Monday, September 28, 2015


Fancy Food

As a Scot living in Australia I have been known to joke that there are two types of cooking in Scotland: Fried and deep fried! - from deep fried pizza to deep fried Mars Bars! I grew up in a home where the food was anything but fancy. Mince and ‘tatties’ was my favourite. Sunday roast was the closest we got to fancy food. Though of humble origin haggis would be classed as fancy! Though I had progressed to a few Indian curries beforehand it wasn’t until I left for Canada at age of twenty that I began to sample fancy food.

What makes a food fancy? Surely preparation has a lot to do with it. Mutton dressed up as lamb would describe an attempt to make the plain look fancy. I must admit that a lot of what they do in fancy restaurants is wasted on me. A big plate with a few zig-zag lines of sauce with a tiny steak with a couple of colourful veggies balancing on it may be pleasing aesthetically but I’d rather forgo art for volume!

Daniel and his three mates opted for veggies over king Nebuchadnezzar’s wine and royal delicacies. On a surface reading it would appear that Adam and Eve ate only fruit and veggies. When Noah and his family exited the ark their diet certainly included wine, fish, fowl and animal flesh. The people of God were introduced to certain dietary laws from the time of Moses. These are listed mainly in Leviticus but were abrogated when Christ fulfilled what these and other of the ceremonial laws typified, i.e., Christ and what He was coming to do.

The people of God complained in the Wilderness years about the food God was supplying them. ‘Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic, but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing except this manna before our eyes.’ Numbers 11:4b-5. They preferred the cuisine of captivity over the food of freedom. They would rather sup with Satan than dine with the Deity.  As with the dietary laws regarding clean/unclean animals and seafood, they were undiscerning. They were missing what the Lord was teaching them. Babies receive milk before they receive solid food. ‘And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal’ 1 Corinthians 3:1-3a.

To be carnal is to be worldly which is the opposite of heavenly, but whether milk or solid food, whether plain or fancy, whether fried or deep-fried, whether grilled or done in an oven, Christians give thanks to God, for His is the hand that feeds us. Thus God is the source of our food. Before I became a Christian I used to wonder why Christians thanked God for their meal. I used to think that it was my hard work that brought home the bacon and put bread on the table. However, this is what is meant by being carnal. It is to fail to see God’s hand in it. Our creativity reflects the Creator. The fancier the food the easier it should be to see or even taste the God behind it. ‘Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good.’ (Psalm 34:8a) takes on a deeper meaning when the palate is stimulated by good food. It makes us thankful. Thankful to whom? The chef? Partly. However, it ought to make us thankful to God.

Friday, September 25, 2015

ABRAHAM: My Keeper's Brother

13 Then one who had escaped came and told Abram the Hebrew, for he dwelt by the terebinth trees of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and brother of Aner; and they were allies with Abram. 14 Now when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his three hundred and eighteen trained servants who were born in his own house, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. 15 He divided his forces against them by night, and he and his servants attacked them and pursued them as far as Hobah, which is north of Damascus. 16 So he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his brother Lot and his goods, as well as the women and the people.
Genesis 14:13-16.

There’re lots of famous lines from the Bible kicking around. One was uttered by a man called Cain after the Lord asked him, “Where is Abel your brother?” The famous reply of Cain was, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” I remember looking at a little picture cartoon probably in the Creation magazine. It was a picture of a monkey or a gorilla in a cage in a zoo. A little think bubble come up from the monkey’s head with the words, “Am I my keeper’s brother?” An obvious dig at those who follow the faith religion of evolutionism!

What we’re looking at in the following is a demonstration of Christian love. We see our father Abram take on, rather unexpectedly, the character of a warrior. We see him risk his life for one of Christ’s brethren – his Keeper’s brother! Abram, it would seem, would have gone to the ends of the earth if need be, to rescue a brother! He risked life and limb to rescue his nephew Lot who had been taken captive. Theme or Principle: Serve your Keeper by looking after the wellbeing of His brethren. And we’ll follow three points: The Battle, The Booty & The Brother.

The Battle
What we’re looking at here is the very first battle or war recorded in the Bible. This, of course, is not to say that no battles or wars had ever taken place before this. There was the great war, for instance, that had already begun in heaven, according to Revelation 12:7. That was when Michael and his angels began fighting against the great dragon, that serpent of old, the Devil and his evil angels.

We know that battle must have begun before this one because Satan was in the Garden of Eden using a snake to deceive Eve. Adam sided with Satan and made a covenant with death by declaring war on God. I mention this in passing, and hopefully we will pick up on this later. But first we need to try to understand more fully dynamics and the principles involved in our text. So, for now, what we’re looking at is the first Biblical record of any organized war.

Who were the people involved in this war or “battle” as we’re calling it? This battle took place some 4,000 years ago. So the listed names don’t mean a great deal to us today. But here’s an over-view of what was going on. We’ve all heard of Sodom and Gomorrah? Sodom and Gomorrah were those cesspools of sin upon which God poured out His fiery wrath! I know it’s not funny but Matthew Henry in his commentary conjured up a strange picture to my mind. He said that the Lord “Fired Sodom over Abraham’s head”! It’s amazing how much the English language has changed since the 1600s! Well, anyway, what we’re looking at happened before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.

