Posts Tagged With: sin

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

Abram and Lot

So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, with his wife and everything he had, and Lot went with him.  Genesis 13:1

So Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers.  Is not the whole land before you?  Let’s part company.  If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.”     Genesis 13:8-9

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Abram had been discovered as a liar in Egypt, in regards to his true relationship with Sarai.  After Pharoah became aware that the two were married, rather than siblings, he forced them out.  Abram took Sarai, his belongings, and Lot with him.  Abram had become very wealthy during his time in Egypt.  (Thanks to Sarai)  We are told that Lot had gained many riches as well.  With both men having had livestock that needed a fair amount of land, problems ensued.  After a time, disputes arose between the two men’s herdsmen.

Abraham saw the potential for bad blood with his nephew, so he suggested that they part ways.  He figured there was enough land to satisfy them both, and gave Lot first choice.  In whichever direction Lot chose to travel, Abram would go the opposite.  Lot set out toward the east and the plains near the Jordan, which were well watered.  His tent was pitched near Sodom.  Abram lived in the land of Canaan.

The Lord then told Abram to look around him – North, South, East, and West.  He promised that the land, as far as Abram could see, would be given to him and his offspring.  Further, Abram was promised that his offspring would be like the dust of the Earth, or too many to count.  Abram’s tent was moved to Hebron, where he set up an altar to God in thanks.

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This is the story of two men who develop conflict.  This is the first description, in the scriptures, of how such conflict (man versus man) is to be handled.

Respectfully nip conflicts in the bud…Abram saw conflict approaching.  Though it had not yet arrived, he sought to end it before it began.  He went to Lot and, respectfully, expressed his concerns.  He then stated that perhaps it would be best if they parted company.  In that way, each of them would have what they required and the relationship would remain intact.  (How many men, Christian or otherwise, would do that today?  I suspect very few.)

Walk by faith, not by sight…Lot chose the east, the land of the plains of Jordan.  He chose the area because of the water and proximity to Sodom.  It mattered not that he left his uncle the land that was dry.  It mattered not that Sodom was well-known for its wickedness.  He sought to increase his wealth, and his selection would have given him such an opportunity.  Lot was not described as a wicked man, himself.  We do get the impression that he was willing to abide with and suffer others sinful deeds if he would profit.  Abram showed no discontent with being left the drier land.  He did not heckle or bargain.  He accepted Lot’s choice, as he said he would.  He had to have known that he, too, could gain more wealth in the land Lot had chosen.  Yet, he had faith that God would see to the needs of he and his family. (If you are anything like me, you know many more Lots than you do Abrams.  Good men  put up with all manner of evil in search of the almighty dollar.)

Have confidence in God’s promises…After Lot had left, God promised that all the land surrounding Abram would belong to him and his offspring.  Abram and Sarai were an older couple, with no children.  It would have been easy to laugh at the idea that he would have innumerable offspring, especially at his age.  But, what did he do?  He believed.  He had every confidence that God would keep every promise made.  He established his altar, and gave thanks.  He expressed joy and gratitude for things that had yet to happen.  (And are there any men who would have this type of faith?  Let me know when you stop laughing.)

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Finally, keep in mind that today is the day of Pentecost.  In the Old Testament, Jews knew this as the Feast of Weeks.  (A sacred day when no work is to be done.  It is a day to express gratitude for the abundant wheat harvest.)  Christians know this to be the day the Holy Spirit filled the bodies of over one hundred men and women after Christ’s death.  The Holy Spirit gave them knowledge and confidence to spread the Good News of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.  In essence, it was the beginning of the church.  The goal of the church was, and is, to add to the dust, or offspring, promised to Abram.

Being referred to as a child of Abraham (Abram) is a compliment to most Christians.  Abram is the father of the Hebrews who would be given land that we now know as Israel.  This man originally came from a town that worshipped pagan idols.  What reason did he have to leave his father’s house and religion?  What reason did he have to leave all that he knew?  There was none but faith.  He was not perfect, by any means. (See previous blog)  He made mistakes, but he believed.  He accepted the spirit of God, as disciples would years later, and followed where it led.

