Tag: faith

Story 42: Like Father Like Son: The Choices of Abraham and Isaac

Genesis 26

In the early days of Isaac and Rebekah’s marriage, long before they had their twin boys, they went through many trials and struggles.  At one point, a great famine came upon the land, and it grew more and more difficult for families to find enough to eat.  It was getting dangerous.  The lives of God’s chosen family was at risk.  What was Isaac going to do?

Well, he packed up his family and his servants, his tents and his livestock and all of their valuable treasures. They began a journey to Egypt, where the Nile River poured out an unending water supply.  It brought plentiful harvests to feed the Egyptian people and their animals.  Along the way, Isaac and Rebekah passed through the land of the Philistines.  While they were there, Isaac heard from God.

The LORD told Isaac not to go down to Egypt.  Isaac was to stay in the Land of Promise.

Wow.

That would take tremendous courage and faith.  It might mean hunger for his clan.  It would probably mean the death of many of their animals.  Yet Isaac was faithful.  He went to the region ruled by Abimelech, who live in the midst of the Promised Land.

Abimelech is a name we have already heard before.  Abraham and Sarah met a man of that name in their travels.  He was a king, and Abraham was afraid of him.  Sarah was so beautiful that Abraham feared the king would kill him if he learned that Abraham was her husband.  So he told the first Abimelech that Sarah was his sister, and Abimelech took her into his house to become his wife.  Wow!  Can you imagine what that was like for Sarah?  But God saved the day.  He came in a dream and told Abimelech that Sarah was Abraham’s wife, and Abimelech sent her back to her husband.

Now Isaac was face to face with another tribal leader.  Some scholars suggest that he was probably the grandson of the first Abimelech.  This king called himself the king of the Philistines in the land of Gerar.  God told Isaac not to journey any further, but to rest in Abimelech’s land with his family.

Then something amazing happened.  God appeared to Isaac in a grand theophany.  “Theophany” is a fancy word to describe when God appears to a human.  God showed himself to Abraham in a theophany three times, and each time it was a great marker in the life of his chosen servant.  God came to communicate his covenant promises to Abraham, which should tell us how incredibly important those promises were.  Now the LORD had come to Isaac to pass the covenant of Abraham on to him. The Lord said to Isaac;

 

“‘Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you.  For to you and your descendents I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham.  I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because Abraham obeyed me and kept my requirements, my commands, my decrees and my laws.’  So Isaac stayed in Gerar.”

Genesis 26:2b-6

 

Wow. What an awesome moment.  For all those years, Isaac had learned about the promises of God from Abraham and Sarah.  Now God had appeared to him, and Isaac heard the words in person.  This was not just a gift to his parents, he was a critical part of the covenant himself.  His descendents would be as many as the stars, and every nation would be blessed through him.  The fate of all humanity was tied up in the fate of Isaac and Rebekah.

It is interesting that God said these promises were given to Isaac through Abraham.  There was a wealth of blessing stored up from Abraham’s obedience that was pouring out onto Isaac.  Abraham kept the whole of all that God desired from him.  His relationship with God was a righteous partnership so abundant that it flowed to the next generation!

God gave Isaac great and precious promises of abundance, but Isaac had to believe in them without seeing them.  God gave them in the middle of a great famine, and he would make Isaac and Rebekah wait for twenty years to have their twins!  Isaac was being called to live by the same faith that Abraham had.  He was called to live by the same righteous standard and the same immediate obedience, too!  He showed his immediate obedience by settling his vast clan down in Gerar!  He chose the hardship of famine and faithfulness to God over the abundance of bread and ease in a place that was outside of God’s will.

The men of Gerar were very quick to notice Rebekah.  She was a woman of remarkable beauty.  Isaac was afraid to admit she was his wife.  What if they wanted to kill him so they could have her?

And so he lied.  He told them that she was his sister.  Hm.

Who else does that remind you of?  Isaac was acting just like his father.

Now, these lies might seem a bit strange to us, but we need to remember that they lived in very different times.  There were no police officers to come and protect a family when others came to attack.  There was no court system to try a man if he murdered someone.  It was a dangerous and almost lawless land, and men were vicious and corrupt.  The most powerful men often determined the law of the land, and Abimelech was very powerful.  When Isaac weighed his options, the crisis of his own death might have seemed a lot less than facing the problem of a local man claiming Rebekah for his own while they were resting in Abimelech’s land.

There were good reasons for Isaac to be afraid if he was merely living according to the rules of this world.  But Isaac wasn’t meant to live as this world is all there is.  He was a man of God’s sacred covenant.  He had heard the stories of how God provided for his father.  He himself was one of God’s great provisions.

But God had a discipleship for Isaac just as surely as he had for Abraham, and Isaac was in the midst of one of the twisting points.  Isaac had already avoided one of Abraham’s mistakes…he didn’t go to Egypt.  Now he had another choice.  Did he believe more in the fear of the power of men, or in the promises of God?  Did he trust that God would protect his marriage, that Isaac could protect his wife and trust God with the results?  What would happen if one of the local men wanted to take Rebekah and marry her?  What would happen to the covenant if Rebekah’s children no longer belonged to Isaac?  Would Isaac let her go?  What would happen to the promises of God?

 

Story 41: The Battling Sons of Rebekah

Genesis 25

Abraham lost his beloved wife Sarah.  She had given him Isaac, the son of God’s promise, and through Isaac, God would keep His covenant with Abraham to raise up a priestly nation to the world.  Abraham married again to a woman named Keturah.  She gave Abraham six sons.  Yet God made it clear that the honor of being the father of God’s priestly nation belonged to Isaac.  Abraham left everything he owned to him, including the land.  Abraham loved his sons through Keturah, so while he was still alive, he gave them many lavish gifts.  Then he sent them away to a land far off in the east.  Those sons had their own children, and their children had even more children, so that after many years, whole tribes of nations came from her children through Abraham.  God surely kept his promise to make Abraham the father of many nations!

Abraham lived to be a hundred and seventy-five years old.  The Bible says:

 

“Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age,

an old man and full of years; and he was gathered to his people.”

 

By that time, Abraham had lived in the promise land for a hundred years.  He had become a great leader of a powerful tribe.  At the news of his death, the whole region would have mourned the loss of this mighty, righteous prince.  His strength and honorable character had brought security and peace to the whole region, and his goodness was known by all.

