Hebrews 12:20-22: Faith for Future Generations

Read: Hebrews 11:20-22

The predictions of Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph all contend with the future, principally the time when the nation of Israel would come into the land of Canaan (The Promised Land) and possess it. God had spoken to Abraham concerning the Promised Land (Genesis 17:8, Genesis 17:19) and his descendants had undoubtedly heard these promises and had received from God their own promises. Here, the author of Hebrews makes mention of the prophetic promises given to each by the one generation to the next: Isaac to Jacob and Esau (Genesis 27:27-40), Jacob to the Sons of Joseph (Genesis 48:5-22), and Joseph to the nation of Israel (Genesis 50:24-25). The things spoken by the patriarchs to their descendants came to pass in the manner in which the spoke each building on the promises they had been given.

The ultimate fulfillment of the promises of Abraham came through Christ (Genesis 12:1-3, Galatians 3:7-9, Galatians 3:16-19, Galatians 3:23-29). Abraham’s biological offspring was Isaac and Jacob through whom Christ came. Christ was both the Son of God and the descendant of Abraham through whom the world would be blessed. Salvation comes to all who hear and believe the gospel, regardless of their nationality, race, gender, family heritage, or social status. It is available to all who believe.

The promises of Christ are based track record of fulfilled promises spanning all of history and are vindicated by the historical fact of his resurrection. When Jesus says that he would return in the way that he went away and grant life to all those who believe he wasn’t speaking in uncertain terms, rather as his biological ancestors did concerning the promises they gave to their progeny. Christians nowadays can claim these promises and teach them to the next generation whether they be their own children or those who they share the gospel with and believe. The principle of instilling faith from one generation to the next is to help each successive generation look forward to the fulfillment of promises and live according to them.

Lord, I’ve received the promise! Help me give it to the next generation!

Joshua 21:43-45: Promise: Fulfilled

Read: Joshua 21:43-45

These three verses summarize the blessings that God had given to Israel that the book of Joshua elaborated on from chapters 13-21. The verses reiterate many things. First, they reiterate that God promised good things to Israel’s ancestors. The promise was initially given back in Genesis 12:7 when Abraham left his home in what is modern-day Iraq and moved west. The promise was reiterated to Abrahams in Genesis 17:8 and his descendants too (Isaac: Genesis 26:3, Jacob: Genesis 28:14-15). Second, the passage reiterates that the enemies of Israel could not stand before them because God had done the fighting on their behalf. The responsibility of Israel was to be courageous and obey God (Joshua 1:1-9, Joshua 10:14). Third, the verses reiterate that God fulfilled all that he said he was going to do. Joshua spends the last 8 chapters talking in great detail about how God promised inheritances to the people of Israel and how each tribe received that inheritance. God did what he said he was going to do long before any one of those who received the inheritances were born.

There are probably not enough books in the entire world to record the blessings that God has given his people. At the same time, there is a certain confidence too that God’s people can have concerning his blessings, and these promises are in no short supply. Jesus makes all sorts of assertions about the things that were to come after he ascended, such as the promise of the Holy Spirit, words to say, and power to accomplish insurmountable tasks, a promise to build his church, among many others. When one looks back over one’s life, one can see the places where God was at work and also see how the particular promises of God are fulfilled one’s life. These verses in Joshua reiterate the promises, the giver of the promises, and the surety of the promises. In the same manner, one can proclaim just as Joshua did and have confidence in the one who gave the blessings!

Lord, you have done all that you have promised and I am blessed beyond measure!

May it all be to the Praise of your Glory!

Joshua 18:11-19:51: Things To Do

Read: Joshua 18:11-28; Joshua 19

“So they finished dividing the land”, so says the last sentence in chapter 19.  Reading about land allocation to a people that lived 3500 years ago probably would not be the first choice of texts selected from the Bible for a devotion. But understanding why these lists are included in scripture is important. The divisions of the land were meticulously outlined in great detail. These details are included in the chapters to serve not only as a written record of the division of the land, but also to recall what the Lord had given to them as an inheritance. The real hero of the story is God who fought on their behalf and it was God who gave the land to Israel as inheritance (Joshua 21:45, Deuteronomy 20:1-4).

