area, and many people followed Him. He healed all the sick among them,

(16)  but He warned them not to reveal who He was.

(17)  This fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah concerning Him:

(18)  “Look at My Servant, whom I have chosen. He is My Beloved, who pleases Me. I will put My Spirit upon Him, and He will proclaim justice to the nations.

(19)  He will not fight or shout or raise His voice in public.

(20)  He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle. Finally He will cause justice to be victorious.

(21)  And His name will be the hope of all the world.”

Thoughts along the road:

Jesus had to maintain a delicate balance of reactions toward his presence and his ministry. On the one hand, he had to reach as many people as possible with his message, his love, and his healing. On the other, he had to stir up the religious authorities enough to fulfill the prophecies about his coming. This section appears to be about when he had stirred the pot up enough that he had to leave the area and let the pressure die down a bit. It seemed like he was constantly aware of what he needed to do to get them to the right point at the right time and to fulfill the prophecies about him at the same time.  

Where to go from here:

I cannot imagine the pressure that might have come from keeping all those plates spinning at the same time and to honestly and sincerely care for the people he was ministering to and to carefully develop the faith of the disciples all at the same time. It boggles my mind all of the things Jesus had to manage to accomplish at the same time. And, it never, ever seems like he is in a rush, or concerned, or anxious about any of it—at all—ever. If you ever wonder how God manages to keep his hand on all the people of all time, the events, and nature … you will realize that it is simply out of the realm of our understanding. None of us could ever wrap our heads around it—at all—ever.

So when God does not fit into the little box that we try to put him in so that we can say we have him figured out—so we can reject him. You can’t. He is simply outside our ability to understand. So when Isaiah said the things that he said in verses 19 and 20 above, he perfectly described the calm, collected manner in which Jesus lived his life. He could do all that because he relinquished control of these things to the Father and that allowed him to concentrate on the people he dealt with every day. And that allowed him to become “,,, the hope of all the world.”

We need to imitate Jesus in this area. We need to relinquish control of the larger things to God (our Father) and to concentrate on the things that we can affect in our everyday lives. Our job is to imitate Jesus and point others to “,,, the hope of all the world.”

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“They will kill me to get her, because she is so beautiful.”

Journeys Through the Word

“They will kill me to get her, because she is so beautiful.”

Verse(s) considered:

Genesis 26:6-11

(6)  So Isaac stayed in Gerar.

(7)  When the men who lived there asked Isaac about his wife, Rebekah, he said, “She is my sister.” He was afraid to say, “She is my wife.” He thought, “They will kill me to get her, because she is so beautiful.”

(8)  But some time later, Abimelech, king of the Philistines, looked out his window and saw Isaac caressing Rebekah.

(9)  Immediately, Abimelech called for Isaac and exclaimed, “She is obviously your wife! Why did you say, ‘She is my sister’?” “Because I was afraid someone would kill me to get her from me,” Isaac replied.

(10)  “How could you do this to us?” Abimelech exclaimed. “One of my people might easily have taken your wife and slept with her, and you would have made us guilty of great sin.”

(11)  Then Abimelech issued a public proclamation: “Anyone who touches this man or his wife will be put to death!”

Thoughts along the road:

In many cases, the sons repeat the mistakes of their fathers. Never was that more true than in this case where Isaac claims that his wife is actually his sister so that he won’t get killed by men wanting to possess her. Isaac, it would seem, even tried the same trick in the same nation. His deception seemed to have worked, for a while. But then the king (many kings of the Philistines were call Abimelech) saw Isaac touching Rebekah in a way that one would not treat a sister. This king was as outraged with Isaac as the previous one was with Abraham. To top it off, where Abraham’s claim that Sarah was his sister was actually true, Isaac’s claim was not. They were cousins, but not siblings. Isaac was a cowardly, liar. But, God protected him still.

Where to go from here:

Repeating the sins of our fathers may be a common enough occurrence (it seems to happen often enough). But, that does not justify it. We need to learn from the sins of our fathers. It would seem here that Abimelech is outraged that his people had fallen for the trick again. The text does not tell us whether or not Abimelech and Isaac heard the tale from their fathers and whether or not they should have known better, so we will never know that part of the tale.

What does strike me is the cowardice and lack of respect shown by Isaac toward his wife. It seems that he is so afraid for his own safety that he is willing to sacrifice his wife to preserve it. That is not how we are told by Paul to love our wives. He tells us that we should love our wives sacrificially. We should be willing, like Jesus, to give up our lives for our wives (Eph. 5:25).

We need to act out our love for our wives in many ways, both large and small. It is far more than just stating your love for her. It needs to be followed up with action. We need to consistently place her needs above your own. That is what Jesus did. That means we should act sacrificially even when we don’t feel like it.

I will be the first to admit that this is a hard thing to do at times. There are things that I want or want to do that seem to supersede my love for my wife at times. I continue to work on that area of my life, I am glad for the grace God gives me that enables me to act lovingly at times I don’t really feel like it. God is with us as husbands helping us to not repeat the sins our fathers may have committed in their selfishness. We need to pray for his grace to be more like Jesus than we feel on a daily basis.

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“Then the Pharisees called a meeting to plot how to kill Jesus.”

