Angels

Especially from Christians

abram

Chapter 18 opens with Abraham being visited by three men, whom he greeted joyfully, as was customary.  While he may have seemed to overdo it a little, hospitality was among the most highly valued virtues of his time.  After his visitors had been served the very best he had to offer them, they inquired about the whereabouts of Sarah.  Abraham told them that his wife was inside the tent.  Sarah was, indeed, inside – just inside – eavesdropping.  Abraham is told that he and Sarah would have a child of their own within a year.  Upon hearing this, Sarah laughed.  Being aware of her bitterness, the men asked why she laughed.  She denied that she had done so.  The visitors knew she was lying and told her so.

The next section tells the story of Abraham pleading for the redemption of Sodom.  The city was overrun with wickedness and there were people pleading with God to do something.  Abraham became aware that God planned to observe the city and decide if it was doomed.  The patriarch became quite agitated and began a bargaining session, of sorts, with the Lord.  It bothered Abraham greatly that God would punish those who had done no wrong.  And he told Him so.  He negotiated with God on just how many righteous lives it would take to save the city from destruction.  By the end of the negotiations, Abraham had gotten the Lord’s word that Sodom would be saved if only ten good people resided there.

 

Far be it from you to do such a thing – to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and wicked alike.  Far be it from you!  Will not the judge of all the Earth do right?     Genesis 18:25

The first thing in this chapter that grabs me is how hospitable Abraham is towards his visitors.  This behavior, once extremely important, is almost nonexistent.  We no longer eagerly welcome strangers into our homes.  This is understandable, right?  To be perfectly honest, our world is a dangerous place.  Opening the door to a stranger might well be the last thing one does.  But what of a meal?  A smile?  A kind word?  Helping someone who is down, even in the form of encouragement, is a rarity.  Especially from Christians.

The next thing to catch my attention is Sarah.  Her behavior grew increasingly more resentful.  She was living a life of unhappiness.  Remember that Sarah desperately wanted a child of her own.  However, she could not conceive.  So she pleaded with her husband to give her a child to love through Hagar, her servant.  Once he had done so, she learned that one must be careful what she asks for.  So one would think that the news of a child would make her happy.  One would be wrong.  Sarah is very resentful that she didn’t get this news when she wanted it.  Then on top of eavesdropping and mockery, she lies when confronted with her reaction.  Now this is something we see a lot of today.  In our society, it is normal to want what you don’t have.  It is normal to beg, borrow, and steal until you get it…only it doesn’t make you happy.  Yeah, there are many Sarahs in our society.  And bitterness, resentment, and lies are far too common.  Especially from Christians.

Finally – and most importantly, in my opinion – is Abraham’s willingness to bargain with God over the lives of people he doesn’t even know.  Abraham’s disquiet over the suffering of innocent people is touching.  It demonstrates that Abraham doesn’t recognize a God who is unfair, a God who sees no difference between good and evil.  Abraham took his concerns directly to his Lord, openly and honestly.  It didn’t matter that he was powerless and it didn’t matter that it had no imminent impact on his life.    He could have been self-righteous and agreed that the city be destroyed.  He could have been indifferent and have no concern whatsoever.  He could have been a good “follower” and not question what he didn’t understand.  But…he didn’t.  He was determined to save as many lives as possible.  He was confident enough to ask questions of a God he didn’t understand, at that moment.  He was his brother’s keeper.  That type of thing doesn’t happen nearly enough.  Especially from Christians.

For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it (Sodom)    Genesis 18:32

This is the God that I know.  My faith encourages me to be kind and patient.  It encourages me to offer food to the hungry and kind words to the depressed.  My faith does not let me wallow in bitterness and resentment, or strike out at others in anger.  It certainly does not allow me to turn my back on my brothers in need or neglect to ask God to help them in whatever capacity they need most.  Because of the relationship I have with God, I expect certain things.

Especially from Christians, I expect hospitality towards all people.

Especially from Christians, I expect less anger and bitterness.

Especially from Christians, I expect more keeping of brothers.

Especially from Christians, I expect to see hints of … Christ.