For now, the King of Sodom and the kings of the adjoining cities, including Gomorrah, had formed some sort of alliance – a confederacy. They had combined forces to gang up on, and over-throw, the King of Elam. The King of Elam’s name was Chedorlaomer. I won’t mention any names, but someone called him as the ‘Big Cheese’ i.e., ‘Cheddar’ – Laomer! Chedorlaomer had ruled over all these little pip-squeak kings for twelve years or so. These kings were most probably like the Arab sheikhs of today – the chiefs or heads of tribes.  There were five of them with all their bands of merry men.

We won’t go into the meanings of the names of these tribes at this time. But just on a curious note, one of the commentators referred to the Horites in Genesis 14:6 as “troglodytes.” He called them “dwellers in caves” and he directs us to Job 30, verses 1-8 v. 6 in particular. Although Hebrew uses the same root word for “hole in the ground” and “mountain”, I think the Horites were “mountain people” more than cave-men! However, it’s possible for them to have lived in caves in the mountain of Seir in Genesis 14:6.

Anyhow, big King, Chedarlaomer, well, he’s having none of their revolting stuff! So he, with the help of three other kings, kind of like the “UN” moved in. However, it wasn’t under the guise or pretense of being “peacekeeper”. No, Chedarlaomer and his ground troops moved in to crush the rebelliousness of the revolting confederacy. In today’s terms I suppose it’s a bit like when NATO moved into Kosovo or when the West began attacking ISIS in Syria. But what you have here is a battle between four kings on one side and five kings on the other (Genesis 14:9). And according to Genesis 14:8 the battle took place in the Valley of Siddim.

Now, we’re not absolutely positive where the Valley of Siddim is – or rather was! It’s generally believed to be toward the southern end of the Salt Sea or Dead Sea as we call it. Apparently Sodom and Gomorrah were in that general vicinity, as is Zoar. But the Valley of Siddim is significant to us because we all know someone who fancied living close to that general area – Abram’s nephew Lot! He took one look at the lush greenery and thought, “Wow! Paradise! Hold me back!” So he galloped off to stake his claim! But there he is, trying to get on with giving a good Christian witness to the Sodomites and everyone else who lived in that wicked place when all hell breaks loose! And before you know it, Lot’s in a lot of trouble in Lot’s Paradise.

We’re told in Genesis 14:10 that there were fighting men falling among the asphalt pits. So there were slime-pits or tar pits around the place in the Valley of Siddim. No wonder Sodom and Gomorrah went up in smoke when God fired it over Abraham’s head! Apparently, after God had rained fire and brimstone on the southern end of the Jordan Valley, the great hole left in the ground filled with water and became the Salt Sea! Be that as it may, it was the place where Lot and his clan were living, which was the well-watered plains of the Jordan Valley – and there was a war going on. And as in any war there are casualties, even the innocent suffer at times.

I remember watching the beautiful countryside of Yugoslavia blown to smithereens on TV. We also got to watch the recent bombing of Bagdad and the rest Iraq, by America and the “coalition of the willing.” It breaks your heart to see the thousands of refugees fleeing these conflicts! Invariably we see footage of little children fleeing the war with the look of terror in their eyes! Sometimes those fleeing would be bombed – “Oops! collateral damage!” Europe is being flooded by people fleeing the brutality of ISIS as militant Islam attempts once again to set up its Caliphate. Meanwhile the West drops a few bombs in a feeble attempt to stop the rot.

One journalist asked how wise is it to use $1m weapons to destroy $20,000 targets? Back in the day they aimed a $1,000,000 missile at a TV station in Kosovo only to hit a house Bulgaria! Mind you, they seemed to be a bit more on target in Iraq conflict and the present drama taking place in Syria. Never-the-less, with the types of weapons they’re using now-a-days, a “near miss” is as good as a direct hit!

When will all these wars begin to end? Well, Scripture speaks of a day when: “He shall judge between nations, and shall rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation neither shall they learn war any more” Isaiah 2:4. Also, of a time: “When the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” Isaiah 11:9b.

So, each one of us as Christians should be about the business of declaring peace! Therefore we should be about the business of spreading the knowledge of God, which is to say that we should be seeking to have the Gospel of peace declared even to the ends of the earth! But what we’re looking at is not so much the end of war on earth, but the beginning. And we see there’s at least one innocent, i.e., righteous man involved – even Abram’s nephew Lot.

The Booty
It’s sometimes said, “To the victor belongs the spoil!” Speaking of booty, it says in Genesis11-12, Chedarlaomer and his allies “Then they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their provisions, and went their way. They also took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed.” So Chedarlaomer has once again asserted his authority over the rebellious kings. He has come and he has taught them a lesson and he has relieved them of their stuff. But we discover the Lot has also been relieved of his stuff also! And what did Lot ever do to deserve this kind of treatment? Regardless, Lot and his whole household and all their goods, are led away into captivity – like so many Sodomites.

Now, is this not a general theme repeated throughout Scripture? Let’s see now, the general principle is that God’s covenant people are taken captive. But usually the captivity is brought about by the people’s disobedience. It happens when they take their eyes off God and focus on every other thing! Therefore we wouldn’t be reading too much into the text by suggesting Lot fits this bill, would we?

