Monday, January 30, 2017
Daily reading assignment: Genesis 16-19
Today’s Bible reading brings us not only to a crisis of faith in the lives of Abraham and Sarah, but also to a crossroads for humanity as we realize the failure of one man’s faith in God’s promises bears consequences that shadow the world in our day…twenty-three centuries after Abraham’s sojourn on this earth.
God chose Abraham, promising to bless him, make of his seed a “great nation”, and make him a blessing to “all families of the earth” (Genesis 12:2-3). Already “seventy and five years old” (12:4) and his wife Sarah beyond the childbearing years, Abraham believed God would fulfill His promises and Sarah would bear a son.
Years passed and Abraham’s longing for a son went unfulfilled. Abraham complained, “I go childless…to me thou hast given no seed” (15:2-3). God patiently assured him his posterity would be in number as the stars of heaven (15:5).
Genesis 16 introduces a crisis of faith for Abraham when we read, “Now Sarai Abram’s wife bare him no children” (16:1). 85 years old (16:16) and his wife 75 years old, Abraham’s faith waned and the complaints (the word “voice” in Genesis 16:2 indicates a constant complaining, like the bleating of sheep) and barrenness of his wife Sarah moved the man to make a faithless decision. Contrary to God’s will, Abraham turned his back on God’s promises and yielded to Sarah’s proposal that he have a son by her Egyptian servant Hagar (16:1-3).
Hagar conceived Ishmael (16:4); however, instead of joy, the conception and birth of Ishmael brought division and sorrow into Abraham’s home (16:4-10). Ishmael, the son of Abraham born of Hagar, is the father of the Arabic people who are the followers of Mohammad and Islam.
The character of Ishmael and his lineage is described as “a wild man [lit. “wild donkey”]; his hand will be against every man [i.e. a man of hostility], and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren” (Genesis 16:12). The perpetual turmoil afflicted on Israel and the world by Ishmael’s lineage has fulfilled this prophecy.
God renewed His covenant with Abraham in Genesis 17 and ten years later when Abraham was nearly 100 years old, God announced the impossible: His 90 year old Sarah “shall be a mother of nations” (17:15-17). Betraying his lack of faith, Abraham laughed, saying in his heart, “Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?” (17:17)
Willing to content himself with less than God’s promise and best, Abraham suggested Ishmael would be his heir (17:18); however, God refused Ishmael. Comforting Abraham with the promise the son of Hagar would be father to a “great nation” (17:20), God renewed His covenant that Sarah would bear Abraham a son and his name would be Isaac (17:19).
Genesis 18 contains the fateful message from the LORD that the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah would be judged and destroyed for their wickedness (18:20-22). Knowing his nephew and Lot’s sons and daughters lived in Sodom; Abraham made intercession to the LORD that Sodom be spared if ten righteous people could be found living in the city (18:23-33).
In Genesis 19, two angels appeared in the physical form of men and, entering Sodom, found Lot sitting “in the gate” (the place where city leaders transacted business and made judgments in disputes). Somehow realizing the visitors were not like the wicked of Sodom, Lot urged the men to find refuge in his home (19:2-3).
The wickedness and depravity of Sodom was on display that night when the homosexuals of the city encircled Lot’s home and demanded he turn his visitors out into the street to be assaulted (19:4-6). Lot pleaded with the sodomites, describing their lusts as wicked (19:7), he offered his daughters to satisfy their lusts (19:8-9). Finally, the angels saved Lot when they struck the sodomites with blindness (19:10-11).
Showing God’s grace, the angels urged Lot to flee the city with his family, warning him the LORD would destroy the city for its wickedness (19:12-13). Sadly, Lot’s married sons and daughters refused his plea to flee God’s judgment (19:14). Being warned to not look back, Lot, his wife, and two daughters were led out of the city (19:15-23). Adding sorrow to sorrow, Lot’s wife looked back and “became a pillar of salt” as God rained fire and brimstone upon Sodom and Gomorrah (19:24-29).
I close with a final observation: One would hope Lot’s straying from the LORD would end with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; however, he became drunk with wine and his daughters committed incest with him (19:30-36). The eldest daughter conceived a son she named Moab, the father of the Moabites (19:37). The youngest daughter conceived a son she named Ammon, the father of the Ammonites. Both nations, the Moabites and Ammonites, would become a curse and perpetual trouble for the nation of Israel.
Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith