Christocentric Priority in Biblical Interpretation


Andreas Köstenberger and Richard Patterson note that at the heart of the Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments stands “the message about the Christ.”[1] They are saying, in essence, what Jesus said about the Law and the Prophets, that they portray Jesus.[2] Or, as Ken Boa puts it, “Everywhere we read, we find hints, glimpses, foreshadowings [sic], veiled references, graphic pictures, whispered allusions, and prophetic mentions of Jesus. He moves through all the pages of the Bible, not just in the Gospels or in the apostles’ epistles.”[3] This view, then, takes for its core that the identity and work of Jesus the Messiah fills the Scriptures.

What are the implications of this statement for biblical hermeneutics? 

This view of the Christocentric nature of Scripture greatly impacts the work of biblical hermeneutics.[4] As Köstenberger and Patterson remind the biblical interpreter, this view provides cohesiveness to the canon of Scripture.[5] In addition to contributing to “this overall purpose of showing the fulfillment of the Old Testament hope and message in Christ,” it also gives an interpretive tool in the hermeneutic work chest.[6]

The first implication is that Christ must remain at the forefront of the mind of the biblical interpreter.

As Old Testament passages are studied, the person and work of Jesus Christ should be considered. For example, the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 has a present and future application.[7] While there was a present fulfillment of this prophecy, the biblical interpreter, utilizing Scripture, is also to interpret this verse Christo-centrically.[8] Thus, the entirety of Scripture points to Jesus. Sam Renihan remarks, “God has only ever had one plan, and history played out according to God’s design….The full and final plan of God was to bless the whole world through the Jewish Christ.”[9] While not every verse in the sacred Scripture points directly to Jesus, as a whole they speak of His person and His work, and this must ever-remain in the mind of the biblical interpreter.[10]

The second implication is that the person and work of Jesus provides an interpretive tool in the various aspects of the Old Testament in particular.

Noting this, Peppier writes, “…it is a way of interpreting Scripture primarily from the perspective of what Jesus taught and modeled, and from what he revealed concerning the nature, character, values, principles, and priorities of the Godhead.”[11] When interpreting Scripture, the student must not ignore the historical, literature, or theological issues involved. Nevertheless, “Christ is the focal point of the entire Bible—from beginning to end. He’s the one to whom the whole Old Testament points, the one on whom the Gospels focus, the one at whom the rest of the New Testament looks back.”[12]

What misunderstandings of this statement could occur?

This question is important because biblical interpreters must always be on guard of faulty interpretive measures and unethical approaches to Scripture.[13] Though the Scriptures must be interpreted Christo-centrically, it must be interpreted rightly. Concerning the possibility of this imbalance, Kevin Smith writes, “The proposed solution is that, to some extent, and in some instances, the rest of the canon needs to inform the Christocentric principle, just as the Christocentric principle often guides our interpretation of the rest of the canon.”[14] This balance is repeated by many hermeneutic guides.[15]

Along the same lines, Köstenberger and Patterson warn, “…the fact that, properly conceived, Christ is the center of all Scripture does not mean that every chapter and every verse in Scripture are narrowly focused on Christ as if every verse of the Bible needed to be read messianically in a strict sense.”[16] That is to say, Christ cannot be forced upon everything in the Old Testament.

Though biblical interpretation must consider the Christo-centricity of Scripture, it is not a tool wielding unlimited or imbalanced power.

The triad of hermeneutics provides that helpful balance.

An Example of the Possible Imbalanced Approach of the Christocentric Principle 

A popular example can be found in Job 19:25-27. In this account, Job says, “But I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the end he will stand on the dust.”[17] Concerning this Boa remarks, “Although Jesus is not named in the Book of Job, He is the only one Job could have been referring to. No one else can be called our Redeemer.”[18]

Boa makes two mistakes in forcing this Christo-centric hermeneutic. First, there is considerable debate on the identification of the redeemer mentioned by Job.[19] One study Bible describes the word redeemer, “The word is well-known in the OT because of its identification as the kinsman-redeemer (see the book of Ruth). This is the near kinsman who will pay off one’s debts, defend the family, avenge a hilling, marry the widow of the ceased. The word ‘redeemer’ evokes the wrong connotation for people familiar with the NT along; a translation of ‘Vindicator’ would capture the idea more.”[20] To conclude that “He is the only one Job could have been referring to” fails to consider the remainder of canonical literature on the topic of the redeemer. Boa handles this verse irresponsibly because he allows his Christo-centric focus to override the historical setting and literary context.

