Key verse: Genesis 15:6
Big idea: In the beginning, God counted Abram's faith as righteousness.
We have already seen Abram demonstrate some marvelous faith: he left everything he has ever known to come to a land he had never seen. God's word had led this man far beyond where his eyes could see. But it is not until today's reading that we come to the famous line, quoted in Romans 4:3, 4:18, Galatians 3:6, and James 2:23, that Abram "believed in the LORD; and He counted it to him for righteousness." The point is not that faith is righteousness, as if having faith is some kind of super-work so good that it cancels out our bad works. Rather God looks at our faith and treats it as if we have been righteous as if a certain transaction notified the bank to move $50 million into your account. It is not your money, and nothing you have done properly entitles you to it, but nevertheless, you receive it.
What is this faith that brings about salvation? It is not abstract faith in God. It is faith in a very particular promise of God: the promise of the coming Seed. Abram did not know the name of Jesus and had never heard of a cross, but when God promised these descendants, he responded to the light he was given and trusted. It reminds me of Genesis 3, where Adam was clothed by God when his own fig leaf coverings still left him naked. It was not immediately, but after the promise of a Son in Genesis 3:15 and after Adam responded in faith by naming his wife "Eve," declaring in faith that she was the mother of all living (Genesis 3:20). Adam did not know that the promised Son would be many generations in the future, but he believed that He was coming!
We have a lot more information. We know that Jesus already came, born of a virgin, born as a descendant of Abraham under the Law (Galatians 4:4-5), and born to be the Last Adam - the beginning of a new humanity (1 Corinthians 15:45). We know that He attained salvation for us by death on a cross, bearing the shame and suffering we deserve. We know that the third day He rose again victorious once and for all. But our faith is in the same Jesus. You and I look back on something Abram looked forward to, but Acts 4:12 rings true: "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."
Discussion idea: What would it mean if Abraham had been saved a different way than us? What does it mean for global evangelism that he wasn't?
Prayer focus: Lord, help me to remember that my salvation was no afterthought. You brought Your Son into the world at the perfect time but have always offered salvation in Him and through Him alone. Even when You made the world and mankind in it, You knew the terrible cost of a relationship with us and chose it anyway. Thank you.
Key verse: Matthew 12:7
Big Idea: The Kingdom of Jesus demands obedience that goes beyond the superficial.
Walking with Jesus on the Sabbath, the disciples reached out to pick some grain to eat. Although this was not a violation of the Sabbath law, it was a violation of the elaborate oral law built up around it. The Pharisees came to Jesus and protested. Jesus could have simply quoted Deuteronomy 23:25, which permitted picking grain with your hands on the Sabbath. Instead, He took a much broader route by making three comparisons. (1) King David broke the letter of the law by taking the sacred loaves of bread when he was on the run from King Saul, (2) the priests worked on the Sabbath because the service of the temple outweighed the restriction against working on Saturday, and (3) God has announced in Hosea that He wanted mercy more than sacrifice.
What do these have to do with the disciples picking grain while they served Jesus? The only way these points would make sense is if Jesus were greater than King David, the sacrificial system, and the temple itself. Priests could offer animals on the Sabbath – but the disciples were serving the perfect Lamb. From dawn to dusk, the temple was busy with work, but the disciples walked with God tabernacled in human flesh. King David’s reign was more important than the ceremonial bread, but the dominion of Jesus would never end. If the Sabbath law was inferior to the shadows that Jesus cast through the years, how much more now? Jesus made the point explicit. The Pharisees should not attack the disciples, “For the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!”
Imagine criticizing obedience to signs and symbols while the Lawgiver Himself stood there. They were precise in their compliance with specific instructions and never understood the heart of God. Our heavenly Father wants more from us than rote obedience, thinking we can earn a relationship with Him. Our righteousness cannot be about what we force up in ourselves. The only holiness that you and I have is the righteousness given to us by faith when we recognize who Jesus is. The Lamb, the Temple, and our Perfect Rest provided the sacrifice and overwhelms us with His mercy.
Discussion Idea: Why is it easier to seek obedience to hundreds of elaborate written and unwritten rules than the simplicity of a transformed heart?
Prayer Focus: Ask God to open your eyes to the heart of the matter: His Son.