The Bible In Our World (Part 5)

The Destruction Of Sodom And Gomorrah, a paint...

The Destruction Of Sodom And Gomorrah, a painting by John Martin (painter), died 1854, thus 100 years. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Abraham and Sarah

By Don Ruhl

Why do people tell stories about their ancestors? It keeps alive the struggles and successes of their journey through time. It preserves languages and customs. It highlights characteristics peculiar to that family. It gives the younger generation a sense of belonging.

The Book of Genesis tells the story of Abraham’s family. They experienced many struggles and difficulties. While the Bible highlights these people, the Bible also shows their relationship problems and their sins, showing that they had similar life experiences as we do.

The end of Genesis 11 mentions Abram as well as other Bible characters. Not until we read Genesis 12, do we discover that God did special things with this man,

Now the LORD had said to Abram:
“Get out of your country,
From your family
And from your father’s house,
To a land that I will show you.
I will make you a great nation;
I will bless you
And make your name great;
And you shall be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
(Gen 12.1–3).

The significance of God’s command and promise to Abram must be remembered to understand the Bible message. Get this point: The rest of the Bible develops this promise. Look at Abram’s response to God’s command, “So Abram departed as the LORD had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran” (Gen 12.4). The simplicity of this passage also cannot be missed, because the Bible highlights Abraham’s unquestioning faith. He did not argue. He did not question. He did not doubt. God commanded. Abraham obeyed. It was just that simple. With the same simplicity, the Bible shows God promising and keeping His promises, regardless of the seemingly insurmountable obstacles on the way.

Emphasis on God’s Promises 

The narration of Abraham’s life emphasizes God’s promises. It is because of God’s promises that Abraham is in the Bible, because as I pointed out before, the rest of the Bible shows the development of those promises. Then to show Abraham that God intended to keep His promises, He made a covenant with Abraham. What is a covenant? It is a binding agreement between two parties. “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless. And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly’” (Gen 17.1, 2).

After hearing those words, Abram fell on his face, and God continued to speak to the patriarch, explaining that he would no longer be Abram, but Abraham. What does Abram mean? It means exalted father. What does Abraham mean? It means father of a multitude. The reason for the name change was explained, “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you” (Gen 17.4–7).

Abraham and Sodom and Gomorrah 

The special relationship that Abraham enjoyed with God showed up when God decided to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, but before doing so, God revealed His intentions to Abraham. “And the LORD said, ‘Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing…’And the LORD said, ‘Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave, I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know’” (Gen 18.17, 20, 21).

Knowing that his nephew lived in the area, if not in one of the cities, Abraham pleaded with God not to destroy the cities, if a certain number of righteous people lived there. Abraham started with the number fifty and got the Lord down to ten, “Then he said, ‘Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak but once more: Suppose ten should be found there?’ And He said, ‘I will not destroy it for the sake of ten’” (Gen 18.32).

God listened to a man! Is that not why we pray? However, after the attempted homosexual gang-rape of two angels, appearing as men, the Lord was finished with the cities and removed the only righteous people within them (four of them), “Then the LORD rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the LORD out of the heavens. So He overthrew those cities, all the plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. But his wife looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt” (Gen 19.24–26).

From the episode of Sodom and Gomorrah, we have used images in modern language. “Sodomy” we use to refer to homosexuality. “Fire and brimstone” we use to speak of one’s wrath.

God’s Tested Abraham 

Genesis 22 shows another remarkable episode in the life of Abraham. “Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, ‘Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then He said, ‘Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you’” (Gen 22.1, 2).

God stopped Abraham just in time, because he showed his willingness to do whatever God commanded. God may ask hard things of us, but He stays with us the entire time, and blesses us richly when He sees our obedience.


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