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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

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crrandolph

El Shaddai

Genesis 17:1-8 NRSV

The notes in my Bible say “El Shaddai” translated means “Almighty God” (v. 1); possibly “All Sufficient” might better express it’s characteristic meaning when used in Scripture.

In this case, the sufficiency of God is what is needful in order for 99 year old Abram to become “fruitful” once again (vv. 2-3). In doing so, as a remembrance of this event, Abram’s name is changed to Abraham (v. 4).

Afterwards, the so called Abrahamic Covenant is reconfirmed (vv. 6-8, cp. Gen. 12:1-3, 13:14-18, 15:1-6) with God’s everlasting promises of fruitfulness for coming generations, importance or relevance, and the land of Canaan. The significance is this “everlasting covenant,” a covenant not just for Abraham but also to all succeeding generations, his kinfolk afterwards.

Other examples of unending covenants are previously with Noah (Gen. 9:1-19), the later Sabbath (Ex. 31:12-18, Lev. 24:5-9) and beyond (Ps. 105). through it all El Shaddai has remembered and been faithful towards Israel and His.

The Land

Genesis 13:10-18 NRSV

Previously, Lot has said “good-bye” (Gen. 13:8-9) to Uncle Abram (cp. Gen. 11:27-30) to avoid the real possibility of future confrontations. They consummate a land deal on the hill of Bethel (Gen. 13:1-3). The land before them, the plains of the Jordan River is fertile (v. 10). Lot chooses the area to the east (v. 11). Per their agreement (Gen. 13:9), Abram takes the area to the west.

We have Abram and his clan west of the Jordan River, in the land of Canaan (v. 12). We have Lot, et. al. in the land east of the Jordan River in the more populated area near Sodom (v. 13).

After the God endorsed land split and separation, Abram is promised prosperity for his and his descendents (vv. 14-17) in his land. Land is understood to be the only source of wealth in those days due to what is on it. It’s not much different today. Human prosperity is chiefly due to what is either on or under land. Moderns have added the resources in, on, and under water as another wealth source. The main issues and disputes in human history have always been over land.

Abram takes residence in Alon Mamre, Hebron amongst trees and builds an altar to the LORD there (v. 18). The above pictured ruins of a Byzantine Church still mark the spot.

The Noahic Covenant

Genesis 9:1-29 NRSV

With the catastrophic flood (Gen. 7-8) now over, an apparent worldwide event that submerged every living thing on the face of the planet – except those in the Ark, normals need to be re-established. Essentially plant, animal, and human life are in need of a “re-boot.”

First is the re-establishment of a large part of what creation must do; eat and procreate (v. 1, cp. Gen. 1:28-31). Added to the diet of humankind are animals, fowl, fish, and sea creatures (vv. 2-3), except for their life’s blood (vv. 4-5). This is an obvious foreshadowing of the future Mosaic dietary rules (cp. Lev. 17:10-14, Deut. 12:16-25). In a similar vein, is the prohibition of one human shedding the blood of another, murder that is (vv. 6-7).

God then announces the establishment of a new covenant between Himself and every living thing on earth. No more floods (vv. 8-11). This promise is visibly symbolized by the chromatic dispersion of airborne white light, the rainbow (vv. 12-17).

It wasn’t that this bit of physics, math modeled by James Clerk Maxwell, was impossible before the symbolism. It was. Most likely, rainbows could have been seen as the flood storms cleared by way of sunlight passing through falling rain drops. What is new is the Divine employment of the rainbow as a symbol of His covenant with Noah and his sons (v. 8).

Afterward, the reliable ark is vacated by Noah’s sons, Shem, Japheth, and Ham leading to the repopulation of the earth (vv. 18-19). Ham is assigned Canaan.

Noah becomes a grape farmer, thus fulfilling the proper role of a human as one who works the ground (v. 20, cp. Gen. 3:17-19, 8:20-22). He drinks too much wine and subsequently loses track of his clothes (vv. 21-23).

Biblically speaking, generally, wine is viewed as a blessing, something good (Ps. 104:15, S of S 1:4, 7:9, cp. 1 Tim. 5:22-23). It is also true that too much booze is associated with sexual misbehavior, specifically those of Canaan (Lev. 18). This seems to be a case of too much of a good thing.

After Noah sobered up a bit, he pronounces a judgment on his son Ham and his assigned area Canaan, telling he and his sons will be in permanent servitude (vv. 24-25).

For Shem and his sons is the promise of a relationship with the LORD, that they will be served by Canaan and provide shelter for the sons of Japheth (vv. 26-27). It is this group of people that eventually becomes Israel.

Those of Japheth and his sons are all the peoples north of Canaan, the rest of us (v. 27). Broadly speaking these will provide the advancements in science, the arts, and in government that we have enjoyed since that time.