The quest, however, was not complete. Israel still had to oust some of the Canaanite strongholds that were still scattered throughout the land. But for the remaining tribes that hesitated to take hold of their inheritance, they now knew where they would settle once they had expelled the Canaanites.  There was no good reason for the Israelites to wait any longer other than their own disobedience to God’s command to take the land.

For people living 3500 years after Israel entered the land of Canaan, the same truth still holds. Hebrews 11:14-16 relates seeking a country of one’s own to the promise given many years before. Abraham left his country to which he could have returned for a better country – a heavenly one. God is not ashamed to be the God of such people. And even so, Jesus promised a place for his disciples in his Father’s house and he was going to prepare a place for them, and he says he would not have said unless this was indeed true. What has been set before Christians is the promise of eternal life and the inheritance this entails. Like Israel, there is no good reason to be disobedient any more. As Paul put it, to live is Christ, to die is gain, but all the while he was alive, Paul lived for the sake of the gospel so others might have a chance to participate in the inheritance he was waiting to receive (Philippians 1:18-24). The attitude of every Christian should be the same.

Lord, you have shown me what to do. Help me to accomplish the task!

John 18:16-18,25-27: Delusions of Grandeur

Read: John 18:16-18,25-27

The denial of Christ by Peter is a very prevalent story in the gospels. All four gospels record Jesus predicting this event (Matthew 26:34, Mark 14:30, Luke 22:34, John 13:38) and record the details of the event too (Luke 22:55-65, Mark 14:66-72, Matthew 26:69-75). Peter’s zeal for Jesus was displayed when he declared that he was willing to lay down his life for Jesus (John 13:37) and never leave him (Matthew 26:33) and also when Peter brandishes as sword in an attempt to defend Jesus while Jesus was being arrested (John 18:10). It was not too long afterwards though that Peter was standing around a fire trying to get warm because it was cold outside, and people begin to recognize him as one of Jesus’ followers. Three times people recognize him, and after the third time, there was a rooster crow. Peter recalls what Jesus had said the evening before. Matthew records Peter weeping bitterly because he knew exactly what he had done after he swore up and down profusely that he would never do such a thing.

John later in his gospel records what is the apparent undoing of Peter’s denial (John 21:5-7). Here, Jesus asks Peter three times if Peter loves him. Each time, Peter says that he does, and each time Jesus asks Peter to in some way care for his sheep. While Jesus knew that Peter would deny him, he also knew that Peter would become a source of strength for the disciples in the time following the ascension. Before Jesus predicts Peter’s denial in Luke 22:31, Jesus says that the others will be sifted like wheat, but Peter would be the one to strengthen them.  Peter would be instrumental in the early church in Jerusalem and would preach a sermon at Pentecost that would lead to the salvation of thousands of people.

Grandiose promises have a way of setting one up for failure. Matthew 5:33-37 records Jesus speaking in the matter of making vows. He quotes from Leviticus 19:12, which speaks to the one who makes vows to fulfill them. Apparently there was a problem with people making vows. They would swear on Jerusalem, on the throne of God, or on a number of grandiose things. Rather than make lavish promises, Jesus encourages his listeners here to simply let their yes be yes and their no be no—that is to keep what one says one is going to do simple.

It is easy to point a finger at Peter and see his obvious failing, and claim that one has never denied Christ. But would not be easy to do is claim that one has promised to never do something and ended breaking that promise at one point or another. Peter was zealous for Jesus—there can be no mistake about that, and like Peter, people generally have zeal to keep the promise. While zeal is not inherently bad, it is better to not make lavish promises. And like Peter, Christians will fail.  In all cases though Jesus is there to restore and whoever failed can get back up and when back to serving God. A Christian should simply focus on trying to obey God, rather than get delusions of grandeur about how one is never going to disobey God.

Lord, help my ‘yes’ to be ‘yes’ and my ‘no’ to be ‘no’ and nothing more!