Abraham’s honored sons, Isaac and Ishmael, took his body to the cave where Sarah had been buried.  So many years before, Abraham had bought it at great cost from the Hittites to bury his beloved wife.  Now his sons lay him down beside her, united at the death of their noble father.  And after Abraham’s death, God blessed Isaac.

Now, we know that Abraham’s first son, Ishmael, had come from Sarah’s maidservant Hagar.  She was an Egyptian.  Her son was not the one that God meant to grow into a priestly nation.  Still, God is compassionate, and he promised Hagar that Ishmael would also be the father of a great nation.  Curiously, he also promised that Ishmael’s descendents would be warlike and hostile.

What God said came true as it always does.  Ishmael had many sons.  They had many children also, and from their children came twelve tribal nations.  Ishmael lived to be a hundred and thirty-seven years, and then he, too died.  The descendents of Ishmael moved to an area near the border of Egypt to settle down, far from the land of promise.  And just as God said, they were a hostile group who in all of history could not get along with any of their neighbors.  If this was the way of Abraham’s first born son, what would happen to the son of the Promise?  Would he grow up to be warlike, too?  Would he have the violent, deceptive nature of the enemies of God, or would he stand in the beauty of Eve’s repentant transformation?  Would Isaac learn to live in dependence on God like his father?

Rebekah and Isaac married when Isaac was forty years old.  Time went on as Isaac oversaw the vast wealth he had inherited from his father.  After twenty years of marraige, Rebekah still had no children.  But they were wise to the lessons that God had taught Abraham and Sarah.  They did not turn to Rebekah’s maidservants or anyone else to solve this terrible sadness.  Isaac went directly to the LORD and pleaded with him for his wife.  His first response was to turn to God.  In his perfect timing, the LORD answered Isaac’s prayer, and Rebekah became pregnant.  Can you imagine how happy they must have been after that long wait?

Just as with Abraham and Sarah, it must have been difficult and painful to wait so long, but in many ways, that made it far more special.  This pregnancy was something they had thought about and looked forward to, hoping and praying over long years.  All babies are a priceless gift from God, but because of their waiting, Isaac and Rebekah knew that this pregnancy was a very special answer to prayer.  God was going to honor his covenant promise to Abraham!

This was no ordinary pregnancy in more ways than one.  There were twins!  There were two babies inside Rebekah, and she really felt it.  They were always fighting each other!  Poor Rebekah, it must have been very uncomfortable to have a mini war going on right inside her belly!  “‘Why is this happening to me?’” she wondered.  She worried if all their moving and shaking was dangerous.  What if she lost them both?  What if all that fighting caused a miscarriage?  So just as Isaac had prayed to the LORD for his wife, Rebekah went to the LORD and cried out to understand what was going on.  Both Isaac and Rebekah had learned to take their lives to the LORD.  They were totally dependent on him.  And he was faithful to answer.

The LORD said to her:

 

“‘Two nations are in your womb,

and two peoples from within you

will be separated;

One people will be stronger than the other,

and the older will serve the younger’”

Genesis 25:23

 

Well, that sounds strange.  What does it mean that two whole nations were really living in Rebekah’s womb?  Is that possible?  No, of course not.  But there were two baby boys in there, growing and fighting against each other.  One day, they would be born into the world.  They would grow to be strong men, and they would have families of their own.  God, who knows everything, knew the future of Rebekah’s sons.  He had designed the future!   The descendents of each of Rebekah’s sons would grow to become great nations.

Now, God knows everything.  He understands everything that had ever happened perfectly, and he knows everything that is ever going to happen. He could have explained many things to Rebekah about her sons, but he didn’t.  He simply told her that they would both grow to be powerful, but that the older son would end up serving the younger son.  That wasn’t a lot of information, but it was a very, very big deal.  And because God made a point of telling Rebekah directly, it was something she was supposed to honor.

In the ancient days of Isaac and Rebekah, the firstborn son was given many responsibilities.  It was the oldest son that took the place of the father in the family when he died, and it was the oldest that inherited the most.  He would also take on the role of watching over the rest of the family.  It was his job to protect the family honor and help each member in their time of need.  The oldest son’s mother, his brothers and sisters and their spouses, and his nieces and nephews could all call on him and expect his care and concern throughout their lives.  It was a great burden and a great privilege.

The younger sons were supposed to honor their older brother and respect his commands.  This held together the systems of order and loyalty in the early family clans of human civilization, and it was often true in the family of God as well.  But God told Rebekah that it would not be the same for her sons.  The older son would serve the younger.  That was a radical idea, but God is totally sovereign and in control.  He chooses among the children on earth who he will use for his purposes.  Long before Rebekah ever held her sons in her arms, she knew that her second child would be the one who God used to raise up his holy nation.

When the boys were born, the first child came out and everyone was shocked.  All they could talk about was how red and hairy he was.  He was so hairy that it looked like he was wearing animal fur!  They decided to name him Esau.

Rebekah didn’t have a lot of time after Esau  came.  The other son was following quickly behind.  In fact, the hand of the second son was gripping Esau’s foot as he came out!  So they decided to name him Jacob, because it means “heel.”

As the boys grew up, Rebekah and Isaac learned how very different each son was from the other.  Esau liked to go out to the wilderness and hunt.  Jacob liked to spend time among the tents where the family lived.  He was quiet.  Isaac enjoyed the meat that Esau brought him.  He enjoyed his big, burly son the best.  But Rebekah loved Jacob more, and she carried in her heart the promise of God.  In the future, the older would serve the younger.

One day, Jacob was among the tents cooking stew.  Esau had been out in the open country, probably on a hunt.  It is hard work, and when he came home he was so hungry that he had begun to feel weak.  He smelled Jacob’s stew and that only made it worse!  “‘Quick’” he said to Jacob, “‘Let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!’”

Jacob knew he had a chance to use this to get something he wanted.  He had been thinking about this for a long time.  He also knew how hungry Esau was when he came in from a hunt.  He said to his brother, “‘First, sell me your birthright.’”  Wow.  Esau was the firstborn son, and that birthright belonged to him.  It was a very precious, valuable thing.  It was a high honor.