Noah lives on after the flood for another 350 years, dying at the ripe old age of 950 (vv. 28-29). Being an engineer, I’m suspicious of the precision of round numbers. Real life is not made up of round, even numbers. I would amend Noah’s age data with “more or less.”

The Fall and Promise

Genesis 3:14-24 NRSV

We have the temptation of Eve by the serpent (vv.1-5) with the fruit of the “tree of life” and their subsequent eating of it (v. 6). They wanted to be like God. This resulted in the awakening of their conscience (v. 7) by way of their nakedness. They now understand the difference between right and wrong making them morally responsible for their actions or inactions.

Our LORD then pays them a visit (vv. 8-11), still wanting to keep in touch with His created, despite their disobedience, their sin. Adam and Eve are hiding and afraid. This is the first recorded instance of the “fear of the LORD.” It is possibly human kinds, lost and saved, most common response to encounters with God. What follows (vv. 12-13) is a “blame game.” Adam blames Eve. Eve blames the snake.

To this, the LORD announces punishment in reverse order. The snake is life sentenced to slithering on its belly and eating dust (v. 14). Going further (v. 15), “enmity,” understood as opposition, is placed between the seeds of Eve and those of the snake.

Since Eve was the first woman and this serpent the first snake, “their seeds” or offspring must refer to all of us humans and snakes – past, present, and future. Eden’s snake is a representation and manifestation of human kinds opposition – Satan.

My Bible notates the meaning of the capitol “S” of Eve’s “Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel,” saying this is the first promise of a future Redeemer. This Redeemer is necessary to solve the “enmity,” committed sins by Eve’s multiplying seeds between themselves and/or against God.

Eve, representing all women, is sentenced (v. 16) to sorrow in pregnancy, pain in birthing children, and being ruled or led by her husband. This servitude is due, apparently, to Eve’s taking the bait from the serpent of the forbidden fruit first, necessitating the headship of a man (cp. 1 Cor. 11:7-9, Eph. 5:22-27, 1 Tim. 2:11-14).

Adam, representing all men, is sentenced to a brief life of sorrow and toil (vv. 17-19) for knowingly eating the forbidden fruit given him by Eve. This wrestling with the earth (vv. 18-19) amounts to work that is purposely cursed for man’s sake (v. 17). The best for men is for them to live with this degree of toil or suffering due to work that must be done. Trying to escape work is not best for men.

This whole (vv. 14-19) is commonly referred to as the “Adamic Covenant,” the conditions of life for a fallen humankind and the promise of a Redeemer from this fallen condition.

Eve and Adam are then divinely clothed to cover their nakedness (vv. 20-21) and sent out of Eden (vv. 22-24) due to their knowledge of good and evil. If they had been allowed to stay, they would have lived forever by continually eating the fruit from the “tree of life” (v. 22). The garden is now off limits.

This is the first time I have this closely looked at Genesis 3. Overall, I agree with Mark Twain believing it to be “staged.” It is an event that literally happened and we still feel its literal consequences. It also has innumerable lessons that can be figuratively gleaned from it.

Troubling questions obviously exist – Who created Eden? Who allowed the serpent? Who created and place Even and Adam in Eden? Who’s Omniscient foreknowledge knew the outcome in advance?

The outcome of their fall to sin, the promise and fulfillment of a Redeemer for sin, and their expulsion from idyllic Eden to the purposeful toil of living on earth was inevitable. There was/is no mystery surrounding this outcome.

Given this reality, for those of us, here and now, how should we the followers of Jesus live?

First, we need to acknowledge our life as a gift from God. No one ever living of earth is responsible for their being here. Next, we need to more full understand and appreciate the terms of the situation we find ourselves in. Life is not easy. It isn’t supposed to be easy. Some of life’s difficulties are so for our own good.

Work is a necessary burden. Necessary because it has to be done to live, also because it productively occupies human kinds time. Time that otherwise might be spent performing all manners of evil and bad activities. Current events confirm – “idleness is the devil’s workshop,” etc. In whatever situation we find ourselves in, make the best of it (cp. Phil 4:4-13).

Whatever your interpretation of Genesis 3, one thing is certain, it is central to one’s understanding of human life on earth, what is really going on here. Unfortunately, many have no clue of the centrality of its truths.

Questions? Comments?

The Storm

Acts 27 NRSV

Previously, Paul appeals his fate to Caesar (Acts 25: 10-12 ) and is sent to Rome, guarded, by way of the Mediterranean in a sailboat (vv. 1-8). Because of rough seas and approaching winter, Paul prognosticates a shipwreck (vv. 9-10). Undeterred, the captain/owner, crew, Roman soldiers, captives, and passengers set sail for Crete on a soft, southerly breeze. (vv. 11-13).

As predicted, a storm does hit them (vv. 14-20). Paul relays – “I told you so” (v. 21) before speaking of their ships floundering their lives to safety on an island (vv. 22-26). He recounts this all from a vision. During their “rough ride,” Paul stops the sailors from abandoning the ship (vv. 27-32), makes all take food (vv. 33-34), and gives communion to all 76 (vv. 35-38), thanking God in the midst of their storm.

