Saturday, July 31, 2010

Day 6: Genesis 15, 16, 17

Hebrew Roots of covenantImage via Wikipedia
Origins of the Hebrew word for covenant are intriguing and particularly interesting in terms of laying a foundation to understanding the Abrahamic Covenant.  The word בְּרִית (bĕriyth) (Strong's # 1285) comes from בָּרָה (barah) (Strong's #1262) which means selecting or choosing.  B'riyth conveys more of the idea of cutting, as in passing between pieces of cut flesh.

In Genesis 15: 10 -17,  Abram brought the animals God requested and cut them in half.  Then, after God further elaborated upon the covenant he was establishing with Abram, a supernatural event occurred - a blazing torch materialized  and passed between the pieces!  In a mystical way, the elements of a covenant were defined: life, death, blood, passing between the pieces of flesh, and an agreement.   Here, basically God provided everything - all that Abram had to do was believe God; to take God at his word; to believe that what he had promised he would bring about.

First God made a covenant with Noah.  Now, in Genesis 15, God talks to Abram, a 75 year old, childless man and tells him that his descendants will be as numerous as the stars and that the land, (Genesis 15:18) which spanned from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates, will belong to them.  However, the first thing God told Abram was not to be afraid and to regard God as his protector and reward.  So, God made a promise and Abram's part was not to be afraid of what exactly, it doesn't say.  Since God said that he would protect him, maybe Abram was afraid of raiding marauders, etc. God does say  Genesis 15:1, that his protection is Abram's "great reward".

Although Abram seemed content to wait for God to fulfill his promise regarding descendants, it appears that his wife, Sarai became impatient and urged Abram to father a child through her maid servant, Hagar.  From the very beginning of this pregnancy, though God is recorded as supporting Hagar and her son Ishmael, he did not designate him as the steward of God's covenant.

 Twenty five years passed before God appeared to Abram again.  This time, God changed his name to Abraham which means Father of Many nations.  God also told him that he and his descendants must keep the covenant of circumcision because the covenant made in his flesh is an everlasting covenant (Genesis 17:3).  Here again there was a cutting of the flesh; a separation of one part of the flesh from another; a selection of one son over another.

So,  every male 8 days old and older had to be circumcised.   Of paramount significance is that Abraham immediately circumcised his entire household.  He took God at his word and acted on it.  It's as though the circumcision was the way Abraham was signing on the "dotted line".   By acting so quickly, Abraham demonstrated that he understood the significance of this covenant.  Abraham understood that God chose another son, yet to be born to him and Sarah, who would be a son of the promise; a son miraculously conceived; a son God named Isaac (Genesis 17:19); the son with whom the everlasting covenant would be established.

As we see God talking to Abraham and see  how his relationship with God grew, his comprehension of his covenant with God  unfolded and developed.

 Abraham, because he trusted God, began to understand, that God's promise would be realized gradually, over long periods of time.  Abraham learned that man's way of making something happen is not God's way, i.e. God spoke with Hagar, Ishmael's mother, and promised her that her descendants would be too numerous to count. Not chosen for God's covenant promise, Ishmael  was prophesied to live in hostility with everyone.

After the household circumcision, Abraham is left to wait for the birth of Isaac, for God to fulfill his promise.

Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for barah (Strong's 1262)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2010. 26 Aug 2010. < http://
Strongs=H1262&t=KJV >

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Friday, July 30, 2010

Day 5: Genesis 12, 13, 14

Abram Journeying into the Land of Canaan (illu...Image via Wikipedia
Tonight I am entering my post, quite literally, at nearly the 11th hour.  After coming home from work and then preparing Chicken Paprika with home-made spaetzle, I took my daughter and her friend from college to the  boardwalk.   After we purchased some  Kohr's frozen custard, we decided to walk along the ocean shore.  Unfortunately, I greatly miscalculated  the low tide.  A wave jumped out at me drenching my sneakers and capris.  Nevertheless, it was a rare joy to be out to see a beautiful sunset and to praise God for his handiwork.

So, early this morning, I read today's three chapters of Genesis  and have thought about them sporadically throughout the day.  What strikes me is what the narrative does not explicitly state.  Chapter 12 begins with "God said to Abram ..."  The word "said" is so casual and conversational that it implies that Abram already knew God and possibly heard from him before.  Yet, in these verses, the substance of God's communication is hardly casual.  Abram was told to leave the country he was in and to move to as yet an undisclosed location.  And then, God told this 75 year-old, childless man that he would become a great nation and that those who blessed him would be blessed and those who cursed him would be cursed.

The next verse reads that Abram and his family packed up and left.

