Proverbs – Five Wise Words to Fathers

Mishlai is a term (from “mashal”) to compare or illustrate. By 940 BCE, 1 Kings 4:32 Solomon gave over 3,000 proverbs and over 1,000 songs to the children of Israel. In 4:35 we are told that Kings of the earth sent ambassadors to hear the sayings and record them. They are known in ancient manuscripts of many nations of the past. In the Book of Proverbs, all of chapters 1:1-9:18; 10:1-22:16; 25:1-29:27 are ascribed to Solomon, some chosen by King Hezekiah from the ancient Royal Library of Jerusalem (now gone). Many of these ancient proverbs were offered originally to the children of Solomon in the form of “fatherly advice”. I thought it might be interesting this Father’s Day to look at what the wisest man in the world thought was important to pass to his children.

  1.  Offer your child discipline and point the way to truth (Prov. 1:8-9). Fathers – Teach them the blessing of correction from God (3:11-12).
  2. Help them choose friends and avoid bad company (Prov. 1:10-19)Do not follow after those who plot to gain in an evil or violent way. “Bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Cor. 15:33 in the context of teaching in a misleading way).
  3. Give them a hunger to search diligently to find truth (Prov. 2:1-19)Seeking God’s truth will help you to be guarded from: harmful settings (7, 8, 11); evil men (12-14); deceptive women (16-19).
  4. Show them how the Word of God will hold you in the safety of good company and offer a long life (3:1-4).
  5. Teach them to guard their heart and watch their tongue and path (4:20-27) in PURITY!

Historical Notes on Ephesus (1)

(Acts 18:19-19:1; 20:31; Ephesians; 1 Tim. 1:3; 2 Tim. 1:16-18; 4:14-19; 1 Cor. 15:32; Rev. 1:11; 2:1-7)


Historians use terms to describe the ancient city of Ephesus like “the supreme metropolis of Asia” which reflects evidence of a highly developed city. By the time of the New Testament it was a city that had become a cultural and religious memory, a yesterday romance, not unlike Paris in the modern world. Filled with the symbols of greatness, but struggling in the economics of a changing world and a troublesome silting harbor, the bustling city continued to play a significant role, but was fading with time.


Location: Ephesus was constructed on a river bend, that was eventually dredged into a full harbor near the mouth of the Cayster River, on the western coast of Asia Minor (modern Turkey. Along the coastal plain between Smyrna to the north and Miletus to the south, the site is now about six miles from the Aegean Sea. The city shifted in five distinct locations over time, each within a small area. The Apostles Paul and John were familiar with the city that scholars have dubbed “Ephesus III” – the largest (in area) of the five. The areas where Ephesus is located are as follows:


Ephesus I: Aya Suluk (St. John Area); Ephesus II: Artemission area; Ephesus III: Port of St. Paul: base of Mount Koressos; Ephesus IV: north of Aya Suluk; Ephesus V: Selçuk area.

Because of the man-made harbor structure and the flow of the river, a backwash flow caused the harbor to frequently silt up (by 449 BCE we already read of problems documented about the silting. Later, Eusebius records that Ephesus honored Emperor Hadrian for dredging and making navigable the harbor). When cleared, Ephesus was in a location that justified a great seaport. The city sat at the convergence of three land routes with a shipping lane from the north via the channel created by the Island of Chios and an opening facing the cities of Macedonia. The land routes that converged on Ephesus included: 1) The Colossae / Laodicea road (travelling east), 2) The road to Sardis and Galatia (northeast), and 3) The Smyrna (north) main road.

From Tel Megiddo: The Bird’s Eye View of History

Standing atop the mound of Tel Megiddo, a sweeping view of the largest valley of the ancient Biblical landscape in Israel opens as an unforgettable vista for any visitor to the land. The grain fields and cotton plants rooted in this rich soil of the “bread basket” of Israel belies the violent history of this place. It was the quintessential battleground of the Bible, surrounded by the slopes of mountains filled with Biblical history. From Thutmose III’s defeat of the Canaanite rulers (recorded at the Temple at Karnac, Egypt) in about 1468 BCE to General Edmund Allenby’s lauded cavalry exploits to rout the Ottoman Turks in September of 1918, this peaceful valley has been the staging grounds for dozens of major battles.

