David Guzik’s weekly devotional, based on a verse or two from the Bible.

Trusting God, Not Man

Trusting God, Not Man

But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have raised my hand to the Lord, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth, that I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich’—except only what the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men who went with me: Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.” (Genesis 14:22-24)

Abram was the great patriarch of the Jewish people and the father of all who believe, those who trust God and are declared to be righteous. We don’t often think of him as a military man, but on at least one occasion he was. In Genesis 15, a group of four kings attacked a group of five kings, to punish them for rebellion. In the attack, the armies of the four kings took Abram’s nephew Lot as a hostage, and they returned to the north.

Trusting God, Not Man

That didn’t make Abram happy. Lot was family, and Abram would protect him. Abram gathered an army of 318 trained fighters among his servants and pursued the armies holding Lot. In a bold night attack, Abram defeated the four kings, rescued Lot, and recovered all the spoil the kings had seized from the five cities. After the battle, the king of Sodom wanted to reward Abram, offering him all the plunder.

Abram replied, I will take nothing – not even a thread! Abram would not take any of the plunder because of a vow he made to God Most High. Abram made the vow because he didn’t want any man to rightly say, I have made Abram rich. Abram determined that all the credit for his success and wealth should go to God and God alone.

As a man of faith, Abram had decided to live so that whatever outward success he gained, everyone could see that it was because of the blessing of God, not because of any generosity or help from man. His faith was in God not man; his reward would be from God and not man.

This is wise living, and especially a wise way to serve God. If apparent success comes through man-centered methods and strategies, then it is difficult to confidently say the blessing came from God. It is much better to rely on God’s methods and wisdom, so if apparent success comes, then God receives the glory, and everyone sees it was God’s work.

However, at the same time, Abram did not impose his principles on his Amorite allies – they could take their portion. They were entitled to as much of the spoil as was appropriate under the customs of the time. If they wanted to live by Abram’s faith, they could choose to do so. Abram wouldn’t force it on them.

Dear brother or sister in Christ, determine to live by faith in God instead of looking to or leaning on man.

Click here for David’s commentary on Genesis 14

Click Here for Daily Devotionals from David

Laying Down Our Rights

Laying Down Our Rights

So Abram said to Lot, “Please let there be no strife between you and me, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen; for we are brethren. Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me. If you take the left, then I will go to the right; or, if you go to the right, then I will go to the left.” (Genesis 13:8-9)

God did something special when He called Abram (later named Abraham) out of Ur of the Chaldees and promised Abram all of Canaan. But when Abram brought his nephew Lot with him into the land, it wasn’t long until there was conflict. Abram and Lot each had big herds of livestock, and their workers fought over the better grazing lands.

Laying Down Our Rights

Abram and Lot each claimed to serve Yahweh as God instead of the local Canaanite idols, and their conflict made them look like hypocrites. The logical solution was to separate the flocks and take them to different grazing lands. But who would go where? That is when Abram used his right to lay down his rights.

Abram said to his nephew, If you take the left, then I will go to the right; or, if you go to the right, then I will go to the left. Abram was the eldest and God promised the land to Abram (not to Lot), this was pure generosity.

This was true generosity, not weakness. Abram could fight when it was the right thing to do (Genesis 14). He didn’t yield to Lot out of weakness but out of love and trust in God. Because Abram lived with an eternal perspective, a few acres of grazing land didn’t seem worth fighting for.

The giving up of rights is a theme throughout the Bible. God was glorified when Jesus, out of love, waived his right to an existence that knew no human suffering or trial by experience (Philippians 2:5-11). God was glorified when Paul, out of love, waived his right to be supported by the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:14-18). In Genesis 13, Abram fulfilled the New Testament principle of love: Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4)

But if we give up our rights, who will look out for us? Abram could do this because he learned that God would provide for him, and so Abram did not have to worry about being too generous. In this case, Abram was willing to let God look out for his interests. Right or left, it didn’t matter to Abram, because God would be there.

There are times to stand on principle and claim a right – the Bible also gives examples of this. Sometimes doing this is good for others and not only for us. Yet we are grateful for the generosity God shows to us, and we seek to show that to others.

We can do what is right by committing our rights to God.

Click here for David’s commentary on Genesis 13

Click Here for Daily Devotionals from David

Land, Nation, Blessing

Land, Nation, Blessing

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.
(Genesis 12:2-3)

God told a Mesopotamian man from an idol-worshipping family to leave his land and his family, and to receive a wonderful promise. God promised Abram a land, a nation, and a blessing.

