Genesis 22–Abraham’s Ultimate Test

It was the battle for the ages.  Abraham had been through quite an adventure leaving all that he knew at age 75 and starting to Canaan.  All He had was a promise from God, but for Abraham, that had been enough. Over the next twenty-five years Abraham had to fight battles, make deals and watch his son Ishmael be sent away, all at God’s leading.  Now Isaac was a young man, Abraham had raised him to trust God and told him of the plan to make Him a great nation.

On this day as Abraham was following God, God set the entire plan on its head.  He told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac.  It made no sense. All the strife with Ishmael the years of barrenness and trust all seemed for nothing, well unless you truly trusted God.  Abraham did.  He followed God’s command.  He prepared to sacrifice Isaac.  He told isaac, however, even as the end was drawing near, that He knew God would provide.  And as a man of faith that he was, Abraham raised his knife to sacrifice Isaac.

God stopped him of course.  It was not God’s character to sacrifice Isaac.  He did want Abraham to see that He could truly trust God with that which was most precious to Abraham. So, God provided a Ram.  Abraham and Isaac prepared the sacrifice.  At the close of that day, God showed Abraham the confirmation of all he had been through.  He would establish Isaac as a great nation.  He would fulfill his covenant with Abraham.  God also gave Abraham and al who would follow the picture of the faith and Love God had for us.

When God was at that same place, He laid His only Son, Jesus, on the alter, and sacrificed Him on a cross at Golgotha.  It was the only way to honor His commitment to Abraham and save all that followed from sin and death.  God completed the sacrifice because He loves us and wants to have that relationship with us for eternity.  He wants us to be able to trust and follow Him as Abraham did.  God gave his most precious gift because in His mind, WE are worth the sacrifice.

God showed us that Abraham was a superhero.  He calls us to be superheroes as well.  To do that, we simply need to trust and follow Him.  God will do the rest.

God Bless You

After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy[a] will go over there and worship and come again to you.” And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.

When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”;[b] as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.

Genesis 21 Part 3

People often ask why if God is so loving, would He have driven out the peoples of Canaan from the land to Give that land to Israel.  It is important to know that the land was Abraham’s hundreds of years prior to Moses leaving Egypt and Joshua clearing the land.  Moses was clearly blessed by God and the Philistines knew that. Their king made a treaty with Abraham that said since your God is with you and all that you do, treat us with the same kindness we have shown you. Abraham promised.

As the years passed the Philistines grew mighty and they became Godless,  They used brute force and deceit to take whatever they chose.  God watched them loathe Him, serve other gods, and do detestable things.  God said enough.  It was then that God knew he had to set Israel apart. That is why God had Joshua clear the land.  That is why he warned Israel to be Holy and separate from all the neighboring peoples.  They would always try to corrupt and destroy God’s people, and He had their interest as primary.

That still holds today.  God calls us to trust and follow Him.  We need not get absorbed by the world and its culture; instead, we need to live lives that are Holy and different.  It is excruciatingly difficult to remain Holy without God’s spirit leading.  Even when we follow the Lord, the enemy is trying to minimize and neutralize us from the mission we are called to complete.  That is why we must agree with the Lord to live in this world, but not let the world live in us.  Help me, Lord, to remain Holy as you are Holy.

God Bless You 

22 At that time Abimelek and Phicol the commander of his forces said to Abraham, “God is with you in everything you do. 23 Now swear to me here before God that you will not deal falsely with me or my children or my descendants. Show to me and the country where you now reside as a foreigner the same kindness, I have shown to you.”

24 Abraham said, “I swear it.”

25 Then Abraham complained to Abimelek about a well of water that Abimelek’s servants had seized. 26 But Abimelek said, “I don’t know who has done this. You did not tell me, and I heard about it only today.”

27 So Abraham brought sheep and cattle and gave them to Abimelek, and the two men made a treaty. 28 Abraham set apart seven ewe lambs from the flock, 29 and Abimelek asked Abraham, “What is the meaning of these seven ewe lambs you have set apart by themselves?”

30 He replied, “Accept these seven lambs from my hand as a witness that I dug this well.”

31 So that place was called Beersheba,[d] because the two men swore an oath there.

32 After the treaty had been made at Beersheba, Abimelek and Phicol the commander of his forces returned to the land of the Philistines. 33 Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called on the name of the Lord, the Eternal God. 34 And Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines for a long time.

