Readings

  • Genesis 26
  • 1 Chronicles 16:14-22
  • Galatians 4:28

Prayer

Pray… that you will be able to see God’s plans being worked out in today’s story.

Day 31 – Isaac & the Blessing

Isaac inherits the blessings God gave to Abraham

 

  • Yesterday we started looking at the warring brothers Jacob and Esau, and we’ll get back to them tomorrow, but today we’re taking a step away and putting the camera lens back on their father Isaac.
  • I’m sure you’ll have noticed how Isaac’s actions, and that of his rather beautiful wife Rebekah, mirror those of his father earlier in Genesis. Can you remember the stories regarding Abraham and where they are in Scripture?
  • What similarities, apart from the fact that they both seem to be married to supermodels, can you find between the story in Genesis 26:6-11 and that of Abraham in Genesis 12:10-20?
  • Do you think it’s easy to repeat our parent’s mistakes? Do you think that you pick up their bad habits as well as good?
  • What’s going on with the battle over the wells and the water supply in verses 17-22? This time Isaac shows wisdom. How?
  • What interesting bit of information do we read about Isaac’s firstborn son Esau in verse 34? Does it look like his parents approved of his choice of brides? Why do you think Isaac and Rebekah were not pleased?
  • For the first time in our reading plan, we open up 1 Chronicles (make sure you don’t read 1 Corinthians by accident!). The words in it are clear to read and show God is in control. What words of comfort and encouragement can you take from them?
  • The single verse that we read today in Galations 4 says that we are like “children of promise”? What promise is that, do you think?

 

 

Like his father, Isaac seems to be having his share of dumb moments, and a good portion of wise ones too. God continues to stand by His promises though, doesn’t He? Whatever difficulties Abraham and Isaac have been in, God has seen them through – whether they trusted in Him or veered off the path a little.

 

We’re on day 31 today – that’s the end of month one! Give yourself a high five in the mirror (go on, nobody’s watching!). That’s a whole month of reading and studying God’s Word every day. We’ve looked at creation, Adam and Eve, Noah, Job, Abraham and Isaac now, with plenty of other stories thrown into the mix, such as the ark, the tower of Babel and the messy situation in Sodom. Think back on what you’ve studied and how you think you’ve grown in your factual understanding, your spiritual understanding and your maturity in handling God’s Word. I hope you can see growth already, and we have lots of exciting things to read about yet.

 

Be especially vigilant that this hasn’t become just a daily exercise in reading and writing. How has your prayer life improved? And have you acted more Christ-like as you’ve got to know your bibles better?

 

By the end of February we’ll have gone through the entire story of Joseph, and Moses will have led the Israelite people into the desert, ready for all that awaits them. They’re wonderful readings, and I can’t wait to work through them with you.

 

Readings

  • Genesis 25
  • Romans 9:10-12
  • Hebrews 12:14-17

Prayer

Pray… that you will know that God has a plan for you, and that it was written before you were even born.

Day 30 – Esau & the Birthright

Esau’s short-sighted trade

 

Genesis 25 starts with lots of names but don’t worry about understanding all of that. Read it, of course, and work out what’s going on, but the focal point of today’s readings can be found in verse 19 onward.

 

  • Well, Abraham, it was good knowing you, but we’re moving on from looking at his life today. You’ll see in Genesis 25:8 that he dies in today’s passages. Think about what you have learned about him in the last few weeks. Do you now know why Abraham is such an important figure in Jewish (and Christian!) history? Have you learned anything particularly new about his life?
  • As I mentioned earlier, don’t worry about remembering the names of Abraham’s other children, or the tribes of Ishmael. It’s fascinating that we have this information, but for the purposes of this reading plan, we can set that aside.
  • The attention instead turns to focus squarely on Isaac. What problem did Rebekah have that Issac prayed for? How did God respond?
  • What did God say about the twins in verse 23? Why is the second child going to be more blessed than the first born? Normally, the first born child would receive something called a “birthright”. That means more inheritance, blessings, and some other stuff. Here, however, things are different. God is saying that the older (Esau) will instead serve the younger (Jacob). We find out how this works out as the story unfolds over the next couple of days.
  • Describe Rebekah’s twin sons and their names. If you have a study bible, you may find it’s particularly helpful at the moment. If not, try looking it up online. Are you more like Esau or Jacob? I hope your parents don’t have favourites like theirs did!
  • Explain the story of Esau and Jacob in your own words. What did Esau give away? What was his priority? Was it wise? Do you think he later regretted it? The passage in Hebrews might shed some more light on this, if you want a sneak peak, but we’ll find out more tomorrow.
  • Have you ever thrown away God’s teachings when a short-term gain seemed more appealing? Think about where you are most challenged in this area. Perhaps when you’re with non-Christian friends? When your parents tell you you can’t have something? When you know your internet use isn’t being monitored? Be honest with yourself and pray for strength to make wise choices.
  • The Romans passage refers to something called “election” – the teaching that God “elects” or “chooses” who will be saved before they are born. It’s sometimes called predestination. Esau made his own decisions to swap his birthright for a meal, but it was part of God’s plan to bless Jacob. This idea can be tough to get your head around. It’s too deep a topic to discuss here, but I have a helpful book you can borrow if you’re interested in it, and you can chat about it with me or Mel if you’d like.

