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Year of the Bible – Genesis 17-21

Epiphany - Genesis 17



Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? – Genesis 17:17

Genesis 17:1-21:34 (17:1-7)

In this text, a series of dramatic events unfold in the life of Abram, significant events that form the life and faith of Israel for thousands of years that follow. First, God made a covenant with Abraham (changing his name from Abram to Abraham). A covenant is a contract, a promise sealed with outward signs or symbols binding two parties to their mutual words and pledges. The covenant of Israel with God would be circumcision, administered to all males descended from Abraham on the eighth day of their life. God then gave Abraham the promise of a son, a Messianic heir, who would be born miraculously to Sarah, his wife. Abraham was ninety-nine years old at the time and Sarah was ninety years old. Secondly, Abraham met the Lord face to face, along with two angels, eating with them and then pleading with them to spare the lives of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. What follows in the Sodomite immoral assault against the angels demonstrated the depth of Sodom’s corruption and the justice of God’s wrath.   Thirdly, Abraham revealed his own human weakness and imperfection when he feared the Philistine king, Abimelech. But God demonstrated the nature of His covenantal love by protecting Abraham and by prospering him—despite the unfaithfulness of Abraham. Last of all, Abraham was blessed with the gift of a son named Isaac. But despite the miracle of Isaac’s birth and the Messianic promise connected to him, the slave-woman Hagar and her son Ishmael (by Abraham) despised both Sarah and Isaac and had to be sent into exile from the household of Abraham. Ishmael and his descendants became arch-enemies of Israel and her Messianic hope. 2,000 years later they would spawn the anti-Jewish and anti-Christian religion of Islam.


Questions – Genesis 17

  1. What is a covenant?
  2. What was the covenant of ancient Israel, to be replaced by baptism in the New Testament era?
  3. In what way was the old covenant also based upon Messianic promises?
  4. How old were Abraham and Sarah when Isaac was born?
  5. In what way was Abraham like the Messiah he carried within him as he spoke to the Lord about Sodom and Gomorrah?
  6. What is so comforting about a covenant when we see the weakness of Abraham’s faith?
  7. What has to be done in the Christian Church to anyone who would despise the honor and glory of Christ, as we see happening to Hagar and Ishmael?
Year of the Bible – Epiphany Week Two | Tuesday | Genesis 17 – © John W. Fiene

Year of the Bible – Psalm 35

Epiphany - Psalm 35




They repay me evil for good and leave my soul forlorn. – Psalm 35:12

Psalm 35 (35:1-9)

David, the King of Israel, often found himself the victim of intrigue. Corrupt men were constantly plotting his ruin. Their hatred could not be traced to a justifiable cause. They distorted facts, twisting them into accusations. In exchange for the trust and good will that the king had shown them, they blind-sided him and attacked him. They were gleeful when he made mistakes and talked maliciously about him behind his back. They did everything within their power to destroy the peace of the sheep that lived under the rule of the king, resenting, jealously, the shepherd of Israel as he led his sheep to safe pasture. These enemies gloated when things got tough, and used his misfortune to exalt themselves—they, of course, knew better and would have done a better job had they been king! What was David to do? The king turned to the God of Israel with petition and prayer. He asked God to fight for him as he himself fought, protecting him like a shield before a warrior. Should God act for him, David knew that the plots and intrigues of evil men would blow away before him like chaff in the wind. He petitions God to execute poetic justice—using the nets made by men to catch David as the means by which they themselves would be caught. David lays his case before God like a defendant before a judge: (1) He points to the end-benefit of his vindication—his soul would rejoice in God and magnify God’s grace; (2) He describes the crime of his enemies, and his own innocence and good will as evidence of the purity of his own motives; (3) He humbly suggests that God has been slow in responding and needs to act with haste to vindicate him—to the end that God would be praised and exalted by the righteous.

Questions – Psalm 35

  1. List five signs or behaviors that emerge in men when they are corrupt, as these men demonstrated in their behavior towards David?
  2. If we are to win against evil, who must fight for us?    
  3. What did David do to accomplish this?
  4. What is meant by poetic justice?
  5. Prayer in time of need, when we are hard-pressed by the diabolical plots of men, must be shaped like a defendant before a judge. How does David make his case?
  6. Explain why his enemies could not make their case in the same way.
Year of the Bible – Epiphany Week Two | Monday | Psalm 35 – © John W. Fiene

Year of the Bible – Romans 5:1-7:26

While we were still sinners,
Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8b

Romans 5:1-7:26 (5:1-11)                                   

