Abraham: Called to Renewal

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The Time Has Come to Put the Plan into Action

In our last episode—Episode #4 of Biopic #1 on the life of Abram—we learned that following a life-altering, covenant-making encounter with God, when challenged by the Silence of God test, Abram failed miserably.  Instead of taking God at His Word and waiting for Him to fulfill His promises, he gave into the temptation of trying to solve a spiritual challenge through the use of his own human reasoning and fleshly works.  Just as Adam had done when he was tested in the Garden of Eden, Abram forfeited his position of Headship when confronted by the Influence Power of his wife, and with equally disastrous results.  Here, just as in Adam’s case, we see the evidence that the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was still producing its poisonous fruit…

The Fruit of the Two Trees

With that in mind

God Shows Up Again in Genesis 17 to Get Things Back on Track…

…as once again, the curtain rises on our next episode.  About thirteen years have passed since the end of our previous episode—meaning that it has been at least thirteen years since Abram has been visited by God—something our off-stage Narrator makes us aware us as this scene opens…

Script #5 for Biopic #1
Cast:     Narrator     God     Abram

Narrator:  When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him…

God:  I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless. And I will make My Covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly.

Narrator:  Then Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying…

God:  As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations.  No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you. Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.

As for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you. He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised, every male child in your generations, he who is born in your house or bought with money from any foreigner who is not your descendant. He who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money must be circumcised, and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.  And the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.

As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. And I will bless her and also give you a son by her; then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be from her.

Narrator:  Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, “Shall a child be born to a man who is one hundred years old? And shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?”   And Abraham said to God…

Abraham:  Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!

God:  No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard you. Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall beget twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation.  But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this set time next year.

Narrator:  Then He finished talking with him, and God went up from Abraham.  So Abraham took Ishmael his son, all who were born in his house and all who were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house, and circumcised the flesh of their foreskins that very same day, as God had said to him.

Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.  And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.  That very same day Abraham was circumcised, and his son Ishmael; and all the men of his house, born in the house or bought with money from a foreigner, were circumcised with him.

With that, Episode #5 comes to a close, leaving us to launch our Review of this latest encounter between God and Abram.

The Critic's Hat

Time to Don our Critic’s Cap and Get this Review Underway

Our Review 

To help us better understand the significance of this episode, let’s look at these three important aspects of it…

The Interlude of Silence
The Clarified Terms of the Covenant
The Sign of Covenant 

The Interlude of Silence

  • Why do you think God waited for 13 years before making another appearance?

He may have been waiting for Ishmael to reach what was then considered to be the age of maturity.  In doing so, He would be keeping the promise He had made to Hagar, as well as taking care of Abram’s descendant whom He had promised to bless.

  • What do you think was going on in Abram’s life during this period?

More than likely, life was going on as usual.  Abram would have been attending to his business interests, Sarai would probably have still been resentful of Hagar, Hagar would have been caring for her son while still serving Sarai, and Ishmael would have been growing up into a young man.

  • Where do you think Abram was spiritually at this time?

He probably thought that he was okay spiritually.  The fact that he hadn’t had another visit from God in thirteen years may have encouraged him to believe that his and Sarai’s plan to obtain a child through Hagar was God’s way of providing him with a son.

  • What do you think Abram’s state of mind was concerning Ismael during this time?

When God showed up to renew the covenant and told Abram that He was going to bless Sarai with a son, Abram didn’t believe it and asked Him to bless Ishmael.  This would seem to indicate that Abram had been operating under the delusion that Ishmael was his promised son and rightful heir.

The Clarified Terms of the Covenant

New Names

In renewing His Covenant with Abram, the first matter that God addressed was the names of the parties involved in the contract.  This was important because, in those days, a person’s name was more than just a form of identification, it also provided some insight into his character—with his name denoting or revealing a quality unique to that person.  So, before implementing the covenant, God revised the names on the contract in order to reflect a change or new insight into the nature of each of its participants…

  • For God—Previously in Scripture, God had revealed Himself through a variety of names…
    • Elohim, in Genesis 1:1—as the Creator God who is Plural in Person but Singular in Purpose;
    • Jehovah/Yahweh, in Genesis 2:4—The Lord, the I AM—the Eternal, Unchanging, Self-Existent, Covenantal God of Revelation and Redemption;
    • Adonai, in Genesis 15:4—The Lord, the Sovereign God;
    • El Elyon, in Genesis 14:18—The Most High God—the God above all gods; and,
    • El Roi, in Genesis 16:13—The God Who Sees Me, ever watchful, ever caring.

Here, in Genesis 17:1, He reveals a new aspect of His Character through the name of El ShaddaiThe All-Sufficient One, the Over-Powerer who is able to overcome every obstacle–even the deadness of Sarai’s womb–and achieve all of His Purposes.

  • For Abram—the one who had previously been known as the Exalted Father, would now be known as Abraham—the Father of a Multitude.
  • For Sarai—whose name meant Princess, as Sarah, she would from then on be known as My Princess. 

El Shaddai is not limited by Sarai’s Broken Biological Clock

The Terms

  • For God—this would be an Everlasting Covenant, with all the Land of Canaan being given as an Everlasting Possession to Abraham and his descendants—descendants from whom future Nations and Kings would arise.
  • For Abraham—he and his descendants must keep the covenant, with the Circumcision of every male child at eight days of age serving as the sign of their pledge to do so.
  • For Sarah—she would give birth to a son of her own, and through him she would become the mother of Nations and Kings.
  • For Ishmael—although he was not the son of promise, God would make him fruitful, with Twelve Princes and a Great Nation coming from him.

The Sign of the Covenant

  • What did circumcision signify?
    • As a blood sacrifice, it was to be a reminder of one’s need for redemption and a sign that a person belonged to God;
    • In the cutting away of the flesh, it was to be a mark of one’s separation from the world, as well as a sign of sexual purity and the dedication of one’s children to God; and,
    • It was a visual reminder that the terms of the covenant were still in force.
  • In what way was Circumcision unique for the Israelites?

In the other cultures where circumcision was practiced, it was usually performed when a boy reached the age of puberty and it served as his rite of passage into manhood.  In Israel, however, it signified that an infant had transitioned from being a child of Adam to being a member of the God’s Covenant People.  Later, after the Law had been given to the people through Moses, it also meant that he would have access to the Torah.[1]

  • What was significant about the 8th day?

In Leviticus 12:2, we learn that when a woman had given birth to a male child, she was considered unclean for seven days afterward.  On the eight day, both she and the child would be considered ceremonially clean.

  • Did circumcision make a person Righteous before God? Was Abraham made righteous through circumcision?

No, for according to Romans 4:11-12, Abraham…

…received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also, and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised.

And, in Romans 2:28-29, we are told that…

…he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.

  • What would be a counterpart to circumcision in the New Covenant?

Baptism would be its counterpart in the New Covenant.  Like Circumcision, Baptism does not save a person or make him righteous before God—it is simply the outward sign that an inward decision to trust God for Salvation has taken place.

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In Summary

Now, having examined these important aspects of this episode, let’s use what we have learned to answer the all-important questions of…

  • What Life Lessons can we take away from this episode in Abraham’s life?

When God promises to do something, He will do it.  It won’t happen according to our schedule or timing, but at a time in keeping with His overall plans and purposes.  Any attempts on our parts to “help” hurry the process along will only lead to sorrow and a further delay of our hopes.

  • What Contributions does this part of his story make to God’s One Big Story of Redemption?

As we shall see in upcoming episodes, God’s rejection of Ishmael and His provision of a son through Sarah will provide Abraham and all of his descendants with an incredible prophetic picture of their coming Messiah and our Savior, Jesus Christ.

  • What Revelations of God does this episode give us?

In the revelation of God as El Shaddai, the All-Sufficient One, we are assured that no matter what obstacles we may encounter or how impossible the situations are that we find ourselves in, God is able to overcome them all and keep the promises He has made to us.

For Next Time…

 

[1] Michael Fishbane, Judaism, at https://www2.kenyon.edu/Depts/Religion/Projects/Reln91/Blood/Judaism/circumcision/circumcision.htm

 

Abraham:  Called to Wait

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The Testing of Delay is One of the Hardest Ones to Pass

Last time, in Episode #3 of Biopic #1, we learned about Abram’s latest encounter with God.  It came on the heels of his victory over the four Kings from Mesopotamia, his meeting with Melchizedek, and the temptation presented to him by the King of Sodom.  During this encounter, God expanded upon His revelation to Abram, revealing to him for the first time that he would father a son of his own.  Emphasis was placed on the fact that, at this promise of a Son, Abram believed God and his faith was credited to him as righteousness.

At the time, God also reaffirmed His promise that Abram’s descendants would inherit the land, prompting Abram to ask for some tangible evidence—a guarantee of some sort—that this would be so.  His request was followed by a dream in which God revealed to Abram the future of both those descendants and the land—a dream which was followed by a Covenant-Cutting Ritual in which God bound Himself by blood to fulfill His Promise. 

In reality, this Covenant represented the Marriage Contract between God and Abram, in which Abram pledged his descendants—the future nation of Israel—to be God’s Wife.  As such, it marked Israel’s Official Engagement to God and the beginning of their Betrothal Period—which would last until Moses (acting as God’s Proxy) comes to deliver Israel from her Egyptian bondage and carry her away to Mount Sinai, where their Marriage Ceremony is to take place.  As this was an Unconditional Covenant on God’s part, all that was left for Abram to do was to Believe God and Wait on Him for its fulfillment.

