In this replay of our previous post, Salvation: Do We Have a Choice in the Matter? | His Truth, My Voice (histruthmyvoice.org), we tackle the tricky and often confusing subject of Predestination and Election. I hope this rather brief explanation will help eliminate some of that confusion.
Tag Archives: Redemption Reflections
Replay #1: Salvation, What It Is and Why We Need It
Back in March 2016, I began a new series of posts dealing with what I considered to be the basics of Discipleship Training–something which the Church has, by and large, neglected to address in recent years. Given all the shaking that has taken place in our world during the past couple of years, and in anticipation of the coming harvest of souls that will be produced as a result of that shaking, I would like to Replay the posts found in that original series–a series of Spiritual Exercises covering the topics of Salvation, Sanctification, Service, and Spiritual Warfare, with several exercises under each of these topics.
The first of these exercises deals with the basics of Salvation and is found at… Salvation: What It Is and Why We Need It | His Truth, My Voice (histruthmyvoice.org).
Abraham: Called to Wait
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 will 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 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.
At this, the curtain descends, not only marking the ending of this Episode, but also the beginning of our Critical 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 after 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
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…
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…
- Who initiated the action in this episode and why?
Sarai did—most likely 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, she, thinking that it was her fault that they were still childless, may have thought it was her responsibility to remedy the situation.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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…
Before leaving this Episode and in order to complete our Review, we need to ask ourselves these all-important questions…
- 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.
- 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 history.
- 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.
Images of Abram, Sarai, and Hagar courtesy of freebibleimages.com.
Of Trees and Tapestries
“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 spirit; that 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.
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 widthwise 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?
The Tapestry of Redemption presented in song, by the Tally Trio in “He Saw Me/Jesus Paid it All.”
Abraham: Called to Wed
When we left Abraham 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. But 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 that was followed by a period of testing. This chart summarizes Abram’s progress so far…
This 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 when 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 going down 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…
Narrator: After 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.
And with nothing further to add, this Episode comes to a sudden halt, indicating that it is time for us to pull out our Critic’s Caps and begin our Review of it.
As always, when reviewing this latest Episode, we will be approaching it 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 would mention 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 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 sign—why? 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.
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 birds. 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 a 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—and 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 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.’ 
…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 help 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—when 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—usually lasts for about a year and is the time when the Bridegroom is at work building a home and the Bride is busy preparing her wedding garments.
- The Consummation Phase—includes the actual Marriage, its consummation, and the Wedding Feast that follows, but can only happen 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 complete, and God and Israel have now 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. 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…
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!
 John Phillips, Exploring Genesis (Neptune, New Jersey: Loizeaux Brothers, 1992), 132.
 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.
Abraham: Called to Warfare
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 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—and 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
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.
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.
Following 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.
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.
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 Breadbasket 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.
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 to 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 an opportunity to repent and get right with Him in order to stave off the judgment that was soon to come.
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. He must have 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.
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).
–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 Abram—King 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 which 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. 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.
–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.
 From the website, https://discoveringthejewishjesus.com/el-elyon/.
Map courtesy of Bible History Online.
Some pictures courtesy of Free Bible Images.
Back on Track–The Journey Resumes
All Aboard and welcome back to our journey, fellow travelers! I am happy to say that after a rather lengthy but edifying visit to the Workout Room, it’s time for us to once again board the Truth Train and resume our Bible Study tour through the Land of Revelation Knowledge. For those who are joining us for the first time, this tour is unique in that it presents the One Big Story of the Bible as a Play consisting of two Acts with six Scenes each and one long Intermission between the acts. These scenes and the intermission, as well as an epilogue at the end of the play, are being acted out for us on fourteen different Stages positioned along the route we are taking through this vast and incredible land. When we broke for our detour to the Workout Room, we had just left Stage #1 where Act 1, Scene 1 had completed its run and we were on our way to Stage #2 where Act 1, Scene 2 had been scheduled to get underway.
