Famine in the Land (January 11, 2021)

When a famine struck the land, Abram went down toward Egypt to live as an immigrant since the famine was so severe in the land. Just before he arrived in Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know you are a good-looking woman. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife,’ and they will kill me but let you live. So tell them you are my sister so that they will treat me well for your sake, and I will survive because of you.”

Famine in the Land (January 11, 2021)

Genesis 12:10–14:24, CEB

When a famine struck the land, Abram went down toward Egypt to live as an immigrant since the famine was so severe in the land. Just before he arrived in Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know you are a good-looking woman. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife,’ and they will kill me but let you live. So tell them you are my sister so that they will treat me well for your sake, and I will survive because of you.”

When Abram entered Egypt, the Egyptians saw how beautiful his wife was. When Pharaoh’s princes saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh; and the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s household. Things went well for Abram because of her: he acquired flocks, cattle, male donkeys, men servants, women servants, female donkeys, and camels. Then the Lord struck Pharaoh and his household with severe plagues because of Abram’s wife Sarai. So Pharaoh summoned Abram and said, “What’s this you’ve done to me? Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She’s my sister,’ so that I made her my wife? Now, here’s your wife. Take her and go!” Pharaoh gave his men orders concerning Abram, and they expelled him with his wife and everything he had.

Abram went up from Egypt toward the arid southern plain with his wife, with everything he had, and with Lot. Abram was very wealthy in livestock, silver, and gold. Abram traveled, making and breaking camp, from the arid southern plain to Bethel and to the sacred place there, where he had first pitched his tent between Bethel and Ai, that is, to the place at which he had earlier built the altar. There he worshipped in the Lord’s name. Now Lot, who traveled with Abram, also had flocks, cattle, and tents. They had so many possessions between them that the land couldn’t support both of them. They could no longer live together. Conflicts broke out between those herding Abram’s livestock and those herding Lot’s livestock. At that time the Canaanites and the Perizzites lived in the land.

Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have disputes between me and you and between our herders since we are relatives. Isn’t the whole land in front of you? Let’s separate. If you go north, I will go south; and if you go south, I will go north.” Lot looked up and saw the entire Jordan Valley. All of it was well irrigated, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, as far as Zoar (this was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah). So Lot chose for himself the entire Jordan Valley. Lot set out toward the east, and they separated from each other. Abram settled in the land of Canaan, and Lot settled near the cities of the valley and pitched his tent close to Sodom. The citizens of Sodom were very evil and sinful against the Lord.

After Lot separated from him, the Lord said to Abram, “From the place where you are standing, look up and gaze to the north, south, east, and west, because all the land that you see I give you and your descendants forever. I will make your descendants like the dust of the earth. If someone could count the bits of dust on the earth, then they could also count your descendants. Stand up and walk around through the length and breadth of the land because I am giving it to you.” So Abram packed his tent and went and settled by the oaks of Mamre in Hebron. There he built an altar to the Lord.

While Amraphel was king of Shinar, Ellasar’s King Arioch, Elam’s King Chedorlaomer, and Goiim’s King Tidal declared war on Sodom’s King Bera, Gomorrah’s King Birsha, Admah’s King Shinab, Zeboiim’s King Shemeber, and the king of Bela, that is, Zoar. These latter kings formed an alliance in the Siddim Valley (that is, the Dead Sea). For twelve years they had served Chedorlaomer, and in the thirteenth year they revolted. In the fourteenth year, Chedorlaomer and the kings of his alliance came and attacked the Rephaim in Ashteroth-karnaim, the Zuzim in Ham, the Emim in Shaveh-kiriathaim, and the Horites in the mountains of Seir as far as El-paran near the desert. Then they turned back, came to En-mishpat (that is, Kadesh), and attacked the territory of the Amalekites, as well as the Amorites who lived in Hazazon-tamar.

Then the kings of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Bera (that is, Zoar) took up battle positions in the Siddim Valley against King Chedorlaomer of Elam, King Tidal of Goiim, King Amraphel of Shinar, and King Arioch of Ellasar, four kings against five.

Now the Siddim Valley was filled with tar pits. When the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah retreated, they fell into them; and the rest fled to the mountains. They took everything from Sodom and Gomorrah, including its food supplies, and left. They also took Lot, Abram’s nephew who lived in Sodom, and everything he owned, and took off. When a survivor arrived, he told Abram the Hebrew, who lived near the oaks of the Amorite Mamre, who was the brother of Eshcol and Aner, Abram’s treaty partners.

When Abram heard that his relative had been captured, he took all of the loyal men born in his household, three hundred eighteen, and went after them as far as Dan. During the night, he and his servants divided themselves up against them, attacked, and chased them to Hobah, north of Damascus. He brought back all of the looted property, together with his relative Lot and Lot’s property, wives, and people.

After Abram returned from his attack on Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom came out to the Shaveh Valley (that is, the King’s Valley) to meet him. Now Melchizedek the king of Salem and the priest of El Elyon had brought bread and wine, and he blessed him,

“Bless Abram by El Elyon,

creator of heaven and earth;

bless El Elyon,

who gave you the victory

over your enemies.”

Abram gave Melchizedek one-tenth of everything. Then the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the people and take the property for yourself.”

But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I promised the Lord, El Elyon, creator of heaven and earth, that I wouldn’t take even a thread or a sandal strap from anything that was yours so that you couldn’t say, ‘I’m the one who made Abram rich.’ The only exception is that the young men may keep whatever they have taken to eat, and the men who went with me—Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre—may keep their share.”

Job 2:11–13, MEV

Three friends of Job heard about all this evil that had come upon him, and each one came from his own place: Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They had agreed together to come to mourn with him and to comfort him. They saw him from a distance and did not recognize him, so they wept aloud. Each one tore his robe, and they tossed dust into the air above their heads. Then they sat down with him on the ground seven days and seven nights. Meanwhile, no one was speaking to him at all because they saw that his pain was severe.