Here, in Episode #4, we will see just how successful Abram was in doing that.  As we await its commencement, here are a few that we need to keep in mind…

  • When this Episode opens, we don’t know how much time has passed since the end of Episode #3 but, because of the ages given for Abram, it probably wasn’t very long;
  • Although Abram has had a faith-producing encounter with God, his wife Sarai has not; and,
  • Not only is Abram at least 85 years old, but Sarai is at least 75—well past the age of childbearing—so the idea that God would give Abram a child through her is humanly impossible.

Episode #4 for Biopic #1
Cast:  Narrator     Sarai     Abram     Angel of the Lord     Hagar

Bearing these things in mind, then, and with the curtain now rising on this Episode, we hear the voice of our off-stage Narrator once again, as he announces…

Narrator:  Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. And she had an Egyptian maidservant whose name was Hagar.  So Sarai said to Abram…

Sarai:  See now, the LORD has restrained me from bearing children. Please, go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children by her.

Narrator:  And Abram heeded the voice of Sarai. Then Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar her maid, the Egyptian, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan.  So he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress became despised in her eyes.  Then Sarai said to Abram…

Sarai:  My wrong be upon you! I gave my maid into your embrace; and when she saw that she had conceived, I became despised in her eyes. The LORD judge between you and me.  So Abram said to Sarai…

Abram:  Indeed your maid is in your hand; do to her as you please.

Narrator:  And when Sarai dealt harshly with her, she fled from her presence.  Now the Angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur. And He said…

Angel of the Lord:  Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from, and where are you going?

Hagar:  I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.

Angel of the LORD:  Return to your mistress, and submit yourself under her hand.  I will multiply your descendants exceedingly, so that they shall not be counted for multitude.  ​

​​Behold, you are with child, and you shall bear a son.  ​​You shall call his name Ishmael, because the LORD has heard your affliction.  ​​He shall be a wild man; his hand shall be against every man, and every man’s hand against him.  ​​And he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.​

Narrator:  Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees; for she said, “Have I also here seen Him who sees me?” Therefore the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; observe, it is between Kadesh and Bered.  So Hagar bore Abram a son; and Abram named his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram.

A Human Solution is Never a Good Solution

At this, the curtain descends, not only marking the ending of this Episode, but also the beginning of our Critical Review.

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Our Review

So far, in our journey with Abram, we have seen God slowly and methodically revealing Himself and His plans for Abram.  We have also seen that following each of these revelations, there has been a period of testing—with this latest revelation proving to be no exception.  In this case, however, Abram wasn’t being tested by fear for his own safety, the lure of riches, or the threat of warfare, but by the Silence of God as he waits for Him to honor His promises.

The Test of Silence—
or, Learning to Walk in the Light of the Last Revelation

Shhh–The Test of Silence is Underway

I’m inclined to think that after such an exhilarating experience as the covenant-cutting ritual, Abram was expecting to see God act on his behalf immediately.  After all, what would be the point of any further delay…

  • Both he and Sarai were already well past childbearing ages, so the birth of a son now would still be a miracle for which God would get the glory;
  • Having lived in the Land of Promise for ten years and having paid their dues there by now, they had already waited long enough; and,
  • With God having made such a big production of this latest Revelation, wouldn’t this have been a good indication that its immediate fulfillment was all but guaranteed?

So why the silence, why the wait, why the delay?

In order to answer this question, we first need to determine just what God wants to accomplish through our testing?  We can get an idea of His objectives in the following passages of Scripture…

Some of God’s Objectives in Testing

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That being said, let’s now look at the particulars of our Story to see if we can determine what God wanted to accomplish in the lives of Abram, Sarai, and Hagar through the Test of Silence and Delay…

  1. Who initiated the action in this episode and why?

Sarai did—no doubt because she felt like a failure as a woman.  To be unable to bear a child in that culture was considered to be a sign of God’s displeasure.  If Abram had come home and told her all about his encounter with God, thinking that it was her fault that they were still childless, she may have thought it was her responsibility to remedy the situation.

  1. Was Sarai’s solution to their problem a legitimate one?

While it was perfectly legal and culturally acceptable at this time to use one’s servant as a surrogate, it was not God’s solution to the problem.  It demonstrated a lack of Faith in His Promises and His ability to do the impossible.

  1. Abram “heeded the voice of his wife”—what past event does this recall? What was the outcome of that event?

This, of course, takes us back to Man’s Testing in the Garden of Eden.  Here, just as in the case of Adam and Eve, instead of acting as Head over his household, Abram caved into pressure exerted by Sarai—with likewise disastrous results.  In this instance, pleasing his wife (perhaps silencing her complaints and laments) became more important that believing God.

  1. How does Sarai respond to the circumstances which she brought about?

Rather than admitting that she made a mistake and taking responsibility for the consequences of it, she blames Abram.  Like Eve, she shifts the blame—this time to Abram, who then shifts it back to her.

  1. Hagar flees…what kind of treatment should Hagar have expected from people professing to know God?

Since Hagar was Egyptian, Abram and Sarai most likely brought her back with them when Pharaoh kicked them out of Egypt.  As an idol-worshiper who had come to live in the home of “God’s People,” she should have expected to be treated with more consideration, rather than as a baby-making machine.

  1. The Angel of the Lord makes His first recorded appearance here. Who does He appear to and what does He do?

The appearance of the Angel of the Lord here is likely a Pre-Incarnate Visitation of Christ—who, instead of appearing to Abram or Sarai, seeks out the lost and the outcast Hagar.  This is reminiscent of the Good Shepherd who, in pursuit of the one lost sheep, leaves the ninety-nine behind.

  1. What is significant about the Angel’s instruction to Hagar?

It is very much like what we read in 1 Peter 5:6-7…

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.

Although Hagar has been treated badly by Sarai, she is told to go back and submit to her authority once again.  In so doing, she and her child would be protected and provided for by the Lord.

  1. What does Ishmael represent? In Galatians 4:22-26, the Apostle Paul explains his spiritual significance in this way….

…that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman.  But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar—for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children—but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all. ​

As Hagar is a picture to us of the Old Covenant which gives birth to bondage, Ishmael becomes a picture of the Works of the Flesh produced by those living under that bondage.

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Now, to see what the Test of Silence, Delay, and Waiting accomplished or revealed in the lives of the parties involved, let’s assess them in the following way…

A Scorecard for Abram, Sarai, and Hagar


In Summary—

Before leaving this Episode, and in order to complete our Review, we need to ask ourselves these all-important questions…

  1. What Life Lessons can we take away from Abram’s experience here?

One of the most important lessons that we can take away from this is, if we fail or refuse to wait upon God and attempt to accomplish His Will through our own human wisdom and fleshly means, we will…

  • Wreak havoc in our homes and in our relationships;
  • Delay even longer the fulfillment of God’s Promises to us; and,
  • Give our enemies and the enemies of God an opportunity to question our salvation and to bring a reproach upon God.
  1. Does this Episode make any contributions to God’s One Big Story of Redemption?

As a result of his lapse of Faith and his failure to wait on God for His Provision of a Son, Abram‘s self-efforts produced Ishmael—whose descendants have been Israel’s enemies throughout most of her history.

  1. Are there any Revelations of God to be found in this part of His Story?

Although God is noticeably silent where Abram and Sarai are concerned, He reveals Himself to Hagar as the God who desires that all—both Jew and Gentile—to come to Repentance and Faith through His Son, Jesus Christ.

 

Your Assignment

 

Images of Abram, Sarai, and Hagar courtesy of freebibleimages.com.

 

 

Smoke and Mirrors

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The Signs of the Times

When the Corona-virus first broke out, I kept hearing in my spirit the phrase, “Smoke and Mirrors.”   Not being given anything else to go on, though, all I could do was wait for further instructions.  Then, when George Floyd was killed and all of the riots broke out, I heard “Smoke and Mirrors” once more—again, without being given any additional information or instruction.

Afterward, while observing the fallout from these events, I was amazed by the clear dividing line that was being drawn—not among the unbelievers but among those whom I considered to be committed and mature followers of Christ.  I was simultaneously stunned and grieved to see so many of these people being manipulated by the spirits of chaos and anarchy that were so obviously at work in these events.

At this point, I asked the Lord if He wanted me to comment on the situation and, if so, what I was to say.   I didn’t get an answer right away but a few weeks later, I distinctly heard, “Don’t get caught up in the fray, show the way.”  Now that may seem like a rather cryptic word to be given, but when I heard it, I knew immediately that it was the Lord’s way of reminding me to stay focused on the Truth, and not to get caught up in the emotions of these events and go off half-cocked, chasing rabbits.

This, then, begs the question of just what the Truth is that we should be focusing on right now?  Well, in keeping with the words I had received earlier, it is that both the pandemic and the racial upheavals are really “Smoke and Mirrors”—that is, they are…

…something that distorts or blurs facts, figures, etc.; like a magic or conjuring trick; an artful deception.[1]

Pay Attention–Don’t Let Him Distract You

They are the sleight-of-hand maneuvers of the devil, designed to shift our attention from one thing onto another; a short-term shift giving him the time and space to achieve his long-term goals undetected and unhindered.  He has been using this classic diversionary tactic, so essential to the success of both the magician and the military strategist, to keep us confined and cowering in fear because of the pandemic, and so emotionally wrought up and divided because of the riots and violence that we can’t see what’s really going on, much less come together to deal with it.

We need to remember that the devil is not concerned with the unbelievers in all of this, because he already has them in his pocket; but, it is the true followers of Christ that he hopes to divide and conquer through these events.  That’s because they make up the bulk of Donald Trump’s support base, and it is he and the other conservative candidates that the devil wants to defeat in the upcoming elections.  Why?  Because the outcome of these races will directly impact the long-term agenda for the establishment of his kingdom here on earth.  Before we can really understand why they are so critical to that agenda, we must first have an adequate understanding of the devil’s long-term goal and the warfare that it has engendered.