This leads to his second mistake. Because he allows his overarching purpose to see Christ in every book of the Bible, he misses the historical context of the redeemer in ancient Israel. Concerning the kinsman-redeemer, an important focus in Israel, one work notes that he was, “The relative who restores or preserves the full community rights of disadvantaged family members. The concept arises from God’s covenant relationship with Israel and points to the redemption of humanity in Jesus Christ.”[21] Boa’s mistake of overlooking the historical context of the kinsman-redeemer, and of a redeemer in general, causes him to place Christ where he is not. Köstenberger and Patterson state it best, “We must beware of an overly simplistic theology that finds Christ, somewhat anachronistically, in places in the Old Testament where finding him there would involve some major hermeneutical twisting and maneuvering.”[22]


[1] Andreas J. Köstenberger and Richard D. Patterson, Invitation to Biblical Interpretation: Exploring the Hermeneutical Triad of History, Literature, and Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2011), 210.

[2] See Luke 24:27.

[3] Kenneth Boa, Jesus In the Bible: Seeing Jesus In Every Book of the Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2002), ix.

[4] See: Christopher C. Peppier, “The Christocentric Principle: A Jesus-Centered Hermeneutic,” Conspectus, vol. 13, no. 1 (March 2012), 117-135; for a counterview of Peppier, see: Kevin G. Smith, “The Christocentric Principle: Promise, Pitfalls and Proposal,” Conspectus, vol. 13, no. 1 (March 2012), 157-170.

[5] Köstenberger and Patterson, Invitation to Biblical Interpretation, 210; for an example of how this applies to the diversity of the New Testament, see: Andreas J. Köstenberger, L. Scott Kellum, and Charles L. Quarles, The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2009), 874-886.

[6] Köstenberger and Patterson, Invitation to Biblical Interpretation, 210; see also Peppier, “Similarly, by acknowledging that Jesus Christ is the central figure of all of Scripture, we are compelled to interpret texts from an essentially Christ-centered perspective.” Peppier, “The Christocentric Principle,” 132.

[7] See Gary V. Smith,  Isaiah 1–39, Edited by E. Ray Clendenen, The New American Commentary.( Nashville: TN, B & H Publishing Group, 2007), 201-205.

[8] J. Alec Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction & Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 84-86.

[9] Samuel Renihan, The Mystery of Christ: His Covenant & His Kingdom (Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2019), 180; for the development of this history, see: Gerrhardus Vos, Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments Reprint (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2017), 5-8.

[10] For example, see: Köstenberger and Patterson, Invitation to Biblical Interpretation, 188-195.

[11] Peppier, “The Christocentric Principle,” 120; see also Renihan, The Mystery of Christ, 11-19; and Ephesians 3:1-13.

[12] Boa, Jesus In the Bible, viii-ix. The only point that Boa is mistaken upon is his remark that the “rest of the New Testament looks back.” Revelation points to the coming of Christ which is yet future. See: Köstenberger, Kellum, and Quarles, The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown, 825-831; though the present author does not agree with all of his conclusions, see: John F. Walvoord, “The Future Work of Christ Part III: Christ’s Coming to Reign,” Bibliotheca Sacra, vol. 123, no. 491 (July 1966), 195-203.

[13] Köstenberger and Patterson, Invitation to Biblical Interpretation, 58; Roy B. Zuck, Basic Bible Interpretation: A Practical Guide to Discovering Biblical Truth (Colorado Springs, CO: Cook Publishers, 1991), 59-61.

[14] Smith, “The Christocentric Principle,” 169.

[15] Köstenberger and Patterson, Invitation to Biblical Interpretation; Zuck, Basic Bible Interpretation; J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays, Grasping God’s Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible 3rd Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012); and Gordon D. Fee and Doulas Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003).

[16] Köstenberger and Patterson, Invitation to Biblical Interpretation, 210.

[17] Job 19:25, CSB.

[18] Boa, Jesus In the Bible, 36.

