I think through this week, I have come to understand Abraham better. Here is a quick reflection with the added Scripture from today: As I think about the first 100 years of Abraham’s life, I have to wonder what kind of legacy he has lived thus far. He grew up in Ur – which is basically the Roman world of the Old Testament. He was very rich and had a knockout wife. She could have been regal (having the name Sari, which means princess). We are not sure how he made his wealth but he had plenty of it. In some respects, we could call him the Donald Trump or Bill Gates of his time. Trusting only in himself and his wealth, Abraham was your “typical American.”
As life goes on as it does, Abraham is confronted with a God he has never known. In fear, he plants his face to the ground. This God tells him that he is going to be a Father of many people. In fact, he will not be able to count them, as it is impossible for anyone to count all the stars in the sky. This must have seemed like a cruel joke – Abram had no children. In fact, he had almost given up hope that he would have any at all. For some reason though, this God seemed to be the real deal. He can’t explain it but realizes that this God has something for him and, even though he had all the money, power and authority any one person would want, he still lacked something in his life – an identity. So Abram packs up his family, his stuff, and even his cousin and his family and heads west. After taking a pit stop for seven years, he begins again on the journey that God has given him to follow. His father was dying and Abram had to take care of all the events that would have to take place for his burial. There is no doubt in my mind that Abram received more “stuff” after his dad passed away, though we are not told if that is the truth or not. I wonder what those conversations were like – the whole, “Hey dad. This God talked to me and told me that I would inherit a lot of land and have a ton of kids even though I am so old.” That must have been awkward for Abram to have and yet, perhaps his dad encouraged him. His dad did give him the name “exulted father” and we can only guess that his dad perceived that Abram would someday and somehow live up to his name. His dad would have an heir so that the family line would continue.
When they reached Canaan, God told Abram and Sari that they would inherit this land in time. It must have boggled Abram’s mind to see all that he was supposed to possess. If Abram was like you or I, which I would expect is the case, he probably thought he was going to get it right away. I am almost positive that he didn’t think it would take 25 years for God to make good on His promise.
While they were there, they decided to take a trip to Egypt. This was not for leisure but for necessity. There were no jobs or food in the area. What kind of confuses me is that Abram had all of this stuff – animals and all – why on earth did he need to go there? I am sure he could have survived quite well off his stock. Since he was “very wealthy,” he should not have had to go down to Egypt in the first place. But he went.
While he was there, he ran into a problem with his wife. As I said, he had a knockout for a wife. Pharaoh would be all over her and would probably end up killing Abram because they were married. To save his own rear, Abram told Sari to tell them a half-truth; that they were brother and sister. This would keep Abram alive and everything would work out. It worked – or so it seemed. Pharaoh got sick. Along with his whole family, Pharaoh confronted Sari and she finally told him that she was married to Abram and not just brother and sister. Abram told them to leave. They left Egypt that day with a lot of other stuff that didn’t belong to him, since he had acquired it under false pretense.
After several years, Abram decided to take matters into his own hands. Maybe he had heard this God wrong or something. Maybe he was supposed to have relations with his wife’s maidservant. So he did. You know that trip to Egypt? Guess where Sari’s maidservant came from? That’s right – Abram got more than just a few animals and money. He received a few women and men to go along on the journey with them to their new land. And since Hagar, the Egyptian woman Abram gave to his wife was decent looking, he figured he would give her a very important first task: Be the mother of my child to keep the family line alive. I wonder what her thoughts were on that. I am not sure she expected to sign up for this responsibility but she did what she was asked to do and slept with Abram. Within a few weeks, Hagar began to show, and Abram rejoiced that she would be pregnant with his son.
Well God wasn’t too happy with Abram’s actions. You can almost see God say something like, “No Abram, no.” The snowball effect of Abram’s sin was coming full circle and he didn’t even realize the implications of what he had done. Ishmael is born and Abram finally had a child. In Abram’s joy, God speaks to Abram and tells him that this is not how it was supposed to be. Upset by all of this Abram tosses Hagar out into the street. She had done her job and was no longer needed. God protects her though and we find out later in the story how important this child’s role would be.
As we speed up time, Abram is now 99 years old. It has been another 13 or so years since God had made the promise to Abram and still Abram and Sari had not conceived a child together. God comes to Abram once again and decides to do something really strange – He makes a covenant with Abram. Abram is told to cut a bunch of animals in half and God would make a covenant with him. After this time, God changes Abram’s name to Abraham and Sari’s name to Sarah. What is interesting to note is that “hay” is added to their names. “Hay” is a Hebrew letter that has a reference to life or breath. I am sure you can hear it when you say Abraham or Sarah. It is this life that will conceive a child in Sarah’s womb. Abraham is then told by God to cut the foreskin off everyone who belongs to his family. This would be a sign of God’s promise to them for others to see. We have to remember that it was customary for people to take public baths with one another and inevitably they would see the circumcision of the men in Abraham’s family. We wouldn’t see it as a “conversation starter” but it would have raised a lot of questions as to why they had done what they did. Not to be graphic or whatever but we also need to think about the implications of this circumcision and the tools in which they probably used. A flit stone or a piece of pottery was probably used to do the job and probably took several weeks to heal. This covenant would not only be binding but it would be a blood covenant between God and Abraham’s family. And, I am sure they would never forget it.
After a good amount of time to heal, three visitors he had never met visited Abraham. It was customary for Abraham to invite them in to enjoy some food and fellowship. It was while they were eating, the visitor told Abraham that by next year, his wife would be pregnant. When Sarah heard them talking, she laughed at the thought that she, being 90 years old, would end up pregnant as such an old age. The men heard her and asked Abraham why she laughed.
Since Lot and Abraham split up, Lot ended up in Sodom and it was a very wicked place. The angel said that they were going to destroy it. Abraham, wanting to save his nephew, asked if there were any righteous there, that God would spare it. After asking exactly how many people are in Lot’s family, Abraham realized that God, in His grace, would spare Lot and his extended family from being destroyed in this cruel town.
This is where we ended today’s message by Bryan Wilkerson. I think sometimes we need to reread the story and ask serious questions about what we have read. We need to engage with it whole-heartedly and be willing to say, over and over again sometimes, that we really don’t have all the answers. I am still reading this story and asking more questions. Some of those questions I have shared in this post while others I am still sifting through along the way. I am also learning a lot of new things too. There are things that I had missed several times after reading the story. One of those things is that Ishmael was circumcised with the rest of Abraham’s family. That might not be a big deal but for some reason, Scripture had it in there for us to understand. What are the real implications to that for Abraham and how did God see that? We cannot be sure. All I am saying is: Let’s engage in the Scriptures and ask the questions we need to ask while learning along the way how to understand the mind of God – at least to the best of our abilities. God bless.