In those days, the first son would inherit twice what all the other sons would receive when their father died.   For every two goats that Esau was supposed to inherit, Jacob would only get one goat.  But if Esau sold his birthright to Jacob, that meant that Jacob would be the one who received more.  Their father Isaac had received all of Abraham’s many animals and servants.  They were a very rich, princely family.  Jacob was asking Esau to trade hundreds of animals and great wealth in gold and silver for a bowl of soup.   But you know what?  Esau made the trade.

“‘Look, I am about to die’” he said.  “‘What good is a birthright to me?’”

Jacob wanted to make sure that he would really receive all the extra inheritance, so before he let Esau eat, he made him take an oath.  “‘Swear to me first.’”  Esau swore an oath to Jacob, promising the birthright to him.

Finally, Jacob gave Esau some bread and lentil soup.  Esau gobbled up the food.  When he left, his stomach was full, but his birthright was lost to his conniving brother.

 

Story 40: Rebekah Comes Home

Genesis 24:28-67

 

Abraham sent his chief servant to find a wife for Isaac. It was important that Isaac’s wife come from the same family… those who God had set apart in a covenant in order to bless the world.  The servant travelled back to the land that Abraham and Sarah had left behind so many years before.  The Lord guided him to a beautiful young virgin named Rebekah as she took water from the village well.  He knew she was the one for Isaac, and so he gave her bracelets of precious gold and asked to be taken back to her home.  She ran ahead and told her mother everything that had happened during her time at the well.

Rebekah’s brother, Laban, heard what happened, too.  He saw the expensive gold bracelets and the nose ring, and he knew that this stranger was a making a serious marriage offer for his sister.   He went out to meet Abraham’s servant at the well.  “‘Come, you are blessed by the Lord,’” he said.  “‘Why are you standing out here?  I have prepared the house and a place for your camels.’”

Nahor’s family treated Abraham’s chief servant very well.  They brought him into the house and washed his feet and the feet of his men.  As they set supper out for him to eat, he stopped them and said, “‘I will not eat until I have told you what I have to say.’”  The importance of this meeting was too great!  He did not want to wait another minute until he had settled everything.

 

“‘The LORD has blessed my master abundantly, and he has become wealthy.  He has given him sheep and cattle, silver and gold, menservants and maidservants, and camels and donkeys.  My master’s wife Sarah has borne him a son in her old age, and he has given him everything he owns.  And my master made me swear an oath, and said, ‘You must not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I live, but go to my father’s family and to my own clan, and get a wife for my son.’”

“‘Then I asked my master, ‘What if the woman will not come back with me?’

“‘He replied, The Lord,  before whom I have walked, will send His angel with you and make your journey a success, so that you can get a wife for my son from  my own clan, you will be released from my oath even if they refuse to give her to you-you will be released from my oath.’

 

Then the servant told them how he had come into their town.  He told how he had prayed that God would show him who the right girl was by having her offer not only to give him a drink of water, but by offering to water his camels.  He explained how that was exactly what Rebekah did.  God had answered his prayer very clearly.  And after journeying for days over many miles, the girl the LORD had brought him was the granddaughter of Abraham’s brother!

Abraham’s servant told the whole story, making sure they understood how God had guided him to Rebekah.  Then he said, “‘Now if you will show kindness and faithfulness to my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, so I may know which way to turn.’”

Laban and Rebekah’s mother Bethuel said, “‘This is from the LORD, we can say nothing to you one way or the other.  Here is Rebekah, take her and go, and let her become the wife of your master’s son, as the LORD has directed.’”

When the servant heard that he would be allowed to bring this beautiful, chosen daughter to be Isaac’s wife, he bowed down before the LORD, rejoicing at His goodness.  This was all the work of God, who designed everything with such care for His chosen ones.

The servant got up from his praise to the LORD and began to celebrate by bringing out the great riches given to him by Abraham to pour out on Rebekah, the bride, and her family.  Rebekah was given treasures of gold and silver jewelry and beautiful clothes to wear as the wife of Isaac.  Her family received lavish and beautiful gifts as well as they prepared to say goodbye to their beloved child and sister.

The next morning, Abraham’s servant asked to leave and return to Abraham with Isaac’s new bride.  But they did not want to see her go so soon.  They knew they would probably never see her again.  “‘Let the girl remain with us ten days or so; then you may go,’” they said.

But the servant was ready to return.  “‘Do not detain me, now that the LORD has granted success to my journey.  Send me on my way so I may go to my master.’”

They said, “‘Let’s call the girl and ask her about it.’”  They called for Rebekah and asked her if she would go with Abraham’s servant right away or not.

Rebekah said, “‘I will go.’”  Wow.  What stunning faith!  While her family was reluctant, she was bold.  And so they sent her on her way.  The nurse that had raised her since she was a little girl went along with her, as did several other maidservants from the house.  She was not alone as she journeyed towards the home of Abraham and Isaac.  As she left, her family said;

 

“‘Our sister, may you increase

to thousands upon thousands;

may your offspring possess

the gates of their enemies.’”

 

Consider the courage of Rebekah!  She left everything she knew to go with a host of strange men to marry a groom she had never met!  On and on they journeyed across wilderness and desert through regions Rebekah had never seen before.  One evening, as the caravan of Abraham’s servant was getting close to home, Isaac was sitting out in the middle of a field.  It was evening, and he was meditating.  Out in the distance, he saw camels coming towards him.  It was a caravan.  He got up and started walking towards it.  Rebekah was on one of those camels, and as they crossed the field, she looked up and saw a man standing there.  It was Isaac.  She climbed down from her camel and said, “‘Who is that man in the field coming the field.’”

The servant answered, “‘He is my master.’”

Rebekah  realized that this was the man she was about to marry.  She covered her face with a veil.

The servant told Isaac all that had happened.  Isaac took her into his tent.  He married Rebekah and lifted her veil to look upon the girl that God had prepared just for him.  The Bible says: “‘She became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.’”

 

Story 34: Sarah’s Laughter

Genesis 21-22

Abraham and Sarah had waited on the LORD for twenty-five years.   All during those years, Abraham believed in a message he had heard from God.  This was not just any deity or idol, it was the God of the universe…and the promise of the message was great.  So they packed up everything and journeyed out into the wilderness.  They wandered as nomads to strange lands with foreign people.Their former life of refined wealth was over.  They would no longer have solid walls around them and a door to lock.  They would roam around with tents.  The floor would be the earthy ground, and their walls would be made of leather or cloth…too thin to keep out the dust and cold.  There would be a constant need to search for sources of water, and because water was precious, others would want to take it from them.