Adam and Eve were captured by the enemy when they took their eyes off God & focused on a piece of fruit – forbidden fruit! The Devil was the victor over Adam and Eve, but as victor, what spoil belongs to Satan? Well, the Devil did battle in the wilderness with Jesus Whom Scripture calls the “last Adam.” What did the devil offer Jesus if only He would bow down and worship him? Matthew 4:8-9, “The devil took Him up on an exceedingly high  mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, ‘All these things I give to you if you will fall down and worship me.” “All these things – all this booty – all these kingdoms of the world!” So the whole world since Adam has been carted away as the booty of Satan.

We see this principle then, in the action of King Chedorlaomer. He has carted off all kinds of goods and provisions, including one of God’s people – Lot – and all of his goods and provisions! We see a lot of this kind of thing going on in Scripture – God’s people being taken captive. Even in the next chapter of Genesis in 15:13 the Lord says to Abram, “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will inflict them four hundred years.” But the general principle that we need to hang on to, and never forget, is in the very next verse, Genesis 15:14, “And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions.

To the victor belong the spoils! That’s the great message of Scripture, isn’t it? And what about that wonderful promise the LORD made to Abram and us, Abram’s descendants? Genesis 22:17b, “Your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies.” Or, to put the same thing another way, as Jesus did, “On this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” Matthew 16:18b.

What does it mean to “possess the gate” of your enemy? It means that you can go in and plunder the cities and nations of your enemies! Or, in light of the principle we see at work in our text, it means that we may go in among our enemies and release those held captive in their cities and nations. We see the same principle in Luke 4:18 where Jesus says, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor, He has sent Me to heal the broken hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.”

When the Lord fights the battle He is guaranteed the booty. He is the One who sets the captives free – even you and me from our sin! The whole earth and everything in it belongs to the LORD in the first place. He is the most High God, Possessor of heaven and earth (Genesis 14:19 & 22). But just as Adam was taken captive by going after a delight to the eyes so was Lot. And so are all who do not seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. We always have to remember the words of Ephesians 6:11-12, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

If Abram is the Christian of the Christians, in other words, if he is the father of the faithful, then don’t you think he would know about spiritual warfare? And contrary to popular belief “spiritual warfare” is not about you getting the devil into a headlock! It’s not about you wrestling in mortal combat with the devil and his demons. It’s not about putting the cranium crush on the head of a demon or tying him in a half-pretzel! But it is about you and me being obedient to God. It’s about you and me loving God and our neighbor as ourself. It’s about you and me keeping our eyes on God and the things of God. It’s about watching the LORD fight the battle and giving Him all the glory for the victory.

We should be able to see clearly then, a picture of our Lord, His Kingdom in Abram’s successful rescue of Lot. So let’s do just that as we look at our third and final point.

The Brother
Abram was a doer of the Word and not just a hearer. What did Abram do when he heard that his brother was taken captive as we see in Genesis 14:14? He, as it were, formed a posse, saddled up the horses (or camels maybe?) And he rode after the mighty Chedarlaomer and his merry men to head them off at the pass!

If Abram lived in the Age of Chivalry he would have been clad in a suit of armor. But regardless, he was kitted out with whatever they wore in those days. But as he stood up for Jesus against the evil in his generation, he no doubt: Put on the gospel armour, each piece put on with prayer!

Why did Abram put himself and his 318 men and the “coalition of the willing” at risk? Why? Because he loved his Keeper and he loved his Keeper’s brother. We see Abram fulfilling the Commandments of the Lord here. He was loving the Lord his God with all his heart, soul and mind. And he was loving his neighbor – even Lot as himself. As Jesus says in Matthew 7:12, “Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” In other words, this is the teaching of the Bible. It is the teaching of the LORD.

But, doesn’t it take a heart changed by the Gospel to love God and your neighbor as yourself? Well, here’s Abram living some 400 years before the giving of the Law to Moses. Here’s Abram living before all the Prophets, major and minor. Here’s Abram living some 2,000 years before Christ and His Gospel. And yet we see in our text Abram demonstrate what is clearly a New Testament love for his brother! So let it be known, the heart of a Christian is the same whether he lives in Old Testament times or in New Testament times.

The heart of a Christian is at peace with God and therefore is at war with evil wherever it raises its ugly head. But evil is manifold. Evil is a “brood of vipers” – snapping hissing snakes – a Gorgon hairdo. Evil is not always easily seen, for Medusa sometimes wears a black hat. But we lift the sword and cut off the hydra heads of evil by loving God and your neighbor as yourself.

Abram loved Lot as Christ loves His Church. He was ready to lay down his own life for the wellbeing of Lot. Listen to 1 John 3:17-18, “But whoever has this worlds goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him” My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”

Now look at Genesis 14:14, “Now when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his three hundred and eighteen trained servants who were born in his own house, and went in pursuit as far as Dan.” Abram would have gone to the very ends of the earth to save his brother in Christ! If you’re thinking I’m making Abram out to be New Testament believer then you’re catching on. The New Testament tells us in Romans 4:11 that Abram is “the father of all who believe.” Also in the New Testament in Galatians 3:8 we’re told that Abram heard the one and only Gospel of salvation! So Abram is a Gospel believer every bit as much as any New Testament believer! He’s the father of all the faithful – the father of all believers of Christ and His everlasting Gospel. Therefore it shouldn’t be too hard for us to see Jesus Christ in faithful Abram. And neither should it be too hard for us to see the familiar refrain of His Gospel in our text.

