Monday, 23 January 2017

The Queen of Sheba

“And when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the LORD, she came to prove him with hard questions.” (1 Kings 10:1)
A thousand years after the famous visit of Sheba’s queen to the court of King Solomon, Jesus made a remarkable spiritual application of her experience. “The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here” (Matthew 12:42).
Solomon had prayed for wisdom, and the Lord gave him such legendary wisdom that the news even reached the distant land of Sheba, south of Ethiopia. We do not know what hard questions were confronting Sheba’s queen, but she finally decided she must find their solutions through Solomon and his God. God honored her searching faith, “and Solomon told her all her questions,” so that she could testify that “the half was not told me. . . . Blessed be the LORD thy God” (1 Kings 10:3,7,9).
In Jesus Christ “are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). He who had given Solomon his great wisdom promises us that “if any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5).
Truly the queen of Sheba will be a witness against our present generation in the coming day of judgment. People today turn to every variety of humanistic counselors for their training and guidance but refuse to come to the one who is “made unto us wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:30). The “Wonderful Counsellor” (Isaiah 9:6), who is far greater than Solomon, who said “I am . . . the truth” (John 14:6), and who promises that “the truth shall make you free” (8:32), is still inviting all from the uttermost parts of the earth to come.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

The Psalm of Life

“I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.” (Psalm 91:2)
This marvelous psalm of life and security follows a psalm of frailty and death (Psalm 90) written by Moses, who may have been the author of this psalm as well. For our devotional study today, attention is called to the change of personal pronoun throughout, implying a dialogue between three speakers.
The psalm begins as a godly teacher, or prophet, or perhaps an angel bestows a benediction upon the believer: “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1), ascribing the security of the believer to the character of God.
The believer responds to this blessing by avowing his trust in God and in His character (Psalm 91:2).
To the testimony of the believer, the first speaker replies, expounding on the former blessing, detailing the protection provided by God (Psalm 91:3-8) and the blessings of that care. Note, “because thou [the believer] hast made the LORD [Jehovah], which is my [the speaker’s] refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone” (Psalm 91:9-12).
At the end, Jehovah Himself responds, confirming all that the speaker has said: “Because he [the believer] hath set his love upon me [Jehovah], therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him. With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation” (Psalm 91:14-16). 

Saturday, 21 January 2017

The Mercy Seat

“And thou shalt put the mercy seat above upon the ark; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee. And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat.” (Exodus 25:21-22)
In the “holy of holies” of the tabernacle, God would meet with Israel’s high priest once a year to commune with His people at a meeting place called the “mercy seat.” The Hebrew word was derived from the word for “atonement,” which in turn meant essentially a “covering” for the Ark of the Covenant. On the great day of atonement each year, the high priest was commanded to sprinkle the blood from the sin offerings on the mercy seat (Leviticus 16:14-15) to make an atonement for all the people.
This annual ceremony, of course, merely prefigures the full atonement that Christ would make one day when “by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us” (Hebrews 9:12). Since this blood has been sprinkled once for all on the heavenly mercy seat, as it were, we are now “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God” (Romans 3:24-25).
In this verse, the word “propitiation” is the Greek word for “mercy seat” (and is so translated in Hebrews 9:5). That is, Christ Himself, with His atoning blood, is our mercy seat, where we can meet with God. Thus, the golden, blood-stained mercy seat becomes the very throne of God Himself, where He meets with those who believe on Him for salvation. “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). 

Friday, 20 January 2017

Jacob's Ladder Dream

“And Jacob went out from Beersheba. . . . And he lighted upon a certain place . . . and lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.” (Genesis 28:10-12)
Prophetic dreams were uncommon even in ancient times (Hebrews 1:1) and were never for personal use (Jeremiah 23:16-32; Jude 1:8). Such dreams were rare until the book of Revelation.
Jacob had the most personal encounters with God recorded in Genesis, more than Abraham or any other patriarch. Jacob’s ladder was much more than a human construction. The Hebrew word cullam is used only this once. The root Hebrew word, culal, is similar, with the basic meaning of “highway” or “corridor” or “pathway.” The word carries the connotation of “lift up” (see Psalm 68:4).
Jacob’s “ladder” was probably a highway/causeway to and from the presence of God. Perhaps it was something like our science fiction ideas of a wormhole—a time warp in the fabric of space that permits nearly instantaneous movement from one spot in the universe to another.
The Creator would certainly be able to make a time warp channel for His messengers to get back and forth to Earth quickly. There may be many such channels. This cullam was “fastened” on the earth with its “source” in heaven. The angels of God were speeding up and down (through? on? in?) it.
At the source, Jacob saw none other than the Yahweh (the I AM) of eternity standing in His “official” glory (compare Revelation 1:10-16). This vision verified to Jacob that God was with him and that God Himself would secure the eternal promises made to Abraham. This dream is unique in all Scripture. Jacob was an unusual man