[19] Notice the translational effect of capitalizing Redeemer. It implies that this redeemer is different. For a brief treatment of the debate, see: David C. Deuel, “Job 19:25 and Job 23:10 Revisted An Exegetical Note,” The Master’s Seminary Journal, vol. 5, no. 1 (Spring 1994), 97-99; Brian P. Gault, “Job’s Hope: Redeemer Or Retribution?,” Bibliotheca Sacra, vol. 173, no. 690 (April 2016), 147-165; and Greg W. Parsons, “Guidelines for Understanding and Proclaiming the Book of Job,” Bibliotheca Sacra, vol. 151, no. 604 (October 1994), 393-413.

[20] James Davis, managing editor, NET Bible, Full Notes Edition (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2019), 857.

[21] Martin H. Manser, Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies (London: ENG: Martin Manser, 2009).

[22] Köstenberger and Patterson, Invitation to Biblical Interpretation, 210.

3 Reasons Genealogies Are In the Bible

We all wonder why God allowed genealogies in the Bible. If you find yourself reading through the Bible in a year (or any other length of time), you may even dread it! The endless list of names you can barely spell, the mountains of individuals whose pronunciation you will butcher, and the disconnect from little to no knowledge about the individual causes genealogies to leave a bad taste in our mouths (think of burnt popcorn).

But Paul writes that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (II Timothy 3:16-17, ESV) This means that, yes, even genealogies are profitable. We are like children taking medicine. It tastes horrible, and our little brains cannot imagine how something so gross could possibly help us.

So, how do genealogies help us? How are they profitable? This list is certainly not exhaustive, nor is it original. I have read different commentaries, articles, and journals over the years. (If one of them sticks out, please send me the source so I can properly cite it!) The thoughts I am sharing this morning stem from that research. However, I want to offer three reasons why genealogies are in the Bible. My hope is to inspire you to cling to the truths of Scripture (see II Timothy 3:16-17), and to build your confidence in God’s wisdom.

Genealogies teach us that God works with individuals in His plan of redemption

One of the benefits of genealogies is that it shows us that God works with individuals. We tend to think of groups such as Israel, Judah, or the Levites. Or, when we do think of individuals, we think only of the big whigs: David, John the Baptist, or Paul. But what about the Loises and Eunices of the Bible (see II Timothy 1:5)? Even “insignificant” people have profound impacts in God’s plan of redemption. No one knows the names of the pit crew members (unless you are a fan of Nascar), but without them the racers would never be known. Genealogies teach us that God works with individuals, many of whom we will never really know, in His plan of redemption. What is your part in this plan? Perhaps you have thought your own life too common to make any significant impact in God’s work of redemption. Take encouragement from the genealogies. They show us that God works with individuals like you and like me.

Genealogies teach us that God works in the mundane

The second reason genealogies are in the Bible, though not second in order or significance, is that they teach us that God works in the mundane. Now, don’t get me wrong, the birth of the child is a miracle. Besides my salvation and marriage, the most exciting moments in my life we’re meeting three of our four children. There is nothing mundane about the birth of a precious baby. At the same time, however, it is mundane, at least in the broad sense. Parents have children, those children grow up, get married, and have children. It is mundane. Genealogies are not unlike this. After the tenth “And (insert name you cannot pronounce) begat (insert second but equally un-pronounceable name)…” you realize just how mundane genealogies truly are. The glaze over your eyes and the blank stare bring you back to fourth grade. But an amazing truth lies underneath the common experiences of life: God works in them. Have you ever stopped and considered that for rough thirty years Jesus did the mundane elements of life? He would wake up, eat, work, come home, attend synagogue, and repeat. Day after day. Year after year. Yet, this was part of God’s redemptive plan to save countless numbers of people. Genealogies are an expression of God’s work in the mundane. How do you view the mundane of life? Did you ever stop to consider that the mundane of life my be God’s way of using you in His plan of redemption?

Genealogies teach us humility

The final reason genealogies are in the Bible is to teach us humility. There are several ways this is observed. First, it shows us some of the great people of the Bible and some of the worst. It’s The Incredibles and the Malcoms in the Middles thrown together. It’s the Uncle Bobs the mean grannies. Our humility comes from the fact that God uses both. Second, genealogies teach us humility because it shows us that it is not all about us. We come, and we go. We do not live for ever. But God’s work does not stop with us. It goes on and will go on. Does that not humble us?


Let’s face it: genealogies are not the most exciting part of our Scripture reading. They can be a little boring. But, if we take the time to consider a few reasons God gave them to us, it may, like the redemption of sinners by the grace of God, transform something boring into a reminder of God’s Grace.

