3_Faith of Our Fathers_ABRAHAM [Gen 17-20]
Holy By Promise, Living On the Promise
Gen 17:1-8, 15-22 –– Names are very significant in the Tenakh — they frequently have a specific representative meaning that reflects God’s plan for the person. Moses, whose Hebrew name Moishe, means “drawn up,” was both drawn up out of the Nile and put on a princely track in Egypt, but 80 years later was drawn up out of his self-imposed exile in Midian to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Jacob/Ya’akov was renamed Israel/Yisroel because he contended with God to gain His blessing. Here, Abram is “promoted” to Abraham and Sarai to Sarah — in both cases signifying the enormous impact their faith and their offspring would have on mankind. Isaac is also named directly by the LORD — with the odd name “He laughs” — reflecting both Abram and Sarai’s laughing at the prospect that they would have a child when Abraham would be 100 years old, and looking forward to the joyful laughter both would share when God fulfilled His promise through the birth of Isaac. Isaac’s miraculous birth demonstrated God’s absolute control over the process of life and death.
Gen 17: 9-14, 23-27 — Newly renamed Abraham obeys God’s command and trusts in His protection as he has every male in his entire household circumcized — this was one miserable bunch of guys for a couple of weeks! This was truly a matter of trust — if attacked, they would be helpless! Circumcision has been ordained for all boys at 8 days old from this time forward for those claiming the Abrahamic covenant’s promises to his lineage through Isaac and Jacob. It has remained a core practice of Jews for over three millennia, and even otherwise non-observant Jews today usually have their sons circumcized, “just in case.”
In Genesis 18-19 we find the well-known story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. What is noteworthy from our perspective is Abraham’s hospitality to the unknown strangers (who were in fact angels), the accompanying visit of the presence of the LORD (who repeated His prophecy first given in Genesis 17, foretelling that Abraham would have a son by Sarah who would be the covenant-bearer), God’s gracious tolerance of Sarah’s continued skepticism, and perhaps most importantly, Abraham’s courageous advocacy on behalf of the Canaanite “cities of the plain” — Sodom and Gomorrah. (see 18:16-33) Abraham made intercessory advocacy on behalf of the possibility that a few righteous people might live in these unarguably sinful cities, and they should not be destroyed with the evildoers in the two cities, and that for the sake of the righteous remnant, the cities should be saved. This was an act of bravery and of love, for God had clearly set upon a course of action, and who was this human worm, Abraham, to question God. But out of a genuine sense of love for his fellow man as well as faith in God’s absolute justice and fairness, he rejected passivity and took on the responsibility of an intercessor. Of course God knew that there weren’t even ten righteous men in either city, but He honored Abraham’s brave and unprecedented intercessory prayer on behalf of these pagan Canaanites he barely knew.
Gen 20 Abraham doesn’t always learn from his errors the first time — he repeats here with the Philistine ruler Abimelekh (probably a title, since the meaning is Father-King) the same fear-driven deception he tried with Pharaoh, and with similar results, although Abimelekh doesn’t initially drive him out as Pharaoh did — perhaps out of fear of God. Think about this — wasn’t Sarah over 90 years old (and possibly pregnant)? Yet Abimelekh took her. What was the motive here? One wonders. When God confronts Abimelekh in a dream about what he has done, the pagan chieftain legitimately protests his innocence to God, even as Pharaoh did, and then Abimelekh confronts Abraham. Note that in verse 7, God directs that Sarah be restored to Abraham, proclaiming Abraham to be a prophet (first use of this term in the Hebrew, implicitly defining a prophet as one who reveals God’s Word to man AND intercedes on behalf of men before God), and notes that Abraham will pray for Abimelekh. Sadly, Abraham was a less than ideal witness of God’s integrity and again demonstrated a lapse of faith in God.