 

Siblings fight, don’t they? Anabel, Harry and Jonah… something tells me that from time to time you’ve probably all fallen out with your brother or sister! There doesn’t seem to be much love lost in the brief passages we read today too. They were even fighting in the womb before they were born, according to verse 22!

 

I found a great little video online which you should watch – it’s tagged below. Watch it! Really! It’ll help explain the story really well, as well as giving you a few spoilers for tomorrow’s passages. If you like the video, there’s a bunch more about stories we’ve read (and will read) here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLactllEFMk_I0LqO5DebtTLDjFcLajXGB 

 

 

 

 

Readings

  • Genesis 24
  • Psalm 37:3-8
  • Proverbs 3:5-6

Prayer

Pray… that you will be able to see God’s plans being worked out in today’s story

Day 29 – Isaac & Rebekah

The servant’s prayer for God’s direction & guidance

 

Genesis 24 is quite long, but it’s not a difficult read.

 

  • Genesis 24 is the longest chapter in Genesis and the longest story too. I hope you enjoyed reading it – even though it does repeat itself at times! Don’t forget as you’re reading that every word is given to us by God, which is helpful to bear in mind if you’re ever finding it hard going.
  • Where are we up to? Well, Isaac is now old enough to be married, but he and his father Abraham are living in a land surrounded by Canaanites. Do you remember who these people were? Flick back to day 9 for a reminder. Why was Abraham so keen for his son to not marry a Canaanite woman?
  • Abraham wants Isaac to marry someone from his previous home. In verses 5-9, we read that Abraham doesn’t want his son to actually return to find a wife for himself though. What was the reason? Who went instead?
  • Did the servant make the job Abraham had given him a priority? It’s worth considering that the journey he made would have been around 500 miles – a good three weeks’ travel in those days.
  • What did the servant pray to God for in verses 11-14? How did God answer?
  • What do you think of Rebekah and the way she acted in this passage? Focus in on her actions, and that of her brother Laban, in verses 22-33. Can you see God at work? Despite that, do you think Rebekah would have been scared?
  • After the servant recalls the story to them, what do Laban and his father say in verses 50-51? Can Rebekah go? What do you think persuaded them to allow her to leave in this sudden fashion? How much trust did you think they, and Rebekah of course, must have had in the servant and in God?
  • Make a list of all the verbs in the Psalms and Proverbs passages that relate to trusting in God, just like Rebekah (and, indeed, the servant) did. The verses in Proverbs are ones that you might like to mark down in your list of favourites, as they are well known and encouraging.

 

 

If we were being cynical, we could look at the immediate and clear answer to prayer that we can read in Genesis 24:15 and scoff that our prayers don’t get answered so wonderfully and quickly. “Of course they trusted God when He worked so dramatically”, you might think.

 

But that would a simplistic understanding of the situation. As we read of Rebekah preparing to leave with the servant for the long and uncomfortable walk to Isaac, think what it must have been like. It wasn’t like the servant had a picture of Isaac on his phone to show her! Or some tangible proof that she was going to be safe, or that her life would be good. She had to have real trust in the unknown – her life was very quickly changing to something completely different to how she imagined it might have been before.

 

If our trust in God depends on seeing Him work miracles or answer a quota of prayer, our trust in Him will ebb away. Instead, resolve yourself to trust in Him whatever the situation, just like Rebekah had to do as she saddled up her camel. One thing we can be hold on to, in uncertain times like that, is the comforting message of Romans 8:28 – “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”. Sometimes we’ll see God at work clearly, and sometimes we won’t.