3 Steps to Understand the Bible Better

How do I understand the Bible? It’s a book that was written many years ago by people of a completely different culture. On top of that, the world has changed drastically. Just think of communication. During biblical times letters were carried by some type of animal or ship. The process was tedious and time-consuming. Today we can call, text, or have a face-to-face discussion via services such as Skype.
With all of these challenges, the question seems to change from, ‘How did I understand the Bible?’ to ‘Can I understand the Bible?’. And rightly so! Rest assured, you can understand the Bible. God has revealed his love for us through his Scriptures. I want to share with you three steps to help you understand the Bible more.
You can understand the Bible…
From the beginning it is important that you understand this is a journey. After reading this, you will still have more to learn. I have been reading the Bible since I was fourteen, and even after all this time I am still learning. It is one of the amazing truths about God’s Word. It is an inexhaustible mine of spiritual gems, all waiting to be gathered and taken into our hearts.
These steps are in no order of importance, although I do believe them to be foundational to our overall understanding of the Bible. So grab your Bible, and let’s dive in!
Step One: Understand the world in which it was written.
I cannot stress this one enough. There is an abundance of bad commentaries, sermons, devotionals, and Christian-mindsets as a result of simply not understanding the world in which the Bible was written.
Let me give you one example. The world of the Bible was predominately a patriarchal society. (You can check out the Christians for Biblical Equality for a fair treatment on the topic of the patriarchal world.) When reading through the Old Testament, particularly, one can be amazed at the treatment of women. Granted, the laws and rules laid out in the Torah were extraordinarily better than surrounding nations. (Rob Bell book reference) Still, it is helpful to understand that women were seen as less than man, to put it nicely. So when reading through a passage about the selling of a daughter, one is able to understand that the world in which those books were written had a much lower view of women than many cultures do today.
Or how about another one. The Bible constantly uses the shepherd as a picture of God’s dealings with humanity (for a few references, check out: Isaiah 40:11; Psalm 78:52; John 10:11; Hebrews 13:20; and 1 Peter 2:25). But why? I mean, I have never met a shepherd.patrick-schneider-213969
Now, understanding the world of the Old and New Testaments, we see how important shepherds were. They helped raise animals that would have provided milk, materials for clothing, and food. Of course, there were also the sacrifices! So they were vitally important to the biblical writers. It was an easy way for God to point to something they knew well to picture his desire to be with and take care of them.
Without at least a basic knowledge of this, the imagery may be lost. There are other variants to consider, but this is more of an overview.
Step Two: Get an idea of what the meaning looks like today.
Once you have an idea of what is going on, then begin to visualize how that looks today. This step is a little more difficult, because while some resources are out there for this (devotional commentaries seem to be the best for this step), there are often few that convey the meaning in today’s terms. For example, Ephesians 5:22-28 address the husband and wife relationship within a first century, Roman household. (For a more thorough treatment of this passage, see Rachel Held Evan‘s help overview of various literature.) With that understanding, it is helpful to realize the relationship of headship of the husband over the wife was customary. Paul’s key point, however, is mutual submission, which he uses to begin the entire passage. Taking this understanding, then, we can begin to see that for today, in which an equality exists between husbands and wives, the idea of mutual submission is the focus.
Step Three: Make a personal application to your own life.
This is where reading Scripture begins to be awesome. Because this is where Scripture meets your life.
When Scripture teaches either a direct point (see Hebrews 3:1 in which we are commanded to consider Jesus), indirect point (such as are found in narratives, see 1 Samuel 15:22-23), or simply a story in which no apparent point is made (see the graphic events in Judges chapter 19), the whole purpose of it is to apply to your life (see 2 Peter 1:3).
The whole purpose of Scripture is to apply to your life.
Once we get to this point, it is time to get personal. What do I mean? I mean that when you come across Scripture, it is time to figure out how it can apply to your life. Perhaps an example would prove helpful. Psalm 1:1 says, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in company with scoffers.” (NAB) This will look different for each one of us. For me, however, it might look like this: in order to be happy (which includes a spiritual sense) I must avoid the company of bad people. Oh, in case you were wondering, this isn’t speaking about just being around people. Paul covers that in 1 Corinthians 5:11. The picture is the gate of a city, where government and social outings occurred. This is an intimate gathering, not simply an association. My application would be: I must consciously avoid building intimate relationships with people who are actively opposing God. I may take it a step further and say that I need to avoid a certain coffee shop where I am tempted to be around such individuals. But I think that gives you the gist of it.
Wrapping it Up
These steps will take time and effort. It is worth it! Push past the steps that may not suit your particularly personality and gifts. Personally, I love the first step and struggle with the second and third steps. What do you struggle with? How can I help you?

