Every Day Bible

Power of a Prayerful Mission

It’s easy to be flippant about prayer. After all, to unbelievers, we’re just rambling to the walls. Even at our best, we can’t physically see the one in whom we are confiding. Abraham’s servant who was sent to find Isaac’s wife must have realized something of the power of prayer.

When Abraham charged him on his journey — he did it by invoking God’s name.
When he met the girl — he invoked God’s name.
When she turned out to be the right one — you got it…
When she invited him in to her family’s home — he bowed and worshipped.
He greeted others as one who was “blessed by God.”
He gives credit for his success because it happened “as the Lord has directed.”
He told Rebekah’s family that “God led me on the right road.” (Genesis 24:47-48)

You never know what will happen — when you just ask.

Every Day Bible

More Sidenotes on Sodom

Other Bible references to S&G: Ezekiel 16:48-50 refers to Jerusalem’s sin exceeding that of S&G (a testimony there to God’s patience before judgment!) in that they were arrogant, overfed, unconcerned with the poor, doing destestable things before God. (Indicating that the homosexual greed — an unnatural act — was a symptom of a root sickness).

Sodom had no remorse: they “paraded” their sin (Isaiah 3:9).

Sodom’s fate could be repeated (or worse) for other cities who ignored God’s decrees (Zephaniah 2:9).

The New Testament draws on this incident as an object lesson several times as well: 2 Peter 2:6, Romans 9:29 (quoting from Isaiah 1-3), and Jude 1:7.

Extra-biblical accounts record other traditional horror stories. Sodomites would “graciously” give gold to the poor beggars, but first, would inscribe their own names on the coins. No merchant however would accept signed gold from the poor, and the town as a whole gave approval to their starvation. Once the victim died, the “generous giver” would retrieve his gold — clearly identified with his name — to continue is generosity over and over again. They toyed with the hope of the hopeless.

I’ve got to quote these WikiPedia entries on Sodom as well:

A rabbinic tradition, described in the Mishnah, postulates that the sin of Sodom was related to property: Sodomites believed that “what is mine is mine, and what is yours is yours” (Abot), which is interpreted as a lack of compassion. Another rabbinic tradition is that these two wealthy cities treated visitors in a sadistic fashion. One major crime done to strangers was almost identical to that of Procrustes in Greek mythology. This would be the story of the “bed” that guests to Sodom were forced to sleep in: if they were too short they were stretched to fit it, and if they were too tall, they were cut up.

In another incident, Eliezer, Abraham’s servant, went to visit Lot in Sodom and got in a dispute with a Sodomite over a beggar, and was hit in the forehead with a stone, making him bleed. The Sodomite demanded Eliezer pay him for the service of bloodletting, and a Sodomite judge sided with the Sodomite. Eliezer then struck the judge in the forehead with a stone and asked the judge to pay the Sodomite.

The Talmud and the book of Jasher also recount two incidents of a young girl (one involved a daughter of Lot, named Paltith) who gave some bread to a poor man who had entered the city. When the townspeople discovered their acts of kindness, they burned Paltith and smeared the other girl’s body with honey and hung her from the city wall until she was eaten by bees. (Sanhedrin 109a) It is this gruesome event (and her scream, in particular), the Talmud concludes, that are alluded to in the verse that heralds the city’s destruction: “So Hashem said, ‘Because the outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah has become great, and because their sin has been very grave, I will descend and see…'” (Genesis 18:20-21).


I think of the holocaust stories. Terrible crimes against God and humanity were comitted all because the people were desensitized one day at a time.

Every Day Bible

What’s Up with Sodom & Gomorrah?

In Genesis 18-19 is the now famous of Sodom and Gomorrah. Almost everything about this story is unique in some way.