Genesis 21–Promise Kept, But the Adventure Continues

It came time for the birth of Isaac.  God’s chosen son of Abraham.  He brought laughter to the house and would grow to become a great nation.  Abraham had trusted God for a quarter century by the time that Isaac came upon the scene.  Now, though, there was the problem of Ishmael.  Ishmael would have been a teenager by this time.

Sarah wanted Hagar and Ishmael sent away.  This was a difficult choice for Abraham as Ishmael’s father.  Abraham did send them away, however because God told him to.  Abraham did so because God promised to take care and make Ishmael a nation as well.  When they were in the dessert, dying, God sent them help and established Hagar and Ismael far away from Sarah and Isaac.

God promised Abraham a son to become a nation. Isaac was now here, and Abraham could rest in that promise.  But God was not finished yet.  Often when we see God at work inpour lives, we become satisfied, complacent, or feeling as though we can expect nothing more from God. That is a lie.  Paul told us in Philippians 1:6, “He that has begun a good work in you will carry it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

God would continue to mold and refine Abraham until Abraham was called home.  He continues to work in us the same way.  We can never forget that the process of becoming like Christ is a lifelong process.  We must forge forward each day knowing God is moving in our lives until His return.  We must seek Him and His leadership all the days of our lives.  As we do, like Abraham, we will see God always keep His promises to us.

God Bless You

 Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. Abraham gave the name Isaac[a] to the son Sarah bore him. When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.

Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” And she added, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”

Hagar and Ishmael Sent Away

The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, 10 and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.”

Genesis 18 Part 2–Man’s Sin and God’s Desire to Spare the Righteous

With Abraham now well established in his relationship with the Lord, he becomes a part of one of God’s difficult decisions about sin and men.  The Jordon Valley had become incredibly sinful. So evil that God could no longer abide the continued decompensation.  He decided to destroy the city.  In his discussion, Abraham asked the Lord to consider sparing the city for those left that were still Godly.  God agreed to spare the city for 50 righteous people.  The negotiation that followed showed God’s desire to spare the righteous and Abraham’s faith to ask for the lives of his family.

Abraham negotiated the salvation of the city down to 10 people being righteous, sadly, there were not even 10 people in that city that loved God.  Lot and His daughters were spared, but the cities in the Jordan valley were destroyed.  It was a warning that while God would not destroy the world by flood, it did not mean He would continue to tolerate sin and evil. 

In current culture, the level of evil among men is obvious, and the selfishness of people and disregard for life at an all-time high.  It is a heart break to see the lack of respect for God and others.  Still there are many who still believe that loving God and serving him is the greatest life a person could live.  It is for those that still have faith and follow God that allows God to spare the lives of those in the evil world in which we live.

We, like Abraham, need to be faithful and intent on the prayer for the lost.  In James, Jesus’ brother reminded us that the prayers of a righteous person avails much.  God will hold His hand if he could save a person that is lost.  It is God’s desire that none should perish. But He will not hold His hand forever.  When it is obvious that men’s desire to live apart from God, He will withdraw his hands and his protection.  Once done, men are incredibly predictable and consistent in their downward spiral to hopelessness.

We should never give up, but we should not think God will not take steps to give men up to their sinful desires.  It is a difficult paradigm, but history confirms that God will not be mocked.

God Bless You

16 When the men got up to leave, they looked down toward Sodom, and Abraham walked along with them to see them on their way. 17 Then the Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? 18 Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him.[c] 19 For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”

20 Then the Lord said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous 21 that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.”

22 The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the Lord.[d] 23 Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare[e] the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

26 The Lord said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

27 Then Abraham spoke up again: “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, 28 what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five people?”

“If I find forty-five there,” he said, “I will not destroy it.”

29 Once again he spoke to him, “What if only forty are found there?”

He said, “For the sake of forty, I will not do it.”

30 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?”

He answered, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.”

31 Abraham said, “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?”

He said, “For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it.”

32 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?”

