(Genesis 12, Matthew 11; Optional Psalm 10, Proverbs 3:11-12)
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GENESIS 12 – In both our OT (Old Testament) and NT (New Testament) readings we are at TURNING POINTS in history! Gen 3:15 told of One who was coming from “the seed of woman” to handle our ultimate problem – sin and separation from God. The Bible gradually gives more details about the Messiah’s arrival. In Gen 6:8, God focuses on the line of Noah. In Gen 11:10 on the line of Noah’s son, Shem, and the Semitic people groups. In Gen 11:27 a tighter focus on the line of Terah.
God summarizes the entire first half of human history in Gen 1-11. And now in Gen 12, God plucks Abram (soon to be re-named Abraham) from an idol-worshipping background (see Josh 24:2-3) and makes a covenant promise that can only be ultimately fulfilled through the One who is coming – “in you ALL the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen 12:1-3). In Matt 11:28, Jesus makes clear that all the prophecies and promises have been pointing to HIM: “Come to ME, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
Noah’s father had hoped that he would give rest in a dark and troubled time (Gen 5:29). And Noah WAS used by God to provide a vital rescue from almost total destruction of humanity. But in Messiah Jesus, One far greater than Noah is here to provide ULTIMATE blessing (Gen 12:3) and rest (Matt 11:28)!
Gen 12:1 – God has Abram LEAVE what he’s known and CLING to God, without much detail about where God will be leading. This message is throughout the Bible. We saw it yesterday in Prov 3:5 – “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do NOT lean on your own understanding.” We also saw it yesterday in Jesus’ call to leave anything or anyone we must in order to follow Jesus (Matt 10:34-39). What is God calling YOU to let go of and trust Him?
Gen 12:2 – Did you even notice in yesterday’s reading (Gen 11:30) the off-handed mention of a HUGE obstacle to God keeping the promise of Gen 12:2 – Abram’s wife, Sarai (soon re-named Sarah), was BARREN. Through Scripture, notice this pattern of lightly mentioning HUGE things. We often say that nothing is too hard for God. True, but even better: NOTHING IS AT ALL HARD FOR GOD. Don’t hold back ANY prayer request, afraid that you’ll burden God!
Gen 12:3 – Galatians 3:7-9 makes clear that Gentiles who trust in Jesus are grafted into this promise and are considered “sons of Abraham,” along with the PHYSICAL descendants of Abraham who trust in God. [Bible study tip: in my margin next to Gen 12:3 I’ve written a cross and “Gal 3:7-9”. I do this each time I notice that the NT quotes / mentions / explains / applies an OT Scripture. It’s so important to learn how to read the OT through the lens of the NT. It’s also vital to see how God lays the foundation for and prepares us for the NT through the whole OT – remember that ¾ of inspired Scripture is OT!]
Gen 12:7 – In my margin, I’ve written a cross and “Gal 3:16”. In Galatians 3:16, God (through Paul) makes a big deal of “offspring” in Gen 12:7 (and many other places in the OT) being SINGULAR, and that this refers ultimately to Messiah Jesus, not just the Jewish people as a whole.
Gen 12:11-13 – Although Abram showed tremendous faith in God by obediently leaving everything he knew and following God (Gen 12:1-4), a short time later he’s NOT fully trusting. God promised in Gen 12:2-3 that He would make of Abram “a great nation,” and Abram hasn’t had a child yet, so God is NOT going to let Abram die until he’s a father. The Bible is clear that the heroes of the faith (and the Bible really DOES commend Abram – see Rom 4:11, 12, 16) are also fallen sinners that need God’s grace. The ONLY perfect human is Jesus!
Gen 12:15-20 – Notice: 1) God’s amazing grace to Abram. Even though this is a very low spot in Abram’s faith life, God STILL blesses him. 2) Even though Abram is thinking of his OWN safety (Gen 12:11-13), GOD is watching out for Sarai (Gen 12:17, cf 1 Pet 3:5-6).
