Genesis 13.1–13: Do the right thing (12 January 2020)

Bible Society's Daily Reflections follow the M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, designed for those who want to read the whole Bible in one year. Each reflection focuses on one of its four daily chapters.

Pray

Pray

Lord, prepare me to receive your word. Clear my mind and warm my heart. Assure me of your loving purposes for me, and speak into my life today.

Read

Read

Abram and Lot Separate

1Abram went north out of Egypt to the southern part of Canaan with his wife and everything he owned, and Lot went with him. 2Abram was a very rich man, with sheep, goats, and cattle, as well as silver and gold. 3Then he left there and moved from place to place, going towards Bethel. He reached the place between Bethel and Ai where he had camped before 4and had built an altar. There he worshipped the LORD.

5Lot also had sheep, goats, and cattle, as well as his own family and servants. 6And so there was not enough pasture land for the two of them to stay together, because they had too many animals. 7So quarrels broke out between the men who took care of Abram's animals and those who took care of Lot's animals. (At that time the Canaanites and the Perizzites were still living in the land.)

8Then Abram said to Lot, “We are relatives, and your men and my men shouldn't be quarrelling. 9So let's separate. Choose any part of the land you want. You go one way, and I'll go the other.”

10Lot looked round and saw that the whole Jordan Valley, all the way to Zoar, had plenty of water, like the Garden of the LORD or like the land of Egypt. (This was before the LORD had destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.) 11So Lot chose the whole Jordan Valley for himself and moved away towards the east. That is how the two men parted. 12Abram stayed in the land of Canaan, and Lot settled among the cities in the valley and camped near Sodom, 13whose people were wicked and sinned against the LORD.

Abram Moves to Hebron

14After Lot had left, the LORD said to Abram, “From where you are, look carefully in all directions. 15I am going to give you and your descendants all the land that you see, and it will be yours for ever. 16I am going to give you so many descendants that no one will be able to count them all; it would be as easy to count all the specks of dust on earth! 17Now, go and look over the whole land, because I am going to give it all to you.” 18So Abram moved his camp and settled near the sacred trees of Mamre at Hebron, and there he built an altar to the LORD.

The Question about the Sabbath

1Not long afterwards Jesus was walking through some cornfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, so they began to pick ears of corn and eat the grain. 2When the Pharisees saw this, they said to Jesus, “Look, it is against our Law for your disciples to do this on the Sabbath!”

3Jesus answered, “Have you never read what David did that time when he and his men were hungry? 4He went into the house of God, and he and his men ate the bread offered to God, even though it was against the Law for them to eat it — only the priests were allowed to eat that bread. 5Or have you not read in the Law of Moses that every Sabbath the priests in the Temple actually break the Sabbath law, yet they are not guilty? 6I tell you that there is something here greater than the Temple. 7The scripture says, ‘It is kindness that I want, not animal sacrifices.’ If you really knew what this means, you would not condemn people who are not guilty; 8for the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

The Man with a Paralysed Hand

9Jesus left that place and went to a synagogue, 10where there was a man who had a paralysed hand. Some people were there who wanted to accuse Jesus of doing wrong, so they asked him, “Is it against our Law to heal on the Sabbath?”

11Jesus answered, “What if one of you has a sheep and it falls into a deep hole on the Sabbath? Will you not take hold of it and lift it out? 12And a human being is worth much more than a sheep! So then, our Law does allow us to help someone on the Sabbath.” 13Then he said to the man with the paralysed hand, “Stretch out your hand.”

He stretched it out, and it became well again, just like the other one. 14Then the Pharisees left and made plans to kill Jesus.

God's Chosen Servant

15When Jesus heard about the plot against him, he went away from that place; and large crowds followed him. He healed all those who were ill 16and gave them orders not to tell others about him. 17He did this so as to make what God had said through the prophet Isaiah come true:

18“Here is my servant, whom I have chosen,

the one I love, and with whom I am pleased.

I will send my Spirit upon him,

and he will announce my judgement to the nations.

19He will not argue or shout,

or make loud speeches in the streets.

20He will not break off a bent reed,

or put out a flickering lamp.

He will persist until he causes justice to triumph,

21and in him all peoples will put their hope.”

Jesus and Beelzebul

22Then some people brought to Jesus a man who was blind and could not talk because he had a demon. Jesus healed the man, so that he was able to talk and see. 23The crowds were all amazed at what Jesus had done. “Could he be the Son of David?” they asked.

24When the Pharisees heard this, they replied, “He drives out demons only because their ruler Beelzebul gives him power to do so.”

25Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he said to them, “Any country that divides itself into groups which fight each other will not last very long. And any town or family that divides itself into groups which fight each other will fall apart. 26So if one group is fighting another in Satan's kingdom, this means that it is already divided into groups and will soon fall apart! 27You say that I drive out demons because Beelzebul gives me the power to do so. Well, then, who gives your followers the power to drive them out? What your own followers do proves that you are wrong! 28No, it is not Beelzebul, but God's Spirit, who gives me the power to drive out demons, which proves that the Kingdom of God has already come upon you.

29“No one can break into a strong man's house and take away his belongings unless he first ties up the strong man; then he can plunder his house.

30“Anyone who is not for me is really against me; anyone who does not help me gather is really scattering. 31And so I tell you that people can be forgiven any sin and any evil thing they say; but whoever says evil things against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. 32Anyone who says something against the Son of Man can be forgiven; but whoever says something against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven — now or ever.

A Tree and its Fruit

33“To have good fruit you must have a healthy tree; if you have a poor tree, you will have bad fruit. A tree is known by the kind of fruit it bears. 34You snakes — how can you say good things when you are evil? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. 35A good person brings good things out of a treasure of good things; a bad person brings bad things out of a treasure of bad things.

36“You can be sure that on Judgement Day everyone will have to give account of every useless word he has ever spoken. 37Your words will be used to judge you — to declare you either innocent or guilty.”

The Demand for a Miracle

38Then some teachers of the Law and some Pharisees spoke up. “Teacher,” they said, “we want to see you perform a miracle.”

39“How evil and godless are the people of this day!” Jesus exclaimed. “You ask me for a miracle? No! The only miracle you will be given is the miracle of the prophet Jonah. 40In the same way that Jonah spent three days and nights in the big fish, so will the Son of Man spend three days and nights in the depths of the earth. 41On Judgement Day the people of Nineveh will stand up and accuse you, because they turned from their sins when they heard Jonah preach; and I tell you that there is something here greater than Jonah! 42On Judgement Day the Queen of Sheba will stand up and accuse you, because she travelled all the way from her country to listen to King Solomon's wise teaching; and I assure you that there is something here greater than Solomon!

The Return of the Evil Spirit

43“When an evil spirit goes out of a person, it travels over dry country looking for a place to rest. If it can't find one, 44it says to itself, ‘I will go back to my house.’ So it goes back and finds the house empty, clean, and all tidy. 45Then it goes out and brings along seven other spirits even worse than itself, and they come and live there. So when it is all over, that person is in a worse state than he was at the beginning. This is what will happen to the evil people of this day.”

Jesus' Mother and Brothers

46Jesus was still talking to the people when his mother and brothers arrived. They stood outside, asking to speak with him. 47So one of the people there said to him, “Look, your mother and brothers are standing outside, and they want to speak with you.”

48Jesus answered, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” 49Then he pointed to his disciples and said, “Look! Here are my mother and my brothers! 50Whoever does what my Father in heaven wants him to do is my brother, my sister, and my mother.”

Nehemiah Goes to Jerusalem

1One day four months later, when Emperor Artaxerxes was dining, I took the wine to him. He had never seen me look sad before, 2so he asked, “Why are you looking so sad? You aren't ill, so it must be that you're unhappy.”

I was startled 3and answered, “May Your Majesty live for ever! How can I help looking sad when the city where my ancestors are buried is in ruins and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”

4The emperor asked, “What is it that you want?”

I prayed to the God of Heaven, 5and then I said to the emperor, “If Your Majesty is pleased with me and is willing to grant my request, let me go to the land of Judah, to the city where my ancestors are buried, so that I can rebuild the city.”

6The emperor, with the empress sitting at his side, approved my request. He asked me how long I would be gone and when I would return, and I told him.

7Then I asked him to grant me the favour of giving me letters to the governors of West Euphrates Province, instructing them to let me travel to Judah. 8I asked also for a letter to Asaph, keeper of the royal forests, instructing him to supply me with timber for the gates of the fort that guards the Temple, for the city walls, and for the house I was to live in. The emperor gave me all I asked for, because God was with me.

9The emperor sent some army officers and a troop of horsemen with me, and I made the journey to West Euphrates. There I gave the emperor's letters to the governors. 10But Sanballat, from the town of Beth Horon, and Tobiah, an official in the province of Ammon, heard that someone had come to work for the good of the people of Israel, and they were highly indignant.

11I went on to Jerusalem, and for three days 12I did not tell anyone what God had inspired me to do for Jerusalem. Then in the middle of the night I got up and went out, taking a few of my companions with me. The only animal we took was the donkey that I rode on. 13It was still night as I left the city through the Valley Gate on the west and went south past Dragon's Fountain to the Rubbish Gate. As I went, I inspected the broken walls of the city and the gates that had been destroyed by fire. 14Then on the east side of the city I went north to the Fountain Gate and the King's Pool. The donkey I was riding could not find any path through the rubble, 15so I went down into the valley of the Kidron and rode along, looking at the wall. Then I returned the way I had come and went back into the city through the Valley Gate.

