Monday, February 26, 2018

John 17:13-18:24 #eebc2018

We are in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night Jesus is arrested. He has been praying, speaking with His Father about what is to come. That's something we should consider: Jesus has no sin to interfere with His relationship and His understanding of God's will. He knows.

He still takes time to pray. And do we?

His prayer is first for the current disciples. They are going to face difficulties and Jesus is well aware of those challenges. He knows that they will be persecuted and executed for obeying Him. And this is not "you can't have a discount on your airline tickets" inconvenience but true persecution: prisons, pain, death.

A key component is John 17:19 where Jesus speaks of sanctification coming through truth. We tend to think in other terms, more subjective terms than "truth." Or, these days, people speak of "their truth" as if truth is something that can shift from person to person. That's not truth. Truth is static, fixed--understandings can change, what people perceive to be truth can change--but truth does not shift. If Jesus is the truth (see John 14:6), then becoming like Christ is connected to seeking the unchangeable truth.

The pursuit of truth, then, is part of the Christian life. There is nothing inherently Christian about remaining in ignorance nor of neglecting the knowledge that God has made available. Neither is there a virtue to pursuing knowledge exclusive of the Creator---if Jesus is the truth then ultimate understanding must, by nature, include Him.

This is why our worship-filled lives as Christians must involve a great deal of wonder at so much. The specific, special revelation that is the Word of God must not be neglected and indeed must reach first place. But the remainder of the general revelation in Creation must be studied, the amazing things at human creativity can achieve, all belong within the bounds of what we study and appreciate.

From there, Jesus goes on to pray for all those who will believe from the preaching of the disciples. I would recommend that you pick up from this that Jesus knew there would be a length of time between His ascension and return. And that the disciples should have known that as well--be careful with the view that suggests the disciples expected an immediate return. It is likely that they did, at times, become frustrated that Jesus did not come back as soon as they wanted. My word--that hits many a preacher when the Lord does not return on Saturday night! However, I don't think we give the disciples enough credit for the Holy Spirit working in them after the Resurrection.

Still, we are in the line of those who believed because of the preaching of the disciples. That puts us in those Jesus prays for. Perhaps, then, we should examine what He prayed for and see what it would look like to obey His words. He prays for unity and love--these are not mystical moments that will just happen. We can choose to obey, choose to seek unity in His truth. Or we can not.

Then comes my favorite part of this reading: the arrest of Jesus. Why? Look at John 18:5-6. The arresting posse shows up to take Jesus, He asks who they seek--and they say "Jesus of Nazareth." His answer is two words in Greek:

"I am."

Seriously. That's His answer. The same name that God revealed to Moses in Exodus 3. Jesus demonstrates His unity with God with this. And then take a look at what happens to the crowd:

They fall down. Some interpreters take this to mean they deliberately fell at His "blasphemy." I take it the other way: at the Word of Jesus, they are struck down. They cannot stand in His presence. It's not their choice. It is His power.

And Peter thinks that his sword will help...

We do the same thing. Our swords, our scheming, our plans--all of these are useless compared to the Word of God. There comes a time to lay down our titles, our labels, our methods, and our personal views aside for the sake of the Word of God.

Friday, February 23, 2018

John 16:5-17:12 #eebc2018

Jesus is compacting a lot into the final hours of his ministry with the Twelve (minus one). I am certain there are books written at length discussing why He waited this long to get into these topics and I'm not going to try and equal those here. What we will look at is one portion, taken from John 16:7-8.

We need to look at who the "Counselor" is and what this means for us as Christians today. Let's tackle that in an exchange of affirmations and denials. This is a fairly common way to deal with theological issues, and it tends to give the boundary lines rather than all the shades of interior possibility. For simplicity sake, before we get started on that, please understand that I hold that the "Counselor" is the "Holy Spirit" (or "Holy Ghost," if you like the KJV, but that's a bad image for modern readers) and will just use "Counselor" since that's what is here.

First, this passage affirms that the Counselor is divine. Look on to 16:15 and see how the Counselor will take from what is Jesus' and tell it to the disciples. The only way for this is to work is for the Counselor to be capable of being with all the disciples at once--this requires omnipresence, the term we use to describe how God is always everywhere.

Second, this passage denies that the Counselor will bring anything that conflicts or overrides what is plain in Scripture. If the Bible is the Word of God, given in totality, then when the Counselor "speaks whatever He hears," He will be restating and reminding the listener of the Word of God.

