Christian living- dealing with one 'oops' at a time…

Archive for September, 2019

The Awesomeness of Abraham

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We are all well aware that Abraham was a man of awesome faith, mainly because we are told so. But have you really thought about it?
Here is a man who left all he was comfortable with to go to a land where he lived in tents and traveled as the land he was promised experienced famines so severe he could not feed his people, yet he still believed. But there is more…

So what else makes Abraham so awesome?
1. He takes in his brother’s son, Lot, and raises him, not merely as his own, but as his equal. Upon the death of a brother, his son is to inherit all that his father had. This means that in adulthood, the nephew would have possessions equal to his uncles, since he would have all that his father should have had if his father had survived. Abraham moves to a new land. His brother does not have an inheritance in this land, yet Abraham ensures that Lot prospers in a way that it equal to what Abraham has, fulfilling his duty to his brother in a way that goes above and beyond what is expected.
2. Abraham raises Lot to be prosperous and a leader of many, even though Lot’s people will be competition for Abraham and his people, which eventually does occur.
3. When Lot’s people become a problem for the people of Abraham, and they need to separate, Abraham gives Lot the choice of which land is to be his, and which is left to Abraham. Abraham does not have to do this. Lot is younger, and was raised by Abraham. His prosperity is partially due to Abraham, so Abraham has a right to ‘first dibs.’ Abraham however gives Lot the choice and does not argue when Lot takes what he considers the better land by the city. (Though this land’s position near the city will later become a temptation to Lot, as he moves into the city, this is not known at the time of the choosing.)
4. When Lot and his people are captures by multiple kings, Abraham takes his people and rescues them, risking his own safety. This not only demonstrates the heart of Abraham, but his might. Abraham is a powerful man with a powerful army.
5. Abraham is able to defeat multiple kings, but does not conquer his neighbors. Instead he lives peacefully with them, and does not covet what they have.
6. Abraham keeps his commitment to Sarah, even though she is barren. Abraham could have replaced Sarah with a wife who would produce children, but he did not. His siring a son from Hagar was Sarah’s idea, and the child was to be raised as if it were Sarah’s, though this plan fell short as Hagar displeased Sarah before the child was born. Abraham remained heirless into his 90s, after he thought Sarah was well passed child-bearing age, honoring his commitment to her.
7. Abraham begs God for mercy in dealing with Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham knows Lot and his family reside there, and is likely thinking of their safety, as well as the people of the city. Ironically, after the cities are destroyed, Lot and his daughters do not seek refuge with Abraham, indicating that there may be hard feelings between the two. Abraham, despite whatever may have happened in the past, works in Lot’s best interest, even if Lot’s pride does not allow him to return to his uncle’s camp (where his daughters could have found godly husbands!) even temporarily. Instead Lot still longs for the city, and not the safety of the man who raised and blessed him, and even rescued him in his time of need. (Pride does this at times. Even though Lot is godly enough to be saved from the destruction of the city, he is not comfortable enough to seek the shelter of another godly man in his time of need who has made better choices than he has.)
8. Abraham asks Sarah to help prepare the meal for the three visitors and helps with the preparation. He does not order her, as, in this culture and with his standing, he has a right to. He respects his wife. This leads to a Jewish teaching which instructs the man to help his wife when preparing for guests lest she be overworked and not wish to provide hospitality, something that is very important in Jewish culture. Abraham also promises the visitors a small meal, and blesses them with a large one, leading to the teaching that it is better to promise little and give more, than promise more, and disappoint by providing little. It is also better to ask your wife first, before promising much! The point here is that Abraham’s actions show him to be a good husband, respectful of his wife’s time and hard work. Gen 18
9. Abraham does not rebuke his wife for listening in on the conversation he has with the visitors. When Sarah is promised a baby she laughs. Whether she laughs in her heart and the Lord knows, so her saying she did not laugh is not a complete lie, or whether it was out loud, and she did lie is up for debate. What is not up for debate was that she was hiding behind the curtain of the tent listening in (as women likely did in that day to ensure they knew what their husbands were up to). The Lord and the angels include Sarah in the conversation as if she were present without the barrier and Abraham does not rebuke her for her actions. This shows Abraham’s trust for his wife, and his inclusion of her in all aspects of his life, as he expects she is there and is not upset about it. It also shows that God does not expect her to be far from this conversation regarding her future as well. It is society that places her behind the curtain, not her husband or God and His messengers, and somehow Abraham knows her worth, even though she is barren and thus of low value in the society they live in.
10. Abraham believes God even to the point of being willing to sacrifice his son Isaac. Now even though we are told in Hebrews that Abraham believed that God would bring Isaac back from the dead, this is still an incredibly difficult thing for a father to do! (As a mother, it makes me shudder to even think about it!) Both Abraham and Isaac share the faith with this one. Isaac is old enough to carry the wood etc for the offering, and obviously old enough to know what is going on and overpower his father to save his life, yet he lays down willingly, trusting both God and his father with some incredible faith of his own! Heb 11: 19
There are two Jewish traditions regarding Abraham that may, or may not be true.
One is the story of a young Abraham, that worked in the shop of his father, an idol-maker. Abraham is left to watch the shop, and while his father is away, he destroys all of the idols but one, putting the implement of destruction into the hand of the remaining idol. When his father returns, he asks Abraham why he has done this. Abraham replies that it was not him, but the remaining idol that slayed the others. His father accuses Abraham of lying, as he knows the idols are wood and metal and cannot do such a thing. Abraham (Abram, since his name was not yet changed) replies, ‘Then why do we worship them if they have no power?’
The other tradition is based on the fact that Isaac and Rebekah move into Sarah’s tents after they are married. Why does Sarah have her own tents? There are many possible reasons for this, but one tradition has Sarah essentially leaving Abraham after she finds out about the almost sacrifice of her son! Another tradition has Abraham telling Isaac on his way back from the mountain that he is not to tell his mother what just happened. Both may be true, as we know the story did get told, though maybe not through Abraham and Isaac, but through servants who traveled with them, as it is recorded in scripture today. The fact remains that Abraham likely had a very tense conversation, or two, or more, regarding this event after his return! (and scripture does not tell us how Sarah took the news when she found out!)

