Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Moral Man Transformed, Part III

Genesis 14--In this chapter, we see the occurrence of civil war. I call it that, because if you go back a few chapters to Genesis 10, we can see that all these warring "kings" are descendents of Noah's son Ham. Abram remains uninvolved until he receives word that Lot and his family have been taken by King Chedorloamer. At this point, he takes his own small band of fighters--some from his own house and willing neighbors--and pursues King Chedorlaomer. Even with small numbers, Abram is victorious, the offending kings slain, and all the peoples and goods (Lot's and all of Sodoms') are taken back.

Of course, now the king of Sodom shows up (the fight's over) but so does a very special visitor. Melchizedek, the King of Salem, brings sustenance and blesses Abram publicly. Abram pays Melchizedek tithes, but refuses to take Sodom's goods.

I have to admit, I don't feel like I quite have a handle on the presence of Melchizedek here, but after some study of New Testament references to this passage, I feel it is strongly suggested by the writer of Hebrews that Melchizedek was a Theophany. He is called the King of Salem, which means peace, and Christ is also called the Prince of Peace in the prophecy of Isaiah 9:6. He is introduced as a priest of the most high God at a time when the hierarchy of religious leadership for the Hebrew people has yet to be established--far from it, with Isaac still just a twinkle in Abram's eye. Finally, Abram paid Melchizedek tithes. This honor of first fruits is owed to God alone. In any case, Abram definitely understood this King to be from the God who had been speaking to Him all of these years.

Though still not transformed, Abram's morality continues to be evident. He is loyal to a disloyal family member. He is brave enough to pursue danger with risk of great personal cost based on the principles of family. He shows respect and homage to the priest of God through tithes. He refuses the spoils of Sodom for himself, but makes provision for those who fought beside him. His heart was in the right place for God to reveal himself to Abram, and to transform him into that new creature!
Abram's continued morality, though not yet "transformed." He has been shown the truth repeatedly, but it is not until the next chapter that he believes the truth and it's counted unto him as righteousness.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Moral Man Transformed, Part II

In Genesis 13, Abraham leaves Egypt very rich and returns to the location of his altar at Bethel and Hai. This time, Abram calls on the Lord. Lot joins him, but Abram's nephew does not have the same heart of belief.

Soon after, there is conflict between the herdsman of the uncle and nephew, and Abram is extremely gracious to Lot. He offers His nephew the choice between two very different grazing lands, and Lot (showing no gratitude or respect) takes the better of the two. His heart becomes evident as he chooses not to maintain a distance from the wicked population of the cities in the plain of Zoar, but rather dwells among them and pitches His tent toward Sodom.

Again we see that Abram is a good man. He gives another man the best land with a heart of good will. Shortly after he and Lot separate, the Lord speaks to Abram again and says, (vs14) "Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever." God also tells Abram to walk through the promised land, and to view it, and to be assured that it will be his. After God finishes speaking, Abram actions show a heart of belief, because he "removed his tent, and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and there built an altar unto the Lord." He saw God's promise and worshiped. Throughout Abram's journey to transforming his heart, He is so very gracious to continue to affirm to Abram over time, that He is the true God and what He says is true. Does He not do the same for us, not only before the time of our salvation, but also afterwards as His work of sanctification transforms us more into the image of Christ?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Moral Man Transformed, Part I

In Genesis 12, Abram hears God speak and obediently takes his family and leaves his home in Haran. He journeys into Canaan, and when God informs him that he is viewing his inheritance, he builds and altar and makes sacrifice to God. Then for some reason, Abram journeys on into Egypt. Here, we see him make a poor choice motivated by fear that gets him into a tight spot. I am summarizing of course, but before I start dissecting the chapter a bit, I wanted to mention the light details.

I mentioned in my previous entry that God chose to share certain people's lives for two reasons. The first was so that we could see Him working His redemptive plan throughout history. The second was so we could see how he worked through human failures and victories to glorify himself. As I encounter the many character accounts in chapters to come, I want to view them through these two sets of spectacles.

1)Abram's journey and God's plan
When God first instructs Abram to leave his family, part of his promise is that "in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed." He is also told that "I will make of thee a great nation." Here we see God laying the ground work for his people, though they would not leave Egypt as a numerous people for more than 500 years. Here also, we see God lay the groundwork for Christ the Redeemer, who would come into the world through the nation of Israel more than 2000 years later.

Also, though Enoch "walked with God and was not," and "Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord," I believe Abram is the first person recorded whose belief was counted to him as righteousness. By no means was Abram the first "redeemed" individual in history, but he is certainly the first detailed account of a person whose unregenerate--albeit moral--life was transformed by a belief that God would do what he said through a Redeemer who would come through God's fulfilled promise of a son for Abraham. We can see who Abraham is--good, though flawed through sin--, we can see him come to a point of belief, and we can see him change as a believer (though he still struggles with elements of the old nature).

2) God's use of Abraham's life
Abraham succeeds--He obeys God and travels into a new land. He builds and altar and worships God. God is glorified in the longevity of his name. Noah built an altar and worshiped God, but that event is now more than 450 years distant (though Noah had probably only been deceased 20 years or so prior to Abram's journey to Canaan). Still, Abram KNEW who Jehovah was. He KNEW who was speaking to him, because he knew TO WHOM he was building an altar. God is glorified as His name and appropriate worship of His name are passed from generation to generation.

Abraham fails--Fear is the sin that seems to prevail upon Abram's life both before and after his redemption. His fear causes him to do all manner of regretful things, and in this case, his fear causes him to encourage Sarai to tell a partial truth on his behalf because he fears the Egyptians will kill him for his beautiful wife. When Abram's lie comes to light, he and his "sister" are asked to leave Egypt. What a fiasco right? Well consider. They weren't supposed to be in Egypt. God used Abram's failure to get him back on track--back to Canaan where he was supposed to be. I can't help but think how often God has used my failures to put me BACK into the middle of His will. Oh yes, the experiences have been chastising and painful, but effective!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Gen 12-Abraham, A Moral Man Who was Redeemed and Transformed

It has been a while since I made Bible study comments here, ironically enough, because I got caught up in too many Bible studies. Looking back, I found that I was enjoying this one the most (and learning the most), so I'm back pursuing it where I left off. I admit, I kind of got stuck on chapter 12. I have always been troubled by the account of Abram and Sarai going into Egypt and telling a half-truth to Pharoah. I had all kind of moral conundrums with this encounter. If Abraham was such a good guy, why did he lie? Why didn't Sarai stand up to him? Should she have, or was that part of the whole "submission to your husband" bit?

Finally, after a lot of thought, the Lord was good enough to show me some things about Abram and Sarai; and I suppose, something about people mentioned in the Bible in general. God includes the stories of people for a couple of reasons. First of all, the stories of people help us understand how He has worked His will for humanity throughout time and history. Second, God does not intend for us to think these Bible "heroes" were perfect. He desires that we learn from their victories and errors, and how God worked and glorified Himself through their lives.

Realizing this, I am starting over with the story of Abram and Sarai. Abram was a good guy--a moral person. He was a good son, and husband, and citizen; however, it is not mentioned until Genesis 15:6 that "he believed in the Lord, and He counted it to him for righteousness." Abram was not even a saved individual until nearly 15 years after he obediently followed God away from home and kindred. Even then, he wrestles with the old nature--fear, doubt, and disobedience. Yet, despite these struggles--whether Abram did right or succumbed to poor choices--God still kept His promises.