As they traveled, Abraham’s family would have been an easy targets for bandits.  Other nomadic people would have felt threatened by them.  It would have been hard…if not foolish…to trust anyone along the way.  The new cities and nations around them were often places of violence and corruption.  The kings and rulers would have threatened their family, and the foolishness of Lot would drag Abraham and Sarah into even bigger problems.  Through it all, Abraham was imperfect yet faithful, constantly depending on the LORD and leading his wife and their household on into God’s promises.

Along the way, God counted Abraham’s faith as righteousness.  He blessed Abraham with great flocks and military victory and vast wealth.  Yet those were not the limit to the dreams that God had put before Abraham and Sarah.  His vision was much greater!  God had promised them a nation.  But that nation would have to come from the birth of a son, and that was the great blessing they had yet to receive.

Month after month, Sarah would hope that the time had come for a child, and month after month, he did not come.  Imagine the pain and confusion they must have felt.  They had believed God’s promises and they had obeyed, and yet God had deprived them of life’s most basic and natural blessing.

It is stunning to consider how God formed his wide, epic plan of salvation for the human race in a way that would be so profoundly personal for this couple.  He designed the story of the covenant family to be birthed out of the kind of faith that is forged out of long waiting…over time…as a continual and deepening re-decision.  God’s salvation plan did not bypass the hearts of those He came to save by bringing in some outside, alternate route…it was forged through the depths of their very hearts.

Finally there came a time when it became humanly impossible for Sarah to have children at all.  Yet God was firm.  He insisted that they stand in faith.  They had to believe in an answer that they could not imagine.  They had to hope for something they could not see.

Abraham did not allow the pain and wear of the passing of time to destroy his faith.   Instead, he was strengthened in his faith and grew in his confidence that God richly rewards those who believe in His promises (see Romans 4).

And then…the time finally came.  Abraham was a hundred years old, and Sarah was ninety.  By this time, the entire region knew this couple.  Abraham was extravagantly wealthy and a famous warrior.  He was a foreigner who had come and saved five nations from the tyranny of their enemies.

The people of the region must have wondered at Abraham’s devotion to his barren wife.  Why didn’t he take another wife?  He was a wealthy man, why didn’t he build a harem for himself?  He could have had a dozen wives and a hundred children!  All the world watched, and all knew without a doubt that it was too late for Sarah.  At just the point where everyone would be sure it was a miracle, God gave His greatest blessing of all:

“‘Now the LORD was gracious to Sarah as He had said, and the LORD did for Sarah what He had promised.  Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God has promised him.  Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him.  When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him.  Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.’”

Genesis 21:1-5

Wow.  Imagine the joy of Abraham and Sarah as they held that little baby!  Imagine the wonder!  Those tiny feet and that perfect, soft skin was all their very own.  Has a couple ever waited longer for a child?  Each year of waiting intensified their desire for this little one.  How deeply they understood what a precious gift, what an absolute miracle, this boy was.  He was from the very hands of the Lord.

The first thing we learn about the child is how Abraham dedicated him back to God.  He circumcised his boy with his old and aged hands, delighting in this little baby who would one day be the father of nations.  If God could provide this child, the rest of the promises were also sure.

The utter happiness of the couple showed on their faces.  How they laughed now!  How different the world felt now that the promise was in their arms.  They named the boy Isaac, which means “he laughs.”  For Sarah said, “‘God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me…who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children?  Yet I have born him a son in his old age’” (Genesis 21:6-7).

 

Story 32: Sulfer and Fire

Genesis 19

 

Abraham had been bargaining with God.  It was a remarkable day all around.  The LORD had come with two angels to visit Abraham and his wife, Sarah, in order to bring them a message.  Within the year, old, aged Sarah would have a baby.  But this was not the only message they had to give.  The LORD explained to Abraham that because of their horrific corruption and sin, Sodom and Gemorrah were about to be destroyed.  These were two cities that lay on the plains below the hills where Abraham lived.  Lot, Abraham’s nephew, lived in Sodom.  Abraham beseeched the Lord, asking that if there were fifty, or thirty, or even five people left in the city that were righteous, God would relent from His judgment. And the LORD agreed.

The two angels left their LORD and Abraham and went straight to Sodom.  They arrived there in the evening.  The day was starting to cool off.  Lot was sitting out at the entranceway to the city.  When he saw the two men coming, he went to them and bowed his face to the ground before them.  How regal they must have been, the very messengers of God!

Lot invited the men to come and stay the night in his home.  They could wash their feet and get rest before leaving in the morning.

“‘No,’ they answered, ‘We will spend the night in the square.’”

Lot knew that was a bad idea for the men to sleep outside in his city.  Sodom was not a safe place at night.  He continued to insist until the men finally agreed to come to his home.  He baked them bread without yeast and they sat down for a meal.

Meanwhile, word spread throughout the city that two visitors had come to town.  The men of the city began to gather outside the door of Lot’s house with vicious plans.  Pretty soon, every last man, both young and old, was waiting there.  Every single male was prowling at Lot’s door.

Life in Sodom had grown so perverse and sinful that every one of them wanted to take the guests of Lot and be with them the way a man is only supposed to be with his wife.  They had no shame standing there together, demanding that Lot hand his guests over to them.  They were not only perverse, they were dangerous.  They boldly and angrily declared their right to violently force their desires on the visitors.  Imagine the mob…imagine the evil fury as they made their demands!

Lot knew what the men of Sodom were like.  This was nothing new.  He had bravely brought the visitors into his home to protect them.  They were under the roof of his house now, and now guarding them was his highest priority.  It was a matter of personal honor.

He courageously went outside his house and carefully shut the door behind him.  He stood before the filthy horde and said, “‘No, my friends.  Don’t do this wicked thing.  Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man.  Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them.  But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.’”

It is hard for us to imagine how dangerous the mob had become.  The tension of their willful anger filled the air. He couldn’t just walk away.  It would only make them worse.   He was forced to choose between protecting his guests and protecting his daughters.