God’s Covenant with the Women of Israel

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Jesus called the woman whom He healed after she was bent over for eighteen years a ‘daughter of Abraham’ indicating that women have an equal place in the covenant God established with the nation of Israel (Lk 13: 16) but there are specific blessings in the Old Testament to the matriarchs which may surprise you!
Sarah and Abraham (Sarai and Abram) receive new names in Genesis 17. God is establishing His covenant with Abraham and the generations that will be produced from the union of Abraham and Sarah. Sarai becomes Sarah, which means ‘queen,’ while Abram becomes Abraham, which means ‘father of many.’ God describes Himself in scripture as both a father and a king/ ruler. Here we see the duel nature of God described in the naming of the patriarch and matriarch of the future nation of Israel. Interestingly God gives Abraham the title of father, the paternal, nurturing side of God, while He grants Sarah the title of queen, the ruling, more authoritative role. This is very counter-cultural, even for today. What this shows us is that Abraham and Sarah are a team, and that together they represent the fullness of what God has planned for Israel.
Abraham also has other children. While we all know of his child, Ishmael, by Hagar, it is sometimes missed that he has other children by concubines and his second wife, taken after the death of Sarah, Keturah. (Gen 25: 1-6, 1 Chron 1:32) There is something special about the motherhood of Sarah, and it is through the union of Abraham and Sarah, not just the descendants of Abraham alone, that God establishes the covenant. It is not good enough to be fathered by Abraham to be a son or daughter of the covenant. One must be fathered by Abraham AND his wife Sarah to receive this commission. While Abraham is an awesome man, there is something special about his wife Sarah that makes the combination exactly what God desires for the parentage of His people.
There are also blessings for the matriarchs. They mirror the covenantal blessings, so they are often overlooked. The fact that the blessings of the covenant are repeated to the women, as well as to the men, indicates that this is not a covenant that is merely passed down through the male line, but a covenant for all of Israel, male and female. The women, as well as the men, are important. We see this emphasized in the unfortunate fact that of the godly kings of Judah, of which there are few (and this is the unfortunate part), all have Jewish mothers, while the less godly kings are the result of their fathers taking pagan wives. While there are exceptions, like Bathsheba, Tamar, Ruth and Rahab, there is a pattern. These ‘exceptions’ however, while not born Jewish, are women who come to faith in God, indicating that the blessings of the covenant are not so much for those born of a certain race, but for those who have faith in the One true God as well.
The blessing of Sarah is found in Genesis 17: 16 which reads, ‘And I (God) will bless her, and give thee a son also of her, yea, I will bless her, and she shall be the mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her (KJV).’ Rebekah too is blessed by her family prophetically in Genesis 24: 60 ‘And they blessed Rebekah, and said unto her, Thou art our sister, be thou the mother of thousands of millions, and let thy seed possess the gate of those which hate them.’ These blessings show that the covenant is established with both the man and the woman, and, like with the men, it is renewed in each generation.
Marriage is the union of two people who become one unit. In scripture we see the importance of both the husband AND the wife in the activity of God and His people. And, just to make it interesting, God gives the queen/ ruler designation to the woman (Sarah), and the father/ parental-nurturer designation to the man (Abraham)! As the people of the time tended to follow societal traditions, ascertaining what this truly means is difficult. What we know for certain, through examples and scriptural commands, is that the woman has wisdom and a man would be a fool to ignore the counsel of his godly wife and believe that he is to shoulder all of the responsibilities of the household alone. (Think: Abigail and Nabal, Proverbs 31, Samson’s mother, etc.)

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