In this chapter God asks Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac. What struck me the most as I read through the verses was the fact that Abraham got up the next morning to carry out the deed (v. 3). He didn’t procrastinate, didn’t take a week to pray about it and and confirm that he understood God correctly, he just trusted. This tells us two things about Abraham’s relationship with God. First, Abraham trusted God with all of his heart. This principle is something with which most Christians are familiar (Proverbs 3:5-6 is probably the very first verse I memorized), but not something any person is good at in application. Second, Abraham was so close with God that he did not need to take time to be sure he heard God’s instructions correctly. While it is possible that Old Testament communication with God was different than how we communicate with Him today, this still says a lot about the frequency with which Abraham and God communicated. Wouldn’t it be great to be so close with God, so intimate in your communication with Him, that you didn’t need to take a period of time to be sure of what He was saying to you? It’s hard for me to imagine being in that place, but I would certainly like to be there someday.
In verse 18 God promises Hagar that her son Ishmael will give rise to a great nation. It has always been my understanding that he is linked with the current Muslim nation. If this is true, doesn’t it seem like a cruel joke to promise someone an entire nation but for them to be a nation that does not know the Lord? I understand that everyone has free will and that each member of the Muslim church made a choice along the way to follow that religion, but it doesn’t seem right that God would promise someone a nation of people that He would not allow into Heaven. Thoughts?
One of the first things that stood out to me in this passage is the difference between the Old Testament relationship with God and the New Testament relationship with God. In this passage Abimelech is intending to sleep with Abraham’s with Sarah because he was under the impression that Sarah was actually Abraham’s sister, not his wife. In verse three, God tells Abimelech, “You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman.” Abimelech pleads on his own behalf in the following two verses because he had no idea that this was the case. Then God replies in verse six, “Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience, and so I have kept you from sinning against me. That is why I did not let you touch her.” This is so incredibly different from how our current relationships with God work! First of all, God approached Abimelech in a very intimidating way. It is very much a Christian cliche to say that we don’t worship a fearful God or that we don’t have to live in fear because of Him, but I think this chapter makes clear that was not always the case. Secondly, God then says that He intervened on Abimelech’s behalf to prevent him from getting himself into a situation in which God would have to punish him. This is really interesting because it hints at a certain lack of forgiveness that existed in Old Testament relationships with God because it implies that God would have had to punish Abimelech’s actions and considered them a sin even though Abimelech had no way to know the truth of what he was doing. On the other hand, it shows that God was a caring God then just as He is now because He stepped in by preventing an actual sin to occur therefore saving Abimelech from committing a sin.
I wonder, then, if God still has this view on sin and it is purely by the interventions of Jesus that we are kept from constantly sinning against God without our own knowledge. How is it justifiable that God count something a sin when there is no way for the sinner to know what he or she is doing wrong?
This is a rough chapter. In this passage Sodom and Gomorrah is destroyed, Lot’s wife is turned to salt seemingly without warning, Lot offer’s his daughters as sex toys to an angry mob, and Lot’s daughters sleep with him in order to preserve the family line. Holy moly. This is why the Old Testament is such a struggle to get through sometimes, because such awful things happen seemingly at the hand of God and very little restoration is discussed. I know the Old Testament is meant to give context and provide a historical narrative of the early years of Christianity, but what is the long term significance of this story? It must be more than a simple “don’t let your city become corrupt,” but if not that then what? And why does Lot seem to go unpunished for the horrible thing he tried to do to his daughters?
This section tells the beginning of the Sodom and Gomorrah tale. Abraham pleads that God will not destroy the city if even ten people of God can be found. What has always stood out to me in this passage is that God has to look for himself to find the righteous people, He doesn’t just know. This quality is very characteristic of His presentation in the Old Testament, does anyone know why?
This first section of chapter 18 tells the story of three men approaching Abraham with news that his wife Sarah will have a son. What is amazing to me in this story is not that God was powerful enough to provide these two with a child (though this is obviously incredible too) but rather what Abraham did upon seeing these men. He offers water for these men to wash their feet (v. 4) and has Sarah prepare the equivalent of 5 gallons of flour’s worth of bread to feed the men (v. 6). In addition to that they slaughter a calf to provide the men with meat (v. 7). It is clear from earlier passages that Abraham and his wife were wealthy, or at least well off enough to have servants, but even for someone of wealth this is quite the spread to provide visitors. Obviously Abraham knew they were from the Lord as it says the Lord appeared to him in verse 1, but this is one of many occasions throughout the Bible that note an individuals hospitality. I don’t often think of hospitality as a quality important to God, but this passage is making me reconsider that opinion. My roommates and I often have people over but I tend to only offer food I don’t like or make a pot of tea that I don’t really like so I can get rid of it. It does make sense, though, that God would want his followers to be particularly hospitable because it is a great way to show love.