Notice then, in Genesis 14:14 that Lot is referred to as Abram’s “brother.” And also Genesis 14:16 speaks of “his brother Lot.” Both the King James’ version and the New King James Version use the word “brother.” The New International Version has “relative” while the Revised Standard Version has “kinsman.” The word can be translated either way, brother or relative or kinsman. Yet the same Hebrew word is used here as is used when Cain said, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” And we know that Cain and Abel were actual brothers of the same mother and father, i.e., Adam and Eve. But we’ve already been told in Genesis 14:12 that Lot is Abram’s “brother’s son,” his “nephew.” So what’s going on here? A slip of the pen? Is Lot Abram’s nephew or is he his brother? Well, I put it to you that the Holy Spirit through Moses whom He had write this, wants us to see that Abram and Lot are more than blood relatives. He wants us to see that Lot and Abram are born of the same parent, i.e., the Spirit of God! In other words they are “brothers” in Christ. In this the Spirit would like us to see how Abram our father in the faith, our example of Christian living, “LOVED” his spiritual brother Lot. How Abram for the sake of the LORD and His elect was willing to lay down his life for Lot. Just as the Apostle Paul who invites us to use him as a pattern says, “I endure all things [Why?] for sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” 2 Timothy 2:10.

But look at Lot. Remember he was far from being the exemplary Christian. In fact it was his flirting with the things of the world that got him in trouble in the first place! Therefore, be careful not to set a bad example. Rather set a good example for others to follow.

Look at Abram. He’s got Christ written all over him, hasn’t he? And here’s the great Gospel theme of the kinsman-redeemer right before our eyes. Peaceable and peace-loving Abram is taking on the mightiest of kings of the earth here. Genesis 14:16 says, “So he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his brother Lot and his goods, as well as the women and the people.” Abram, as it were, bound up the strong man, Chedorlaomer. He plundered his house. And to the victor belong the spoils! And isn’t this what the Son of God did for the brethren at Calvary?

Jesus saw His brother in need, including you and me. He saw that we had been taken captive by the prince of this world, even Satan. So God the Son left His glory and majesty with His Father in heaven. He came to seek and to save that which was lost. And He is even now pursuing the enemy even to the ends of the earth as he rescues his brethren.

It was the LORD who was at work. That’s how Abram was able to successfully rescue Lot. It was the LORD who sent Abram to rescue Lot. But did Lot learn to come out and be separate? Some time later, the LORD would have to send in His angels to rescue Lot from Sodom. And some time later again He would send in His own Son to rescue Lot – to rescue all the brethren! It was God who was at work in Christ rescuing us from the devil’s clammy clutches. “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins “ Colossians 1:12-13.

As we tie it all together, remember that you are your brother’s keeper! Remember that he is your Keeper’s brother! Therefore, serve your Keeper by looking after the well-being of His brethren. This we can do in various ways: Abram took 318 trained men and went to rescue Lot. Are you willing to stand up against the enemy by letting yourself be trained for war? The war we’re fighting at the moment is, of course, of a more spiritual nature.

Are you willing to go to the ends of the earth to save your brethren from the enemy? Missionaries trained in the true Gospel are badly needed overseas. But more than that, they are needed right here in Australia. Will you support training and equipping men at the Presbyterian Theological Colleges for instance? These are the places where men are trained in the things we Presbyterians hold dear. We know that we can’t all go there but we can certainly support it with prayer.

And what about the “booty” you’ve got stashed away? If more Christians supported their own local churches and our own theological colleges think of the impact we could have! Where are all the candidates for the ministry in the Presbyterian Church of Australia? But where are all the men in the Presbyterian Church who are willing to keep the faith? Where are all the young men who are willing to run the race? Where are the men who are willing to fight the good fight? Why are our colleges so empty of men training to be servants in the household of Abram?

The Lord used an ordinary man like Abram to beat the great kings of this earth. He used Abram to rescue Lot – his brother in Christ. Therefore the Lord can even use you, even me! Father Abram drew his strength for the task from God.

May the Lord strengthen each of us for the advancement of His kingdom and the praise of His glory.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

ABRAHAM: The Promise & The Pilgrim

“All the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever.” Genesis 15:3.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the saying, “The best things come to those who wait!” Well, that’s the way it is for Abram in our text, and that’s the way it is for each of us. The LORD promised him an inheritance some 4,000 years ago. Abram’s still waiting to receive it! The LORD promised him land and descendants. He lived long enough to see a few descendants. However, Abram died and was buried without receiving the inheritance of the land he was promised. So, either the LORD made a promise and failed to deliver, or the promise is still good.

In the following I hope to demonstrate that the LORD’s promise to Abram is still good! The general gist of what we’ll be looking at is: Faithful saints hold fast the good promise of the LORD.

