Abraham, Part 3 (The Covenant & the Cross #49)

[audio https://www.buzzsprout.com/25444/231800-abraham-part-3-the-covenant-the-cross-49.mp3]

Today’s passage of Scripture is Genesis 13:7-8 which reads: “And there was a strife between the herdmen of Abram’s cattle and the herdmen of Lot’s cattle: and the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled then in the land. And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren.”

Allow me to share with you some further commentary on this passage from the Reformation Study Bible by Dr. R.C. Sproul:

Lot and Abraham are compared and contrasted: both looked around, were offered land, and traveled to their allotted portion. But Lot, who chose by sight, will escape twice by the skin of his teeth, while by faith Abraham will be enriched forever.

Faith in God’s sovereignty gave Abraham the freedom to be generous. His generosity typified that of Israel to Moab and Ammon, Lot’s descendants. God applauds generosity and peacemakers.

Today’s quote about the Bible is from Charles Haddon Spurgeon. He said: “Some people like to read so many [Bible] chapters every day. I would not dissuade them from the practice, but I would rather lay my soul asoak in half a dozen verses all day than rinse my hand in several chapters. Oh, to be bathed in a text of Scripture, and to let it be sucked up in your very soul, till it saturates your heart!”

Our topic for today is titled “Abraham” (Part 3) from the book, “The Promise and the Blessing” by Dr. Michael A. Harbin.

A painting of Abraham's departure by József Molnár.

A painting of Abraham’s departure by József Molnár.

As we look through the next few chapters, it becomes very obvious that Abram was a finite, fallible human being. He no sooner got to Canaan than he went off to Egypt because of a famine. Times got hard, so he looked for an easier way. (Ironically, this incident is recorded in the same chapter that relates God’s promises, highlighting the contrast.) Once he got to Egypt, he compounded his failure by asking Sarai to lie. Abram realized that his wife was still a good-looking woman, and he feared someone might kill him in order to marry her. So he concocted the half-lie that she was his sister (Sarai was in fact his half-sister). Sure enough, she caught the eye of the Egyptian officials and ended up in Pharaoh’s palace.

This sequence of events shows that Abram had a long way to go in learning to trust God. First, in spite of God’s rich promises concerning the land, he left it to get food. Second, he did not trust God to protect him in a foreign land, so he resorted to falsehood. Third, he placed his personal well-being above that of his wife, allowing Pharaoh to take her into his harem (and receiving great riches in appreciation). In the end, God protected Sarai and restored her to Abram, but they were expelled from Egypt.

The next events show Abram’s good side. He and his nephew Lot, now both wealthy, had so much livestock that they were getting in each other’s way and so needed to divide the territory. Although Abram was the patriarch and should have had first priority, he gave Lot his first choice on the property.

Today, the region where Lot settled, in the valley of the Dead Sea, is one of the most barren places on earth. Climatological studies, however, indicate that this region has been drying out for the last 4,000 years or so. Apparently, at the time of Abram, there was much rainfall, which made this protected valley a lush, agricultural region. After Lot chose the lush valley, God reiterated His promise to Abram, assuring him that the outcome of this decision would be beneficial. Abram then moved to Hebron.

Subsequently, we see another high side of Abram’s character. in chapter 14, we are told of his daring rescue of Lot, who had been abducted by King Kedorlaomer and his allies. however, the writer’s purpose for including this account goes beyond the great military drama. Rather, the focus is on the aftermath, where we are introduced to the fascinating though somewhat enigmatic character, Melchizedek.


Abraham, Part 2 (The Covenant & the Cross #48)

[audio https://www.buzzsprout.com/25444/230471-abraham-part-2-the-covenant-the-cross-48.mp3]

Today’s passage of Scripture is Genesis 12:6-7 which reads: “And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land. And the Lord appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the Lord, who appeared unto him.”

A painting of Abraham's departure by József Molnár.

A painting of Abraham’s departure by József Molnár.

Allow me to share with you some further commentary on this passage from the Reformation Study Bible by Dr. R.C. Sproul:

On the plains of Moreh grew a tree whose greater height made it a preferred place of worship. Although pagans worshiped fertility deities under such trees, Abraham, who looked for a heavenly city, worshiped only the true God. The name “Moreh” means “teacher.” This was probably a pagan site for oracles; the Lord sanctified it by appearing to Abraham. By his act of worship, the father of the new nation consecrated the Promised Land to God.

Two obstacles stood in the way of God’s promise: Sarah’s barrenness and the Canaanites who prevented him from settling in the land.

