Saturday, November 9, 2013

Abram Gets His Ha

Part II


In Part I we studied Abram up to God’s fourth promise to Abraham, which is the first sealed as a covenant. God alone walks through the divided animals, symbolized as a torch and a smoldering pot. This was in response to Abram’s complaint that he was going to die without children, so what did it really matter that God was going to give him great things and bless his descendants. Abram’s reaction to this is not recorded.
0)    What might your reaction be to a huge promise from God that doesn’t seem possible?

Read Genesis 16.
1)    What do you think of Sarai’s actions here?

Next we see the second covenant (fith promise) between God and Abram.  God renames Abram (‘Exalted Father’) to Abraham (‘Father of Many’) and Sarai to Sarah (both mean ‘High Born Lady,’ or princess even, and the change is from the specific to the general, as she is to be the mother of a nation).  Read Genesis 17.
2)    Isaac means ‘he laughs.’  Is this chapter proof that God has a sense of humor?  (Puns in particular?)
3)    What is the meaning of God’s choice of Isaac over Ishmael for his new covenant?

When Moses comes down from the mountain after the 2nd 40 days, he tells the people:
Deuteronomy 10:15-22:The Lord set his heart on your ancestors and loved them. Because of this, today he chooses you, their descendants, out of all the people of the world. So circumcise your uncircumcised hearts, and don’t be impossible to deal with any longer. The Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, powerful, and awe-inspiring God. He never plays favorites and never takes a bribe. He makes sure orphans and widows receive justice. He loves foreigners and gives them food and clothes. So you should love foreigners, because you were foreigners living in Egypt. Fear the Lord your God, worship him, be loyal to him, and take your oaths in his name. He is your glory. He is your God, who did for you these spectacular and awe-inspiring deeds you saw with your own eyes. When your ancestors went to Egypt, there were 70 of them. Now the Lord your God has made you as numerous as the stars in the sky.
4)    Why might God have chosen circumcision as a sign of Abraham’s 2nd covenant?
(See Ephesians 2 for why we do not need circumcision now.)

Read Genesis 18.   (Sixth promise.)
5)    Who is the Lord in this story?
6)    How and why does God allow the pleadings of humans (Abraham here, or us in prayer) to change His actions?

New Yorker, came out the week of Part I.
Now the crux of the story: Genesis 22:1-18. (Seventh promise.)
7)    What do you envision when you hear this story?

8)    How might Abraham have been able to do this?

9)    In what ways does God call us to sacrifice today?

Hebrews 11:8-19
Faith led Abraham to obey when God called him to go to a place that he would receive as an inheritance. Abraham left his own country without knowing where he was going. Faith led Abraham to live as a foreigner in the country that God had promised him. He lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who received the same promise from God. Abraham was waiting for the city that God had designed and built, the city with permanent foundations. Faith enabled Abraham to become a father, even though he was old and Sarah had never been able to have children. Abraham trusted that God would keep his promise. Abraham was as good as dead. Yet, from this man came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the grains of sand on the seashore.
All these people died having faith. They didn’t receive the things that God had promised them, but they saw these things coming in the distant future and rejoiced. They acknowledged that they were living as strangers with no permanent home on earth. Those who say such things make it clear that they are looking for their own country. If they had been thinking about the country that they had left, they could have found a way to go back. Instead, these men were longing for a better country—a heavenly country. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God. He has prepared a city for them.

When God tested Abraham, faith led him to offer his son Isaac. Abraham, the one who received the promises from God, was willing to offer his only son as a sacrifice. God had said to him, “Through Isaac your descendants will carry on your name.” Abraham believed that God could bring Isaac back from the dead. Abraham did receive Isaac back from the dead in a figurative sense.

Galatians 3:6-9
Abraham serves as an example. He believed God, and that faith was regarded as the basis of Abraham’s approval by God. You must understand that people who have faith are Abraham’s descendants. Scripture saw ahead of time that God would give his approval to non-Jewish people who have faith. So Scripture announced the Good News to Abraham ahead of time when it said, “Through you all the people of the world will be blessed.” So people who believe are blessed together with Abraham, the man of faith.
10)    What does it mean for us to live in faith? How does it matter? How will it show?