Mother’s Day: The Best Mother

Where would we be without mothers? As a man and a father, I can say that on this side of eternity I will never truly understand everything they do. My own mother as well as my wife cause me to stagger in unbelief at the amount of work they accomplish, the love they shower on the family, and the countless hours spent worrying and caring for us.

Scripture, the Tanakh and the New Testament, was written during the patriarchal period. I doubt many people would argue with the fact that women were treated unequally, to say the least. However, several prominent women stand out as incredible women of virtue. Rahab, Ruth, Hannah, and Abigail, all women of wonderful faith.

But one sticks out to me: Mary. I was raised in a independent, fundamental baptist church. In order to keep from ‘compromising’ they put Mary on the back shelf, in order to not appear to ‘worship’ her, as they accused Roman Catholics of doing (which is absolutely absurd, but let’s stay on task). So I never really thought about her, other than that she gave birth to Messiah.

Mary stands out as the preeminent mother in Scripture.

But when I really began to look at Mary, I was overwhelmed at her simple faith and trust-informed action. I wish to spend the next few moments with you looking at Mary and hopefully encourage our mothers (my own mother and my wife stand as examples of this as well).

Simple Faith

One of the first aspects of Mary’s life that draws me to mirror her life. This poor girl, unknown to the world of first century Israel, became the mother of God, the theotokos. This betrothed young lady is visited by Gabriel, an angel.

Let that sit in just for a moment. Just meditate on the fact that this simple lady, waiting to join Joseph, has Gabriel (consider his history in Israel, that was an incredible honor!) come and declare a wonderful announcement: she would bear the Messiah.

After being told she would bear Jesus, her saintly reply was, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38) Can you imagine that simple faith? Even when she asked how it would be possible, she was not asking from a position of doubt but of curiosity of means. What simple faith!

Contrast that with our own lack of belief. When God says that he will never leave us, our reply: Why are you so far off God? When God said that he desires to be with us every day, our reply: Only when it is convenient for me, God. But Mary? Her reply: whatever you say Lord! That is the essence of simple faith.

After being told that her Son would die and she would experience a pain compared to a sword piercing her heart, Mary simply believed. That is simple faith.

Another act of simple faith (and should we say profound faith?) is her interactions with Simeon. During a prophetic utterance, he mentions something terrible, “…and you yourself a sword will pierce…” (Luke 2:34). This, of course, is a reference to the horrific torture and death her Son would endure and the pain a mother would be overwhelm with at the thought and eventual sight of it. Now, as a father, I cannot grasp this. How could a parent cope with such an utterance?aaron-burden-21616

How can Mary, after being told such a thing, have simply “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart”? (Luke 2:19) Again, this is the essence of simple faith. What a challenge to us! If God were to tell me of some horrific death one of my children were to undergo, I confess that my faith is weak and that I would struggle. I would take them and flee for protection. But not Mary. Mary trusts in God, that God would protect them. This is such a challenge to me, and as a mother she is an incredible example.

Trust-Informed Action

Trust-informed action? What in the world? Let me break this down and then we can look at this in the life of Mary. Action is our efforts in accomplishing a task. For instance, if I want to build a bookshelf I set up plans, procure the materials, and then begin the work. Now, it would be foolish if I were to just grab some two-by-fours and start building. My action would be building, my truth-informed aspect is that planning and procuring part.

Mary’s life was trust-informed. She knew the Scriptures. If one was to compare her song (Luke 1:46-55) with that of some of the songs in the Tanakh (see Exodus 15:1-21, for example) one would see how close they are. Though Scripture is silent to this, I imagine she would think of the many Psalms that speak of the Messiah as her Son grew up. Whether she learned this through Synagogue or attending Temple doesn’t matter, the fact is Mary’s faith was informed by Scripture.

Mary’s actions were informed by the sweet Scriptures.

But it did not stop in her head.  She “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” And then she spent her life raising her Son, the Messiah.

Do our lives reflect this? Do we know the Scriptures like Mary, and do we follow through with it?

Mary’s life as a mother is incredible. My wife and mother are incredible. Happy Mother’s Day, and may we all be more like Mary!