He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”

33 When the Lord had finished speaking with Abraham, he left, and Abraham returned home.

Genesis 18 Part 1–God Comes For Dinner

Abraham’s relationship with God was a personal one.  He had been a part of two personal covenants with God and now he was being visited and having dinner with the Lord and two angels.  It took Abraham a lifetime to build the relationship he had with God.  At nearly 100 years old, Abraham had seen God work in many amazing ways.  He led Abram to this land.  God helped Abraham to build a fortune and a life.  Now at 99 years old he had countless servants, livestock and even family to begin God’s chosen people.  Still, God made it clear he lacked an heir for the kingdom.

Now, at dinner, the Lord confirmed what He told Abraham at the discussion of the covenant.  In a year, Isaac, the heir would be born.  Sarah would have a child in her old age. And Abraham would raise him with the wisdom of age.  The idea of finally having a child was enough to make Sarah laugh.  God did not think it so funny.  He called her on it.

This visit by God and His angels would be a turning point in Israel’s history.  It would forever establish God’s power and commitment to Abraham.  Interestingly, it also did the same for us.  It was God’s desire to maintain the very personal relationship with Abraham and us that allowed Him to visit that day.  He had a very pleasant and a very difficult job to complete that day. He showed Abraham his commitment by joining him in person for dinner.  He reiterated his covenant promise and even called Sarah on her lie.  He made it real.

That is what the Lord wants with us.  He does not want us to focus on a front to appear to be what we think God wants us to be.  No, instead, He wants us to trust Him, follow the Lord, and be real.  We must remember that it is God who is at work in us.  He promised in Philippians to carry on that work to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.  We do not need to check boxes to follow God, we need simply to trust Him above all other things. Abraham did, and it truly was counted for Him as righteousness.  The same will hold true for us.

God Bless You

The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.

He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord,[a] do not pass your servant by. Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.”

“Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.”

So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three seahs[b] of the finest flour and knead it and bake some bread.”

Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree.

“Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him.

“There, in the tent,” he said.

10 Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”

Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. 11 Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”

13 Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”

15 Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.”

But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.”

Genesis 17 Part 2–God Works With Messy

This chapter gives us a better perspective on the relationship between Abraham and Ishmael. By the time Isaac was born, Ishmael was 14 years old.  He was circumcised and by standards of the time pretty much a man.  Abraham had raised Ishmael as his only son and heir.  So, when God announced the coming of Isaac through Sarah, it had to be a time of mixed emotion for Abraham.  He was excited to have a son by his soul mate, of course, but a dad cannot simply turn off his love for a son.

Abraham trusted God, and that was counted to him as righteousness.  None the less, Abraham wanted good things for Ishmael.  God saw that, and though God knew it would be a conflict for the ages, the Lord honored the wish of Abraham.  God made clear that Isaac’s lineage would be the chosen people, but He also promised Ismael’s line would be blessed and strong.

In our lives, we make choices that are outside God’s plan.  Those choices have consequences.  We must remember; however, God is our Father.  He loves us and takes us just as we are.  Sometimes, that means God will take our mistakes and use them as a part of the plan. Other times, God will proceed with His plan in our lives but allow the messiness of our sin to filter through.  We can never know the mind of God, but we can know God does have the heart of a Father and would do anything He could to fulfill our desires. 

Like Abraham, we must trust God, and allow the Lord to lead us though the journey, and simply restrain our desire to help the Father out.  We must believe, now and always, that the Creator and Master of the universe can handle His plan for our lives. Starting again today, trust God and allow Him to take the lead of your life, even if that lead will be messy.

God Bless You

15 God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. 16 I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”

17 Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” 18 And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”

19 Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac.[d] I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. 20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. 21 But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.” 22 When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him.

Genesis 17 Part 1–Course Adjustments

I am reminded that God meant what He said.  Abram has messed it all up.  He failed to wait on God and now he has a son on the way with Hagar.  Clearly God’s plan was for Abram and Sarai to bear children to become God’s kingdom of priests that would lead the world to the Lord.  So, since Abram failed to trust God, now there would be a second covenant.

This time, however, Abraham literally had to put some skin in the game.  In the first covenant, God counted Abram’s faith as his part of the price. In the second covenant, Abraham, and all the males, had to be circumcised as a part of the contract.  So now Abraham would be the patriarchal ancestor for many nations.  Down the line, royal lineages will follow. Still, God did not back away from any part of His promise to Abraham.