The following morning, they are aground, but still living, on the island of Malta. The soldiers want to kill the prisoners to prevent their escape. The head centurian forbids it to keep Paul alive (vv. 39-44).

I very much appreciate the storm history recorded here at the end of our trip through Acts. It strikes of “real to life.” Storms are part of this life, both symbolic and actual ones.

The following points can be made regarding this account…

  1. Paul’s leadership led to their safety on Malta. Leadership, or good instruction/advise is of little use if it isn’t listened to and followed.
  2. Paul evidently made it to Rome to enter his plea before Caesar. Either that or he was told a fib by an angel (vv. 23-24).
  3. The story parallels the saving of many – a journey begins, a storm hits, costs/casualties are incurred, ultimately salvation/new life wins out.
  4. Finally, the story parallels the voyage of the Church. Those aboard endure storms in their lives, those aboard will keep their heads above water, and are provided food by way of the Eucharist.

The Trial’s of St. Paul Continue

Acts 22:1-29 NRSV

Continuing from the previous, Paul speaks to the crowd gathered at the Temple in what amounts to a testimonial – a summary of how he has arrived to where he is.

He emphasizes his Jewish roots so as to identify his commonality with the gathered along with his education credentials and a “zeal” for God (v. 3). Paul tells of his persecution of this new fangled “Way” and his subsequent conversion on a walk to Damascus (vv. 4-11, cf. Acts 9:10-19).

This Ananias (vv. 12-14), apparently a man of solid Jewish reputation, assigns Paul his mission to “all people” (vv. 15-16). In the Temple, he receives a confirmation of his mission – to “the Gentiles far off” (vv. 17-21). As I’ve stated in a previous blog, his stated mission was not warmly embraced by the Pharisee/Sadducee/Sanhedrin clergy hierarchy. In fact, they hated the idea of opening God to all the peoples of the earth.

After Paul had his say, the hearers with considerable outcry demand he be put to death (vv. 22-23). Paul is taken to the Roman garrison in Jerusalem for further interrogations and beatings. To these, he questions the legality of such actions to a citizen of Rome (vv. 24-25). The centurion alerts the tribune who expresses astonishment that this lowly Jew from Tarsus has Roman citizenship (vv. 26-28). The note in my Bible says Paul’s citizenship was through birth, his father was a citizen of Rome.

The effect on the soldiers was fear of repercussions from subjecting Paul to such harsh treatment without the due process of law guaranteed a citizen of Rome (v. 29, cf. Acts 16:38). They saw little wrong with their treatment of Paul, repercussions or harm to themselves, this was their cause for concern.

Sometimes, life is not easy.

The Trials of St. Paul

Acts 21:27-40 NRSV

Paul is held by temple authorities for the crimes of stirring people up with strange ideas and bringing Gentiles into the temple (vv. 27-30).

Upon hearing this news, a Roman tribune commander has Paul bound in chains and walks him to his garrisons’ barracks (vv. 31-36). Along the way, Paul tells in Greek (the language of the educated in the Roman Empire) of his Tarsus citizenship (vv. 37-39). Paul is then, because of his Roman citizenship, given permission to speak to a gathered crowd at the temple, in Hebrew (v. 40).

This is a case of how life can be a succession of twists and turns with few straightaways.

Paul most likely felt he was safe in and around the temple. After all, he was a Jew. He was in great danger around the temple because of the Jewish temple officials.

He must have felt in danger when captured by the Romans. After all, he was a Jew. It turns out he was in safe hands with the tribune because of he was a citizen of Rome.

Paul Visits Athens

Acts 17:16-21 NRSV

Athens was the headquarters of Greek philosophy – chiefly the Epicureans (eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die), and the Stoics (self-sufficient, self-reliant, and self-sacrificing). Paul is brought out to speak at the Areopagus because of what he was saying to Jews and Gentiles in Greece.

The Areopagus was a forum from where ideas, new and old, were voiced for public consumption. This settings purpose was as much entertainment as it was information (vv. 19-21). Much like Facebook, Twitter, etc. are in our day.

Are Gentiles Under The Law?

Acts 15:6-12 NRSV

Folk, Apostles and elders, came together to settle the above dispute with Peter as the arbitrator. This is the first recorded instance of a church hierarchy meeting.

Peter recalls through him, by God’s apparent endorsement, Gentiles heard and believed His Gospel message (v. 7, cp. Acts 10:36-43) by way of the Holy Spirit given “to all of us” (v. 8, cp. Acts 10:44-45). It makes no difference. We, like them, are saved by way of our faith in what we have heard (vv. 9-11).

The meeting ends with Paul and Barnabas telling the assembled the great things that God had accomplished through them among the Gentiles (v. 12).

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