Walking Through Genesis- Chapter 31

Sometime (we are not told how long) after the agreement between Laban and Jacob a strife began to rear its ugly head. Laban’s sons were becoming jealous as Jacob was receiving all the material wealth their father had (of course we know that God was blessing Jacob, but apparently Laban and his sons did not see this, though Laban would soon find out that God was with Jacob). After the command came from God for Jacob to leave and return home, the discussion initiated between Jacob and his wives about the treatment they had received from Laban. Apparently, though Laban had made an agreement with Jacob, he changed it ten times. Additionally, Laban had squandered his daughters inheritance creating an even larger division in the family.

Understandably, then, Jacob attempts to leave without notifying Laban. Of course Laban becomes angry and then pursues Jacob, not only to find out what he was doing but also to find his daughters and many grandchildren. During the pursuit God appears to Laban in a dream and warns him not to speak good or bad. Finally Laban overtakes Jacob. A lengthy discourse takes place between the two. Rachel even made the mistake of stealing Laban’s idols but gets away without her father finding out. Jacob and Laban then make an agreement never to seek the ill of the other and then they depart, never to meet again.

Thankfully we are out of the whole childbearing battle from the previous two chapters! But we are still in the midst of family strife. Now the strife involves “extended” family. Boy could we spend a great deal of time here! Suffice it to say, we must be careful how we interact with family, and that includes extended family. A great deal of hurt can come from a foolish word, an action that was done in the wrong spirit, or even the disapproval. I have experienced this kind of hurt, and it takes a long time to heal, and the pain is still there. So as we live our lives, let’s work hard at avoiding the strife that Jacob and his family had the unpleasant experience of dealing with at this time.

Walking Through Genesis- Chapter 30

The family feud continues from the previous chapter. The battle back and forth between the wives of Jacob continues. It almost reminds us of something that would be off a reality TV show! After Leah and Rachel stopped bearing children they then gave Jacob their servants, Zilpah and Bilhah, in order to have more sons. It’s  mockery of how things should be done! There is even an exchange where Rachel “allows” Leah to sleep with Jacob for some mandrakes Reuben gave her. Finally the two (or really four) stopped giving birth to children.

The story then makes a huge move where Jacob requests to be able to leave Laban and return to his homeland. Laban and Jacob work out a deal and then Jacob retrieves what he and Laban had agreed to for his service.

The lessons here are pretty much the same as the previous chapter. The wild events that are taking place in Jacob’s family would be comical if it weren’t so sad. At any rate, it should become apparent to us that the best way to have a balanced family life is not to have more than one wife, to not play favorites, and to not to attempt to circumvent God’s plan.

The other lesson, as with the previous chapters, is to simply be honest. Just work out your details with your fellows before there is a problem. In Jacob’s case, Laban had turned into what Jacob was turning away from, a cheat. So in your dealings with others, be honest!

Walking Through Genesis- Chapter 28

The chapter continues the story from chapter 27. Jacob had just deceived his father, included God in his lie, and caused his brother Esau to want to kill him. After a short exchange between his parents, Isaac then bids Jacob to return to the homeland and find a wife there (as did his grandfather Abraham and his father Isaac).

The writer of Genesis then includes an almost parenthetical paragraph of Esau’s marriage  to another wife. So he married again, in addition to the wives he had already married (see 26.34).

So Jacob set out to travel back to Harran to find a wife. During this journey he rests, placing his head on a rock for a pillow. As he was sleeping the vision of the ladder reaching to heaven and angels ascending and descending on it comes to him. Then God grants the same blessing upon Jacob that he had previously given to Abraham and Isaac. Upon waking Jacob realized that he was in the presence of God. He then made a vow to become a follow of God if God would provide for his needs and bring him safely back to his home.

This journey for Jacob would prove to be one that would have a significant effect on the rest of his life. He is slowly beginning to change from the heel catcher to the prince of God. Now before we are too harsh on Jacob, let’s remember our own spiritual journey. I imagine that most of us are like Jacob, at first we were dirty scoundrels. We were the trouble makers, the liars. But slowly, as Jacob was, we are being made more like Jesus. So as we walk through the rest of this book, we are really walking by a mirror. It is my hope that as you and I look at our reflection that we see our own journey from being heel catchers to princes with God.

Walking Through Genesis- Chapter 15

The 15th chapter of Genesis concerns what theologians call The Abrahamic Covenant. Chapter 12 and 17 also speak about Abraham’s relationship with God as well. 

