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084 Why is Abraham so faithful?

June 25, 2017 | Permalink

Faith, we often believe, is a matter of our reckoning.  And that’s true to the extent that if we don’t have faith, (in the sense that we don’t actively live it out), then that is our issue, and no one else’s.  Based on that premise we might, then, think of certain people who have faith, such as Abram, as really special people.  Further, we might think that we “could never be like that”.  But, is that really the case?  Do certain individuals live out faith more than others and, if so, doesn’t that say something about how God made individuals?

In part, I think that certain individuals, as we experience their lives, do, in fact, seem to “have” more faith.  Jesus even proclaimed that he had not found such great faith in a Roman soldier (Luke 7:9), more faith than any other in Israel.  However, all these type of questions have an underlying premise… that we some how are the originators of our faith.  And given such premise, some are better than others.  Two issues spring from such thinking.  First, that God made some better than others; some were made with more capability for faith.  Second, it relegates God from the equation.  If it’s solely up to the individual whether they have faith or not, then God becomes some distant irrelevance; it’s up to us to have faith.  Clearly, God, however, is not distant, nor irrelevant, and, I don’t believe that God made some with more capacity for faith than others.

Let’s look again at the Scriptures, specifically to help understand whether Abram was just special, whether he was the one who initiated his faith.  What we are looking for is something that might tell us if God Himself set the scene for faith to occur or whether Abram instigated everything himself. Once again we’ll look at Genesis.

‘When Noah awoke…. he said, “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.”  He also said, “Blessed be the Lord , the God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant.  May God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem, and let Canaan be his servant.”‘  from Gen. 9:24-27.

And that, I believe is strong evidence.  A blessing has been bestowed on the line of Shem and that’s the line that bears Abram.  And, again, we could go back, as we should, to God’s earliest promise to creation.

“I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”
 Gen. 3:15

God’s promise sets the scene, the environment, for all.  No one is excluded.  All can be, by faith, recipients of God’s first promise; of blessings bestowed.  It’s not about our capacity, it’s about His initiation.

Why is Abram faithful?  Because he responds to what God has already initiated.  And such faith is possible by all… for God Himself seeks that all have faith.

083 The Amorites

June 24, 2017 | Permalink

Today we are going to take a brief look at the people known as the Amorites; it’s a good example of what we discussed yesterday about reading the Bible extensively.  Let’s start in Gen. 15

“Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.”  Gen. 15:16

This passage is quite interesting, not only for the fact that it is prophetic, but it also states that the extent of the Amorites sin is going to expand.  Further, God is going to pay attention to that while it happens.  Such a statement could cause skepticism about our Lord, but it might also be a place for us to trust God’s wisdom and care.  We should naturally ask, “what then is going on?”

Now let’s see, by reading further, what transpires in the future.

“When the LORD your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you, and when the LORD your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them.”  Deut. 7:1-2

Long after the prophecy given in Gen. 15, we find further commentary on the outcome for the Amorites.  God’s intention is clear: He wants them judged; and judged by His people.  Who are those people?  Those of the line of Shem.  And the time for that judgement will be when the people of Israel are to cross over into the land of Canaan.  That’s not the time of Abraham, but the time of Moses and Joshua.  The issue of the Amorites then, spans quite a long period of time.  Why are they kept in view for so long in the Torah?  A worthy question.

And, let’s add one further passage, back in Genesis.

“Canaan fathered Sidon his firstborn and Heth, and the Jebusites, the Amorites, the Girgashites”  Gen. 10:15-16

This is a key verse in helping us put the puzzle together.  The Amorites come from the line of Canaan.  And that should help us understand why the Amorites are in view for so much of the Torah.  They are of the line of Canaan, and as mentioned in previous posts, it was made abundantly clear that Noah’s judgment on his son, Canaan, (found in Gen. 9) would have long term effects.  They would be cursed to be servants to the lines of Shem and Japheth.  Of course, such a curse might be viewed in one of two ways.  Either to accept the judgment, or, to rebel against even that.  God knows that the trajectory of mankind is such that when they start to sin there is no boundary to their sin.  We’ve already seen that in the first four chapters of Genesis.  Problems begin in marriage, extend to siblings, and then eventually to society.  So, when Ham sinned against his father, it set in place the trajectory for more disobedience, more rebellion, more sin.  God knew that the sin of the line of Canaan would continue; even knew that it would manifest itself in the Amorites.