Messengers (angels) of God come to visit Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 18:2. Abraham saw them standing there (apparantly from nowhere) and rushed to meet them, going out of his way to be hospitable. Sarah’s skills as a hostess are quite impressive given Abraham’s request: quick, make bread! While Sarah’s sifting out her flour, no doubt, the angels ask where she is. (Genesis 18:9-15)

“Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him.
“There, in the tent,” he said.”
Then the LORD said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”

Did you notice the change in number here? They ask a question. Abraham answers. GOD (He) makes a promise.

Were the messengers actually God? Did they stand there and suddenly God spoke from the clouds? Did they disappear? Who knows? Tehn Sarah laughs to herself and thinks about how old she is…then HE (singluar, the LORD) asks, “Why did you laugh?” Her response: “I didn’t.”

The real lesson here is remembering that nothing is too hard for God. Remember the kids’ song…”My God is so big, so strong and so mighty, there’s nothing my God cannot do!” I wonder if God sang it to her…

But back to brimstone. Abraham is walking with the two guests as they are leaving when GOD says “Shall I hide from Abraham what’s about to happen?” Then GOD said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they ahve done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.”

There’s no doubt in my mind that God knew already of the situation in Sodom and Gomorrah. I’d assume that this is a literary device designed to pique Abraham’s curiosity. Abraham must have already known something of the town’s reputation: he realized that he probably needed to argue for a very low number of righteous for salvation.

The angels met Lot at the town gates. Lot seems quick to invite them in and insist that they leave early in the morning (Genesis 19:1-3). Before nightfall the men from all over the town (young and old) are crying out for the men for homosexual acts. Most people associate Sodom and Gomorrah as a story about the condemnation of homosexuality — but as of yet, the town’s sin is unnamed. Neither the angels nor God have given details as to the type of unrighteouness that brings these twin towns under condemnation.

A few things I notice in the next few verses:

  • Lot went OUTSIDE to talk with the men of the town. Was there something he didn’t want his special guests to know? I think he may have known they were divine.
  • Lot addressed the townspeople as “my friends.” (No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing.) James 4:4 says that friendship with the world equates to being an enemy of God, and several other passages echo this sentiment. For all the trouble he’s going to, including nearly risking his life for these men, he still is awfully buddy-buddy with these wicked men.
  • Lot offers them his daughters.

    Lot. Are you serious? Your daughters? This is a passage that elicits the “are you on CRACK!??” response! What father would offer his two daughters — virgin, pure daughters — to the homosexual men who want to assualt GOD’S messengers? I can’t begin to list what I think is wrong with this passage. “Do with them what you want, but don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.” Aren’t your children in your protection? Seriously, Lot! What’s up with this?? (end of rant)

  • The townspeople are not satisifed. They call him a judge. Throughout the years unnumbered hypocrites have cast judgment while truly standing condemned. “Judge” is a dirty word as far back as Sodom and Gomorrah and Moses (after killing the Egyptian who harassed his Hebrew countryman). Never forget, though, that though our business is not judging, we will be judged along with all others. It’s not our place to be God’s judge, jury, and executioners, but it is always our place to be his mouthpiece and his hands.
  • Back to Lot’s daughters: they’re engaged (Genesis 19:13-14). Think the future son-in-laws would have liked his plan to give them to the townspeople? Unfortunately, these boys thought he was joking. Insert story of the boy who cried wolf here…
  • Just before dawn, the angels urged (Begged, pleaded, shouted) Lot and his girls to get out…yet Lot hesitated. The men grabbed him physically and led them (dragged?) to safety with the instructions “Flee! Don’t look back. Don’t stop!” Yet Lot didn’t think he could make it…so he ran to Zoar. After getting to Zoar safely, Lot’s wife looked back and became the famous salt shaker.

I’ve always imagined Lot’s wife glancing over her shoulder as she fled and being zapped into a rock formation. In reality – she was already in her city of shelter, the disaster has already happened, the cities are gone…but Lot’s wife did more than glance. She looked back and thought of where she was and what she missed. Maybe she looked back and longed.

Regardless, there comes a time when we must all take a stand and pick a side. It seems to me that Lot’s family had a difficult time deciding: are we friends of God, or friends of the world. Frustratingly enough, the answer is an either/or, not a both/and.