Before getting into that, though, I think it is important for me to emphasize here that I am called to teach the Truth of God, as contained in His Word, the Bible—and not to publicly endorse or promote one candidate or party over another.  However, when God’s Truth and His Kingdom Purposes and Politics collide, it is imperative that I speak to the Church regarding these issues–as that is all part of it what it means for me to “…show the way.”

Satan’s Kingdom Agenda

Although Satan (aka Lucifer and the devil) was created as one of the highest ranking angels, when he became vain because of his beauty and power-hungry because of his position, he rebelled against God’s authority and attempted to usurp that authority for himself.

His original plan—his Plan A—called for him to overthrow God and take over His Throne in Heaven; this in spite of the fact that God was and still is All-Powerful, and his own power was severely limited in comparison.  When this coup failed, he was then forced to come up with a Plan B, one which called for him to set up his kingdom on the earth instead.  This presented him with another problem, though, because God had already given the earth to Man to rule over, so what was he to do about that?

For Satan to achieve his Plan B and realize his goal, he devised a strategy which would allow him to gain control of the earth by taking captive God’s representatives and intended family through deception and lies.  When this proved successful, the authority[2] to rule over the earth which had once been delegated to them, became his.  Since then, armed with this authority, he has been working tirelessly and ruthlessly throughout history and in every realm of human existence to establish his kingdom, all the while doing his best to eradicate the knowledge of God and the Truth, and replacing God with himself and the Truth with a lie.

Satan’s first real drive to consolidate political power began at the Tower of Babel where he nearly succeeded in establishing the first world government on the plains of Shinar.  Although God’s dispersion of the people into different ethnic groups made Satan’s attempts at consolidation more difficult, it certainly didn’t deter him from the quest.  Not only was the first organized False Religion that began there scattered abroad along with the people, but from that time until now, in every tribe and nation, he has been at work, seeking to ensure that the godless rise to power and control all the wealth and resources, while the masses under them remain in bondage and in poverty.  Gradually, as those with the most ambition and might launched out and conquered more territory, empires developed—empires which have been and are currently being ruled by the devil and his demons.

We are living in one of those empires now—an Americanized version of the old Roman Empire; however, we are very quickly being moved toward what is referred to in the Bible as the Revived Roman Empire—but, in secular terms, is the Globalization of Government, Banking and Business, Education, Media and Entertainment, and Religion known as the New World Order.  This amalgamation of the structures of human life is what Satan has been working toward ever since his failure at the Tower of Babel, as it will be the vehicle through which he, through the persons of the Antichrist and False Prophet, will finally realize his dream (however short-lived as it may be) of being revered and worshiped as god on a world-wide level.

The Bible tells us that in the last days of this age, this New World Order will be a One-World Government ruled by a charismatic but ruthless dictator.  According to Daniel 7: 7, 23-24, this government will be comprised of Ten Kingdoms which, for the time being, have no kings to rule over them.  It will be supported by a Global Economic System, and united by a One World Religion.  Although the plans for this government have been in the works for millennia, and it has been partially realized in fits and spurts at various times throughout history, its ultimate realization has been all but impossible due to nationalism, ethnic rivalries, and problems attributable to distance and communication.  Until recently, there was just no way to centralize all of the governmental powers, financial institutions, and religious organizations in the world and bring them under the control of one person.  But now, due to all of the improvements in travel and advancements in technology made during the past century, what was formerly just a dream has now become a reality.

Quick to exploit these many innovations, Satan, working through his greedy, globally-minded human puppeteers, has been busy orchestrating the consolidation of the world’s Political and Economic Structures, Cultural Structures, and Religious Structures—national ones which have taken him centuries, if not millennia, to construct.  Mind you, he has not been dismantling them, just merging them into a single Global Unit, so that…

  • Through its universal Political and Economic Systems, he can control what human beings do and where they can go;
  • Through its multifaceted Cultural System, he can control what human beings think and how they feel about themselves, the family, and the world around them; and,
  • Through its counterfeit Religious System, he can control what human beings believe and what or whom they worship.

Controlling the Masses through Political Power

Controlling the Masses through Economics

Satan’s Political and Economic Advances…

— Through the establishment of the Federal Reserve System in 1913, he has gained control of the money supply, ensuring that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer—and, that his future front-men will be able to enforce his worship through their control of the economy;

— Through the creation of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in 1921, whose stated purpose is…

…to advocate the ‘building [of] a new international order [which] may be responsible to world aspirations for peace [and] for social and economic change…[3]

…he has taken over the Department of State, and filled the most important and powerful positions in the government with its members.  These constitute the deep state, whose job it is to ensure that the President adheres to the Globalist Agenda.  Additionally, through the Council on Foreign Relations, he has spawned a number of spin-off groups, such as the Bilderbergers, the Club of Rome, and the Trilateral Commission—charging each with carrying out a specific task within the broader mission of establishing the New World Order;[4]

— Through the creation of the United Nations in 1945, he has provided the nations of the world with a model global government as a means of conditioning them to accept the real one when it materializes;

— Through the establishment of the Bilderberger Group in 1954a super-secretive group of some of the world’s most powerful people—he has been working…

… to submit the sovereignty of the free nations of Europe to a Bilderberger-controlled British-American One World Government, using a nuclear threat as a battering ram against the rest of the unwilling world.”[5]

[When the Cold War came to an end, their weapon of choice became Global Warming.]

The Bilderberger’s have also been his go-to group for the vetting of potential candidates for the highest offices in the land.  They interview the candidates, regardless of their party affiliation, to see who can best advance their agenda over the next four years.  Then, once one is decided upon, they will see to it that he is fully funded by the globalist-owned financial institutions and promoted at every opportunity by the globalist-owned media.

— Through the establishment of the Club of Rome in 1968a group charged with the task of overseeing the regionalization and economic unification of the entire world—he has already divided the world into ten political/economic regions, which the group refers to as Kingdoms.  These “kingdoms” sound very much like those prophesied by Daniel, and have been arranged by the Club in the following order…

  1. North America
  2. Europe
  3. Japan
  4. Australia, New Zealand, South Africa
  5. Russia and the Slavic Nations
  6. South and Central America
  7. North Africa and the Middle East
  8. Central Africa
  9. Southeast Asia and India
  10. China[6]

The Ten Kingdoms of the Coming World Government

In its push toward the economic unification of these kingdoms, the Club has been at work over the past several decades, bankrupting the individual nations’ economies and then taking them over in order to absorb them into its universal system.

— Through the establishment of the Trilateral Commission in 1973—he has fostered an economic interdependence among the top three of these “kingdoms”—North America, Western Europe, and Japan—for the purpose of assisting its sister organizations in their regionalization efforts and in their promotion of a world government.[7]

Satan’s Cultural Advances…

Since Satan is (and always has been) incapable of creating living beings over which he could rule, his only option has been to take those created by God for His glory and then, through the systematic eradication of the Divine Image within them, as well as their knowledge of the Divine Plan for them, remold them in his own distorted image and in accordance with his own devilish plans.  To accomplish this, he has become a master manipulator of every form of Media--Art, Music, Theatre, Films, Television, Books, Magazines, Newspapers, and Social Media—as well as the curriculum at every level of Education, from Preschool through Post Graduate Work, slowly and insidiously redefining, in the minds of men, what it means to be a human living on planet Earth.

Controlling How the Masses Think through Education

— Through his control of the Educational Structure, he has succeeded in changing the way Man thinks about himself and the world around him by replacing the previously-accepted Biblical Worldview with one promoting Evolution in place of Creationism.  His strategy for this, like that used with Adam and Eve, has been simple yet highly effective—just Discredit the Word of God and then Replace the Truth with a Lie.  This, he has accomplished, using the three-pronged approach of…

Promoting an Alternative Worldview—by offering Evolution to the intellectual community as an appealing alternative to the Biblical Worldview.  Through its near-universal acceptance, Satan has succeeded in changing Man’s perception of himself from being a Unique Creation made in the Image of God to being just the most highly-evolved animal produced to date from a long line of genetic mutations.  This means that Man is no longer accountable to a higher power, there are no absolutes that he needs to concern himself with, and there is no such thing as sin.

Compromising Biblical Scholarship—by infiltrating seminaries with the New Worldview, he has managed to undermine the credibility of the Word of God and the integrity of the ministers who proclaim it.  With the seminaries no longer producing ministers who believed the Bible to be the inerrant Word of God, he could change the Church’s message of Salvation through the cleansing of the blood of Christ to one promoting the betterment of the individual and the improvement of society.  And, since Man no longer considered himself to be a sinner, all that he would need in life would be an education and the inspiration to become his best self.[8]

Corrupting the Public School Curriculum—by infiltrating the Teacher Training Schools, then the Public Education System, Satan has succeeded in changing the curriculum to promote the Alternative Worldview.  Through this revision (spearheaded by atheist John Dewey, the “father of progressive education), patriotism has been replaced by globalism, traditional values such as parental authority and faith in God have been undermined, and the high academic and moral standards previously required have given way to such things as socialization, values clarification, and sensitivity training.[9]

Controlling What the Masses Want and How They Feel through Media

— Through his control of the Media (he’s not called the Prince of the Power of the Air for nothing), Satan has gradually been replacing Man’s God-given Image with his own corrupted one. Through Media’s programming of television, music and music videos, movies, the internet and social media, and video games, he has saturated today’s airwaves with Images promoting hedonistic and godless lifestyles.  Through their appeals to the flesh—that is, the baser human instincts—he has  successfully convinced many that what is evil is really good, and what is good is really evil.  Routinely, these Images are being used to promote idolatry and a rejection of God; vulgarity, swearing, and cursing; disrespect for parents and one another; disrespect for authority and for life; drunkenness and substance abuse; lying, cheating, stealing; violence and murder; greed, covetous, and corruption; sexual immorality—both heterosexual and homosexual; and, marital infidelity and divorce.