Land, Nation, Blessing

Abram only partially obeyed. First, he traveled half-way to the place God told him to go, and he brought his father and nephew with him, though God had told him to leave his family. Yet in God’s grace and goodness, He worked with Abram’s partial obedience and eventually Abram came to the land of Canaan – the land God promised him.

Abram would become a giant of faith, even being the father of the believing (Galatians 3:7-9); yet he did not start as a hero of faith. We see Abram as an example of growing in faith and obedience. Through faith and patience, he inherited the promises of God.

God promised Abram a land. In Genesis 12:1 God directed Abram to the land He would show him.

God promised to make a nation from Abram. He would have children, grandchildren, and further descendants, enough to populate a great nation. This would make the name of Abram great. There is probably no more honored name in history than the name of Abram, who is honored by Jews, Muslims, and Christians.

God also promised He would bless those who bless you and to curse him who curses you. This promise – inherited by the covenant descendants of Abram, the Jewish people – remains true and is a root reason for the decline and death of many empires. Historically speaking, nations that have treated the Jewish people well have often been blessed. The opposite may be seen in the fall of the empires of Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome. Spain radically declined after the Inquisition and Poland fell after her pogroms. Germany was severely humbled after the Holocaust, and Britain lost her empire after breaking faith with Israel.

God promised to bless Abram, but also that he would be a blessing, even to the point where all the families of the earth would be blessed in Abram. This amazing promise was fulfilled in the Messiah that came from Abram’s lineage. God’s blessing to Abram was not for his own sake, or even the sake of the Jewish nation to come. It was for the whole world, for all the families of the earth through Jesus Christ. Revelation 5:9 tells us that the work of Jesus will touch every people group on the earth.

Whether you are a genetic descendant of Abram or not, this blessing is for you – in and through Jesus Christ, who is the fulfillment of the blessing promised to Abram. By faith, receive that blessing in Jesus today.

Click here for David’s commentary on Genesis 12

Click Here for Daily Devotionals from David

Fulfilling Your Potential

Fulfilling Your Potential

Then they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” (Genesis 11:3-4)

After the flood humanity began to multiply quickly. God told Noah and his descendants to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 9:1), and they did. Instead of spreading over the earth, people stayed close, settling in southern Mesopotamia, near the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The area was called Shinar (Genesis 11:2), also known as Babylon (Genesis 10:10). All this was in disobedience to another command God gave in Genesis 9:1 – the command to fill the earth, instead of sticking close together.

Fulfilling Your Potential

We could say that humanity was determined, ready to build and to accomplish things. Unfortunately, they didn’t surrender that determination to God. Speaking one language (Genesis 11:1), man advanced quickly in technology and organization. They used their determination, potential, technology, and organization to rebel against God and God’s will.

Because we are made in the image of God, people have a lot of potential – especially when they work together. First, they built themselves a city. Then, they built a tower. Using the technology of well-baked bricks and asphalt for mortar, they started building a tall tower.

Allow me to suggest something. It’s not my original thought, and we don’t have enough information to be certain. Yet, I think they made the Tower of Babel out of well-baked bricks and asphalt for mortar to make it strong and waterproof. The Bible says that Noah used the same material in waterproofing the ark (Genesis 6:14). The mother of Moses used the same material in waterproofing Moses’ basket (Exodus 2:3).

If this is true, then Babylon and the Tower of Babel were not only expressions of disobedience to God’s command to fill the earth (Genesis 9:1). The Tower of Babel means that man did not believe God’s promise to never again flood the earth. A waterproof tower was made to protect mankind against a future deluge.

The top of the tower was intended to be in the heavens. It is doubtful they thought they could build a tower all the way to heaven. It is more likely they built the tower as an observation point of the heavens; it was built “unto the heavens.” Most astrological and occult practices have a history back to Babel. This tower was real. The ancient Greek historian Herodotus said the remains of the Tower of Babel still stood in his day and he had seen it.

Disobeying God and doubting His promise didn’t do them any good. God easily defeated their plan by confusing their languages and scattering them over the earth.

You are made in God’s image and capable of amazing things. Don’t waste all that potential in disobedience and unbelief.

Click here for David’s commentary on Genesis 11

Click Here for Daily Devotionals from David

All From One

All From One

These were the families of the sons of Noah, according to their generations, in their nations; and from these the nations were divided on the earth after the flood. (Genesis 10:32)

Genesis 10 gathers together the names of the descendants of Noah, from whom came all the nations of the earth. It’s a remarkable chapter, and some scholars call it “The Table of Nations” – that’s “table” like a chart, not something you sit at. The great archaeologist William F. Albright often did not take the Bible literally, but of Genesis 10 he wrote: “The tenth chapter of Genesis…stands absolutely alone in ancient literature, without a remote parallel, even among the Greeks, where we find the closest approach to a distribution of peoples in genealogical framework.… The Table of Nations remains an astonishing accurate document.”