From this platform we can turn westward and view the height of Mount Carmel, where every visitor can recall the powerful ministry of the Prophet Elijah before the hundreds false prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18). The entire scene, complete with the “slaughter to the River Kishon” is easily in our view. We can easily follow the line of the path of the prophet’s run to the city of Jezreel, miles east of our panorama viewpoint. A simple ribbon of asphalt roadway marks the line of an ancient road at the base of the Samaritan hills, as they meet this open valley at the southernmost point of the Galilee.

The road is not only important for the “Elijah marathon” story, but for an account from the Gospels as well. It was along the road “between Galilee and Samaria” (Luke 17:11) that Jesus encountered ten lepers. Though ten were healed by the teacher in the story, only one came back to say a word of thanks. This road fits the description and is a great visual setting to this simple story I learned as a youth.

Megiddo’s elevation affords us another important view to the north – the Nazareth ridge. A bustling Galilee city today, this city has become everything the ancient village with this same name was not. Once an obscure and probably un-walled village with a distant spring and tiny cave-style houses, the archaeology of the village has been important for Christian pilgrims since the days of the Byzantine Empire. The boyhood home of Jesus – it is no surprise that several thriving churches dot the landscape of the city, including Greek Orthodox and Catholic shrines. These churches service the largest Arab Christian community in the region.

Further east, as our eyes move across the panorama of the valley we cannot help but see the abrupt incline of the free standing Mount Tabor. Rising nearly 600 meters above the surrounding plain – this mountain was considered a symbol of strength by the ancient Psalmist (Psalm 89:12). Bible students immediately associate the mound with thee mustering place of the tribes of Isaachar, Zebulun and Naphtali to battle the king of Hazor (Judges 4:6). The ancient battle of the Israelites under Barak and the victory song of Deborah stirs even the modern visitor in the shadow of this mountain. Our vista also includes the swell of the hill of Moreh, a gentle slope that appears to peak (from our view) just above the modern city of Afula. The villages of the ancient hill are also the setting for memorable Bible stories. The Prophet Elisha stayed for a time in the chamber of a Shunemite woman (a village on the south slope of the hill), and even raised the child of this generous woman after he collapsed and died (2 Kings 4:32). Much later, the Gospels record a similar miracle by Jesus in the village of Nain, along the northern slope of the mountain.

On the extreme eastward view of our bird’s eye perch, we end our panorama visit at the steep slopes of  Mt. Gilboa. From Gideon to Saul, this mountain was the southern barrier of a number of significant battles. The limestone mountain is now a forest with several etched quarries – a beautiful green mountain rising off the Jezreel plain. How can anyone view this mountain and not recall the great battle that brought both the death of King Saul and his three sons (1 Samuel 31)?

From every direction, the Bible history of this landscape beckons young and old to reread these stories with new excitement and deeper understanding. Many places in this land do that, but perhaps none so effective as the panorama over this valley of history. It is a full day tour from one single perch!

Five Reasons for Christians to Visit the Holy Land

With thousands preparing to come to the Holy Land in the next year, there has never been a better time to see the world of the Bible come alive! A recent visitor commented, “It is difficult to imagine how much his trip has changed my understanding of my faith, and deepened my walk with my Savior!” For those who have never been here, you may ask, “How can visiting a place help me understand my faith?”

There are five important ways:

1. Illustrate the cultural world from which the stories of the Bible come.

The Bible comes from a specific time, and specific places. Reading the Bible is a cross cultural experience. We leave our time, our familiar setting, and enter the world of another time and culture. The writers never anticipated that there would be tour buses two thousand years later looking at remains of their villages, so they simply didn’t see a need to explain their culture. By looking at their ancient kitchens, theatres, workshops, shopping markets, etc. it is possible to understand more about the people in the stories that we cherish, and to bring those people out of the book and into life.