As if that wasn’t enough, through Media’s profit-seeking promotion of Consumerism and the millions—perhaps even billions—of advertising messages it conveys each day, Satan has managed to entice and keep many in debt up to their eyeballs, relentlessly chasing unattainable images and lifestyles–like gerbils on a wheel; narcotized by mindless “entertainment” while being left ill-informed about what is actually happening in the world; and, so confused about their sexual identity that they are willing to try anything, no matter how outrageous it is, in an attempt to figure out who they are.

Last but not least, through Media’s control of the News Outlets, Satan has been manipulating every election—local, state, and national—for decades.  With every newscast, he has been telling us what we should think and how we should feel about any given issue, what we need to fear, and whom we should vote into office.  In short, he has been reprogramming our minds and emotions, using every form of social interaction to transform the masses into willing, or at least cooperative, “citizens” (slaves) for his New World Order.

Controlling What and Who the Masses Worship through Religion

Satan’s Religious Advances…

Because most people consider Religion to be the means by which we are drawn closer to God, to say that Satan uses it to do just the opposite might seem somewhat incongruous at first.  However, once we have examined the matter more closely, I think it will become evident that the difference between Religion and the Righteousness required by God is as vast as the distance between Heaven and Hell.

Like Sin, Religion had its origins in the Garden of Eden.  There, Man was presented with two Trees—the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil—and told that he could eat freely from the one but was forbidden to eat from the other.  What he was really being given was a choice between the Righteousness that leads to Life—the fruit produced by the first tree, and the Religion of human works that leads to Death—the fruit produced by the second tree.  Sadly, he chose Religion.

Sadder still is the fact that what began as just a small seed of unbelief in the hearts of our first parents, very quickly matured into full-blown evil in the heart of their son, Cain.  When his brother Abel’s offering of faith was accepted by God and his own offering of works was rejected, Cain rose up in anger and murdered his brother.  Why?  According to the Apostle John centuries later, it was…

…because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous (1 John 3:12).

Ever since then, Satan has been pitting the Wicked (those who have chosen the way of Works leading to Death) against the Righteous (those who have chosen the way of Faith leading to Life).  Again and again, he has done this merely by discrediting the Word of God and then replacing the Truth with a LieThe Lie, in this case, being that Man can save himself and become a god on his own terms, through good works, religious rituals, and a belief in his own innate goodness.

It is this last belief that will be the defining characteristic of Satan’s coming kingdom.  As Lewis Sperry Chafer so astutely discerned back in 1919…

…Satan’s ambition was not to become a fiend, but rather to become like the Most High.  Therefore he will strive for all that is moral and good, yet at the same time do all in his power to draw men from their natural reverence of God in order, that, in due time, they may acknowledge him without fear.  The satanic ideal of this age is, then, an improved social order, a moral and cultured people who are devout worshippers of Satan, though for the present they many imagine that they are worshiping Jehovah through their empty religious forms and ceremonies.  Actually, they are in a state of God-dishonoring unbelief, and all their thoughts are energized by Satan alone.  The satanic message for this age will be reformation and self-development, while the message of God is regeneration by the power of the Spirit.

Satan, in his imitation of the Most High, also is working toward a universal kingdom of morality and people upon earth, which will be temporarily realized under the reign of the Beast (Rev. 13).  The difference between Satan’s ideal and the purpose of God, apart from the utter folly of the one and the glorious certainty of the other, is the difference of both method and time.  According to the satanic program, the present order of society, with Satan on the throne, is to be developed into an ideal brotherhood, in which all men will practice what is moral and good.[10]

And, it is this push for a universal brotherhood of man that we see taking place in every major sphere of influence today.

Back to the Present

Although this is a lot to take in, it is essential that we are made aware of it so we can see just how far Satan’s plans for World Domination have progressed in recent years.  We now know that…

  • The Ten Kingdoms over which Satan will soon rule are already in place and ready to go;
  • The World’s Money Supply has been centralized and computerized—and, with so many now shopping and doing business online, he is already exercising virtual control over the World’s Economy;
  • With the World’s Purse Strings safely under his management, he can continue his efforts aimed at dismantling Capitalism—the goal being the elimination of prosperity and the creation of a divided society; one with no middle class—only rulers (the globalists) and servants (everyone else);
  • We have a centralized Educational System, one with a curriculum designed to dumb down our children while indoctrinating them with Marxist/Atheistic philosophy, and with the goal of rewriting our nation’s history;
  • Thanks to this Educational System and to the Media, Satan is well on his way to the creation of one International Identity and one set of Universal Values which—serving as a counterfeit version of the Family of God—will find full expression in the Universal Brotherhood of Man during the reign of the Antichrist;
  • Over the past several decades, the Message of the Church has been watered down and its Mission obscured in an attempt to make the Church more User-Friendly and Relevant to the Unchurched (just another way of packing the pews with more butts!). Instead of the meaty sermons which we were once being fed—those dealing with the life and death issues of Man’s Sinful Nature, his need of Salvation, and God’s Forgiveness and Redemption—we are now being served up little Snacks of Self-Help that are leaving our spirits in a serious state of Spiritual Malnourishment.  This, while the traditional programs for Biblical Education and Discipleship Training have been done away with in favor of more Social Activities, and while the “old fashioned” Evangelistic Outreach Programs have gone the way of the dinosaur.

Clearly, by comparison, God’s Kingdom on Earth—in its current state of weakness and division—has suffered tremendous losses of territory, while Satan’s Kingdom seems to have been expanding its territory at an exponential rate.  In fact, all that seems to be standing in the way of the realization of his kingdom goals are the…

  • Nations and their individual seats of power, which need to be removed and replaced by one centralized system;
  • National militaries, state and local police forces, which need to be done away with and replaced by a universal enforcement agency;
  • Restoration of a strong US Economy, which needs to collapse so it can be taken over by the World Bank; and,
  • Re-awakening, Revitalization, and Reconciliation within the Church; along with her Recommitment to the Great Commission, and the Recruitment and Training of soldiers for Spiritual Warfare.

Satan was well on the way to the accomplishment of the first three of these goals—at least until the 2016 Election and the surprising election of Donald Trump as President of the United States!  As Trump’s goals stand in direct opposition to those of Satan and his globalist henchmen, he was surely the last man they wanted to see come into power.  Moreover, because he was voted into office without any of their financial backing or promotion by their Media, they have had no leverage power over him, as they had with the previous presidents that they put into office.  This goes a long way to explaining why they have done everything in their power to discredit him and his policies, to force him from office, and to keep him from being re-elected for another term.

Trump–The Globalists’ Worst Nightmare

From a personal standpoint, I have never cared for Mr. Trump and, in the past, had considered him to be nothing more than an arrogant, egotistical opportunist.  But then, when he began his run for the Republican nomination for President—and I had lost count of the times he had put his foot in his mouth—I was so perplexed as to how he had managed to stay in the running, when anyone else doing the same things would have been kicked to the curb long before, that I asked the Lord what was going on and this is the answer that He gave me at the time…

I have chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty…the base things of the world and the things which are despised I have chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in My presence.  (1 Corinthians 1:27-29)

This insight helped me to stop looking at Trump the man and start focusing on what I hoped God was going to do through him—things which I could see were the very ones that Satan and his gang were working so hard to destroy…

  • The sanctity and protection of human life;
  • The restoration and strengthening of our economy;
  • The re-arming and strengthening of our military and law enforcement agencies;
  • The strengthening and protection of our borders;
  • The care of our veterans; and,
  • The restoration and protection of our religious rights.

Once I started assessing the platform upon which he stood, and in spite of my personal misgivings about the man,  I found that I had no reservations about giving Trump my vote.  That’s because, I was not hiring him to become my “Pastor-in Chief,” I was hiring him—as the tough street fighter that he was—to come into an impossible (and potentially dangerous) situation and, like the proverbial “bull in a china shop,” break up what appeared to be our finest (but actually cracked and corrupt) State China, so that it could be replaced with something better and far more in keeping with God’s plans for our nation.  I don’t think anyone with less chutzpah would have been up to the task, and been able to stand up against the powerful, pervasive, well-financed, and unprecedented opposition that he has encountered.

If God had put a more godly man than Trump into office (and that wouldn’t have been hard to do 😊), and he succeeded in implementing the aforementioned changes in our government, we would have been very quick to shower him with the praises which should rightly have gone to God.  If, on the other hand, God chose to use someone like Donald Trump to accomplish His purposes, then we would all have to acknowledge that it was He who had done it and He who was deserving of the glory.

I think the wisdom of God was further evidenced in His choice of Mike Pence as Vice President.  There can be no doubt that he is a godly man—one whom God has raised up out of relative obscurity and placed in the second most important position in our government, in much the same way that He did with Joseph in Egypt.  I shudder to think how much worse Trump’s behavior would have been without the prayers and godly influence of this truly devout man.

This, then, brings us back to question of just what all of this has to do with the events taking place in our country now.  If we look again at the first three of Satan’s unrealized objectives…

  • The elimination of national borders;
  • The dismantling of the military and police forces; and,
  • The bankrupting of the US economy..

