Abraham

The Bible Keeps Its Promises—Two Boys In the Temple

Two Boys In the Temple

I Samuel 3:1-21

Not only did Hannah’s life foreshadow Mary’s, Hannah’s son Samuel foreshadowed the life of Mary’s son Jesus. About a thousand years before Christ was born, Samuel was a young boy performing menial tasks for Israel’s High Priest Eli. The thing is, neither Samuel nor any of his superiors thought him special — until God spoke to him, that is. Then he was seen as both humble and wise beyond his years. The same was true of Jesus when he first visited the temple in Jerusalem during his twelfth year. “After three days [Jesus’ parents] found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers” (Luke 2:46-47). Christmas is often thought to be mostly for children, and Samuel and Jesus make it clear we are never too young to take seriously a life of faith and discipleship, as this older children’s hymn makes clear.

“I will early seek the Saviour, I will learn of Him each day
I will follow in His footsteps, I will walk the narrow way.
I will hasten where He bids me, I am not too young to go
In the pathway where He leadeth, Not too young His will to know.”

Parting thought: The parallels between Samuel and Jesus remind us the Bible is very much like a classical symphony. Themes are introduced; variations on those themes come and go, but finally all the themes come together in a thundering finish. The theme of the young boy in the temple, introduced in the life of Samuel and repeated in the life of Christ, is just one more proof that when God introduces a theme (promise), He will not stop until it is played in full.



The Bible Keeps Its Promises—In God All Women Are Highly Favoured

In God All Women Are Highly Favoured

…and she said to him, “Pardon me, my lord. As surely as you live, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the Lord.

~ 1 Sam 1:26

I Samuel 1:21-28

In today’s reading let’s revisit Hannah, mother of the prophet Samuel. She was not in Christ’s bloodline, but rather a woman whose life prefigured Mary in many ways. Like Mary, Hannah’s motherhood was also miraculous (see I Sam. 1:20). Also, like Mary, Hannah composed a great hymn of praise, a Magnificat, that testified to her personal faith (compare I Sam. 2:1-10 with Luke 1:46-55). And finally, like Mary’s son Jesus, Hannah’s son Samuel was dedicated to God long before he was born (I Sam. 1:11, 24-28). There’s even the possibility that Mary and Hannah shared a name. Remember, when the angel Gabriel visited Mary he said, “Greetings, you who are highly favoured!” Some scholars have noted that this is very possibly a new name, or title given to Mary, summed up in the single Greek word charis. But here’s where it gets interesting. Behind the Greek word charis is the Aramaic name “Anna,” and behind Anna is the Hebrew Hannah. It is very possible that Gabriel, acting on God’s authority, renamed Mary to give her the same name as Hannah. Parting thought: Who knew God’s promise to Eve in Genesis 3:15 would involve so many women? The Bible is unique among the world’s ancient books in presenting men and women working side by side as complementary servants of God.


The Bible Keeps Its Promises—Many Miraculous Births

Many Miraculous Births

Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?

~ Gen 17:17

I Samuel 1:9-20

We know that Mary was a virgin when Jesus was born, meaning the Messiah’s birth was totally miraculous. But let’s use this passage to remind ourselves of the many miraculous and unusual births amongst Christ’s ancestors. We’ve already learned that Abraham and Sarah were too old to have children (Gen. 17:17), yet Isaac was born anyway. Isaac’s wife Rebekah was also barren until Isaac prayed for her (Gen. 25:21). Then there was Rahab, who lived in Jericho and miraculously escaped being killed when her city was destroyed (Josh. 6:23). She became one of David’s great grandmothers, and thus part of the bloodline of Christ (compare Ruth 4:21 with Matt. 1:5). And we must not forget Ruth, a widow from the despised tribe of Moab who also went on to become a grandmother to David and an ancestor to Christ (compare Ruth 4:22 with Matt. 1:5). Today’s reading is a little different, in that Hannah was not one of Jesus’ ancestors. Nevertheless, the fact that she was barren until God blessed her with a son is highly significant. The son she received became Israel’s first prophet (I Sam. 4:1). That should remind us of another woman, Mary’s cousin Elizabeth (Luke 1:7), who remained barren into old age before giving birth to John, Israel’s last prophet, the forerunner and announcer of the Messiah (compare Isaiah 40:3 with John 1:23). Parting Thought: If miraculous births point to God’s life-giving power, then how much more does the birth of Christ testify to the amazing promise of salvation first made to humans back in the Garden of Eden.

