February 9, 2015.
Daily Reading: Genesis 20-23.
Background: Genesis 15-19.
Concepts and Connections.
1. A sin in ignorance is still a sin: As Abraham traveled in the land of Canaan, an interesting story is recorded about his interaction with Abimelech king of Gerar. Out of fear, Abraham does the same thing that he did in the land of Egypt, asserting that Sarah was his sister instead of his wife (see Genesis 12:13-20). It seems that Abraham had not learned his lesson (and was probably doing this more often than we are told about judging from verse 13). As in the land of Egypt, Abimelech took Sarah, Abraham’s wife, for himself. It would seem that even at age 90 she was still beautiful in the eyes of men (remember that she would live for another almost 40 years, see chapter 23). Accordingly, God came to Abimelech in a dream by night to tell him of his sin, and also halted the wombs of Abimelech’s house in response to him taking Abraham’s wife. It is noteworthy to see here that God still considered what Abimelech did a sin even though it was a sin committed in ignorance (see the next point for more on this). He was told to give Sarah back to Abraham and have Abraham pray for him so that he would be healed.
2. God cares about the intent of our hearts: Though He did call it a sin, God did recognize the intent and integrity of Abimelech’s heart when Abimelech pleaded that he did not know that it was Abraham’s wife, for he had been told she was his sister. God told Abimelech that He knew the integrity of his heart and that it was Him that kept Abimelech from sinning against Him. Because the intent of Abimelech’s heart was clean, God guided him in the right path, so as to sin against Him, telling him what he had to do in order to be healed. Once Abimelech was told of his sin, however, he had to make it right, and only upon this condition would he be vindicated. Though a sin of ignorance is still a sin, God does care about the intent of the heart, and if this story is any indication of the character of God, then he will lead us out of ignorant sin if we truly have a heart of integrity.
3. Our sins can have a large effect on the people around us: Often when we sin we don’t take into much consideration the effect it could have on other people (due in part to the fact that sin is often selfish in nature). When Abraham was traveling to these new lands, he didn’t think that his actions of telling people that Sarah was his sister instead of his wife would cause anyone else harm, but rather deliver him from death. When Abimelech confronts Abraham about his lie, he says that he feared for his own life for he did not think they feared God in any way. Then he seems to try and justify the lie more by saying that technically Sarah is his sister, as she was a daughter of his father but not his mother. The definition of a lie is something that is told to deceive. It has little to do if the information given is technically true or false. Lies are often grounded in at least some truth. But this lie did have a large effect on Abimelech and his household, causing him to sin and his household to be barren. We need to take into consideration our actions, for they not only effect us, but can also be a detriment to those around us. Paul deals with this concept some in Romans 14:13-23.
1. Receiving the promise: After all that Abraham and Sarah had been through, their impatience and stumbling faith in the promise of God, Isaac was finally born to Abraham by Sarah just as God had promised. Abraham was 100 years old when he received the promise, showing the awesome power of God to control the laws of nature. Isaac was the son of promise, where as Ishmael was the son of flesh. A quick read through of this chapter would likely skip over this important concept. Paul would go on to expound on in later in Romans 9:6-13 and Galatians 4:21-31, expressing this is an allegory for us, being sons of the free woman (sons of promise, spiritual Jerusalem) as opposed to sons of the bond woman (physical Jerusalem/house of Israel). God gave Abraham the promise that through Isaac his offspring would be named, and ultimately the Christ would come though Isaac’s lineage. We can learn from this example in that the promises of God will be fulfilled, we must only be patient, for one day is a thousand years in the sight of God, and a thousand years as one day (see II Peter 3:8-10).
2. The protection of Hagar and Ishmael: Though it was necessary for Hagar and Ishmael to leave the house of Abraham, this did not mean that God had forgotten about them, nor had He forgotten about the promise He made to Abraham of making Ishmael’s seed multiply greatly (see Genesis 17:20-21). The nations that Ishmael would give rise to would be nations that were in constant conflict with Israel (and other nations around them). But God kept His promise nonetheless. When we look at this story, we can get a good picture of our God who always delivers on His promises, even when the promise was to nations that would not follow Him wholly. God remains faithful in His word regardless of how faithless we are (see Romans 3:3 and II Timothy 2:13). This is not to say that He condones the actions of the unrighteous or that they are vindicated by God in some way, but rather to point out that God is always faithful in His promises. We can take joy in this knowledge.