…we can see that there is a direct correlation between them and the events taking place recently.  Given what we now know, it should be obvious that…

  • During previous administrations, the devil had been making great strides toward his goal of breaking down borders and erasing national identities by flooding the countries of Western Europe and the United States with refugees and illegal aliens.  As a result of the wars, governmental corruption, collapsed economies, and persecution which he had fomented in their homelands, many lost everything they had and were forced to try and find safety elsewhere–not only creating havoc and culture shock for them and the countries where they sought asylum, but also tremendous financial demands upon the economies of those countries.  Because of Trump’s strong stand on securing our borders, Satan’s efforts in this area have suffered a serious setback.
  • Trump’s support and strengthening of the national military and local and state law enforcement agencies is so counterproductive to Satan’s global aspirations that he has resorted to using the death of George Floyd as a match, thrown into the tinderbox of racial injustice, to create such an inferno of confusion and anarchy that people are actually beginning to think that we need to do away with these agencies.
  • Because the economy had rebounded and become so healthy during Trump’s administration, it was necessary for the devil to do something to cause it to crash again. It didn’t take a lot to make that happen—just the release of a little germ—COVID 19—the fear of which was the only thing needed to bring about the universal shut-down of all businesses and institutions, and an end to life as we had known it.

Pandemic–A Sure Way to Crash the Economy

Throughout all of this, the globalist-controlled Media has been working overtime in an effort to keep everyone stirred up, confused, and in a constant state of uncertainty.  It has been playing upon the emotions of people in order to keep them paralyzed by fear—not only the fear of becoming sick and possibly dying, but also the fear of being thought of as intolerant—intolerance being the cardinal sin in Satan’s One World’s Set of Universal Values.  Operating under this fear, many otherwise rational people have been motivated to join in the demonstrations and some have even gotten sucked into taking part in the violence.

Certainly, racial injustice is a problem that needs to be dealt with but make no mistake about it, Satan isn’t the least bit interested in bringing about healing in this area, nor does he have the power to do it–plus, violence is not the way to bring it about.  That’s because this is a problem requiring Love, Repentance, Forgiveness, and Reconciliation—which is a God-Thing, and the very business of His Church.  Sadly, Satan has been exploiting the failure of the Church in this area to manufacture the chaos needed to serve his kingdom purposes—the dismantling of the police, the destruction of personal property, the shut-down of the economy, and a division among the people—especially God’s People!  All of these are just Smoke and Mirrors, distractions designed to shift our focus away from the real issues involved.

However, we must not allow this to happen.  We must maintain a clear view of the Big Picture—which is, the real and fierce spiritual warfare now being waged between God and His Kingdom Purposes for the earth, and those of Satan—and not allow these Smoke and Mirrors diversionary tactics of the devil to obscure that view, and bringing more deception and more division to God’s People!

Let’s Remember Who is Behind All of This

Has Satan been successful in this?  Absolutely—at least, so far!  What, then, can possibly prevent—or, at least delay—him from the realization of his long sought-after ambition?  The re-election of Donald Trump, the election to Congress of new Representatives and Senators who do not support Satan’s global agenda–but who are committed to the healing and prosperity of our nation and its economy; and the…

Re-awakening and Revitalization of the Church of Jesus Christ;
Reconciliation within the Church and in Society at large;
Recommitment of the Church to its Commission; and
Recruitment and Training of soldiers for Spiritual Warfare.

In short, the time has come for the Church, the Bride of Christ, to pull up her Big-Girl Breeches and get busy about the business of being the Church—which involves our participation in all of the above.  This is certainly do-able, because we have both the Spirit of God to empower us and the Promise of God that…

…if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14).

All I can say at this point is, no matter where you stand on these issues, buckle up your seat belts–it’s going to be a bumpy ride!

This Will Not Be a Time for the Faint-of-Heart

********************************************************

 

[1] Dictionary.Com unabridged based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020.

[2] Note—Satan did not gain title to the earth because, according the Psalm 24:1, it still belongs to God.  He only obtained the authority or right to rule over the earth—something which Christ won back through His death and resurrection and redelegated to His Church.

[3] Gary H. Kah, En Route to Global Occupation (Lafayette, Louisiana: Huntington House Publishers, 1991), 33, 36.

[4] Kah, En Route to Global Occupation, 36-38.

[5] Daniel Estulin, The True Story of the Bilderberg Group (Walterville, Oregon: Trine Day Publishers, 2007), 20-21.

[6] Kah, En Route to Global Occupation.

[7] Kah, En Route to Global Occupation, 45-46.

[8] Dave Breese, Seven Men Who Rule the World from the Grave (Chicago: Moody Press, 1990), 153.

[9] Tal Brooke, When the World Will Be as One (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 1989), 103-104.

[10] Lewis Sperry Chafer, Satan: His Methods and Motives (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1919), 67-68.

 

Of Trees and Tapestries

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Tapestry

A Beautiful Example of a Tapestry

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spiritthat they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:1-3)

Try to imagine with me, if you can, what human history might look like to God, as He surveys it from beginning to end.  From the prophetic insight given to us by Isaiah in the passage above, it seems quite likely that God would view it as a forest of trees, one stretching all the way from the Garden of Eden to the coming Paradise in the new Heaven and Earth; trees which, in His eyes, are representative of the countless lives of men and women throughout history who have been made righteous by the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.  As plantings of God, they have come in every size and shade imaginable, yet all producing the same desired fruit of holiness by which the Lord God, the creator and sustainer of all the earth, will forever be glorified!  What a truly satisfying picture this would be for God to behold; nothing less than a magnificent tapestry depicting His marvelous and ages-long redemption story; an intricately woven work of art designed to surround His throne and to testify of His unfathomable love, grace, and mercy for all eternity.

Weaving on a Loom

At Work on a Loom

Although some may not be all that familiar with tapestries, they have been around for quite a long time, with some known to have been in use as far back as ancient Greece.  Similar in texture to carpets, but hung on walls instead of covering floors, tapestries have served as portable murals for centuries, often gracing the throne rooms of kings as ways of depicting the memorable events or victories that have taken place during their reigns.  Typically, tapestries are woven on vertical looms, or large wooden frames, that hold two sets of threads—the longer set being the stationary, immutable threads running lengthwise which are called the “warp,” with the shorter set being the variable threads running width-wise which are called the “weft.”  The threads making up the warp are held in place under tension by the two sturdy frames at the end of the looms; while the shorter and discontinuous weft (threads) are woven in and out of part or all of the warp to create the design of the tapestry.

With this imagery in mind, let’s try to imagine how such a weaving process might be applied to the story of God’s redemption.  To begin, let’s close our eyes and try to visualize an enormous loom being set into place by God when, “In the beginning…,” He bracketed the timeline for His redemptive story through the placement of two sturdy frames, one marking the beginning and the other marking the ending of human history.  Having already discussed these at great length during several of our previous visits, we should be quite familiar with the two wooden frames by now; for they are the two trees that man was given to choose from in the Garden of Eden.  The tree that was chosen, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, in its choice, became the beginning frame for the tapestry; while the tree that was rejected, the Tree of Life, took its place as the end frame—the frame toward which all of the design work was to be directed.

Given the enormous distance between these two frames and the incredible number of events that the design of this tapestry was meant to depict, we should not be surprised to learn that an additional piece of wood had to be inserted at the midpoint of the loom in order to secure and support the weight of the weaving work which would be taking place upon it.  This plank was a tree, too, and one that we have also already discussed; for it was the Cross on which the Son of God was crucified; the lifeless tree which, throughout time, has served as the embodiment of all of mankind’s dead works and futile attempts at self-salvation.

Now, with the framework for the loom all set up in our minds, let’s begin to visualize the commencement of the weaving process as the first set of threads are placed on the loom.  These are the warp, and for the purposes of this tapestry, they are ten unbreakable cords which have been stretched tautly from, and then securely fastened to, the first side frame, over the middle plank, and on to the other side frame.  White in color and extending out across the ages, these cords are God’s eternally fixed standards of holiness–His unchanging rules for righteous living–known to us as the Ten Commandments; the plumb lines against which the actions of all men have been and will be measured.   It is only fitting that these should be the first threads that are woven into the fabric of redemption because, unlike everything else…

…the law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul;  the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
…the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
…the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever, the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether (Ps. 19:7-9).

Given the nature of these laws, what better foundation for redemption could have been laid, other than these?

With God’s laws now securely attached to the frames of the loom, the really intricate work on the tapestry can begin to get underway.  What makes this part of the process so tricky is that before the weft—or those short and variegated “loose threads”created by humanity’s failures to measure up to the standards of God’s laws—can be woven over and under that holy warp, they must first be tied to the crimson cord which runs through the entire length of the tapestry’s design.  This cord was introduced into the human story immediately following man’s first violation of God’s command and, as the cord of redeeming faith, it went on to connect every image in the story, from the beginning frame at the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, all the way to the Cross, and then on to the end frame at the Tree of Life.

Of course, this cord is none other than our Redeemer, Jesus Christ; the One who was promised, the One who came, and the One who will come again—and, the only One capable of salvaging all of the threads left dangling by the sins of mankind and then incorporating them into a beautiful and eternal work of art for all to behold.  And how was He able to do this?  By dying the death that should have been ours, on the tree representing all of our dead works, He was able to remove sin’s curse, and open the way to the Tree of Life once more, to any and all who would believe.

Try to imagine with me, if you can, God looking around His throne room, gazing lovingly upon His glorious tapestry of redemption—the one depicting the millions, perhaps even billions, of oak trees that were made righteous through their faith in the atoning work of Jesus Christ; each tree springing up from a seed sown in the earth and then growing toward heaven, and each tree reproducing that one seed many times over through an abundant spiritual harvest, some of which will include…

…the “peaceful fruit of righteousness” produced through the discipline of the Lord (Heb. 12:11);
…the fruit of a life transformed by the Spirit, in which the very character of Christ was reproduced;
…the fruit of many answered prayers;
…the fruit of souls won for the Lord; and,
…the fruit produced whenever fear was overcome by faith, darkness was overcome by the light, and the flesh was overcome by the Spirit.