After this, the story tells us that Sarah died, Abraham sent a servant to find a wife for Isaac, and then he married again! Keturah bore him six more sons, and it sounds like there were sons by concubines as well; before he died, he gave them gifts and sent them away. But “Abraham left everything he had to Isaac.”

Genesis 25:7-11
Abraham lived 175 years. Then he took his last breath, and died at a very old age. After a long and full life, he joined his ancestors in death. His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah…There Abraham was buried with his wife Sarah. After Abraham died, God blessed his son Isaac, who settled near Beer Lahai Roi.
11)    “After a long and full life” indeed!  What do you take away from this story of Abram’s beginnings?
12) What could be said about you after your life that would bring you joy?


We did a two part - hence two month study - on Abraham. Got to some very good and deep thinking by the guys in the men's group. Recommend these two.

photo: Howard Lifshitz @ Flickr
In Jewish synagogues, this is the season of studying Abraham. 

In Genesis, the flood is the first major division in history. Noah and his sons multiply, Babel is built and falls, and Noah’s 10 generations of descendants find themselves in a pluralistic society where polytheism flourishes. It’s not clear whether Noah’s descendants kept the faith or not.
Most traditions have Abram being born near the year 2000 BC. I made a spreadsheet interested in those ages between Noah and Abraham.
Notice that when Abram is born, Shem is alive! Terah had moved them away, but this raises the possibility that Abram or Terah knew someone on the Ark. I do not take Old Testament ages as literal numbers, but the ideas and relationships here are significant.

Read Genesis 11:27-32.
1)    What are the important relationships here?
2)    Does it sound like Terah first got the call that Abram answers later?

Canaan was Noah’s cursed grandson, Ham’s son. Lands are named after people who live there, who are often named after a first ancestor. Read Genesis 12:1-9
3)    How would you react to these promises?  Would you go? Would you need proof?

One Jewish teaching story (Midrash), which also is in the Koran, says that Terah was a manufacturer of idols, and Abram – as a child – beheaded them, then placed the hammer in the hand of the last one. Terah accuses Abram, but has to admit that they are only clay to do so.

Because of the fertilizing properties of the Nile, and the advanced state of agriculture, Egypt was protected against the worst of the droughts. Note that while this is often described as Abram’s lie, it is in fact true, as he reveals in 20:12 that Sarai is his half-sister.  Read Genesis 12:10-20.
4)    What are we to make of this story? Why include an embarrassing story like this in scripture about your patriarch?

So Abram goes back to Canaan, but now he and Lot have so many flocks and followers that the site is not big enough for both of them, and they have to divide it up.  Then God makes another amazing promise to Abram. Read Genesis 13:8-18. 
5)    Why Abram? What might God have been looking for?

There is a very interesting meeting here, as Abram meets Melchizedek. Many scholars think the name Melchizedek means ‘Zedek is my king,’ where Zedek is a Canaanite name for the God Most High.  The name God Most High in verse 18 is a translation of El Elyom, another early name for God.   Salem is almost certainly ancient Jerusalem.  Melchizedek is mostly of interest because of the psalms prophecy (Ps 110:4) that the Messiah will be a priest of the order of Melchizedek, in contrast to being a priest by being a descendant of Levi, which would not be possible for a descendant of David, since David wasn’t a Levite.)
Read Genesis 14:13-20. 
6)    What do you think is going on between Abram and Melchizedek here?  What is the significance of this meeting?

Read Genesis 15.
7)    What is righteousness (v. 6)? Why does Abram’s belief count as righteousness?
8)    Is it okay to ask God for a sign, as Abram does in v. 8?  If so, when is it okay?

It is here that God’s promise is first called a covenant.  The Hebrew word here is berith, whose root means ‘to cut.’  This refers to the sign of a covenant, which was to divide an animal and walk together between the parts.  This was a symbol of a covenant in the ancient world that predates Abram by many centuries.  Some sources believe it symbolized the walk unto death together, others saw it as giving one the right of death should the other break the covenant. 
9)    What might be the meaning of the smoking firepot and the blazing torch?  Why did only God walk through the covenant and not Abraham?
10)    What might God’s purpose have been in not giving the land to Abram right then?
11)    Anything else you notice or wonder about here?

That's about as far as we got! See Part II for more.