Week 15: God, Our Great Reward

Monday: Genesis 15

Tuesday: Matthew 15

Wednesday: Nehemiah 5

Thursday: Acts 15

Friday: Genesis 15, Matthew 15, Nehemiah 5, Acts 15

Reflections

Monday, Genesis 15: 

Once we begin to see this chapter in light of what it is, it becomes one of the most beautiful foreshadowings of the coming of Christ in all of Scripture. This “cutting of the covenant” was common in Abram’s time. Both parties involved in the covenant had to walk down the middle of the offerings to seal the promise. Then, if one party broke the promise, he would willingly be put to death. 

But look again. God is both the flaming torch and the smoking pot. Only God cuts the covenant, and only God will pay the price. It is we who will break it, our sin ultimately causing Him death. He will fulfill His promises to us, and when we break our end of the bargain, when we cannot keep the law, He will take the punishment.

Take some time now to be utterly astonished by His mercy, God who takes our punishment for us, God who fulfills His promises in Jesus!

The grace of God in Jesus is so utterly unlike anything that this world would call “fair.” Next time you think that life feels “unfair,” I challenge you to reread this passage and remember that instead of death, a death we fully deserved, we have eternal life because of Jesus who took our punishment for us!

Tuesday, Matthew 15: 

“Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks,” – the words of Luke 6:45 and a cute little Seeds Family Worship song that my kids used to sing. It is playing in my head now. I don’t know about you, but words can be a real struggle for me. I love words, and yet, they’ve been the greatest source of pain I’ve caused others. James says the tongue is a fire, “a world of evil,” and it certainly can be. Jesus confirms this with His statement to His disciples – “What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him unclean, but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him unclean.”

Have you ever been like the pharisees, honoring God with your mouth while your heart is far from Him? How can we keep this from being the case?

Is there a certain area of your speech that you need to work on, that you need the Spirit’s help with? Maybe you need to do a better job not participating in gossip, maybe you need to use a softer voice with a child instead of raising it, maybe you need to begin to speak words of praise instead of criticism (these all come to mind because they are things that I have had to spend seasons of my own life practicing).

Set a goal for your “tongue” in the coming season, and spend some time in prayer asking the Spirit to help you.

Wednesday, Nehemiah 5: 

Nehemiah uses his powerful voice of influence to stand up for those who are unable to stand up for themselves. This is something that we as believers are called to as well – to speak up for those whose voices are not being heard and to cry out for justice for the oppressed and abused. Clearly, Nehemiah is a man of righteousness and justice. We, too, are called to follow his example.

Are there people in your life or in your area who are being oppressed, abused, or somehow stripped of their God-given humanity? What would it look like to speak up for these people?

Has God given you a position, a platform, a unique voice where you, too, can cry out for justice on behalf of someone else?

Thursday, Acts 15: 

Sometimes we add our own rules to “believe with your heart and confess with your mouth.” But just as Peter reminds us here, God sees the heart. It isn’t just about what we do or don’t do, but Who we put our trust and hope in. We should never “make it difficult” for someone to come to Jesus because we have put our own stipulations on the Gospel. Any fruit in our lives, any following of the law, flows simply out of our love for Christ and desire to please Him.

The church in Antioch rejoiced because of the encouragement of Paul and Barnabus. Who can you encourage in the Lord today?

Who needs to hear the message that we do not need to look a certain way to be loved by Jesus?

Friday Reflections

Do not be afraid. 

It is the most often repeated command in all of Scripture. God must have known how easily, how quickly, fear and anxiety slip into our hearts, how readily our minds begin to spiral into worry, and before we know it, we are in a deep abyss of “what ifs” and “what abouts.” I am often surprised in my own life just how frequently I have to learn, again, to not be afraid, and just how quickly, just when I think I’ve got it mastered now, I forget.

This promise in Genesis 15 comes to Abram right after he has given up his right to the riches he plundered from the four Eastern kings while saving Lot. In a very briefly recorded encounter, Abram rejects the use of power and wealth to achieve God’s purpose. When Abram one day receives an inheritance, promised to him by God, he wants God alone to receive all the glory. Abram will rely solely on God to give him the land that He has promised and to make him into a great nation. 

I have a lot to learn here. So often, when I don’t understand what God is doing, or when I feel like He is taking too long to come through on His promises, my temptation is to take things into my own hands. To look for sufficiency and a solution elsewhere. But not Abram. He’s far from home, he’s getting old, he still has no children, but He trusts fully in the promise of God.

And in reply to this faith, this clear show of trust, God says to Abram, “do not be afraid. I am your reward.”

Not your land.

Not your financial security.

Not your job, not your wife, not your family.

I am your shield. I will protect you.

I am your great reward. I will be all you need.

No amount of riches, no amount of land, even no number of descendants could be a better reward than God Himself. In your own life, in mine, no amount of success, no amount of financial security, no amount of happiness can rival the reward that is found in relationship with and dependence on our Almighty Father. God Himself is what we are seeking. God Himself is what we are longing for. God Himself is what we need above all else.

He may still give the other things, sure. I look around my own life and it is abundantly clear – God has given me good things. He still eventually gives Abraham a son in his old age and the land of Canaan to his descendants. He rescues Abraham’s people out of slavery in Egypt and, so much later, out of slavery from sin when He sends His Son to die for our ransom. But among all these blessings, all that God gives, the very greatest reward He gives to Abraham, and to you and to me, is Himself. God gives us more of Himself. 

It has been many years here since God asked Abram to leave his home in Ur, where He first promised Abram that He would make him a great nation. Abram is still waiting on God to fulfil this promise that he will one day have a child. And in so many ways, we are in the same boat. It has been a great many years since God promised, through Jesus, that He was preparing a place for us to live eternally in Heaven. Oh, how I long for the fulfillment of that promise. The world is broken and seems to get darker by the day. Hatred, disease, and destruction often seem to lurk around every corner and fill so many headlines. I long for the promised day when Jesus will restore us to Himself and wipe away every tear from every eye.

And yet, in Abram’s waiting and in our own, this is God’s promise: He will be our shield. Our exceedingly great reward. No matter how long we wait. No matter what comes. No matter what sorrow or loss or heartache this world throws at us. God will still be God and He will still be good, and He is enough for us. Life with Him now, here, and life with Him eternal is our greatest hope, our greatest reward.

What are you looking to for comfort and protection?

What would it look like to long for God’s presence and nearness above all other tangible rewards that the world offers?

How can we practice appreciating His presence as our great reward in our everyday lives?

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