Try to imagine with me, if you can, the kind of joy a sight such as this would bring to the heart of God.  Given that joy, let me ask you this question…when, at the end of time, God scans His forest of trees, will He find you there?  Will you be a part of His tapestry of redemption—one of His oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified?  If not, can there possibly be a good reason why?

 

God's Trees of Righteousness

God’s Many Trees of Righteousness

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2

 

The Tapestry of Redemption presented in song, by the Tally Trio in “He Saw Me/Jesus Paid it All.”

 

Walking Lightly

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I don’t know about you but the older I get, the darker the world seems to grow.  This may be because the farther along I walk with God, the more discerning of the world and its ways I am becoming.  Or, it could be just another indication that the long-awaited day of Jesus’ return is rapidly approaching.  Certainly, the conditions prevailing in our world today greatly resemble those described by Jesus in Matthew 24:4-8, when He answered His disciples’ request for a sign of His coming by saying…

See that no one leads you astray.  For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will lead many astray.  And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars.  See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet.  For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places.  All these are but the beginning of birth pains.

If these conditions—the same ones that we are experiencing today—are but the “beginning of birth pains,” what can we expect to follow?  Jesus goes on to address this question in verses 9-14, when He declares…

Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.  And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another.  And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.  And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.  But the one who endures to the end shall be saved.  And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

Undoubtedly, all of these things are taking place in our day and age, but the truth is that much of what has been described here has also taken place throughout most of human history.  In fact, with the exception of the gospel being proclaimed throughout the whole world, I think that every generation of believers has looked around at the events taking place in their particular era and seen a world growing darker as a result of sin, thinking surely that the end of the world would soon be upon them.

As an example of this, listen to what Jude, the brother of Jesus and James, had to say about the conditions in his world back in the first century AD…

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.  For certain people have crept in unnoticed who were long ago designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ…these people…defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones…blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understood instinctively.

While this is a pretty scathing indictment of his own times, Jude goes on to tell us about a time when the same kind of wickedness had saturated another, much earlier, society—and when another godly man arose to address the evils of the world around him then…

It was about these [the people referred to above] that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, ‘Behold the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him (Jude 14-15).

Wow—such was the world in which Enoch lived!  And when was that?  It was, according to Genesis 5, about halfway between the creation of man and the Flood which took place in Noah’s day.  And what was the reason for the Flood?  It was the judgment upon all of the “ungodly sinners” about whom Enoch had prophesied.  Did Enoch live to see the fulfillment of his prophecy?  No, because, as we are told in Genesis 5:21-24…

When Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah.  Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years.  Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.

In other words, Enoch, after walking with God in the midst of his sin-saturated world, was “raptured” out of that world before the Tribulation of the Flood came upon it.

It was this very time to which Jesus referred when He continued in His reply to the question His disciples had asked in Matthew 24.  Likening it to the time preceding His own return, He said…

For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.  For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man…Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming…you must also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect (vv. 39-39, 42, 44).

And how are we to make ourselves ready?

According to Jude, we…

…must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.  They said to you, ‘In the last time, there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.’  It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the spirit.

But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.  And have mercy on those who doubt, save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.

Or, as Jesus put it in Matthew 5: 14 &16…

You are the light of the world…let your light shine before others, so they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

…which, in our world of rapidly escalating darkness, is just another way of saying that for us to able to find our way through the darkness, we all need to be walking lightly!

Walking Lightly in a Dark World

Abraham:  Called to Wed

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God’s Covenant with Abraham

When we left Abram at the end of Episode #2, he had just returned from the daring and successful rescue of his nephew, Lot, along with the other inhabitants of Sodom and the surrounding cities.  Although, before he could return the captives and the loot taken in the raid, he was met by Melchizedek—the Priest and King of Salem—with whom he shared communion and to whom he gave tithes from the spoils of that war.  As a result of this worshipful encounter, when he was offered the recovered loot by the King of Sodom, Abram was fully prepared to turn it down, choosing instead to maintain his integrity and witness before the pagan king and the peoples of the land.

This temptation turned out to be the third in a series of Tests that Abram has been undergoing.  As we have seen in our study of him, God has progressively been revealing Himself and His plans for Abram and his descendants through a series of revelatory encounters—with each one involving a promise, and each one followed by a period of testing.  This chart summarizes Abram’s progress so far…

Abram’s Report Card

This, then, brings us to Abram’s next revelatory encounter in Genesis 15.  Although he doesn’t know it yet, throughout this process, God has been preparing him to become the Father of Israel, a role we will see him step into here in Episode #3 of his story, as he enters into a marriage covenant with God for his descendants–those who will eventually become the nation of Israel, the Wife of Jehovah.

With the lights now going down now in the theatre and the curtains slowly starting to rise, we hear the voice our off-stage Narrator once again, as he begins setting the stage for us…


Episode #3 of Biopic #1
Cast:     Narrator     God     Abram

Narrator:  Lot has just departed on his merry way to Sodom, leaving Abram shaking his head and wondering whether all his efforts to rescue and restore his backsliding nephew have not been totally in vain.  The king of Sodom has left, rubbing his hands over the recovery of all his goods, at no cost to himself and, no doubt, discussing with the secretary of his treasury what particular form of insanity possessed Abram so that he refused his share of the spoil.  Melchizedek has gone, leaving Abram with only a memory and a new appreciation of God.  Aner and Eschol and Mamre have gone, congratulating one another on their prowess in war and gloating over the rich profits they have reaped.  And Abram is left alone, somewhat depressed and a little fearful perhaps lest his unexpected display of military power might not stir the Canaanites into a league against him.  Moreover, he has probably been listening to the excited chatter of Lot’s children, which reminds him—he has no child of his own.  It is at this point that God, in His love and care, comes to talk with Abram about the building of his family…[1]

NarratorAfter these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying…

God:  Do not be afraid, Abram. I AM your shield, your exceedingly great reward.

Abram:  Lord GOD, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?  Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!

Narrator:  And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, saying…

God:  This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.

Narrator:  Then He brought him outside and said…

God:  Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them….So shall your descendants be.

Narrator:  And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.  Then [God] said to him…

God:  I AM the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it.

Abram:  Lord GOD, how shall I know that I will inherit it?

God:  Bring Me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.

Narrator:  Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, down the middle, and placed each piece opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds in two.  And when the vultures came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.

Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him.  Then God said to Abram…

God:  Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years.  And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions.

Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age.  But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.

Narrator:  And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces.  On the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying…

God:  To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates—the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.

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The Critic's HatWith nothing further to add, this Episode comes to a halt, indicating that it is time for us to pull out our Critic’s Caps and begin our Review of it.  As always, we will be approaching this Episode from three levels…

  • The Earthly Level—where we will be looking for any Life Lessons that we can take away from it;
  • The Heavenly Level—where we will be looking for the Contributions it has to make to God’s One Big Story of Redemption; and,
  • The Eternal Level—where we will be looking for the Revelations of God contained in this part of the Story.

So, with these as our goals, let’s begin our Review by first going over…

The Most Important Points in this Episode

1. In our previous episodes, when God “spoke” to someone, it was not made clear just what form that took. But here, the Word of God came to Abram in a vision—making this the first mention of a vision in Scripture.  This kind of appearance is called a Theophany, and is a pre-incarnate vision of Jesus Christ.

2. With this visitation coming closely on the heels of his battle experience, God reassures Abram that he did the right thing in rejecting the spoils, and that whatever happens as a result of his “military offensive,” He would be Abram’s protector and provider.

3. Given that in each of his previous encounters with God, Abram was promised either a nation or descendants, when he meets with God this time, it only seems logical that the first thing he mentions is his lack of children—after all, how can you have descendants if you don’t have any children?

In response, the Lord promises him—for the first time—that his heir will not be his adopted servant but a son born from his own seed.  At this, he is told to count the stars.  Back in Genesis 12:14ff, God told him that He was going to make his descendants as the dust of the earth.  These two promises speak of Abram’s two seeds—his natural and supernatural descendants, with the natural being those who are born of the flesh—the Jews, and the supernatural descendants being those who are born of the Spirit—the Church.

4. The Lord’s self-identification as I AM is used here for the first time. Later, in John 8:56-59, Jesus stated unequivocally that He was the I AM.  In this particular confrontation with the Jewish leaders, when He told them…

…if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death…

…the Jews said to Him…Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word he shall never taste death.’  Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead?…

Jesus answered…Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.

Then the Jews said to Him, You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?

Jesus said to them, Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.

5. Although Abram had believed God before—enough so that he packed up, left his homeland, and became a wanderer in the Land of Promise—this is the first time that it has been said that his belief has been accounted to him for righteousness. Why do you think that is?  

Unlike all of God’s previous promises to Abram, this is the first mention and direct promise that a son would be born to him, and that this son would also be in the lineage of the Seed promised to Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:15.  It was his faith in this promised Redeemer that is being counted or credited to him as righteousness.

6. In spite of the fact that we have just been told that Abram believed God, when God promises him the land again, he asks for a signwhy? Does this demonstrate a lack of faith?

No.  Back in Genesis 9:8-17, God gave Noah the Rainbow as a sign or reminder of their Covenant that He would never again destroy the earth by a flood.  So, in asking for a sign, Abram was asking what the tangible reminder of this Covenant would be.   We can regard the sign, then, as the equivalent of God’s signature on this contract.

Abram Prepares and Protects the Sacrifice

7. To this, Abram is told to prepare an offering/a sacrifice. Even though he very quickly obeys, there is a long delay before anything else happens—other than him having to chase away the What do you think these things might mean?

The delay was probably meant to indicate that the fulfillment of this Covenantal Promise would not be immediate; while the Vultures were meant to be a picture of the demonic forces that would be at work until then, trying to keep this Covenant from being fulfilled.  Later, in Luke 8: 5, 12, in the Parable of the Sower, Jesus used a similar analogy to illustrate this practice of the enemy

A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it…

Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.

