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God is Setting All Things Right. So I am Blogging Through the Bible in a Year.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

January 17 - Genesis 16-18: Abraham Proves His Righteousness

Today’s Reading: Genesis 16-18

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Abraham is a completely fair and loving man. He defends all people.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

Sarai presents Hagar to Abram, now 80, to have children. Soon after, Sarai threw Hagar out. God told Hagar to return. Ishmael (her son) would be always be a fighter.
Abram, Ishmael, and all of Abram’s males were circumcised to confirm the everlasting covenant with God. Abram’s name became "Father-of-Many-Nations" (Abraham).
God visited Abraham and Sarai (now Sarah). Sarah laughed at having a son at her old age; therefore, their son’s name would be "Laughter" (Isaac).
Abraham pleaded with God to save the righteous in Sodom and Gomorrah. God agreed to spare the whole city for only 10 righteous people.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

Giving Hagar to Abram was Sarai’s way to take control of God’s promise. She resented her decision and things turned bad.

Sarai was not a fickle woman who changed her mind because she didn’t like Hagar anymore. For Sarai, a woman’s worth is tied to her ability to bear children for the man. This was too much for her to stand. So she created strife between them.
This happened because she was unwilling to allow God to control the timing of his promises. As the theme constantly echoes in Genesis, when humans take control over God, bad things happen. It is likely the enmity between these two women led to Ishmael’s want to fight and eventual strife between Arabs (who are the descendents of Ishmael) and Jews (the descendents of Isaac).

God councils Hagar to return to Sarai and "put up with her abuse" (16:9, The Message).

This is striking, especially to an American. Why would God allow Hagar to be under this type of abuse? Because God would bless Hagar through Sarai’s abuse. God would not leave her alone to suffer but would make her, too, a great nation through Ishmael. Hagar points to the second theme of Genesis, God will use these bad actions and situations to make something good.

Abram’s circumcision was to seal the covenant between a righteous Abraham and his God forever through all generations.

Abraham’s circumcision would be "a permanent marker of my permanent covenant" (17:13, The Message). Abraham was declared "Set-Right-with-God" when he believed God (15:6, see yesterday’s comments). All descendents of Abraham would be circumcised to show their link with Abraham and God’s covenant. Even Christians are circumcised—through baptism—to share in Abraham’s covenant with God (Romans 4). This ritual not only links Christians to Jews but also to Muslims who, being descendents of Abraham, practice circumcision in honor of Abraham’s covenant with God.
However, this circumcision is only the physical sign of a heart that is circumcised. Physical circumcision did not guarantee obedience to God. Only a circumcised heart allowing God to lead can take part in the promises of God.

Abraham prays for his son Ishmael and God blesses him.

Even though Abraham knew Isaac would be the son God promised him and would carry on the covenant of God, Abraham continues to pray for his son from a maid-wife, Ishmael. Abraham is truly a godly man.

Abraham’s negotiations with God over Sodom and Gomorrah show both God’s and Abraham’s characters.

Abraham cares deeply for the city and does not want God to destroy the good with the bad, which would be out of character for the God Abraham served. However, he is also realistic about the people there and their (in)ability to obey God. So he bargains with God to save the city. Personally, I do not see God as changing his mind but allowing Abraham an opportunity to prove his love for others. Abraham didn’t need Sodom or Gomorrah. God promised that Abraham would become a great nation with no link to Sodom and Gomorrah. But he still pleaded with God not to destroy the city.
Since comparing the USA to Sodom and Gomorrah happens regularly, especially following a disaster, we need to see God’s character here as well. God is not willing to give up Sodom and Gomorrah as long as there were 10 people obeying him. Would God destroy the USA (or any area/city in the USA) and kill the righteous with the unrighteous? No! So let’s ignore all warnings that God’s wrath in the form of storms or wars is coming upon the USA because of its unrighteousness.

Again, what a jam-packed passage! Hopefully you were able to get through my comments without being overwhelmed. It’s hard to boil this down to one or two thoughts. As we move beyond Genesis, the comments will get shorter and I’ll have less to write about each passage.

As always, What did you see reading this passage? Questions? Comments? Leave a comment in the section below or on the Sonoma Mountain Parkway Church of Christ Facebook page.

If you missed a reading or want to go to a specific date, type the link as follows: http://grahambates.blogspot.com/2013/mm/dd.html That will take you to the reading for that day. Enjoy!