God is not idle when He sees sin manifest itself.   Keep in mind that He has declared a promise available to us, as found in Gen. 3:15.  He has declared sides.  One seed will prosper, the other will face demise.  When we sin, we can continue on our path, or turn toward to the Lord by remembering His Gen. 3:15 promise.  A promise that declares we can live.  God is not idle.  He has already spoken.

082 Worthy endeavors

June 23, 2017 | Permalink

As we saw yesterday, at the death of Abram’s father in Haran, the call to Abram (Abraham) was renewed. Its explicitly given, of course, in 12:2-3, but God’s call began in Ur (as seen in Acts 7), and the reality is that the call occurred much earlier in the line of Shem.  We learned this by reading a wider context and found the evidence all the way forward in the New Testament book of Acts.  I’m repeating a point made yesterday, but it’s a point worth repeating… read the whole of the Bible.  You’ll find lots there, if you personally spend the time and effort.  It’s all part of getting to know Him, and that’s a worthy call.

081 Who made the first move?

June 22, 2017 | Permalink

Regarding Terah and his son Abram, the story thus far.  They lived in southern Mesopotamia’s Ur.  After the death of one of his sons, Haran, the family travels north to the place called Haran.  As a side note here, later on in Genesis 27:43 we will find that Haran is the home of Laban and connects it with Isaac and Jacob: Jacob spent 20 years in Haran working for his uncle Laban (cf. Gen. 31:38 and 41).

Also of note: For Terah and the rest of the family, the journey from Ur to Haran is probably about 1200 miles and at 20 miles a day with farmstock would have taken at least 2 months.

In Haran we note two things from the Bible.  First, that Terah dies there, as recorded in Gen. 11.  Next we see:

“Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran”  Gen.12:4

This is important because the first three verses of Gen. 12 state:

‘Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who curses you I will curse; and by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves.”’  Gen. 12:1-3

And from that, we might presume that this is the place where Abram received his commission.  If so, we might further state, as some have done, that God gave him this commission because Abram had moved from Ur to Haran and in some way God is rewarding Abram for his deed.  But is this really the case?

The point here that should be made is that we should understand whether God moves only when we move.  Some folks will exclaim that God can’t move a parked car; the emphasis being that the driver has to start moving for God to then get to work in a person’s life.  Such thinking diminishes who God is.  God can move a driver, the car, and the street, for that matter, if He wants to.  True, we are to participate in His ways and God will act accordingly if we are stubborn, refuse to move, or are disobedient, but that doesn’t mean that God won’t move until we move.  So what exactly happened with Abram?

Let’s look at the testimony of the martyr, Stephen.

“Brothers and fathers, hear me.  The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, and said to him, ‘Go out from your land and from your kindred and go into the land that I will show you.’  Then he went out from the land of the Chaldeans and lived in Haran. And after his father died, God removed him from there into this land in which you are now living.”  Acts 7:2-4

Abram was 75 when he was in Haran, but some time before, he was in Ur.  It was during this previous time, while in Ur, that God spoke, that God revealed Himself to Abram… before Abram had moved, and in the context of an environment of great idolatry.  It was God who moved first.  It always is.

God should be rightfully praised for His initiatives.  In the case of Abram, we see an excellent example of God’s providence and that regardless of the situation.  God made a promise in Gen. 3:15 that a seed would live and have victory over the offspring of the serpent.  That promise was resolute even in the midst of all the world acting wickedly (with the exception of one, Noah).  And even when one of Noah’s sons transgressed, still yet, God’s promise held firm for the line of Shem would be where God would provide one to serve His purposes.  And yes, that special person would even come from an idolatrous family.  When God makes a promise, it will stand true.  No matter what.