 

Rebekah was called according to God’s purpose, and He had many good things planned for her. Trusting in Him at this scary time was the best decision she could have ever made.

 

 

 

 

Readings

  • Genesis 22
  • Romans 8:31-39
  • Hebrews 11:17-19

Prayer

Pray… and thank God that He has given us things we don’t deserve.

Day 28 – Abraham & Isaac

Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac foreshadows Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross

 

Read Romans 8:31-39 slowly, as if it were a prayer. It’ll help you to think about it.

 

  • Today’s powerful readings are some of the clearest pointers to the future sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Did you spot any as you read? We’ll consider this question later in the notes.
  • As Genesis 22 opens, Isaac is now probably a teenager. We see God “testing” Abraham as He asks him to do something which sounds awful. What was it? What are your first thoughts as you read God’s command?
  • How did Abraham respond? Do you think you would have responded in the same way?
  • As Abraham and his son made the long journey towards the place where the grim deed was to be done, what did Isaac ask Abraham about? Look at the response from his father in Genesis 22:8. What did he say? Does it make you think of anything elsewhere in the bible?
  • The passage explains that the company walked for three days before reaching the mountain. What sort of things would have been going through Abraham’s head as they walked? What sort of things were at stake, both personally and in the covenant promises from God?
  • When they came to do the sacrifice, what happened? What was sacrificed instead?
  • What does the Hebrews passage say about Abraham’s faith? What about his priorities?
  • This passage does indeed tell us of Abraham’s extraordinary trust in God in a very stark context. But if we look deeper, we can see a clear foreshadowing of Christ in today’s verses too. Can you see it?
  • The place that Abraham and Isaac walked to is likely to be very near the site of the future temple that Solomon would build for the Lord, and – years later – where Jesus would be crucified. It’s a place where God would work powerfully and gloriously in the future. After three days of walking to his son’s death, a reversal happens where death turns to life. God provides the sacrifice instead, in the form of a ram, which is sacrificed in the place of a mightily relieved Isaac. In Christ, God also provided the sacrifice which took our place. Jesus would become the greatest substitutionary sacrifice – who in three days also gloriously rose to new life. Does this help to see the parallels between this story and Jesus’ death?
  • The passage in Romans is one of my favourites. It has helped me a lot during tough times. You would be wise to highlight it, or note a key verse down in your journal, or write some of it out and place it on a noticeboard somewhere to remind you of God’s unfailing love when you’re in tough situations. According to Paul, the author, who or what could separate us from the love of Christ?

 

 

Despite the wonderful reminder of Jesus’ sacrificial love for us, today’s passages might have been hard for you to think about. Why would God test Abraham in this way? Was he just toying with Abraham, like a child torturing an ant under a magnifying glass? We cannot avoid these difficult questions, but it’s worth saying that it was never God’s intention to sacrifice Isaac. In providing the ram, God shows us His nature is to show grace and provision where it’s needed.

 

Instead of dwelling on the reasons for God’s command, finish your readings and journal notes by thinking about that foreshadowing of Christ we read about today. Genesis 22 isn’t just a morality tale about obeying God, or trusting in Him. It’s a reminder to us that everything – even this early in the Bible – is pointing directly at Jesus as the manifestation of God’s marvellous plan of salvation. For that reason alone, I’m thankful that God provided us with this tale of Abraham’s difficult test. What about you?

 

 

 

Readings

  • Genesis 21:1-7
  • Romans 9:6-9
  • Hebrews 11:11-16

Prayer

Pray… that you will remember that nothing is impossible with God.

Day 27 – Sarah & Isaac

Sarah’s faith in God & Isaac’s promised birth

 