This sums it up: in the highway of life, there are millions of squashed squirrells who couldn’t decide which side of the road they wanted to be on.

Decisively, pick God’s side.

Every Day Bible

God’s Faithfulness

God has the power and priviledge to set out “might makes right” rules and precepts. Without getting too philisophical about the nature of God, it’s amazing to me that he didn’t. Many an ancient deity would establish covenants which were more of pseudo-divine protection rackets: pay up or get it. The Egyptian gods mocked by the 10 Plagues may be an example.

Some misconstrue YAHWEH God as that kind of god (at least, in the OT). “It’s my way or the highway.” While this is true — there really is no other way but God’s — He’s given us choice and presented himself as the best option by right of love over fear. Or, at least that’s the way I think he meant it. Sure, he calls for fear in the terms of respect. But isn’t healthy respect a part of love?

As the higher power, he sets the terms of the covenant. Instead of demanding tribute, he just demands loyalty. It’s almost like his covenants just say “Show me you want me, and I’ll stay with you.” Yes, there’s discipline, but that’s the marker of a loving and responsible father. He’s so gracious that even when mankind messes them up over and over again, he’s still faithful to his promise.

Think about it from his perspective: he said to all mankind, “I’ll bless you. Give me your hearts and I’ll give you new life, rescue you from death, and bless you beyond your wildest dreams.”

Man’s response: immediate gratitude followed by amazing ingratitude. In the garden Adam and Eve had it made. Food, simple occupation, no shame or guilt. God’s only stipulation: don’t partake of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. In the Bible “knowledge” is an intimate concept (they knew each other in the biblical sense…). It implies more than just posession of fact, but also personal familiarity and realization. God told Adam and Eve, in effect, don’t get aquainted with knowing good and evil. All they previously knew was “good.” Instead, by ignoring God’s directive, they found out the hard way what evil was like–by in a small way, becoming it. They experinced what God said they should never have to experience…but I digress.

Follow the Bible story through the Exodus, the period of judges, to the coronation of the first king. The repeated theme: God loves man. Man snubs God. God brings man back, because God loves man. Man snubs God…

Wouldn’t it just be easier to be faithful? I’m glad God is.

Every Day Bible Files

Week 2: Noah thru Sarah’s Death

This week we talked about covenants and faith. Here’s the handout, powerpoint, PowerPoint in PDF, and resources to prove it! :-)

Every Day Bible

Bible Software for Cross-Research

One of the more interesting facets of Old Testament study to me is to look for a passage’s ties to the New Testament. You can accomplish that goal through a variety of means. You can serach for repeated words and themes, look for direct quotations, or find times when New Testament authors made references back to a story or passage.

Here’s some FREE tools that will help you on your Bible research.

If you find a site that’s particularly good, please comment and let’s get it added to a list of good resources. Thanks!

Every Day Bible

Laughing at Dreamers

Most people have a love-hate relationship with dreamers. We’re “fair weather” dreamer fans! We laugh at people with vision, always with their heads up in the clouds. We laugh and tell them to call us when they wake up and see reality again.

You’ve probably heard these: There is no reason why anyone would want a computer in the home. (President of Digital Equipment Corp. 1977) I think there is a world market for maybe five computers. (Thomas Watson, President of IBM 1943). There are others — like people explaining that air travel would never catch on, cars were a novelty, indoor plumbing was a fad… Most people tend to be Missouri residents at heart: we live in the “show me state.” We don’t believe things until we can already see, touch, taste, use, and buy 12 of them online!

Abraham was told that he was going to have a son. He believed…and he didn’t. He believed…and he didn’t… Sarah even laughed! God wasn’t laughing, though. His biting answer was direct: “Is anything too hard for me?”

