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Friday: Further Thought ~ The Covenant With Abraham — 27 Comments

  1. Question 3: Some people argue against the idea that God will punish the lost, saying that this act would be against God’s love. How do we, as those who believe that, yes, God will punish the lost, respond to the argument that He doesn’t?

    God can **not** deny his own **Divine Nature**, of love, mercy, long suffering and Justice.

    When his love, mercy and long suffering is *constantly rejected* his last quality of Justice is applied.

    However, the wages that sin pays is *death* *not eternal life in torment*

    Romans 5:14-21, Revelation 20:11-15

    • A key issue that needs to be kept in mind is that God's ways of being and doing are significantly "higher" than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9 within context of Isaiah 55 and Matthew 5-7). So how does God set about to help us grow in our understanding of ways that are outside of our experience? As Richard Ferguson well said in his comment on Sunday:

      "God used rituals and ceremonies of the ancient Near East with which Abram would have been very familiar, but used them in a radically different way to reveal to Abram the nature of his character and the reliability of his promises".

      Richard's comment illustrates the point that God, of necessity, needs to start with language and concepts that we are familiar with, but then progressively re-educate us how His manifestations of those are different to what we are used to. The apostle Paul notes the same issue in Romans 12:2 - our default understandings have been shaped by and therefore reflect those of the world. This is the wider context that words/concepts such as "punishment" and "justice" need to be considered within. What are God's higher ways/expressions of these human terms and concepts?

      We know that God is 'love' and that God's "radically different" form of love is self-renouncing beneficence (1 John 4:8-9). We know that such love is abundantly patient and merciful (2 Peter 3:9, John 3:16; Luke 23:34). We also know that God is absolutely committed to genuine freewill choice of all created beings (eg Galatians 5:1; Isaiah 61:1) - including the freedom to choose against Him and His ways. So where does God's higher ways of 'punishment' and 'justice' fit into all of this - as per God's own self-declaration in Exodus 34:6-7?

      For the sake of being brief, consider the following two options.

      1) God allows humans to choose the way of life or the way of death (Deuteronomy 30:15-20). But if/when they choose the way of death, God then punishes them for making that choice by putting them to death.

      2) God allows humans to choose the way of life or the way of death (Deuteronomy 30:15-20). However, the way of life or the way of death are each differing inherent realities with inherent implications and consequences (as per Romans 8:2; Galatians 6:7-8; James 1:14-15; Romans 6:23; Proverbs 8:36; Genesis 2:16-17). While God initially restrains the inherent consequences of choosing the way of death in order to provide a temporary, 'probationary' period of 'second-chance' (born of His desire expressed in 2 Peter 3:9), when a person or group of people have irreversibly set ('hardened') their choice of the way of death (Genesis 6:5; Proverbs 14:12), God at various points releases the restraint He had been exercising. With restraint released, the inherent consequences of "the law of sin and death" flow forth producing their inherent 'punishment' and, ultimately, destruction.

      Which of these options genuinely preserves, to the end, authentic freedom of choice and therefore aligns with the totality of God's nature and character and the way in which reality is structured (as per Romans 8:2)?*

      * Some may rightly question "how are we to understand the many references in scripture that appear (to us) to suggest that God is the one actually doing the punishing?" Keeping the following in mind authentically resolves this issue:

      "Hebrew culture attributed responsibility to an individual for acts he did not commit but that he allowed to happen. Therefore the inspired writers of the Scriptures commonly credit God with doing actively that which in Western thought we would say He permits or does not prevent from happening, for example, the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart.(Methods of Bible Study: Section 4.16)

        • Hi Larry

          How your question is answered depends upon which concept of justice and punishing you are referring to. Our human version of justice certainly involves, and is built upon, infliction of punishment. And our human version of justice is essentially underpinned by our human version of vengeance which is typically revenge-based: the desire that someone experience the 'right amount' of pain and suffering as payback for what they have done. It is interesting that even when this amount of punishment is applied to a perpetrator, the victim typically does not actually experience the resultant satisfaction and 'peace' they had hoped for.