16None of the local officials knew where I had been or what I had been doing. So far I had not said anything to any of my fellow-Jews — the priests, the leaders, the officials, or anyone else who would be taking part in the work. 17But now I said to them, “See what trouble we are in because Jerusalem is in ruins and its gates are destroyed! Let's rebuild the city walls and put an end to our disgrace.” 18And I told them how God had been with me and helped me, and what the emperor had said to me.

They responded, “Let's start rebuilding!” And they got ready to start the work.

19When Sanballat, Tobiah, and an Arab named Geshem heard what we were planning to do, they laughed at us and said, “What do you think you're doing? Are you going to rebel against the emperor?”

20I answered, “The God of Heaven will give us success. We are his servants, and we are going to start building. But you have no right to any property in Jerusalem, and you have no share in its traditions.”

More Persecution

1About this time King Herod began to persecute some members of the church. 2He had James, the brother of John, put to death by the sword. 3When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he went on to arrest Peter. (This happened during the time of the Festival of Unleavened Bread.) 4After his arrest Peter was put in jail, where he was handed over to be guarded by four groups of four soldiers each. Herod planned to put him on trial in public after Passover. 5So Peter was kept in jail, but the people of the church were praying earnestly to God for him.

Peter is Set Free from Prison

6The night before Herod was going to bring him out to the people, Peter was sleeping between two guards. He was tied with two chains, and there were guards on duty at the prison gate. 7Suddenly an angel of the Lord stood there, and a light shone in the cell. The angel shook Peter by the shoulder, woke him up, and said, “Hurry! Get up!” At once the chains fell off Peter's hands. 8Then the angel said, “Fasten your belt and put on your sandals.” Peter did so, and the angel said, “Put your cloak round you and come with me.” 9Peter followed him out of the prison, not knowing, however, if what the angel was doing was real; he thought he was seeing a vision. 10They passed by the first guard post and then the second, and came at last to the iron gate leading into the city. The gate opened for them by itself, and they went out. They walked down a street, and suddenly the angel left Peter.

11Then Peter realized what had happened to him, and said, “Now I know that it is really true! The Lord sent his angel to rescue me from Herod's power and from everything the Jewish people expected to happen.”

12Aware of his situation, he went to the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. 13Peter knocked at the outside door, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer it. 14She recognized Peter's voice and was so happy that she ran back in without opening the door, and announced that Peter was standing outside. 15“You are mad!” they told her. But she insisted that it was true. So they answered, “It is his angel.”

16Meanwhile Peter kept on knocking. At last they opened the door, and when they saw him, they were amazed. 17He motioned with his hand for them to be quiet, and he explained to them how the Lord had brought him out of prison. “Tell this to James and the rest of the believers,” he said; then he left and went somewhere else.

18When morning came, there was a tremendous confusion among the guards — what had happened to Peter? 19Herod gave orders to search for him, but they could not find him. So he had the guards questioned and ordered them to be put to death.

After this, Herod left Judea and spent some time in Caesarea.

The Death of Herod

20Herod was very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon, so they went in a group to see him. First they convinced Blastus, the man in charge of the palace, that he should help them. Then they went to Herod and asked him for peace, because their country got its food supplies from the king's country.

21On a chosen day Herod put on his royal robes, sat on his throne, and made a speech to the people. 22“It isn't a man speaking, but a god!” they shouted. 23At once the angel of the Lord struck Herod down, because he did not give honour to God. He was eaten by worms and died.

24Meanwhile the word of God continued to spread and grow.

25Barnabas and Saul finished their mission and returned from Jerusalem, taking John Mark with them.

Reflect

Reflect on Genesis 13.1–13

The characters of Abraham and Lot come out very clearly in this brief story. They are both substantial figures, with large numbers of livestock and large households. When competition for resources leads to conflict, it's Abraham who suggests a peaceful resolution, and gives Lot the advantage of choosing where he will go. He doesn't seek his own advantage at the expense of a rival ­– a shining example to negotiators today. Lot chooses badly. The grass may have been greener in the lush pastures of the well-watered plains, but the company was far worse: he went to live among the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, with tragic consequences, while Abraham went to the promised land of Canaan.

It's not really possible to try to construct an 'alternative history' of what might have happened if Lot had chosen differently. But the story does remind us that wrong actions very often have bad consequences. Lot thought he saw an advantage for himself over Abraham and took it. His lack of generosity led to his downfall.

Pray

Pray

God, help me not to seek my own advantage at the expense of others. Help me follow the example of Christ, who emptied himself and took the form of a servant.

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