2. Understand the relationship of the places to one another.

In many cases, the Biblical writer assumes you know where places are, and where they are in relation to one another. When Jesus passed by Nain (Luke 7) and raised the widow’s son, the writer thought it was obvious that it was on the other side of the same mountain where Elisha had done the same thing years earlier (2 Kings 4), identifying Jesus as a great prophet. When the Capernaum official came to Jesus at Cana, begging for the healing of his ill child (Jn. 4:46ff), Jesus healed the boy. The writer assumes you know the distances and the time the travel between them involved. Because the man walked from Capernaum to Cana (7.5 hours) up a steep incline, but could have returned in 4 hours, the faith of the man in the words of Jesus becomes evident. He left early one morning to see Jesus, was told his son was well by 1 PM according to the Gospel account. Instead of rushing home, where he could have arrived by 5 PM, he waited until the next day to return, showing his incredible faith in the words of the Savior.

3. Capture some of the ideas the writers of the Bible thought you knew, so they didn’t explain.

The Biblical writer was eastern oriented in the way most of us are “northern oriented”. We hold a map with north at the top, but that was not true for them. In the ancient expression of the Hebrew language, to say, “I want to go north,” was “I will go to the left hand.” To go south, you would say, “I will go the right hand”. A simple understanding of the way the writer is oriented can help you understand the Biblical passages of journeys, where the writer appears confused about direction. For the Biblical writer, time is also expressed differently. His “past” in front of him, only his future is “behind” him (because he can’t see it!) In this way, the English word “before” captures two ideas: something in the past, and something in front of you. This word is a clue in our language that the idea still exists in the background of our words.

4. Stand in places where God acted on behalf of the Biblical characters.

Why did God instruct David and Solomon to prepare and build a Temple on the north side of Jerusalem, and not the south? Why did Jericho become the city that God called on the Israelites to leave desolate? Why did Jesus locate his ministry base near the Sea of Galilee at Capernaum, instead of a much larger city? Why was Bethlehem the place of the promise of the birth of the Savior? Places are important, and seeing the setting of the place is like identifying the stage and props of a great drama that is the Bible.

5. Confront in a new way the humanity of the Savior.

The Christian message of the life of Jesus is one of God becoming man. The drama of redemption is a very human story, with joy and sorrow, celebration and suffering. Standing in the square of Bethlehem, the village of Jesus’ birth, or viewing the shepherds in the fields nearby, you cannot help but recall the birth scene. The reality of the prayer in the garden of Gethsemane is striking when sitting amidst the olive trees in the grove near the place of the ancient olive press. Sitting on the stairs that once took thousands into the Temple to offer the lambs at Passover and recalling Jesus in the Temple is a stirring experience. There is nothing so gripping as being in the places where Jesus came, taught, healed and gave of Himself.

Where is Mount Zion?

Originally, the term referred to the small community of Jebusites attacked by the forces of King David (2 Sam. 5-7) and established as the second capital of the Davidic Kingdom. The term ZION, like many of the names of places around the Jebusite city had Amorite of Hittite names (probably from MB or LB Periods) and probably originally only referred to the Ophel ridge (between the Tyropoean and Kidron Valleys). The “City of David” was approximately 325’ x 1138’ (12.5 acres, same size of Megiddo, or about 50 dunams). (** Broshi 5 acres = 1,000 people based on study of walled city occupations, etc. Others say 2x the number.)

Zion appeared to be synonymous with David’s conquered city. The eventual expansion of the city to the north by Solomon, and later to mid way on west hill was by King Hezekiah, (725-700 BCE) expanded to accommodate the influx of refugees from the Northern Kingdom. The “stronghold of Zion” moved as the city expanded. (Magen Broshi argued evidences that Jerusalem grew 10 times its size in the years following the fall of the north, Israel Exploration Journal). Archaeological evidence shows that many houses were STILL outside the wall after Hezekiah’s wall is expanded.

Some argue that “faith moved the mountain” but it appears the expansion moved the identity of the name. It IS Mount Zion, but so are the other hills. Josephus felt comfortable using the terms for all of the hills inside the first wall, which he thought was Davidic (it was Greek). Later, in 333 CE, the Pilgrim of Bordeaux separated Micah 3:12 as two different places, not a multiple identity of the same hill. Burials in the bedrock of the western hill evidence a cemetery from C7-C2 BCE, incorporated into city C2 BCE to western edge of hill. Herodian walls (C1 BCE) incorporated the largest territory in the city’s history,  but Titus destroyed the largest part of that wall. The Roman wall was used when the fortifications were rebuilt by Eudokia in 444 CE, but Caliph El Aziz in C6 CE shortened length of wall because he felt his defenses were overextended. The generally accepted theory is that the current southern wall follows the line and foundation of the Legio Fertensis wall. The Crusaders and later Salah ed-Din enclosed the Cenacle building in a compound  wall of its own.