Third, this passage affirms the primary mission of the Counselor is to illuminate the hearts of humanity to their need for a Savior. We see the truth about sin through the Counselor. We see how God will judge and what it is to be righteous through the Counselor. This passage does not address "spiritual gifts," which are spoken of in context of the church in later portions of the New Testament. Instead, the focus here is on how God works through the Counselor to bring people into a right understanding of who they are and who He is.

Fourth, this passage denies a heresy called "modalism." At times, people have looked at the Bible and believed that God is "God/YHWH" in the Old Testament, "Jesus" in the Gospels, and then the "Holy Spirit" after Jesus ascends. They tend to say that God shows Himself in three "manifestations" rather than always existing as three "persons," (think "something having personality"). But since we see here that Jesus is going to the Father, which means they exist simultaneously, and Jesus will send the Counselor, not become or transform into the Counselor.

Fifth, this passage affirms the need of believers for the Counselor. You will not figure it out on your own. You cannot. You need the presence of God to make life work.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Genesis 29:21-30:24 #eebc2018

As we take a look at this reading, I'd take a bit of an issue with the CSB's rendering of Genesis 29:21. While the Hebrew is a euphemism for consummating the marriage and the CSB is making it clear by presenting it as "sleep with her," I think the euphemism should be left there. And, yes, I know "sleep with her" is still less blatant than "go have sex," I'm in favor of leaving euphemisms as close to literal as possible. I think it serves us to let the text speak as close to the original as possible. So, I like NASB here, or ESV. That's a personal preference, though.

This passage gives us Laban's deception of Jacob. For that matter, he seems to deceive Leah and Rachel as well. All told, he comes off a little bit sketchy here. Leah is given to Jacob first as a wife, then Rachel second. The deal is that Jacob worked seven years expecting Rachel, but Laban gave him Leah instead. I don't know how you get through the whole wedding night without realizing you've got the wrong woman, but that's apparently what we have here. Then, after completing the bridal week with her, he commits to seven more years in exchange for getting the bride he wanted in the first place.

That's a terrible use of daughters, for the record, though it's in line with the normal of the time.

From there, we have the narratives of the births of the sons of Jacob. We have the first eleven in this passage, with Joseph being born last. Benjamin will come later in the story. We see that Jacob ends up involved with four women: Leah, Zilpah, Rachel, and Bilhah. He's not hurting for female company.

Unfortunately, Jacob's not well-equipped to deal with the large family. We'll see the consequences develop later, though God still works through them.

What do we learn from this, other than a cautionary tale about marriage?

First, we see that the cunning will always find someone who is willing to try and outdo them. If you think you can outsmart everyone, you are probably wrong.

Second, consider the things we work for. Jacob worked for the woman he loved for fourteen years. That's a serious personal investment.

Third, notice that Jacob shows he is starting to understand how things truly work. Rachel demands children from him...and he points out that God is in control of such things. There is something to be said for the starting points. We all start somewhere in our faith. Jacob is truly starting out here, and he'll grow.

Where are you in your understanding of who God is? Can you let God work in you through His Word to grow it more?

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Genesis 28:10-29:20 #eebc2018

Jacob leaves. It's time, after all, before Esau's anger turns to direct plotting. I read one commentary that suggested Esau had no intentions of acting on his anger, because later on, he does not kill Jacob. That flattens the narrative: there's around 20 years that intervene between Jacob's departure and return. In that time, Esau had the opportunity to mellow, Isaac and Rebekah had the opportunity to help build the bridges needed.

Meanwhile, Jacob's on his way back to Haran. This is the land Abraham insisted Isaac not go back to--but Isaac hadn't tricked Abraham out of anything, either. The cover story is that Jacob is going in search of a bride from his mother's family, and since the principle of "If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy" is timeless, who could object? Esau could not have said "No, he needs to stick around so I can get revenge!"

Jacob goes to Haran, meets Rachel, and finds out that he's not the only one willing to deceive someone else. Laban is less than forthright with Jacob, and the results are somewhat troubling. The final results are in further readings, so we'll look more at them then.

For now, take a long, hard look at Jacob at Bethel. Here, things are really about as bad as they will get for Jacob. He's traveling, apparently alone, and does not even have reasonable bedding with him. He's reduced to a rough campout, and he's not young at this point! It's hard to nail a definite age down, but one estimate has him easily in his 60s.