  • Last Saturday I wrote a lot of notes and questions and we discussed a difficult topic together. Today you may be glad to see that we have a change of pace. The readings are short (we’ve even read the Genesis passage already!), the story encouraging… and my notes today will be shorter too!
  • What promise of God is fulfilled in today’s passage in Genesis?
  • Look back at Genesis 12:4. We’ve thought about it before, but how many years did Abraham and Sarah have to wait? Think about how Abraham and Sarah must have felt during the long wait. Would you have trusted God, day in and day out? Would you have almost given up hope, perhaps like Sarah when she laughed at the idea she would become pregnant?
  • Why is Isaac’s birth more special than the birth of Ishmael? Does that mean that Ishmael was less special to God generally?
  • The passage in Romans explains to us that it was never God’s intention that every descendant of Abraham would automatically be saved purely because they happened to be born into the right family. How are people saved into eternal life?
  • Today’s readings return us, once again, to Hebrews 11 and to some interesting verses about Sarah. Sarah is listed as an example of faith, alongside her husband. How do you think this is, given that she laughed in apparent unbelief in Genesis 18? Genesis 21:6 may give you another perspective.
  • Hebrews also refers to faithful people from the bible “acknowledging that they were strangers and exiles on the earth”. If earth isn’t their home, where is? Are you seeking a greater home too?

 

With the bible in our hands, we can read something about an event, and turn the page to find out what happens twenty years later. Abraham and Sarah didn’t have that luxury – they had to sit through a situation seemingly bereft of logic (a promise to an 80 year old that she would give birth), day after gruelling day for years and years. It’s so easy for us to sit here with the complete story in our hands and not appreciate the immense faith that Abraham and his wife must have had. Hey – it’s hard enough to read our bibles every day, it seems! As you do, spare a thought for Abraham and Sarah.

 

Added to that, they never got to see the promises that Abraham received fully given to them. That would not happen until many, many years later after they died.

 

Of course, we are indeed in a wonderfully fortunate position that we can have a bible in front of us, and we can see God’s plan being worked out throughout the Old and New Testaments. We can see, time after time, that God doesn’t always work as we imagine or hope, but He does always work. God’s promises to Abraham – and to mankind – have gloriously proved to be faithful and true, including the greatest promise of all – that He would send a Saviour and a Redeemer to us.

 

Abraham and Sarah had to trust in the unknown future. We’re called to trust in the historical past. I hope this thought helps you to appreciate the joy of opening scripture as we read this year, as we see God working out His plan of salvation.

 

Readings

  • None… unless you need to catch up!

Prayer

A day off from reading is not a day off from praying or living as a Christian. Pray for something that’s on your heart today.

Day 26 – Day Off

 

 

I hope that you have enjoyed a week looking at Abraham and the promises that God gave to him. I wonder what new things you now know about this “father” of the Jewish nation, and a little bit more about why we, as Christians, should know about him and the promises that God gave to him all those years ago. I bet you didn’t know all the stories you read.

 

Yesterday’s passages were hard, weren’t they. Harry and Jonah – I look forward to talking through those passages, and indeed all the things since Genesis 12, with you on Monday when we next meet.

 

This week the focus will shift to Isaac, Abraham and Sarah’s son, and then on to his relationship with his son Esau, and Esau’s relationship with his brother Jacob. It’s fascinating stuff from a biblical perspective, as well as simply a human perspective, as we see the fight for power and influence between the two brothers. You’ve heard of “Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” and now you’ll really get to know all about all three.

 

You might remember that this reading plan is not the full bible, and we’ll skip chunks of stuff from time to time. Maybe you’re thinking the pace is quite slow. We’re 25 days in as we’re only at Genesis 19! There’s lots and lots of chapters of the bible ahead of us, aren’t there! But we’re taking it steady as there’s just so much foundation and important stuff in Genesis. In fact, we’re going to be reading pretty much everything in this book, save for a couple of chapters here and there. We won’t be leaving Genesis until around the middle of February. In my mind, that’s a great thing, as Genesis has so many fascinating stories, not least of which is Jacob and his twelve sons, whom we’ll meet next month.

 

Make sure you’re fully up to date by the end of today, especially you lads whom I’ll be meeting up with tomorrow. See you at church!

 

PS… wasn’t it great singing this last Sunday after looking at Job 38 just the day before? 😉

Readings

  • Genesis 19
  • Luke 17:28-36
  • 2 Peter 2:6-9

Prayer

Pray… that you’ll understand God’s righteous judgement in today’s tough story, and that the Holy Spirit will comfort and guide you during your bible study today.

Day 25 – Lot & Sodom

The Lord visits Abraham & Sodom’s sinfulness

 

There are many tough passages in the bible. Genesis 19 is one of them. It’s tough for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it’s sexually explicit, including in ways that you may find quite uncomfortable or difficult to think about. Secondly, it shows God’s judgement on sin in a powerful and possibly distressing way. We do not shy away from God’s word, but it is important to handle it carefully – and prayerfully. You might want to consider doing today’s study with a friend, or someone at home. You’ll discuss it with me or Mel next time we meet, too.

