Stephen Begins to Speak – Acts 7

Annas and Caiaphas

Annas and Caiaphas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The chapter begins with the high priest asking Stephen whether “these things” were so. What he meant by “these things” was the false witness that had been given about Stephen as he was arrested back in Acts 6:12-14. Although the text doesn’t say, the high priest was officially Caiaphas until 36 A.D., according to Josephus. But as we saw in Acts 4:5-6, the deposed Annas was still regarded as such.

Instead of answering the question directly, though, Stephen instead begins a speech saying “Brothers and fathers, hear me.” He begins with God’s promises to Abraham. At first, it doesn’t seem like Stephen is answering the question of blasphemy at all, but we will see by the end of the chapter that what Stephen has to say does in fact deal with the worst kind of blasphemy.

When Stephen refers to God sending Abraham from Mesopotamia to Canaan after his father died, he is speaking of Terah (Genesis 11:32), who was about 8 generations descended from Shem. He reminds the council he is addressing of the 400 years they spent in bondage to Egypt before God led them out, and into the land they now occupied. But his focus for the time being is still on Abraham, the promise, and through his son Isaac and grandson Jacob, the twelve patriarchs (verse 8).

As Stephen was speaking the word of God, these men had no quarrel with what he had to say at this point. Things were going to change, however.

(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Schedule for this week

Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from Acts here
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from 2 Chronicles here

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please visit this site’s menu item “The Author’s Books” to find out about my published and upcoming books, and for a link to my Facebook Author’s Page.

All of my comments in this blog are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word.

 

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Zacchaeus, Son of Abraham – Luke 19

The opening verses contain an account that is familiar to many of us from Bible classes as a child. Most of us remember singing about “a wee little man” named Zacchaeus. As chapter 19 begins, Jesus has arrived in Jericho, still making His way toward Jerusalem. There was a man there named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector and was rich (for an explanation of what it was that made such people notorious as sinners, see this previous post).

Zacchaeus climbs a sycamore tree to see Jesus. Jesus goes to his house for dinner and Zacchaeus, the dishonest tax collector, becomes an honest man -- Luke 19: 1-10.

Zacchaeus climbs a sycamore tree to see Jesus. Jesus goes to his house for dinner and Zacchaeus, the dishonest tax collector, becomes an honest man — Luke 19: 1-10.

He was anxious to see Jesus, but because he was a very short man, he could not see over the crowds. So he climbed into a sycamore tree to get a better look. When Jesus came upon him, he told him to come down because he “must stay at your house today.” Jesus going to the house of such a man was not a popular thing for Him to do, and the people were not happy about it (verse 7). Zacchaeus told Him that he had given half of his goods to the poor, and had made fourfold restitution to anyone he had defrauded. Jesus said “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham.”

The class of tax collector, especially one of this rank (often referred to as Publicans), was so despised that the Pharisees would not have considered them to be children of Abraham, even though they were by birth. Jesus’ pronouncement of him as such was significant, and certainly implies that anyone can be a true child of Abraham, as Paul will tell us in Galatians 3:29.  Zacchaeus may have heard of Jesus’ calling Matthew, the tax collector, to be an apostle. He may have even heard of the parable Jesus had told in chapter 18 of the Pharisee and the tax collector. Such things would have given hope to those who had held none previously.

Was this the reason that Jesus said He must stay at his house today? Partly, for sure. But Jesus closes the scene with the statement “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” The publicans had been excluded because of their sin. Jesus made clear time and again that He had not come for the righteous. He had come for sinners, and yes, for Gentiles. He was the fulfillment of God’s words to Abraham “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Schedule for this week
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from Luke here
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from 2 Chronicles here

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  

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O T Facts (First Book of Law) – Genesis

In this installment of our Old Testament Facts series, we will focus today on the first book of the Pentateuch – Genesis, the first “Book of Law.”   This is not intended to be an exhaustive list of events of this book.  Rather, it is presented as a summary of events that seem most relevant to worship of the Lord and the ultimate coming of Jesus the Christ.