And he's sleeping on the ground with a rock for a pillow. If it were Esau, you might say that he was a hunter, so no big deal. But Jacob tended to stay home. So he's in a rough spot, personally.

It is here that God meets him. Just because things are not going well does not mean you are in the wrong place. You may be exactly where you should be.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Genesis 27:1-28:9 #eebc2018

Isaac is getting up in years and recognizes that his death may be soon. While he is accurate, he's also being a tad pessimistic. Isaac will live many more years--long enough to see many of the consequences of these chapters. A good resource for you as you study the Bible is a good timeline--Logos Bible Software has one built-in, many good study Bibles have them. You'll see that many estimates place Isaac's death well into the time after Jacob's return to the Promised Land. He passes away shortly before the family relocates to Egypt.

Now, what happens here is related to inheritance. It was not uncommon for the patriarch of a family to divide the wealth of the household before his death. The expectation was that the oldest son, since he received the bulk of the material possessions, would use his blessing to provide for his father and mother until death. But, having the division beforehand ensured that any disputes about amounts or choices could be solved by the still-living patriarch. It prevented blood feuds--not an entirely bad idea.

That's most likely what Isaac is thinking. He's aware of the birthright trade from Genesis 25:29-34, so he probably seeking to defuse any other brother-to-brother tensions. What he did not expect was that his wife would end up part of the problem.

Now, a word is due here about overapplying the events of this chapter to the character of either Rebekah or Isaac. It may look like this is another example of a scheming woman, out to take advantage. However, while we see that Rebekah has a stronger relationship with Jacob (26:28), that does not indicate her character is flawed. We should be as careful judging Bible people over one incident as we are judging individual people now based on a single incident.

Jacob deceives his father out of the blessing. Unfortunately, this brings the exact opposite result of what Isaac had hoped for: it's now a blood feud.

Jacob flees from Esau's wrath. Esau gets the blessing that his father has left for him--perhaps he should have left it alone.

Then, as Jacob's cover story for leaving was to find a non-Canaanite wife, Esau strikes back at his parents by marrying an Ishmaelite woman alongside his Canaanite wives. Genesis 28:8 is a sad comment--either Esau has never realized that Isaac did not want him to take a Canaanite wife, or Isaac never told him. Either way, we see that Esau ends up trying to use his marriages for himself.

In all, a sad chapter showing that people will sometimes go the opposite direction of what is right, run from that which is God's truth. We should be cautious...

Monday, February 19, 2018

John 15:1-16:4 #eebc2018

Mondays!

Agricultural illustrations are all over the New Testament. It's to our detriment that we are so far removed from growing things that it has become difficult for us to grasp these. It's worth your time to read up a bit on how gardening and growing plants. You can find some good ones that weave both agriculture and Biblical interpretation, though keep in mind that books like The Trellis and the Vine move beyond facts and into opinions of the meaning of Scripture.

Which does not automatically make the opinions wrong. Just opinions--though well-researched opinions are very, very helpful.

Now, Jesus goes on to teach about remaining in fellowship with Him. He explains to the disciples that trouble is coming to them. They will face the people who have been their family, their nation, and those old friends will attack them. 16:2 brings out that those who do this will believe they are serving God by killing those who follow Christ.

Let that sink in: as a follower of Jesus, everything you do should be done because you are serving God. Yet, some of those who attack you do so believing they are doing the same thing. Which is why persecution comes with so much intensity: it's done as worship to a false view of God.

The focus for us, then, is not to attack the people that bring the difficulty but to show them a true view of Jesus. That may be harder than fighting back. But it is what we are called to do.

Friday, February 16, 2018

John 13:21-14:31 #eebc2018

Well, nothing like being a day late and a dollar short.

We start at the Last Supper. It's not a completely happy occasion. Jesus announces to the disciples that He is going to be betrayed...and by one of them! That's not a case for happiness.

Unfortunately for the disciples, they are all clueless about who it could be. Well, except for Judas, the one it is. Either the other eleven had never noticed anything strange about Judas or they just could not fathom that any one of them would deliberately betray Jesus. I think that was some of it--they never saw it coming that any of them could betray the traditions of hospitality and the bonds of brotherhood like that.

But Judas would. Why? That's a question for the ages, and the reasons will never be clear to us. It was not a surprise to Jesus, and was necessary for the situation to work out as it did.

The rest of this section includes Jesus' explanation of eternity and his statement that "I am the way..."