 

  • You remember Lot, Abraham’s nephew? A week ago, we read that he and his uncle Abraham had decided to split up and go their separate ways. Lot went one way, and Abraham the other, with Lot choosing to head towards Sodom, where he settled. As our passage in Genesis 19 opens today, we see the two angels we met yesterday heading on their way towards Sodom. Do you remember the promise God made to Abraham about this city? He had agreed not to destroy Sodom if there were at least 10 righteous people living there. Let’s find out what happened.
  • How did Lot greet the angels? It seems pretty good, doesn’t it! By inviting them in, Lot seems to be demonstrating the sort of righteousness that Abraham referred to in his conversation with God. Lot and his family seem welcoming and righteous. Are there any more?
  • Before the angels went to sleep in Lot’s house, “all the men” of the town came to the door. What awful thing did they demand? If you use an ESV bible, you may find these verses more clear in the NIV today. Can you imagine how the people in the house might have felt?
  • Lot admirably tries to protect the angels from the sexually motivated attack in Genesis 19:7, but in verse 8 he astonishingly offers his daughters to be raped by the mob outside instead of his guests. Lot can be commended for trying to protect the visitors, but offering his daughters to be attacked is something that should shock you, and rightly so. It’s a seemingly indefensible act.
  • How do the angels rescue Lot? As he and his immediate family leave, does Lot’s other family listen to him? Do you think Lot was aware of how dangerous it was to be in the city?
  • What happened to Lot’s wife as they ran from the destruction?
  • Not enough righteous people were found for God to relent from his destruction of the city. What does the destruction tell us about God’s judgement on sin? How does this make you feel? How does trusting in Jesus’ death comfort you?
  • The passage in Luke shows that God’s judgement can come at any time. Does the passage say that everyone will be saved?
  • Lot was saved, but he still went through tough times. The 2 Peter passage shows us that we will go through hard times too, but we can trust in the Lord for strength and courage.
  • We’ll finish our notes by turning back to Genesis 19 to read the other murky story recorded in verses 30 to 38. Lot and his daughters have been rescued from Sodom and are living in a cave. What happens in the story? Why did the daughters decide to do this? Was Lot innocent in the matter?
  • The children that come from this incestuous tale are called Moab and Ben-ammi. Their descendants become the Moabite and Ammonite people, who would become bitter enemies of Israel, Abraham’s descendants. They often fought against each other, such as in 1 Samuel 14:47.

 

Phew.. tough stuff, huh. Today’s passage had discussions of rape and incest. At no point does the bible ever suggest that these things are right. The stories are written down because they happened and are important to understanding the history, but the bible never condones this behaviour, or excuses it.

 

End your studies today thinking about the seriousness in which God treats unrepentant sin. In Jesus we have a mediator and rescuer who has taken our punishment for us, but passages like this, which shows Gods righteous wrath against sin, shows us how much we really do need Him.

 

Readings

  • Genesis 18
  • Isiah 3:8-11
  • Hebrews 13:1-2

Prayer

Pray… that you will always be welcoming.

Day 24 – Abraham & His Three Visitors

The Lord visits Abraham & Sodom’s sinfulness

 

  • Today’s first passage has two distinct (although connected) sections, so let’s start with the first one, where we see Abraham working hard to welcome some unexpected guests. Before we dig into that, let’s once again set the scene. Abraham and his wife are still waiting on God for Him to start working out His promises in specific ways. God has promised them several times that they would father a great nation, but at the start of Genesis 18, that hasn’t yet materialised. Make sure that when you do your daily readings, you remember that this is all part of one big story, so keep in mind what has occurred so far, and think about the context.
  • One seemingly random day, what happens to Abraham? How did Abraham react? Did he show respect to the strangers?
  • As we see Abraham treating his guests very well, it’s worth thinking about who these guests are. Throughout history there has been quite a debate about it! Some think one of them may have been a physical image of God Himself, based on the words in Genesis 18:1. The other two visitors can be fairly confidently said to be angels. Genesis 19, which we’ll read tomorrow, opens by referring to the “two angels”. This is likely what it means in the passage in Hebrews where it talks about “entertaining angels unawares”. This is a clear biblical message that we, as Christians, should practise good hospitality. Are you good at welcoming people?
  • Sarah is told by the visitors that she will have a baby within a year. Why did Sarah laugh at the news of the baby? I often smile about the little argument she has with God in verses 12-15. Did you?
  • In the second part of the chapter, from verse 16 onwards, Abraham and his visitors set off on a walk towards the great city of Sodom. What does God plan to do to this evil place? If you can’t work it out, Abraham talks about it in his question in verse 23.
  • Sodom was a city full of sin. It was dripping with evil, as was its sister city Gomorrah. As Abraham surveys the scene, he considers the punishment that God is planning on carrying out upon the city. Abraham decides to ask God a series of questions. What is Abraham asking God to do? By verse 32, what has God promised not to do if He can find at least 10 righteous people in the city?
  • Was Abraham respectful in his repeated requests to God, and what was God’s response? Could the way Abraham spoke with God be helpful to how we speak, let’s say, to our parents?