MATTHEW 11 – John the Baptist is in prison because of his preaching, and he’s confused about whether Jesus is truly the One promised in the OT. Jesus makes clear that He is, and that there is awful and eternal judgment for those that reject Him, and blessing / REST for all who come to Him and learn from Him.
Matt 11:1-11 – Even the heroes of the faith (and John CLEARLY is – see Matt 11:11) have low spots in their faith, when they’re confused and struggling. John, like so many, was likely expecting the Messiah to come ONCE and make ALL things right at His coming. We’re going to learn through Jesus’ teaching that He will RETURN and ULTIMATELY bring complete justice. But until then, there will be many painful things that He allows in the lives of even His choicest servants. In Matt 11:4-5, Jesus shows that He is the fulfillment of so many OT prophecies. And Matt 11:6 is a gentle rebuke / caution to the discouraged John. But Matt 11:7-11 is a glowing commendation of John and his ministry. The last inspired word from God was through the prophet Malachi, about 460 years before Matt 11. Jesus says that John is the fulfillment of both Mal 3:1 (see Matt 11:10) AND Mal 4:5 (see Matt 11:13-14).
Matt 11:20 – This shows the lie when people say: “I’d follow Jesus if only I could see an undeniable miraculous sign.”
Matt 11:20-30 – Marvel at both the TOUGHNESS of Jesus (Matt 11:20-24) AND the TENDERNESS of Jesus (Matt 11:28-30). He is both the Lion AND the Lamb (Rev 5:5-10)! The hinge of this text is Matt 11:25-27, where Jesus thanks and praises God the Father for His gracious, wise and sovereign will (including who the truth will be HIDDEN from and to whom it will be REVEALED). Matt 11:20-30 is one of the KEY SCRIPTURES to seeing that the Bible clearly teaches BOTH that God is absolutely in good, wise and sovereign control AND that the decisions and actions of people still matter. [Bible study tip… I put a capital “S” in my margins next to verses that emphasize the Sovereignty of God, and a capital “R” next to verses that emphasize the Responsibility of people. I often have “S” and “R” next to the same verse, and VERY often in the same paragraph. The Bible doesn’t fully EXPLAIN how these two truths co-exist, but often PROCLAIMS both truths right next to each other.]
Matt 11:28-30 – After a HUGE emphasis on both God’s sovereign control AND people’s responsibility, Jesus gives one of the sweetest invitations in the Bible. How have YOU responded?
Optional Psalm 10 – A psalm for when the wicked SEEM to be winning and God FEELS far away.
Ps 10:12 – When you FEEL like God is far away, this is a great prayer to remind yourself of the TRUTH that God DOES listen to His people.
Ps 10:15 – Another imprecatory prayer. By God-inspired Scripture, we’re reminded with very strong words to entrust our case to God the righteous Judge.
Ps 10:14-18 – Early in the Psalm, the inspired author demonstrates how to pour out what we’re FEELING before God (no hiding it from Him anyway). But then, as in so many Psalms, the human author is inspired by God to remind himself of the TRUTH. This includes remembering the END OF THE STORY for every believer – God WILL bring complete justice one day. I love the prayer in the hymn This Is My Father’s World: “O let me ne’er forget that though the wrong SEEMS oft so strong, GOD IS THE RULER YET.”
Optional Proverbs 3:11-12 – Next to these verses I’ve written a cross and “Heb 12:5, 6”. In Hebrews 12, God applies these verses to all believers in Jesus. They tell us how to properly receive (and be both humbled AND encouraged by it) God’s Fatherly correction of us. There are important applications here for HUMAN parental discipline of their children. But Hebrews 12:7-11 reminds us that even the BEST of human fathers only “disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them,” and that God is the only PERFECT Father. And, even if you didn’t get loving correction from an EARTHLY father, you have an opportunity to trust in the only PERFECT Father.