The opening of John 14 speaks of the coming of the Holy Spirit and contains Jesus' promise of peace to the disciples. Something to take note of here: the only people present are the disciples who follow Christ. Judas is now gone. Peter, with his upcoming denials, is still included. Thomas, with his doubts, is included.

It would do us well to remember that God's grace is greater than our sins...and the sins of those who annoy us.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Genesis 26:18-35 #eebc2018

It's another short read today, opening with Isaac's troubles with the Philistines. The Philistines were a migrating people who came, it appears, from the Mediterranean regions. There are points where they attempt to settle in Egypt but are driven off, and they settle on the coastlands of what is now Israel.

These folks are probably related to the ancestors of Ancient Greeks and Phoenicians, but that's beyond what we're doing here. I'd pick up Alfred Hoerth's Archaeology and the Old Testament for a starting place, although resources like The Baker Illustrated Bible Handbook will have some good information as well.

The main point is that the Philistines were moving in, and there were plenty of them to go around. When you compare that to the size of Isaac's household, it's no wonder that he chose to move rather than fight over water rights. At times, surrendering a right may be better than fighting over something--I recall learning to drive and being told that one can be "dead right" on the highway. It was a warning that, for example, it may be my turn at a 4-Way Stop, but that's not going to stop the guy who runs it from killing me.

The same principle applies here: Isaac has the right to his father's wells. But getting killed by Philistines leaves him without any need for water, and it was better to move on.

The key component of this reading is what happens in Genesis 26:23-24. When we reach this point, we see Isaac's relationship with Yahweh truly come into existence. We've seen him do some praying, but here there is a definite statement of the covenant between God and Abraham now becoming the covenant between God and Isaac. That's important for the future--God is not merely the God of last generation, but the God of the current generation.

The reading wraps up with the information that Esau has chosen to marry women from among the local pagan population--and that this made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah. There's not an explanation about why that's the case, just the statement that it is.

Don't marry to make others bitter--marry for the purpose of the glory of God...and wuv. Twue wuv.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Genesis 25:19-26:17 #eebc2018

We're back to the main line of the story at this point. Isaac marries Rebekah when he is forty years old--we do not know her age anywhere along the path of the story. Her details are absent--but we know that she was 20 years older when the boys were born. We get that from seeing that Isaac was 40 at marriage and 60 at fatherhood--given that Rebekah was adult enough for her decision to count in marrying Isaac, she's certainly going to be mid-30s at childbirth. I'd guess she's mid-40s, but that's all it is. A guess.

And "guessing" isn't on the list of great ways to understand the truth of Scripture, so don't count that guess as worth much. We can be certain that it was still somewhat miraculous for her to have children, as 25:21 shows that Isaac and Rebekah definitely saw her pregnancy as a gift from God.

Rebekah has twin sons, Esau and Jacob. Esau is the firstborn but Jacob is right behind him. The developments of the next few chapters revolve around these two and their rivalry. The summary would appear to be that Esau doesn't really think through things...and Jacob schemes for the future. Hebrews 12:16 criticizes Esau for selling his birthright for a single meal.

We also see in this passage that Isaac picked up one of Father Abraham's not-so-good habits: while complimenting his wife's looks, he also persuades her to lie about being his sister. It's not a great habit--and it results in trouble with the locals.

The other thing that happens here is the migration of Isaac farther away from the Philistines. God tells him not to go all the way to Egypt, so instead he moves into the wilderness and digs new wells until he finds a place he can settle.

There's something to consider in his obedience about not going to Egypt--just a few years after his death, his descendants will relocate to Egypt. Yet if they had been there already, who knows if Joseph would have been in the position he held? Possibly not...

God works in our lives, sometimes in ways that we will never understand. Follow and trust.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Genesis 25:1-18 #eebc2018

Today's reading is short, and it mostly deals with some events that we don't spend much time on in churches. I grew up in church and I know I read these verses, but I was in college before I really grasped that Abraham married someone after Sarah's death.

He did, though, and her name was Keturah. That's all we really know about her. She had six sons, and one of her descendants is the ancestor of the Midianites. Those folks come back into the story in the Exodus, specifically with Moses.

We also get the wrap-up of Ishmael's story as we find out about his descendants and his lifespan. He lives 137 years. His children and grandchildren settle across the Arabian peninsula, staying close to his family.

What do we learn from this? First, a quick note of the fact that Isaac and Ishmael stayed in close enough contact that they came together to bury Abraham. That's something--there's a time to set aside differences and be family.