Isn’t that what we are supposed to do?  Aren’t we supposed to take the “word of God written on our hearts” and do something with it?  How often do Christians follow the Spirit’s lead?  How much more frequently do they expect the Spirit to follow theirs?

Too many times, we seek fault in others because we enjoy conflict.  We are selfish and greedy.  As long as there is something in it for us, we accept hatred and wickedness.  We are self-righteous and expect to have our way.  When that doesn’t happen, we feel persecuted.

Is that where the Spirit leads you?  Because the spirit inside me leads me to come up with compromises that benefit everyone, avoiding conflict wherever possible.  It leads me away from greed.  It gives me the courage to stand up to those who would place profit over people.  It strengthens my faith to know I am not who I was.  I am confident that I can encourage and support others, because I feel encouraged and supported.

The spirit inside me, the spirit of love, demands to be given away.  I obey and give it to as many as I can.  Because it was given to me.

Categories: Crucifixion and Resurrection, faith and religion, old testament, personal, the Bible, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wait, go back…Nephilim?

The Nephilim were on the earth in those days – and also afterward – when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them.  They were the heroes of old, men of renown.     Genesis 6:4

nephilim2

I always found this passage a bit puzzling.  It’s location and total lack of context brings many questions to mind.  The Nephilim were the offspring of the sons of God and the daughters of men.  (They would later be known as the giants who inhabited Canaan.)  Does the phrase “sons of God” refer to the angels?  Were the Nephilim inherently evil, thus becoming part of the reason for God’s drastic decision to flood the world?

Ancient Jews understood “sons of God” to mean angelic beings.  This view would be corroborated in 1 Peter 3:20 and 2 Peter 2:4-5.  If the Jewish interpretation is to be trusted –  that they are angelic beings –  we run into another dilemma.  Looking forward in the text…We learn that Jesus, in Matthew 22:30, said that angels did not marry.  That would mean that we could infer that producing children wasn’t on the to-do list.  Procreation, outside of a marital union, was extremely taboo.

We do, however, learn that angels did not always do as they were told.  And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—Jude 6.  It is important to note, though, that the author of Jude used pseudepigraphical literature as reference material.  Pseudepigrapha are books claiming (falsely) to be written by some ancient hero of the faith, such as Moses or Abraham.  Yet another conundrum is the fact that these demigods, as lawless and wicked as their behavior was, were known as heroes.  But to whom?  I can only assume they would be considered heroic to those who perished in the flood.

I, personally, believe this mention of the Nephilim was to teach that even heavenly beings sin.  Not only that, they will face punishment.  Considering the fact that we are still in the section of the Bible known as The Law, this is not terribly surprising.  This is the period, in the faith, where works is focused on more than faith.  It is also my opinion that those telling this story would need a truly wicked sin to recount, in order to explain and/or justify the near total extinction of the human race.  What is more wicked than wayward angels cavorting with humans and creating progeny that brings nothing but sin and evil?

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I would also like to add that genealogy, found in Genesis, should probably be taken with a grain of salt.  The book has Shem outliving Abraham!  And, let us not forget that female offspring barely receive an honorable mention.  Again, I will reiterate that these accounts had been handed down generation after generation.  Another thing worthy of remembering is that the lineage we are given only tells us how various groups/nations relate to Israel.

No novice to gossip, I am equally pretty sure a little bit of that 2nd grade gossip thing was happening, too.  You know, little Sarah says “I gotta pee.”   By the time we get to the sixth kid, it’s “Sarah peed on herself and wants you to tell the teacher!”  And, well, let’s be perfectly honest.  How many of us could regurgitate our entire history orally, and get it all right??  Not too many, I would assume.  I am certainly no threat to ancestry.com.

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Lastly, I would like to point out another detail that stuck out to me.  The ages of the characters prior to death will begin to drop, dramatically, after the death of Shem.  Shem, the middle son of Noah, lived to be 500 years old.  I am convinced that ages were fudged, to begin with.  However, I feel that this marked decrease in lifespans is due to change in climate and landscape post flooding.  Naturally, after a major catastrophic event, you might see lack of food and other environmental changes that could lead to human beings living shorter lives.

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Next up:  Abram (Abraham), the first faithful

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