Genesis 15: When God Cut a Deal

Introduction: God met Abraham a fourth time, and each time God added to the promises He made.

  • Emptying Promise: The first meeting was in Genesis 12:1-3, when God told Abram to move out to a country God would show him, and that God would make Abram a blessing to all nations.
  • Defined Promise: The second meeting was recorded in 12:7 when God told Abram that he would receive all the land he could see for his descendants.
  • Extended Promise: Another meeting was recorded in 13:14, after Abraham rescued lot and gave tithes to Melchisedek. God promised Abraham the land allotment would be forever his for his family.
  • Specified Promise: This fourth meeting between God and Abraham was the record of a vision, where God made an additional promise: Your household will have great reward. Abram asks “How?” God replies, “Your seed will be many, and come from YOU!”

God met Abraham to respond to his fear of constant conflict and limited reward (15:1). Encouragement Principle: God recognizes our need to be encouraged when the rewards are distant, and offers His Word to lift us!

Abraham wanted to make sure he was doing what he could to realize the promise, so he checked with God on his plan to have heirs (15:2-3). Inspection Principle: Mature believers pass all their plans before God for the “how” of the fulfillment of His promises. God’s work must be done God’s way.

God responded to Abraham’s query with a “No!” God told Abraham that He was going to meet the need in His own way (15:4-5). Passive Principle: Because Abraham asked – he got God’s direction. Believers need not fumble through life, we can ask God for even a specific word of direction. God delights in our asking!

Abraham accepted at face value God’s promise, simply offering an “Amen!” to the plan. God accepted the simplicity of faith and set up the most intimate covenant with him, a covenant of blood (15:6-7). Affirmation Principle: God’s gifts come by His grace through the vehicle of our faith (simple acceptance and acting on them as though they were already true!).

Abraham asked, “With what covenant symbol will you make this promise?” (15:8). Model Principle: God loves models! He shows us earthly things to mirror heavenly truths!

To close our story, note: God replied, “With blood!” (15:9-21). The covenant included new prophetic details:

  • Your seed will be kept from the land, but return after four hundred years (13).
  • They will be enslaved, but then set free by God (14).
  • It will happen after your lifetime (15).
  • God had a reason for this lapse (16).

Note that God made this covenant while Abraham slept; Abraham already offered consent by obediently killing the animals. God’s most intimate promises are given in blood covenant. He made one with Abraham, but He also made one with us!

Genesis 14:1-24 Reaching Out With a Generous Heart

Last time we saw how God blessed Abraham’s generosity. Today we will see his heart in action and how God used it for a testimony!

The Problem: The uninformed choice Lot made for a home was based on beauty – but was a choice that led him to step into the conflict of the region, and it cost him his freedom (14:1-12).

1. The generous heart saw the need of another as more important than any plan he had already! Abraham heard about the troubles and immediately mobilized his assets to help (14:13-14).

2. The generous heart used every bit of creativity to help where help was needed! Abraham outsmarted the opposing army by doing the unexpected (14:15).

3. The generous heart was always focused on PEOPLE and their needs! Abraham was careful to bring everyone home (14:16-17).

4. The generous heart recognized the blessing of God when it came! Abraham offered a tithe of all he had in recognition to God’s goodness (14:18-20).

5. The generous heart was able to be a testimony by giving with no misunderstanding about his open intention to help without strings (14:21-24). Abraham offered everything back to the kings!

Are you prepared to see others needs, be creative, keep your focus on the people you desire to minister to, identify the blessing of God in your life and be careful to build a “stringless” testimony? God will use your generous heart!

Genesis 13:2-18 Secrets of a Generous Heart

Introduction: Abraham learned to receive God’s blessings, and he learned how to “turn off the valve” of the blessings. Had he learned the secret to blessing others?

Secret #1: Know the Source of Generosity (13:2-4)

Abraham’s generous heart was rooted in the knowledge of his undeserved blessing from God. Coming from a defeat in his life, God cleansed his heart, and God’s grace marked Abraham’s relationships. Principle: A right relationship with God nurtures a generous heart, and curbs a critical and judgmental heart.

Secret #2: Understand the Problem (13:5-7)

Generosity and other person-centered living is not the norm in our world. People are self interested, which causes constant strife (James 4:1). Principle: When my heart is truly generous toward others, there will be those who cannot understand what I am doing!

Secret #3: See Problems as Opportunities to be Generous (13:8-9)

Generosity is “acts that are based on a deliberate intention to help another gain what they need to become what God intends them to be (to reach their potential for God).” When Abraham saw the tensions, he used the opportunity to better Lot’s fortunes! Principle: Opportunities are either viewed as obstacles (and chafed at) or as opportunities (and carefully responded to).

Secret #4: Delight in the Progress of the Other (13:10-11)

Abraham was energized by the progress of his nephew, Lot. He was not resistant, but reinforcing and encouraging. Principle: Nothing kills a generous heart more than the venom of jealousy.