Second, we see that God was faithful to His promise to Hagar in the earlier passages. His faithfulness is based on His own character, and there is no casting aside of those who are not the "main" people of the story.

That's probably the best takeaway for most of us: what do we do with those who are not the "big deal" in the world? Realizing also that, honestly, we're probably not the "big deal" either.

How do we treat those folks? Are we willing to honor our commitments even if there is no value for us?

We should be the kind of people who honor our word and care for our neighbor, even if it provides no benefit to us. Let us be that kind of person. Let that inform your politics and social views—like how you approach immigration or safety net programs.

Monday, February 12, 2018

John 12:20-13:20 #eebc2018

John leaves out some details in John 12. It may seem that Philip acted swiftly in trying to introduce the Greeks to Jesus. After all, that is why they came.

What got left out is that first, Philip told the Greeks that they weren't dressed quite right and sent them for different clothing. Then, Philip pointed out that they weren't quite the target demographic for evangelism. After that, Andrew came alongside and made sure that the Greeks were ready to come up with some seed money to demonstrate their faith. Finally, Andrew and Philip realized that they also had to get the Greeks on-board with the long-term political agenda of the disciples. After all, there was no sense letting strange folks like Greeks come to Jesus until they were ready to be just like those already there.

Or, perhaps, John has all the details right. The Greeks come and say they want to see Jesus, and Philip (with Andrew's help) makes it happen. He gets out of the way, sets aside his own (possible) prejudices, and puts people in the presence of Jesus.

If the earlier paragraph sounds like anything you might think is a good idea--or like what you think we ought to do as a church--may I politely suggest that you re-read the Word of God and repent from that sinful approach to people?

Then we have the voice from heaven, speaking of the glory of the Father. Why do we have this again? We had a voice at the baptism of Jesus, we had a voice on the Mount of Transfiguration, why again?

It goes back to the Greeks. And remember, for the typical Jewish view of the era, anybody "not-Jew" and "not-Samaritan" was Greek. The glory of God is not restricted to one nation...it is for all people.

The references back to Isaiah are a good reminder for those who wonder what's gone wrong with the world even today--who listens? Not all, sometimes not very many at all!

The washing of the disciples' feet is an important part of the Last Supper narrative. Why does it matter? It's the work of a servant, and it's taken on by the One who does not have to serve any one else. Yet He chooses to do so.

Who do you serve that, in your mind, does not deserve it? And with what attitude? Anyone can be condescending in their hearts to "serve" others--it happens frequently as we serve for the sake of smoothing our guilt--but are you serving with an open heart?

Now, don't stop serving until your attitude is right--serve others until your attitude gets right! If we are going to be like Jesus, then our actions and hearts should be right. Don't abandon the one for the other!

Friday, February 9, 2018

John 11:1-12:19 #eebc2018

There's a lot happening here, so let's get right into it. First off, you have the Lazarus story. Jesus knows Lazarus and his sisters, Martha and Mary, though we do not have a clear picture of where the friendship started. We know that their home was in Bethany, which is not too far from Jerusalem.

The story is likely familiar to any of you who are churchgoers. Lazarus is sick, his sisters send word to Jesus, and Jesus hurries to keep doing what He was already doing. After waiting long enough for Lazarus to die from his illness, Jesus goes and raises Lazarus. Lazarus spent four days dead--long enough for no one to think he was only mostly dead--and then was brought back at the command of Jesus.

What do we do with this? First, notice that both sisters were fairly certain that Jesus was late. His disciples were pretty sure He was late.

But Jesus was not late. He knew what He was doing, more than anyone else could have figured. He did not intend to heal Lazarus' illness. Instead, He intended to show His power over death.

Which is something that sounds good, but then we try to apply that concept to our own lives. It may be that God intends to show His power in the life of someone who has suffered deeply rather than someone who never struggled. He may want to show how He works in a handicap instead of healing it...

You get the idea.

That's one of our major challenges. Typically, it's all well and good to see how God worked in Scripture, to see how He worked in history, how He worked in biography. We like that. We see God work in Eric Liddell's life, how he sacrificed wins and then life...but we sure do expect God to show up and reschedule our races and deliver us from our enemies.

That type of response denies the reality that God works in His own way and His own time. The nature of this world, this time, means that we may not always get it the way we want it.