Now that we are back on track and heading in that direction once more, given how long it has been since we left the first Stage, I think it would be wise if we used this travel time to briefly Review what took place in Scene 1, and to Preview what will be taking place soon in Scene 2. For those who may feel the need of a more thorough review, that can be obtained by visiting the His Truth, My Voice Theatre page, where all of the material we’ve covered so far has been arranged chronologically for easy viewing.
Reviewing Where We Have Been
In Act 1, Scene 1 of God’s One Big Story, we were introduced to the Sovereign God of the Universe, whom we discovered is not only the Main Character of the Story but also its Author. From the opening verses of the Script(ures), we learned that this God is…
- A Trinity of Three Unique Persons united in One Divine Purpose;
- Pre-existent and Eternal; and,
- All-Powerful, All-Knowing, and Present Everywhere at All Times.
As for the Story itself, we learned that it is a Love Story borne out of God’s Heart and His passionate desire to have a Family of His own to love. It was for this reason that He created the world and the people living in it—people who, as they multiplied, would eventually become the nations from which one, Israel, would graciously be chosen to become God’s Wife. When Act 1 opened, however, no nations existed; therefore, to prepare for Israel’s eventual entrance onto the earthly stage of the Story, all the action taking place in the opening scene was for the purpose of bringing those nations into being.
The way in which this was accomplished was revealed to us through the use of nine dramatic Vignettes, or mini-scenes, covering the major events in Genesis 1-11…
The Creation of the World;
The Creation of Man and Woman;
Their Sin and Fall from Grace;
The Consequences of their Sin…
…In Their Family,
…In Society at Large;
The Judgment on their Sin through the Flood;
The New World after the Flood; and,
Mankind’s On-going Rebellion and its Judgment.
Over the course of these Vignettes, we learned how God used elements from the real-life experiences of people living on the Earthly Stage at the time to tell the Bigger Story of Love and Redemption that was taking place on the Heavenly Stage. In fact, by the end of Vignette #9, we were able to see how the mini-scenes of Genesis 1-11, when viewed together, formed a Panoramic Prophetic Picture of all human history—creating, in effect, a Spiritual Overture of the themes and motifs that would be reappearing throughout the rest of the Story.
For example, in this Overture, we saw how…
- In the story of Creation—in going from darkness to light, chaos to order, and from death to life in response to the Word of God and the “hovering” work of the Spirit—we were provided with a picture of the recurring spiritual theme of Re-creation or Rebirth.
- The story of the First Adam and his wife, Eve, gave us the prophetic picture of the Second Adam, Jesus, and His Bride, the Church—who, like Eve, was fashioned from a “rib” (the disciples) taken from the Second Adam as He slept in death.
- The story of the Two Trees in the Garden was an illustration of the only two “systems of faith” available to mankind—the counterfeit system of works or the genuine system of salvation through faith in Christ.
- In the story of Cain and Abel—in which God’s acceptance of Abel’s offering by faith and His rejection of Cain’s self-righteous offering provoked Cain to envy, anger, and the murder of his brother–we were given a spiritual illustration of the wicked’s on-going rebellion against God and persecution of the righteous. We were also shown a picture of Cain as a type of Israel—the brother who, after his slaying of the righteous Son, was marked for protection before he began his wanderings in the wilderness of the world.
- In the long “Reign of Death” taking place between the stories of Cain and the Flood, we were shown how sin has affected all men, leading to their deaths, and the futility of life lived apart from God.
- In the translation of Enoch just before the judgment of the flood, we were given a prophetic picture of the Rapture that will take place prior to the Great Tribulation, when those who are “walking with God” will be translated to heaven without dying.
- The lawlessness and demonic activity preceding the Flood gave us a preview of the conditions that will exist before the Tribulation, as self-absorbed humanity abandons faith in God, violence increases, and doors are opened to ever-increasing levels of satanic activity.
- And the Flood, in which the wrath of God was poured out from heaven against the unrighteousness of men while a small righteous remnant in the Ark was being spared, provided us with a picture of the end-times Tribulation, when the wrath of God will once again be poured out from heaven against the unrighteousness of men, while a righteous remnant is being preserved on the earth.