Creation_003Genesis

The book of the beginning and of new beginnings

Genesis 1 – Creation of the universe

Genesis 2 – Adam and Eve created

Genesis 3 – “The fall” – sin enters the world; first promise of the Messiah (Gen 3:15)

Genesis 4 – Cain murders Abel

Genesis 6–9 – Noah and the flood

Mamre, near Hebron. Abraham's home at one time

Mamre, near Hebron. Abraham’s home at one time

Genesis 12 and 15 – God’s covenant with Abraham (promise of land, a “great nation” and the Messiah)

Genesis 21 – Birth of Isaac

Genesis 32:28, Gen 35 – God names Jacob “Israel” (meaning God fights)

Genesis 37 – Joseph sold into slavery

Genesis 41 – Joseph rises to power in Egypt under Pharoah

Genesis 46 – Joseph brings his family to Egypt, is reunited with Jacob

Tabernacle - arrangement of tribes

Tabernacle – arrangement of tribes

Genesis 48 – Jacob (Israel) blesses Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Manasseh, claims them as “his” (Gen 48:5-6), again favoring the younger (Ephraim) over the first-born (Genesis 48:14-20).

Genesis 49 – Jacob blesses his sons, but declares that Simeon and Levi (their descendants) will be scattered among the other tribes (Gen 49:5-7).  So the Twelve Tribes of Israel are named – to include Ephraim and Manasseh (Genesis 49:3-28).  Jacob’s death and burial (Genesis 49:29-50:14).

Genesis 50:22-26 – Death of Joseph – end of Genesis

/Bob’s boy

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image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Proverbs 2 – The Value of Wisdom

English: Judgement of Solomon

English: Judgement of Solomon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is generally thought by many that Solomon in these verses that contain the words “my son” is addressing his direct offspring in particular.  While that may certainly be the case, it is good to remember that these are the Spirit-inspired words of God; and they are meant for sons (and daughters) descended from this Davidic line (and that of Abraham) which includes all Christians, as confirmed in Galatians 3:29.

The seeking of wisdom that is being referred to in the verses here is done by getting to know God by studying His word.  If we diligently and earnestly seek that knowledge like the treasure that it is (verse 4), we will gain the understanding that we need.  But it takes more than that – we must apply it to our lives – holding fast and cherishing our integrity like a treasure as well (verse 7), for it is that sort of life, coupled with the thirst for knowledge of Him, that will bring wisdom into our hearts and make that knowledge pleasant to our souls (verse 10).  If we live in an upright manner, with integrity (verse 21) , we will have a home – in heaven – forever.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Hebrews 7 – Jesus Compared to Melchizedek

The Hebrew writer has already, in previous chapters, made much mention of Jesus being our High Priest, after the order of Melchizedek.  But who was this Melchizedek?  We know only as much, as always, as God ordained important for us to know.  The Old Testament only speaks of him in two places – Genesis 14:17-20, and again in the Messianic royal Psalm 110 (110:4), which is quoted here in this chapter again.  After Abraham came back from rescuing his abducted kinsman, Lot, and after what is called here “the slaughter of the kings” (see Genesis 14:1-16), he was visited by Melchizedek, “king of Salem” and “priest of God Most High,” who blessed him.  Some believe that the Salem mentioned here is the same historical location as Jerusalem, but we do not know for sure, as another possibility exists.  The name is related to the Hebrew word for “peace,” and Melchizedek translates to “king of righteousness.”

Having conquered Sodom, Kedorlaomer left for his home country, taking many captives with him. Abram learned what had happened and chased Kedorlaomer past Dan and beyond Damascus. There he defeated the king and rescued the captives, among them Lot. After Abram (Abraham) rescued Lot from Kedorlaomer, he met Melchizedek, a king and a priest of God. Abram gave ten percent of (tithed) all he had recovered.

Having conquered Sodom, Kedorlaomer left for his home country, taking many captives with him. Abram learned what had happened and chased Kedorlaomer past Dan and beyond Damascus. There he defeated the king and rescued the captives, among them Lot. After Abram (Abraham) rescued Lot from Kedorlaomer, he met Melchizedek, a king and a priest of God. Abram gave ten percent of (tithed) all he had recovered.