It appears that Abram came from a family that knew God; talked to God; listened to God; trusted in God.
Most likely, Abram's response to God is a reflection of the relationship he witnessed between his father and God.  So now, God chose to talk to Abram and to direct his path.  And Abram chose to obey God and to trust him for his greatest good even though God was promising the seemingly impossible.

Abram's walk with God began with a step in the direction of Canaan.  When he reached Shechem, God appeared to him and promised him and his offspring  the land of Canaan.  God affirmed Abram's obedience.

It interesting to me that Abram's close walk with God, began with a single step of obedience.  He was learning to patiently trust God for direction and by Chapter 13, he learned to call on God when difficulties arose in his camp.

Every time  Abram successfully trusted God, God blessed him by further expounding his promise regarding the land of Canaan and Abram's offspring, even though he had neither land nor children.

 It doesn't matter really how we perceive our external reality when it is God who plans our future and has already made provision for it.
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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Day 4: Genesis 10, 11, 12

Noah's sacrificeImage via Wikipedia
According to the Bible, Noah is the common ancestor of all mankind.  All nations find their origins in his three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.  What I found so interesting is that the destiny of all nations was determined by how Noah's sons responded to an unguarded moment in his life.

In Genesis 9:20, Noah was drunk in his tent and uncovered, i.e. naked.  When one son, Ham, saw his father's nakedness, he told the other two brothers about it.  Told is the Hebrew word "nagad" (Strong's 5046) which implies denouncing someone.  Ham was not at all concerned with preserving his father's honor or dignity, rather he delighted in being able to besmirch Noah's reputation.  In contrast, the other two brothers took a garment and walked backwards to cover their father's nakedness.

When Noah learned what Ham had done, he cursed him with a generational curse. Noah then blessed the other two sons.

It would appear to be such an insignificant incident, except when one considers who Noah really was.  Noah was the man who talked to God; who received instructions on how to build the ark; to whom God brought pairs of animals to be placed on the ark; for whom God closed the doors of the ark after everyone entered; with whom God made a covenant to never destroy the world by a flood again; to whom God gave permission to eat animals.  Noah was an eminently important person at that time who was instrumental in saving a remnant of mankind from destruction in the Flood. Therefore,  to disrespect Noah was in fact the same as dishonoring God because his relationship with God was so close.

Perhaps because Noah was so close to God, Noah perceived that Ham's shameful behaviour was an affront to God.  His sons owed their very existence to God's mercy and still Ham chose to slam God.  Perhaps Noah did not want to allow that kind of an attitude to become an accepted precedent.

In demonstrating his moral abandon  and his disregard for God, Ham brought on himself a curse which would shape the destiny of his descendants. Since he spurned God then, his descendants would live without God's revelation.

By responding righteously, Shem glorified God and his relationship with him.  Shem reflected God's blessing and so through subsequent genealogy, his line received God's revelation.

It is interesting that immediately following Noah's curse,  Scripture addresses the origin of nations, i.e. the genealogies of the three brothers.  In Shem's lineage, we see that he was the ancestor of all of the sons of Eber, the first Biblical reference to the people called Hebrews.

Though nations were scattered and new languages formed in the Tower of Babel incident, the driving force here seems to be to highlight the importance of Shem's genealogical line.  God chose the righteous son of Noah to perpetuate the knowledge of God.

And again, another decisive point in God's choice of a specific line occurred when Terah, a descendant of Shem, decided to move away from Ur of the Chaldeans.  Of Terah's two surviving sons, only Abram
chose to go with his father to another land.

While nothing in this account specifically addresses why Terah wanted to move, it's possible to speculate that his special relationship with God caused him to be uncomfortable in Ur.  Abram chose to go with his father when it would have been much easier to remain where he no doubt, had other family members around him as well as a familiarity with the environment.  However, he made a decision to move away with his father.

The decisions these Biblical figures made reflected their relationship to God.  The better they knew him, the more they were able to trust him in making decisions to trust him; to take him at his word.
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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Genesis 7, 8, 9

"The Deluge", by John Martin, 1834. ...Image via Wikipedia
As I was reading this familiar account of the Flood this morning, I was suddenly struck by a passage I never really thought about extensively before.

In Genesis 8:22, Noah made a sacrifice of burnt offerings from his very limited supply of "clean" animals.  Even though he spent nearly a year in the ark God instructed him to build; even though floods destroyed all animal life from the face of the earth; even though God himself closed the door of the ark after Noah and company entered, Noah nevertheless sustained a major life changing experience.  How tempting it must have been for him to take matters in his own hands and to count the number of  "clean" animals and then to decide that he would worship God through sacrificial offerings when he was in a better position to do so, when his reserves  were built up.

But Noah chose to worship God with burnt offerings in the same manner that Abel knew to be the correct manner of worship, acceptable to God.  But worshipping God in the prescribed manner, Noah was asserting his faith that God would bless the remnant of life that he and those with him represented.