Abram was special because he was picked, but he wasn’t picked because he was special.  God can choose whom He likes, how He likes, and whenever He likes.  God chose Abram sometime prior to his age of 75.  For us that seems old, but God is no respecter of time, God is beyond time.

As you consider your situation,  no matter your environment, no matter your age, the promise of God, given in Gen.3:15 still holds true. And that’s good news for disciples of the Lord.

While God is beyond time, timing still has a role.  For Abram, he received his revelation of God when elderly.  After his father’s death, God communicates again; the message: the commission of Gen. 12:1-3.  It’s seen by some as the first time God gives His commission to Abram, but as Acts 7 shows, this is not the case.  Instead, what we see in Gen. 12:1-3 is likely a repetition of what God had already told Abram, when Abram first heard God in Ur.

Read the Bible widely, disciple, you never know what you might find!

 

 

080 God can reveal Himself anywhere

June 21, 2017 | Permalink

‘Joshua said to all the people, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Long ago your ancestors, including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the Euphrates River and worshiped other gods. But I took your father Abraham from the land beyond the Euphrates and led him throughout Canaan and gave him many descendants.'”‘  Joshua 24:2-3

Illuminating!  Abram’s father, Terah, was an idol worshipper.  Abraham, the great father of multitudes, to whom great blessing was bestowed, was the son of an idolator.  One might ask, somewhat tongue in check, “can anything good come from Ur of the Chaldeans?”

We live in times where there is still great idol worship, and not just in the southern and northern regions of Haran and Ur in the region known as Mesopotamia.  And, in many instances, we are born into idol worshipping families, be it materialism, naturalism, pride, or some non-Trinitarian deity.  How is it then that Abram could become a person of faith, how too us, who are born into a family not worshipping the one true God?  Because, while our family lines affect a lot of who we are, God still allows for every individual, no matter their circumstances, to worship Him. And that is certainly the case with Abram.

Indeed, a closer inspection shows how difficult was the environment that Abram had.  Not only was he born into idolatrous circumstances,  he lived in a region intense with idolatry, and even went on a journey with his father, an idol worshipper, to an idol worshipping place.  Yet still he was a man that God determined to reveal Himself to.

When did that happen?  We shall find out tomorrow.

079 Places

June 20, 2017 | Permalink

Not only are family lines important, so too are places. This shouldn’t surprise us.  God loves places… after all He made the whole earth, the solar system and the whole cosmos!  And He saw that it was good!

In Genesis times we find some places that might be odd to us in our modern world.  Ur, was once such place.  Let’s see what we might observe about this strange place.

Ur was the principal center of worship of the Sumerian moon god Nanna and of his Babylonian equivalent Sin in Haran.  It is currently a suburb outside of Kuwait City.  I should really like to visit there.  North of Ur is Babylon which is near present day Baghdad.  Further north along the Euphrates River (north and west) there is the biblically famous Haran.  Then, as one turns south and even further west, one eventually enters the land of Canaan.  It was here that Tehran had originally intended to take his family.

However, on arrival in Haran, and we’re not sure how long thereafter, Terah decides to stay put.  And, it was in Haran, that Terah passed away.

Abraham had thus seen a brother pass away in Ur, of the Chaldeans and a father in Haran.  Being part of southern Mesopotamia and northern Mesopotamia respectively, they were places of strong idol worship.

Mesopotamia, you might like to know, means “between the two rivers” and it is the valley between the Tigris River in the east and the Euphrates River in the west.  Today, we’d find it in Iraq, southern Turkey and the eastern part of Syria.  Two things are of note.  First, the area of Mesopotamia and southwest along the Great Sea [which is the Mediterranean Sea] is called the Fertile Crescent.  The area is watered well and things flourish.  South of it is the Great Desert [Arabia] which is mostly desert and, of course, not fit for plantation, not to mention travel.