 

We’re left on a bit of a cliffhanger today! Abraham walks back home in Genesis 18:33 after his discussions with God, and we’ll find out what happens to the evil city of Sodom on Monday. Abraham might have been worried about his nephew Lot who lived there. I wonder whether there will be at least 10 righteous people in the city, meaning God save it, or whether God will continue with His punishment. We’ll find out tomorrow.

 

Today’s passages talk about angels, which is a topic that some of you may be rather unfamiliar with. You’ll all have heard of angels, but you may struggle to explain what they are or what their role is. We’ll dig into this question and discuss it further later in the study plan, but you may want to do some further study online now if you would like. Feel free to ask me more about angels when we meet up, if you’d like.

 

For now, however, let’s keep our attention on Abraham and the way he acted with his visitors. Abraham was welcoming, and generous with his possessions and time. How are you at being generous and welcoming to all you meet? Is there, perhaps, something you can do this weekend to show hospitality, respect or kindness to someone that goes beyond what you might normally do?

 

Readings

  • Genesis 17
  • Romans 4:7-13
  • Colossians 2:11-13

Prayer

Pray… that you’ll understand why God required circumcision but why, through Christ, it is not required any more.

Day 23 – Abraham & Circumcision

The sign of circumcision vs. spiritual circumcision

 

Quick note! Normally I’d encourage you to investigate the subjects we’re discussing each day, but – without wanting to state the obvious – if you search for information regarding this topic on the internet you’re gonna see some pretty graphic images! Maybe one to avoid this time!

 

  • Over the past few days, I’ve been using the names Abraham and Sarah, even though your bible will have used their original names Abram and Sarai. I’ve just done this to keep it simple, but it’s worth highlighting that it’s here, in Genesis 17, that God actually changed their names. Why does He change their names from Abram to Abraham and Sarai to Sarah?
  • Let’s just remind ourselves of the timeline. We’re jumping back to a time before Isaac was born. Abraham was 86 years old when Ishmael was born, and at the start of Genesis 17, he’s now 99 years old, and Ishmael is a young teenager. Issac won’t be born for a couple more years. Do you remember how old Abraham was when God first spoke to him in chapter 12? That’s a long time to trust in God without seeing any of the promises God gave him come true. Why do you think God was silent for so many years?
  • Abraham “falls on his face” twice in Genesis 17 (verses 3 and 17). He didn’t trip up though! Abraham fell down for two very different reasons though. What was he reacting to in each of the instances?
  • In today’s passage, God re-affirms his promise to Abraham to give him an son and a true heir. God also states that the covenant will be an everlasting covenant, throughout all ages (verses 7-8).
  • A few weeks ago we read about God sending a physical sign to Noah to remind him about His promises. What was it? Today we read about another sign. What physical act, in verse 10, is Abraham asked to perform to show that he and his family are part of God’s plan and belonging to Him?
  • From this moment on, all the descendants of Abraham will be circumcised. It continued through all the Old Testament, and Jews continue to practice this today.
  • What did God say would happen to people who were not circumcised? Why?
  • This leads us to consider an obvious question. If God commanded circumcision, and all the Jews were, why don’t Christian men get circumcised too? The two New Testament passages from Paul’s letters offers some answers. Can you get a grasp of what it is saying?
  • In the familiar fourth chapter of Romans we re-read some verses that we looked at only a few days ago. We’ll do that from time to time in this reading plan. What is Paul’s message to his readers about the link between circumcision and faith? Whilst not undermining the importance of following God’s command for the men to be circumcised, how does Paul skilfully make his point about justification through faith, especially in verse 11?
  • The Colossians passage talks about the fact we are spiritually circumcised through faith in Christ. This is a hard thing to grasp, but have a think about what that might mean. Try explaining this passage in your own words and write it down in your journal. Why, according to Paul’s teachings, do we not need to be physically circumcised any more?