What is of note here, is that the Hebrew writer points out that Melchizedek was superior to Abraham, and blessed him.  From Abraham’s loins, Levi would come; and it was only the Levitical line that could be priests among the Israelites.  But Abraham paid tithes to this “priest of God Most High,” and so he was greater than even those priests – though he was both not a Levite, nor even a Jew.  Yet he held two distinct positions – that of king and priest, and is exalted as “great” here, and the writer declares that “it is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior” (verse 7).  It is after this order that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, became our High Priest, though He was not from the tribe of Levi either.

What about verse 3?  It says of Melchizedek: “He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever.”  Melchizedek is a real historical figure of the Old Testament, and the best way to think of this is that he has no recorded genealogy in Scripture which is intended to validate his priesthood.  In addition, unlike the Levitical priests, has no recorded death which transfers his priesthood to another, so he continues as one forever, just as Jesus continues forever as our High Priest and King.  The former priests were “prevented by death from continuing in office” (verse 23).  So the Law requiring the priest to be a Levite (Numbers 18) has been set aside by Jesus, “the guarantor of a better covenant” (verse 22).

Our High Priest has no need to offer sacrifices like the Aaronic priests, because “he did this once for all when he offered up himself” (verse 27).  He is unstained by sin, this perfect Son of God, who was made priest with an oath of the Lord (verses 17, 21, 28, Psalm 110:4).

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Exodus 33 – The Command to Leave Sinai

Climbing the trail near the summit of Mount Sinai.

Image via Wikipedia

The Lord tells Moses to take the people and leave Mount Sinai for Canaan; and again tells him that He will send an angel, but He will not go with them.  The people feel the loss in this proclamation (verse 4), and Moses intercedes.  Moses has matured, and has found favor with God, and their relationship reminds us of that of the Lord with Abraham – as verse 11 even uses the comparison of their conversations to that which occurs between friends.  God’s favor with Abraham as friend is recounted in Isaiah 41:8, where He reassures His people; as well as in James 2:23.

Moses also brings Abraham’s bargaining intercession to mind (from Genesis 18:22-33), as he pleads for the people in verses 12-16.  the Lord agrees in verse 17 because Moses has “found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.”  Despite His very real and righteous anger, the Lord seems to be training Moses as the leader that He wants him to be.  His request in verse 18 should be understood as desire for an outward sign of his favor with the Lord as His chosen leader of the people.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Robert
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Genesis 25 – Abraham’s Death and the Birth of Esau and Jacob

Genesis 25 brings us to Abraham’s death, after a long life. He had taken another wife, had many other sons, and gave them gifts. But verse 5 makes it clear that Isaac was his main heir, as God intended.  Abraham died at an old age and was buried with Sarah.  Notice verse 9 says that Isaac and Ishmael buried him in that cave.  Nothing is said in scripture about Abraham having a relationship with Ishmael after Hagar and he left, but there obviously was contact of some type between Ishmael and his family.  Verse 18 finishes with Ishmael’s death after having 12 sons who were princes as the Lord had promised.

Rebekah becomes pregnant with twins and verse 22 says they “struggled” within her.  Note God’s explanation to her in verse 23.  Do you think that had anything to do with Jacob becoming her favorite?  Notice that in verse 26, Isaac was 60 years old when Jacob and Esau were born.  Doing the math, that means they were born 15 years before Abraham died (v 7- Abraham died age 175. and in Gen 21:5 – Abraham was 100 when Isaac was born).  So Abraham must have known these two grand-children.

The first-born (even by no more than a heel – v 26) had a privilege of birthright – a double portion of inheritance – which Esau sells to Jacob for a plate of stew!  Esau did not respect his birthright, and Jacob used that knowledge to get what he wanted.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

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Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.
/Robert

Genesis 24 – Isaac and Rebekah

Moving on to Genesis 24, Sarah has died and Abraham is very old.  He makes his oldest servant swear an oath not to let his son take a wife from the land of Canaan, where they still live (the Canaanites are already known to be wicked).  He tells him instead to go back to “his country” and bring a wife back for Isaac. Abraham has not been back to “his country” (in northern Mesopotamia) in nearly 100 years, but that is where his relatives are still, and where he wants Isaac’s wife to come from.  The servant is instructed not to take Isaac back there, though.  God had promised the land where he is now to Abraham’s offspring, and that is where he wants him to stay.

