Bible Discussion — Genesis 15-18

March 28, 2007, 10:00 am; posted by
Filed under Bible, Chloe, Job, Josh J, Mike J, Steve, Tom  | No Comments

This week, Bweinh.com looks at the next four chapters of the Bible, Genesis 15-18.

Read our take on Genesis 1-4, Genesis 5-9, and Genesis 10-14 here!

 
INTRODUCTION:
Steve:
Contrary to what I heard a bohemian college boy tell two adoring Gothic lady friends in an all-night diner on Monday, the God of the Old Testament really is the same as the God of the New Testament. In these chapters, we see the same love and desire for fellowship that sent salvation in the form of Christ, expressed in an intensely personal covenant with Abraham and his tribe.

Mike, Josh J:
God here chose Isaac to bear the precious covenant, while at the same time blessing Ishmael, though he was outside the covenant.

 
SOMETHING YOU’D NEVER NOTICED BEFORE:
Job:
Hagar was the Egyptian boomerang. From there, it was her descendants that would bring Isaac’s back to the Nile.

Chloe:
Abraham cut a ram in two pieces. What did that look like? How hard must it have been?

Mike:
God asked Hagar to return to a situation where she was being treated in a hostile fashion by her mistress and to “submit to her” — not that this is a prescription for people to return to abusive households, I just never noticed it before.

Steve:
Interestingly enough, God knows and tells Abraham precisely what’s going to happen to his as-yet unborn descendants, as well as the future iniquity of the current inhabitants of the land — not yet complete, but just give it about 400 years.

Tom:
Sure, it takes place before the Kosher laws were handed down, but I had to notice the meal Abram prepared for the three men (or angels, or G-d), was decidedly NOT kosher. “So he took butter and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree as they ate.” Maybe that law got thrown in there because G-d didn’t like the pairing when Abram served it?

 
BEST BAND NAME FROM THE PASSAGE:
Josh J: Hostile Donkey
Steve: Down the Middle, Vultures Came Down
Tom: Beget Twelve Princes
Job: Despised in Her Eyes, Smoking Oven
Mike: Mass Household Circumcision
Chloe: Nothing but Dust and Ashes

 
STORY IT REMINDS YOU OF:
Tom:
When Abraham is negotiating over the number of good citizens required to win Sodom and Gomorrah reprieve, he reminds me of a big-city lawyer talking some yokel out of the deed to his farm. A little humility every step of the way, but slowly bringing the price down a bit with each word. “Great piece of property, just a shame the septic system’s in such sorry shape. I’ll have to sink a lot of capital in there to bring it up to code.”

Josh J:
One summer when I was working as a camp counselor, I had a unit leader with a very unique punishment for misbehaving campers at night — he made them count the stars. He told them that if they missed one, they had to start over. Every time they got to a reasonably high number he’d say, “Step over here for a minute. Look over behind that tree. You missed one.”

 
DEEP THEOLOGICAL MEANING:
Chloe:
Nine times Abraham questioned God, and nine times God answered Abraham. We’re commanded not to test God, but it’s evident testing and questioning aren’t always the same thing. Abraham asked God to prove he’d gain possession of the land, and God made a covenant with him. Abraham interceded on Ishmael’s behalf, and God said He would bless Ishmael. Abraham then interceded for the righteous of Sodom and Gomorrah six times, and each time God acquiesced, promising in the end to spare the city for only ten people.

When we’re interceding for people, boldly approaching the throne, God’s relationship with Abraham (and others who questioned God, like Moses) are a great assurance that He’s there, He’s always been there, and our requests will be heard. We should never hesitate to ask the Lord for the desires of our hearts, because when we walk with the Lord, He will give them to us.

Steve:
There’s a lot of divine omnipotence and omniscience in these chapters, of a type that’s difficult to question. There’s the prophecy about the iniquity of the Amorites, plus an aged, childless, itinerant farmer is told he’ll have innumerable descendants, that they’ll spend a particular amount of time in captivity, and that they’ll come out “with great possessions.” And don’t forget the miracle of a 90-year-old woman’s conception! Yet even while showing His unknowable power and wisdom, the Lord is also taking time to personally converse (and even dine) with the people who love Him. We ought to be reminded there’s a lot we don’t understand about the mind of God.

Job:
God a used car salesman? When Abraham haggled with God over the fate of Sodom, like it was a beat-up Ford Tempo, I see in the Lord a sadness rare to Him in the Scriptures. I don’t think Abraham is actually successfully talking the Lord down here; I see God using the opportunity to showcase how sinful Abraham’s surroundings truly were. Haggle all you want, it’s only scrap metal now.