          I find God's form of justice to be radically different. God's justice is better conveyed by the term 'justness' and is one-and-the-same thing as righteousness or 'rightness' (eg Isaiah 1:27; 5:7). These are an inseparable part of how reality under God operates whereby those who choose the way life will obtain life and those who choose the way of death will obtain death*. This essentially and ultimately entails supporting those who choose the way of life and releasing those who choose the way of death to the inherent consequences of their choice. This is summarised in Galatians 6:8 which is the reality that vindicates the mocking/blasphemy of God (Galatians 6:7)**. What is the thing that has mocked God? Within the context of these verses it would be the suggestion that punishment/consequences are an imposed rather than inherent phenomenon - that God's justice is the same as our human justice.

          That's the short version...

          * Unfortunately God's merciful provision of a temporary period of probation-based restraint of inherent consequences of evil leads us to mistakenly conclude otherwise at times (eg Psalm 73).

          ** See also Isaiah 3:8-11 that reflects the same principle as Galatians 6:8.

          • Hi Phil

            Thanks for the short version.
            The big words in your long version don't tally in my Irish brain.

            However, God's nature is easy to find in scripture as Love,mercy,long suffering and Justice.

            The wages of sin is death. The source of death is sin.


      • Where did you find *God punishING* anywhere in my comment ?
        That's not in God's nature, read it again !

        Shalom 🙏

        • Hi Larry

          I was merely exploring the scope of views on the topic that I appreciated you validly raising from the lesson. I wasn't suggesting or implying that you were proposing a 'punishing God'. Thanks for seeking clarification...as misunderstanding in text-only communication is a high risk.

      • The LORD is the only one who can give humans eternal life!!!
        Humans cannot choose to have eternal life or eternal death, they can only choose whom to love, worship and serve - either the LORD and Creator or themselves/Satan.

        Thus the "inherent consequences" of choosing the Life Giver or the Devil is Eternal Life or to cease to exist!
        Right from the beginning the LORD gave the choice - Good & Life or Evil & Death.

        • Hi Shirley

          To clarify in regard to your emphasised statement: "The LORD is the only one who can give humans eternal life!!!" Do you believe I am suggesting or implying that eternal life can be attained independently of God?

          • I get the impression that you say the choice between the way of life or death is up to the individual, while I believe the choice is whom we love, worship and serve and the LORD decides/judges if a person has truly submitted their will to him and allowed Him to change their character and is safe to be given eternal life.
            The difference is making a mental choice or completely surrendering my life to the LORD.

            • Thanks Shirley for your elaboration. I see where you are coming from. And I am in agreement that authentic choice is more than mere mental ascent - that authentic choice is complete surrender to God and to living in harmony with the ways of God. I find salvation to be a collaborative partnership between God and the individual.

            • Praise the LORD that he gives us the power to live according to His Principles of Life. I believe that 2Peter 1:1-11 describes our partnership with the LORD and how we get to partake of His divine nature.

  2. God does not force anybody to stay by His side. He longs for everyone, but He cannot force Himself to others... God made us free to choose! And because we chose to sin we are here! Eventhough the price for our rebelion is death, Jesus came to die for all of those who want it!

  3. So the whole city was destroyed. There are some things that are difficult to explain... And this week I was asked "What about the babies and children? Weren't there any?"
    How do we respond to this?

    • I know where you are coming from and how some people have not come to grips with evil and evil desires that have consequences, even on innocence babies and the young and the upright in heart.

      We are assured in scripture that books are opened in remembrance of all deeds and actions and everyone will be judged by a judge who knows all the details and suffering and pain will be no more, except for those thrown into the lake of fire.

      Perfect Justice will be done.
      Even a lifetime of pain and suffering in this testing time in minds and hearts, in this wilderness of sin, will be nothing to compare to the pure love of God for all eternity, and ALL will know what sin is, and was, that caused all this misery and will hate sin with a vengeance.
      You love righteousness and hate wickedness, therefore, God will anoint you will his oil of gladness.

      Revelation 20:11-15 (CSB)
      11 Then I saw a great white throne and one seated on it. Earth and heaven fled from his presence, and no place was found for them.
      12 I also saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life, and the dead were judged according to their works by what was written in the books.
      13 Then the sea gave up the dead that were in it, and Death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them; each one was judged according to their works.
      14 Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

      Revelation 21:1-8 (CSB)
      1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.
      2 I also saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband.
      3 Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look, God’s dwelling is with humanity, and he will live with them. They will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them and will be their God.
      4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away.
      5 Then the one seated on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new.” He also said, “Write, because these words are faithful and true.”
      6 Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will freely give to the thirsty from the spring of the water of life.
      7 “The one who conquers will inherit these things, and I will be his God, and he will be my son.
      8 “But the cowards, faithless, detestable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars -- their share will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

    • There are things that we, as as mere humans, will not understand on this earth.
      Perhaps God saw that if this town wasn’t totally destroyed, it would lead the survivors even more to sinfulness and their own destruction.

