Letting Christ Transform You From The Inside Out
At the end of our first week's readings, we were encouraged to pray to see new beginnings in our lives and to hear God's voice. How did God answer this through last week's readings?
What did God reveal to you about His character through the way he related to the following people in the Book of Genesis?
How powerful was the "Blessing"? Why was it so important to both Jacob and Esau that they receive their father's blessing?
Why did God want to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah? How do you think those cities became such abusers and violators of other people's boundaries? See Ezekiel 16:49 for a clue.
What else did God reveal to you about his heart, mind and character in these pages?
We were introduced to God as “Elohim” and “Yahweh” in the first week. This week, in Genesis 17:1,2 we see a new name “El-Shaddai”, which means “God Almighty”. We might understand the concept of a changed name reflecting a relationship change through the example of marriage. Our new name indicates that we are now “One” unit vs. “Two”.
Unfortunately, most Bible versions generalize God's names. To see the actual names, translated from the Hebrew, download the e-sword Bible Reference by clicking on this link:
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God's used His own voice and spoke to Abraham(Ge 12:1),Sarah(Ge 18:15), Isaac(Ge 26:2), Jacob(Ge 28:2).
God used His own voice and appeared (as "Elohim") to Abram in Ge 17:1. As a result of this, Abram fell face down before God.
God used His own voice and appeared in the form of a man to Abraham and Sarah (Ge 18).
God communicated with Egypt's leader "Pharoah" (Ge 12:17) via terrible plagues because of Sarai, Abram's wife. No audible communication between this Pharaoh and God is mentioned here. (This is not the same Pharaoh that knew Moses.)
God spoke through “the angel of the Lord” to Hagar (Ge 16:7-15; Ge 21:17-21).
God spoke through “the angel of the Lord” to Abraham and told him not to lay a hand on his son, Isaac. (Ge 22:11-12)
God spoke through his angels (which were disguised as men) to warn Lot of Sodom's destruction (Ge 19:1).
God spoke through visions and dreams to Abraham (Ge 15:1) and King Abimelech (Ge 20).
God spoke through an angel to Jacob in Jacob's dream and assured him that He was aware of Laban's ill treatment of him. (Ge 31:10-13)
God spoke through a dream to Laban (Ge 31:29) and warned him to "Leave Jacob alone!".
God used the brilliant star filled sky not only to illustrate, but also to confirm His promise to both Abraham and Isaac (of many descendents).
God used the dust of the earth not only to explain, but also to confirm His promise to Jacob (of many descendents).
God told Jacob (Ge 35:1) to go to Bethel with his family, settle there and build an altar to “the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.” This would forever be a memorial to Jacob of how God rescued him. (An altar was a pile of stones usually).
Abraham and Isaac also built altars & stone memorials as reminders of an experience they had with God in that place. These served as comforting reminders of God's provision.
Did God's interactions with any of the following people speak to your heart this last week? How does God work in their lives? What is God's solution to their dilemma? Could this be a solution to a personal dilemma you are facing?
Abraham: (Ge 12 – 25) - God progressively builds on the level of faith/trust that Abraham has. God molds that faith and deepens it. God even changes Abraham's name. Why would God call Abraham righteous? What does God say about Abraham's sinfulness? Consider God's attitude towards Abraham's lies to both Pharaoh and King Abimelech (Ge 20:3). Does this clash with what you would have expected from God? It did, however, reveal God's patience and grace in His process of building up someone's faith.
Hagar (and Ishmael): (Ge 16:1-15; 17:18-27; 21:8-21; 25:9-18) -
God cares about Hagar and reaches out to her through the Angel of the Lord. Hagar names the place where God appeared to her as “A Well of the Living One Who Sees Me”. God hears Abraham's prayer for Ishmael.
The name Ishmael mean “God hears”. Even though Ishmael is not chosen to be the one through whom the “seed of Jesus” will be carried, God still makes a promise to Ishmael that is similar in some ways to His promise to Isaac. He will also bless Ishmael with 12 tribes and numerous descendents.
Interesting Fact: Esau (Isaac's son) marries his Uncle Ishmael's daughter Basemath. (Ge 28:9; 36:3)
Isaac and Abimelech: (Ge 26:7-16) - Isaac, at first, trusts God and stays out of Egypt. Then, he shows us that he doesn't trust that God will protect him and he lies about his wife Rebekah to Abimelech. Consider God's attitude toward Isaac's lie. Does this clash with what you would have expected from God? What do you think about this situation? Some people have been amazed that God didn't rebuke Isaac and blessed his crop 100 times instead! What does this say to you about God's understanding of our unique and individual needs?
Jacob and Laban: God goes into an enormous amount of detail for us regarding Jacob and Laban's conflict. How does God use Laban's character (specifically his deceitfulness) to transform Jacob? Does Jacob change? What do you think about the "Covenant Meal" that Laban and Jacob shared? Note: A covenant meal would be similar to a wedding reception meal today. It would be a meal that celebrates the forming of a covenant with one another.
Jacob and Esau: (Ge 25 - 35): God details Jacob's fear with respect to seeing his brother Esau again. How does God comfort Jacob with respect to this? After what monumental event does God change Jacob's name to Israel?
Sodom's Sin: (Ge 18:16-21; 19:1-14) The outcry from Sodom had reached God and he sent two angels to go and check it out. Now, most people have heard of Sodom and Gomorrah and know that it was decadent (had become a narcissistic society). However, how did it become this way?
The answer is in Ezekiel 16:49 which states the following:
"Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, plenty of food and comfortable security, but didn't support the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before Me, so I removed them when I saw this."
What happens to our hearts when we choose to notice the people and needs around us (i.e. the poor and needy) and sacrifice our resources and time to care for them?
What happens to our hearts when we distance ourselves from others and refuse to notice the needs around us?
The scripture in Ezekiel makes sense since we now know that the root of narcissism is the lack of empathy.
Jesus made this statement and it was "earth-shaking" at the time.
Matthew 5:23 “So if you are offering your gift on the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift."
Offering a sacrifice to God (in front of the altar) was a very big deal. People would have to offer an animal that was very valuable to them and they would also have to wait in a long line to have their turn in offering the sacrifice. To just leave this very valuable sacrifice there, in front of the altar, even before offering it would have truly seemed ridiculous.
Knowing this, how important do you think it is to God that we initiate the reconciliation process with others?
How does this statement reinforce God's actions in the lives of those who were unreconciled with their “brother” or “sister”, specifically God's actions in Jacob and Laban's lives and God's actions in Jacob and Esau's lives?
The following is a statement that God made in Hosea 6:6 "I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings." Jesus, in Matthew 9:13 also quoted this statement.
How do these scriptures reinforce what we read in Matthew 5:23?
Pray to be receptive to ways God is communicating with you. Look for ways He is validating what you are reading about Him in the Bible - ways that show how much he truly knows you and loves you.