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Posted By Nan

John 10:1-21, Psalm 23

Tomorrow is the start of Advent so today I am starting my Advent study.

The first week of Advent I am focusing on Hope. 

When my children were little, we always lit the first candle and called it the Shepherd’s Candle.

Different people name the weeks and candles differently, but I like the idea of the Shepherd, the common person.

From the time of Adam and Eve, God had promised salvation for His people. This had been reiterated throughout the millennia through Abraham, Isaac, Moses, the Prophets and on until Jesus came.

The common people were the ones who held on to the hope of their salvation. The arrival of the Messiah.

The Shepherds represent the common people. They were the ones at the bottom rung of society. The ones who cared for the sheep.

The common people were important. This was shown in the arrival of the Angels where the shepherds rested at night, telling them of the birth of the long awaited messiah.

Throughout His ministry years, Jesus referred to the sheep and the shepherd. The people who believed in Him were the sheep and He was the shepherd who called them, led them and protected them.

In today’s terms, sheep are considered to be people who follow blindly without thinking. People who are helpless and unable to think for themselves. 

So many people don’t like to think of themselves as being sheep led by the shepherd. They love the analogy of the Eagle, or a Lion. They call themselves conquerors, not sheep.

As I thought about that I realised that being a sheep, led by a good shepherd, makes us loved. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. Jesus came to earth to lay down His life for us, his sheep.

Jesus leads us because He loves us. 

Jesus laid down His life, because He loves us.

Jesus calls us because He loves us.

And we answer because He loves us.

What greater symbol to be known by than one that expresses how much we are loved.

Posted By Nan

Genesis 25-50

Jacob (Israel) and Joseph

If you have time, it would be great to read these chapters of Genesis. There is much to read in the story of Jacob and his sons. These sons were to become the 12 tribes of Israel. Although Levi was not included in the 12, as his line were the priests, and Joseph was represented by two tribes, his sons Ephraim and Manasseh. 

Jacob was the son of Isaac, who was chosen by God to be the one through whom Abraham’s blessing would pass down. 

In Biblical times, the first son was the one who inherited the family lineage. If the father was a hereditary leader, it would be the first born son who became leader in his stead. Vestiges of that tradition still remain today.

Man may have his traditions, but God’s rules override them. God chose the younger son, Jacob, as the one who would be the heir of God’s promise to Abraham. 

And God chose Judah, the fourth son of Jacob, to be the one whose line Jesus would be born into. 

Years ago, when I was studying the first of the Old Testaments units I studied, we look at the story of Jacob. My tutor described Jacob and the 70 members of his family going to Egypt as part of God’s plan to turn Jacob into a nation.

This promise was made to Jacob in Genesis 28. Whereas Esau displeased his parents by marrying a Canaanite woman, Jacob returned to the land of his mother’s family, as instructed to by his father Isaac.

As Jacob headed to the land of his mother’s people, He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth and the angels ascending and descending on it. Then he saw God who identified himself as the God of his father Abraham and the God of Isaac. He promised Jacob the land on which he was lying and also that his descendants would be like the dust of the earth and all the people of earth would be blessed by Jacob and his offspring.

So Abraham’s blessing was passed down through Isaac to Jacob. 

Many years later, when Jacob returned to Canaan with his wives and sons he had another heavenly encounter. The next day he was to meet his brother Esau and was nervous about the reception he would receive. During the night he wrestled with a man. In the morning the man told Jacob his name would be Israel because he had struggled with God and with humans and had overcome. (Chapter 32)

Jacob had the name Israel for the mighty nation. He had the wives his parents wanted him to marry. He had the blessing from his father. He had been given the promise of Abraham to inherit. Now he needed to become a mighty nation.

When Jacob went to Egypt he was 70 in his family. When his descendants returned 430 years later there were around 600,000 men. This is not counting women and children. Jacob had indeed become a mighty nation.

God’s plan was a long one. The number of years from the Garden of Eden to the people of Israel returning to Canaan was an incredibly long time. The time from the infant nation to the birth of Jesus was an incredibly long time. It has been two thousand years since Jesus was on this earth. How much longer will it be before the end of God’s plan? 

Just as with everything else in our lives, we need to stop imposing human time limits on events and resolutions to our problems. God’s plans are long and slow and perfectly timed.

Posted By Nan

Genesis 22:1-19

This is a significant story in the journey to Jesus’ arriving on earth as a tiny baby.

Abraham has finally received the long promised son at 100 years old. This is the son God has promised to build a mighty nation with and bless all people on earth. Years go by and Abraham lives happily with his son. He loves him dearly. He must have looked on him as the fulfilment of God’s promise to him.

But a day arrives when God asks the impossible of Abraham. He asks him to take his son, who he loves, and sacrifice him.

What must that have been like to hear that. Here is the son God has given Abraham in his old age. Here is the son who will fulfil God’s prophesy and now God wants him dead?

It must have required a lifetime of obedience to God to do as he was asked.

He took his son and journeyed three days to the place God wanted him to sacrifice Isaac. 

Abraham’s words as he approached the mountain suggested a great faith in God’s promise and an expectation that God had a plan. He left his servants at the foot of the mountain and told them he and Isaac would return. 

Later, as Abraham walked with his son up the mountain, Isaac asked him where the sheep for the burnt offering was. Abraham responded that God would provide.

He had great faith that all would be well. 

Isaac for his part happily carried the wood for the burnt sacrifice. 

