It may be time to tone it down a bit in the analysis of Genesis. I can’t really afford to write nearly 1,500 words per day as I have been. But, this is a great time to introduce the Inductive Bible Study Method, which you can do at home yourself to study the Bible and glean as much as you can from the text (it’s how I was taught to study the Bible).
The Inductive Bible Study Method
There are three basic questions to ask for every passage you read:
- What does it say? (Observation)
- What does it mean? (Interpretation)
- How does it apply to my life? (Application)
For each of these three questions, there are many sub-questions that can be asked to help your study:
- Know the knowable
- What can be known about this passage already?
- Who wrote it?
- Why was it written?
- What is the background?
- What was history like?
- Observe the text
- Who are the main characters?
- What is the main conflict/problem/story?
- What was the cultural/economic/historical situation at that time?
- Who does what and for what reasons?
- Find keywords
- Find repeated ideas or phrases
- Find cause-and-effect relationships and chains-of-events
- Put yourself in the shoes of each of the characters in the story (odds are you can always relate at some point to every character in every story)
- Put yourself in God’s shoes – try to see things from His perspective
- Ask questions of the text – no question is right or wrong, too big or too small
- Go from a bird’s eye view of the text, to looking closely at pieces of it, back to a Big Picture view of it
- Ask yourself how it applies to you and your life
- How is it relevant to today and the culture of today?
- Is there a lesson to learn?
- Command to obey?
- Sin to avoid?
- Promise to remember?
- Ask yourself how you are like the characters in the story?
- How do you also sin as they sinned?
- What sins do you need to repent of?
- How can you strive to live differently?
Now, not all of these questions needs to be asked all the time. Sometimes, you can have a great study in just 5 minutes by remembering the 3 most basic questions:
- What does it say?
- What does it mean?
- How does it apply to me?
The reason we read the Bible is for the purpose of applying it to our lives. We don’t read the Bible just for fun stories, or to laugh at ignorant historic figures. We want to see how the sins of the past are repeated today, and how we are like the bad guys throughout the book (since the Bible is really just about bad guys and Jesus – not good guys and bad guys – EVERYONE has a bad side aside from Jesus). We want to read the Bible to be “transformed by the renewing of our minds” as Paul writes in Romans 12:2. But we can’t be transformed ONLY by reading the Word, we also must apply it to our own lives.
And with that, let’s take a quick look at Genesis 22-24 and see how we can apply it to our own lives (this will be the 5-minute version of Inductive Bible Study – as compared to the hour long versions previously posted):
God tests Abraham by asking him to sacrifice his son Isaac at the place God will show him. This is the first major foreshadowing of Jesus. God leads Abraham to the place he has chosen for the sacrifice, which Abraham spots on the third day (verse 4). It’s unclear whether or not Abraham is convinced that God actually will provide a lamb for sacrifice (as he tells his son), but it is clear that he is certain that God could do so (verse 8). Abraham prepared everything for the sacrifice, and just as he lifted the knife to slay his son, God stopped him and did provide an alternative sacrifice in the form of a ram caught in a thicket (verses 10-13). Then, God blesses Abraham again for his willingness to give everything – including his promised heir – to God (verses 15-18).
When it comes to Jesus, three is a very significant number. Not only does three hint at the number of members of the Trinity (God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), God the Holy Spirit), but also three days is very specific and refers to the three days Jesus was in the tomb. Three days is also how long Jonah stayed in the belly of the whale and is another foreshadowing of Jesus (Jonah 1:17).
Also, although God originally asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, God himself provided the sacrifice – just as God himself provided the ultimate sacrifice for all mankind’s sins through his son Jesus.
Additionally, at the time that Abraham raised the knife over his son Isaac to kill him, Isaac was already dead – at least in Abraham’s mind. Abraham had so fully committed himself to the sacrifice that he was about to drive the knife into his son’s heart and kill him. So, when God stopped him from killing his son, it was as if he was resurrecting Isaac from the dead. Abraham received back his son that he had already mentally killed in sacrifice.
And, given Abraham’s words to Isaac on the way up – that “God will provide” the sacrificial lamb, as well as his full commitment to sacrificing his promised son (who God had promised him at least 4 times over 25 years, from Genesis 12-21), we can also assume that Abraham believed God’s providence so firmly at this time that he was equally convinced of God’s ability to literally raise his son back to life if he were to be sacrificed.
Are we as fully convinced of God’s provision as Abraham was? Are we also convinced of God’s goodness and mercy to us? And more importantly, are we as convinced of God and his Word and his promises that we are willing to fully believe them and obey them – even to the point of offering giving up our own families, our own lives, and all the things we hold dear?
