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Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18 1
1 After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” 2 But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.” 4 Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” 5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness. 7 He also said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.” 8 But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?” 9 So the Lord said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.” 10 Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. 11 Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away. 12 As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him.

17 When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates—

Background

Chapter 15 of the book of Genesis can be summarized as follows: God encourages Abram. (1) The Divine promise, Abram is justified by faith. (2-6) God promises Canaan to Abram for an inheritance. (7-11) The promise confirmed in a vision. (12-16) The promise confirmed by a sign. (17-21)

We do not have permission to complain about our God, yet God gives us complete freedom to complain to Him and state all of our complaints.  Why? It is a way to ease the burden on our own spirit. It is just like sharing with a faithful friend, to unload those things that bother us the most.  Abram’s complaint is that he had no child. Now that he and his wife are old, it was very probable that Abram would never have any children to inherit his land. He wants a son very badly, to the point that Abram has no comfort in his remaining life.

If one only considers that Abram looked no further than his outward worldly comfort, this complaint was clearly the cause. However, if  we could suppose that after Abram was promised an heir, things changed. Christians go through a similar transition, we have many complaints but God gives us His promise in Christ. What if we go Christless? We should feel like Abram. Our response to our emptiness must be to continue  in prayer, praying with humble submission for God’s will in our lives. Our promise from God is that we will not seek Him in vain.

God gave Abram an express promise of a son. Christians may believe in God with respect to the common concerns of this life and this world. However, it will be our faith that will bring us into the work of Christ. Abram’s belief in God is no different that God’s promise of Christ to us. Our inheritance, our future legacy is to be raised  from the dead (Romans 4:24) and through faith in His sacrifice, obtain forgiveness of our sins.

For Abram’s faith, God provided a clear vision of his future and then confirmed it. God will do the same for us.

Items for Discussion

  • How do you complain to God? About what?
  • What are the attributes of the next generation that we need to pass on to them? Be specific?
  • How do we pass faith on?
  • In what ways does God provide us with a vision and confirmation of His promises?

 

Luke 13:31-35
31 At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.” 32 He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ 33 In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem! 34 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 35 Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

 

Background

It is difficult to evaluate the motives of the Pharisees. We also cannot evaluate whether their warning were sincere or of concerns of a real threat. As in all the Gospels, the Pharisees in Luke are largely antagonistic to Jesus and Jesus to them. There are some exceptions.  In 7:36 and 14:1, for instance, Pharisees invite Jesus into their homes, and in Acts 15:5 we hear that some Pharisees had actually become Christians. On the other hand, their report seems problematic: Luke 9:7-9 and 23:8 suggest Herod’s interest in Jesus was not in killing him, and when given the chance to condemn Jesus during the account of His crucifixion, Herod refuses to do so (23:6-12).

Whatever the purposes of the Pharisees and Herod, Jesus uses the threat to make clear the nature of his upcoming death as a part of his mission. Jesus is going to die in completion of His present ministry. He characterizes this ministry as “casting out demons and performing cures” (verse 32). When Jesus follows this statement about “today and tomorrow” by saying that “on the third day I finish my work,” it is perhaps not apparent from these words alone what He means. Indeed, the reference to “the third day” probably sounds to most readers like a reference to the resurrection. Perhaps the resurrection is meant to be included, but the following verse makes it clear that it is his death that Jesus primarily has in mind: “Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem” (verse 33).

The important point to note is that Jesus’ death is in continuity with the rest of his ministry — “today,” “tomorrow,” and “the third day” go together. Jesus’ death is not of a fundamentally different character than His ministry while He was alive: They are all about establishing the kingdom of God. Holding together Jesus’ life and death helps us to make better sense of both.

Jesus’ prophetic reflection alternates between denunciation and compassion:

  • He first indicts Jerusalem as “the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it” (verse 34). The irony is heavy. Jerusalem, after all, is “the place that the Lord your God will choose out of all your tribes as his habitation to put His name there” (Deuteronomy 12:5). That the city of God’s habitation becomes the seat of such violent opposition to God is part of the ironic tragedy of Israel’s own story, including Jesus’ story.
  • Immediately following this indictment we have the compassionate and agonized plea of v. 35b Jesus (“longs to shelter the children of Israel like a mother hen does for her brood.”)
  • Nevertheless, punishment is announced in verse 35: “your house is left to you desolate.” This is probably a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple (the “house” of God) in A.D. 70 by Titus.

But Jesus ends with a recognition that Jerusalem will, at least for a moment, recognize Him (“I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”). He refers, of course, to his triumphal entry on Palm Sunday.

Items for Discussion

  • How would you “condemn” our cities today?
  • Who are the prophets of today?
  • Do we “kill” the prophets of today? If so, how? If not, why not?
  • We spend much time trying to understand Christ’s mission. What is ours?
  • If Jesus foretold the complete destruction of Jerusalem for their failure to repent and embrace God, do you think the same thing can happen to us today?

Discussion Challenge

  • What should the Christian Church be doing today to support Christ’s mission and change our “City and its Leaders?”

Notes:

  1. NIV New International Version Translations
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