 

The passage in Colossians is a good example of how knowing about the Old Testament practise can help you to understand the New Testament teaching. That’s why we are reading through the whole bible – it will help you understand better the things written in the New Testament. Paul’s explanation, in Colossians 2:11 for example, shows us that we are made a part of God’s family through Jesus instead of showing belonging by having a physical sign on our bodies.

 

You’ll hopefully see now Christian men don’t have a requirement to be circumcised, and today’s passages talk a little about why. However, that doesn’t mean the physical act of circumcision is wrong – just that it doesn’t change anything in a spiritual sense. You shouldn’t consider circumcision nowadays because the New Testament has shown us why faith in Christ has replaced it. However, if you have been circumcised for some reason (such as family tradition, or for a health reason) there is nothing wrong with this and you shouldn’t be worried about it.

 

Readings

  • Genesis 16
  • Genesis 21:8-21
  • Galatians 4:21-31

Prayer

Pray… that you will trust in God’s timing.

Day 22 – Abraham & Hagar/Ishmael

Abraham doubts God’s promises & blesses Ishmael

 

  • I read somewhere that it takes 21 days for something to become a habit. Well, we’re on day 22 now, and I hope you’re into a good regular routine with your readings. It’s far too early, of course, to be counting down the days until the 31st December, but Sarah seems to be counting the days in today’s passage. At the start of Genesis 16, what’s she concerned about?
  • Let’s take stock of where we’re at. Yesterday, we read about the Abrahamic covenant, where God made an unbreakable promise to give Abraham multiple blessings. One of them was that he was going to father a nation which one day would be more numerous than the stars in the sky. But… Abraham is about 85 years old, and has no children. His wife isn’t much younger. That seems like an impossible promise for God to keep, doesn’t it?
  • What was the suggestion that Sarah gave to her husband Abraham in verse 2 regarding her servant Hagar? Did Abraham agree? What happened?
  • Did the new baby, whom God later (v11) calls Ishmael, solve problems or create them? Verse 4 onwards will help.
  • Where did Hagar, Ishmael’s mother, run? What did the angel tell her to do and what promise did the angel give her?
  • Around 16 years after Ishmael was born, our reading jumps forward to chapter 21 to find out what happens to him (as well as giving us a few future plot spoilers)! As our second reading in Genesis 21:8 opens, Isaac, the actual true son and heir of Sarah and Abraham, has just been born. We’ll read about Isaac properly later on in our reading plan, but for now it’s enough to know that Isaac is the baby that God had plans for, not Ishmael. The teenager Ishmael is still around though, and his presence (and the presence of his mother Hagar) is difficult. What does Abraham do?
  • When Hagar and Ishmael are sent away, things seem bleak for the lonely mother and her son. How does God take care of them? What does this tell you about God’s love?
  • Today’s New Testament passage refers to Isaac and Ishmael as representing two different covenants (promises from God). Can you see the differences?

 

Think about what a cake looks like when it’s half cooked. If you took it out of the oven after 10 minutes when it needs 20 minutes to cook properly, what will it be like? What happens when you try and rush things? Sarah knew God’s promise that He would bless to her family but how did she try to move things along in her timing? Was this a good idea?

 

Sending away Hagar and Ishmael may seem cruel from our perspective, but the Bible records both Abraham’s concern for his first son, and God’s command for what should happen to Ishmael. Abraham expressed compassion for his son, but he also demonstrated obedience when God required something different from what he personally desired. Abraham trusted that God would keep His promise to save Ishmael and make him the father of a large nation.

 

We won’t think about Ishmael again in this reading plan, but God’s promise that he would father a nation did, of course, come true. Ishmael was saved from a slow death in the wilderness, and went on to be a great leader, and it’s believed he founded many of the Arab nations (which are largely, although not exclusively, Muslim). There has been, ever since, a lot of tension between Jewish and Arab people, displayed most acutely in the conflict in the Middle East which has been going on for a very long time! This little story may well be the catalyst for all the struggles which we still see.