3. Spiritual reputation: Though God did come to Abimelech in a dream to tell him of his sin, it is never explicitly said (or even really implied) that Abimelech served the Holy God of Israel. In this period, it was not uncommon for different peoples to acknowledge a multitude of gods and to worship the ones that they liked the best or that were of their land (the same is true in Hinduism today). Whether or not he worshiped the Holy God of Israel (the only true God), it is evident that Abraham set a spiritual example for those around him, for Abimelech recognized that the Lord was continually with Abraham. For this reason, he and the captain of his army set up a treaty with Abraham, taking a proactive step to protect him and his children. This could even be considered one of the first recorded instances of mission work, or the rudiments there of, so to speak. Taking this as an example, we should live our lives in such a way that God is glorified through our words and actions. We are to set an example to where the people around us can see God in us. We are to be Christ on earth, showing His love to any we come in contact with. Abraham lived in such a way that Abimelech took notice. We should do the same, offering our bodies as a living sacrifice, which is our spiritual worship (see Romans 12:1-2).
1. The faith of Abraham: Abraham is mentioned twice in the “hall of faith” in Hebrews 11 (v. 8-10 and 17-19), once for the faith he had when God called him out of the land that he was dwelling in to the land of promise, and a second time that references this instance where Abraham offers his son Isaac without even questioning (at least as far as we know). This must have taken an extraordinary amount of faith. The Hebrew writer gives us a little more insight to the situation, telling us that Abraham trusted that God was able to raise Isaac from the dead, which shows that Abraham had learned his lesson on questioning the power of God as he did when he thought he was too old to have a child. It is interesting to note here that not only was this an extremely difficult command for Abraham to follow, but it also took a lot of work. After God told Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice, the record says that he rose up early in the morning, cut the wood for the offering and set out on a journey that would end up taking three days. That is commitment. But he was only able to do it because he gave it all to God; Abraham’s trust was firmly in the Almighty. And the Lord provided in the end. The faith of Abraham was phenomenal and is a great example of the type of faith we should have today.
2. The training of Isaac: It is evident from this passage that Abraham not only held a certain amount of faith in the Lord God Almighty, but he also trained Isaac in this faith. We get a first glimpse of this when Isaac calls out to his father and asks why there is no animal to burn as an offering. Isaac was perceptive of the situation an he had been trained in righteousness. But what is perhaps even more extraordinary about the boy’s training is not something that is said, but rather something that is not said. The text says that when they got to the place where Abraham was to offer Isaac, Abraham bound the boy, laid him on the alter, and took a knife to kill him, at that time being stopped by the angel. What we don’t read is where Isaac resisted Abraham at any point. It would seem that Isaac had just as much faith in his father (or perhaps in God) as Abraham had in the Almighty. Abraham had brought the boy up in such a way as to impart spiritual righteousness to him to a level that is amazing. This is likely due to the fact that Abraham didn’t just teach his son righteousness, but he lived it (as is evident from the previous chapter and Abraham’s interaction with Abimelech). Abraham should be one of our role models when it comes to raising children.
Abraham’s example of treating others: When it came time for Sarah to depart from this life at the age of 127, we get an insight again into how Abraham lived his life and how he interacted with the people around him. When the Hittites learned of Sarah’s death and Abraham’s need for a place of burial, they were overly willing to help him. They even called him a “prince of God.” They give Abraham his choice of all the burial places in their land and try to give the plot where he chose to him for free, through Abraham insisted that he pay for it. As we saw in chapter 21, Abraham had a reputation about him. He was well liked in the land where he sojourned. This speaks volumes to the way he carried himself in that land and the way he treated others. Though him, they say God. Abraham’s way of life glorified the Almighty, which is one of the reasons that he is such an important figure in both Judaism and Christianity, as well as Islam. The life of one man who lived over 6,000 years ago still has a large impact on so many lives today. He left a legacy by following the Holy One of Israel. The way we live our lives and how we treat others, as well as our faith in the Lord God Almighty is very important to our lives and the lives of the people with whom we have interactions. Our impact can be for good or for bad, but seldom goes unnoticed. Let us live our lives in such a way as people can see God through us, just as Abraham did, impacting the lives of those around him.
Tomorrow’s Reading: Judges 1-5.
Strive to have the faith of Abraham.