If justification makes for peace, that must mean that God is not at peace where there is no justification – that is, no righteousness. For righteousness is credited to us only through faith. Abraham became righteous through God’s crediting righteousness to him. Abraham did not do anything to become righteous, but he did become righteous – that is, he was reckoned to be forgiven of all sin and given the gift of eternal life (as reflected in 4:25). Therefore (the conclusion), Paul says, “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”. But note that this peace does not mean that we do not suffer- suffering is very much a real thing, sometimes a necessary thing for the Christian. God’s constant (covenantal) love is manifest in the free act of love demonstrated in the offering of Christ for sinners – people unworthy of God’s love. So strong is that covenant that if God would do this for us while we were sinful, how much more so will He save us – now that we have become righteous through faith in Christ. Paul goes on to explain that the universal verdict of condemnation was very much like the universal verdict of justification. In both the case of Adam and of Christ, God reckoned something to man. But in the first case, sin was reckoned to all men with the effect of death. In the second case, forgiveness or pardon was reckoned to all men with the effect of life – eternal life. So justification affects the way that Christians live their lives, for though we experience the effects of sin in our lives, we do not give to sin the power to rule our lives. (6:11) The Christian “reckons” no power or mastery to sin. The result is that Christians reckon themselves to be slaves, not to their sinful nature, but to righteousness (6:22). The tension between sin and righteousness puts Christians in a strange position. The Law actually stirs up sin in us. But this is so that we might never seek to be justified by our works under the Law. The only thing that can rescue us from the Law – the only one – is Jesus Christ Himself. Thus, the Law leads us to see and know sin and teaches us our need for a savior. The Gospel leads us to Christ and teaches us to reckon ourselves to be dead to sin – that we might live to Christ and the righteousness He reckons to us through faith.


Questions – Romans 5

  1. How do we become righteous before God?
  2. What did God’s reckoning do to Abraham?
  3. When we by faith become righteous in God’s sight, what kind of an experience do we have?
  4. What do we mean by a “universal verdict of condemnation?”
  5. What tension arises in the Christian when he becomes righteous before God?
  6. What does the Law do to us?
  7. Why does God want us to see the sin in our flesh?
  8. What does the Gospel teach us and cause us to do?
Year of the Bible – Epiphany Week One | Saturday | Romans 5 – © John W. Fiene

Year of the Bible – Mark 13:1-14:26

Epiphany - Mark 13
She broke the jar and poured
the perfume on his head.
Mark 14:3b
Mark 13:1-14:26 (14:1-9)

Mark sets before our eyes the marks, signs and promises of the New Covenant. As ancient Israel had been set apart by circumcision and gathered around the meal, the Passover feast, so now the New Israel, the Israel of faith, the true sons of Abraham throughout the Gentile world, are marked and sealed by the Holy Spirit in the waters of baptism and gathered together into a perfect communion with God in the sacramental meal of the Lord’s Supper. The disciples followed the directives of Christ and made preparations for the meal. Jesus gathered His twelve disciples (twelve tribes of Israel in contrast to the twelve disciples) and prepared them for His betrayal. Judas would betray his Lord. Always, always, within the church there are hypocrites and unbelievers, but these can only take the supper of Christ to their own judgment, for God brings into judgment all who would bring harm to His Son and the Gospel of His Grace. Marking Judas, therefore, Jesus consecrates the bread and wine and gives to His disciples the real body and blood of the Savior of the world. To those who come to Him and covenant in faith, God protects, defends and saves them from sin, death and the devil—thankfully and often in spite of their own human failings and weaknesses.


Questions – Mark 13

  1. What were the symbols of the old covenant and what are the sacraments of the New Covenant?
  2. Who are the true sons of Abraham?
  3. What are we to expect as an unwanted but necessary fact within the Christian Church, as evidenced by Judas?
  4. Why is the covenant/sacrament so comforting to us as Christians?
  5. In what way is the Lord’s Supper an “epiphany” of Christ?
Year of the Bible – Epiphany Week One | Friday | Mark 13 – © John W. Fiene

Year of the Bible – Luke 4:1-13

“. . . If you are the Son of God,
tell this stone to become
Luke 4:3

Luke 4:1-13

Trust in the Word

Epiphany starts with the baptism of Jesus. Jesus was baptized that he might take upon Himself our sins, and so that, through our baptism into Christ, we might receive from Him His perfect righteousness. God, therefore, is at peace with those who have been baptized into Christ. The righteousness of Christ has become our righteousness. We are holy because we have the holiness of Christ, not because we live sinless lives. We do not see our righteousness because it is RECKONED TO US. Therefore, we can only see and receive it by faith. When we have trials and tribulations in life, we always question if God has forgotten us, or has failed to protect us, or is punishing us. Only those who are perfectly righteous and know it can resist such temptation, for God cannot forget the righteous, God will not punish the righteous, God will always protect the righteous. To show us the power of faith and righteousness over Satan and temptation, the Holy Spirit took Jesus into the wilderness. Tempted for forty days, Jesus showed His perfect faith in operation. He trusted in God’s Word to sustain Him, even when God gave Him no bread to eat. Thus, He resisted the power of Satan and remained free from Satan’s destructive powers (in contrast to Adam – cf. Romans 6). He was very much LIKE Abraham, but He was far MORE than Abraham. Jesus never doubted, thus He was freed from the power of evil. This is the power and blessing given to the righteous by God. In baptism, God gives and seals to us all the same rights Christ had throughout His wilderness temptation. Christians are permitted to use their baptism and faith in God’s Word in the same way.