Secret #5: See God’s Promises to YOU as the continued source of Happiness and Security (13:12-18) 
Abraham got a Divine endorsement of blessing in light of his generous heart. You cannot out give God, and He will care for those whose heart is truly generous toward others.

Principle: We are never so tall as when we stoop to help others! Is your heart generous?

Genesis 12:9-13:3 How to Kill Blessing

Introduction: God’s desire was that Abraham, as a believer in a lost world, would spread blessing to lost men (cp. 12:3). His sojourn into Egypt was NOT a blessing to the lost – it was a curse. How did Abraham kill the spread of God’s blessing? What could he do about a lost testimony?

Sliding Downward Into Failure in five easy steps!

Step One: Discontentment. The discontentment with the “place” God put Abram in sent him packing to a “better” place. It also led him into the heart of a series of perils (12:9-10). Principle: Where God places us is the best place to be. When we kick against His revealed will, we may feel we are getting more of our own way, but we are heading for long-term disaster.

Step Two: Fear. The problems brought on by Abram’s choice to walk away from God’s revealed place for him led him into problems. In the midst of the peril, fear set in. He found himself frustrated and vulnerable (12:11-12). Principle: Without the assurance that we are in the center of God’s place for us, we are vulnerable to sweeping fear and frustration!

Step Three: Deception. The fear and vulnerability led to Abram trying his best to “cover himself”. He did not turn to God for aid, he solved the problems in the realm of the flesh. In the end, he found it easier to lie, and the poison of deception thwarted his testimony to both his wife and the world. His misplaced trust is a notable tip-off to the problem (i.e. “of thee” in12:13). Principle: The “father of lies” will do his work in us when we have left our “place” and are walking in a way that opens us to deception. We will be deceived into believing WE can solve our problems, and then DECEIVE others as the lies spread. We cannot be an uncompromising testimony to truths we don’t believe enough to consistently live!

Step Four: Hypocrisy. The encounter Abram had with the world was met amid deception and a total departure from his walk with God. He killed his testimony by reaching out in deception rather than in a genuine walk of integrity (12:14-16). Principle: We cannot give out what we don’t possess. We cannot urge others to trust a God we do not!

Step Five: The Rotten Fruit encounter with Abram left Pharaoh in worse shape than he was before this “man of God” came to him! In the end, instead of bringing the blessing that should come when a believer enters the scene, Abram brought pain! Pharaoh loathed the God of Abraham (12:17-20)! Principle: A believer walking in defiance will bring pain and heartache to the people he should bring blessing to!

What could Abraham do when he destroyed his testimony? Abraham left the scene (13:1-4) and returned back to the place God put Him. When he came back to his “place” he turned his heart back to God and bowed before Him!

Genesis 12:1-8 Five Steps to Blessing

  • Step One: “Get out of thy country”: Be ready for a “trust exchange”. God’s promises always come at the same price – Trade what you see for what you cannot, based solely on my Word! (12:1).
  • Step Two: “I will”: Understand the source of the blessing. All God’s promises are rooted in His Word to us – it is what we have to follow Him by! (12:2).
  • Step Three: “Bless them that bless thee”: Acknowledge the nature of His plan. God uses us to reach into the lives of others – our failures have broader consequences! (12:3).
  • Step Four: “As the Lord spoke”: Wear the mark of obedience. It is not brains, nor trust that are the mark of blessing – it is obedience! (12:4-5).
  • Step Five: “Lord appeared – built an altar”: Recognize the One who gives victory and blessing (12:6-8). Note that God was blessed when Abraham gave Him worship in the form of giving back to God his own things!

Exodus 15-17: The God Who Provides

Me_and_the_camel God sometimes shows Himself in the most unlikely places to make a simple point to His followers – there have never been “God-forsaken” places or people. The stage for this lesson in Scripture was set amidst a brewing conflict with the desert tribal people called the Amalekites. The children of Israel were already tired by the beginning of the Amalekite conflict (Ex. 17:8). Part way through the fifty-day journey from Egyptian territory to the mountain of the law (recalled now in the 50 days between Passover or Pesach and Pentecost or Shavuot) they already neared exhaustion.

God’s Provisions in the Past

They had experienced God’s provision at the healed bitter waters of Marah (Ex. 15:23-26) and the refreshing oasis of twelve pools and ten palm trees at Elim (Ex. 15:27), yet they were compelled to move on to the mountain where God planned a meeting with Moses on their behalf. To the mountain they trudged, sheep and goats, carts and children.

Suffering hunger in the dry and barren wilderness, the Bible records that God rained upon them first bread, then quail from the heavens to fill their stomachs (Ex. 16). Their incessant complaining and overt disobedience led even God to ask, “How long will you refuse to trust Me?” (Ex. 16:28). Yet God continually provided, and the manna in a pot became the first of many memorials the children of Israel made. The pot was later placed beside the tablets of the law that Moses received from God and kept in the Tabernacle (Ex. 16:34).