To me this appears to be a first record of sacrificial tithing. Not only did Noah have to trust that God had provided him with just enough animals to re-populate the earth and just enough for worship, but also Noah had to trust in God's sufficiency, in God's goodness,  and in his provision to supply for his (Noah's) future needs.

Face it, when Noah disembarked from the ark, the world was a completely different place.  (Please refer to  for a  comprehensive discussion of the Flood account.)  Before God told Noah that it was alright to leave the ark,  Noah didn't hear from God since  before the Flood.  Then nearly a year in the ark - Noah must have heard catastrophic rumblings, etc. going on around the ark as he was buffeted by waves and pelted by rain.  There is no record of  God talking to him in the ark.  Maybe God was silent during that time and Noah had to rest in his knowledge of God's goodness.  But, since he was human, it would also seem possible for Noah to doubt God's character and ability to withstand the turbulence he himself was experiencing.  Noah could have thought that God himself was destroyed in the Flood!   Then, finally, after he spent 2 weeks sending out birds, God tells him that it is safe to step out of the ark and God blessed him with the assurance that life would increase in number.  Noah now knew not only that God existed but also that God loved him enough to provide for him.

His response to God's love and provision was to make a sacrificial burnt offering out of what God had given him.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Day 2: Genesis 4 - 6

Adam, Eve, and the (female) serpent at the ent...Image via Wikipedia

 My thoughts about these chapters begin by recalling the word "good" is used six times in Genesis Chapter 1 (verses 11, 12, 17, 21, 25, 31).  According to Strong's Concordance, good (2896) is a Hebrew word signifying good in the widest sense; anything beautiful, favorable, pleasant, pleasurable.  So, God created a world that brought him joy and pleasure.  He made man in his own image (Genesis 1:27) and placed him into an environment created to evoke a sense of awe; created to be pleasant and comfortable.

After creating man, God blessed them (Genesis 1:28).  Man was the only created being to be blessed, meaning that God conferred recognition and a special approbation.  With the blessing, with a responsibility to steward the garden, and with a commandment to refrain from eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, man was distinguished from the rest of creation.   Man had entered into a special relationship with God.

Although Adam and Eve lived in a world made for their happiness,  they still chose to disobey God, hence sin.  The world we know today is not the same world that God created – there was no death, sickness, suffering, poverty, etc. in the Garden of Eden.  Everything was good.  While our world today still points to God as the Creator, it is not good.  No-one is exempt from experiencing illness, sorrow, or death.  Our world is deeply marred by sin.

Scripture doesn’t reveal how long Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden.  Since marriage was instituted in Genesis 2:24, and since God told Adam and Eve to be “fruitful and multiply” in Genesis 1:28, it would seem reasonable to assume that they had children while in Eden.

Genesis 4 begins after Adam and his family were expelled from Eden.  Cain was his first born son and Abel came later.  While Abel understood what God required of him (animal sacrifice), Cain’s offering of produce was displeasing to God.  It’s interesting to note that Cain actually talked to God; knew who God was, yet willfully chose to displease and grieve God. 

After killing Abel, God again talked to Cain who now lied to God.  Eventually, Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and established a city with industry.  Cain’s focus was not directed on worshipping God or seeking God.

Adam and Eve eventually had another son, Seth, who “replaced” Abel.  Scripture now focuses on Seth’s line to which Noah was born.  What really amazes me is that by living 930 years, Adam was able to tell, to anyone who would listen, the account of Creation and the nature of God.

Adam died only about 15 years before Noah was born.  It’s exciting to see that the knowledge of God was being entrusted to faithful men who lived during those centuries preceding Noah.  God always makes it possible for people who seek him to know him. 

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Monday, July 26, 2010

Day 1 of 365 days through the Bible: Genesis 1 - 3

Man Made in the Image of God, as in Genesis 1:...Image via Wikipedia
One of the most interesting things about the Book of Genesis is that it starts with
"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth."

From the very outset, God introduces himself to man as the One who was there for the beginning; as the One who created the earth and the heavens.  God shows himself to exist outside of time, space, or matter.  In fact, he states that he created these phenomena.  (Time is not an absolute - it's a function of the directed movement of matter, through space, relative to another object (matter)  in space.)  

The first three chapters of Genesis are the Creation narrative.  God is recorded as speaking  reality  into being in seven literal days.  "Yom", the Hebrew word for a 24 hour period,  is first used in Genesis 1:4.  Of interest here is the counter-intuitive application of day.  In verse 5, God defined day as beginning with evening.
     "And  there was evening, and there was morning, the first day." Genesis 1:5

There is so much incredible material dealing with the Genesis account of Creation.  Ken Ham's site: is a very compelling site which devotes itself almost exclusively to the study of the first eleven chapters of Genesis.  Also, Ben Stein's documentary Expelled is very informative.

