Sunday, August 6, 2017

Matthew 14:13-21

As soon as Jesus heard that his cousin and preaching colleague John the Baptist had been murdered by Herod, he took off in a boat toward a remote place in order to have some alone time. But somehow the crowds figured out where he was going and people from many towns hoofed it over to the spot. 14 So, when Jesus arrived he encountered a huge crowd. But instead of annoyance at their invasion of his privacy, as he stepped out of the boat, he felt great compassion for them and healed those who were sick.

15 That evening his apprentices came and said to him, “We’re really out in the sticks and it’s starting to get late. Perhaps you should dismiss the crowd so they have time to get to one of the villages. They need to buy some food to feed themselves before the markets close.”

16 Jesus replied, “That’s not necessary -- YOU feed them.”

17 “But,” they answered, “Master, all we have are five small loaves of bread and two fish! What good is that with such a large crowd?”

18 “Well, bring the food here,” he said.

19 Then Jesus instructed the people to take a seat on the grass. He held up the five loaves and two fish, turned his eyes up toward heaven, and blessed the food. Then, he broke the loaves into pieces, which he gave to the apprentices. They, in turn, distributed the food to the people. 20 Everyone ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the apprentices collected twelve baskets of leftovers. 21 It’s estimated that about 5,000 men had their fill that day. And nobody even tried counting all the women and children who were fed.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Genesis 21:22-34

22 Meanwhile, Abimelech, having noticed all the ways that God was blessing Abraham, decided that he and Phicol, the commander of his army, should pay him a visit. Abimelech said to Abraham, “It’s pretty clear that God is with you in everything you do. 23 And since I don’t want to end up on his wrong side, please swear to God that you’ll always be fair, open, and honest with me -- as well as my children and their descendants. I’ve gone out of my way to treat you -- an immigrant without standing or rights -- very fairly. So I need your word that you’ll also treat me and everyone in this place with corresponding fairness.

24 Without hesitation, Abraham responded, “I give you my word.” 25 But he added, “Since we’re talking about fairness, some of your servants have seized a well that I dug.”

26 Abimelech replied, “Hmmmm… This is the first I’ve heard of it. You should have told me sooner. I don’t know right off who did that.”

27 As a sign of his seriousness Abraham gave some sheep and cattle to Abimelech and the two of them drew up a covenant agreement of cooperation. 28 In addition, Abraham set aside from his flock seven female lambs. 29 So Abimelech said to Abraham, “What are these lambs for?”

30 Abraham said, “I’m giving these seven lambs to you in order to establish legal proof that I dug this well and that I am therefore the owner.”

31 Thus, that well became known as Beersheba -- which means Oath Well. For at that place Abraham and Abimelech swore a covenant oath to each other.

32 After they drew up their covenant treaty at Beersheba, Abimelech and Commander Phicol returned to their headquarters in the area which eventually became the land of the Philistines.

33 Meanwhile, Abraham planted a tamarisk tree at Beersheba. There he worshiped the Lord -- the God who has no beginning or end. 34 And Abraham settled down there, living for a long time as a foreigner in Philistine country.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Genesis 21:8-21

8 At the time that Isaac was weaned from mother’s milk to solid food, his father Abraham prepared a huge feast of solid food to celebrate the occasion. 9 But then drama happened. Sarah saw Ishmael—the 17-year-old* son of Abraham and her Egyptian servant Hagar—laughing disrespectfully at her son, Isaac. She could see trouble in the wings 10 so she turned to Abraham and demanded that he send Hagar and Ishmael packing, “No son of that slave woman is going to share the inheritance with my son, Isaac. No way!”

11 Abraham was distraught at the idea of losing his son Ishmael. 12 But God spoke to Abraham saying, “Calm down. I know that the idea of losing your boy and servant wife are upsetting. But it will be okay. Do whatever Sarah tells you, for it will be through the descendants of Isaac that I’m going to keep my covenant promises. 13 However, I’m also going to make the descendants of Hagar’s son, Ishmael into a great nation -- for he, too, is your son.”