Exodus 30:34-38 The Incense of the Altar

The four ingredients to the incense may be a clue to what kinds of prayers God recieves:

  1. Galbanum – which was a bitter gum resin and Rabbi Shelomo ben Yitschak comments on this passage that galbanum is bitter and was included in the incense as a reminder of deliberate and unrepentant sinners. Galbanum (CHal-ban-um) is collected from the outside of a tree like pine sap that naturally oozes to the surface. Some rabbis noted that it was forced out of the inner heart of the tree by some stress or pressure, causing it to be abundant on the outside of the tree. Others noted that God made the tree with so much sap that it always had much to “give away”. I use this to indicate that some of the prayer we offer oozes out of our heart because of stress and pressures that we need to our out willingly to God.
  2. Onycha – which is probably operculum which comes from conchs from the Red Sea and I am guessing could possibly be representative of prayers from the “depths”… Exactly, some prayer comes from the depths of our lives that need to be carefully rooted out of the encased shells of our lives, and shared with the God who loves us. It is the only way deep issues can be healed!
  3. Myrrh – is tapped from the commiphora tree and I have not an inkling of what it represents, but am guessing it might have something to do with it being very expensive, sometimes more than gold. Myrrh is tapped like Maple Syrup. A tap is burrowed from the outside into the tree, piercing the exterior and “wounding the tree” to get the bitterness inside out. Some prayer, the rabbis taught, was to empty our souls of the bitterness trapped within us before God, who alone could handle it.
  4. Frankencense – is tapped from Boswelia trees and is milky white in color.  Other than that I have no idea what to do with it…Frankencense is “levonah” in Hebrew, (lavan=white). It is not only white in color, it makes a thick whitened smoke when it burns. Many Old Cityshops carry it and Catholic Churches use it in the incensers to this day. The point is that it’s addition to the incense was that, like the prayers of God’s people, it made an impact or a change that was evident to all. Prayer changes people and the spiritual atmosphere with a noticeable fragrance and color.

Genesis 44-50 Taking Responsibility – The Joseph Factor

There are five specific “downstream pulls” of current against which we must pull if we are to make it upstream to the destination God has called us. The five currents are:

  • past experiences,

  • present life circumstances,

  • people in our lives,

  • personality (our own sinful nature) and

  • principalities (spiritual warfare).

I began really examining these as a result of a little man that God brought into my life, my son named Aaron. From his first moments outside the womb he was hit with the reality that life was less than comfortable (broken collar bone). As he grows, he will find life appears at times to grow, year by year, in harshness.

Everyone I know sets out on the journey with high ideals, but few skills and little understanding of how to conquer the obstacles before them.

It is an awesome responsibility to be one of the primary molders of a life. The challenge, in view of the downstream pulls is awesome:

He will learn his first words of life in our living room.

Take his first steps into our arms.

As a dad, I’ll have the unique opportunity to teach him what it means to do an honest day’s work, catch a ball, be a man.

I’ll have responsibilities in teaching my little boy what values I cherish, truths I hold dear.

My own dad is a quiet man, but with his life he has spoken volumes. I know from him that consistency is the primary vehicle I can use to mold Aaron. The only way for my little boy to understand life is for Dottie and I to model it in front of him. We will try to protect him from the harshness of life, but it will eventually be futile and even foolish!

Sooner or later he must learn to confront challenges. As much as we hate the thought, he may well have to face tragedy in his little life ahead. Unless he is equipped for it, he will be a defeated person.

Some Christians never really realize the pull of the current against them. Some think their relationship with Christ guarantees an exemption from the pain and difficulties of life. Yet we all live in a fallen world, and our emotions are subject to the same pain as our lost neighbor. We must proceed realizing that!

How do I move upstream against the flow? What makes one person thrive and move ahead while others around him flounder in blame and self defeat, when both have a desire to walk in their new life in Christ? Last week we began to examine this:

1. Every Christian needs to understand the reality of the current against them and honestly confront their past experiences, present circumstances, people’s affect on them, effect of their sinful desires. Failure to do so will bring defeat followed by surprise over defeat! We must not just cling to heaven while earth slides beneath us!