When Lot chose to live in a wicked place with awful men, he chose to put his daughters at risk.  In the culture of his day, the highest priority went to protecting visitors to the home.    When Lot invited the men, it was with an understanding bound up in Lot’s honor.  They had no part in the wickedness of Sodom, and it was Lot’s job to protect them.  He was forced to make an offer that would destroy his own family.

When the men of Sodom heard Lot offer his own daughters, it should have shocked them.  They should have realized how despicable they were being.    But the hard-hearted men of the city were enraged by Lot’s words.  They screamed out that Lot had come to Sodom as a stranger.  Who was he to judge them?  This was their way of life, and Lot was getting in their way.

The mob knew they had more men on their side.  They could do whatever they wanted, and nobody could stop them!  So they viciously threatened to do the same to Lot as they were going to do to his guests if he didn’t hand them over.  Wickedness had completely deformed their souls.  They were filled with utterly savage violence and aggression.

The angels heard all that was going on.  They opened the door and grabbed Lot, pulled him back into the house, and slammed the door shut.  Then the angels struck the men who were struggling at the door with blindness so they couldn’t find their way in.  Imagine them blind and stumbling around, still filled with their lust and rage, yelling out threats as they felt along the walls, looking for the door.

Once Lot was back inside, the angels finally told Lot why they had come. The outcry against Sodom for its ongoing sin had been heard by God, and they had come to destroy the city.  They asked him if there were any more relatives in the city that he could save.  There were two men who were to marry his daughters.  Lot went to his son-in-laws and begged them to flee with him.  He warned them that God’s judgment was on its way.  But the men who were to marry his daughters only laughed.  They refused to believe him and treated it like a joke.

Early the next morning, the angels told Lot to take his wife and daughters and run.  If they stayed any longer, they would suffer for the sins of the rest of the city.  Lot paused for a moment, and the angels grabbed his hands and the hands of his wife and daughters and pulled them out the city gates.  How the LORD showed Lot mercy upon mercy, even when he resisted the help of His holy angels!

Once they were out of the city, the angels told Lot to flee to the mountains. Lot didn’t want to go there.  He argued and asked to be allowed to go to the next city.  The angel agreed, but told them to hurry.  The judgment could not begin until they were safely away.  Lot and his family hurried off, and God waited for them.  By the time they were safely away, the sun had risen. Then God began to throw down His judgment.  He rained burning sulfur down from Heaven onto the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.  It fell down on the whole plain, destroying every human and killing all the plants.  God waged His wrath against the filth the people had brought and totally overthrew them.  Lot’s wife turned around to look, and the judgment of God came instantly.  She turned into a pillar of salt.

Early the next morning, Abraham came out of his tent.  He went to the place where he had stood with the LORD the day before.  He looked out over the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and saw a thick, dark layer of smoke.  The whole plain was like a furnace, broiling hot and smoking from God’s judgment.

God had agreed to spare Sodom if there were ten righteous people left in the city.  But the people of the city had become so depraved that there weren’t even that many.  Now Abraham understood the fullness of their filth.   But God remembered His servant Abraham and saved the life of his nephew.

When the LORD and his two angels came to Abraham’s tent, He came to give His righteous children a message of new birth and hope.  A son would be born to Sarah within a year!  But He also came to bring the message of Sodom’s doom and destruction.  It would be a mighty warning to Abraham and his descendants, and it would teach them justice.  They were never to become like Sodom.

Story 30: Entertaining the Angels of God

Genesis 18:1-15

Three angels visiting Abraham by Johann Lucas Kracker (1752 – 1776) from Premonstratesian cloister in Jasov in Jasov, Slovakia.

One day, Abraham was resting out by the entrance to his tent.  It was the time of day when the heat grew to its worst. Abraham sat looking out on the glorious trees of Mamre where he and Sarah had chosen to live.  They were far from the cities of immorality and shame that his nephew Lot had found so attractive.  Abraham looked up and noticed that there were three men standing close by.  Abraham lived in a region where visitors did not come very often.  When they did, they had often journeyed long distances.  It was considered a great honor to serve them and show them hospitality.

Abraham jumped up and rushed over to the men who had been travelling in the terrible heat.  He bowed low to the ground in front of them and said, “‘If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by.  Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree.  Let me get you something to eat, so that you can be refreshed and then go on your way–now that you have come to your servant.’”

The men agreed.  Abraham hurried to Sarah and told her to make some bread.  Then he ran to pick out the best, most tender part of meat from a calf and gave it to a servant to prepare.  He went and got some curds and goat’s milk.  These were delicacies in Abraham’s day, and showed the high honor Abraham was giving these men.  How attentive Abraham was to his noble guests.  This was a lavish meal for a nomadic family living in tents!  As they ate their banquet feast, Abraham stood nearby and waited on his guests under a tree.  The men asked him where his wife was.

Abraham said, “‘There, in the tent.’”

What the Bible says next is interesting.  These three men who came to visit Abraham were no mere humans.  Two of them were angels.  One of them was the LORD.  Wow.  Those are some pretty important houseguests.  The Lord said to Abraham, “‘I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah, your wife, will have a son.’”

Now, Sarah was inside the tent listening in on the conversation.  When she heard what the LORD said, she started laughing to herself.  Didn’t this Man know how old she was?  Didn’t he see that Abraham was not a young man?  It was too late for them to have children!  She said to herself, “‘After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?’”  Oh, the precious heart of a woman.  Even as she lacked faith in God Himself, her heart longed for the treasure of a baby in her arms.

The LORD knew exactly what was going on in Sarah’s mind.  He said to Abraham, “‘Why did Sarah laugh and say, “Will I really have a child, now that I am old?”  Is anything too hard for the LORD?  I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.’”

Oops.  When Sarah heard that, she was scared.  She lied and pretended that she hadn’t laughed.   But the LORD argued with her.  He could read her mind!  He said, “‘Yes, you did laugh.’”  God restored her back to honesty with His rebuke.  He showed her that He could read her thoughts.  He understood her doubts.  And surely the LORD who could read her mind could also give her a child.

Story 28: The Grief of Faithlessness: The Plight of Hagar and Ishmael

Genesis 16-17

Abram and Sarai had taken some major risks in obedience to God.  They had left their own land and all of their comforts to become Bedouins, journeying to the land of Canaan, trusting that God would one day give it to their descendants so that they could bless the world.  They had hung all of their hopes on His promises.  Eleven years later, Abram and Sarai still had no child.  In the eyes of everyone around her, Sarai’s barrenness was seen as a great weakness and failure.  She was costing Abram a family.  She was disgraced.

