Jan 16, 2022

(Genesis 17, Matthew 16; Optional Psalm 15, Proverbs 4:1-4)

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GENESIS 17 – In Gen 9:8-11 God establishes His covenant with Noah as a representative of all humanity that He will never again destroy the earth with a worldwide flood. Then in Gen 9:12-17 God established the rainbow as a SIGN of the covenant. Similarly, God established a covenant with Abram and the people he represents, and now is declaring that the SIGN of the covenant will be CIRCUMCISION. See Gen 12:2-4 for God INITIATING the covenant, and Gen 15 for God REAFFIRMING the covenant. In Gen 15:6, we’re told Abram’s RESPONSE: “And he believed the LORD, and He counted it to him as righteousness.” All through Scripture this central theme occurs – we don’t EARN our salvation; we trust GOD, and God credits (or “imputes”) that “as righteousness.”

Gen 17:1 – Compare Gen 16:16. God tells us that THIRTEEN YEARS has gone by in Abram’s life since God has reminded us that Abram was justified (declared righteous) BY FAITH. Now God is about to institute the SIGN of the covenant – circumcision. The sign is a reminder that even the most private parts of the body belong to God. We’re also reminded that though we are JUSTIFIED BY FAITH, that saving faith is always SHOWN by obedience to God. God uses a new title for Himself – “God Almighty” (“El Shaddai” in Hebrew). Then God calls Abram to be “blameless” (same Hebrew as Gen 6:9 for how Noah stood out from his generation and in Ps 15:2 describing the true believer and how their life stands out from the world around them).

Gen 17:2 – There IS a connection between God making the covenant and Abram’s obedience. But don’t fall for the temptation to try to EARN God’s favor through our obedience. Notice:  1) God calling Himself “God Almighty” (Gen 17:1) – the One Abram can depend on for strength to obey.  2) Remember the powerful symbol in Gen 15:8-17 that God HIMSELF would ensure that the covenant promises would be kept (see reflections from two days ago).  3) In tomorrow’s reading, we’ll see God say in Gen 18:19 that HIS choosing of Abram is what ensures that he will be strengthened to obey God.  4) Rom 4 makes a huge deal of Gen 15:6 coming BEFORE Gen 17 (more than 13 years – compare Gen 16:16 to Gen 17:1). First and foundationally, Abram BELIEVED God. Then he DEMONSTRATES that faith by OBEDIENCE.

ONE DITCH people fall into (by taking Gen 17:1-2 out of context) is getting obedience out of order, as if we could contribute to our being justified by faith. The OTHER DITCH many fall into is acting like saving faith is SEPARATE from obedience. Some act as if once God declares us righteous (like in Gen 15:6) that we can do whatever we want. But the message of the whole Bible is clear – saving / justifying faith ALWAYS leads to a life characterized by obedience to God (but notice the order – TRUST God and be saved by faith, then SHOW that faith by obedience). Just as we said about Noah, “blameless” does NOT mean SINLESS PERFECTION, but it DOES mean a radically DIFFERENT DIRECTION. Where MOST of the world acts like their private parts can be used in any way they want, believers recognize that EVERY AREA of life belongs to God.

Gen 17:1-14 – God REAFFIRMS the covenant AGAIN (also see Gen 12 and Gen 15), renames Abram as “Abraham” (Gen 17:5), and establishes that the SIGN of the covenant will be CIRCUMCISION of 8-day old males (Scripture NEVER calls for “female circumcision” like some groups practice).

Gen 17:15-21 – God renames Abraham’s wife “Sarah” (Gen 17:15) and makes clear that the child of promise will come from her formerly barren (see Gen 11:30) womb a year from this time.  Abraham laughed in response and TO HIMSELF wondered at this, because of Abraham and Sarah’s old age. But out loud TO GOD, Abraham sounds more spiritual (Gen 17:18): “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” One more attempt (also see Gen 15:2-4, Gen 16:1-4) to let God off the hook with His astounding promises.

Gen 17:19-21 – God commands that the son of the promise be named Isaac (meaning “laughter” – see Gen 17:17, 18:10-15). Though Isaac is the son of promise, Ishmael will also be blessed and would be fruitful and powerful.

Gen 17:22-27 – Though he struggled for a moment in Gen 17:17-18, Abraham demonstrates that he really does trust God by obeying THAT VERY DAY. Though after this day, the 8-day old boys were to be circumcised (Gen 17:12), on this first time to obey, ALL the males of every age had to become very vulnerable (see Gen 34:24-25 for just how vulnerable, and how much they’re trusting God).

MATTHEW 16 – After ALL the miracles Jesus has done, the religious leaders demand a “sign from heaven”! Jesus again calls them an “evil and adulterous generation,” and again points them to the “sign of Jonah” (see Matt 12:38-41 to see how Jesus is telling them to investigate the upcoming sign of His resurrection).