Before the servant left, Abraham had told him that an angel of the Lord will be with him as he chooses the wife.  Take note of the prayer and the faith of Abraham’s servant in vv 11-14, and in vv 26-27.  Abraham obviously had a profound influence on him. We may not know how the way that we live in the presence of others impacts them, but we can be sure they usually take note.  We should strive to act as though the salvation of others depends on how we conduct our lives.

Rebekah (the same one from the genealogies we read in chapter 22) is the woman who will return to Canaan to become Isaac’s wife.  Her brother, Laban, appears to be in charge or perhaps just assisting an ill? father, Bethuel (vv 30-33, and 53).  He will still  play a part in the story of these people later.  Read verse 67 again, and think about the attitude today of most people toward love and marriage. What can we learn from this?

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

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Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.
/Robert

Genesis 22 – The Sacrifice of Isaac

The Testing of Abraham

Contrary to some previous chapters, Genesis 22 shows us that Abraham has really come to trust the Lord.  This is a hard chapter for many to understand. It should be pointed out, especially to children, that God never would have allowed Isaac to be harmed because it is against His very nature (one might even wonder if that certainty was actually part of Abraham’s faith). God finds the sacrifice of humans, especially children (a practice common to worshiping the idol Moloch), to be an abomination; and he makes that clear in other scripture.  Lev 18:21 and 2 kings 23:10 are two of many verses we can refer to.

It is hard to miss the irony of Abraham being willing to sacrifice his only son for God. The second half of God’s promise to him afterward is of an offspring of Abraham in whom all nations will be blessed.  That is Jesus, His only son, who He sacrificed for us. That offspring is referred to in Galatians 3:16-28, when Paul is explaining how we are all heirs to this promise. Reading that passage right after this chapter is enlightening. The genealogies of the last couple of verses may seem irrelevant until we read chapter 24.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

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Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.
/Robert

Genesis 21 – The Birth of Isaac

Genesis 21

In Genesis 21, God has fulfilled His promise to Abraham. Sarah has borne him a son, and Abraham has named him Isaac, as God told him in chapter 17. Isaac means “he laughs” (remember Sarah and Abraham laughing at the idea of people so old having a child in 17:17 and 18:12?). Whatever you sow, that also you reap, and Abraham’s earlier mistake with Hagar brings unhappiness. Sarah has weaned Isaac, and finds Ishmael laughing (the Hebrew suggests laughing as in mockery). She wants Hagar and the boy to leave, which displeases Abraham. But God tells him to do as she says, and he sends Hagar and Ishmael on their way with some food and water into the wilderness.

Beginning in verse 15, understanding has been a little difficult for me, but here is how I have sorted it out. In chapter 18, Abraham was 99 years old when Ishmael was circumcised at the age of thirteen. Isaac was born when he was 100 years old (21:5) So Ishmael was 14 then. The weaning of Isaac in verse 8 could have taken place at the age of two or even three years. So Ishmael would be 16 or possibly even 17 years old when they left.

After they leave, verse 15 says that when the water was gone, she put the boy under a bush. From the text that follows, she clearly expected him or both of them to die. The text does not say so, but it seems likely that Ishmael was either sick or weak from lack of water and food or both. God heard the voice of the boy – v 17- and her crying (Ishmael means “God hears”) and told her not to be afraid because He was going to make Ishmael a great nation – a promise He kept, of course. His Arab descendants are plentiful. When God opened her eyes there was a well of water.  The boy became an expert with the bow and took a wife from Egypt.

Abraham made a treaty with Abimilech after a disagreement over a well, that they would deal fairly with each other. God was still taking care of him. Abimilech and his army returned to the land they came from.  The place of the treaty was named Beersheba in verse 31.

(Side note: Here is an  interesting article about Beersheba.)

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

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Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.
/Robert