Genesis 20, Matthew 19, Nehemiah 9, Acts 19

DateVersionReading Plan
@January 19, 2024ESV (2016)M’Cheyne Plan 2024

Genesis 20

Genesis 20:6–7 (ESV) 6 Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her. 7 Now then, return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, so that he will pray for you, and you shall live. But if you do not return her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours.”

We see here an amazing thing after Abraham said that Sarah was his sister and Abimelech took her as his wife: God kept him from sinning and stopped him from touching her. God in his mercy intervened to keep his promise regarding Sarah (Gen. 18:10) from being destroyed by Abraham’s foolish act. However, God makes clear that Abimelech still needed to respond honorably by returning Abraham’s wife or death would come to him as God originally proclaimed. In this we see how God first extends His grace in rescue, then provides instruction for obedience. It is a prevalent pattern that plays out time and time again throughout the whole of Scripture.

Matthew 19

Matthew 19:9–12 (ESV) 9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” 10 The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” 11 But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. 12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”

Matt. 19 is a substantial chapter on divorce but also in regard to singleness. Eunuchs in the ancient Near East, either by birth or by circumstance, refers to those who were castrated. However, the eunuchs who made themselves so “for the sake of the kingdom” is metaphorical in reference to those who chose lifelong celibacy and full dedication to kingdom efforts. On a more personal level, I have devoted a good deal of time to these passages during and following my divorce, trying to discern whether to seek remarriage or to remain single and embrace the ministerial flexibility it affords.

Nehemiah 9

Nehemiah 9:20–21 (ESV) 20 You gave your good Spirit to instruct them and did not withhold your manna from their mouth and gave them water for their thirst. 21 Forty years you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell. … 30 Many years you bore with them and warned them by your Spirit through your prophets. Yet they would not give ear. Therefore you gave them into the hand of the peoples of the lands.

Much of Neh. 9 is a prayer of praise for God’s faithfulness throughout Israel’s history and a recounting of events. We also see two references to the Holy Spirit and His work of warning, guiding and instructing the people. While the Holy Spirit’s role may be more clearly revealed in the New Testament, we see instances such as these that indicate how His presence and activity has persisted since the very beginning.

Acts 19

Acts 19:32 (ESV) 32 Now some cried out one thing, some another, for the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together.

A great disturbance arose when Demetrius spoke of the potential threat that Paul posed with the gospel of Christ against their goddess, Artemis. As the commotion grew greater, some became confused and did not know why they were there. It is a humorous instance of mob mentality but also humbling to see man’s unchanging, fallen nature.

Carson on Matthew 19

[The disciples] betray how poorly they understood Jesus’s pronouncement. His point was that wealth easily becomes a surrogate god. It is extraordinarily difficult for a person who is attached to riches, not least riches that he or she has accumulated and therefore feels proud about, to approach God as a child might approach (19:13–15), and simply ask for help and receive grace. The disciples look on these things precisely the wrong way.

I recently listened to a sermon by Tim Keller that spoke about money becoming a surrogate god in much the same way. It is vital to be aware of the power of money; its usefulness but also of the danger it presents in becoming an idol. By our continuous abiding in the Lord in His Word, we are able to view and approach wealth from an eternal, kingdom perspective.