2. Every believer needs to draw near to God’s presence in worship and adoration, drawing strength from sharing God’s powerful presence, THAT IS WORSHIP.


Joseph was a man who I believe that Scripture uses to give us (by example) at least five specific “paddles” to move upstream with.

Read Genesis 44:1-13, 16,  45:1-5; 50:19-20 and tell story.

Let’s walk with this man Joseph for awhile. He keeps being pushed down by the current, yet he ends upstream. I want to know why! I want to know how! Let’s journey through some principles by looking into some SNAPSHOTS out of the album of his life:

I. First, I note that he was given the ability to respond to his situation (Gen 39:1-4) “served” Mr. Potiphar.

*What made my dad wake up at 5:30 AM, read his Bible, drink his coffee and head off for a job he hated, while my grandfather worked as little as possible, and drank away his paycheck?

*RESPONSE ABILITY means I have the ability to buck the natural and instinctive path!

*In my family we ate from one large pot of the meal. If you were complacent about what was “for dinner” that night, my brothers would gladly “take off your hands” your portion. Important lesson in life: “Take what you are given, or you may find you have nothing at all.”

*You cannot change the menu of life by complaining about the selection, nor by wishing for tastier portions. You must take what you are given and spice it with positive responses.

II. Next, I note he held himself responsible for his choices, rather than wasting energy on the blame game (Gen 39:20-21). “Lord with Joseph” equals “Joseph with Lord”!

*God gets blamed for so much by evangelical believers. I wish I had a nickle for all the people that use “God’s will” to cover their irresponsible nature. I remember the college friend who “God lead” to drop out mid semester. They next semester “God lead” them back. Then “God lead” them to drop again. Finally some of us began asking God to make up his mind!

III. Third, I note that he emphasized responsibility over rights consistently throughout his lifetime (Gen. 39:22-23), regardless of circumstance. “Committed to Joseph”

We live in the unprecedented KNOW AND HAVE YOUR RIGHTS age. Watching Daytime TV, you may see 1-800-SUE-THEM, or some form of it. Some believers hold onto “rights” to hold grudges, bitterness from the past. The thought of letting someone “off the hook” is unthinkable! Remaining a victim is a unique way of manipulating circumstances to make someone else responsible for their inability to move upstream.

IV. Fourth, I see him as one who lived proactively rather than simply reactively: he turned passive introspection into constructive activity (Gen 40:6-8).

Proactive means positive choices based on values, rather than circumstances or emotional feelings: Whenever I was really down, like a caring and loving mother, my mom would hand me a broom and “let” me sweep the garage!

V. Finally, he recognized limits to his responsibility, and saw God’s hand at work in circumstances beyond his control (Gen 45:5; 50:19-20).

We must identify the areas we are accountable for in our lives, and the part that is simply beyond our control. Taking responsibility for someone else’s reactions will drive us crazy, while not taking full responsibility for ours will pull us downstream into defeat cycles. Unless we come to grips with the limits of our responsibility, we will burn our energies and end up neglecting our true responsibilities!


In my life I must:

1. Know that my response is my responsibility.

2. Hold myself accountable for response rather then blame someone for the circumstances surrounding my response.

3. Emphasize responsibility not my rights.

4. Do what is best regardless of circumstances or feelings.

5. Recognize the limit of my responsibility and leave the rest with God.

Genesis 28:10-32:3 The Story of Jacob's Three Stones

Overview: Like a great race, the journey of the patriarch Jacob from Canaan to Haran and back is marked by three stones:

1. The first stone (28:18), like a starting line of a great race. This stone in our reading is covered with oil and stood up at Luz to mark the place where God gave to Jacob the dream of the stairway.

The scene begins with Jacob, hot off the desert sands, 50 miles into the 400 mile trail to find a wife and to flee the anger of Esau. Tired of running, and with little to show for himself, he places a stone headrest below him and falls asleep. His slumber is disturbed that night by an incredible, life changing event. GOD MEETS JACOB THERE. In his sleep, Jacob’s eyes are spiritually opened wider than ever before. He is able to see the traffic filled stairway extending from Heaven to earth. In that place he hears the unmistakable voice of the God of His Fathers. The promise given to him includes:

  1. The land is yours, and you will have a seed that will inherit it.
  2. Your seed will be as the dust of the earth, and though scattered, they will have an inheritance.
  3. All the nations will be lifted by the presence of your scattered seed.
  4. Wherever you go, I will be with you, and I will bring you back home!