- In the story of Noah after the Flood, as those in the Ark came out to a new earth and entered into a new covenant with God, we were shown a “type” of the “new world” that will exist when Christ sets up His Millennial Kingdom following the Tribulation–and a righteous remnant will live on a cleansed earth under a new covenant with God for a thousand years.
- The rebellion at Babel gave us a prophetic picture of Satan’s final act of rebellion—when, at the end of the Millennium, he will be released from his thousand-year imprisonment to lead one final revolt against the righteous rule of the Lord.
- And, in the Judgment of the Nations at the Tower of Babel, the final Judgment of the Nations is in view, when the Lord gathers the nations together—separating the “sheep” nations from the “goat” nations— and judges them according to the way they have treated His “brethren.”
Now, having refreshed our memories as to what we have seen, and with Stage #2 fast approaching, let’s prepare ourselves for what we can expect to see when the curtain goes up on Act 1, Scene 2 of God’s One Big Story.
Previewing Where We Are Going
Whereas in Scene 1, we were introduced to God as “The Celestial Suitor”—who, in anticipation of obtaining a Bride, created and prepared the world to be her future home—in Scene 2, we are going to be introduced to the Patriarchs—or the line of godly ancestors through whom “Israel: The Beloved of God,” will come into being. Much like Scene 1, where the story was told through the use of 9 Vignettes, in Scene 2, the story will unfold by means of 4 Bio-Pics, or four biographical pictures of these ancestors of Israel found in chapters 12-50 of the book of Genesis. They are…
Abraham—the Exalted Father who becomes the Father of a Multitude;
Isaac—the Long-Awaited Son of Promise who displaces the Son born in Bondage;
Jacob—the Scheming Shepherd who becomes a Prince with God; and,
Joseph—the Betrayed Brother who not only becomes His Brothers’ Savior but the Savior of the World, as well.
Before we can move forward with the story, though, there is still the all-important matter of Formatting that we need to take into consideration. Hopefully, those of you who have been with us from the beginning of this tour will remember that during our visit to the Welcome Center of the Word, we viewed the video, The Bible: The Story Behind the Story. In that video, we learned that the Story of the Bible has been formatted according to the Ancient Jewish Wedding Tradition—a tradition completely foreign to our present-day concepts of marriage. Because of this–and, in order for us to truly appreciate the Love Story that the Bible has to tell–we must first come to an understanding of the Wedding Tradition upon which that story is based.
The Format of the Story
Because Family was at the center of Jewish life and culture, the choice of a marriage partner was a very serious business. This selection was not to be determined by some fly-by-night or emotional impulse of the moment; it was achieved through an involved Marriage Process, consisting of three distinct phases…
The Arrangement or Negotiation Phase;
The Betrothal Phase; and,
The Marriage and Consummation Phase.
- The Arrangement or Negotiation Phase
In Jewish culture, when it was time for a young man to marry, typically his father would choose a bride for him and then send an agent or representative to the bride’s family to negotiate a marriage contract. Once the arrangements were made, the bride had to give her consent. If and when she did, a mohar or Bride Price was established and a Ketubah or written document was drawn up in which the bride price, the promises of the bridegroom, and the rights of the bride were clearly stated. This document would have to be executed and signed prior to the wedding ceremony.
Gifts were then given to the bride and a cup called the Cup of the Covenant was shared between the bride and groom—with the rite of erusin or betrothal being completed when the groom gave something of value to the bride and she accepted it. This completed rite was known in Hebrew as kiddushin or sanctification, and the covenant between the bride and the groom would be sealed with the drinking of the wine. Once agreed to, this covenant was a legally binding contract which could only be dissolved by divorce.
Afterward, the bridegroom would go back to his father’s house where he would begin preparing a home for his new bride. Before leaving here, though, he would reassure her of his eventual return with this promise: “I go to prepare a place you; if I go, I will return again unto you.” After his departure, the bride would undergo a mikvah—or water immersion—a ritual of cleansing that marked a separation from her former way of life to a new life with her spouse.