God made these places, yet they had become places of idolatry.  Abram lived in these places and journeys between them.  Abram leaves Ur and goes to Haran with His Father, after the death of his brother, Haran.  The journey, for Abram, is significant.  He leaves an area where he has seen his family, close and extended grow.  It’s a rich area.  He travels north with his father and other family members along the trail of the Fertile Crescent.  No easy journey back then, but a journey, I am sure, where he learned a lot, yet also faced loss.  All this in the midst of idolatry.

We’ll look more at Abram and his father, Tehran, tomorrow.  For now, consider where you live, where you are traveling, what you are learning, and even, what you might be losing.  You might have some ties to Abram!

078 Family lines

June 19, 2017 | Permalink

I enjoy reading about family lines and genealogy.  In Genesis there is a lot to look at.  In Genesis 11 and onwards we get quite a lot of information.  From the line of Shem comes Nahor, and from Nahor, Terah.  Then from Terah, Abram, Nahor (whom I’ll call Nahor the younger) and Haran.  This grandson, Haran (presumably named after his grandfather) has a son, Lot.  That much is sure.

But then we enter the realm of conjecture.  I encourage you to get a pen and paper out and try and chart how you see the family lines.  Here are some thoughts.

Terah has three sons and other sons and daughters.  It’s possible that Sarai is a daughter to Terah, which would make her Abram’s sister (though we do know that Abram and Sarai have different mothers).  See Gen. 20:12.  I say “it’s possible” because this presumes that ‘father’ in this case means exactly that… father.  Keep in mind that in Hebrew thinking a father could mean ‘grandfather’, or ‘great-grandfather’, and so on.  For now, let’s just keep with the fact that Sarai is “Abram’s sister” (Gen. 20:2).  Then from Abram and Sarai, they have a son, Isaac.  Reasonably straightforward.

Then we learn that Haran, who eventually dies in Ur (before his father Terah) has a son Lot.  Again, reasonably straightforward.  The Scriptures also point out, from Gen. 11, that Milcah is the daughter of Haran.  If this is the same Haran, of the father Terah, then Milcah is Lot’s sister.  These two siblings get connected with their uncles in different ways.  After their father dies, Uncle Abram takes Lot under his wing, so to speak, and, Uncle Nahor (he younger) marries Milcah.  And from this later union, we find Bethuel, and from Bethuel, a daughter, named Rebekah (who will eventually marry Abram and Sarai’s son, Isaac.

Following all this we might make the following statements.  Isaac’s cousins are Iscah, Milcah, and Lot.  One of Isaac’s cousins, Milcah, marries his (and her uncle)!

Bethuel, would be, I believe, Isaac’s first cousin-once removed, and Rebekah would be Isaac’s first cousin-twice removed. Or, put another way, Rebekah is Abram’s brother’s granddaughter.

All this to say… these folks are very connected.

One final reflection.  Terah loses a son in his homeland of Ur, of the Chaldeans.  I won’t be the first to state that ‘no parent should lose a child’.  We are not sure why Terah leaves Ur to go north to Haran, but perhaps the pain of losing a child was instrumental?  We’re not sure.  At the same time, Terah, while experiencing the loss of a son, also sees his own son, Abram take care of the sibling, Lot; and, also see his other son, Nahor (the younger) marry and take care of the deceased’s other child, Milcah.

What to say about all this conjecture and mapping of family?  Well, I think, that despite all the wickedness apparent in the earth thus far seen in Genesis, Terah’s family is quite the contrast to the first family of Adam and Eve, and the siblings, Cain and Abel.  In that first family, we see dissension between Adam and Eve (Adam tells God that it was the woman’s fault for eating of the tree), and as for Cain, he murders his own brother.

While there is more to say about Terah, I encourage you to sift through the biblical family lines a bit more than maybe folks are customer to do.  Getting to know how people relate is important, often so, because it shows how they (might) themselves relate to God.  To see that, helps us see what looks like a good follower of the Lord… and not.

