(Genesis 15, Matthew 14; Optional Psalm 13, Proverbs 3:27-32)
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GENESIS 15 – Gen 15:1 – Similar to how God encouraged Abram in Gen 13:14-17, reminding us that the believer never ENDS on the losing side, though it may SEEM that way for awhile. Abram has just: 1) annoyed (Gen 14:21-23) and / or defeated (Gen 14:14-16) all the powerful leaders in the region AND 2) turned down a lot of material things (see Gen 14:21-24). God promises 1) protection and 2) surpassing reward.
Gen 15:2-5 – Abram seems to be sort of trying to let God off the hook for His promise in Gen 12:2. There was a custom in that part of the world to use adopt a trusted servant as an heir, but Yahweh (“the LORD”) is clear: “This man shall NOT be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” (Gen 15:4)
Gen 15:6 – Abram’s faith response in God, even AGAINST the evidence of his senses. See Rom 4:18-25 for Abram’s trusting God ABOVE what the situation SEEMED / FELT, and how all of us who trust in Jesus are grafted into these promises and are counted among the children of Abram. Bible study tip: This verse is quoted multiple times in the NT, so beside my margin I’ve written two asterisks (because this is such a key verse), a cross (because it’s quoted in the NT), and where it’s quoted: “Rom 4:3, 9, 22; Gal 3:6; James 2:23”.
Gen 15:11 – There’s a long line of Bible stories, where at key moments the main HUMAN characters were sleeping, but GOD was fulfilling His will! (Gen 2:21, 15:12, 28:16; Jonah 1:5; Mt 26:40; Mk 14:37; Lk 22:45) Our decisions and actions DO matter, but GOD is clearly the DECISIVE and ULTIMATE DECIDER / ACTOR in His sovereign plan!
Gen 15:12-16 – God tells about a dark time in the future of Abram’s line (predicting their time in Egypt), where they will be oppressed slaves for many years. But then Abram’s descendants would come out of that time with great possessions and come back to the promised land, and THEN possess the promised land that Abram was a pilgrim in. Don’t miss the justice and mercy of God in Gen 15:16 (and on a group that is NOT His chosen people).
Gen 15:7-20 – When two parties were going to make a very solemn covenant, they’d slaughter animals, cut their carcasses in two, making a path between the halves (see Jer 34:18-19). Then they’d walk on that bloody path together, saying symbolically: “If I don’t follow my part of the covenant promises, may I be like these animals.” But God made Abram sleep deeply and communicated to him in a vision / dream. Then in Gen 15:17 God HIMSELF walked the bloody path, symbolizing that HE would absorb the full curse of violating the covenant. See how Jesus powerfully fulfilled this when He gave His life on the cross (Gal 3:13-14).
MATTHEW 14 – There’s a cost to being in the kingdom of heaven (Matt 10:34-39), and here we powerfully see that, as God allows one of His choice servants be executed. But Herod, who in ONE sense flexes his power and apparent freedom, is not to be envied. 1) There are hints that he’s tormented by a guilty conscience (Matt 14:2, 9) and 2) he’s NOT really doing what HE wants, but what he thinks OTHERS want (Matt 10:5, 9). Bible study tip: Since I’m tracing the theme of the proper fear of God through the Bible, I’ve written a capital “F” next to Matt 14:5 and written: “Wrong kind of fear – also see Matt 14:8-9 and Prov 29:25 – ‘The fear of MAN lays a snare…’”
Matt 14:13-21 – Jesus, grieving John’s death, withdraws from wearying ministry, but the crowds followed. Moved with compassion, He healed their sick and then feeds thousands from only five loaves and two fish. This is the first of two similar feedings and is the only miracle Jesus performed that is recorded in all four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). As God miraculously fed His people in the OT, Jesus demonstrates that He is God in the flesh, able to satisfy / fill those come to Him.
Matt 14:16-18 – Often Jesus commands more than His followers can obey in our SELVES, so that we must look to HIM.
Matt 14:22-33 – After setting aside His grief to minister to the crowds, Jesus finally gets some time alone and spends it praying to His Father. He leaves that time to rescue His disciples from a terrible storm. As God was the hope and rescue in the storms in the OT (see Ps 107:23-32), Jesus walks on the stormy waters to deliver His disciples and calm the storm (also see Matt 8:23-27).
Matt 14:30-31 – Peter did great while he focused on Jesus but began to sink when he focused on the storm. Be encouraged by Jesus’ tender rescue and also humbled at Jesus’ rebuke for Peter’s “little faith”. Jesus is always prodding us to trust Him MORE. He rescues us as we ARE, but also loves us too much to LEAVE us that way!
Optional Psalm 13 – A psalm for when the enemy SEEMS to be winning, and the believer FEELS forgotten by God.
Ps 13:1-2 – The believer’s agonized CRY to God: “How long?” This is the raw pouring out of what the situation FEELS like.
Ps 13:3-4 – The believer’s PRAYER REQUEST to God. Notice that, though he FEELS forgotten by God, he KNOWS THE TRUTH – God hears the prayer of His people. So the psalmist (even when he FEELS abandoned) still turns to God.
Ps 13:5-6 – The believer’s CHOICE to praise God. Bible study tip: In almost all these psalms that BEGIN with a broken heart you can see a clear turning point when the psalmist turns from pouring out their FEELINGS, dwells on the TRUTH about God, and CHOOSES to trust / praise / rejoice in Him. To emphasize that here, I’ve circled the word “But” that starts Ps 13:5 (the CONTRAST / turning point), and underlined words that emphasize the psalmist’s choice: “…have trusted…shall rejoice…will sing…”
Optional Proverbs 3:27-32 – We’ve read three chapters on the IMPORTANCE and VALUE of wisdom / understanding / discretion, now we’re getting an EXAMPLE of wisdom applied to everyday life. This is a taste of what MOST of the book of Proverbs is (see almost everything after Prov 10:1).