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To: All

From: Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18

God’s Covenant with Abram


[5] And [the Lord God] brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and
number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So
shall your descendants be.” [6] And he believed the Lord; and he reckoned it to
him as righteousness.

[7] And he said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans,
to give you this land to possess.” [8] But he said, “O Lord God, how am I to know
that I shall possess it?” [9] He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a
she-goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.”
[10] And he brought him all these, cut them in two, and laid each half over against
the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. [11] And when birds of prey came
down upon the carcasses, Abram drove them away.

[12] As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram; and lo, a dread and
great darkness fell upon him.

[17] When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking firepot and
a flaming torch passed between these pieces. [18] On that day the Lord made a
covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river
of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates.”

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Commentary:

15:1-21. God rewards Abraham for his generosity towards Mechizedek and for
his renouncing of the riches offered him by the king of Sodom. He appears to
him in a vision and promises his help, many descendants and the land of Canaan.
Here all that is required of Abraham is that he believe in the promise that God him-
self, through a rite of covenant, undertakes to fulfill. This passage emphasizes the
gravity of God’s promise and speaks of the faithfulness of God, who will keep his
word.

15:4-6. Once more Abraham is asked to make an act of faith in the word of God,
and he does so. This pleases God and is reckoned righteous. This makes Abra-
ham the father of all those who believe in God and his saving word.

In the light of this passage St Paul sees Abraham as the model of how a person
becomes righteous in God’s eyes—through faith in his word, the definitive word
being the announcement that God saves us through the death and resurrection
of Jesus. In this way, Abraham not only becomes the father of the Jewish people
according to the flesh, but also the father of those who without being Jews have
become members of the new people of God through faith in Jesus: “We say that
faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness. How then was it reckoned to
him? Was it before or after he was circumcised? It was not after, but before he
was circumcised. He received circumcision as a sign or seal of the righteousness
which he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make
him the father of all who believe without being circumcised and who thus have
righteousness reckoned to them, and likewise the father of the circumcised who
are not merely circumcised but also follow the example of the faith which our fa-
ther Abraham had before he was circumcised” (Rom 4:9-12).

Abraham’s faith revealed itself in his obedience to God when he left his homeland
(cf. 12:4), and later on when he was ready to sacrifice his son (cf 22:1-4). This is
the aspect of Abraham’s obedience which is given special emphasis in the Letter
of St James, inviting Christians to prove the genuineness of their faith with obedi-
ence to God and good works: “Was not Abraham our father justified by works,
when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? You see that faith was active along
with his works, and faith was completed by works, and scripture was fulfilled
which says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteous-
ness’; and he was called the friend of God” (Jas 2:21-23).

15:7-21. The strength of God’s resolve to give the land of Canaan is vividly demon-
strated by his ordaining a rite of covenant to externalize the commitment under-
taken by both parties. According to this ancient rite (cf. Jer 34:18), the action of
the two parties—”passing between” the pieces of the victims-indicated a readi-
ness to be similarly cut in pieces if one were guilty of breaking the pact. The text
makes the point that God (represented by the flaming torch: cf Ex 3:2; 13:21; 19:
18) “passes between” the bloody limbs of the victims, to ratify his promise.

This is how the book of Genesis portrays the people of Israel’s right to the land of
Canaan and explains how the land came to belong to it only in recent times, after
the Exodus. During the ceremony Abraham is given advance information about
the afflictions the people will suffer before the promise is fulfilled. An explanation
is also given as to why God will take the land away from the Canaanites (here
described as Amorites): their evil-doing will have gone too far. God emerges here
as the Lord of the earth and of nations. On the sojourn of the people of Israel in
Egypt, cf. the note on 37:2-50:25.

*********************************************************************************************
Source: “The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries”. Biblical text from the
Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of
the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.

Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and
by Scepter Publishers in the United States.


3 posted on 02/23/2013 8:57:53 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: All

From: Philippians 3:17-4:1

Citizens of Heaven


[17] Brethren, join in imitating me, and mark those who so live as you have an
example in us. [18] For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you
even with tears, live as enemies of the cross of Christ. [19] Their end is destruc-
tion, their god is the belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on ear-
thly things. [20] But our commonwealth is in heaven, and from it we await a Sa-
vior, the Lord Jesus Christ, [21] who will change our lowly body to be like his
glorious body, by the power which enables him even to subject all things to him-
self.