Jacob awoke a different man. The God of His Father and Grandfather had become the God of Promise to HIM. Awestruck that God had met with him, he began his journey with a PERSONAL KNOWLEDGE OF GOD, not just the faraway stories of adventures of His forefathers of the past. He took the headrest stone, stood it on end, and anointed it with the oil of consecration. He promised God that if this were truly a revelation of Himself to Jacob, Jacob was committed to follow Him!

2. The second stone (29:10), like a lap marker of a great race, as a huge well cap that Jacob removed to gather the water for Laban’s flocks.

Returning to our story, Jacob arose from place of consecration and continued on His journey with a new sense of purpose. He was no longer just fleeing a past, he was pursuing a revealed future. Filled with anticipation and hope, but with little in his hands, Jacob came upon a well near to his uncle Laban’s home. Joy filled him anew when the young Rachel came to get water from the well. Jacob presented himself, and kissed her. He rolled the stone that kept the well closed and dark, protecting the water’s purety in darkness. This stone was also anointed, this time with the sweat of the man who was strong enough to give even an angel a workout in a wrestling match twenty years later!   

This stone would represent the whole central portion of our narrative, because the whole section is anointed with the sweat and hardwork of Jacob. He worked seven years to gain his wife Rachel, only to be tricked into lying with Leah. Rachel would be then given for another seven years of work. All told, Jacob will spend 20 years with his uncle, and go thru no less than ten failed salary arrangements with this fickle boss.

As if the struggle with Laban wasn’t tough enough, Jacob will be further subjected to manipulation inside the tent of his own wives, who will bargain and manipulate for sex, just to compete for his affections in their children.

Leah’s eyes weren’t very good, but her womb was producive: she bore 1) Reuben: Look, a son! 2)Simeon: Hearing 3) Levi: attached 4)Judah: Praise! in a short succession.

Rachel would not be outdone: She gave Bilhah to Jacob to bear 5)Dan: justice  6)Naphtali: wrestling (alias, I beat my sister!)

Leah matched with Zilpah 7)Gad: fortune 8 ) Asher: happy

Rachel even swapped her spot in bed for mandrakes (an aphrodisiac), but Leah got the babies: 9)Issachar- reward! 10) Zebulun: dwelling

Rachel finally bore her own baby: 11) Joseph: may the Lord add. And later will die giving birth to the last of the sons: 12) Benoni (son of sorrow), changed by his Father to Benyamin (son of right hand).

Jacob’s house now full, and Laban- having son’s of his own and cancelling the adoption inheritance to Jacob, caused Jacob to want to move on. Laban saw the great blessing that was his because of Jacob, and negotiated a way to keep him there. The end of all the hard work was that Jacob grew to be a wealthy man, and Laban also prospered. The time came for them to part, and Jacob left in the night with all of his goods. Rachel, unfortunately, took also the teraphim of Laban- the guarantee of inheritance and blessing that once belonged to her husband, but was lost after her father had sons of his own.

3. The third and final stone (31:46), like a finish line of the race, brings us to the final scene of the Parashah (portion). It is no longer a single stone of a nomad with little but his strength and dreams, it is now the pile of stones of a successful and wealthy Patriarch of a family. It will not be anointed with oil, but with crumbs from the table of a meal covenant between Jacob and his father in law, Laban. It is a place of reconciliation that prepares Jacob for the great reconciliation with his brother, yet to come.

When Laban caught up to Jacob, Rachel, Leah, eleven sons and a caravan full of camels, flocks, herds and servants, he was angry, but controlled. God told him to watch his tongue. He searched for his inheritance pledge symbol, the teraphim, but Rachel was sitting on them, so he couldn’t find them. After a time, a settlement between them, filled with conditions and contracts that would please any lawyer, Laban and Jacob found themselves eating a meal covenant together, sitting atop a heap of stones.