Sarai began to grow impatient for a son for her husband.  If the LORD was not going to bless her own body with a child, perhaps He would bless someone else.  So she made a plan.  They were not the plans of God, and they were not built on faith.

Sarai went to Abram with her idea.  Sarai had a servant named Hagar who tended to all of Sarai’s personal needs.  Perhaps if she gave Hagar to her husband, her servant would give birth to a son!  In the time of Abram and Sarai, this was common.  When a wife could not have children, another woman, usually a slave or a servant, would be brought to the husband.  The child from their union would then become the adopted child of the husband and wife.

Abram agreed to do what his wife suggested.  Apparently, Hagar agreed to take part as well.  It was a way of helping Sarai out of her disgrace.  So Abram and Hagar came together, and Hagar became pregnant.  A child was on the way.  It would seem that everything was going just as Abraham and Sarah had planned.  The only problem was that there were things they did not anticipate when they stepped outside of God’s plan.

Now that Hagar was with child, her attitude toward Sarai changed.  The disgraced wife of Abram had given him no child, but now she was providing one for him!  She began to carry the pride of her pregnancy around like a crown.  The most painful loss of Sarai’s life was now being thrown in her face every day…and by her own maid.   Hagar treated Sarai with contempt in her own home.  She treated Sarai as if she had replaced her as Abram’s wife and head of Abram’s household.

Sarai’s attempt to solve the problem  of her barrenness in her own power was unraveling into a nightmare.   She went to Abram and said, “‘You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering.  I put my servant in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me.  May the LORD judge between you and me.’”

Even though Hagar was Sarai’s special maidservant, Sarai turned to her husband and handed Hagar over to him.  Sarai yielded the situation to Abram, honoring his position of authority and giving him the responsibility to make it right.  It was his role to put an end to this destruction.   It was his job to create the right order in their home.  He had to protect their marriage and Sarai’s position as his wife.  Then she appealed to God as her protector.  He was watching over Abram and would hold him responsible to his role as Sarai’s husband.  All of this took great faith, for Sarai had to let go of her own control and trust others to end her pain.  What if they failed?

Abram said to his wife, “‘Your servant is in your hands.  Do with her whatever you think is best.’”  Instead of handling a situation where his wife was clearly in over her head, Abram excused himself from the mess and let the burden fall on Sarai.

The way Sarai responded is the darkest mark on her character in the story of her life.  Sarai turned the tables and began to mistreat her servant.  Now it was Hagar’s turn to be miserable. Who knows the harsh words or beatings Sarai gave.  Who knows what abuse Abram allowed.  The tensions that come up in a home when the most tender things are at stake can tear apart the integrity of the finest heart.  Whatever the sins of Sarai and Abram, they were harsh enough that Hagar would rather risk death in the desert than live with the torments of her mistress.  She fled away from the home of Abram and Sarai out into the wilderness.

God was watching as all of these sad events unfolded.  How differently these women could have treated each other.  The angel of the LORD came to Hagar as she sat near a stream in the desert.  This is the first time in the Bible that someone was visited by an angel.  When they came to earth, it is because they were sent on a mission from God.  They come as His holy messengers.  What an honor to receive such special attention from the Divine King!

It is remarkable that in the Bible, God’s first message from an angel was to this weeping servant woman.  What does it teach us about the character God?  In all of ancient literature, with all of the other religions and idol worship that was going on, thiswas the only time a divine being spoke to a woman by name. She had great worth in his eyes.  See how gently he came:

 

He said, “Hagar, servant of Sarah, where have you come from, and where are you going?’”

“‘I am running away from my mistress Sarah,’ she answered.

“Then the angel of the LORD told her, ‘Go back to your mistress and submit to her.’  The angel added, ‘I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count.’

The angel of the LORD also said to her:

 

‘You are now with child and you will have a son.

You shall name him Ishmael,

for the LORD has heard of your misery.

He will be a wild donkey of a man;

His hand will be against everyone

and everyone’s hand will be against him,

and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.’”

 

Who was this God?   He had come to speak to a lowly servant woman, an outcast, someone that nobody in her culture or world would have any time for?  Who was this LORD that saw her crying in the desert?  Hagar wondered at his tender care.  She said: “‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me.’”  And she was right.  Though she was a woman and had no great importance in the eyes of the world, she could trust the God of the universe to look on her with love.

The angel of the LORD explained to Hagar that this son would truly be blessed.  He would be as a wild donkey, so passionate for freedom that he would not easily share life with others.  He would also be the father of nations.  Yet he was not the son of God’s covenant promise with Abram.  That could only come through his sacred marriage with Sarai.

Hagar obeyed God and returned to Abram and Sari.  She gave birth to a son.  Abram was eighty six years old.  Hagar must have told Abram what the angel said, for Abram named him Ishmael.  His name meant, “God hears.”  I wonder if Abram and Sarai felt convicted by the LORD when they realized that God listened to the cries of Hagar as much as He listened their own?

Sarai was the true wife of Abram.  They were one flesh.  When God called Abram, Sarai’s life was wrapped in that calling.  It was through their marriage and their union alone that God would bring about His great and precious promises.  But that required radical faith, a faith that had to increase with time.  Sarah was seventy five years old when Ishmael was born.  As they waited on the LORD and watched their bodies age, their trust in God had to intensify.  They had to believe in Him for the impossible.  Would this man and woman of God bear through the final stages of their testing?  Would they take hold of the faith that God meant for them to have?

Story 25: The Covenant: Descendants and Land

Genesis 15:1-8

Wow.  Imagine the difference in the life of Abram from the time we began his story until now.  He went from being a wandering nomad with his wife and nephew to a man of vast wealth.  He had his own private army of highly trained warriors who conquered five kings and saved the people of the Jordan River Valley from captivity.  He was now highly respected throughout the land.  But there was something far more important happening, something that made all the rest of it possible.  As the years went by, Abram’s faith was stretched further and further, and his ability to depend on God’s promises was growing into a mighty power.  It was the kind of power that God could bless.  As God expanded Abram’s influence and power, Abram kept his eyes fixed on the Lord in trust and received only what was clearly from God’s hand. Through his determined faith, Abram was exhibiting glorious righteousness to a watching world.

