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Genesis 26:3-5 1
3 Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham. 4 I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, 5 because Abraham obeyed me and did everything I required of him, keeping my commands, my decrees and my instructions.”

stars250Background

So how many stars are in the sky? 2 Let’s start with the galaxies. There are, astronomers estimate, around 170 billion galaxies in the observable universe, stretching out over a radius of some 45.7 billion light-years. Those galaxies vary in terms of the number of stars they contain. Some spiral galaxies have more than a trillion stars. Some giant elliptical galaxies have 100 trillion stars. There are also tiny dwarf galaxies—tiny being, obviously, a relative term here—that have a significantly fewer number of stars. The Milky Way—our little corner of the observable universe—has, for its part, some 400 billion stars.
So! If we multiply the (estimated) average number of stars in each galaxy by the number of galaxies in the observable universe—and carry the billion, etc.—we get a rough estimate of ALL THE STARS we’re capable of observing. There are roughly a septillion stars in the observable universe. That’s 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars. Which is, for lack of a more fitting description … a lot of stars.

When you live outdoors, camp where there are no city lights as the Israelites and Abraham did, you understand the concept of “a lot of stars.” In Genesis 26 we are being reminded that God’s love for us is beyond our own ability to conceptualize it, “it’s a lot of love.”

Biblical Truth 3

Isaac both believed and depended on the Divine grant of the land of Canaan to him and his heirs. Now that there was famine in the land, Isaac still held on to God’s covenant. The real worth of God’s promises cannot be underestimated here to a believer just because he has hardships. If God decides to be with us, and we are where He (God) would have us to be, nothing but our own unbelief and distrust can prevent us from achieving a state of comfort. The obedience of Abraham to God’s command, was evidence that his faith, even as a sinner, was justified (made right) before God, and the effect of that love testifies that God approved of Abraham’s obedience and encouraged others, especially Isaac of God’s presences and love.

Items for Discussion

  • The counting of stars is fruitless as is the measuring of God’s love – So why do we rely so much on our own ability and so little on God?
  • As people’s lives move farther from the experiences of our Biblical ancestors, it is harder to understand the Bible – How do we protect ourselves from the risk of losing touch with God’s Word because our lives and environment is evolving?
  • It is clear to readers of history that God keeps His promises – Because, however, many of His promises span generations, how to we make sure our children do not lose touch with the very character of their God?
  • What are the risks within our society today that might cause our children not to know their God?

 

Philippians 2:12-16
12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. 14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.

Background 4

The Philippians felt a very deep affection and interest for Paul and his message. The scope of the letter is to confirm them in their faith, to encourage them to walk as the gospel of Christ teaches, to caution them against drifting backwards by changing their teachers back to the tenants of the Old Testament, and to express gratitude for their Christian bounty. This letter is the only one, among those written by Paul, in which no censures are implied or expressed. Full commendation and confidence are in every part, and the Philippians are addressed with a peculiar affection.

Paul wanted:

  1. To thank the Christians at Philippi for the gifts that they had sent him by Epaphroditus.
  2. To inform the Christians at Philippi about his own circumstances. He also wanted to tell them that Epaphroditus had recovered from his dangerous illness. He was returning to Philippi.
  3. To appeal for unity and for the end of quarrels in the church.
  4. To warn them about false Doctrine, especially that of Jewish Christians who insisted on Circumcision for Gentiles.
  5. To urge them to remain loyal to their faith and to stand firm against opponents of the Gospel’s message.

Paul was in prison when he wrote this letter. He was not sure of the result of a trial.

Bible Truth 5

Verse 12 – Paul is no longer with them. So the Christians at Philippi must trust and obey God. Paul was away from them in prison and his future was not certain. He gave this command to obey to his ‘dear friends’. They must obey God always. So they must understand and realize their own sin and weakness. They must have a true sense of the majesty and character of God. As Jesus obeyed God right to the end, so must they. Jesus is their model.

‘work out your own salvation’. Paul does not mean that the Christians at Philippi must work to earn their salvation. He is writing to those who are Christians. So they already know Christ’s salvation. It was theirs as a free gift from God (Ephesians 2:8). Paul’s word that we have translated ‘work out’ comes in the works of Strabo. He was a Greek who lived in the days of Jesus. Strabo describes how the Romans ‘worked out’ the great silver mines of Spain. In other words, they were getting all the silver that they could from the mines. So Christians must work hard to get all the wonderful riches that their salvation in Christ has for them.

‘with fear and trembling’. This does not mean the terror of a slave in front of a cruel master. It means the honor that we should give to our holy and powerful God.

Verse 13 – God’s loving purpose is that Christians should become mature in their faith. They should ‘become more and more like Christ’ (Ephesians 4:13). The Christians at Philippi needed to work at their relations with each other. God’s purpose for the Christians there was that they should agree with each other. God gives people the desire to obey him. And he makes that desire strong. He gives people the power to do his will. ‘God began this good work in you. And I am sure that he will continue it’ (Philippians 1:6). God’s grace begins a person’s salvation, but each person needs to accept this gift. God’s grace continues to work by his Holy Spirit. But Christians need to allow the Holy Spirit to work in them. Christians are responsible to work with God.

Verse 14 ‘protests’ describes the way in which the Israelites spoke to each other about Moses as their leader (Exodus 15:24). When they argued with each other, the Christians at Philippi were showing a lack of unity. They were proud of their own opinions and they were not willing to think about those of other people. Perhaps they were even trying to take their troubles to the law courts (1 Corinthians 6:1-11).

‘children of God who are not guilty’ are words that Paul used from the Greek translation of Deuteronomy 32:4. Unlike the complaining Israelites, the Christians at Philippi are true children of God. Therefore they must show that they are suitable to serve God. That is, like an animal sacrifice that must be perfect (Leviticus 1:10). They are in a world where people turn from the right way of God’s law. Christians must be like stars that light up the dark sky at night. They must show what is good and true to those in the darkness of sin.

Verse 16 – They ‘hold out’ the good news that brings life. Their behavior will show whether their faith is genuine. They must not spoil their witness to the world by protests and arguments. Paul wanted to be proud of them on the day of judgment. He did not want all his hard work to be in vain. He was like a runner in a race. The runner would be disappointed if his hard training (preparation) had brought no success.

Items for Discussion

  • How would you describe to a new Christian, the terms “with fear and trembling?”
  • We know there are more stars than anyone can count. What does Paul mean here when he says if you don’t grumble and argue, you will shine bright among the stars?
  • Why would you conclude that grumbling and arguing takes your “SHINE” away?
  • What is the evidence that your approach to no grumbling and arguing is working?

Discussion Challenge

  • With every group of humans, there is discord and disagreement. How to you hold to the spirit of Paul’s charge to us within the Christian church?
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