The Promise
We see then that the LORD said to Abram, “All the land which you see I give to you and your DESCENDANTS forever.” Therefore the LORD has made a promise to Abram AND his descendants or seed. So let us focus for the moment on the promise as it relates to Abram’s descendants.

Now, this is the third time the LORD has come to Abram promising him land and descendants. The other two times are recorded in Genesis 12:1-3 where it says, “Now the LORD had said to Abram: ‘Get out of your country, from your kindred and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation, I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” And again in Genesis 12:7a, “Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your descendants I will give this land.’” This is the third time the LORD has promised Abram land and descendants, and it’s not the last. The LORD confirms this promise to Abram again in Genesis chapters 15, 17 and 18.

If the telephone company or somebody thinks you owe them money they keep on sending you reminders. One time we received a couple of reminders from somebody who got their wires crossed! So you notify them and you get it all straightened out – or so you think, until you get another reminder in the mail! But here’s the LORD for the third time, in the text before us, reminding Abram of His promise to him and to his descendants.

Abram doesn’t even have any descendants, and Lot, his next of kin, has separated from him. However, the promise is to Abram and his descendants, not to his next of kin. Therefore, land was promised to Abram’s descendants.

So we ask: What land was promised to which descendants? Well, Abram’s descendants were promised the land as far as Abram’s eye could see. We take it that he’s on some hill or mountain. And the LORD is telling him to pan all around. Genesis 15:14, “Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are – northward, southward, eastward, westward...”

Lot, as you know, lifted his eyes and he saw the well-watered plain of Jordan. He saw what looked like the lush land of Egypt. It was like the Garden of Eden! (Genesis 13:10.) But the LORD didn’t invite Abram to look at rivers, green grass, shrubbery and that sort of thing No! Abram was invited to look at the dust – the dust of the earth! Genesis 15:16, “I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered.”

I used to have enough trouble counting my homing pigeons when they were flying around! Who could count even a handful of dust, never mind the dust of the earth! This is no: Guess the exact amount of lollies in the jar and you win the prize! No! There was no guessing the amount of descendants. They were to be as the dust of the earth!

In the Hebrew the word ‘eretz’ can be translated either ‘land’ or ‘earth.’ Dust of the land, dust of the earth, eretz – land or earth. The word is used in the first verse of the Bible, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the eretz.” You wouldn’t translate it ‘land’, would you? So, usually the context determines whether the Hebrew ‘eretz’ is to be translated ‘land’ or ‘earth.’ And we find these words recorded in Genesis 15:18, “On the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying: ‘To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates.”

As Abram walked the length and breadth of the land, between these two great rivers, what would he have been thinking? He would be thinking: “This is some promise the LORD’s given me and my descendants! The LORD’s shown me the land as He promised. Now He’s saying that we are heirs of this land! That my descendants and I will inherit it!”

No wonder he moved his tent and built an altar to the LORD – Abram’s hit the jackpot! You see the way some people carry on when they win a million bucks. They leap and jump all over the place kissing and slobbering over anyone standing next to them. But hang on a minute. All Abram has at the moment is a promise. All he has is the LORD’s Word! And is that not all any of us has?

I remember as a new Christian trying to come to grips with eternal life. “Wow! I’ve got eternal life. So, this means... what does it mean?” I remember thinking, “What good is this eternal life? I still have to die!” Then I began to understand what Jesus was on about where He says in John 11:25-26, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” So it’s the PROMISE of eternal life I have. And who’s the One who’s making this promise to me? Well, it’s the same LORD who made the promise to Abram and his descendants. And what did the LORD promise Abram and his descendants? Genesis 13:15 again, “All the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever.” Take note at this point, the word ‘descendants’ may also be rendered ‘seed’ as in one or many. However, since we’re focusing on the promise, we need to ask to whom was this promise made? In other words: Who are the descendants of Abram? We take it that at this point in time Abram didn’t know. He didn’t know because he didn’t have any descendants at this time. And we find in the chapters up ahead that Abram first off thinks that one of his servants will have to be counted as his offspring. Then the LORD tells him that Abram himself will be the father of a child. So he gets tangled up in the mess with Sarah’s servant Hagar. Then the LORD tells him that his, up till then, barren wife Sarah is going to bear his child. But for now all Abram has is the LORD’s Word he will have descendants like the dust of the earth. And in 1 Kings 4:20-21 we read, “Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand by the sea in multitude, eating and drinking and rejoicing. So, Solomon reigned over all kingdoms from the River [i.e., the Euphrates] to the land of the Philistines, as far as the border of Egypt.”

So we see that, at the time of David and Solomon Abram’s descendants are innumerable. They are living in the tract of land promised to Abram and his descendants. And apparently, it was much the same again during the inter-Testamental period. But, were all those people really the ones to whom the promise of the land was made? Remember, the promise was made to Abram and his descendants.

Was Rahab the harlot who was rescued from Jericho a descendant of Abram? Was Ruth the Moabitess, who married Boaz, a descendant of Abram? Well, according to the Apostle Paul both Rahab and Ruth were descendants of Abram. He says, for instance, in Galatians 3:29, “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

It’s true that Jesus says to some Jews who were claiming to be Abram’s descendants in John 8:37, “I know that you are Abraham’s descendants.” But He was talking about descendants as to flesh. For Jesus went on to say to these same men, “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do [etc.]” John 8:44. Therefore, their real father was the devil – not Abraham!