From there, we see a few more steps toward Calvary, including the anointing of Jesus by Mary. Lazarus is there, the disciples are there, and the expense of her gift is debated. It's important to see Jesus statement that we will "always have the poor" appropriately. It does not mean we should not try to help the poor--only that there are times where we need to spend on worship and obedience in other categories.

This segment wraps with one of the stranger parts of the Palm Sunday/Triumphal Entry story. After seeing Jesus enter the city, the religious leaders decide to kill Him...and Lazarus, just because.

Don't expect the world to be friendly to you. Jesus is your life and salvation, but that may just put a target on your back.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Genesis 24:15-67 #eebc2018

We pick up the story of Isaac, and for starters I would recommend going back to Genesis 24:1 to get the whole picture. Abraham has sent his servant back to the old country in search of a wife for Isaac.

The explicitness of Abraham's instructions are worth taking note of here: under no circumstances should Isaac be taken back to old homeland. This is going to be a bit of a challenge, as the prospective bride's family will have to agree to a marriage without interacting with the groom. This was most unusual.

But the key here is the "make sure you do not take my son back there" in Genesis 24:6. Abraham does not want his son to marry into the dominant pagan culture, but also does not want Isaac to return to Haran. The future must be secured without compromising with the wickedness around them and without giving up and going back.

What of our lives?

Many of us wander about, wondering what the future holds and how to secure it. Here is the principle in this passage: your decisions must grow out of trust in God's provision for the future and a complete abandonment of the past we had before we followed Christ. It's a place that we ought not return, a wilderness that there is no future in.

And we should be cautious to teach our children not to go back there. That includes our children in the faith--it is our responsibility, in the churches of God, to teach our children the importance of not returning to the sins of old. That means knowing what we've done, and even confessing it to them.

The servant makes the journey (traditionally, we assume this servant is Eliezer from Genesis 15:1 but that is not textually definite) and finds Rebekah. He brings her back, having secured her agreement to leave the homeland and come to a new place. It is interesting that her family leaves the decision on her, as if to say that it's entirely on her what the results may be.

Which is true, in its own way. She is going out into the far unknown, and they will not be able to intervene for (or profit from) her any longer. She returns, marries Isaac.

And he is "comforted" in the loss of his mother. Anyone may think they will be fine going forward alone...but we all need others in our lives. Look to the people God has placed in your life, and may comfort come through them for you.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Genesis 22:1-24:14 #eebc2018

Now we come to the biggest demonstration of God's grace you'll find in the Abraham narrative. (Remember, "narrative" is just a fancy word for "story," but we use it sometimes with Biblical texts because it makes clear that this is true.) Abraham's life now seems like it's coming together. He has the son he was promised by God. The extra child, Ishmael, has been sent off into the wilderness. Sodom and Gomorrah are gone, Lot has gone off into the wilderness.

Abraham has covenants and treaties with the people around him. Everything should be just fine, it's time to watch the sheep multiply, get Isaac set up with a good wife, and retire.

Then God speaks.

And suddenly, everything changes. Abraham is told to take Isaac and sacrifice him. And he obeys---leaving me with more questions than answers. For example, what do you tell Sarah? I can imagine taking my son and heading off to a mountain three days away, carrying firewood, a big knife, and a bunch of rope. I don't think she'd let us go... But we have nothing about that.

We have one, faith-filled statement in Genesis 22:8, that "God will provide Himself the lamb..." Keep in mind, that can be punctuated several ways. All of which point to the actual result: that God provides the lamb for Himself in Genesis 22, and then God provides Himself, the Lamb, at Calvary.

We go from there to the death of Sarah and her burial. I think there's another question here, and it comes from the statement in Genesis 23:2 that she died in Hebron and Abraham went to mourn for her. What's the question? Genesis 22:19 has Abraham settled in Beersheba. Were they not together?

Next we get "Real Estate Transactions in the Ancient Near East for 600 Shekels, Alex..." where Abraham buys a field and the cave in it for a burial space. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will all be buried here. Depending on which commentary you read, either Abraham had to overpay for the place or he willingly overpaid so that the Hethites (or Hittites) would have to acknowledge his ownership. Having not been there, I don't know for certain, but what we do know is that it became his property, and there he buried his dead.

So, what do we learn? First of all, that when God speaks, it may just damage our calm. We like our calm lives, our calm situations...but when there is no challenge to our faith, what do our claims of fidelity mean? Compare Abraham's testing to Job's testing, and remember that God commands obedience or else He is not God. True, we know that God abhors human sacrifice, but it's because we have the rest of His Word.