8. After protecting the sacrifice all afternoon, when darkness falls, a deep sleep overtakes Abram and in it, he is shown in dream of the future of his descendants, where they will be afflicted in a foreign land for 400 years. This raises such questions as…

  • After giving the Land to Abram, why would God allow them to be taken out of the Land of Promise?

In later chapters of Genesis (especially chapter 28), we find that the corrupt culture of the Canaanites was beginning to impact the behavior of Jacob and his family.  To protect them from these negative influences—while giving the people of the land plenty of time to repent before bringing judgment upon them—God removed His People from the land and sequestered them in Goshen, the best land in all Egypt.

  • Why would God allow His Covenant People to be subjected to such suffering and affliction?

During the first part of their sojourn in Egypt, as the family of Joseph, the Israelites enjoyed special treatment and were being provided for by Joseph.  Even during the great famine, they were prosperous, not really needing to look to God for anything because their needs were being met by the government.  But, when a ruler came to power after Joseph, they lost their privileged position and were reduced to slavery instead.  It was then that they began to call upon the Lord again.  So, their affliction can be seen in one of two ways—as the means God used to restore His People to faith in and dependence upon Him, and as a picture of the persecution that the World routinely inflicts upon the People of God. 

Abram, on the other hand, was promised that he would live a long life and die in peace.

9. While he is asleep, the Presence of the Lord passes between the sacrificial elements. What do you think is significant about this?

In the Ancient Near East, when a covenant was made, it was ratified by first slaughtering animals and then creating a path between their divided carcasses.  Both parties would walk through these animals, pledging to fulfill the terms of the covenant

By cutting the animals in half during covenant ceremonies, the parties making the covenant were effectively saying, ‘Let this be done to us if we break the terms of this covenant…’

By being the one who passes between, Yahweh places the penalty of violating the covenant on Himself.  He is showing Abram how serious He is about His promises.’ [2]

God Ratifying the Covenant

In Summary…

…we have learned that…

  • For the first time, Abram has had a face-to-face encounter with Jesus Christ—an encounter of faith which has made Abram righteous in the eyes of God;
  • God allays Abrams’ fears about his past actions and assures him of a glorious future with a Son of his own to be his heir;
  • This Son of Promise will be the foundation stone upon which the nation of Israel will be built; and,
  • As a sign of this Promise, God “Cut a Covenant” with Abram in which He swears by oath that He will fulfill every promise He has made concerning Abram and his descendants.

Now, in conclusion, we need to ask ourselves..

1. What Life Lessons can we take away from Abram’s experience in this episode?

  • Everyone, no matter how important or insignificant they may be, must come to God in the same way—that is, through a personal faith encounter with His Son, Jesus Christ;
  • Once they stand righteous before God, He will cover their pasts, and protect and provide for them as they follow Him into the future;
  • God’s tests are not punitive but preparatory. They are designed to grow everyone in faith and in righteousness, and prepare them for their divinely ordained destinies.
  • Like Abram, Believers today are participants in a Covenant with God—a New Covenant, written in the very Blood of Jesus, in which the Spirit of God comes to live within them, writing God’s Laws upon their hearts and teaching them to live like Children of the Most High God.

2. What Contributions does this episode make to God’s One Big Story of Redemption?

This episode marks a pivotal point in God’s One Big Story.  Everything that has gone before has merely been preparation for this event—the cutting of the Covenant between God and Abram.  In reality, this Covenant is a Marriage Contract in which Abram betroths Israel—the Nation that will come from him—to God.

In the Ancient Jewish Wedding Tradition, which provides the format for the Story of the Bible, the three phases in a Jewish Marriage are…

  • The Negotiation or Arrangement Phase—in which the Bridegroom’s Father, the Bridegroom himself, or his Agent goes to the Father of a Bride and negotiates a marriage contract. If arrangements acceptable to both parties can be arrived at, and if the bride gives her consent, then the Bridegroom and Bride become legally betrothed or engaged.  At this point, the Bridegroom returns to his Father’s house and begins preparing a home for his Bride.
  • The Betrothal Phase—which usually lasts for about a year, is a time during which the Bridegroom is at work building a home and the Bride is busy preparing her wedding garments
  • The Consummation Phase—which includes the actual Marriage, its consummation, and the Wedding Feast that follows, only happens when the Father of the Bridegroom is satisfied with the work of his Son and gives him permission to go and get His Bride.

So, with the Marriage Covenant between God and Abram having been ratified by blood, the Negotiation Phase is now complete and God and Israel have entered into the Betrothal Period.

3. What Revelations of God does this episode give us?

As we have just learned, God is seen here as the Celestial Suitor, the Bridegroom who has just become betrothed to the Nation of Israel.  And, even though she isn’t even a reality in the natural as yet, in the mind and heart of her Beloved, she has been in existence since before the foundation of the world.

Here is a video that will help explain the Love Story behind the One Big Story of the Bible a little better…

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Early on in our study of Abram, we learned that he was called to Wander, Worship, and Witness, and in our last episode, we learned that he was also called to Warfare.  In our next episode—in Chapter 16—we will discover that he has also been called to do one of the hardest things ever—and that is, to Wait!

 

[1] John Phillips, Exploring Genesis (Neptune, New Jersey: Loizeaux Brothers, 1992), 132.

[2] Calvin Park, “Cutting a Covenant,” Bible Study Magazine, September 19, 2017, http://www.biblestudymagazine.com/bible-study-magazine-blog/2017/9/19/cutting-a-covenant

Some images used courtesy of Free Bible Images.

Bible Study 101

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Learn the Basics of Bible Study

For those who may not have been with us from the beginning of our Bible Study Tour, here is a little video explaining our approach to the study of God’s Word.  It’s only 6:23 minutes long, so please take those few minutes to acquaint yourself with these basics of Bible Study.  Be blessed as you listen!

 

Abraham:  Called to Warfare

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Every Believer is Called to be a Warrior

For those of you who are joining us for the first time, we are currently engaged in a study of the Bible, being presented here in the form of a two-act play which we’ve entitled, God’s One Big Story.  In Act 1, Scene 1, we covered Genesis 1-11—the Overture to our story—and now, in Act 1, Scene 2, we are studying the lives of the Four Patriarchs found in Genesis 12-50.  They are Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, the four men most responsible for the birth and development of Israel—the nation who would one day become the Wife of Jehovah, and the one through whom Jesus Christ would later come into the world.

We are referring to the stories of these important men as Biopics, short for Biographical Pictures, and in our studies of them, we are looking specifically for the…

  • Life Lessons they have to teach us;
  • Contributions they have to make to God’s One Big Story of Redemption; and,
  • Revelations they provide of God and His Purposes.

During our last visit together, in Episode #1 of Biopic #1, we learned that Abraham—or, Abram, as he was named at birth—was…

Called by God to Wander;
Called by God to Worship; and,
Called by God to Witness.

Following him through his first faltering steps of faith, we watched as he navigated his way through a series of Divine Revelations and Testings—after which, when we left him, he had arrived in a very good place.  He had returned from a disastrous trip into Egypt (a picture or type of the world) where, in a backslidden condition, he had managed to compromise…

  • His relationship with God;
  • His relationship with his wife; and,
  • His witness to the world.

However, once Abram was back in the Land of Promise…

  • He restored his relationship with God through a renewal of Worship;
  • His restored his Witness following his Separation from Lot; and,
  • He was given a renewed and expanded Revelation of God’s will for his life.

Afterwards, Abram relocated his headquarters from Bethel (the House of God) to Hebron (the Place of Fellowship)—which is where we will find him today when Episode #2 of his story begins.  As we wait expectantly for it to get underway, we suddenly hear our Narrator, somewhere off-stage, giving us an update on the events that have taken place in Abram’s world since we saw him last…

Episode #2 of Biopic #1
(Genesis 14)
Cast:     Narrator     Abram     Melchizedek     King of Sodom    

Our Narrator begins…

And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of nations, that they made war with Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar).  All these joined together in the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Salt Sea).  Twelve years they served Chedorlaomer, and in the thirteenth year they rebelled.

In the fourteenth year Chedorlaomer and the kings that were with him came and attacked the Rephaim in Ashteroth Karnaim, the Zuzim in Ham, the Emim in Shaveh Kiriathaim, and the Horites in their mountain of Seir, as far as El Paran, which is by the wilderness. Then they turned back and came to En Mishpat (that is, Kadesh), and attacked all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites who dwelt in Hazezon Tamar.

Five Kings versus Four

As our Narrator continues with his report, we can also hear the distinctive sounds of a battle taking place in the background, as…

…the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) went out and joined together in battle in the Valley of Siddim against Chedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of nations, Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar—four kings against five.  Now the Valley of Siddim was full of asphalt pits; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled; some fell there, and the remainder fled to the mountains. Then they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their provisions, and went their way. They also took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed.

At this, the curtain rises and we see Abram, minding his own business and enjoying his peaceful life in the Place of Fellowship with God in Hebron—when suddenly, his life is turned upside down by this series of events which, on the surface, seem to be totally unrelated to him.  This upheaval begins when…

…one who had escaped [from the war] came and told Abram the Hebrew, for he dwelt by the terebinth trees of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and brother of Aner; and they were allies with Abram.

Now when Abram heard that he [Lot] was taken captive, he armed his three hundred and eighteen trained servants who were born in his own house, and went in pursuit as far as Dan.

Although Abram was greatly outnumbered…

He divided his forces against them by night, and he and his servants attacked them and pursued them as far as Hobah, which is north of Damascus…

…which was over 150 miles to the north of Hebron.  Following his victory…

…he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his brother Lot and his goods, as well as the women and the people.

And, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley), after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him.

However, there someone far more important who went out to meet Abram first…

Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High.  And he blessed [Abram] and said…

Blessed be Abram of God Most High, ​​Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, ​​Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.​

In response to this blessing, Abram…

…gave him a tithe of all. 

After his encounter with Melchizedek, the king of Sodom approached Abram with the following offer

Give me the persons, and take the goods for yourself.

In other words, just return the people and you can keep all the loot—to which, Abram responded without hesitation…

I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth, that I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich’— except only what the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men who went with me: Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.

With this response, this brief and somewhat puzzling Episode comes to an abrupt ending.  That doesn’t mean that we are finished with it, though, for there is still much for us to discuss, once we don our Critic’s Caps again and begin our Review of the events which have transpired here.

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The Critics Hat

Time to Put on the Cap Once More

Episode #2–Review

To aid us in this Review, let’s first take a look at the most important points of this story…

I.  The War of the Kings—since this is the first mention of a battle, king, or war in the Bible, it must be significant.

The Coalitions
Why were Kings from so far east interested in the area around Sodom and Gomorrah?

Although this was not the first war in human history, since it is the first one recorded in the Bible, it becomes a template for all the others that would follow.  As in most of those cases, the motivating forces here can be attributed to Egos and Economics—that is, to a Lust for Power motivated by Pride, and to a Lust for Wealth motivated by Greed.  The Apostle James, many centuries later, described these powerful forces in the following way….

Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?  You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.  You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.  (James 4:1-3)

So, what was it that Sodom and the surrounding cities had that provoked such lusts in the Kings of the East?  It was their…

  • Position—they were located in close proximity to the major trade routes connecting the East with Egypt, the Bread Basket of the World at the time;
  • Natural Resources—the valley in which they were located was full of asphalt pits, a material highly prized because of its uses in building and road construction, the waterproofing of boats, and even as medicine; and,
  • Wealth—these cities, because of their location and natural resources, had become extremely wealthy—wealth which made possible their lavish and decadent lifestyles.

The Kings of the East and the Coveted Trade Routes

The Conflict
Why did the Canaanite Kings rebel? What made them think they could win? What might God’s motive been in allowing this to happen?

After being bled dry by the Eastern Kings for twelve years, the cities in the Valley of Siddim had had enough.  Having lost the lifestyle to which they had hoped to remain accustomed and tired of being fleeced by foreigners, they—no doubt also motivated by Egos and Economics—must have thought the battle to reclaim that their wealth and lifestyle would be well worth the effort.

As for God’s part in all of this, while it is not spelled out for us here, considering what happens to Lot and Sodom and her sister cities later on, their defeat and looting could very well have been God’s wake-up call to them—giving them the opportunity  to repent and get right with Him, in order to stave off the judgment that was soon to come.

The Conquest–-
What spiritual picture does this paint for us?

Throughout Scripture, we find instance after instance in which God raises up someone to fight for right even in the face of overwhelming opposition.  Think of the victories of Gideon and his three hundred men against the Midianite army, David and his five smooth stones against Goliath, and Jonathan and his armor-bearer against the Philistines—who, at the time, rightly declared…

For nothing restrains the LORD from saving by many or by few (1 Samuel 14:6).

The spiritual principle for us, then, is that when we are called to warfare—as we surely will be—the battle belongs to the Lord; for, we have His assurances that…

A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it shall not come near you (Proverbs 21:31); and,

The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but deliverance is of the LORD. (Proverbs 21:31).

II.  The Rescue of Lot

–Where was Lot living at the time?

Because he was taken prisoner along with everyone else in Sodom, it seems that he was no longer living on the outskirts, but had become a permanent resident in the city.

–What does this tell us about Lot?

It seems to say that either Lot did not share the same faith in God as his uncle Abram; or, if he did, that he had been lured away from that faith by the worldly attractions of Sodom.

–Do you think Lot merited Abram’s intervention? Why or why not?

On the surface, Lot doesn’t appear to have been worthy of Abram’s rescue but, because Abram had “adopted” Lot following the death of his father, he had a moral obligation to go after him and rescue him.  No doubt, he also felt a spiritual obligation to do so, in the hopes of giving his nephew a chance to repent before he lost everything he held dear—that being, his family.

Peter later gives us this insight into Lot’s spiritual condition at the time, when he says, if God…

…delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)—then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority (2 Peter 2:7-10).

–Can you think of a parable that might apply in this situation?

The one that comes to my mind is the Parable of the Lost Sheep, found in Luke 15:4-7…

What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?  And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’  I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.

Abraham’s Worshipful Encounter with Melchizedek

III.  Abram’s Encounter with Melchizedek

–Who was Melchizedek?

In this episode, we are told that he was the King of Salem (the city that would later be called Jerusalem), and the Priest of God Most High.  The name used for God here is El Elyon, a name which…

…emphasizes God’s strength, sovereignty, and supremacy.  In Genesis 14:20, Melchizedek said to Abram, ‘blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!’ He understood that the Lord is extremely exalted. Let us say as the Psalmist did—’I cry out to the Most High Elohim, To El who is perfecting all matters for me’ (Psalm 57:2).[1]

–Where did he come from?

Unlike everyone else of significance in the Book of Genesis, no genealogical information for Melchizedek is provided—no record of his birth, his death, or his parentage.

–Where else is he mentioned in Scripture?

In addition to this passage in Genesis 14, where Melchizedek serves in the dual roles of King of Peace and Priest of the Most High God—the one who sets a table of communion before AbramKing David references him in Psalm 110 when he prophesies of the coming Messianic King who will one day come through his line.  This King will be held in higher honor than Melchizedek, because He will sit at the right hand of God and rule over the nations.  He, too, will serve as Priest of the Most High God, something which is elaborated upon at length in Hebrews 7.  There, the writer elevates Melchizedek to the status of a pre-incarnate figure of Christ; who, without father or mother, is eternal and who, unlike those in the Levitical Priesthood, will continue as a Priest forever.

–How do you think a King of Righteous could have come to rule over the ungodly people of [Jeru] Salem?

When we consider that the Canaanites were notorious idol worshipers, it seems highly unlikely that a Righteous King would be ruling over one of their cities.  However, Seth, the righteous son of Noah, was still alive at this time, leading some to think that he could have been Melchizedek (Melchizedek being a title rather than a first name).  However, in addition to Arphaxad, the ancestor of Abram, Seth had four other sons through whom his Faith in God could have been passed on.  So, it is entirely possible that Melchizedek might have been one of them.

–Why are the bread and wine, the tithes, and the blessing an important part of this Story?

As elements of the Covenant, the Bread and Wine represent the Communion that Abram shared with God as part of that Covenant.  In the giving of his Tithes, Abram was recognizing and honoring Melchizedek as God’s Chosen Mediator of that Covenant; and, in his blessing of Abram, Melchizedek was reaffirming God’s Covenantal Promises to Abram.

IV.  Abram’s Encounter with the King of Sodom

–What was the King’s offer?

According to the rules of warfare at the time, the spoils of war belonged to the winner of the conflict which, in this case, would have been Abram, and would have included the people as well as the material objects.  It seems, then, that the King of Sodom was trying to cut a deal with Abram where the spoils were concerned.

–What did it represent to Abram?

Abram had been made extremely wealthy through a compromise of his faith and integrity when he went down to Egypt—a compromise which put him on the “outs” with God, and wealth with brought strife and division into his home.  So, for Abram, this represented another Test—one designed to reveal whether or not he had learned anything from those earlier mistakes.

–What, if anything, do you think is significant about Abram’s response?

For one thing, in using the same name for God that Melchizedek had used—that is, the LORD, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth—Abram revealed that the decision to reject the offer of the King of Sodom was made as a result of his worshipful encounter with the King of Salem.  Then, in his speedy response to the offer, he was demonstrating that he had learned that his relationship with God, and his reputation and witness were more important to him than anything the world had to offer.

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In Summary


–What, if any, Life Lessons can we take away from Abram’s experience in Genesis 14?

As we are going about our lives of wandering, worshiping, and witnessing, there will be times when we, like Abram, will be called to do warfare at a moment’s notice.  But, unlike the fleshly battle that he was called to, the warfare that we will be engaged is one that is spiritual in nature.  Like it or not, there will be times when we will be called to do battle on behalf of those who seem to be totally undeserving of our intervention, and those who may not even appreciate our efforts to rescue them.

And, for every victory we experience, we can be sure that the Enemy will be there trying to steal it away through some sort of compromise on our parts.  But, like Abram, we need to settle the issue beforehand of what is most important to us—our walk with God and our testimony before others, or the temporal gratification of material rewards or recognition.

–What Contributions does this Chapter Make to God’s Big Story?

In Melchizedek, Abram was given a preview of the coming Messiah—his very own descendant who even now, is serving as our Great High Priest in heaven, and the One who will one day reign forever as the King of Peace and Righteousness in the New Jerusalem.

–How is God Revealed in this Chapter?

In His relationship with Abram, God reveals Himself as Jehovah-Nissi—the Lord is My Banner—the God who goes before us into battle and secures the victory for us through His own power.  And, in His relationship with Lot, He reveals Himself as the Guardian and Deliverer of His People—even in the midst of His judgment upon the wicked.

So far in this study, we have seen how God has been revealing Himself through His Promises to Abram, and then Testing him to reveal his Faith in and Stewardship of those Promises.  In the next chapter—Genesis 15—we will begin to discover the Purpose behind all of this Preparation.

 

Be sure to check it out!

 

[1] From the website, https://discoveringthejewishjesus.com/el-elyon/.

Map courtesy of Bible History Online.
Some pictures courtesy of Free Bible Images.