Today’s quote about the Bible is from Henry Ward Beecher. He said: “Sink the Bible to the bottom of the ocean, and still man’s obligations to God would be unchanged. He would have the same path to tread, only his lamp and guide would be gone; the same voyage to make, but his chart and compass would be overboard!”

Our topic for today is titled “Abraham” (Part 2) from the book, “The Promise and the Blessing” by Dr. Michael A. Harbin.

Abram must have wondered why Canaan was chosen as the land of promise. We now realize that the nation of Israel was to represent the living God to the other nations of the world. For this purpose God chose a very central location. If you look at a map of the area, you will see that the land of Canaan straddles the land bridge between Africa (Egypt) and Asia (Mesopotamia), the regions with the most significant civilizations of the day. Because of its location, Canaan also controlled sea travel between the East and the West. But Abram had no way of knowing these details. He was simply given a command and some promises. The command was to leave Haran and move to Canaan. If he did that, God would fulfill three promises. These promises are the heart of what we call the Abrahamic covenant.

1. Abram will have a special territory. The land is significant, and Abram was given claim to it. We will see, however, that he personally was not to possess the land. The actual possession was deferred four hundred years, after the sin of the current inhabitants had reached a point that required judgment.

2. Abram is going to become a nation. Earlier the narrative had noted that his wife Sarai was barren. This may have been the case so that God could show His power in producing the offspring.

3. Abram will be a blessing. There are two aspects to this promise. One is the positive concept of a blessing for Abram and his offspring: those who bless him and his descendants (the Israelites or Jews) will be blessed. But second, anyone who treats them contemptibly will be put under a curse by God. The reason for this promise is suggested in the last line, which hints at the coming Messiah: “In you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

Abraham, Part 1 (The Covenant & the Cross #47)

[audio https://www.buzzsprout.com/25444/228561-abraham-part-1-the-covenant-the-cross-47.mp3]

We always like to start out with the Word of God, and today’s passage of Scripture is Genesis 12:1-2 which reads: “Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing.”

A painting of Abraham's departure by József Molnár.

A painting of Abraham’s departure by József Molnár.

Allow me to share with you some further commentary on this passage from the Reformation Study Bible by Dr. R.C. Sproul:

Abraham’s call as an agent of redemptive grace parallels Noah’s as the mediator of a covenant to all creation. The form of God’s call to Abraham also resembles His pattern in creation: announcement, command, and report, but the pattern is broken by the divine promise, highlighting Abraham’s faith and believing obedience.

These verses mark a pivotal point in Genesis and in the history of redemption as God begins to establish a covenant people for Himself. The progress of God’s redemptive plan is evident in His setting Abraham apart and making Israel into a great nation. It climaxes in Jesus Christ, the true Seed of Abraham, who brings salvation to the world. The call to Abraham is passed on to the next two patriarchs, Isaac and Jacob. The nation will be formed from Jacob’s twelve sons.

Today’s quote about the Bible is from Thomas Carlyle. He said: “The Bible is the truest utterance that ever came by alphabetic letters from the soul of man, through which, as through a window divinely opened, all men can look into the stillness of eternity, and discern in glimpses their far-distant, long-forgotten home.”

Our topic for today is titled “Abraham” (Part 1) from the book, “The Promise and the Blessing” by Dr. Michael A. Harbin.

We know him as Abraham, but his original name was Abram. He was born in Ur, probably in the year 2166 BCE. Ur was a pagan city, a focal point of worship of the moon god Sin. Did Abram worship this god? Genesis 31:53 states that Abram, his brother Nahor, and their father, Terah, all worshiped the true God. Yet Joshua 24:2 implies that they worshiped other gods. Perhaps this family was beginning to compromise and incorporate elements of pagan worship into their belief system. If so, this could have been one reason Abram and Terah were told to leave Ur—they were being corrupted. Another reason is that God was ready to take the next step in preparing the way for the Messiah. This purpose would require a demonstration of faith that ran directly counter to the increasing paganism of the culture. It would also require possession of a piece of land.

As they traveled from Ur, Terah decided to settle in Haran, and Abram stayed with his father. After Terah died, however, the Lord commanded Abram to move on to Canaan, and he obeyed.

The story of Abram’s journey was critical for the original audience at Mount Sinai because it explained why they had been brought out of Egypt and why they were going to the land of Canaan. They learned that Canaan was the land God had promised to give to His servant Abram and, more specifically, to his descendants—that is, the people gathered at Sinai. They also learned that the promise would be fulfilled if they, like Abram, were obedient.

