Today’s readings are Genesis 17, Matthew 16, Nehemiah 6 and Acts 16.
Well, finally I get to call him Abraham. It was difficult remembering to write Abram. Here in Genesis 17 he gets a name change. God renews the covenant at age 99. Abram has been waiting 24 years for God to fulfill His promises.
After God told Abraham everything “I will do” (Genesis 17:4-8), he tells Abraham that the sign of that covenant was to be circumcised and to circumcise every male. As someone once said, “Couldn’t it have been a secret decoder ring???”
Sarai (whom, I confess), I’ve been calling Sarah, got her name change too.
Amazingly, in light of Romans 4:, Abraham again asks if Ishmael can fulfill God’s promise for a son (17:17-18). God says “NO!” and names a son soon to come, Isaac, who would be born “at this time next year” (17:21). Abraham obeyed God and every male was circumcised, even Ishmael.
This family tree is from an article called Perpetual Hatred, by Keith Robichaud
In Matthew 16 the Pharisees try to force Jesus to show them a sign, to which Jesus gives them the “sign of Jonah. Jesus then spent time explaining to the disciples not to take part in the “leaven of the Pharisees,” their teachings and interpretations of the law.
Jesus is now at Caesarea Philippi…
One can see the very northern end of the Sea of Galilee at the bottom. Caesarea Philippi was near the foot of Mount Hermon, the tallest elevation in Israel. At this place, as far from Jerusalem and Jesus’ opponents as possible, Jesus proceeded to give them important revelation concerning what lay ahead for Him and them. Here, Peter would make the great confession of the true identity of Jesus, whereas in Jerusalem to the south, the Jews would deny His identity. In this safe haven, Jesus revealed to the Twelve more about His person, His program, and His principles as Israel’s rejected King.
This is an aerial photo of the cave on the that many at that time believed was the gate to hades.
Here is an artist’s rendering of the structures that would have been in place at the time of Jesus. There was a temple to Pan in front of the grotto.
Then Jesus pops the question, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” After getting several popular responses, he asks, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter’s answer, revealed to him by the Father (Matthew 16:17) is “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Matthew 16:16).
Simon is blessed and a prophesy is given that “you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
The “rock” that the church would be built upon is likely Jesus Christ and, more specifically, the fact that He is “the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”
The fact that the “gates of Hades,” supposed to be right in front of them, “shall not prevail against it” shows that Christ’s church goes on the offensive, making disciples of all nations, sharing the gospel in the marketplace.
What are the “keys of the kingdom” and in what way were the apostles able to bind and loose?
When Jesus predicted his crucifixion and resurrection, Peter would have none of it. Jesus rebuked him and then taught them about discipleship, that they, too, would have to “take up [your] cross.” Yet, whatever is lost for the sake of following Christ will be forever gained.
“He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose” said Jim Eliot.
Nehemiah 6 records the finishing of the wall around Jerusalem.
Nehemiah recorded three separate plots the Jews’ enemies instigated to frustrate his effective leadership. First, they tried to distract Nehemiah (Nehemiah 6:1-4), then to discredit him (Nehemiah 6:5-9) and finally to deceive him (Nehemiah 6:10-14). Yet with all that opposition the builders finished the walls only 52 days after construction had begun (v. 15). Israel’s enemies viewed their rapid progress as evidence that God had helped the workers (v. 16).
Thomas Constable has this chart:
HOW NEHEMIAH HANDLED OPPOSITION
|Ridicule (4:1-3)||Prayer and perseverance (4:4-6)|
|Threats (4:7-8)||Prayer and watchfulness (4:9)|
|Discouragement (4:10-12)||Remembering God’s power and organizing for work and defense (4:13-15)|
|Internal strife (5:1-5)||Repentance by the offenders (5:6-12)|
|Trickery (6:1-2, 4)||Maintaining priorities (6:3, 4)|
|Rumor (6:5-7)||Denial of the charge and prayer (6:8-9)|
|Terrorism (6:10)||Trust in God and continued working (6:11-14)|
|Intimidation (6:19)||Continued vigilance (7:1-3)|
Acts 16 continues Paul’s second missionary journey
Paul and Silas went from Derbe to Lystra and there he picked up Timothy. They delivered the council’s letter (16:4) and strengthened the disciples in the churches (16:5).
6 And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. 7 And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. 8 So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas.
After the vision of the man from Macedonia saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us” Paul from Troas, to Samothrace, to Neopolis and finally to Philippi.
Krenides River, photo by Carl Rasmussen
There, by a riverside, they found a woman’s prayer meeting. Lydia’s salvation is presented in these words…
The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. (Acts 16:14)
Then trouble broke out and Paul and Silas were thrown into prison, after being beaten.
While Paul and Silas were praying and singing, an earthquake sprang them from prison. The jailer woke up and was about to kill himself, but Paul stopped him. The jailer asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” One wonders whether he meant spiritually or physically, since he had just believed his life was in danger. Regardless, Paul tells him, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31).
The town magistrates just wanted Paul and Silas to leave town quietly after such an incident, but Paul said feistily:
“They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out.”
This got them nervous so they apologized and again asked them to leave. Before leaving Paul and Silas visited with Lydia and other believers and encouraged them.