14 So, early the next morning Abraham got up, prepared some bread and a container of water, which he strapped onto Hagar’s shoulders. Then he sent her away with their son. They wandered aimlessly in the wilderness of Beersheba.

15 When they ran out of water, Hagar put Ishmael under a shady bush. 16 She then walked a short distance away and sat down by herself. “I can’t watch him die,” she said, as she burst into uncontrollable tears.

17 But God heard the cries of Ishmael, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, “Hagar, what’s wrong? Do not be afraid! God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. 18 Get up and go comfort him. This isn’t the end. I’m still planning that his descendants will form a great nation.”

19 Then God showed Hagar a well full of water. She quickly filled her container and brought the boy a drink. 20 And God was with Ishmael blessing him as he grew up in the wilderness. He became a skillful archer, 21 and lived in the Paran Desert. His mother found an Egyptian wife for him.

* Abraham was 86 years old when Ishmael was born (Genesis 16:16). Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born (21:5). Weaning was typically sometime in the third year.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Genesis 21:1-7

1 The Lᴏʀᴅ blessed Sarah and kept his promise. 2 She became pregnant, and according to the timeframe that the Lᴏʀᴅ had laid out in Genesis 18:14, she gave birth to Abraham’s son. Abraham became a father in his old age 3 and he named his son Isaac. 4 Eight days after Isaac was born, just as God had commanded in Genesis 17, Abraham circumcised him, giving him the mark of the covenant.

5 Abraham was 100 years old when his son Isaac was born.

6 And Sarah said, “God has given me real laughter. I’m sure that everyone who hears about all this will laugh, too. 7 Can you imagine anyone telling Abraham that Sarah would nurse a baby? Yet even in my old age, I’ve borne a son for him!”

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Genesis 20:1-18

1 Abraham was on the move again. He left Mamre and went south to the Negev and lived as an immigrant for awhile in Gerar, between Kadesh and Shur. 2 As had become his custom in foreign places, Abraham introduced his wife, Sarah, as his sister.

Abimelech, the king of Gerar, seized her and added Sarah to his household harem. 3 But on the very night he had done that, God appeared to Abimelech in a dream and told him, “You are as good as dead, for you’ve taken a married woman to be one of your concubines.”

4-5 However, Abimelech, had not yet consummated the relationship with Sarah, so he protested, “Don’t kill me and wipe out my nation! I haven’t done anything wrong. I haven’t slept with Sarah. And besides, didn’t Abraham and Sarah say that they were brother and sister?”

6 In the dream God responded, “Yes, I know you are innocent. That’s why I kept you from sinning against me, and why I prevented you from touching her. 7 Now send Sarah back to her husband. He’s a prophet and will pray for you and your life will be spared. But if you fail to return Abraham’s wife to him, you and all your family will most certainly die.”

8 Very early the next morning Abimelech got up and immediately called a meeting with all his officials. They were terrified when he told them about the dream.

9 Abimelech then summoned Abraham and called him on the carpet. “What an inconsiderate imbecile! Look what have you done to us! What have I ever done to you that you’d treat me like this -- making us guilty of this horrible sin and thus jeopardizing both me and my kingdom? No one should ever ever do what you have done! 10 What were you thinking?”

Abraham replied, “Well, I thought, ‘No one here honors God. And the people will want my wife. So they will kill me to get her.’ 12 Besides -- she really is my sister -- albeit half-sister. We both have the same father, but different mothers. And I married her. 13 When God called me to leave my father’s home and to wander from place to place, I told her, 'If you really love me, you will tell all the locals that I am your brother.'”

14 Then Abimelech showed that he wasn’t as godless as Abraham had originally thought. The king presented to Abraham a peace offering that included some of his own sheep and cattle, as well as male and female servants. He also sent his wife Sarah back to him. 15 Then, unlike Pharaoh who responded to a similar situation in Genesis 12 by deporting Abraham, Abimelech said, “Choose any place on my land where you would like to live.”