All From One

There is value in looking at each name and working to understand which people group came forth from that ancestor, but there is also value in simply drawing out three significant ideas from Genesis 10.

The Unity of the Human Race. Genesis 10 tells us that all humanity came from Noah and his family, and the book of Genesis also explains we have a common origin in Adam and Eve. As the apostle Paul explained to the philosophers on Mars Hill, God has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth (Acts 17:26). We truly are collectively of “one blood,” and while there are some differences between generations and races and ethnic groups, what they have in common is far greater than their differences. We are all made in the image of God.

The Generosity of God. Genesis 10 makes us consider just how wide all creation is, and how there are billions of people on the earth today, even more in the past, and should Jesus tarry, there will be many more in the future. Yet the love of God is broad enough to include all humanity. Remember that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son (John 3:16), and that in some way God shows His love to all humanity, and the blessings of sun and rain are just one example of this (Matthew 5:45). Since God is this generous with all humanity, we can rest with even greater confidence in His generous love to His people, those who trust in, rely on, and cling to the person and work of Jesus Christ.

The Reason for a Missionary Heart. God divided and spread-out humanity, but not for the purpose of taking people away from His good news and salvation in Jesus Christ, who is the Savior of the World (John 4:42). Rather, Jesus gave His disciples specific instructions before He ascended to heaven: go and make disciples of all the nations, teaching them to observe all that Jesus has commanded His disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). We must have the missionary heart to reach the world as Jesus commanded.

Today, remember God’s heart for all humanity.

Click here for David’s commentary on Genesis 10

Click Here for Daily Devotionals from David

Lifeblood

Lifeblood

But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. (Genesis 9:4)

When Noah left the ark, God gave him some commands suited to the world after the flood. God gave Noah the same kind of mandate He gave Adam in the beginning of creation, to “be fruitful and multiply,” (Genesis 1:28) because Noah, in a sense, began all over again.

Lifeblood

Noah also received specific permission to eat animals, permission Adam was not given (as far we know). The Bible doesn’t tell us why after the flood God told humanity to eat the meat of animals. Perhaps this was because the earth was less productive agriculturally after the flood, considering the ecological changes mentioned in Genesis 9:1-3 and 8:22. Maybe meat was good for humanity after the flood in a way it wasn’t before the flood.

God also commanded that if animals were killed and eaten, there must be proper respect for the blood, which represents the life principle (Leviticus 17:11-14, Deuteronomy 12:23). The respect for blood isn’t based on mysticism or superstition, but because blood represents the life of the being, whether animal or human. When blood is poured out, life is poured out.

The importance of the idea of blood in the Bible is shown by how often the word is used. It is used 424 times in 357 separate verses (New King James Version).

One could say that blood is all over the Bible:

– Blood was the sign of mercy for Israel at the first Passover (Exodus 12:13).
– Blood sealed God’s covenant with Israel (Exodus 24:8).
– Blood sanctified the bronze altar for sacrifice (Exodus 29:12).
– Blood set aside the priests, consecrating them for service (Exodus 29:20).
– Blood made atonement for God’s people (Exodus 30:10).
– Blood sealed the new covenant (Matthew 26:28).
– Blood justifies believers (Romans 5:9).
– Blood brings redemption (Ephesians 1:7).
– Blood brings peace with God (Colossians 1:20).
– Blood cleanses believers (Hebrews 9:14, 1 John 1:7).
– Blood gives God’s people entrance to His holy place (Hebrews 10:19).
– Blood sanctifies the Christian (Hebrews 13:12).
– Blood enables believers to overcome Satan (Revelation 12:11).

Some people read all this and think, “God must be a blood-thirsty monster, something from a horror movie.” Not at all. The key is found in two principles.

First, blood is vitally connected to life (Leviticus 17:11). When blood is lost, life can be lost. Poured out blood often means a poured-out life.

Second, this points to the most important giving of life of all: the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, when His poured-out life accomplished redemption for the people of God.

Even today, blood should be respected and treated honorably. But of greatest importance is the blood of Christ; His life poured out for means new life for all who trust in, rely on, and cling to Jesus and all His saving work at the cross and in His resurrection.

Today, thank God for the preciousness of blood – the blood of Christ.

Click here for David’s commentary on Genesis 9

Click Here for Daily Devotionals from David

Sacrifice and Covenant Faithfulness

Sacrifice and Covenant Faithfulness

And the LORD smelled a soothing aroma. Then the LORD said in His heart, “I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done.” (Genesis 8:21)

When the rains were over and the waters subsided, Noah and his family were able to leave the ark. One of the first they did was to sacrifice animals to God. This was both risky and costly. Noah understood there were few animals on the earth, yet he offered some in honor to God.