Abraham and Isaac reached the place for the sacrifice and built the altar and laid the wood out. Then Abraham reached for Isaac to kill him. Even at this point, with no apparent alternative to killing Isaac, he was prepared to do it.

I remember hearing this story as a child. I remember thinking of how terrifying this must have been for Isaac. He was young and strong enough to carry the wood up the mountain while his father carried a light load. It has been suggested in some commentaries that Isaac could easily have overthrown his father and escaped. Yet he didn’t.

Isaac carried the wood to sacrifice him on. And he was obedient to his father’s plan to sacrifice him.

Of course we know the ending. God commanded Abraham to stop and provided a ram to sacrifice instead. God had the evidence of Abraham’s faithfulness and his suitability to be the one whose descendants would become as numerous as the stars in heaven and whose descendant would bless all people on earth.

There are great parallels to Jesus here. 

Jesus is the only son of God just as Isaac was the only son of Abraham. Okay we know about Ishmael. Despite his existence, God repeated the words “your only son” several times in this passage. That is no mistake on God’s part. Isaac was the son the promises prophesy would be fulfilled through, and he was the son God intended Sarah and Abraham to have. So Abraham demonstrated his willingness to sacrifice his only son, just as God willingly sacrificed his only son. Of course, in the case of Abraham, he had faith in God to believe that God would save Isaac. God allowed Jesus to be sacrificed with no alternative.

Abraham left his home on a journey that took three days. He told his servants he and Isaac would go up the mountain and return. This is a great parallel to Jesus death and return after 3 days. 

Isaac carried his own wood up the mountain, just as Jesus carried his own cross.

Isaac was young and strong enough to have fought off his father and run away, yet he didn’t. he obediently submitted to what his father was about to do. Just as Jesus submitted to His father’s will in sacrificing Him for our salvation.

Studying the Old Testament reveals much about God’s promises. When we look, we see so many instances of God’s plan for our redemption. 

If we look at this plan we can, like Abraham, have faith in God and His plans. We can see how they come about, in God’s time. 

Posted By Nan

Abram is called out of Haran

There are few verses as important as the verses in Genesis 12:1-9.

This contains the call of God for Abram to leave his family, home, country and move into a new area. He is asked to go where he does not know the land. To go where he is a stranger. To go where there is nothing familiar. To step into the great unknow.

To add to this, God promises Abram that He will make Abram great. That he will be a blessing to all people on earth and that God will make Abram into a mighty nation.

So Abram leaves with his wife and nephew. He leaves everything familiar and safe and goes to this unknown land. 

In this land, God tells Abram his descendants will be given this land. Abram in faith builds an altar and worships God.

Long before the present day.

Long before national borders and nationalism.

Long before the printed word and easy to study history.

Long before established religions.

In a time when people lived and had the opportunity of a relationship with God.

This was when Abram lived. He had a great faith in God. There was no law, no legalism, no fundamentalism. There was only the knowledge of God passed down through the generations. Some chose to continue to worship God, others chose not to. The Bible records that Abram had a great faith in God and this was credited to him. 

Abram became another step in God’s plan for the redemption of mankind. 

He obediently followed God to where God told him to go.

Abram worshipped God.

God told Abram he was going to be the father of a great nation. He didn’t know that eventually one of his descendants would be our Saviour, God’s son, Jesus. He didn’t know the part he had to play in our redemption. But he trusted God and followed where he was told to go.

God’s plans for our redemption were always there. 

And in these plans there were always people of faith who obeyed God’s call and furthered His plans.

It is important for us to remember how the entire narrative of the Bible winds around these plans. 

Advent and the lead up to it is a good time to remember.

Posted By Nan

My next blog series is preparation for Christmas.

Once Advent starts, I will look specifically at Advent readings and format, but until then I will be looking at the back story to Christmas.

In the very first book of the Bible we see God planning our redemption.

In Genesis 3 Eve is tempted by the serpent to eat of the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil. She in turn tempts Adam to eat of this tree also. 

Suddenly, they are aware of good and evil. Both are aware of their nakedness and see it as wrong. So they hide from God.

When God asks them how they knew they were naked Adam tries to blame Eve and God (v12). The woman YOU put here gave me some fruit.

Eve in her turn blames it on the serpent.

Already the fall of creation had started. 

All that God had created. All the perfection and innocence was gone. We knew the difference between good and evil and became capable of sinning. 

God’s responded to this disobedience by telling the serpent he will be cursed above all livestock and animals. There will be enmity between him and the woman and between all descendants. The woman’s son will crush the serpents head but he will only be able to bruise the heel of the son.(verse 14 and 15).

Adam and Eve were now subjected to a hard life and were banned from the Garden of Eden so they could not eat of the Tree of Life. 

Many people know this story. But not as many comprehend the meaning of the offspring crushing the head of the snake. After all, people hate snakes and seek to kill them whenever they see them. Isn’t that what this verse is about?

To a certain extent the verse covers that, but its meaning goes far deeper.

This verse is the first place in the Bible where God indicates His plan for our redemption. 

For it is Jesus, the son of Adam and therefore Eve, who crushed the serpent (Satan) when He died on the Cross. Satan may have felt he bruised Jesus heel when He was sentenced to death, but in fact Jesus crushed his head by dying and rising to life again.

Right here in Genesis 3 we read of God’s plan for the salvation of all humankind. As our ancestors fell from grace, God had a plan.

That plan may be taking many millennia to play out, but it is still in progress.

Just as God has plans for our lives, He has a greater plan for all the lives of all His children.



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