- The Betrothal Phase
This marked the beginning of the Betrothal Period, which usually lasted a year. During this time, the bride was consecrated and set apart, busily preparing her wedding garments for the big day, while the bridegroom was away making ready their new home. Because she had no idea when her groom would return for her, the bride had to be ready at all times. Even the groom didn’t know when he would return because he first had to get permission from his father, who had to be completely satisfied that his son’s house was in order.
- The Marriage and Consummation Phase
Once he received his father’s permission, the bridegroom would return—usually in the middle of the night—with a shout, “Behold the bridegroom comes,” and with the blowing of the shofar or ram’s horn. He would abduct his bride from her father’s home and carry her away in a sacred procession to the chupah or wedding canopy where the marriage was to take place. There they would be treated like royalty, with the bridegroom in the role of a newly crowned king, and the bride as his queen.
Following the wedding ceremony, the bridegroom and bride would go into the wedding chamber where the marriage was to be consummated. The friend of the bridegroom would take up his position outside the door where he and all of the assembled guests would eagerly await word that the consummation had taken place. Upon receiving the signal from the bridegroom, the friend of the bridegroom would announce it to the guests and great rejoicing would break out. The couple would remain in the wedding chamber for a total of seven days and when they came out, they—along with all the guests invited by the father of the bride, would enjoy a great Marriage Supper. 
Although this wedding tradition bears little relevance to our lives today, because it was such an integral part of everyday life when the Bible was written, we must take time to familiarize ourselves with each of this tradition’s three parts if we are going to understand the Story it has to tell. Not only do these phases provide the framework for all of God’s Great Love Story, but they also serve as the basis for the Plot and propel the Action of the Story forward in both the Old and the New Testaments.
As we shall see in the upcoming scene in the Old Testament, dealing with God’s love relationship with Israel…
- The Negotiation Phase is what takes place in Genesis 15, when God—as the Bridegroom Himself–enters into a covenant with Abraham and negotiates a marriage contact in which the future nation of Israel will one day become His Bride;
- The Betrothal Phase will follow on the heels of this negotiation and will cover the period of time from Genesis 15 to Exodus 19. At that time Moses, acting as God’s representative, will abduct Israel in the middle of the night from the “house of Pharaoh,” and lead her in a sacred procession to the Marriage Chupah at Mount Sinai;
- Then, in Exodus 20, the Marriage Phase will begin, as Israel vows to forsake all other gods, agrees to the terms of God’s covenant, and becomes the Wife of Jehovah.
With this as the backdrop to our Story—and with the train now coming to a halt at our next destination—the time has come for us to leave the train and make our way into the theatre, where Scene 2, “Israel, the Beloved of God” will soon get underway.
In place of our usual music selection, here is the video referred to earlier, “The Story Behind the Story”…
 Information on the Jewish Wedding Tradition gathered from Edward Chumney’s book, The Seven Festivals of the Messiah (Shippensburg, Pennsylvania: Destiny Image Publishers, 1994), 125-135.
Spiritual Warfare: A Question of Authority
So far, in our efforts to become more spiritually fit, we have successfully worked our way through three of the four levels of exercise in our Workout Program where at…
Level 1, we covered the basics of our Faith; learning how, through Salvation, we are Redeemed from Sin and Death, and adopted as children into the Family of God.
Level 2, we dealt with Sanctification; or, the life-long training process by which the Holy Spirit transforms us from the Sinners we once were into Holy Sons and Daughters of God.
Level 3, we learned about Service; or, the Work of God that we, as His Children—the Church—have been commissioned to carry out. It was here that we were introduced to the concept that…
…as the Corporate Body of Christ, we are to reach out to those in the world around us, bringing them the good news of God’s Love and Salvation;
…as the Corporate Soul of Christ, we are to relate as Family to those who are already a part of God’s Family; and,
…as the Corporate Spirit of Christ, we are to serve as the Army of Spiritual Warriors charged with the task of liberating those still held in captivity by Satan, and taking his territory captive for the Kingdom of God.