Genesis 17:1-16 The Recipe for God's Blessing

People everywhere seem to be needy and unfulfilled. Is there a formula for fulfillment and blessing in the Bible? The answer is YES!

Consider Abraham’s story. With the birth of Ishmael, God again waited at least another thirteen years to move in and fulfill His promises to Abraham! We glimpse into the story of Abraham at age 99, as God moves powerfully one more time, changing his name and setting in motion the long-awaited promise.

Key Principle: Abraham’s open heart led to solid belief and obedient steps. Those steps led him to fulfillment of his deepest longings and desires.

  1. The Platform of Blessing – a surrendered life: The blessing of God followed two events – the trust in God’s Word by Abram and the daily living by God’s standard in his life! El Shaddai called Abram and told him to appear for Divine inspection (17:1) so that God could bestow His promised blessing of children (17:2).
  2. The Prerequisite for Blessing – a prepared heart: “When the heart is right, the feet are swift!” Without the need to prepare himself further, Abram came immediately into God’s presence in worship (17:3a)!
  3. The Precision of Blessing – a fulfilling promise: God saw Abram’s heart, and met his needs with Divine power. God’s blessings are specifically tailored, and follow six important principles (17:3a-8):
  • I chose you out of the many (17:4). They are Deliberate: God encourages by letting His follower know that they are not a random accident, but a choice of love.
  • I will use you to affect millions (17:4b) and they will know you by your new name (17:5-6). They are Impacting: God affirms how profound an obedient believer affects his whole world!
  • I will maintain the covenant through the generations after you are gone (17:7). They are Intimate: God reaches into the life of a follower to fulfill their deepest longings!
  • I will meet your physical needs and be a guardian to your children (17:8). They build Confidence: God secures the heart of his follower concerning their deepest worries!
  • I will set the requirements for following me (17:9-14). They are Prescribed: God sets the standards of obedience in His follower’s lives for each generation!
  • I will change the identity of your partner (17:15) and bless her because of your faith (17:16). They are Overflowing: God blesses the people around us because of our right response to His love and His Word!

What was the formula? An open heart that leads to firm trust and obedient steps equals blessing!

Genesis 16:1-16 Helping Out God

Introduction: God made promises four times to Abraham, and then delayed in fulfilling them. Anxious to have her husband experience all that God had promised, Sarah steps in – and Abraham accepts her plan. Abraham had a full knowledge of the promises of God – the question was not WHAT, but WHEN! Abraham saw the faithfulness of God to him – the question was not WHO, but HOW!

Key Principle: When we seek to “help out” God by performing FOR Him, and not BY, THROUGH and IN Him, we create a terrible mess out of His great promises!

Seven Observations on Overcoming Failure:

  1. Some are caused by our nature overcoming our walk with God: Sarah tried to fulfill God’s promise (16:1). Following our natural desires to fulfill a role that God should fulfill will bring us pain, not fulfillment!
  2. Some are caused by “mis-focusing” our efforts: Abraham was passive in the leadership of his home. (16:2). A failure to fulfill the role God currently has given you, will further delay God’s blessing on your future roles and promises!
  3. All failures are enhanced by flesh performance: Neither Abraham nor Sarah consulted God in their plan (16:3-4). A believer can do what “feels right” or will “seem to work” and create greater pain and trouble!
  4. Failures cannot be overcome without identifying the real underlying problem: Neither Abraham nor Sarah detected the true problem when troubles materialize (16:5-6). The underlying deception must be rooted out to truly solve the problem!
  5. Many (not just ME!) suffer from my failures: Hagar ended up stripped of her dignity, despised and on the run (16:7-8). Wrong assumptions and poor choices lead to victimization in those who were not a part of our problem – until we dragged them in.
  6. God is not afraid of stepping in to failure scenarios: The angel directed Hagar’s return (16:9). The beginning of blessing is submission to God’s Word!
  7. God does see the inequities, and is able to put something great together even in the midst of pain: Hagar received promises that encouraged her (16:10-16). God builds up, even standing with us in the dump of all the destruction we have experienced on our way to Him!

Bill Borden (of the famous dairy family) left his fortune to be a missionary in China. He left the note: “No retreat, no return, no regrets.” Victory is being where God tells you to be, doing what God tells you to do. There is no greater call.