Journeys Through the Word

 

“Then the Pharisees called a meeting to plot how to kill Jesus.”

Verse(s) considered:

Matthew 12:9-14

(9)  Then Jesus went over to their synagogue,

(10)  where He noticed a man with a deformed hand. The Pharisees asked Jesus, “Does the law permit a person to work by healing on the Sabbath?” (They were hoping He would say yes, so they could bring charges against Him.)

(11)  And He answered, “If you had a sheep that fell into a well on the Sabbath, wouldn’t you work to pull it out? Of course you would.

(12)  And how much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Yes, the law permits a person to do good on the Sabbath.”

(13)  Then He said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored, just like the other one!

(14)  Then the Pharisees called a meeting to plot how to kill Jesus.

Thoughts along the road:

This is one of the many occasions where the Pharisees tried to trip Jesus up on points of the law. Work was forbidden by the law on the sabbath because the Lord wanted people to rest. But, the Pharisees had padded the law with a lot of additional definitions for what the law called work. They had become so entrenched in their own traditions, they had forgotten the purpose of the original law.

In this instance, they seized on the presence of someone with a deformed hand. You might notice that they no longer doubt if Jesus can heal. They are more concerned that he would do it on the Sabbath and they were eager to classify healing someone as work and then to nail Jesus on violating it. They thought they had him. Until they realized that he had put them on the wrong side of things. As a result, they plotted to kill him.

Where to go from here:

I noticed in this section that Jesus took their loaded question and redefined it in a way that led back to the original intent of the law and put it into terms that the men of the day would completely understand. Changing the focus of the choice from should one work on the sabbath to should one do good on the sabbath, Jesus completely reframed what he was about to do. He was not working, he was doing good. Was that allowed on the sabbath? Of course, it was. God’s intent for the sabbath was never to limit man’s ability to respond in some sort of emergency situation. It was never his intent to keep the Jews from doing good.

The regulations of the Pharisees were meant to hamstring people and catch them in an impossible to keep web of rules. I believe that God despises that sort of legalism. Jesus certainly showed contempt for it here.

Men need to be guided and motivated by love, not rules and fear. We should never fear to do the right thing because of how someone else might view our actions. If we are prompted by love and concern for our fellow man, that fulfills the commandment that we have to love others as ourselves. That is unselfish love. That is how Jesus loved back then, and how he continues to love now. We should do the same.

 

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“Live here as a foreigner in this land, and I will be with you and bless you.”

Journeys Through the Word

“Live here as a foreigner in this land, and I will be with you and bless you.”

Verse(s) considered:

Genesis 26:1-5

(1)  A severe famine now struck the land, as had happened before in Abraham’s time. So Isaac moved to Gerar, where Abimelech, king of the Philistines, lived.

(2)  The LORD appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt, but do as I tell you.

(3)  Live here as a foreigner in this land, and I will be with you and bless you. I hereby confirm that I will give all these lands to you and your descendants, just as I solemnly promised Abraham, your father.

(4)  I will cause your descendants to become as numerous as the stars of the sky, and I will give them all these lands. And through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed.

(5)  I will do this because Abraham listened to Me and obeyed all My requirements, commands, decrees, and instructions.”

Thoughts along the road:

In this section, God reiterates the promise he made to Abraham to his son Isaac. He does it by asking for obedience and then restating the promise. Isaac had to move because of a famine in the land he had previously occupied. He settles in an area ruled over by King Abimelech. We’ve heard about Abimelech before and we will again, later. For now, God wants Isaac to live where he has moved to and not to go down to Egypt. If Isaac obeys, God will bless him. God make the same promise he did to Isaac’s father and makes it clear that it will be happening because Abraham listened and obeyed.

Where to go from here:

God isn’t really asking very much from Isaac. Stay where you are, live peaceably in this land, and all these promises I made to your father will also be extended to you. Stay where you are and do not think about going down to Egypt even if you hear things are better there. “… I will be with you and bless you.”

There are some parallels to how we are to live in the world we inhabit today. I think, in some ways, God is telling us to stay where we are but not to get too comfortable. We, too, are to live as foreigners. Foreigners in that we do what we need to do to get along where we are, but we do not to completely assimilate and lose our identity. What identity is that? Our identity as children of our God. We might be living in this world, but we are not really of this world. We are citizens of heaven. We are Christians. That makes us fundamentally different—or at least, it should.

If the people we are living with cannot see any difference in us, then we might have assimilated and that is not what God wants us to do. Be here, but be different. Many people spend their whole lives trying to fit in. I can see here that is really not what God wants us to do. If we try to do that, we are turning our backs on God’s blessings for us. Let’s try instead to try harder to fit in with him so that he will be with us and bless us. I really believe that is a much better formula for happiness for us.

I also want to admit that this is not always easy. It can sometimes be a real struggle to know what to do and what not to do or where to draw the line in our engagement with the world around us. We can, sometimes, forget who we are and where our real existence is. This is where and why maintaining a close relationship with God is key. We only see one side of the relationship in this passage, but it is evidently enough for Isaac to begin with. Seek your own moment with God. Get the relationship established and maintain it. It is the only way you can really do what he is asking of you and to receive the promised blessings.

 

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