Since this last matter deals with Spiritual Warfare, something which we have only recently touched upon, we will make its study the objective of this fourth and final Level of Exercise in our Program—a Program which, when completed, will have helped us…
Define our Position, as a Child of God;
Refine our Person, as a Child of God;
Outline our Purpose, as a Child of God; and,
Underline our Power, as a Child of God.
It is through this progressive pattern of growth—from Position to Person to Purpose to Power—that we have advanced from our original state of spiritual infancy to God’s more highly desired state of spiritual maturity, becoming better equipped along the way for our eternal destiny with Jesus Christ.
What is this destiny for which we, as the Children of God, are presently being equipped? Contrary to one of the more popular conceptions of what life will be like in the hereafter, we will not be floating around on a cloud, with a crown on our heads and nothing better to do than strum on our harps for all eternity. Not only is this a perfectly wasteful—not to mention boring—way to spend one’s everlasting life, but it in no way compensates us for all of the hardships we suffered through during our earthly sojourns. And, it certainly doesn’t call for any specialized equipping on our parts to prepare for it.
On the other hand, the destiny that God has planned for us is a gloriously challenging one. In keeping with His divinely ordained principles of Sowing and Reaping, it is one that will provide us with levels of rewards commensurate with the levels of faithfulness we have demonstrated during our times of training on the earth, and elevate us to positions of authority in the coming Kingdom of God. From these positions, we will exercise the Dominion originally gifted to us by God, lost to us as a result of the Fall, and restored to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Destined for Dominion, Subjected to Slavery
We first learned about this matter of Dominion during one of our visits to the story of Adam and Eve. For, it was there that, upon his creation, Man—as both Male and Female—was commanded by God to fill the earth with people, and to rule over everything in it. This Right to Rule, however, was lost when Adam, as a result of his disobedience to God, forfeited his Position of Power—a position which Satan immediately claimed as his own.
In his classic book, Destined for the Throne, the late Paul Billheimer explains some of the legal issues involved in this transfer of power…
The entire universe is governed by law…God’s grant of authority and dominion over the earth to man was a bona-fide gift. This authority and dominion became legally his. What he did with it was his own responsibility. If, so to speak, he ‘fumbled the ball’ and lost it, God could not lawfully step in and repossess it for him.
We know from Romans 6:16 that…
…if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness.
Therefore, when Adam chose to obey Satan instead of God, he became Satan’s slave. And…
As a slave of Satan, Adam lost all of his legal rights, not only to his person but also to his domain. This gave Satan legal authority to rule over man and the earth. If Satan’s dominion was to be revoked, a way had to be found to redeem fallen man and recover his lost authority without violating universal principles of justice.
No angel could enter the contest because these legal rights were never his. Thus a member of Adam’s race had to be found who could qualify to enter suit in universal court and wrest Adam’s lost heritage and dominion from Satan. The government of the earth had been given to man. It was lost by man. It could be legally recovered only by a man.
But where was such a man to be found? To qualify for the task at hand, he would have to be a full-fledged human being; and yet, because Adam and all those who would eventually descend from him had become the slaves of Satan, he would have to be sinless in order to be free from Satan’s control…
To the human mind the situation was hopeless, but God found a way. ‘When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons’ (Gal. 4:4). God solved the problem by the Incarnation.
Since Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, the divine nature was present in Him. Because he was sinless, Satan had no claim upon Him. But because He was ‘made of a woman,’ He was an authentic human being and could therefore qualify as a bona-fide member of the human race to enter the legal fight to reclaim Adam’s lost estate.
The Spiritual Battle to the Cross
Although I can’t think of anyone who would willingly sign up for a task like this, the spiritual battle to win back our freedom that Jesus freely committed Himself to was one that was repeatedly characterized by humiliation, rejection, opposition, and affliction; which, when you put them all together, add up to a whole lot of suffering.
Just think of the humiliation involved when…
…Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Phil. 2: 5-8).
Or, the rejection He must have experienced when…
- His family…went out to seize him, for they were saying, ‘He is out of his mind (Mark 3:21).
- The people in His hometown said, ‘Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at him (Mark 6: 2-3).