In Abraham’s life and in ours, God remains faithful EVEN when we do not. There is no doubt that God still planned for Israel and the nation of priests, but, God had to allow for Abraham’s sin and play the hand that was dealt, and that is what the Lord did.  In Jeramiah 29:11, God tells His people–“I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord.  They are plans to prosper you and not to harm you.  they are plans to give you hope and a future.” 

As with any Dad, God never gives up and will do all that He can to take us as we are; then, use our journey to change us, complete us, and use us for the mission He has set before us.  He does not worry about making course adjustments along the way, but there is little doubt those changes will also affect our journey and what we must do to complete it.

God Bless You

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty[a]; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”

Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram[b]; your name will be Abraham,[c] for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”

Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. 10 This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 

Genesis 16–The Cost of Helping God Out

I never cease to be amazed at the foolishness of men, ME included. Ironically, after God had just made a covenant with Abram, Sarai and Abram decide to “Help God Out.” Sarai allows Abram to marry her hand maid–Hagar, Hagar gets pregnant and shock of shocks, the women hate each other.  Hagar now feels superior as she is carrying the heir, and Sarai is jealous and bitter because her husband has slept with her maid and conceived a child.  Things get ugly and Sarai treats Hagar horribly.  Hagar runs away to the desert and the Angel of the Lord encourages her and sends her back.

God had literally just promised Abraham the Lord would build the nation through Abram.  Abram should have maintained that faith that was credited to him as righteousness.  Instead, Abram follows the easy way-out and produces his own heir.  God tells Hagar this heir would be an enemy to all his brothers–Abram in helping God out; had just created an arch enemy to travel through history and make His chosen people’s life miserable.

It often seems when we get close to the Lord, we sabotage that relationship by doing something stupid.  I wish I could point the finger in a moment of self-righteousness, but sadly I have done the same stupid things on countless occasions.  We must hold on and wait on the Lord.  If we will, He will complete His plan in His timing. 

When God completes His plan, it is always so much more awesome than when we “Help Him out.”  Make it your goal this week to simply wait upon the Lord and allow God to complete His plan for your life.  If you are tempted to help God out, think of Abram who would now become Abraham (Father of many nations) and think of the absence of peace in the middle east.

God Bless You

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.”

Abram agreed to what Sarai said. So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.

When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me.”

“Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.

The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?”

“I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered.

Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” 10 The angel added, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.”

11 The angel of the Lord also said to her:

Genesis 15–God’s Covenant With Abram, the Real Reward

The most difficult thing for Abram to grasp and for us to grasp as God’s chosen, is the idea that it is God Himself that is the reward.  We follow God and trust Him to protect and to provide for our needs.  It is a well-placed trust, because God is faithful to supply all our needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19).  But what God was showing Abram and is still showing us, is that His relationship with us is the real reward.

As parents, we do all that we can to prepare ad protect our families.  We sacrifice our own comfort and peace to assure that our kids can have any and everything to complete their lives. But the real gift is the relationship.  We would not make those same sacrifices for other’s children or strangers.  It is our relationship that seals those benefits. God made a covenant with Abram because of Abram’s faith in God and in that relationship.  That was the reward.

 In our lives, God tells us the same thing. He reminded us that if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation.  The old is gone and the new is come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)  Further, Romans 8 promises if we are in relationship with God, we have 4 promises:

  1.  There is no Condemnation (vs 1)
  2. Whatever suffering we do now cannot compare to the rewards that lie ahead. (Vs 18)
  3. All things work together for good for those that love God and are called according to His purpose. (vs 28)
  4. Nothing can separate us from God’s Love. (Vs 39)

Like Abram, our lives are blessed with the great reward of knowing God personally.  The benefits of that relationship are immediate, innumerable, and eternal.  We need only look at the life of Abram to see that the real and main reward was and is knowing God personally and being in the covenant relationship with our Lord.

God Bless You

After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:

“Do not be afraid, Abram.
    I am your shield,[a]
    your very great reward.[b]

But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit[c] my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”

Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring[d] be.”

Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness…18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi[e] of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates— 19 the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 20 Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.”

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