 

 

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Categories: analysis, Angels, faith and religion, old testament, personal, the Bible | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Be careful what you ask for, …

Do not be afraid, Abram.  I am your shield, your very great reward.   – Genesis 15:1

 

After Lot was rescued by Abram, the Lord re-affirmed His promise to make a great nation of Abram.  Abram reminded the Lord that he was childless so his heir would not be of his own household.  He was corrected by God, who said that Abram’s heir would be of his own body.  Abram believed what he heard, but questioned how he might gain possession of it.

After being commanded to bring God several animals, which Abram did, he fell into a deep sleep.  During this sleep, he was told by God that his descendents would live in a country not their own as slaves.  They would be mistreated for 400 years, at which point God would punish the nation holding them.  They would emerge from enslavement with great possessions.  Abram was also told that he would die at an old age and be buried with his fathers.

 

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children.  But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar, so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children.  Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.”   – Genesis 16:1-2

 

Sarai, who was barren, was desperate to have a child.  She decided to use her maidservant as a surrogate, and asked Abram to impregnate her.  Abram agreed to the request.  After he made Hagar his wife, he slept with her.  She conceived.

Be careful what you ask for, …

Hagar began to despise Sarai after finding out she was pregnant.  Sarai blamed Abram for turning Hagar against her.  Abram told Sarai to handle Hagar as she saw fit.  Sarai saw fit to mistreat her, which caused Hagar to run away.  An angel found Hagar and asked where she was going.  She informed the angel that she was running from her mistress.  She was told to return and submit to Sarai.  She is also promised descendents too numerous to count.

Of this child, the angel of the Lord told her:  “You are now with child and you will have a son.  You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard your misery.  He will be a donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.”

Hagar returned and bore Abram’s son, Ishmael.

More questions than answers.

Why did Abram have to fall into a deep sleep to continue a conversation he was having with God?  We are told that four generations will suffer under slavery, but not why.  We know that, in those times, children suffered due to sins of the father.  However, Abram had not done anything to be punished for.  In fact, it appears quite the opposite.  He was so favored that he would be the father of generations of God’s people.

But first, …he had to  have an heir.

It is not hard to see why Abram might give in to his wife’s demands.  He had been promised a son of his own body.  This would be his heir, right?  Perhaps, he saw this as the fulfillment of God’s promise.  He ended up with an angry Sarai, a bitter Hagar, and a doomed son.  All because Sarai got what she asked for. 

Sarai couldn’t see anything beyond her own yearning for a child.  And once her request was granted, she blamed everyone else for her unhappiness.  She lit into Abram and mistreated Hagar.  She was hated.  She was miserable.  All because she got what she asked for.

Poor Hagar.  I completely empathize with this poor woman.  She does what is asked of her and is mistreated for it.  To top it all off, she is commanded by God to just put up with it.  Her child is doomed to a harsh and miserable existence.   All because Sarai got what she asked for.

The plot is sometimes…missing.

As I stated before, I have more questions than answers.  We don’t know why Hagar grew to despise her mistress.  This is an important detail, don’t you think?  Was there jealousy at being second choice?  Was Hagar forced or intimidated into doing Sarai’s bidding, making her resentful?

The various authors of the Bible are notorious for leaving out pertinent information.  Their narrative abilities were sorely lacking.  The information they saw fit to share doesn’t always tell us what we would like to know.  In fact, I am fairly confident that the author didn’t intend to make me feel what I felt.  What I learned of Abram confused me.  Sarai angered me.  And, my heart went out to Hagar.  There was definitely nothing, in this sad threesome’s story, to make me proud.

I know many Abrams.  These people are so concerned with the future that they don’t consider the ramifications their actions have on the present.  I know plenty of Sarais.  These people are so obsessed with getting what they desire that they don’t consider how anyone else may feel.  And, unfortunately, I know far too many Hagars.  These people are simply tools used for someone else to get what they want.

The Bible may be confusing and lacking in detail, but there is always a moral.

The moral of this one:  Be careful what you ask for, because you just may get it!

Categories: analysis, Angels, faith and religion, old testament, personal, the Bible | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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