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Genesis 21:22–23:20 (LEB)

The Covenant Between Abraham and Abimelech

22 And it happened that at that time, Abimelech and Phicol, the commander of his army, said to Abraham, “God is with you, in all that you do. 23 So now, swear to me here by God that you will not deal with me falsely, or with my descendants, or my posterity. According to the kindness that I have done to you, you shall pledge to do with me and with the land where you have dwelled as an alien.” 24 And Abraham said, “I swear.” 25 Then Abraham complained to Abimelech on account of the well of water that servants of Abimelech had seized. 26 And Abimelech said, “I do not know who did this thing, neither did you tell me, nor have I heard of it except for today.” 27 And Abraham took sheep and cattle and gave them to Abimelech. And the two of them made a covenant. 28 Then Abraham set off seven ewe-lambs of the flock by themselves. 29 And Abimelech said to Abraham, “What is the meaning of these seven ewe-lambs that you have set off by themselves?” 30 And he said, “You shall take the seven ewe-lambs from my hand as proof on my behalf that I dug this well.” 31 Therefore that place is called Beersheba, because there the two of them swore an oath. 32 And they made a covenant at Beersheba. And Abimelech, and Phicol his army commander stood and returned to the land of the Philistines. 33 And he planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called on the name of Yahweh, the everlasting God. 34 And Abraham dwelled as an alien in the land of the Philistines many days.

God Tests Abraham

22 And it happened that after these things, God tested Abraham. And he said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” And he said, “Take your son, your only child, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains where I will tell you.” And Abraham rose up early in the morning and saddled his donkey. And he took two of his servants with him, and Isaac his son. And he chopped wood for a burnt offering. And he got up and went to the place which God had told him. On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and he saw the place at a distance. And Abraham said to his servants, “You stay here with the donkey, and I and the boy will go up there. We will worship, then we will return to you.” And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and placed it on Isaac his son. And he took the fire in his hand and the knife, and the two of them went together. And Isaac said to Abraham his father, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Here is the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” And Abraham said, “God will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went together.

And they came to the place that God had told him. And Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood. Then he bound Isaac his son and placed him on the altar atop the wood. 10 And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. 11 And the angel of Yahweh called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham! Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 And he said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the boy; do not do anything to him. For now I know that you are one who fears God, since you have not withheld your son, your only child, from me.” 13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked. And behold, a ram was caught in the thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it as a burnt offering in place of his son. 14 And Abraham called the name of that place “Yahweh will provide,” for which reason it is said today, “on the mountain of Yahweh it shall be provided.” 15 And the angel of Yahweh called to Abraham a second time from heaven. 16 And he said, “I swear by myself, declares Yahweh, that because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only child, 17 that I will certainly bless you and greatly multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and as the sand that is by the shore of the sea. And your offspring will take possession of the gate of his enemies. 18 All the nations of the earth will be blessed through your offspring, because you have listened to my voice.” 19 And Abraham returned to his servants, and they got up and went together to Beersheba. And Abraham lived in Beersheba.

20 And it happened that after these things, it was told to Abraham, “Look, Milcah has also borne children to your brother Nahor: 21 Uz his firstborn and Buz his brother, and Kemuel the father of Aram, 22 and Kesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph, and Bethuel.” 23 (Now, Bethuel fathered Rebekah). These eight Milcah bore to Nahor, the brother of Abraham. 24 And his concubine, whose name was Reumah, also bore Tebah, Gaham, Tahash, and Maacah.

Sarah’s Death and Burial

23 And Sarah lived one hundred and twenty-seven years; these were the years of the life of Sarah. And Sarah died in Kiriath Arba; that is Hebron, in the land of Canaan. And Abraham went to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her. And Abraham rose up from his dead, and he spoke to the Hittites and said, “I am a stranger and an alien among you; give to me my own burial site among you so that I may bury my dead from before me.” And the Hittites answered Abraham and said to him, “Hear us, my lord, you are a mighty prince in our midst. Bury your dead in the choicest of our burial sites. None of us will withhold his burial site from you for burying your dead.” And Abraham rose up and bowed to the people of the land, to the Hittites. And he spoke with them, saying, “If you are willing that I bury my dead from before me, hear me and intercede for me with Ephron the son of Zohar, that he may sell to me the cave of Machpelah which belongs to him, which is at the end of his field. At full value let him sell it to me in your midst as a burial site.” 10 Now Ephron was sitting among the Hittites. And Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the hearing of the Hittites with respect to all who were entering the gate of his city, and said, 11 “No, my lord, hear me. I give you the field and the cave which is in it, I also give it to you in the sight of the children of my people I give it to you. Bury your dead.” 12 And Abraham bowed before the people of the land. 13 And he spoke to Ephron in the hearing of the people of the land, saying, “If only you will hear me—I give the price of the field. Take it from me that I may bury my dead there.” 14 And Ephron answered Abraham, saying to him, 15 “My lord, hear me. A piece of land worth four hundred shekels of silver—what is that between me and you? Bury your dead.” 16 Then Abraham listened to Ephron, and Abraham weighed for Ephron the silver that he had named in the hearing of the Hittites: four hundred shekels of silver at the merchants’ current rate. 17 So the field of Ephron which was in the Machpelah, which was near Mamre—the field and the cave which was in it, with all the trees that were in the field, which were within all its surrounding boundaries—passed 18 to Abraham as a property in the presence of the Hittites, with respect to all who were entering the gate of his city. 19 And thus afterward Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah near Mamre; that is Hebron, in the land of Canaan. 20 And the field and the cave which was in it passed to Abraham as a burial site from the Hittites.