“When [John Baptizer] saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, ‘Brood of vipers! Who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, We have Abraham as our father. For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.” Matthew 3:7-9.

Paul in Romans chapters’ 3 and 4 goes to great lengths to tell the Jews their fleshly decent counts for nothing In Galatians 3:7 he says, “Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abram.” Both Rahab and Ruth were of faith – as were all the Old Testament saints. So, to cut the long story short, the descendants who receive the promise of the land are only those who believe along with Abram, the father of all believers Romans 4:11;16.

Right then, if the LORD is giving the land to Abram and his descendants and we Christians are his descendants, then the land is ours, right? Does this mean that all Christians should start chartering airplanes to the land of Israel? Should we go there and demand that the present Christ-denying occupants give us our promised land? If that’s what you’re thinking, you’re missing something – something very important! Hopefully it’ll become even more clear to you as we move into our second point. But just before we move on, let me recap what we’ve looked at.

The LORD has made a promise to Abram. He has promised him descendants as numerous as the dust of the earth. We’ve taken note that the New Testament stipulates that Abram’s descendants are like him – believers! That Abram is the father of the faithful, therefore it is faith and not race or ethnic origin that makes a person a descendant of Abram! It’s faith not flesh that counts with God!

And we’ve seen, in particular, that the land was promised to the descendants of Abram – you, me and every believer that has ever lived or will live. So let’s move on.

The Pilgrim
The land was ALSO promised to Abram. Yet Abram never took possession of the land, did he? But look at what the LORD says to Abram in Genesis 13:15, “All the land which you see I give to YOU.” Look also at Genesis 13:17, “Arise, walk in the land through its length and its width, for I give it to YOU.” But Abram remained a pilgrim, sojourner in the land until his dying day! In fact Abram had to buy a field with his own money as a place of burial! So, in order to help us understand what’s really happening here, we need to bring the rest of Scripture to bear on this text.

Now, this is what we’re doing: We’re trying to understand what the LORD has in mind here. We are NOT trying to see how well Abram understood the LORD’s promise. We have the benefit of the rest of Scripture to help us understand this promise. However you might be surprised at how much Abram had grasped already.

Always keep in mind that the LORD revealed His promise to Abram in one lump sum as recorded in Genesis 12:1-3. Then as a preacher expounds and opens up the Scriptures to his congregation each week, so the LORD opened up the understanding of Abram to what He has already said. The word of promise remains the same but under the LORD tutelage Abram’s understanding grew by instalment. Like every other believer, Abram would grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – so far as He had revealed Himself at that time. But as I said, we’re not trying to see how deep an understanding Abram had of God’s Word. Rather we’re seeking to understand what the LORD means by the promise of land and descendants.

The promise was made to Abram and we Christians today testify that we are Abram’s descendants. Abram lived to see the birth of Isaac and other children. But you wouldn’t say he saw descendants as numerous as the dust of the earth. And neither did he receive the land the LORD promised him.  Speaking of the land listen to what Stephen says about in Acts 7:5, “And God gave him [i.e. Abram] no inheritance in it, not even enough to set his foot on. But even when Abram had no child, He [the Lord] promised to give it to him [i.e. Abram] for a possession, and to his descendants after him.”

Just think about that for a moment. We see that Abram was to receive this land, and the LORD promised it to him and to us. Therefore the question we need to answer is this. How or when is our father Abram and we his descendants supposed to receive this promised land?

I was at a funeral where a man said that he was not going to miss his friend who had just died. He said that he wouldn’t miss his friend because his friend would be with him always in his heart. Is this how Abram was going to inherit the promised land? Was Abram carried around in the bosom of his descendants? Is this what the LORD meant when He promised the land to Abram? Is this what the LORD means when He promises the land to us? What do you think?

Look again at the words of Genesis 13:15, “For all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants FOREVER.” So, that word FOREVER sounds like a long time, doesn’t it? But did Abram ever possess the land even for five minutes? No! Have any of us possessed the land for any length of time? No! So there must be more going on here than the naked eye can see!

Look at Abram. He was a pilgrim, wasn’t he? Like the words of the hymn:

Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah,
Pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak, but Thou art mighty;
Hold me with Thy powerful hand:
Bread of heaven, feed me till my want is o’er.

Abram was a pilgrim in a barren land! His nephew and fellow believer Lot, well, he spied the well-watered plains of Jordan. He rushed off to the place that was lush like the land of Egypt – like the Garden of Eden. But Abram was to walk the length and breadth of a barren land looking at and counting particles of dust. This was the land which couldn’t support Abram and Lot and their herdsmen! As Abram looked at the dust he surely must have wondered how this land would ever support a multitude like the dust of the earth! How would this land ever feed them? It couldn’t even sustain a bunch of herdsmen and their livestock! So Abram must have had a few questions running around in his head. Not the least of which was HOW was he supposed to possess the land forever. I mean it’s all very well for the eternal God to say to Abram, “I’m giving you some land FOREVER.” “Oh! That’s nice, but it’s just a pity that I won’t be able to live forever to enjoy it forever!” At least Abram got to see it for a few years – but what about you and me? When you look at a passage like this you’re thankful you’ve got the whole rest of the Bible.