Luke Questions:

  1. What is the great exchange in baptism? We get Jesus’ ____________ and He gets our ___________.
  2. Is the baptized Christian holy?
  3. Explain the word “reckoned.”
  4. Where did Jesus go after He was baptized?
  5. What do we mean when we say that Jesus’ faith overcame Satan’s temptation?
Year of the Bible – Epiphany Week One | Thursday | Luke 4 – © John W. Fiene

Year of the Bible – Isaiah 14:1-17-14

Epiphany - Isaiah 14



How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn!

Isaiah 14:12

Isaiah 14:1-17:14 (14:1-2)

The Fallen Morning Star

God’s people were often taken into captivity because of their unbelief. They were dispossessed of the same land that God gave them through Abram. Why God got angry was not often clear to the Israelites. Israel often turned away from God. They did not know Him or His Word and promise. They had refused to listen to His Word. When He spoke to them through the prophets, they simply denied His commands and promises and mistreated the prophets. This does not mean that they were not religious. They prayed and worshipped someone called “God.” But they did not study His Word, they did not care about His Word and covenants. So, to wake them up, God sent them into captivity. God used their neighboring enemies to teach them a lesson, and though it was severe, it was also a lesson of love. Isaiah spoke God’s Word to the Israelites – a word of warning AND peace. Israel would be destroyed because she had broken faith and covenant with God. The destroyers of the Israelites, however, would themselves, in time, be destroyed and the people of God set free. The King of Babylon (the morning star) would be destroyed and forgotten. The Philistines and Moabites and Arabs would also get their day of judgment. In the future, Israel would be restored. God would turn away His anger, be reconciled to Israel and have compassion on His children. An unbelievable miracle, the miracles of all miracles, Isaiah predicted. But it could hardly be grasped because their hearts were not turned in faith to the Word. The day was coming when even the enemies of God’s people would join Israel in the worship and praise of the true and living God. Even the Gentiles would become righteous through faith. That is one of the great joys of the Epiphany season. The Gentiles will see and believe!



Questions – Isaiah 14

  1. What was the main reason for God sending His people into captivity?
  2. What commandment do we violate when we refuse to hear God’s Word?
  3. Explain how a person can be religious without really being a Christian.
  4. Describe Isaiah’s message of warning and peace?
  5. What happened to Israel’s enemies?
  6. What great event did Isaiah predict?
Year of the Bible – Epiphany Week One | Wednesday | Isaiah 14 – © John W. Fiene

Year of the Bible – Genesis 15:1-16:35

Epiphany - Week One - Genesis 15



“. . . but a son coming from your own body will be your heir.”

                        Genesis 15:4

Genesis 15:1-16:35 (15:1-6)

Abram and Sarai – (Trust/Justification)

Abram was afraid that he would not become a father. His fear was based upon two things. He wanted an heir from his own household. He also wanted to be the father (progenitor) of the Messiah. He had gotten very old. He seemed to have been filled with doubts. But God gave Him a promise. Abram would have descendants as numerous as the stars. Abram believed God and it was “reckoned to him” for righteousness. God “imputes” – declaring something to be what it is, so that through the power of His Word it becomes what God says it will be. That is how we become righteous before God. To help us understand imputation, God connects Abram’s righteousness to the ownership of Israel, the promised land. He “gave” the land to Abram. Notice how it became Abram’s land – even though he did not take it, even though no one else thought it was Abram’s, even though he would never fully experience it as his land. But it was his because God said it – His Word made it so!

Hagar and Ishmael: One wonders why Abram, at first very certain of God’s promise, started to “backslide”. He and Sarai became impatient and took matters into their own hands. Sarai’s Egyptian maid, Hagar, tried to have a “surrogate” child for Sarai, but she soon began to despise her mistress. Problems, huge and very long lasting problems (multi-generational – now reflected in Islam vs. Christianity, and between the Arab worlds and the west), came about because Abram and Sarai refused to rely on and trust in God’s Word. Today we are so often afraid to rely upon God’s promises because our reason and common sense get in the way. We need to remind ourselves daily that God’s Word and promise will never be taken from us, that as we walk in His paths, He will always shield and defend us.

Year of the Bible – Epiphany Week One | Tuesday | Genesis 15 – © John W. Fiene