Isaiah 5, NLT

Now I will sing for the one I love

a song about his vineyard:

My beloved had a vineyard

on a rich and fertile hill.

He plowed the land, cleared its stones,

and planted it with the best vines.

In the middle he built a watchtower

and carved a winepress in the nearby rocks.

Then he waited for a harvest of sweet grapes,

but the grapes that grew were bitter.

Now, you people of Jerusalem and Judah,

you judge between me and my vineyard.

What more could I have done for my vineyard

that I have not already done?

When I expected sweet grapes,

why did my vineyard give me bitter grapes?

Now let me tell you

what I will do to my vineyard:

I will tear down its hedges

and let it be destroyed.

I will break down its walls

and let the animals trample it.

I will make it a wild place

where the vines are not pruned and the ground is not hoed,

a place overgrown with briers and thorns.

I will command the clouds

to drop no rain on it.

The nation of Israel is the vineyard of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

The people of Judah are his pleasant garden.

He expected a crop of justice,

but instead he found oppression.

He expected to find righteousness,

but instead he heard cries of violence.

What sorrow for you who buy up house after house and field after field,

until everyone is evicted and you live alone in the land.

But I have heard the Lord of Heaven’s Armies

swear a solemn oath:

“Many houses will stand deserted;

even beautiful mansions will be empty.

Ten acres of vineyard will not produce even six gallons of wine.

Ten baskets of seed will yield only one basket of grain.”

What sorrow for those who get up early in the morning

looking for a drink of alcohol

and spend long evenings drinking wine

to make themselves flaming drunk.

They furnish wine and lovely music at their grand parties—

lyre and harp, tambourine and flute—

but they never think about the Lord

or notice what he is doing.

So my people will go into exile far away

because they do not know me.

Those who are great and honored will starve,

and the common people will die of thirst.

The grave is licking its lips in anticipation,

opening its mouth wide.

The great and the lowly

and all the drunken mob will be swallowed up.

Humanity will be destroyed, and people brought down;

even the arrogant will lower their eyes in humiliation.

But the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will be exalted by his justice.

The holiness of God will be displayed by his righteousness.

In that day lambs will find good pastures,

and fattened sheep and young goats will feed among the ruins.

What sorrow for those who drag their sins behind them

with ropes made of lies,

who drag wickedness behind them like a cart!

They even mock God and say,

“Hurry up and do something!

We want to see what you can do.

Let the Holy One of Israel carry out his plan,

for we want to know what it is.”

What sorrow for those who say

that evil is good and good is evil,

that dark is light and light is dark,

that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter.

What sorrow for those who are wise in their own eyes

and think themselves so clever.

What sorrow for those who are heroes at drinking wine

and boast about all the alcohol they can hold.

They take bribes to let the wicked go free,

and they punish the innocent.

Therefore, just as fire licks up stubble

and dry grass shrivels in the flame,

so their roots will rot

and their flowers wither.

For they have rejected the law of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies;

they have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.

That is why the Lord’s anger burns against his people,

and why he has raised his fist to crush them.

The mountains tremble,

and the corpses of his people litter the streets like garbage.

But even then the Lord’s anger is not satisfied.

His fist is still poised to strike!

He will send a signal to distant nations far away

and whistle to those at the ends of the earth.

They will come racing toward Jerusalem.

They will not get tired or stumble.

They will not stop for rest or sleep.

Not a belt will be loose,

not a sandal strap broken.

Their arrows will be sharp

and their bows ready for battle.

Sparks will fly from their horses’ hooves,

and the wheels of their chariots will spin like a whirlwind.

They will roar like lions,

like the strongest of lions.

Growling, they will pounce on their victims and carry them off,

and no one will be there to rescue them.

They will roar over their victims on that day of destruction

like the roaring of the sea.

If someone looks across the land,

only darkness and distress will be seen;

even the light will be darkened by clouds.

Matthew 5:17–32, The Bible for Everyone: A New Translation

‘Don’t suppose that I came to destroy the law or the prophets. I didn’t come to destroy them; I came to fulfil them! I’m telling you the truth: until heaven and earth disappear, not one stroke, not one dot, is going to disappear from the law, until it’s all come true. So anyone who relaxes a single one of these commandments, even the little ones, and teaches that to people, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But anyone who does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

‘Yes, let me tell you: unless your covenant behaviour is far superior to that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get in to the kingdom of heaven.’

‘You heard that it was said to the ancient people, “You shall not murder”; and anyone who commits murder shall be liable to judgment. But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; anyone who uses foul and abusive language will be liable to the lawcourt; and anyone who says, “You fool”, will be liable to the fires of Gehenna.

‘So, if you are coming to the altar with your gift, and there you remember that your brother has a grievance against you, leave your gift right there in front of the altar, and go first and be reconciled to your brother. Then come back and offer your gift. Make friends with your opponent quickly, while you are with him in the street, in case your opponent hands you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you find yourself being thrown into jail. I’m telling you the truth: you won’t get out until you’ve paid every last copper coin.’

‘You heard’, Jesus continued, ‘that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I say to you: everyone who gazes at a woman in order to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye trips you up, tear it out and throw it away. Yes: it’s better for you to have one part of your body destroyed than for the whole body to be thrown into Gehenna. And if your right hand trips you up, cut it off and throw it away. Yes: it’s better for you to have one part of your body destroyed than for your whole body to go into Gehenna.

‘It was also said, “If someone divorces his wife, he should give her a legal document to prove it.” But I say to you: everyone who divorces his wife, unless it’s in connection with immorality, makes her commit adultery; and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

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