Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Adventures of Abraham - Genesis 12 to 21 (#11)

When God Keeps You Waiting, Take It Out On the Birds
[Genesis 12-15.] Abram believes God and his faith "is credited to him as righteousness." But that's just in verses one to six. Three minutes later, Abram is calling out with massive skepticism, "O Yahweh God, how am I to know that I shall possess this land?" I guess some things aren't really constant - but then again neither is my faith. That's why the messed-up guys in the Bible like Abram are so relatable. God has Abram cut some animals in half, then takes on the form of a torch and kettle, and passes between the slain beasts to affirm an oath that between the two of them. This was apparently pretty common (see Jeremiah 34.18). My favorite part is that He makes Abram wait: the stars are out just before Abram asks his skeptical question (Genesis 15.5), and by the time God answers it is nighttime again (Genesis 15.17). The wait is so long that birds of prey start to attack the offering. Abram started out with skepticism so God keeps him waiting - He teaches him trust. God doesn't give the answer right away. How many of us Bible-believing, Evangelical, saved-by-faith-alone types need a good lesson in trust?

*In the other chapters, God gives Abram a calling but no plan in Chapter 12, Lot follows his eyes and makes some bad choices in Chapter 13, and Melchizadek takes a tithe from Abram in Chapter 15.

Reasons To Be Monogamous (Besides Bathroom Availability)
[Genesis 16-18.] In Chapter 16, frustrated by the fact that it had been 10 years since God had promised to bless Abram, Sarai took matters into her own hands: she "gave her servant Hagar the Egyptian to Abram as a wife." Seems like a good idea right? It was culturally pretty normal to do this at the time (see Code of Hammurabi, 146). And clearly Abram didn't mind the arrangement either. But whatever allowances are there, polygamy always causes problems in the Bible. There is always a lot of hostility between the wives and something special about the husband-wife relationship is lost. In my country (Canada) there is a case before the courts that might actually legalize polygamy, and my fear is that many Christians -becoming aware that the command to be a one woman man is only applied to pastors and deacons in the New Testament (1 Timothy 3.2,12)- might inflict this on themselves. If you throw egalitarianism into that mix, we could be dealing with a lot of clear-cut sexual immorality (polyamorism) in the Church. It's a really tense situation. Pray for Canada.

Israel's Anti-Propaganda Propaganda
[Genesis 19-21.] In Chapter 19 we are 'treated' to the origin story of the Moabites and Ammonites, who are not Israel's favorite people. Some liberal scholars will tell you that this story is sheer propaganda and that the writer of Genesis was trying to cast these enemy nations as a group of incest-born knuckle dragging thugs. Nothing could be farther from the truth. On the basis of Lot's relation to Abraham (Lot is their father), Yahweh is actually recorded telling the Israelites not to fight against them (Deuteronomy 2.9). This record about Moab and Ammon is actually the basis of a non-aggression pact. It couldn't be any further from propaganda. In addition, Genesis casts a lot of Israel's enemy nations as brothers to them: Moab, Ammon, and Edom, for example.

*In the other chapters, Abraham and Sarah wait 13 years before giving birth to Isaac in Chapter 20, and Abraham makes some good business deals with Abimelech in Chapter 21.

*Based on's Chronological Bible In a Year schedule. If anyone would like to join in, this blog's comments sections would be a good forum in which to share insights from the text.

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