Introduction: This week we see the Lord providing Abraham a blessed period of rest, and of strengthening. Do you realize that two of the fundamental blessings of the Christian life are peace with God through the blood of Christ’s cross and the daily renewal of the Spirit of God, often depicted in the Bible by water’s refreshing properties? Abraham enjoys both these fundamental blessings in our studies this week. May the Lord enable us this week to enter into such a rest of faith as we study Abraham’s life.
Monday: read Genesis 21:22-23 and Psalm 145:13-20. We ought to thank God that even the Philistine King Abimelech could recognize the Lord’s hand of blessing in Abraham’s life (Gen. 21:22). This reminds us that God’s revelation of His Providence over all men’s needs is clear to all men. As Psalm 145:15-16 says, speaking of God’s provision for the whole creation: ‘The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.’
Meditate & Pray: Thank God that His work of caring for His creation is not something He hides under a bushel. One day we will marvel at how clearly God portrayed Himself to all men’s consciences, and we will agree with God’s judgment against those who turned a blind eye to what they could so clearly see. God’s kindness is meant to lead men to repentance (Romans 2:4). If Abimelech and his commander Phicol in Genesis 21:22 saw that Divine kindness at work in Abraham’s life, they should have repented and sought it for themselves. If you by faith own that kindness for yourself and love God for it, thank Him for opening your eyes to what so many fail to see.
Tuesday: read Genesis 21:23-24 and Psalm 130:4. We may be sadly suspicious of the Philistines’ response to God’s blessing of Abraham in Gen. 21:22-23. They respond with fear of being harmed by Abraham rather than being drawn to his God. They should have said to him, ‘Let us go with you, because we have seen that God is with you,’ (Zechariah 8:23). Sadly, Philistines and other unbelievers often express their rejection of God by fearing His work in others’ lives. This fear made them send Isaac away in similar circumstances in Gen. 26:12-16. Such unbelieving fear also made those who witnessed Jesus’ deliverance of the Gerasene demoniac beg Him to leave their neighborhood in Luke 8:37. How tragic!
Meditate and Pray: As a believer in God’s saving grace through Jesus Christ, thank God for giving you the right balance of fear and assurance. What a joy to know that there is forgiveness with God – and therefore in fearful love to desire at all costs not to offend such a God of mighty, forgiving grace. ‘There is forgiveness with you; therefore you are feared.’ (Psalm 130:4)
Wednesday: read Genesis 21:23-33 and Psalm 33:16-22. The contrast between Abraham’s assurance of God’s kindness and the Philistines’ unbelieving fear of Abraham continues as we observe the legal and merely outward nature of the contract which the Philistines strike with Abraham. They look at God’s Name as a legal guarantee of material and physical safety (Genesis 21:23). But Abraham cries out to God in Gen. 21:33 in utter dependence on that Name, having nothing else to hold onto, alien as he was in the Philistine kingdom. For Abraham, the Name of God is the only guarantee which he has for deliverance and protection. He does not rest in the recently signed treaty with Abimelech. He immediately goes in verse 33 to the Lord after Abimelech’s departure, as if to remind us that he put little stock in the promises of men!
Meditate and Pray: Using Psalm 33:16-22, thank God that ‘His eyes are on those who fear Him, on those whose hope is in His unfailing love. That was Abraham’s place of rest and it is yours as well.
Thursday: read Genesis 21:32-34. John Calvin said: “God sometimes deals with His faithful people, that when they have been tossed by various storms, He at length permits them to breathe freely.” This is what Abraham’s planting of a tree in verse 33 means. Never before have we heard of the patriarch taking such a long-term step in the land in which he was a stranger. Yes, Abraham knows that the land is not yet his – he still must pay tribute to the Philistines in Genesis 21:27-32 and thereby acknowledge their sovereign ownership. Yet, by faith Abraham rests in God’s protection and resides “many days” in the land of the Philistines. (Gen. 21:34).
Meditate and Pray: Let us sit back as we read these notes and enjoy the beautiful close of the autumn season, thanking God for the perfect rhythms of rest and work which He provides for our lives. All creation, even the moon in its lunar cycle and the stars in their courses bring glory to God as they silently and peacefully submit to God’s sway. Are you able to rest in the midst of a world fraught with financial crises and human worry? Remember the words of hymn # 111 in our hymn book: ‘This is my Father’s world, O let me ne’er forget that though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the Ruler yet.’
Friday: read Genesis 21:33-34. Abraham’s tree-planting is not a mere step to beautify the environment of Canaan. It is tied to his worship of the Lord, done at the same time as he “calls upon the name of the Lord” in Gen. 21:33. From the outset, then, this tree, (or ‘grove’ of trees as it is translated in the King James) becomes associated with worship – as trees often are in this time period. Idol-worshippers, for example, made a point of celebrating their pagan rituals in ‘sacred groves’ or under ‘spreading trees’ as Ezekiel 6:13 and Hosea 4:11-13 make clear. For a far more holy purpose Abraham seeks to reclaim all the idol haunts of the Promised Land, affirming God’s claim on the world as he calls on the Name of the Lord.
Meditate and Pray: Thank God that now, because of Jesus Christ’s victory over the prince of this world, Satan, and over the sinful nations of men, all the world can be claimed for Christ. There is not a square inch which the Devil can still claim. The Cross of our Risen, Victorious Lord Jesus holds sway everywhere: ‘Jesus shall reign where’er the sun does his successive journeys run; His kingdom stretch from shore to shore, till moons shall wax and wane no more.’ (Isaac Watts, hymn # 441)