Which means we have plenty of clear commands to obey, and a better, deeper explanation of who God is and what He requires than Abraham might have had. We are, then, completely without excuse.

Then there is the cost of life--realize that by the time Abraham dies, all that he owns on this earth is his burial ground. What are you buying? Land, houses, small kitchen appliances?

None of it goes with you---and none of it would have worth if it did.

We'll look at the quest for Isaac's wife in one lump, even though the reading plan splits it up.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Genesis 21:9-34 #eebc2018

We have a sad story to face today. During the celebration of Isaac's weaning, Ishmael, the son of Hagar, is seen to be mocking him. What does that mean? We actually don't really know. We can just see that Isaac's mother, Sarah, does not like what is being said.

It's clear, then, that it's not a simple brother-brother harassment. Sarah persuades Abraham to send Hagar away, but the "away" here is more of a death sentence than a relocation. The two are lost in the wilderness and likely to die. God intervenes and saves them.

What do we learn from that? I think there's a basic warning: Hagar has a child because Sarah suggested it. Now, Sarah's own actions come home to roost but she wants Hagar and Ishamel to bear the burden of it. We do the same thing at times: we make choices and then refuses to take the responsibility for what happens. Yet we are the ones who caused it. Be aware: your actions will have results, and you gain nothing by forcing others to carry your weight.

The rest of the reading looks at Abraham's relationship with Abimelech. Yes, Abimelech from Genesis 20. The two men are not exactly on the best of terms and there is conflict. It's over water, something that still brings conflict today.

At this point, the two men swear a covenant, that Abraham would not attack Abimelech, but we see Abraham's influence in his extracting promises from the ruler of the area. Think about that: Abimelech and Phicol are among the most powerful people in the region, and Abraham extracts a covenant with them as if between near-equals.

The point for us? God is on Abraham's side here, and Abimelech knows better than to mess with him. We should search the Word of God and see who the Lord has said are His...

Monday, February 5, 2018

Sermon Recap for February 4

Here is what you'll find: after each sermon title, there's an "audio" link that allows you to play or download that sermon's audio file. Then there should be an embedded Youtube Link to the sermon.

If you'd like, you can subscribe to the audio feed here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/east-end-baptist-church/id387911457?mt=2 for iTunes users. Other audio feeds go here: http://eebcar.libsyn.com/rss

The video is linked on my personal Youtube Page here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJBGluSoaJgYn6PbIklwKaw?view_as=public

Sermons are stockpiled here: http://www.doughibbard.com/search/label/Sermons

Thanks!

Morning Sermon: Exodus 20 (audio download)



Evening Sermon John 9 (audio)

John 9:13-10:42 #eebc2018

John 9:13-10:42

We have a man who was born blind...and now he's not. That should spark the awe and wonder of the people and the religious leaders...and it does not. What do we do with that?

First, remember that the opening section of the reading goes with the earlier part of the chapter. You have to read John 9:1-12 so that you know who John 9:13 is referring to.

From there, we see the development of the story of this man. The Pharisees do not know how to handle the fact of his healing. Here is Jesus, violating their understanding of the Sabbath, healing a man. Which is not something that medicine could do--they knew full well that nothing in human means could heal someone born with blindness.

What do they do with that? Try to ignore it. That was all they could come up with, ignore what God had done.  Not the best approach.

We continue into John 10 and you can see what Jesus says here. He's talking about the unity of the flock, with Him as the Good Shepherd. There are callbacks here to Micah 2 and Psalm 118, and it's an illustration that everyone would have understood. The idea that someone would sacrifice himself for sheep? Sheep were plentiful...

Remember, though, that this is more about how good Jesus is and not primarily about us. Also, don't take the "other sheep" any farther than Gentiles.

Then Jesus attends the Jewish Feast of Dedication--this is what we now know as Hanukkah. The foundation of this feast is in the Maccabean Revolt of the 2nd century BC, and it's a history worth knowing. A good study Bible will have that in the "Time between the Testaments" section. A nerdy study Bible will call it "Intertestamental History." Take your pick.

The main thing we are seeing in this section is the growing division among the people about Jesus. They are soon to be forced to make a choice between Jesus and the way things have always been. The same choice that often confronts us.