So, as we begin to tie things up into a nice big bow, let’s shine some New Testament light onto the subject. Speaking of the Old Testament saints (including Abram) the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews says in 11:13, “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” Hebrews 11:13.

So Abram died along with Isaac and Jacob after him without receiving their inheritance. But as a sailor catching a glimpse of land in the days of the old wooden ships, so Abram saw the substance of God’s promises in the far off distance – “Land ahoy!” So rub-a-dub-dub, three men in a tub, Abram, Isaac and Jacob have yet to inherit the promised land – the land they saw far off in the distance. So, when then are they and we for that matter, supposed to inherit this land? Well, fist let’s see if we can get a better idea of the length and width of this our inheritance.

Is our inheritance that piece of land which runs between the River Nile and the Euphrates? David in Psalm 37 mentions a couple of times, verse 9b, “Those who wait for the LORD, they shall inherit the earth.” And then in verse 11, “The meek shall inherit the earth.” And also in Psalm 25:13, speaking of the man who fears the LORD he says, “His descendants shall inherit the earth.” However, the word for “earth” (eretz) in these instances may also be translated “land” which is how the New International Version renders it in each case.

But what about what Jesus says in Matt. 5:5? Even the NIV renders it, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” But alas! the Greek word for earth there is sometimes used for “land.” So maybe we should charter some planes and boats and trains to the Middle East and claim our inheritance! But hold the phone! Let’s ask the Apostle Paul to help us. Romans 4:13: “For the promise that he would be the HEIR of the WORLD was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith” Romans 4:13. So faithful Abram and his faithful seed – even you and even me – are HEIRS of the WORLD!

But wait a minute! Does that word “world” really mean “world” or does it really mean “land”? Well, the NT Greek word Paul uses is Cosmos, the same word used by Jesus in John 3:16 “For God so loved the WORLD (Gr. cosmos)…” And I’ve yet to see any Bible commentator translate the word cosmos as “land.” For God so loved the LAND? No, He loved the cosmos! And as Paul uses it in relation to Abram it means the earth! So the LORD has promised Abram and us the world – the universe!

So, here’s the tricky bit, how or when are we and Abram supposed to receive the earth or the world? Abram’s been dead for 2,000 years or something! So the LORD’s going to have to resurrect Abram, isn’t he? The LORD’s going to have to raise Abram from the dead in order to present him with the earth. And if you don’t think that Abram believed in the resurrection of the dead, then ask yourself what Abram was doing placing Isaac on an altar as a sacrifice? Hebrews 11:19 says Abram was, “Accounting that God was able to raise him [Isaac] up, even from the dead.” Abram’s body crumbled back to the dust, so did Isaac’s and Jacob’s after him. Your body, my body, all our bodies are going to crumble back to the dust, aren’t they? All of the children of Abram sleep in the dust – so will we! But what does the Prophet Daniel say? Daniel 12:2, “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to everlasting shame.” And what does John Baptizer say to the Pharisees and Sadducees? “Do not say to yourselves, ‘We have Abram as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones” Matthew 3:9b.

But none of this makes any sense without Christ. Christ is THE true descendant of Abram, isn’t He? Those words of the Lord’s Apostle Paul, Gal. 3:16, “Now to Abraham and his Seed were the      promises made. He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as of many, but as of one, ‘And to your Seed,’ who is Christ.” But again, Galatians 3:29, “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

If we belong to Christ then whatever belongs to Him belongs also to us. Therefore the promise of the earth is made to us in relation to Christ. Only those who trust in Christ, as did believing, Abram will receive their inheritance in Christ. And doesn’t Psalm 2:8 say that the nations are His inheritance and ends of the earth His possession? And where do the nations live? In Palestine? Between the two great rivers? No! The nations are scattered over the whole face of the earth like dust – Christ’s inheritance – Abram’s inheritance – our inheritance!

And Christ’s resurrection guarantees Abram’s resurrection and our resurrection and secures our inheritance. And it’s through the spread of the Gospel as the poured out Spirit applies it, that the LORD raises up the children of Abraham from the dust of the earth. As the flood waters in Noah’s day were God’s poured out judgment upon the earth, so the Holy Spirit in our day is God’s poured out blessing upon the earth! So this means that even those dry and parched nations will yet turn to the LORD, for they, and all the ends of the earth belong to Him! This was the promise the LORD made to Abram when He said, “All the land which you see I give to you and your DESCENDANTS forever.” The whole world and everything in it is ours in Abram’s Seed – Jesus Christ.

God has promised that faithful Abram and his faithful offspring, even you and me, will inherit the earth. He has given His promise to pilgrims. The promise given Abram is the promise given us. We are the heirs of the world. The meek SHALL inherit the earth. So, even though Abram’s body, like ours, was made of dust and crumbled back to dust, the promise of God remains. So like Abram our father, we look forward to that day when all the graves shall open up! As Jesus Christ says, “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves shall hear His voice and come forth.” John 5:28.