Yet there was still a tremendous ache for this wise and aging man.  Abram and his beloved wife were still without a child.  How would God make Abram’s descendents into a great nation if they had no son?  What good was their wealth and reputation if the life of Abram died with him and his wife?  Who would they pass it on to?  The Lord spoke to him and said,

 

“‘Do not be afraid, Abram,

I am your shield,

your very great reward.’”

Genesis 15:1b

God knew the fears on the heart of his faithful servant and pursued him, promising to be his divine protection.  This promise was a bit different from what God had given in the past.  Before, there was always a condition.  In order to receive the promise, Abram had to show his faith through obedience. Over those many years, Abram had proven his faith, and now the LORD was coming to him with the fullness of His covenantal promises.  God would uphold His side to His servant no matter what lay ahead.  Through all of history, the blessings of this covenant would be utterly unchangeable.

When Abram heard this, he came to his LORD and asked the questions that so troubled his heart.  “‘O Sovereign LORD, what can You give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus…You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir’” (Gen. 15:2-3).

Abram had trusted God with his whole future, but he and his wife were growing old, and the promises of God seemed more and more unlikely.  How could Abram’s faith stretch so far as to believe the impossible?

God’s plan for His loyal servant was already set in history.  The future was as sure as the past because God had made it so.  In fact, He had allowed everything to get to the point where His promises seemed impossible to Abram so that he would have to utterly rely on the LORD in faith.  Everyone would know that when God’s blessings came, it could only have come from Him.  His blessings on Abram would give the Lord great glory before all the nations of the region.  The holiness and power of the Most High God was being declared through the most personal longings of Abram and Sarai’s life.

The LORD knew the discouragement of His beloved servant, and so He began to explain more about the mighty, unbreakable covenant that He had made with Abram in Genesis 12.  He said:

 

“‘This man [Eliezer] will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir.’  He took him outside and said, ‘Look up at the heavens and count the stars-if indeed you can count them.’  Then He said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’”

Gen. 15:4-5

Abram could not imagine how wide and great God’s blessings would become, so God had to bring him out into the night sky and show him the universe.   And in that sacred moment when God’s Word came to him, Abram believed what God said, and his faith was credited to him as righteousness.  Abram was righteous in the eyes of God simply because he believed the LORD.  He did what all the other nations and tribes refused to do.  He surrendered in trust to the will of the One who made him.

 

Then God said, “‘I am the LORD.’”

 

Any time God says that in the Bible, it means that whatever comes next is big.  Really big.  It means that God is sealing His next words with the integrity of His own character.  It bears tremendous power and gravity.  It is going to happen because He is permanent and eternal and He doesn’t go back on His word.  So the LORD said to Abram:

 

“‘I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the land of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it’”

 

 Once again, God gave Abram a wonderful promise.  All the land of the whole region where the Canaanite cities and nations lived would one day belong to Abram’s family.  Abram took God’s word very seriously.  Purely by faith, he was staking his whole life on this promise.  So once again, he came to his God with an honest question about his doubts and fears.  “‘O Sovereign LORD, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?’”

Story 23: Five King Conquest: Rescuing Fools from their Folly

Genesis 14

Abram had returned from Egypt with the wealth and riches bestowed on him by the Pharaoh.  The flocks and herds of Lot had also grown, so that it wasn’t possible for the two clans to live near each other anymore.  Their abundance was so great that there wasn’t enough for all the animals to eat.  So Abram gave Lot the first choice of the land, and Lot moved to the lush green plains of the Jordan.  This put Lot and his family right next to the city of Sodom, which was thoroughly corrupted by wicked and greedy men.

It is important to imagine what this city was like to understand the foolishness of Lot’s decision.  It was a place where it was acceptable to deceive, cheat, and bring harm.  It was a place where the vulnerable were not protected by honorable, powerful leaders.  The strong could do whatever they wanted at the expense of the weak, spending their power on getting their own pleasures instead of creating a healthy and whole community.  It wasn’t just a bad decision, it was a dangerous one.

Meanwhile, Abram chose to live off in tents under the trees of Mamre, and there he worshiped God.

At about that time, a war broke out between the nations and cities of the region.  Nations and cities back then were not the same as they are now.  Each nation was really more like a clan or tribe, and cities would only have a few hundred people at the most.  Today we would call them villages.  But even though they were small, they could still become warlike.  The human ability to create tension and hostility is everywhere.

The Bible shows that at Babel (see Story 18), humans turned their rebellious, broken nature against God.  Once humanity had so completely turned away from God, they had to direct their vengeance and malice somewhere else.  They began to turn on each other.  Sin was intensifying on the earth, and with it came all the suffering and loss that we still see around us.  The Curse that Adam and Eve plunged the world into was far more devastating and horrific than anything they could have imagined when they believed the lie of the Serpent.

Four kingdoms from the east were united together against an alliance of five other kings.  Kedorlaomer was the king of Elam, and he was among the allies of the first group of four kingdoms.  For twelve years, he forced the other five nations to live under his rule and power.  But in the thirteenth year, they rebelled.  In the fourteenth year, Kedorlaomer came back to fight again, and this time he and his allies conquered the entire region.  Imagine how terrifying it would be to live in one of those cities.

Their victory did not last long.  The five kings, marched out against them as a mighty army in the Valley of Siddim.  They were ready for battle.

The four eastern kings came out against the five and the fighting began.  As the four kings and their men began to win the victory, the armies of Sodom and Gomorrah began to run back towards home.  Instead of standing and fighting, they fled the field of battle.  The only problem was that the Valley of Siddim was full of tar pits.  The cowardly soldiers fell into the thick, black pools of tar as they ran away.   The four kings chased them all the way home.  They plundered the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and carried off all their precious valuables and food.  They took their wives and children captive as well.

Can you imagine the terror of soldiers, fresh from battle, storming through your city?   They broke down doorways and ransack homes, grabbing anything they could find that might be worth something.  They would grab their men, women, and children as prisoners.  They would often force them on long marches back to the lands of the victorious army.  Once there, the captives would often be sold as slaves to whoever paid the highest price.  It is hard to imagine the horrors of warfare, but it has been common throughout the history of humanity since the Fall.