Sacrifice and Covenant Faithfulness

Yet, Noah’s costly sacrifice pleased God: the Lord smelled a soothing aroma. Here, the Bible speaks anthropomorphically, using a human analogy of a divine action or attribute. God was more pleased by the heart of Noah in his sacrifice than the actual smell of the offering. It was as if the scent of such a costly, faith-inspired gift of roasting meat was pleasant to God. In response, God made this wonderful promise to Noah and to humanity: I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake.

God promised to never again visit the earth with judgment by a flood on this scale, to destroy every living thing. God did this even as He understood that the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth. This was a promise full of mercy.

It was a strange combination of truths. First, that the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and second, God’s promise to never again curse the ground for man’s sake. Man’s evil would seem to invite God’s curse, not put it away. The strange combination is accounted for by Noah’s altar and sacrifice, and God’s pleasure in the sacrifice.

The sacrifice Noah made and God received was the key. Without a sacrifice, sin demands judgment and vengeance, like the judgment sent by God in the flood. But Noah’s costly sacrifice pointed to the ultimate sacrifice, one that was and is infinite in value: when God’s only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, laid down His life, dying to bring all who believe into right relationship with God.

We can say that after the flood, Noah’s story when the flood was over illustrated many things relevant to the life of the believer.

– When he left the ark to possess the earth, Noah showed the believer’s freedom.
– When he made such a costly sacrifice, Noah showed the believer’s faith.
– When he honored God with a worshipful offering, Noah showed the believer’s heart.

Better than anything Noah showed, God showed His great covenant of mercy after Noah’s sacrifice. He promised to never again judge the world in the same way as He did with the flood of Noah’s time. That covenant has stood the test of time.

God has been completely faithful His covenant made in Noah’s day. Even so, in Jesus Christ, God will be completely faithful to His covenant with you. Rest in that today.

Click here for David’s commentary on Genesis 8

Click Here for Daily Devotionals from David

Witnesses to the Resurrection

Witnesses to the Resurrection

And that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time. (1 Corinthians 15:5-8)

No one saw the actual resurrection of Jesus. No one was present in the tomb with Him when His body transformed into a resurrection body. If someone were there, perhaps in a brilliant flash of light, they would have seen the dead body of Jesus transformed. We know that Jesus could miraculously appear in a room with all the doors locked and the windows shut (John 20:19, 26). Yet the resurrected Jesus was not a phantom; He had a real flesh and bone body.

Witnesses to the Resurrection

Though no one saw the actual resurrection of Jesus, many people did see the resurrected Jesus. Paul presented these witnesses to the resurrection, to establish beyond all controversy that Jesus was raised in a resurrection body.

The first witness presented was Cephas. Jesus made a special resurrection appearance to Peter (Cephas) in Luke 24:34. We can assume that Jesus spoke to some special need for comfort and restoration in Peter.

Paul presents the twelve as witnesses. This probably refers to the first meeting Jesus had with His assembled disciples, mentioned in Mark 16:14, Luke 24:36-43, and John 20:19-25. This was the meeting where Jesus appeared in the room with the doors and windows shut and breathed on the disciples, giving them the Holy Spirit.

The meeting of Jesus with over five hundred brethren at once is suggested by Matthew 28:10, 16-17. Paul is saying, “Go ask these people who saw the resurrected Jesus. These are not a handful of self-deluded souls; there are literally hundreds who saw the resurrected Jesus with their own eyes.”

The James mentioned here would be James, the brother of Jesus, who was a prominent leader in the early church (Acts 15:13-21). In the gospels, Jesus’ brothers were hostile to Him and His mission (John 7:3-5). But after His resurrection, Jesus’ brothers were among the followers of Jesus (Acts 1:14).

All the apostles refers to a few different meetings, such as in John 20:26-31, 21:1-25, Matthew 28:16-20, and Luke 24:44-49. Jesus ate with them, comforted them, commanded them to preach the gospel, and told them to wait in Jerusalem for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Finally, Paul could add his testimony (last of all He was seen by me), and his encounter with the resurrected Savior was after Jesus ascended to heaven.

The changed character of the apostles and their willingness to die for the testimony of the resurrection, decisively eliminate fraud as an explanation of the empty tomb.

Understand and appreciate all these but add a final piece of evidence – your own experience of the resurrected Jesus.