Oh what a day that’s going to be! And father Abram is going to look into the faces of all his children, including your face and mine. But he won’t be able to number us. We’ll be as numerous as the dust – the dust of the earth – the earth we’re inheriting forever!

We’ve seen then that the LORD’s promise to Abram is still good. And that we too, like our father Abram, should hold fast the good promise of the LORD, because the best things come to those who wait. Therefore, wait on the Lord Jesus Christ!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Losing My Sole

Trying not to limp on account of my “staved” toe we arrive at the Legacy Ball in the Brisbane Convention Centre with me feeling all suave and debonair. (It’s a Saturday night and tuxes have the effect of making us men feel like we’re James Bond!) The place was packed full of people done up to the nines (with a few tens among the women I might add – my wife included of course!) Anyway, just beforehand, as we were trying to find our way into the convention centre, a man on the busy street (who perhaps had had a couple of drinks) said to me, “You’ve got style!” I doesn’t take much to make my head swell so I began thinking I actually was James Bond (Sean Connery style!) Cue the Bond music!
Dot had earlier agreed that on account of my busted left big toe I would be excused from all dancing! (Great! I thought, ‘cause I can’t dance anyway!) However and as these things go, a few drinks later Dot starts getting all “dancy.” “I can’t. My busted toe, remember?” “Och, just one!” she says. “Anyway, the sole of my right shoe is starting to come off.” My tactic of dance-avoidance didn’t work! “Here,” says Dot “McGyver”, “Use this black ribbon. Tie it to hold the sole onto your shoe and let’s get on the dance floor.” “But, but, but…” says I. “Look,” she says, “Don’t move your feet when you dance.” So with a dance-eager Dot ahead of me I hobble on to the dance floor still trying to look all suave and debonair! (Did James Bond ever have to deal with these kinds of difficulties?)

 After much dancing (and Dot claims it’s the best she’s ever seen me dance in our thirty-five years of being together!) the clock struck midnight and it was time for us to leave and try to find the place outside in the street below where Nina had first dropped us off earlier. Rats! As we stood up from the table the sole of my left shoe started coming off too! So I ripped both soles off and flung them in the nearest bin and had to walk up a couple of busy streets on Brisbane’s Southbank . It was so-o-o-o-o-o un-James Bond like! Needless to say I was almost ecstatic when we turned a corner and saw Nina’s car. I jumped into the backseat and slid down low below window level lest anyone should see me…
Och, it was great feeling like James Bond for the wee while before I began to lose my sole!

Friday, September 4, 2015



 Computers remain mysterious entities to me. They do sometimes seem to have a mind of their own and sometimes the ‘ghost in the machine’ even conspires against me! To be sure, computer ‘viruses’ can cause these machines to behave strangely but will computers take over the world? Will they be able to continually and improvingly rebuild themselves to the point of technological singularity? I hope not! However, I don’t think these labour-saving-devices ever will have world domination because, regardless of the size or shape of the robot, the ‘ghost in the machine’ is not real but artificial! Whereas computers have AI (Artificial Intelligence), humans have real intelligence. What’s difference? Well, it’s all in the mind! A computer may resemble a brain but that is as far as the resemblance goes. Whereas a human has a mind of his/her own, a computer only reflects the mind of whoever programmed it. It has no mind of its own. Therefore it doesn’t have the will or desire to dominate the world or the office! Computers need humans to press their buttons!

Is our brain an organic computer and if so is there ‘a ghost in the machine’? If by ‘ghost in the machine' we mean mind then we do, sort of… The mind does not inhabit the human body. Unlike a computer which is mindless to start with the human mind is simply an aspect of what we are by design. It is the mind not the brain that does the thinking. However, as part of what we are the mind uses the brain to think just as we use our legs to walk or our lips and tongues to talk. Brain activity may mean that the mind is thinking, however it does not mean that a human cannot think unless he/she has a brain! Pull the plug on a computer and it is out of action. Pull the plug on a human and he/she continues to think even when departed from the body!

Of course this is where Christianity parts ways with the philosophies of Materialism which believe that when a person is ‘brain-dead’ that person has ceased to exist! However, God has no body or brain yet He thinks. And in His revelatory Word we see lots of evidence of people who have died bodily but are still living and thinking in the Intermediate State (Matthew 22:32; Revelation 6:9-11). Angels have no bodies yet they think! However, just as there is no ghost or spirit inhabiting a computer, neither does our spirit inhabit our body. Humans have been designed by God each one as a soul-spirit with a body (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

Just as computers are subject to computer viruses causing them to malfunction so the human race has been affected by sin causing a darkening to our thinking and an estate of misery and death (Romans 5:12; 6:23; 2 Corinthians 4:4). Upon conversion the Christian begins to undergo a process of mind-renewal as the Holy Spirit continues to work with His Word and applying it to the Christian’s heart (Romans 12:2).

Computers merely reflect their programmers. Thus they do not possess self-awareness. Neither do animals which are more sophisticated that any computer will ever be! Some computers, like some animals, may seem to some to be self-aware. However, this is only in the eye of the beholder. Like a bird attacking its own reflection so fallen mankind attacks the God in whose image we are made! Computers won't take over the world. God will!