Friday, February 2, 2018

John 8:1-9:12 #eebc2018

The first thing we need to address are those awkward brackets/italics/footnotes involving 7:53-8:11 in most newer Bible translations. What does it mean when it says that "The earliest mss do not include" these verse? Why does anybody tinker with the Bible?

To wrestle with this takes a minute or two, so bear with me. As a foundation, I would remind you that I believe the original text of Scripture, in its original languages, is divinely inspired and without any mixture of error in its content. That is, what John wrote in the language John wrote it is inerrant. We start there.

Now, the challenge comes as we examine what the original text actually was. We have no "originals" (known as "autographs") in our possession. What we have are copies. Lots of copies, to be certain, with more copies of the New Testament than of any other ancient writing of similar age. These are in the form of full copies, partial copies, comments by ancient Christians, and quotations. They exist in Greek, Latin, Aramaic, Syriac, and several other languages.

This results in a form of study called "textual criticism," which strives to examine the available texts (called "extant" texts) and determine what the original text was. And, for the most part, there is somewhere between 95 and 99% agreement with each other. (Read Daniel Wallace's Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament for a full examination of the issue.)

Now, we get to our text, a problem arises that is hard to sort out. When one looks at the copies of John from the first several centuries, John 7:53-8:11 is not there. (see here: https://danielbwallace.com/2013/06/26/where-is-the-story-of-the-woman-caught-in-adultery-really-from/ )It's also not cited by ministers of the Early Church. John Chrysostom's sermons, for example, go sequentially through John...and go straight from John 7:52 to John 8:12. But, the passage shows up in other copies in other Gospels, and then it turns up in John in the Greek texts used for the King James and other early English versions. (It's also in the Latin Vulgate, which dates back hundreds of years earlier.)

So it seems like it could belong, but there is some uncertainty. We can see the character of Jesus clearly here, but there is nothing new that we learn. So there is no theological reason to set it aside. That's why most Bible translations try to hit the middle ground and note the textual problem but maintain the passage. Personally, I'm in favor of leaving it in, but I'm a pastor more than a scholar and I see how carving out passages like this can undercut our understanding of God's Word. If we are not careful, we start moving Scripture out of the hands of God's people and back to an "experts-only" situation. That's not healthy for the church.

The rest of the passage deals with Jesus pointing out the difference in what the religious leaders taught and what God had said and what God was saying, right there, through Him. The wrap-up of John 8 has Him reminding the Jewish leaders (usually, John uses the term "the Jews" for the leaders, not all of the Jews; some folks misconstrue this into anti-Semitism) that He pre-existed Abraham. Putting it is "I am" pretty well showed them what He meant.

Chapter 9 then opens with the healing of the man born blind. Jesus points out that his blindness is for the glory of God. More on him in the next section.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Genesis 20-21:8 #eebc2018

Abraham's on the road again in this chapter, which has to fit tightly between the promise given in Genesis 18 and the closing events here with the birth of Isaac. After all, along with the promise, Abraham was circumcised, and the promise was that the promised son would come within about a year. So you've got just a few months that this could happen during.

Abraham travels to the Negev, which is the wilderness just outside of the more fertile areas of the Promised Land. And there, he replays his behavior from Egypt earlier in the story (see Genesis 12:10-20). God again protects both Abraham and Sarah, though Abraham again puts them at risk with his choices.

God, however, protects them despite the repeat offense. He defends Sarah and her honor, and through this His promise is protected. What do we do with this story?

First, we take note that Abraham's new name does not make him perfect. His covenant with God still relies on God's grace, because he still struggles with the same fear-motivated sins from earlier in his life. That's good news for any of us repeaters, is not? Not that we should take this as an excuse not to change our behaviors, but that we can take it as evidence of grace.

And, honestly, if you get into sin every time you travel, maybe you should rethink your decision-making paradigm about travel?

Second, we can see the faithfulness of God. God made a promise. It will be held by the power of God, not the faithfulness (or lack thereof) of a man. God's promises are delivered by Him.

Third, we can see one other thing that should alarm us: all of Abimelech's household fell under judgment because of one sin.

The section wraps up with the birth of Isaac and his subsequent circumcision. We are reminded that Abraham was 100 years old at the time, and that Sarah and Abraham knew just how impossible this was without God's intervention. The reading pauses here, with the feast for the weaning of Isaac.

Trouble, though, waits around the corner.

July 5 Service Recap

Good morning! Here are the service recaps from last week. First we’ll see the morning services, both the 9 AM and the 11 AM, then there will...