Click here for David’s commentary on 1 Corinthians 15

Click Here for Daily Devotionals from David

When God Shuts the Door

When God Shuts the Door

And they went into the ark to Noah, two by two, of all flesh in which is the breath of life. So those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him; and the LORD shut him in.(Genesis 7:15-16)

Genesis 7:5 says that in preparation for the coming flood, Noah did according to all that the LORD commanded him. Nothing was left incomplete or undone. Noah, his family, the animals on the ark, and the ark itself were ready for the tremendous flood about to happen.

When God Shuts the Door

Having entered the ark, they waited for rain. Genesis 7:10 says they were in the ark for seven days before the rains started and the fountains of the great deep were broken up. Those seven days of waiting were a test of faith, and it’s easy to imagine Noah’s skeptical neighbors mocking everyone on the ark. “You said the waters would come, and nothing has changed. You said God would send judgment, and everything is fine.” If they said something like this, it was only temporarily true. The waters came from both above and beneath, and soon the only refuge was the ark they had mocked and despised.

As God had promised (Genesis 7:4), after the seven days of waiting the waters poured forth for forty days and nights. In the Bible, the number 40 is associated with testing and purification, especially before entering something new and significant. This is seen in several cases.

  • Moses was 40 days on Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:18, Deuteronomy 9:25).
  • The spies were 40 days in Canaan (Numbers 13:25).
  • Israel was 40 years in the wilderness (Numbers 14:33, 32:13).
  • Elijah made a miraculous journey to Sinai over 40 days (1 Kings 19:8).
  • Jesus was tempted in the wilderness for 40 days (Mark 1:13).

Forty days isn’t a short time, but it also isn’t terribly long. It was long enough to stretch the faith (and patience) of Noah, his family, and the animals onboard, but it had an end. The finish was promised just as certainly as the beginning was.

Notably, the LORD shut him in. Noah did not have to shut the door to keep anyone out of the ark; God alone did it. After the same pattern, it is never the duty of God’s servants to disqualify people from salvation. If the door is to be shut, God will shut the door. God’s servants may warn, but God holds final judgment – not man.

In Noah’s time, one could say that God kept the door open until the last possible minute, but eventually the door had to shut. When the door is open, it is open, but when it is shut, it is shut. Jesus is He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens (Revelation 3:7).

The time of testing has an end (40 days), but so does the day of grace. While the door is open, come to Jesus and find refuge from the judgment to come.

Click here for David’s commentary on Genesis 7

Click Here for Daily Devotionals from David

Preserving Noah's Ark

Preserving Noah’s Ark

Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch. And this is how you shall make it: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. You shall make a window for the ark, and you shall finish it to a cubit from above; and set the door of the ark in its side. You shall make it with lower, second, and third decks. (Genesis 6:14-16)

In light of coming judgment, God told Noah to build an ark. At least in the English language, when we say the word “ark,” we picture a boat with a lot of animals on it. But that isn’t the actual meaning of the word ark. The ark of the covenant wasn’t a boat, it was a box – something like a trunk used to store things.

Preserving Noah's Ark

What God told Noah to build was not much of a boat, but more of a well-ventilated barge meant only to float and give refuge. It wasn’t built to sail anywhere.

The ark was as long as a 30-story building is high (about 450 feet/150 meters), and it was about 75 feet (25 meters) wide and 45 feet (15 meters) high. Roughly the shape of a shoebox, the ark was about the size of the ocean liner Titanic and it had a cubit-wide opening (18 inches, one-half meter) all the way around the top.

It was not until 1858 that a bigger boat was built. The ark was certainly big enough to do the job. If the ark carried two of every family of animals, there were around 700 pairs of animals; but if the ark carried two of every species of animals, there were around 35,000 pairs of animals. The average size of a land animal is smaller than a sheep. The ark could carry 136,560 sheep in half of its capacity, leaving plenty of room for people, food, water, and whatever other provisions were needed.

At this point of the story, all Noah knew was that God will judge the earth, and he was supposed to build a big barge. Since it had not rained yet on the earth, it is reasonable to suppose Noah didn’t know what God was meant yet.

There is secular, non-Biblical evidence for the remains of Noah’s ark starting almost three centuries before the birth of Jesus stretching all the way to 20th century. Many believe that the Durupinar boat-shaped formation in Turkey is the landing spot for Noah’s Ark.

God told Noah to cover the ark with pitch inside and outside, which would both waterproof and preserve some of the ark for a long time. Perhaps God still has a purpose for the ark, to use it to remind the world of a past judgment shortly before a soon-coming judgment (2 Peter 3:1-7).

Perhaps, before Jesus returns, God will remind any who will listen about His righteous judgment. We must listen, believe, and be ready.

Click here for David’s commentary on Genesis 6