Exhortation to Perseverance and Joy


[1] Therefore, my brethren, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand
firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

*********************************************************************************************
Commentary:

17. The Apostle’s teaching goes further than to list a series of truths and rules
for moral behavior: he backs this up with his own life in the service of the Gospel,
and, through it, all men; this is what makes his preaching arresting and convin-
cing.

There is no better teaching than the teacher’s own example,” St John Chrysos-
tom exclaims, commenting on this passage; “by taking this course the teacher
is sure of getting his disciple to follow him. Speak wisely, instruct as eloquently
as you can ..., but your example will make a greater impression, will be more
decisive.... When your actions are in line with your words, nobody will be able
to find fault with you” (”Hom. on Phil, ad loc.”).

This, then, is the standard Christians should aim at. It will help those they come
in contact with to learn how to be hard-working, noble, loyal and sincere people,
or at least to tend in that direction.

One can see from this verse, as from many other passages in his letters, that St
Paul refers to himself now as “me”, now as “us”. In the second case he is proba-
bly also referring to his co-workers; these they should also imitate, for like him
they are imitators of Christ (cf. 1 Cor 4:17). it is quite likely that he is thinking
particularly of Timothy, whose name he put alongside his own at the head of this
letter — and whom he praised in glorious terms in the previous chapter (cf. Phil
2:19, 22).

Imitation of the saints is a very good way to equip oneself to serve others. “Most
earnestly, then, we exhort you”, Pius XII says, “be very solicitous for the salva-
tion of those whom Providence has entrusted to your apostolic labors, maintai-
ning throughout the closest union with our divine Redeemer, by whose strength
we can do all things (cf. Phil 4:13). It is our ardent desire, beloved sons, that you
may emulate those saintly men of old who, by the immensity of their achieve-
ment, bore witness to the power of divine grace. Would that each of you could
on the evidence of the faithful attribute to himself in humble sincerity the words
of the Apostle: ‘I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls’ (2 Cor 12:
15)” (”Menti Nostrae”, 31).

18-19. St Paul points to the bad example given by those (cf. v. 2) who, by uphol-
ding false doctrines or abusing their Christian freedom, lead a life steeped in vice;
they let themselves be controlled by their sensual appetites and they set their
hearts on things which enslave them, which should rather make them blush.
They are enemies of Christ’s cross.

“They glory in their own shame”: they take pride in behavior which is shameful.
This may also be an allusion to circumcision, for Judaizers were proud of a mark
which decency keeps covered.

20-21. “It is nature, flawed by sin, that begets all the citizens of the earthly city,
whereas it is grace alone which frees nature from sin, which begets citizens of
the heavenly city” (”De Civitate Dei”, 15, 2). Christians are “citizens of heaven”
and therefore are called to live a life that is joyful and full of hope, as befits chil-
dren of God.

The effort to live in a manner worthy of members of the commonwealth of heaven
is aided by hope in the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in glory. The Pa-
rousia, as well as the passion and death of Christ and his subsequent resurrec-
tion, are constant themes in the Apostle’s preaching. Reflection on these mys-
teries helps us to have hope and gives us encouragement in our everyday strug-
gle.

Christ’s resurrection is the cause of our resurrection, for “Christ has been raised
from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man
came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead” (1 Cor 15:
20-21). An essential prerequisite for attaining resurrection in glory is the effort to
identify with Christ, in both joy and suffering, in both life and death. “If we have
died with him, we shall also live with him; if we endure, we shall also reign with
him” (2 Tim 2:12). Christ is the Lord of all creation; his authority extends over the
entire universe (cf. Col 1:15-20). If we make the effort that fidelity requires, he will
take our body, which is weak and subject to illness, death and decay, and trans-
form it into a glorious body.

*********************************************************************************************
Source: “The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries”. Biblical text from the
Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of
the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.

Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and
by Scepter Publishers in the United States.


4 posted on 02/23/2013 8:58:43 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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