Img0164 The Current Crisis

Journeying into the sand-filled fanlike fingers of the Wadi Feiran system of the Sinai desert (Ex. 17:1-7), a connected system of valleys with water in underground rivers beneath, the Israelites arrived depleted of water in their canteens and very thirsty. Though God had shown them His might at the parting of the Sea, the cloud and pillar of fire, and numerous supply demonstrations, the people again panicked.

The huge uplifted granite mountains of the Sinai peninsula sloped above them, and God directed Moses to take the elders to the slope of a mountain he knew well from his shepherding days (cp. Ex. 3:1). This was the shepherding territory of Jethro the Midianite, the father-in-law of Moses. Moses did not doubt that God could and would supply the water necessary for the people. He also knew how to get the water, because he lived in this desert before.

In areas of that desert where the metamorphic rock (sand stone and the underlying granite beds) meet sedimentary rock there are strata deposits of water. Shepherds of the ancient world, as the Bedouin Sinai dwellers today, knew exactly where these deposits of water awaited their needs. Even as we travel through the desert today on camel back through this Sinai landscape, we still see the places where the calcified deposits on the walls of the great Wadi Feiran have been pierced by sticks and rocks to access the water deposits that exists in those pockets behind the walls.

Moses knew the method, and had he had the time to look carefully, he could even predict with fair accuracy the location of water deposits. The appearance of small mosses and damp surfaces can be signs of water deposits. He was, after all, a skilled shepherd from the region before he led the children of Israel.

A modern discovery of this phenomenon by a westerner illustrates what a Near Eastern shepherd of this region knows well. This selection is taken from records of the British governor of the Sinai region of the 1930’s, Major C.S. Jarvis – today a part of the “Palestine Exploration Fund” records:

“Several men of the Sinai Camel Corps had halted in a dry wadi (river bed) and were in the process of digging about in the rough sand that had accumulated at the foot of a rock face. They were trying to get at the water that was trickling slowly out of the limestone rock. The men were taking their time about it and Besh Shawish – the color sergeant – said, “Here, give it to me”. He took the spade of one of the men and began digging furiously in the manners of NCO’s the world over who want to show their men how to do things but have no intention of keeping it up for more than a couple of minutes. One of his violent blows hit the rock by mistake. The smooth hard crust which always forms the weathered limestone split open and fell away. The soft-stone underneath was thereby exposed and out of its apertures shot a powerful stream of water. The Sudanese, who are well up in the activities of the prophets but do not treat them with a vast amount of respect, overwhelmed their sergeant with cries of ‘Look at him! Prophet Moses’!”

God commanded Moses to break the crust of deposit on the surface of the rock and cause the water beneath, pent up from rains of years gone by, to break forth on the dry landscape (Exodus 17:6). What a miracle God demonstrated at the rock! Though it is possible to get water in this way from the desert, the amount of water necessary to care for the children of Israel was excessive and unprecedented. Major Jarvis’ team had only a few gallons compared to the stream that would have cared for Israel’s thirst. Think about it, in order for such a large cask of water to have been stored in the rock ledge deposit, the rain waters would have begun to accumulate long before Joseph had even led the children of Israel into Egypt!

Mvc002sGod knows your need before you do

God may have instantly stored the necessary water, but there is no reason to believe He did not begin to supply the answer long before the question! It may well be that hundreds of years before rains began to form in the water deposit so that it was ready for God’s thirty children. It would be just like our God to create the solution before we face the problem. Is that not like His character?

Finally, the Journey Begins

Life gets more and more complicated. I have had to make a real effort at trying to slow down and take stock in all that is happening. I broke my ankle in three places on April 5th, and still can’t walk after surgery and a series of fine looking casts and fancy footwear. The process has helped me to put in perspective some of what I am doing.

Maybe it would all make more sense if I introduced myself. I am a Pastor of a small and growing congregation in Sebring, Florida. I am also the International Director of Global Vision Outreach, Inc. – a small mission team at work in the Near East, Europe, Central America and Africa. As director, I am also the founder and director of the Great Commission Bible Institute in Sebring, an intense “Disciple making factory” in a dormitory style Bible school. We take up to a dozen students a year and take them through all 66 books of the Bible. I also own and operate a small travel company that takes groups on specific Bible related adventures – Christian Travel Study Programs. I have a wonderful wife (Dottie) and three incredible children: Rachel (22), Aaron (15) and Sara (14). Yes, the father of teens – what a joy!

I came to Sebring after serving the Lord in Israel for many years. I still visit at least once a year, and often much more, as I teach travel study programs. For two decades I have been teaching and traveling, and I have tried to find a place to keep all the information in all the little orbits of my life. Now I shall try to upload a bunch of it to my blog.

I intend this to be a place where I can put Bible articles, travel notes, family and leadership notes, and many other curious comments about my journey in service to my King. I am looking forward to getting to know new friends and keep old ones around the globe in touch. Here we go!