Our focus will go from each aspect and we will draw applications as we move through the chapter.

15:1-6 is perhaps one of the most important passages of Scripture because it tells us how Abram had righteousness deposited to his account. To begin with Abram and God discuss the issue of Sarai’s (Abram’s wife) barrenness. In Middle Eastern culture it was normal for the heir to be a servant. However, God had blessed Abram and promised him that he would indeed have a son. So there are two things for us to take hold of in this passage: First, we need to take God at His Word. As with most things, this is much easier said than done. It’s easy to say we believe God is in control, but it is another thing entirely to trust Him when a loved one is on the hospital. The second thing we see is the importance of faith. It says, “And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.” (15.6, ESV). Faith is the essential element to begin and keep a life with God. Books, commentaries, lectures and sermons have all been made or given on this topic. The thing for us to remember is that we must believe God, and for our benefit God counts that as righteousness.

15:7-21 is a lengthy account of sacrifices, prophecy, and blessing. It is important to remember that, as we move through passages like this, that as difficult as it may be there is always something for us to apply. One of the things about sacrifice is that it requires work. Abram had to find the animals listed by God (a heifer three years old, female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon). Not only did he have to find these specific animals but he also had to sacrifice them. In this case, Abram cut them in half. Thankfully we do not have to do things like this today! But our sacrifice is something that requires an equal amount of work, if not more. We are told to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice (see Romans 12:1-2). The second thing we can glean from this passage is comfort! Now, you may wonder how in the world we can glean comfort from a series of statements about Israel facing slavery in Egypt, but we can! Here’s why: God is in control! Nothing takes Him by surprise, and we can rest assured that He has a purpose for everything (see verse 16). The final thing we see is that God does indeed bless us. In our case we do nothing to deserve blessing. That is something that we must understand, for otherwise we develop a handout mentality. As we go through every day we must, like Abram, remember that God has blessed us and thank Him for it!

Walking Through Genesis- Chapter 14

Chapter 14 is comprised of two main accounts: the battle of the kings and the encounter with Melchizedek. The chapter gives several truths that can be extremely beneficial for the believer today.

                         The Battle of the Kings

     Synopsis: This section deals with the battle of kings whose names I can hardly pronounce! The basics of this story are four kings went to war with five kings. The basis for the war was the five kings were wearied after serving Chedorlaomer for twelve years (14.4). During this battle Lot (Abram’s nephew) was captured along with his possessions (14.12). Abram then gathered his trained men (which totaled 318) and went and rescued Lot (14.13-16).

     Application: If you are like me, at first you were probably pretty perplexed to gather something from this that we could apply today. However, there are several truths that we can and should apply. 

     1. First, the deeds of the five kings were noble. To rise up and face those who are taking advantage of you is quite a noble thing to do. Of course, the additional lesson here is that all of our efforts to avenge ourselves (or others) do not always result in the desired outcome. In this case, the five kings were effortless defeated and also led to the defeat of other groups of people, including Lot. So, stand up for what is right, even though sometimes it may result in your own defeat. We are reminded of the quote attributed to Edmund Burke, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men do nothing.”

     2. The Boy Scout motto is the next thing we can learn from: Be prepared. For both Lot and Abram this event had incredible consequences. For Lot, the failure to provide protection resulted in his kidnapping. Of course, there are somethings that we cannot prepare for in life. But “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Our own failure to plan for the attacks of the enemy (the flesh, the world, and the devil) inevitably leads to our own capture. From Abram’s perspective, his ability to plan out and execute an attack with his limited resources led to the rescue of his nephew, in addition to the other people (14.16). The same stands true in our lives, if we plan and make the necessary provisions we can face the enemy head on with victory. A perfect example of adequate preparation for the believer can be found in Ephesians 6.10-20.

     3. The final aspect of application from this glorious battle is that some things are worth fighting for in our lives. Abram believed he was able to help Lot and the others and took action to deliver them. He gathered his own men and supplies and through incredible warfare defeated his foe. There will be times in our lives where we face something for which is worth fighting. Your spouse, your family, you friends, your church, and most importantly, your God are all worth fighting for. Sometimes these battles will vary from an inward attack on doubt or unbelief while other times it may be overt and in public view. But take heart in Abram’s example, fight for the things that are dear to you, and embrace victory.