In which areas do we need more faith?
Abraham’s wife Sarah – who he loves dearly – dies and he goes to mourn. He wants to buy some land from the Hittites to bury his wife. The Hittites offer him free land – because he’s “rich and powerful” (verse 6). Abraham chooses one of the Hittites’ land to buy and offers full price for it. The Hittite instead offers it back to Abraham for free. Abraham bows down to the people and insists on paying full price. The Hittite tells him the full price, but again says, “don’t bother about it” (verse 15). Abraham weighs out the full amount, pays the Hittite, receives the land deed, and buries his wife there.
This is not Abraham’s native people, nor his native land. Abraham desires to do things completely legally, by the books, and properly. The Hittites see that he’s very rich and acknowledge that, basically saying, “What’s a rich man like you want to do things all legal-like? You can just have whatever you want – since you’re so rich! *wink* *wink*”
Basically, it seems as though the Hittites are trying to respect and honor Abraham – but why? Abraham isn’t from around there – but he looks rich. Do the Hittites hope that he’ll stick around and spend some of his money in the town – let his wealth overflow to them? Do they want Abraham to “owe” them if he takes the land for free? Will they one day ask him to pay back his “debt” to them? And what would they do with the land that Abraham took? Would they respect it, or forget about it? At some time in the future, would they just bulldoze it to build a new shopping center because it was in their land and they conveniently “forgot” that a rich foreigner buried his wife there? What’s the real deal with this offering free land to Abraham to bury his wife? Surely it can’t only be pity. And even if it is, there’s still a lot of legality/business/politics involved in getting a chunk of land in a foreign country.
How many of us would accept the first offer of FREE, just because it’s FREE? Would we even stop to consider the future ramifications of our decision?
How many of us enjoy looking like princes, just so that people will treat us like princes (to our faces)? How many of us put on expensive clothes just to get people to notice us, or to try to finagle better deals through our good looks or rich exterior?
How many of us only look at the exterior? Do we offer better things to beautiful people? Do we give better service to rich-looking people?
And how many of us will act with character, as Abraham did, avoiding shortcuts and seeking to do everything legally and in an upright manner?
In which areas do we need to change our own attitudes?
This is honestly one of the longest chapters in Genesis (or so it seems) – but that’s probably because much of it is repeated. Abraham tells his servant to go get a wife for his son, Isaac. The servant does so, prays about it (very specifically), and gets an answer to his prayer (also very specifically) almost immediately. He praises God immediately, then goes in to talk with her family about the marriage. They accept that it is from the Lord, and allow her to go. The servant again praises God immediately, and the family prepares the girl’s dowry. They want her to stay for 10 days, but the servant wants to get home quickly, and the girl agrees. The family blesses Rebekah, send her on her way, Isaac meets her in the field, and then he marries her.
Even though God spent 11 chapters of Genesis and 25 years of Abraham’s life to answer his promise of an heir, that doesn’t mean that God always waits so long. Here, God answers prayer almost immediately, and in a very specific way. This can teach us a few things:
- We can pray specifically, and God may answer some of those prayers very specifically (so be careful what you pray for…).
- When prayer is in alignment with God’s predetermined will, he often quickly answers those prayers.
- Additionally, when God answers prayers, we ought to be quick in thanking Him for his answer and praising Him (as the servant did here).
- Also, if something is clearly happening according to God’s will, if God has clearly and specifically answered clear, specific prayer, we would do well to accept it, praise God together with those whose prayers were answered, and bless them as well (as Rebekah’s family did to the servant).
How do we pray? Do we pray specifically or generally? Do we pray in accordance with God’s will or in accordance with our own wills? Also, when we pray, do we expect an answer from God as this servant did, or do we just throw up empty prayers out of habit?
When God answers our prayers, how do we respond? Do we accept an answer if it is nearly immediate – as was the case here, or do we expect that God cannot give immediate answers to prayer? Do we wait around for something better from God even when a clear answer to prayer stands in front of us? Are we ever unsatisfied with God’s clear answers to our prayers? Do we ever wish we’d prayed for more, or prayed bigger? Do we thank God for answered prayers, even when we’re unsatisfied with the outcome? Do we remember to praise him even after the initial answer?
When God answers other people’s prayers, how do we respond? Do we shrug off that other person’s prayers as insignificant? Do we deny God’s answers to other people’s prayers and say, “Nah, that can’t really be an answer to your prayer”? Do we accept God’s answers to others? Do we bless them and praise God when he answers their prayers? Do we work hard to help in whatever way we can when it is clear that we are part of God’s answered prayer to others? Or do we deny our own involvement in the answered prayer?