Friday, January 09, 2009

Notes on the Bible January 9-10

Genesis 24-26

Chapter 24. The Holman Christian Standard Bible gives the chapter the subtitle, "A Wife for Isaac." That is better than some others, such as "Isaac and Rebekah" in the ESV and the TNIV. But as a real character, Isaac appears only in the concluding paragraph of the chapter. So what is this chapter really about? Some see in this chapter a type of the Trinity (Abraham as the Father, Isaac as the Son, the elderly servant as the Holy Spirit, gone to fetch a bride for the Son). At first glance, this works, which is probably why the idea is popular. But it very quickly breaks down. There is no gospel here. The Son does not die, in fact, he doesn't even have anything to do with the proceedings.

Chapter 23-26 of Genesis mark a period of transition, from the generation of Abraham to the generation of Isaac. The generation of Isaac is dealt with very briefly, moving on quickly to the generation of Esau and Jacob by the middle of chapter 25. But this gives us part of the context for considering the meaning of ch 24. The other part of the context is provided by a consideration of the author and original historical context for the writing of the chapter. Moses is writing this in part for the generation in the wilderness as they prepare to enter the Promised Land. In line with the other commandments they have been given, this chapter gives a major emphasis to the command not to intermarry with the native Canaanites. Isaac is not to have a wife from the Canaanites. Neither is he leave the land of promise. These two points serve as lessons for the Israelites. Also notice how much emphasis there is in the chapter on the Lord's provision, as well as emphasis on prayer and faithfulness to one's task. It should not be missed that the servant's prayer is the first recorded prayer in Scripture.

So we can take the following lessons from ch 24. Believe the promises of the Lord. Pray that he would fulfill his promises. Do not look outside the covenant people of God for a spouse. Above all, prepare for your own passing. Notice that the chapter begins with the observation regarding Abraham's age. He doesn't know how many years he has left, and he is preparing for things after his departure. We are mortal, and unless we prepare for our departure, our work may well die with us. So many great men of God have had great ministries that died on the vine after their death, or that changed character entirely in part because they did not plan for their departure. There is much food for thought in this chapter. There is not, however, a picture of the Trinity.

Chapters 25-26. The material here is pretty simple. Esau sells his birthright and Isaac inherits the promise. Notice the affirmation of the covenant promise to Isaac in 26:1-5. In spite of Isaac's failure of faith in trying to pass off Rebekah as his sister, in which he emulated his father, God protects and restores, providing for the continuation of the covenant promises. A note to you fathers. Your children will certainly repeat your sins. They will learn unconsciously in your home, even as you will unconsciously teach them.

Matthew 7:1-8:15

True disciples, built solidly on faith, bear fruit. That, in short, is the message of the concluding chapter of the Sermon on the Mount. Chapter 8 then begins the first set of miracle narratives. In part, the purpose of these miracle narratives is to show the divine approbation of Jesus' ministry. See Nicodemus' statement in John 3:2, "No one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him." Jesus' miracles begin here with a reaching out to unclean, those who are, religiously speaking, in an unacceptable state for the worship of God. Jesus cleanses the leper, and he heals the centurion's servant, given the centurion's faith. Jesus is thus also breaking down the Jew-Gentile wall that saw all Gentiles as unacceptable before God.

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