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Jacob's Plain Life

“Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents.” (Genesis 25:27)
Jacob has often been given a bad reputation for his deception of Isaac. He is branded a liar and worse, while the Scriptures describe him very differently. To begin with, the Hebrew word translated “plain” in our text is tam, everywhere else rendered as “perfect” or “upright.”
The same word is used most often by God Himself of Job—a “perfect” and “upright” man (Job 1:8). All other references in the Bible where tam is used verify this upright and undefiled character. The deception is not rebuked by God, and Jacob is honored by God far more than Isaac. In fact, Jacob is renamed “Israel” by God—hardly a punishment for a bad life, but rather a recognition of a great life (Genesis 32:28).
The sin of Isaac and Esau is infinitely greater. Esau has “sold” and “despised” the birthright (Genesis 25:33-34). Isaac would have given that blessing to Esau (Genesis 27:1-4) in spite of God’s plan (Genesis 25:23). The intention of Jacob and Rebecca was to prevent a horrible disobedience and catastrophe.
Jacob’s action gave him no temporal advantage and was taken at great personal risk. Jacob spent 20 years in exile and servitude to his wicked uncle Laban, 14 of them for Rachel and Leah (Genesis 29:20-29). While there, he endured the awful trickery of Laban, but God gave him 12 sons and one daughter (Genesis 29:31-30:24).
God’s intervention and Jacob’s careful attention to detail brought wealth and a growing confidence that God had turned his life around, providing the leadership his family needed to leave suddenly and go with confidence back to the land of Abraham (Genesis 31), having received personal assurance from God (Genesis 32:24-30).
May we all have the reputation of a “plain” life. 

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Isaac's Life of Contrast

“And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents. And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison: but Rebekah loved Jacob.” (Genesis 25:27-28)
Isaac’s early life became the biblical picture of Christ (Genesis 22:7-9). Not only did Isaac lay down his life voluntarily, but he continued to show great evidence of God’s presence and promise. He had personal instruction in faith from Abraham (Genesis 18:19) and had been given direct evidence of God’s sovereignty in his life (Genesis 24:67).
Even before the birth of his sons when he was 60 years old, Isaac interceded for Rebecca and the children (Genesis 25:21). It is certain that he had firsthand knowledge of God’s plan for the boys (Genesis 26:2-53;28:1-4), yet in spite of his knowledge, Isaac “loved Esau” (our text).
He knew that God had chosen the younger child to rule (Genesis 25:23). He knew that Esau was an ungodly man (Genesis 27:46), and he knew that Esau had married pagan wives (Genesis 26:34) in spite of God’s command to the contrary. But Isaac was determined to give the birthright to Esau. The single reason Scripture cites for Isaac’s irrational behavior was that he loved Esau and the savory meat Esau brought in from hunting (Genesis 27:1-4).
Isaac finally gave the blessing to Jacob, but he would have blessed Esau; he would have gone against God’s command, and he “trembled exceedingly” when he knew that he had been overruled by God (Genesis 27:30-33). Ultimately, Isaac submitted to God and instructed Jacob in righteousness (Genesis 28:1-5). The pain in Jacob’s life, the agony of Rebecca’s separation from her son, and the torn testimony of Isaac were all caused by an incorrect “love.” 

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Eliezer's Faithful Service

“And Abraham said unto his eldest servant of his house, that ruled over all that he had . . . go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac.” (Genesis 24:2, 4)
Abraham required a most sacred vow from Eliezer (Genesis 15:2) to secure a bride for Isaac from the line of Shem rather than from the Canaanites (Genesis 24:3-4, 9). Eliezer had Abraham’s complete trust, with access and permission to all of his wealth (Genesis 24:10).
The Bible notes how Eliezer prepared for the success of the mission with adequate resources (employees, wealth, etc.), and went straight to his destination with no wasted time en route. Along the way he must have anticipated how to discern a proper wife and asked God for verification that He approved of the selection.
Eliezer’s request indicated he had in mind a lady who must be strong, healthy, and industrious, with no delusions of a life of ease. She must also be gracious, sensitive, and compassionate. Eliezer’s prayer did not presume. He knew the assignment and was asking for guidance on how to “see” the character of the potential wife (Genesis 24:12-14).
Eliezer was further aware of his being “in the way” (Genesis 24:27). That is, he was clearly aware that he was acting under godly authority and was seeking the leading of the Lord Himself. “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD” (Psalm 37:23), and our paths are directed when we “acknowledge him” (Proverbs 3:6).
After Eliezer completed defining his task, he insisted that an immediate decision be made so that he could finish his assignment. Once the family and Rebecca agreed, Eliezer made sure that the mission was completed by bringing the new bride home to Isaac (Genesis 24:32-67). Would to God that all of us were as faithful (1 Corinthians 4:2).