Matt 16:1 – “Pharisees and Sadducees” – Amazing that these two groups are working together in anything! They couldn’t stand each other, but united around their rejection of Jesus. The Pharisees would’ve emphasized how much they treasured God’s inspired Scripture, though Jesus said that they actually UNDERMINED God’s commands with their own traditions (Matt 15:1-9). The Sadducees were much more casual about Scripture, openly picking and choosing what they wanted to follow. Pharisees were very suspicious / distrustful of the Roman government, while Sadducees were open to cozying up to Rome to gain power / influence for their causes. The Pharisees believed in the supernatural (though they found ways to explain away what Jesus did) and in the final resurrection from the dead. But the Sadducees rejected all that (as a boy I learned “That’s why they were SAD, you see?”). BUT BOTH SIDES MISSED JESUS! Both sides wanted to keep things like they were, without Jesus’ claims and commands radically altering their lives.

Matt 16:13-28 – Radical, life-altering truth about who Jesus is and what it means to follow Him. In Matt 16:13 Jesus asks His disciples who OTHERS think He is. In Matt 16:15 Jesus asks a question that each of us personally must answer: “But who do YOU say that I am?” The religious leaders have completely missed the true answer to this question, but Peter correctly answers: “You are the Christ (or “Messiah”), the Son of the living God.” (Matt 16:16)

Matt 16:17-19 – Jesus 1) affirms Peter’s answer as correct, and that he got the correct answer because God the Father sovereignly reveals it (Matt 16:17 – and I’ve written “S” for sovereignty of God in the margin).  2) Jesus gives a wonderful promise that the church belongs to Jesus, and that HE HIMSELF will build His church, and all the power of hell cannot prevail!  3) After affirming that He IS the Christ / Messiah (“Christ” is more Greek and “Messiah” is more Hebrew – they both mean “Anointed” – the One to whom the whole OT points), Jesus commands the disciples to keep this quiet for now. Then, for the first time CLEARLY begins to teach them how He came to suffer and give His life. So many Jewish people had ONLY focused on the many OT prophecies about the Messiah’s kingly power and eternal rule and had passed over Scriptures (like Isaiah 53) that the Messiah would ALSO be God’s Suffering Servant.

Matt 16:17-19 – The Roman Catholic Church uses this section to build an entire teaching on the supremacy of Peter, while some Protestants have over-reacted and act like there’s NOTHING different about Peter. From D.A. Carson’s helpful devotional For the Love of God (Vol 2): “It is better to see that Peter really does have a certain primacy—what has been called “a salvation-historical primacy.” He was the first to see certain things, the leader gifted by God in the first steps of organization and evangelism after the resurrection (as Acts makes clear). But not only was this leadership bound up with Peter’s unique role in redemptive history (so unique that it could not, in the nature of the case, be passed on), but the gospel authority extended to him (16:18–19) is extended to all the apostles (18:18). This is what we should expect: elsewhere we are told that the church is built on the foundation of prophets and apostles (Eph. 2:20, italics added). As the ancient formula puts it, Peter was primus inter pares—first among equals.’”

Matt 16:21-23 – Only a few verses after Jesus says that Peter’s confession of Him as “the Christ and Son of the living God” was absolutely correct and shown to him by God, Jesus strongly reproves Peter. Just after Jesus clearly teaches about the necessity of His suffering and death, Peter rebuked Jesus (missing the irony that he calls Jesus “Lord,” which means “Master,” while rebuking Him). Oh, may God help us receive Jesus’ correction in Matt 16:23: “…you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Sadly, the disciples were so focused on the teaching of Jesus that BOTHERED them, that they missed the ENCOURAGEMENT that was there about the resurrection! How often does that happen to us, while reading / hearing Scripture?

Matt 16:24-28 – The COST and the WORTH of following Jesus!

Optional Psalm 15 – Those who truly trust in God will demonstrate this in a life that stands out from the majority, standing for true biblical justice. Notice this is a psalm of David, who broke almost every one of these standards when he sinned by taking another’s man’s wife and then committed murder in the attempted cover-up. Psalm 32 (also “of David”) celebrates God’s gracious forgiveness of sinners who turn to Him in repentance and faith (also see Rom 4:5-8 commenting on Ps 32). Psalm 15 reminds us that the person who truly trusts in God will have a life that DEMONSTRATES this faith in God. Also see the notes earlier today at Gen 17.

Optional Proverbs 4:1-4 – Again, the necessity of diligent attention to get wisdom and insight. And again the importance and value – “keep my commandments, and LIVE.” (Prov 4:4)