As we read the biblical narrative, we soon discover that Abram was a complex person who had his ups and downs. At times, he exhibited the most amazing faith, as when he left his relatives to go to the land God promised. At other times he committed the most grievous mistakes, as when he impregnated his wife’s servant in order to produce an heir as God had been promising but had not yet granted. A careful study of this section should serve to convince the reader of the historicity of the events being described. Abram was one of the key heroes of the nation of Israel, and the tendency in the Ancient Near East (like human nature everywhere) was to play down the mistakes of heroes and play up their strengths. Most heroes become larger than life over the passage of time.

In the narratives of the biblical patriarchs, however, we see mortal men committing momentous errors. If these had been “cleverly invented stories”, the Israelites could have done a much better job of disguising the failures of their heroes. But the purpose of this section is to show that it was not through any special effort on Abram’s part that God made him the ancestor of the great nation that was now gathered at Sinai. In fact, Abram was an ordinary man with whom most people could identify.

Lord willing, we will continue looking at this topic in our next broadcast/podcast.

The Toledot of Terah (The Covenant & the Cross #46)

[audio http://www.blogtalkradio.com/danielwhyte3/2014/12/04/the-toledot-of-terah-the-covenant-the-cross-46.mp3]

We always like to start out with the Word of God, and today’s passage of Scripture is Genesis 11:27 which reads: “Now these are the generations of Terah: Terah begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran begat Lot.”

Allow me to share with you some further commentary on this passage from the Reformation Study Bible by Dr. R.C. Sproul:

Terah, the father of the principal figure, Abraham, gives his name to the family history, since the family involved in this story descends from him. After this introduction he is not mentioned again, probably because he did not share Abraham’s faith. The family may have been involved in moon worship, since Ur and Haran were important centers for worship of the Mesopotamian moon gods Nanna and Sin.

Today’s quote about the Bible is from Martin Luther. He said: “I am much afraid that schools will prove to be the great gates of hell unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures, engraving them in the hearts of youth. I advise no one to place his child where the scriptures do not reign paramount.”

Our topic for today is titled “The Toledot of Terah” from the book, “The Promise and the Blessing” by Dr. Michael A. Harbin.

In Genesis 111, the writer has quickly whisked through centuries, if not millennia, of history. Unexpectedly, at the end of chapter 11, he slows down and begins to focus on one person: Abram (later called Abraham). In addition, he devotes more space to that person than he has given to the entire history of the cosmos to this point. From a literary perspective, these are signals that Abraham is very important. When we recall that he was to be the founding ancestor of the special nation formed at Mount Sinai, his importance becomes clear. We will soon learn, however, that he is important for other reasons as well—reasons that carry over into the New Testament.

Given the importance of Abraham and the structure of Genesis, it is very surprising that we do not find a toledot section dedicated to him. Instead, we read about the toledot of Terah, his father. Terah lived in Ur of the Chaldeans. He had three sons—Abram, Nahor, and Haran—the last of whom died in Ur. Terah left Ur with Abram and his wife, Sarai, and Haran’s son, Lot, and headed for the land of Canaan. He died on the way.

Why is this extensive section the toledot of Terah rather than of Abram? I suspect the answer is given somewhat subtly. The writer tells us that Terah left Ur to go to the land of Canaan but did not get there; rather, he stopped and settled in Haran, where he died. God then told Abram to leave Haran and go on to Canaan. The text states that when he and Sarai arrived there, Canaanites were living in the land (note the words “At that time” in Gen. 12:6). At this point, God told Abram that Canaan would be given to his descendants, which seems inconsistent, since the original call was for Abram and company to go to the land. The answer to this puzzle does not show up until Genesis 15:1316, when Abram is told that his descendants would not occupy Canaan for a long period because “the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”

These somewhat cryptic comments are supplemented by an interesting sequence through these chapters. In Genesis 12, as we saw, the Canaanites are said to be in the land. In Genesis 13:7, it is the Canaanites and the Perizzites. By the time we get to chapter 15, the list has expanded to “Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.” All these different tribes were probably somewhat related. Late in the third millennium BCE (around the year 2000), the land of Canaan was apparently uninhabited for a period, perhaps because of a drought. Near the end of that time, there is evidence of unrest and of people movements, sometimes called the Amorite invasions.

Our suggestion, then, is that Terah and Abram were called to a specific place at a specific time—a time when they would be able to move into an empty land. Terah’s delay in Haran put them outside the window of opportunity as others settled the territory. So when Abram moved in, the land was partially occupied by others, and God honored that occupancy—for a while.

One reason God allowed these intruders to stay is that some of them were worshipers of Him (such as Melchizedek, who was a Jebusite). More than this, because Terah demonstrated disbelief and disobedience by settling in Haran, he forfeited his part of the upcoming covenant. Thus, although the section is described as the toledot of Terah, the subsequent covenant is with Abraham.