December 4, 2020

The Choice

Genesis 29

Here’s something you should know about God: He likes upside-down things.

Sometimes He does what doesn’t make sense to us or it’s the exact opposite of what we expect or want. This was the case with two sisters, Leah and Rachel, who were both married to Jacob. Now, Jacob was the son of Isaac and the grandson of Abraham. God had picked Jacob to continue the family that would lead to His promised One, but Jacob had two wives, so which one of them would God use to continue His chosen family?

Leah was not a pretty girl. Jacob didn’t even want her for a wife. He was tricked into marrying her. Rachel, on the other hand, was so beautiful, like a princess, and Jacob loved her with all his heart. If you and I were to guess which one God would choose to continue the family of His Rescuer, wouldn’t we pick Rachel? Wouldn’t we look at the two sisters and decide with our eyes that she was the best?

Ah, but like we said earlier, God sometimes does upside-down things. God didn’t make His decision based on shiny hair, fashionable clothes, and long, lovely eyelashes. God chose Leah, the girl who looked ugly and lonely and unloved to everyone else. God was showing us through Leah a little what our Rescuer was going to be like.

The people of God had been on the lookout for their Rescuer for a really long time, but they had always expected someone like Rachel. They thought the Rescuer would be the best and look the best. Maybe He would be born in a giant stone palace with lots of servants, fancy robes, and sparkling jeweled crowns. Maybe He would have a strong, tall body and a handsome face. Surely His ene- mies would take one look at him and scream like little girls and hide in the haystacks. The people of God thought they would be able to look with their eyes and know, This must be Him! He is the One who will save us!

But God’s Rescuer wasn’t like Rachel. He was like Leah. Jesus was a son in a poor carpenter’s family. He was born in a stable, surrounded by stinky animals. His clothes were stained with dirt and filled with little holes. Outsiders would kick dust at His town as they passed by it. Nothing about how He looked or where He came from was important in any way, but God likes upside-down things. And His Son, Jesus, though not special to human eyes, was perfect in God’s eyes. Jesus would come in a way that no one expected, in a way that no one would have planned so that He could flip the world upside down.

Discussion Questions

Can you think of anyone else in the Bible that God chose to use, even though they weren’t the best, the most important, or the strongest?

Why would God use people who are weak, small, poor, or ugly to do a lot of the work for Him?

This Advent devotional resource was produced by The Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, TX. The original resource can be found here.

December 3, 2020

The Offering

Genesis 22:1-19

Abraham looked up the tall mountain ahead.

He glanced back and watched Isaac petting their donkey that was piled high with bags for the trip. How am I going to do this? Abraham thought. God wants me to give Him Isaac. Abraham’s heart hurt as he thought about it. Isaac was his son, his only son, and he loved him so much. He had waited such a long time to be his daddy and God had promised Abraham that His Rescuer was going to come through Isaac’s family! Abraham scratched his head, confused. How is God going to bring the Rescuer through Isaac if he dies now as a sacrifice? Abraham didn’t know the answer, but he knew God must have a plan. God always did. So with a heart that was both sad and trusting, Abraham kept going.

After much walking and climbing, they reached the spot God had told to Abraham. Abraham prepared for the sacrifice—built an altar, laid out his firewood, and brought forth his precious offering, Isaac. It was time. Abraham got out his knife, his heart beating fast and stomach fluttering with butterflies. He sucked in a breath and thought one last time, God has a plan. I trust Him. A tear trickled down his face. His hand clutched the knife, and he shakily raised it above his son.

A voice pierced the still air. “Stop!” Abraham’s heart leapt into his throat. “Abraham!” the angel shouted, “You trust God! He sees that you trust Him! You were willing to do whatever He said, even though it was so hard.” Just then, a ram skittered in the bushes. Abraham grabbed the ram by a horn and dragged it to the wood pile. He undid the rope that bound Isaac and swooped him up into a great happy hug. God had given Abraham something else to sacrifice instead of Isaac.

Abraham was ready to give up Isaac, his most precious thing in all the world. This shows us that Abraham’s heart believed God loved him and wanted good things for him. God’s heart toward His children is full of love and desires good things for us. To show us His heart, God gave up what was most special to Him. He gave up His Son, Jesus, for us.

Remember when Adam and Eve ate the fruit in the garden? Their hearts asked, Does God really love us? That question is a big question. It’s one all of our hearts ask. God wanted to answer this question once and for all so He gave up His Son, His only Son, whom He loved. You and I can look at Jesus and hear God’s response, the loudest, “Yes!” in all the world.

Discussion Questions

Think about something that is special to you. Maybe it’s a toy you love, a best friend or sibling. What would it feel like for you to have to give that up? What do you think it felt like for God to give up His Son, His only Son, whom He loved so, so much?

In the Bible, God sometimes tells His people to do hard things. He told Abraham to give up Isaac, He told David to fight Goliath, and He told Paul to go to some hard places and talk about Jesus. Is there anything hard that God has told you to do?

This Advent devotional resource was produced by The Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, TX. The original resource can be found here.

December 2, 2020

Genesis 9

The flood ended.