Now, Lot had moved from living out on the plain into the actual city of Sodom.  He was utterly foolish to build his life so close to such corrupt and depraved people. When the armies stormed Sodom, they took him, his family, and all of his things, too.   One of the men escaped and ran to tell Abram what had happened to his nephew.

Abram had wisely chosen a life set apart from the evils of the nations around him.  But now those evils were invading his world because of his nephew’s choice to live in their midst.

As the faith of Abram had grown over the years, his courage had grown as well.  As a wanderer in Egypt, he cowered before the king and offered him his wife.  But now he was roused to duty against the armies of four kings, and nothing could stop him.

Abram was also prepared.  He had trained three hundred and eighteen men from his own household to be soldiers skilled in battle.  He had also made an alliance with three of his neighbors.  Together, they would go after those four kings.  Such had become the wealth and wisdom of Abram!  What would happen to the army of Abram when they attacked?  Would they be able to rescue Lot?  Would it start a whole new round of battles and wars, with Abram right in the middle?

 

 

Story 22: Parting Ways: The Foolish and the Wise

Genesis 13:1-18

Abram was a chosen man.  Adam and Eve, the first humans, had plunged the world under a terrible curse by rebelling against God in the garden of paradise that he had provided with him.  They had sided with his enemy and given the enemy power over them and all of their descendants.  Yet God had a solution already prepared.  From those descendants, God promised that one of them would one day crush the power of God’s enemy (Gen. 3:14-15).

One of the most significant stages in the unfolding of God’s plan was the covenant he made with Abram (see Gen. 12:1-4 or Story 20).  God was going to make Abram’s descendants into a great nation, and somehow he would bless all the other nations of the world through them. God brought Abram out of the land of his own people and brought him to the land of Canaan, the Land of Promise, that he would give to Abram’s children.  Abram was called to stay there and live by faith in what God promised he would do.  Yet at the first sign of trouble, Abram took his wife and nephew, all his flocks and servants, and left the land.  A famine had come, and they fled to Egypt.  That didn’t turn out too well (see Story 21).

After a coming against a crazy situation in Egypt, Abram moved his family back to Canaan, to a place called Negev.  They returned to the region near Bethel.  This was the place where Abram had built his second altar to God.  That moment was a high and holy moment for Abram; it was a place of great remembrance.  Perhaps Abram felt the need to seek a recommitment of faith to the covenant that had come to him there.

As Abraham was traveling about, his nephew Lot went with him.  Both of them had huge herds of cows and goats and sheep.  There were so many animals that they were eating up all the grass.  There wasn’t enough for all the animals to eat. The herdsmen and shepherds of Lot and Abram began to fight with each other over the land and the grass.

So Abram said to Lot, “‘Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers.  Is not the whole land before you?  Let’s part company.  If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left’” (Gen. 13:8-9).

Wow.  That was very generous of Abram.  He had already raised Lot.  Now he was giving his nephew first choice of the land.  Yet Abraham was the elder man, and the covenant promise had been given to him.  He had every right to claim the best of the land for himself.

What does his choice show us about Abram?  He did not need to grasp with greed.  He was demonstrating with his actions that he put his trust in the Lord.  He believed his future was in the hands of God.  That gave him freedom to give lavishly and graciously to his nephew.  His desire to keep peace with his nephew was greater than his desire for the security and honor of wealth and property.

Lot looked out over the land and saw the plain of the Jordan River.  It was lush and green with well watered plants.  It was perfect ground for farming and raising crops.  His livestock would have plenty to eat.  It was like the garden of the LORD.  Lot claimed the very best for himself. His decision was based on what he could see.  It was not a decision made by faith in God.  Abram honored Lot’s choice and moved on to the land of Canaan.

Lot’s first selfish choice was almost as unwise as his second choice.  Of all the cities on the plain, he chose to pitch his tents next to the city of Sodom.  It was known to be a place of great wickedness, where the people lived lives of filthy immorality and despicable sin.  The wrath of God was filling up against them.  They were not wise people for Lot to befriend.

After Lot left, the LORD spoke with Abram once again:

 “‘Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west.  All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever.  I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted.  Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you’”

Gen. 13:14-17

Isn’t it interesting that God waited for Lot to make his choice and leave before He continued with the promise?

The LORD was rewarding Abram’s faith with assurances of His promises. Abram was to go out and walk along the land, knowing it was truly set apart for him by God.  As a king surveys the realm of his kingdom, Abram walked his land and saw with his own eyes this good place that God had prepared for him.

When Abram was done with his tour, he and Sarai moved with all their servants, flocks and herds to a place with beautiful trees called Mamre.  It was in the region of Hebron. This area was not like the place where Lot chose to live, where rivers provided a constant flow of water.  It was not like Egypt, with the never ending Nile.  Hebron was an area that depended on rain for water.  The people who lived there were at greater risk for drought or famine.   There was no river to go to when things got dry.  Abram was well aware of the danger of drought, but he also knew that his God was the Lord over the rain systems of the earth.  He trusted these gifts from God’s hands more than the safety of living in larger numbers near a constant water source.  He could trust God as he separated his family and servants from the sins and temptations of the city.   This was the faith that was growing in our hero.  Think of how he had changed from the man who fled to Egypt!   Abram showed his devotion and gratitude to God by building an altar of worship to him.

After Lot left, the LORD spoke with Abram once again:

 

 “‘Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west.  All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever.  I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted.  Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you’” (Gen. 13:14-17). 

 

The LORD was rewarding Abram’s faith with assurances of his promises. Abram was to go out and walk along the land, knowing it was truly set apart for him by God.  As a king surveys the realm of his kingdom, Abram walked his land and saw with his own eyes this good place that God was preparing for him.

When Abram was done with his tour, he and Sarah moved with all their servants, flocks and herds to a place with beautiful trees called Mamre.  It was in the region of Hebron. This area was not like the place where Lot chose to live, where rivers provided a constant flow of water.  It was not like Egypt, with the never ending Nile.  Hebron was an area that depended on rain for water.  The people who lived there were at greater risk for drought or famine.   There was no river to go to when things got dry.  Abram was well aware of the danger of drought, but he also knew that his God was the Lord over the rain systems of the earth.  He knew that he was safe in God’s hands.   This was the faith that was growing in our hero!  How different he was from the man who had fled to Egypt!   Abram showed his devotion and gratitude to God by building an altar of worship to him there.

 

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