It would have been easy to laugh at a big boat and all the world’s animals. A favorite younger brother who had a flair for colorful coats wouldn’t have much of an audience for his claim that all would bow down to him. An engaged virgin’s claim that her pregnancy was the gift of the Holy Ghost wouldn’t escape Jay Leno’s monologue. That the world could be turned upside-down by twelve ordinary men seems unfathomabe…but these are the realities of God’s dreams in man.

Maybe I’ll think twice before I chuckle and say never again…

Every Day Bible

Opposites Attract

Abraham’s proactive lifestyle really amazes me. When Lot was taken captive by the warring kings (Genesis 14), did Abraham call for someone else to help? Did he pray for God to deliver? Did he call 911? Nope…he just took “the 318 trained men” (implicitly all of them?)…and went to rescue him. He didn’t play the hero and relish in the spoils due the victor. He rejected the bounty of war all so that the king of Sodom could never claim responsibility for what God did: blessing Abraham.

Then there’s the time these mysterious visitors mention in an aside that Sodom & Gomorrah are going to get it. The visitors left for Sodom to enact God’s plan, but Abraham caught them from behind (they left, he approached them – Gen 18:22-23) and interceded on Lot’s behalf. This is the same Lot whose herdsmen quarrled with him, who kept getting taken captive, and had all the generosity and grace of one who always takes the best things for himself — and Abraham makes an extra effort to haggle with God for his salvation.

Can you think of anyone less like Abraham than the prophet Jonah? God commanded him to go for others’ salvation, he avoided his duty, and complained when God did save!

I’m glad God sent a savior more like Abraham and less like Jonah!

Every Day Bible

Questions from Genesis

To give you an insight into my background: There’s a creationist group that promotes a literal understanding of Genesis called “Answers in Genesis.” They’re the ones that have drawn so much attention for the “Creation Museum.” I generally tend to agree with them and appreciate a more literal reading of Genesis, but I’ve always found their name to be a bit funny. I believe scripture to be inspired and inerrant, from God for man. It would follow then, that Scripture is written to be understood. Of all books other than Revelation, however, I find there to be more questions than answers in Genesis.

Here’s a few “What ifs” and “hypotheticals” I’ve gathered.

  • Was all creation vegetarian? It appears meat was not given until after the flood. I’ve heard of post-fall changes, but never really post-flood changes.
  • Was there reproduction in the garden? Eve’s pain in childbearing was greatly multiplied (indicating it didn’t start at zero…) (Gen 3:16) The command to ‘be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it’ (Gen 1:26-30) was pre-fall. Was there sex in the garden?
  • Had you ever noticed that the animals were considered as possible companions for Adam? They were rejected, of course. Think they could talk? After all, no one seemed surprised by the talking serpent with legs…
  • I never noticed that animals had the breath of life (Gen 1:26-30). Though not made in the image of God, they had that part of his essence.

I probably get distracted by trivia a bit too easily…but it’s interesting to ask the “What ifs.” What if the south had won the civil war? (Sorry to burst someone’s bubble…) What if my cat could talk…? What if I could fly?

The real tragedy of the first few chapters of Genesis is knowing that there was zero room for the question: “What if man never fell…” It’s a mere ten generations from fall to flood, and thanks to long lifespans, it seems that everyone would have been intimately familiar with the story of sin in the garden, yet each generation grew worse. “Every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” (Genesis 6:5).

God hardly seemed to have a rosy outlook about his creation. That realism only makes his grace more impressive to me…and there’s no question about that!

Every Day Bible Files

Week 1: Creation and Fall

Here’s the PowerPoint file from Week 1. We covered Genesis 1-5ish. :-) Here’s a PDF of the PowerPoint file that will allow you to view my notes, should you be a real glutton for punishment.

N.B. You’ll need to have a program installed to view Microsoft PowerPoint presentations. If you don’t have PowerPoint, you have some free alternatives. 1) PowerPoint Viewer is free from Microsoft. It allows you to view (but not edit or print) presentations. 2) Open Office is an Open Source (free) Office suite that competes with Microsoft. 3) I’ve heard that Google’s online applications (Google Apps) now handles presentation files.