- John the Baptist sent messengers to Jesus, asking, ‘Are you [sure] you are the one [the Messiah] who is to come, or shall we look for another?’ (Matt. 11:3)
- Upon hearing some of Jesus’ hard sayings, ‘…many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.’ (John 6:66)
As for opposition, Jesus had that in abundance; for, even as a child, when He was perceived to be a contender for his throne, King Herod tried to have Him killed. And later, during His earthly ministry, He found Himself constantly at odds with all factions of Jewish society…
- With the Sadducees, because He threatened their economic and political power;
- With the Pharisees, because they considered Jesus a law-breaker, and His teachings overturned their religious traditions;
- With the Essenes, the ascetics of the day, who considered Jesus too worldly because He socialized with “sinners;”
- With the Zealots, or the anarchists of the day, because Jesus preached a message of love instead of rebellion; and,
- With the people who, in their apathy, did not want to be confronted with change.
And, when it came to affliction, no one has ever endured more. Of Him, it was said that…
…he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? (Is. 53: 2-8)
And, if all this wasn’t enough, from the time of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness at the beginning of His ministry until the moment when He drew His final breath, Satan, in an effort to take Him captive through sin just like the first Adam, was constantly working to trip Him up…
The fallen Lucifer, once the Light Bearer, the guardian of the throne of God, the highest of all pre-Adamic created beings, marshaled all of the available resources of the underworld in an effort to break down the allegiance of the God-man to His heavenly Father. One weakness revealed, one thought of rebellion or self will entertained, and all of Jesus’ efforts to repossess the world and its enslaved race from the usurping god of the world would be lost.
But, Praise God, in spite of all this pressure, Jesus didn’t give in; for…
When Jesus died without failing in the smallest detail, His death resulted not only in defeating Satan’s purpose to obtain a claim upon Him—it also canceled all of Satan’s legal claim upon the earth and the whole human race…
Therefore, since Calvary, Satan has absolutely no rights or claims upon anyone or anything. Whatever authority he carried with him on his banishment from heaven passed into the hands of the new Man along with the lost heritage of Adam…
Our Authority Restored
It is this authority that Jesus restored to His disciples; the same authority…
…to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall injure you (Luke 10:19)…
…that Jesus delegated to the seventy-two He sent out to proclaim the Kingdom of God—and, it is the same authority that we possess today. For…
As individuals we have authority over all the combined powers of the enemy. This is an incredible, wonderful truth. Everything at Satan’s disposal—every demon, every coven, every cult and religion, every work, and every influence—is subject to the authority given to us by Jesus.
When Jesus rose from the dead after ripping the usurped authority from Satan’s hands, He did not immediately go to heaven. He stopped off to see the eleven remaining disciples…Jesus handed to them the authority He had taken from Satan. The authority legally changed hands once more and belonged to man again.
This truth is what we need to keep at the forefront of our thinking as we approach our upcoming exercises in Spiritual Warfare—because our success in any battle will be totally dependent upon our acknowledgement of the One who has already won the victory. Satan and his demons certainly know who it is; for, it was Jesus who, after overcoming every form of Spiritual Warfare in His life–on the Cross and through His resurrection…
…disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them (Colossians 2:15).
Even so, Satan and his legions continue to fight on, using our ignorance of the authority in Christ as one of their chief means of success. Let’s determine not to give them that critical edge over us; always bearing in mind that, in whatever situation we may find ourselves, the One who won the war for us has already been there on our behalf…
…For, we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15).
Therefore…let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. (Hebrews 12:1-4)
In our next exercise, we will learn more about the destiny for which we are being prepared.
The Gaither Vocal Band reminds us of who we are in “On the Authority”…
 Paul E. Billheimer, Destined for the Throne (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 1975), 73.
 Billheimer, Destined, 73-74.
 Billheimer, Destined, 74.
 Billheimer, Destined, 76.
 Billheimer, Destined, 79-80.
 Dean Sherman, Spiritual Warfare for Every Christian (Seattle, Washington: YWAM Publishing, 1990), 130-131.