Josh J:
There are a couple of ways to look at Abraham’s bargaining session. One is to argue God can be persuaded to change his mind. The other is to believe God knew there weren’t even ten righteous, and the entire process was for Abraham’s sake, that he might understand why Sodom and Gomorrah had to be destroyed. Does prayer change God or does prayer change us? Sometimes, from a human perspective, it can be hard to tell the difference.

Tom:
Abraham was a lot like all of us. G-d offered to make him the father of his people, and told him this would come through the son He’d give Abraham through his wife, rather than her maid. But Abraham refused to believe in the best G-d has for him, and begged for a blessing on his previous mistake. And despite this, G-d graciously gave Abraham His best, and promised to bless his silly attempt to bring about the blessing on his own.

Mike:
Hard to pick just one, but perhaps it’s that being “covenant people” is never easy. It’s not easy to discern who’s “in” and who’s “out,” it’s accompanied by a painful sign, and it’s not easy to believe the lavish covenant promises, particularly in light of rather overwhelming evidence, like the ages of Sarah and Abraham.

Further, the tasks of the covenant are not easy. The first thing Abraham did when the covenant was fully pronounced was to go on behalf of the world to God, pleading for the righteous people of Sodom. As covenant people, we also are called to plead before God on behalf of the world.

 
RANDOM THOUGHT:
Josh J:
Although circumcision was sacramental, a sign of the covenant, it took a lot more commitment than the sacraments we practice today. Speaking as a male, and considering the technology available at the time, that had to be a sign of true devotion.

Also, for people who want corroboration of the Bible, I can think of little more pertinent today than the accuracy of this passage.

Job:
Should I infer, perhaps, that Isaac was the first immaculate conception? Not that Abraham’s genetics weren’t employed, but that supernatural intervention occurred to produce the lad?

Chloe:
It was Sarai’s idea for Abram to take Hagar as a wife, so why did she blame him for her suffering?

Mike:
What did Abraham and the three men talk about while Sarah baked cakes from scratch and the servant slaughtered, butchered, and prepared a calf? The rise and fall of boy bands? Why haircuts cost as much as they do? Whether or not urban ministry was a family calling?

Steve:
The most recent studies I’ve seen suggest that the medical procedure God prescribed as part of the covenant provides substantial protection against many diseases, some deadly.

 
WHERE IS JESUS IN THIS PASSAGE:
Mike:
17:6 — “…kings shall come from you.”

Josh J:
First, mysterious visitors showed up at Abraham’s tent, then suddenly, it’s the Lord talking. So it seems we have an instance of God taking on human form. Perhaps most intriguing, there are three of them.

Steve:
In chapter 18, it seems that He was one of the three men who came to dine with Abraham. It not only makes sense for Him to be the physical manifestation of a divine covenant, but it’s also appropriate that He foretold the birth of a child of promise.

Job:
Although Ishmael was Abraham’s flesh and blood, ostensibly of the same cultural station and stature, he was not in God’s plans; only the covenant, and Isaac, would do. No matter how much something may appear like Christ (Isaac’s descendant), even if it seems more convenient, no proxy will suffice.

 
VERSE TO REMEMBER:
Job:
18:21 — “And I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to me; and if not, I will know.”

Chloe:
16:13 — Hagar’s name for God. “She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me.’

Mike:
18:14a — “Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?”

Steve, Tom, Josh:
15:6 — “And [Abraham] believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.”

 
PORTION YOU WOULD MOST LIKE EXPLAINED IN HEAVEN:
Job:
The prophecy explains that all the land from the Nile to the middle of Iraq was to belong to Abraham’s descendants. Did these include Ishmael’s spawn?

Steve:
What was the standard God used to determine “righteousness” in Sodom? If it was works, how could a doubting liar like Abraham qualify? If it was faith, why didn’t He send Abraham there to preach the truth, as in future Nineveh?

Mike:
Why Hagar should return to an abusive situation; why it was so important to have the covenant go through Sarah’s biological heir.

Tom:
What Sarai did to Hagar to drive her off.

 
LESSON TO TAKE AWAY:
Steve:
The establishment of the covenant was connected to God’s earlier promise to bless all the nations of the world through Abraham and his descendants. It comes with significant responsibility.

Chloe:
God has never been removed from us. He’s always been standing near “the great trees of Mamre,” waiting for us to see Him, while we’re wrapped up in how hot it is outside or how uncomfortable we are.

Mike:
We should not be proud because we are Christians — the covenant was given completely by grace. Further, our inclusion in the covenant is blessing to bless others — we’re called on to bear God’s light to the rest of the world that he blesses and loves.

Josh J:
We serve a God who promises the seemingly impossible, indeed the laughable. Do we have enough faith to believe, to laugh not at the notion that it can be done, but that it can’t?

 
CONCLUSION:
Chloe:
Don’t second-guess God when He makes you a promise, or you’ll put out your wife and your kid will turn into a wild donkey.


Comments

Leave a comment!





Comment spam protected by SpamBam