      When a Godly, gifted teacher/principal who was well-loved by the students and young people was killed in an accident I had to quit asking “why” because it made no sense to me. God either causes or allows things to happen sometimes that we just can’t understand and we just have to let God be God.
      And yes, there probably were young ones there, and if allowed to live they might have been worse than their parents because they would have known the story and been mad. I don’t know, I only know that I try to let God be God, and hopefully I follow where He leads me.

  4. QN 3. Indeed, “The LORD will rise up as he did at Mount Perazim, he will rouse himself as in the Valley of Gibeon— to do his work, his strange work, and perform his task, his alien task.” Isaiah 28:21. God warned humanity from the beginning, “the soul that sins shall die.”

    Still, we sinned. And what does God do? For centuries of human existence, God seeks, he runs after, he entreats, he instructs, he covers. He delays the inevitable so that all may have a chance to come to repentance.

    God is holy and holiness and sin cannot co-exist in the same space. Yet, he chooses to make me, filthy with sin, his temple. He stands at my door and knocks asking me to let him come in. And when I open the door, it is not that I am sinless and worthy of him. No! He takes my sin on himself and bears the agony of it on my behalf. He covers me with his righteousness.

    Imagine “righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, dhe was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard)” 2 Peter 2:7–8 . If this is true for Lot whose righteousness was as filthy rags, how much more the torment for the Holy God as through the ages he bears long with the wickedness of this world?

    God made the ultimate sacrifice and paid the debt of sin. He endured the cross, despised the shame, and freely gives the gift of eternal life to whosoever will. God entreats, “Choose Life!” But it is still a choice; love cannot be coerced. All who reject God’s free gift of life will have their choices honoured.

    But love demands that a time must come when sin must end. A time will come when, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4.

    I cannot look at the full picture of God’s dealing with humanity and fail to see him as anything but Love. If that isn’t love, then I don’t know what is!

    • "God made the ultimate sacrifice and paid the debt of sin. He endured the cross, despised the shame, and freely gives the gift of eternal life to whosoever will. God entreats, “Choose Life!” But it is still a choice; love cannot be coerced. All who reject God’s free gift of life will have their choices honoured."

      "But love demands that a time must come when sin must end. A time will come when, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4."

      "I cannot look at the full picture of God’s dealing with humanity and fail to see him as anything but Love..."

      Beautiful, inspiring reflections. Thank you, Jocelyn.

    • When you picture God, do you ever see Him laughing joyfully? I'm still mulling this over myself....

      A "no" answer for me might include the 2 Peter 2:7-8 text you referenced, how Lot was distressed by the wicked state of the world, and how God must be even more tormented by it. And your other text, Rev. 21:4, reminds us that crying and pain are common until sin ends. I'm picturing Revelation Seminar ad posters, frequently fear-filled scenes of people with horrified faces and rocks falling on them and flames of fire and the dragon and beasts and so forth. Some could call these times "gloom and doom". Did Noah laugh in those 120 years of preaching before the Flood? Did Abraham laugh (other than laughing with doubt that Sarah would conceive)? Can empathetic people today laugh with all the wars and trauma and secularism in the world? Is there a godly place for clean, light-hearted entertainment in a Christian's life today or is time too short for entertainment?

      On the other hand, I would support a "yes God laughs joyfully" with these thoughts: (1)Jesus attracted little children to himself and we know kids are more likely to run to warm and playful "strangers" than stern serious adults. (2)The fruits of the Spirit are peace, JOY and love. Laughter is a part of joy to me. And laughter is a part of close relationships and so I'm pretty sure it is a part of my relationship with God. (3)We're made in God's image and as such, I've always thought my sense of humor is from God. I laugh a lot at absurd situations and mistakes in understanding that I tend to make from being too literal sometimes. (4)Some of God's creations are just funny - the platypus, the elephant seal, a pelican's bill pouch... (5) The Bible doesn't specifically mention God laughing with joy,but it says God rejoices over us (Is. 62:5) and that as humans it is healthy to have a cheerful heart (Prov. 17:22) and that there is a time to laugh (Job 8:21; Eccl. 3:4).