Matthew 15:1–39 (LEB)

Human Traditions and God’s Commandments

15 Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem, saying, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat a meal.” So he answered and​ said to them, “Why do you also break the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your​ father and your​ mother,’ and ‘The one who speaks evil of father or mother must certainly die.’ But you say, ‘Whoever says to his​ father or his​ mother, “Whatever benefit you would have received from me is a gift to God,” need not honor his father,’ and you make void the word of God for the sake of your tradition. Hypocrites! Isaiah correctly prophesied about you saying,

‘This people honors me with their​ lips,

but their heart is far, far away from me,

and they worship me in vain,

teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ”

Defilement from Within

10 And summoning the crowd, he said to them, “Hear and understand: 11 It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth—this defiles a person.” 12 Then the disciples came and​ said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they​ heard this saying?” 13 And he answered and​ said, “Every plant that my heavenly Father did not plant will be uprooted. 14 Let them! They are blind guides of the blind. And if the blind guide the blind, both will fall into a pit.” 15 But Peter answered and​ said to him, “Explain this parable to us.” 16 But he said, “Are you also still without understanding? 17 Do you not understand that everything that enters into the mouth goes into the stomach and is evacuated into the latrine? 18 But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these defile the person. 19 For from the heart come evil plans, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, abusive speech. 20 These are the things that defile a person. But eating with unwashed hands does not defile a person!”

A Canaanite Woman’s Great Faith

21 And departing from there, Jesus went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that district came and cried out, saying, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely possessed by a demon!” 23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came up and​ asked him, saying, “Send her away, because she is crying out after us!” 24 But he answered and​ said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and​ knelt down before him, saying, “Lord, help me!” 26 And he answered and​ said, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it​ to the dogs!” 27 So she said, “Yes, Lord, for even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” 28 Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, your faith is great! Let it be done for you as you want.” And her daughter was healed from that hour.

Many Others Healed in Galilee

29 And departing from there, Jesus went along the Sea of Galilee, and he went up on the mountain and​ was sitting there. 30 And large crowds came to him, having with them the mute, blind, lame, crippled, and many others, and they put them down at his feet, and he healed them. 31 So then the crowd was astonished when they​ saw the mute speaking, the crippled healthy, and the lame walking, and the blind seeing, and they praised the God of Israel.

The Feeding of Four Thousand

32 And Jesus summoned his disciples and​ said, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have remained with me three days already and do not have anything to eat, and I do not want to send them away hungry lest they give out on the way.” 33 And the disciples said to him, “Where in this desolate place can we get so much bread that such a great crowd could be satisfied?” 34 And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” So they said, “Seven, and a few little fish.” 35 And commanding the crowd to recline for a meal on the ground, 36 he took the seven loaves and the fish and after he​ had given thanks, he broke them​ and began giving them​ to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 37 And they all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, seven baskets full. 38 Now those who ate were four thousand men, in addition to women and children. 39 And after he​ sent away the crowds, he got into the boat and went to the region of Magadan.

Ecclesiastes 5:1–7 (LEB)

Listen to God Rather Than Uttering Rash Vows

5 Guard your steps when you go to the house of God;

draw near to listen rather than to offer a sacrifice of fools,

for they do not know that they are doing evil.

Do not be rash with your mouth,

and do not let your heart be quick to utter a word before God.

For God is in heaven, and you are on earth;

therefore, let your words be few.

For a dream comes with many cares,

and the voice of a fool with many words.

When you make a vow to God,

do not delay in fulfilling it,

for he takes no pleasure in fools.

Fulfill what you vow!

It is better that you not vow

than that you vow and not fulfill it.

Do not let your mouth lead your flesh into sin,

and do not tell the messenger that it was a mistake.

Why anger God at your words,

so that he destroys the work of your hands?

For with many dreams come vanities and numerous words.

Therefore, fear God!

January 12: Fear God (Rebecca Van Noord)

January 12

In Ecclesiastes 5, the author stops to consider God’s place in the heavens and our place on earth. He acknowledges that there is a great gulf of understanding between who God is and who we think He is. This realization should affect our entire posture before Him.

“Guard your steps when you go to the house of God,” he says. “Do not be rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth.” Don’t attempt to offer the “sacrifice of fools” with your lips, or even your heart, he adds. Instead, we should come prepared to listen (Eccl 5:1–3).

Coming to God ready to listen doesn’t mean neglecting to bring our troubles or needs before Him. He wants us to do this—but not rashly. Rather, we should offer acknowledgement that He guides our lives. Like Rachel and Leah, in Genesis 30, we may sometimes use God to justify the pursuit of our own goals, rather than seek wisdom and guidance from Him.

It’s an awesome thing to think that this very God who should be approached with such humility and reverence left His place in heaven and came down to earth. This God, who is so beyond our own comprehension, has chosen to dwell in us with His Spirit. The mighty God who rules heaven, earth, and the cosmos, and who breaches all understanding, has chosen to reveal Himself to sinners like us.

What is your attitude towards God?

Rebecca Van Noord is editor-in-chief of Bible Study Magazine. She has developed content for several Bible reference products, including Lexham Bible Dictionary and Faithlife Study Bible.

Connect the Testaments: A Daily Devotional

Author: John D. Barry & Rebecca Van Noord

Publisher: Lexham Press

Publication Date: 2012

This 365-day devotional walks you through the Bible in a year, following a custom reading plan that delves into the stories of the Bible from five unique perspectives.