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bible reading for jan 21

Bible reading for January 21:  Genesis 22; Matthew 21.

"Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me." (Genesis 22:12 ESV)

Yesterday, I was planning to make some cornbread and wondered if the quart of buttermilk in our refrigerator -- which has been there... awhile -- was still good to use.  The label had a certain date on it (I shall not say), but the proof came in opening the container and seeing and smelling what was inside.  Thankfully, it was good and cornbread will be on the menu today!  Labels can say one thing, but sometimes what's inside needs to be tested to see if it matches the label.  So it is, and has always been, for men and women who wear the label, "believers in God". 

The testing of faith (Gen 22).  James says that this testing of Abraham showed "...that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, 'Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness'- and he was called a friend of God." (James 2:22-23)  Later, Moses would write, "And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not."  (Deut 8:2)  Abraham was still justified before God by faith, but now that faith was shown to be genuine and active, and coming to completion. 

The test did not prove that Abraham was so dedicated and sacrificial that he would give up his own son, but rather that he was reasoning by faith.  He believed that God, who promised to give descendants through Isaac, would therefore raise Isaac from the dead if he were to be killed (see Heb 11:18-19). This is seen in Abraham's statement to his servants that he and his son would sacrifice and "then ['we', first person plural ending] would return." (22:5)

Saving faith begins with understanding and trusting the promises of God, but it is more than mental agreement.  True faith leads us into a new lifestyle in which we desire to walk with God.  We then begin to trust him enough to obey him, even in difficult times.  C. H. Spurgeon summarized it this way: "Faith and obedience are bound up in the same bundle.  He that obeys God, trusts God; and he that trusts God, obeys God."

The Lord provides.  Abraham passes the test, and a substitute sacrifice is provided, a ram.  Thus the death of the ram spares Abraham and Isaac the travail of death. The phrase "your son, your only son" in verses 12 and 16, reminds us that God would not spare his only Son in sacrifice for our sins.  

Not child abuse.  Many people look at this story of Abraham and Isaac as cruel and barbaric, an instance of child abuse.  God never intended for the sacrificial death of Isaac, but that there might be a foreshadowing that our redemption would come about through the sacrificial death of his own Son.  Again, this is not some kind of child abuse, because the Son of God, infinite in wisdom and power beyond any human being, came freely to lay down his life to redeem us (read Phil 2:5-11).    

My take-away: testing reveals the nature of my faith. I need to welcome these trials as a necessary part of my life before God, in order to reveal what is really in my heart and also to confirm and strengthen my faith. "Count it all joy, my brothers..." (Jas 1:2)  And it is not my faith or my obedience which saves me, but rather God, who himself provides his Son to be my Substitute, the Sacrifice who dies in our place that I, that we, might be spared (22:12-16).  


And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, "By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?" (Matthew 21:23 ESV)

The issue of authority (Matt 21).  In our NT reading Jesus enters Jerusalem. The donkey miracle (21:1-6), known only to the disciples and the donkeys' owners, surely was to demonstrate to the disciples that Jesus was in full control of the unfolding events in Jerusalem.  He cleanses the temple (21:7-17) in direct confrontation to the priestly authorities in Jerusalem.  Again, it is the children who give the proper response to Jesus (21:15-16).  The cursing of the fig tree (21:17-22) is a symbol of Christ's coming judgment upon the nation, as well as a lesson in faith. 

The nation's leadership challenge Jesus' authority in what he's doing.  He asks them to state their understanding of John the Baptist's authority (which they won't), gives two very plain and pointed parables, and then cites Psalm 118:22-23: "The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes."  This chapter centers around the issue of Jesus' authority: from his miracles, from the testimony of John the Baptist, from Scripture, and from the NT eye-witnesses (in this case, Matthew).  

My take-away: since Jesus is confirmed as God's Son through the Old Testament prophecies, through the testimony of John the Baptist, through his miracles and teaching, and through the eye-witness testimony of the NT writers, his authority is unimpeachable.  We can, therefore, have only one of two responses: reject him in unbelief, or bow before him in worship.  We do not have the right to re-invent, re-imagine, re-package, or re-anything when it comes to the Lord Jesus.  

Image at top: "The Sacrifice Of Isaac', by Jan Lievens (c. 1638).  Just above: "Expulsion of the Money-changers from the Temple", by Luca Giordano (c. 1675). 

We are following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule found here.

Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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