      So how do y'all picture God? Do you ever "hear" Him chuckle even in the midst of The Battle between good and evil?

  5. Us humans always break our promises to our love ones but our God always faithful to His promises. We need to wait patiently for Gods timing. As we wait, we need to obey and worship Him by praying and show His love and mercy to everyone around us.


  6. Q 1: Only the rainbow and circumcision are called “sign of the covenant.” What are the common points and the differences between the two covenants?

    Common points:
    God took the time to give US a visible witness for his love for his creation. We have SEEN rainbows for thousands of years. Next time you see a rainbow, think of the creator.
    Circumcision in the flesh has been carried out for thousands of years and is also visible to his creatures as a sign of ownership.
    Both will be transformed to New Heavens and New Earth.

    Differences: The difference is, only one is personal as a sign of Sonship by the Holy Spirit's work of transformation to a new immortal creature.

  7. Q 2: Though called of God, and though often used in the New Testament as the example of what it means to live by faith, Abraham at times faltered. What lessons should we learn and not learn from his example?

    Abraham suffered from the same fallen nature as we do. Fallen *image of God* aka Qualities of the Divine Nature

    Here are the qualities of the divine nature and its source, 2 Peter 1:3-10, John 15:1-12

    The apostle James says to those born again believers:
    James 3:9-13 (CSB)
    9 With the tongue we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in God’s likeness.
    10 Blessing and cursing come out of the same mouth. My brothers and sisters, these things should not be this way.
    11 Does a spring pour out sweet and bitter water from the same opening? 12 Can a fig tree produce olives, my brothers and sisters, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a saltwater spring yield fresh water.
    13 Who among you is wise and understanding? By his good conduct he should show that his works are done in the gentleness that comes from wisdom.

    Even though, if we are born again from above, Our problem is we still have our fallen nature, we are at war with this new nature (seed of Christ in us ) as it grows. Galatians 5:15-26
    We listen at times to our old fallen nature and not the spiritual nature/seed... Jesus tells us we need to stay linked to the vine (HIM)
    John chapter 15

    Our mind and heart must be trained every morning to eat spiritual Food, to ask for guidance by the Holy Spirit.

    If / When we fall down,,we repent and get renewal. We want Jesus on the throne of our hearts and minds as a temple, that *HE* can bless our families and many others through us. That's our purpose as priests and sons of God , to bless others, is it not ?
    Psalms 1, Revelation 22:2,

  8. Our Creator created man, therefore man cannot know himself unless he knows the Father; Christ Jesus introduced to us our Creator Father. To help me understand and put the relationship He has with me in proper perspective, I cannot but see Him as my loving, heavenly Father; He has become all in all to me. He revealed himself to me as such from the very beginning of our relationship.
    Even before I knew about Christ Jesus being in me and me being in the Father because Christ Jesus is in Him, I knew that ours was a personal, spiritual relationship – from His heart to my heart. Nothing can separate us or come between us, because I am one with Him in Christ – John10:30.

    Abraham must have been very special in God’s eyes since He picked him from all other possible choices; it was in him that He invested His Covenant work to bring Salvation to all mankind. Though he was especially selected for that purpose, I see Abraham to be like all believers – after meeting the Father to learn to walk by faith and increasing in trust and love for the Father throughout this earthly journey.

    I think being declared ‘lost’ is the gravest decision the Father and His heavenly hosts have to make on behalf of and to maintain the integrity of His Universe's Creation. We, flesh and blood, can never know what is the full measure of the soul which by heaven is declared ‘lost’.
    Because of this, our heavenly Father's focus is to reveal to us who we are - to love Him, believe in Him and trust Him, those who can hear Him and talk with Him, encouraging us to walk rightly and peaceably with each other. Phil.4:8; 13;

  9. The lesson learned on Abraham's faith in God is: His faith remained though there were times when it faltered. He relied on the the principle and not the feeling. Abraham had Paul's faith: There is nothing absolutly nothing that can separate us from the love of God. Romans 8:37-39. When we falter we get up and say: Have thine own way Lord! Have Thine own way! Thou art the Potter I am the clay. Mold me and make me after Thy will. While I am waiting yielding and still. 🙏

    Peace be with everyone, and happy Sabbath. 🙏


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