A wind whistled across the earth and began drying everything off. The ark landed. God opened the door that He shut so many days ago and Noah peeked out into this familiar but new world. As he looked at the emptiness that used to be crowded with people, maybe Noah wondered, Will God flood this earth again if we keep disobeying? Maybe Noah should have run out of the ark and thrown himself on the ground yelling promises like, “God, we will never make the world so bad again! Please, no more floods!”

But Noah didn’t make any promises to God. Funnily enough, when he got off the ark, God began making promises to him.

“Noah, I want to make a covenant with you.” Now, covenant is a fancy word that means a promise, but it’s bigger than just an ordinary promise, like when you say, “I promise I’ll clean my room,” or, “I promise I’ll finish my homework.” A covenant is tougher than nails, stronger than steel, big, and unbreakable. The God who created the sun, scattered the stars, and made man out of dust said that He would make this kind of promise to Noah, his family, and to all the people that would come after them. Wow! Noah opened his ears wide and listened as God promised that He would never, ever, in all the years of forever, destroy the earth with another flood. Then suddenly, across the sky, God painted a brilliant rainbow of many colors. It was a seal of this covenant—which means it was a sign that Noah and every person ever after could look up at the sky, elbow each other in the ribs, and say, “Hey! A rainbow! Remember, that time God sent that huge gigantic flood? That was so big! That rainbow reminds us He won’t ever do that again! Beautiful!”

This covenant and many others that God made in the Bible were to help get us ready for the biggest and best covenant that ever was: the New Covenant! In this strong, unbreakable, forever promise, God says to all the people who trust in Jesus that all of His anger against all of our sin has all been poured out onto Jesus when He died on the cross. Not a drop of it is leftover for us. And because God likes to seal His covenants to make sure we know He is super serious about them, He puts the Holy Spirit inside our hearts as a seal of the New Covenant. The Holy Spirit reminds us every day for all of our lives that God loves us. We don’t have to be afraid of Him punishing us because Jesus was punished for us. The Holy Spirit is like a rainbow shining upon our hearts, pointing us to the God of the universe who has given us the strongest and the most beautiful promise in all the world.

Discussion Questions

Has someone ever made a promise to you and then they weren’t able to keep it? Maybe they ran out of time or money, or they got lost, or forgot, or changed their mind about it. Why is it different for God to promise you something than for a person to promise you something?

God decided to protect Noah and his family from the flood. What could be some reasons that He decided to protect Noah and his family instead of wiping them out too and simply starting over with new people?

This Advent devotional resource was produced by The Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, TX. The original resource can be found here.

December 1, 2020

The Flood

Genesis 6:9-8:22

The world was hurting.

The sin that rushed into the hearts of Adam and Eve back in the garden—it was now everywhere. It had spread like nasty germs into each and every person. It poisoned every heart so that no one trusted God or thought He was important. God was so, so sad as He looked at people throwing punches, screaming ugly words, wearing mean faces, and telling lies. God decided to scrub this world clean with rain, more rain than anyone had ever seen fall from the sky. More than any bathtub, swimming pool, or ocean could ever hold.

But God saw Noah on the earth. He loved Noah and wanted to make him, his family, and all the animals safe so that the flood wouldn’t destroy them along with everything else. So God whispered in Noah’s ear a warning of the rain. He told Noah the one thing that would rescue them from the flood, an ark. Now, Noah was different from all the other people on the earth. While they ignored God and plugged their ears when He spoke, Noah listened carefully because he believed that everything God said was really true. If God said a flood was coming, then it would come. If God said it would be so big that it would wipe out everything and everyone, then it would. And if God said an ark was the only way he and his family would be safe, then it was. So Noah trusted in God and built the ark. Then just as God said, for forty days and forty nights, the rains came. They hammered against the roof and the wood creaked and groaned as the waves crashed against the sides. Only Noah, his family, and the pairs of animals inside the great ark were safe from the water that swallowed up the world.

When Noah and his family came out of the ark, everyone was gone and everything looked clean. But it would soon be discovered that all the water in all the world couldn’t rinse away the sin hiding in the heart of every person. The flood didn’t stop the world from all its hurting. God again needed to deal with sin, and He needed to pour out a more powerful kind of storm to once-and-for-all deal with the sins of His people. So, just as before, He looked at the earth and found children that He loved— that’s us!—and He gave us an ark to protect us. But the ark that God gave us this time wasn’t exactly like Noah’s ark—it wasn’t made out of wood and tar. In fact it wasn’t an “it” at all. The ark that God gave us was a person—God’s own Son, Jesus. In order to protect us, Jesus received all of God’s raging storm that was heading our way. In the ark that is Jesus, we will be safe from everything God will send to get rid of sin for good.

Discussion Questions

God gave Noah very specific instructions on how he would be safe in the ark —what type of wood, how big, the number of decks, etc. What kind of instructions has God given us on how we can be safe in Jesus?

We can see that Noah trusted God by looking at all the ways Noah obeyed Him. Noah went and got the wood, he followed all God’s instructions, and he did what God said. If we trust that Jesus saves us, how will we see that show up in our lives?

Noah believed God when no one else did. In fact, most of the people around him were probably laughing at him for building the ark. If you follow Jesus, sometimes people might laugh or make fun of you for doing it. How do you think Noah was able to keep trusting God even if people thought he was silly?

This Advent devotional resource was produced by The Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, TX. The original resource can be found here.