 

077 The Bible is really interesting

June 18, 2017 | Permalink

Reading about the family line of Noah might not seem, at first glance, as part of your Bible reading, all that interesting to most people, but I find it fascinating.  The genealogy starts with Japheth; not too many verses about him, then it moves to Ham; he gets a little more press, before then reaching Shem.  Now Shem has quite a number of verses and after reading through to the end of chapter 10 (and then taking the story of the Tower of Babel into mind) we find yet more verses on Shem.

The sequencing of genealogies in Genesis show those not in the Messianic line are given first, so that we can see the focus on those whose heritage is highly significant. Shem is last and the bulk of chapter 10 and 11 is given to him so that we can see his family line’s importance.  The Scriptures quite often do that; they have well marked structure.

Not only will we see structure but also patterns; repetitions, if you will.  One example is the pattern regarding a specific issue; that of separation. This is something you should be on the look out for as we head into Genesis chapters twelve and onwards.  Abraham separates from Lot, Isaac from Ishamel, Jacob from Esau.

God gives us His Scriptures in many different forms and it is always interesting.

These structures and patterns are there to help guide us, to see how God places emphasis, so that our attention can be drawn effectively.  Sometimes you might feel there is a mystery to the Bible that makes for confusion.  That’s not the intent.  God wants us to understand Him and His ways.  There is mystery, but I think that the way He communicates to us draws us, in part, often by using what we might think is mysterious, but is really His unfolding revelation.  Why?  To help us see more deeply.

076 One language

June 17, 2017 | Permalink

For the people of Babel, they had an overriding desire, the desire to avoid being scattered over the face of the earth (11:4).  It was their desire, not God’s.  As such it was a direct act of rebellion against the commands of God (9:1,7); against God Himself.  As a result, God goes down to see what the people are doing and subsequently He judges them.  The consequences?  He confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.

I can but imagine how that must have felt like.  I have been in so many countries and the first few days feel very difficult when not being able to communicate.  You feel lost, you don’t feel.. very great!  But my purpose in communicating with others is not to feel great, but to tell others about the Lord.  Still, I understand, in part, the difficulties of confusion.  For those in Babel, they had no intention of following the Lord.  They wanted their own kingdom, one where they could control everything.

And that’s why God confuses them, to inhibit, if not, take away their control.  Are we any different?  Do we find ourselves controlling our world?  For what purpose?

As disciples, it is to be hoped that we follow the Lord… to make His name great, to spread His name throughout the world.  That’s the language we can all have… a common language… to share about Him.

075 Aren’t we great?

June 16, 2017 | Permalink

‘And as men migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.  And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar.  Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.”’  Gen. 11:2-4

Man has been given all kinds of creative gifts.  No wonder, God made us.  Yet, we can use them for good – in response to Him, or, well, for bad – when we want to build our own kingdoms.  In creating, or at least forming our own kingdoms, we want also attendant glory and adulation.  “I’m king of the world!”  In simple terms, we want to be great.

This aspect of the desire to be great affected us prior to our fall.  We had everything, yet we still wanted a higher greatness – that of God.  And, after the Fall, it seems that that desire is intensified.  What we had with God (though we were the ones to throw it away) we still yet desire.

But, God had already made humans great.  He made them in His own image (1:26-27) and gave them right to rule “over every living thing that moves on the earth” (1:28) and to enjoy for food (1:29). Yet now because of the Fall, man strives for achievement of (their former) greatness.

Two of the problems we face today is first of all a problem of not being satisfied with what we have.  Not just possession, but all that makes us.  Second, in this fallen world, we still crave a return to what God had offered to us but we rejected for the supposed greater prize.  The echoes of that are often amplified when we lose something else of importance to us, a job maybe, a treasure, an ability, something that was once ours but now is gone.  We have a desire for some form of greatness, and we’ll often go to great lengths and try to rise to great heights to get it.  The Tower of Babel incident typifies that.

Yet, we also have another problem.  We don’t want to be scattered.  We want to stay in our own district, own enclave, our own backyard.  And this despite the fact that God wants mankind to multiply and fill the land.

Is it wrong to stay in one place, to adopt a very defensive stance?  Well that depends on who you want to be great!

What do you aspire to? What defensive posture do you have?

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