Because my academic training was in zoology/chemistry, with coursework in evolutionary genetics, I wrestled with the Genesis account for years. Over time God has shown me that he is bigger than my perception of this universe.  I see that God created a logical, orderly universe with Laws that apply across disciplines.  God created a world which man has the ability to puzzle out. 

I think that to understand Creation in terms of God's Word is not a matter of giving it lip service or a nodding acceptance. To understand is to make it a part of one's perspective and  outlook on all of life.  I understand and see life through the lens of my convictions and beliefs. I fully believe that this world was created by God.  This understanding changes the way I view the world and my life.  Nothing is outside of God's purview.  All is his to start with.

The first three chapters of Genesis depict how carefully and purposefully God created the universe.  Man was made in the image of God. (Genesis 1:26)  I often wonder about that.  In a purely speculative mode, I think that it is man's creativity that is one of the ways in which he reflects God.  Beautiful music such as Handel's Messiah, Mozart Requiems, Beethoven's symphonies, etc. have no inherent survival benefit.  But my soul soars when I hear these performed.  Renaissance paintings can propel me into lives of people who lived in centuries past.  Art is uniquely man-made for man's pleasure.  Classical principles of aesthetics are universally understood and appreciated across varying cultures.  But, art of any sort has no real value in terms of survival.  Clothing does not have to be fashionable to be functional. 

In Genesis, man was also given a purpose.   Adam was instructed to work and to tend the Garden of Eden.  God stated that Adam shouldn't be lonely, so he brought all of the animals he created earlier to Adam  who was allowed to name these and maybe to search for a friend or help-mate.  Again, it's interesting that God allowed Adam to experience the limitations of relationships with animals, so that Adam, himself would understand that he needed something more.  God then created Eve out of Adam's rib.  Perhaps this was done so that Adam would know that Eve was a part of him - that they in fact had a bond, a union created by God.  The first marriage account is in Genesis 2:24 - 25.

The idyllic life of Adam and Eve ends with the account of the original sin, which separated Adam and his offspring forever from God. 

So, tomorrow Genesis 3 - 6.  I invite you to read along with me - maybe you can post your reflections either about my thoughts or about the Scripture passages in the comments section.
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Sunday, July 25, 2010


Roman custom of proclamation of emperor on the...Image via Wikipedia
This morning, while reading 2Chronicles 29:3 in the Old Testament portion of the Bible, I was struck by the urgency young King Hezekiah felt about reinstating temple worship. Hezekiah's father, King Ahaz, had shut the temple doors and set up altars to pagan deities throughout Jerusalem around 725 BC.  

      "In the first month of the first year of his reign, he (Hezekiah) opened the doors of the 
       temple of the Lord and repaired them."  2 Chronicles 29:3

 The temple in Jerusalem was the only place where God is recorded to have put his name.  God did not sanction numerous altars throughout Jerusalem, dedicated to various deities, as equivalent to worshipping him in his holy temple. 
       ""The Lord said to him (King Solomon): "I have heard the prayer and plea you have        
        made before me; I have consecrated this temple, which you have built by putting my 
        Name there forever.  My eyes and my heart will always be there."" 1 Kings 9: 3  

Logic mandates that by choosing one place, he did not choose other places.  Similarly, young King Hezekiah, understood the significance and importance of having the one true temple open for public worship.  The closed temple and the numerous, functioning pagan altars throughout the city, confused the populace about who to really worship and how to properly worship.   A parallel situation today is that by virtue of having so many religious options ranging from atheism to witchcraft, the doors to God's temple are obfuscated and may as well be shut.  

The Levites and assistants worked feverishly and completed consecrating the temple within the first 16 days of the first month of King Hezekiah's reign.  On the 17th day, early in the morning (2 Chronicles 29:20) Hezekiah gathered the city officials and reinstated temple worship.

His sense of urgency about honoring God in the way God himself prescribed  (Leviticus) and in the place in which God placed his Name, sends a reverberating message to our world today.  Our global society boasts of practically as many deities, -ics, -isms, and spasms as there are people.  Our world has camouflaged the way to the God, who revealed himself as  "I AM who I AM" to  Moses in Exodus 3:14.  Many people who are seeking "something spiritual", I think, are finding that the "doors to the temple are shut" by virtue of "I AM" being culturally de-legitimized.  God has revealed himself to us and he wants to be known and he wants us to know him.  

In this blog, I propose to read through the Bible in the course of a year.  Everyday, I will post 
what I read.  As much as possible, I will post my reflections on what I read.  As with any book one reads properly, I will start in the beginning, in Genesis 1 and read straight through the last book of the Bible,  the Book of Revelation.

I would like all who read this blog to see that the "doors to the temple" are open.


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