The Bible Keeps Its Promises—The Messiah Is a Lion

The Messiah Is a Lion

Judah is a lion's whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up? ~ Gen 49:9

Genesis 49:8-12

Abraham begat Isaac. Then Isaac begat two sons, Esau and Jacob. Ordinarily the older son would receive a larger inheritance, and for Abraham and his descendants no greater inheritance could be given than the privilege of being one of Jesus’ ancestors, a blessing that usually went to the first born. But God told Isaac that the Messianic bloodline would flow through Jacob, the younger of the two. Then Jacob had 12 sons, who fathered the 12 tribes of Israel. At the end of his life, Jacob gathered his sons to his bedside to give a blessing and pronounce a prophecy over each. In that moment Jacob revealed that his fourth son Judah would be next in the bloodline of the Messiah. In Jacob’s blessing of Judah, we learn that the baby born in Bethlehem was not only destined to be the lamb Who would die for the sins of the world. He would also be a lion, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, who would rule over the nations with great strength and swift justice. As it says in Genesis 49:9, “Who dares to rouse him?” The Lamb of God died on the cross, but it was the Lion of Judah Who commanded His disciples to conquer the world by making disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). Parting Thought: Sometimes when a promise is made, we think we understand it, only to later realize that much more was intended. Who knew when God promised the woman’s seed would crush Satan’s head that He was talking about His only Son? (Rom. 1:5)





The Bible Keeps Its Promises—The Messiah Is Our Lamb

The Messiah Is Our Lamb

Genesis 22:1-18

Even in ancient times people knew that worship of God involved the death of an innocent animal. Even as the first family was being formed God explained the close connection between sin and the necessity of shedding blood for atonement (Gen. 4:1-5). But what had not been made clear was the connection between the worshipper and the animal being offered. When Abraham obeyed God and placed his son Isaac on an altar, he did not lack faith. In fact, according to Hebrews 11:19, Abraham was so confident in God’s promises toward Isaac that he was certain his son would be raised from the dead if necessary. But God never intended for Isaac to die. At the last moment a ram was given to take his place on the altar. In the same way, Christ came on that first Christmas to be “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Parting thought: When it takes a long time to fulfil a promise, it is sometimes helpful to let the promisee know you haven’t forgotten. This is partly what God was doing in this little vignette with Abraham.





The Bible Keeps Its Promises—The Miracle of Christmas

The Miracle of Christmas

Abraham named the son who was born to him—the one Sarah bore to him—Isaac.

~ Genesis 21:3

In yesterday’s reading God had promised Sarah that she would give birth to a son “about this time next year” (Gen. 18:10), which sounded so crazy Sarah laughed at the very idea. But God never fails to keep His promises, partly because faithfulness is an essential part of His character, and partly because His sovereignty means He is always able to keep His promises. Just as promised, Sarah conceived and gave birth to a son while well into her nineties. The text tells us that Abraham named his son Isaac (Hebrew for laughter), probably because the little boy laughed early and promised to be a happy child. But Sarah was laughing too. God had made this barren woman happy beyond words. Christmas is the most joyful celebration in the world because this is when we celebrate the moment that proved beyond all doubt, we serve a good God loves us and keeps all His promises Parting Thought: If we really believe that God is good, and that He keeps His promises, why do we doubt God from time to time?