To Sarah, the king said, “Look, I’m giving your ‘brother’ 1,000 pieces of silver to show everyone my desire to make right this misunderstanding. This is to compensate you for any wrong I may have done. It restores your honor in this matter and settles any claim against me.”

17 Then, because Abraham prayed to God, God healed the king, his wife, and his female servants, so they could once again have children. 18 For the Lord had struck all the women in Abimelech’s household with infertility because he had taken Abraham’s wife, Sarah.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Genesis 19:1-29

1 After the two messengers left Abraham and the Lᴏʀᴅ talking together, they traveled to Sodom. As they entered the city gates in the evening, they were greeted by Abraham’s nephew Lot. He was sitting as a city official at the gate. Lot jumped up when he saw them and welcomed them with a very respectful bow -- the kind reserved for dignitaries. 2 He said, “Please come wash your feet and spend the night in your servant’s house. At daylight, you can be up and on your way.”

They replied, “No, we’ll just spend the night in the town square.” 3 But Lot, realizing that would not be such a good idea, very persistently pleaded with them to accompany him so they’d come under the protection of his roof. Eventually, they accepted Lot’s hospitality and went home with him.

Lot made a feast for the visitors that included unleavened bread -- and they ate.

4 Before Lot and the visitors retired for the night, all the men of Sodom -- from the youngest to the oldest -- showed up at Lot’s house and surrounded it. 5 They then called to Lot, “Send out the men who arrived tonight so we can rape them.”

6 Stunned, Lot stepped outside the front door and closed it behind him. 7 He addressed the lawless crowd, “My Brothers, that would be pure evil, the vilest way possible to treat our guests. 8 Look, I’ve got two virgin daughters. I’ll offer them to you -- and you can do whatever you want -- but just leave the outsiders alone. They are now under the protection of my roof.”

9 “Get out of the way!” the ringleaders yelled. “What gives this immigrant the right to tell us what to do? You think we’re going to abuse these guys, wait until you see what we’re going to do to you!”

At that, they shoved Lot aside and rushed the door -- even came close to breaking it down. 10 But during the commotion, the two men inside had somehow managed to reach outside and pull Lot back in. And in the process, they bolted the door shut. 11 The messengers then blinded the men closest to the entrance. From the youngest to the oldest they were all groping about in the dark trying to find the way in. Finally, they gave up and left.

12 The visitors said to Lot, “Who else do you have left here in Sodom? Grab everyone you want to save -- your daughters, their fiancés, your sons -- any other family members. You have to get them out of Sodom 13 because we are about to level this place. The Lᴏʀᴅ finds the cries of injustice against Sodom to be so serious that it needs to be destroyed. That’s why he sent us -- to destroy Sodom.”

14 Lot went to speak with his daughters’ fiancés, and said, “Look, you’ve got to get up and get out. The Lᴏʀᴅ is about to destroy the city.” But the men thought he was joking and ignored him.

15 At first light, the messengers urged Lot to hurry, “Get up and get going NOW! There’s no time left to dillydally. Take your wife and your two daughters and get them out of here! Otherwise, they will be swept away as the city is destroyed.”

16 Lot hesitated. But because the Lᴏʀᴅ graciously desired to save him, the men literally grabbed the hands of Lot, his wife, and two daughters and led them out of the city. Once outside Sodom, the messengers released their grips.

17 Then they gave them instructions, “Run for your lives! Don’t even look back! And you certainly don’t want stay in the valley. Escape to the hills or you will be swept away.”

18 But Lot tried to negotiate with them, “Please, sirs, 19 you’ve already done me a huge favor and have been so kind to save my life. But I can’t move that fast. I’m afraid that if I have to get to the hills the disaster would overtake me and I’d die before I got there.

20 What about that small town over there?” said Lot, as he pointed toward the settlement we now call Zoar. “It’s close enough that I could get us there without a problem. And it’s just a podunk town where nothing happens. Let me go there, and I’ll be safe.”

21 One of the men said to Lot, “Okay, if that’s what you want, I’ll do this for you as well; I’ll spare the town that you have identified. 22 But hurry! Get to safety as fast as you can! I can’t do anything until you get there.”

(Because Lot called it a small town it became known as Zoar -- which means small town.)

23 As the sun started to fill the morning sky Lot arrived in Zoar -- 24 and the judgment began. Suddenly, the skies opened above Sodom and Gomorrah and the Lᴏʀᴅ rained down burning sulfur on them. 25 The Lᴏʀᴅ wiped out these cities and the adjoining valley. All the people who had lived there died, and all the lush vegetation was destroyed.

26 Even so, Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt when she longingly looked back toward Sodom and her life there.

27 That same morning, Abraham returned to the very spot where he had just the day before met with the Lᴏʀᴅ. 28 He looked down the valley toward Sodom and Gomorrah and all he could see was thick black smoke rising from the ground. 29 The point is, when God nuked the cities in the valley where Lot lived, he remembered his friend Abraham and graciously provided a way for his nephew Lot to escape.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Genesis 18:16-33

16 After the feast that Abraham had provided, the three visitors got up and started walking toward the city of Sodom. Abraham was walking with them and saying good-bye 17 when the Lord said, “Should I keep Abraham in the dark about my plan? 18 After all, Abraham’s descendants will certainly become a huge and significant nation. Through him and his progeny all the earth’s nations will be blessed. 19 I have chosen him for a special relationship and he will be directing his family, including those in the coming generations to follow my path. They need to be moral and just people so that I can act on the promises I’ve made to Abraham.”

20 Then the LORD said, “Speaking of those who have left the path, there are countless cries coming from the victims of injustice in Sodom and Gomorrah. The sins of those cities are apparently very serious! 21 I’m going down there now to investigate the complaints of injustice that I’ve received. I want to know if they are as wicked as it sounds. And if they aren’t, I want to know that, too.”

22 The men turned away and continued walking toward Sodom. However, the LORD stopped and continued his conversation with Abraham. 23 Abraham moved in closer to talk -- as friends often do -- and said to the LORD, “What about the innocent people who live in those cities? Are you really planning to sweep them away with the guilty? 24 What if there are fifty innocent people in the cities? Will you really destroy them and not spare the place for the sake of those fifty innocent people? 25 I can’t believe that you’d execute the innocent with the guilty -- as if there were no difference. That’s not like you! Won’t you, the chief justice of the entire earth, do the right thing and judge justly?”

26 The LORD responded, “Alright, if I find fifty innocent people in Sodom and Gomorrah, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

27 Abraham replied, “Lord, I know that I’m really not much more than dust, so please humor me if I’m out of bounds with my boldness, but 28 what if there are forty-five innocent people in the cities -- five fewer than fifty? Will you destroy the whole place over just five?”

The LORD responded, “If I find forty-five decent people in Sodom and Gomorrah, I won’t destroy the cities.”

29 Once again Abraham spoke, “Well, what if there are forty?”

The LORD responded, “Again, for the sake of those forty decent people, I will do nothing.”

30 Abraham said, “Don’t get upset with my questions, my Lord, but what if there are thirty?”

The LORD said, “I won’t do it if I find thirty decent people there.”

31 Abraham pressed even more, “Since I’ve already been presumptuous with my Lord, what if there are twenty?”

The LORD said, “Again, I won’t wipe the cities from the map if I find twenty decent people there.”

32 Finally, Abraham said, “Lord, I know I’m in way over my head, but please don’t hold it against me -- just one more question -- what if there are only ten?”

And the LORD said, “For the sake of those 10 decent people I will not destroy Sodom and Gomorrah.” 33 As soon as the Lord finished speaking with Abraham, he went on his way. And Abraham returned to his seat at the entrance of his tent.