Saturday, 8 January 2011

Seeds of Salvation and the Fruits of Faith

Finally, in Genesis 21, the offspring of promise is born. The embarrassed laughter that was gently encouraged by the LORD in Genesis 18 flourishes. At first glance, it seems harsh of Sarah to send Hagar away, but God agrees with her and tells Abraham to do whatever she says. God looks out for Ishmael, so he must have been godly, but he was not in the seed-line and therefore (whilst he probably received gifts he) had no inheritance from the household.

Abimelech is a title for the kings of the Philistines (like the title Pharaoh or Caesar). The fact that this king and the commander of his army make an covenant with Abraham shows just how powerful and prosperous Abraham was and had become.

Genesis 22 is heavily pregnant with prophecy about Christ's crucifixion and resurrection and it is the crowning act of faith that Abraham, the friend of God, would perform. We must be careful not to psychologise this chapter with our ignorant, modern presuppositions, that Abraham didn't really know what he was doing. This episode doesn't "test" Abraham's faith as we understand it, rather it demonstrates and vindicates the great and glorious nature of his faith. We must interpret it as the New Testament does and realise that Abraham knew exactly what he was doing. He couldn't get up that mountain fast enough and offer his son because he knew he would be resurrected and it was all part of the great salvation plan of God to bless the nations! (I wish I had faith like him! And we must resist the temptation to view him through the lens of our own weakness/desire for self-preservation!)

Isaac is big enough - at least an adolescent - and well able to fight back if he wants to, but he has been well taught by his father from a young age that death and resurrection of the offspring of promise is the way to salvation and so willingly participates in this passion. Consider the following:

  • It takes place on a mountain on the third day (resurrection day).
  • The sacrifice only involves the father and the son - no one else.
  • The fire and the knife are taken (by the Spirit and according to the scriptures)
  • The Son carries the wood that will burn him up the mountain on his own back
For such great obedience, God further confirms and intensifies the promises he has already given to Abraham.

Genesis 23 is a sad chapter, the mother of the covenant is dead. Abraham must honour her and give her a worthy burial, but he has been wandering in wildernesses all his life, so has nowhere to inter her in the ground, ready to be raised with Christ, like a beautiful new flower. So he goes to the men of the land to buy a field so that he can plant this dear seed of a woman who has been his faithful and faith-filled companion for so many years.

In transactional terms, what follows is a bit like Bill Gates selling an bunch of grapes to Mr Nestle for £100 – yes it’s overpriced, but they’re too rich to care. Abraham’s reluctance to receive the field as a gift is not a matter of business etiquette, but of covenant. He will not yolk himself to those who are not of faith. God promised to give the land to Abraham, and Abraham is determined only to receive it from him, so he is covenant-bound to refuse Ephron’s kind free offer (and all the back scratching expectations that would come with it) and must buy it with the money with which God has blessed him.

A new mother (vice-president of the covenant) must now be found. Isaac must continue the seed line.
That Psalm 8 speaks of Christ is clear by the use of the term ‘son of man’ (v4) and how he has been given authority over all things. It's about us in as much as we are made in his image - so there are parallels. But the order is always Christ first, believers second, unless there is overwhelming evidence to suggest otherwise, (e.g. Ps 51).
What Abraham joyfully announces in prophetic obedience and faith, Jesus announces as a reality. The Kingdom (grace and truth) from God is here - Jesus is here. The power and authority invested in this kingdom are so potent that even the shadows of those who are ambassadors of it carry kingdom authority!

But there is a cut and thrust to this gracious glory, for whilst a faithful man bought a field in hope of the resurrection, another (faithless) man sold a field for worldly gain and dressed it up as righteousness. This man ultimately sowed his own death, but the first man reaped eternal life.

So take care how you sow.

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