                         The Meeting of Melchizedek

Synopsis: On Abram’s return from victory he meets the King of Salem, Melchizedek. He blesses Abram, offers a sacrifice of bread and wine, and then accepts tithes from him. After this interchange the king of Sodom attempts to offer gifts to Abram for saving him but Abram declines. His reason for doing so was for people to see the God had blessed Abram and not the king of Sodom

Application: This part of chapter 14 is a little easier to see application for us today, and for the serious student, it provides a depth of material.

  1. Melchizedek is a type of Christ. There are numerous studies about the subject, and for our purposes we will not attempt to discuss the matter. We are focusing predominately on the application aspect of Genesis. So how can we apply this type of Christ? I think it is important to realize that Jesus is everywhere (I understand that when Jesus became human he laid aside certain divine attributes, when I say Jesus I am referring more to God in the transcendent manner). One of the key differences of the saved and unsaved in Matthew 25 is the helping of those in need (see Matthew 25.31-46). And, interestingly, Jesus makes the connection of helping those in need with helping Jesus Himself! (On a side note, those in need in Matthew 25 were Jewish people during the tribulation. But the application stands for us to help those in need.)
  2. Abram offered tithes. This one is important, for many believers believe tithing no longer applies to us today. This is pre-Mosaic law. That is an important thing to note, because before Moses wrote down the law for the Israelites to follow tithing was in practice! So we are to tithe as well. Give!
  3. Learn to say no. This is a very difficult thing to do! If you are like me you may find it difficult to tell someone no. You want to please people and help them out. But sometimes it is actually better to say no then to say yes to everything. People are finding out today that saying no is not only a good thing, but a biblical thing. For Abram, it was important to say no because he wanted people to know where his possessions and greatness had come: God. This is a wonderful example of humility, and one that many today (including myself) need! In our American dream culture, it is easy for us to say yes to everything. But we must, like Abram, learn to say no.

Genesis is sometimes tricky, but I think you and I are starting to see that this incredibly old book has some wonderful applications for us today. Stay tuned as we continue Walking Through Genesis!

Walking Through Genesis- Chapter 13


In Genesis chapter 13 Abram and Lot separate paths. It all began with fighting between Abram’s herdsmen and Lot’s herdsmen. Verse seven makes the additional statement, “At that time the Canaanites and the Perizzites were dwelling in the land.” Verses 8-13 then cover the details of the split, initiated by Abram. The chapter ends with God’s promise to bless Abram with land (verses 14-15) and offspring (verse 16).

There are several interesting parts of this account. To begin with, many times Lot received the raw end of the deal for separating from Abram. But upon closer examination Abram actually told Lot to separate from him. Now, could Lot have chosen a better, more moral place? Of course! But this does show us that sometimes even good people can make wrong decisions. Perhaps Lot could have stayed with Abram and found another way around the conflict between their workers. Undoubtedly the two men could have brought their workers under control and instructed them on how to deal with conflict. Before we move on, I will say that it is easy to pass judgment from the present looking back, but we must remember that unfortunately we do not have all the details of the situation.


Another important fact to note is verse 7 were the writer informs us that Canaanites and Perizzites still inhabit the land. It would have made sense economically speaking for Abram and Lot to remain together for the security and added protection against these two groups of people.

A final thought is the reasons Lot used to determine which direction to choose. Now, before we get too hard on Lot, he had cattle, and cattle need grass and water. It made perfect sense. In fact, to choose otherwise would have been foolish, at least in the eyes of the world. The Christian must not make decisions on what makes sense solely. That is, while we should do things that are logical, believers should not bypass the all important step: prayer. One aspect of Abram’s life is that he was constantly building altars (see 12.7, 8 and 13.18). One part of building altars was praying to the deity, which in this case is God (Abram also prayed at one of the altars upon his return visit, see 13.4).

So, from this chapter of Genesis, we have learned:

• Sometimes good people can make the wrong decision or can influence others to make the wrong decision.

• Strife often becomes a barrier to protection, encouragement, and good relationships. Proverbs tells us that pride brings contention (Proverbs 13.10). And we learn from Christ’s example that humility cures hardships on relationships (see Philippians 2.3-8).

• When making decisions, follow Abram’s example of seeking God’s face. He knows the best way to take, and while it may appear to be the opposite of what makes sense humanly speaking, God’s ways are above ours (Isaiah 55.8).