There is one terrifying human experience we all share: bereavement. And whenever that pain is fuelled by regret, it can become, humanly speaking, unbearable. I spent some time reflecting upon a relatively short passage in the Genesis account, because these experiences are timeless and transcend culture.
It was worth the wait. It’s taken 30+ podcasts to reach this point but yes, it was worth it. This podcast tells of a father who is prepared to sacrifice his son on a hill overlooking a city we’ll come to know as Jerusalem, and of a son who entrusts his life to his father. And it all took place a thousand years before Christ went to the cross on this very spot. If it was a Hollywood script it would be written off as corny. And yet it is history. His story: As the Father gives us a glimpse of what Christ’s death would cost both of them. Every time I read the story, faith rises in my heart. It is the glory of scripture. May faith rise in your heart too. www.biblenovels.com
It’s worth saying at the outset of this podcast, that I did my research and consulted some Biblical experts, before daring even to intimate that Abraham and Sarah were in any way estranged. But it seems that for a season at least that possibly was the case. Later the fact Abraham wasn’t present when Sarah died and had to travel some distance to attend to her funeral suggests this estrangement could even have been permanent. It shouldn’t surprise us given these are very human characters and the pressures they were under were so immense. But all the same it is on the one hand sad and shocking. On the other hand there is an encouragement here, because whether estranged or not, this wasn’t the end of the story for either of them. God didn’t give up on them, nor were their journeys of faith over. In fact Abraham’s greatest faith triumph was still to come. Be encouraged!
Anyone who has had a family celebration go bad, will relate to this podcast. What should have been a celebration turned into a nightmare. In fact it was so bad, we’re still talking about it, 4000 years later! Now that’s what I call a bad party! Family dysfunction does that. Unless dealt with, it lies dormant beneath the surface ready to erupt without a moment’s notice. Class, culture, and sadly often even faith doesn’t mitigate the pain and damage done; though of course in the case of faith it could and it should. It’s worth reflecting as you listen what could have been done to prevent the blow up, and then ask what do you need to do to prevent your potential blow up!
One story, three players. It is fascinating to reflect upon what was going through the minds of each, as the scene unfolds in this part of the story. We’re all on journey of faith. All of us, from the apparently secular or pagan, to the evidently Godly. It is true we can remain unmoved by God by what we experience in life, and sadly often do. Worse still it is possible to regress, and slip and slide backwards. But then even the greatest challenges can provoke, inspire and move us, regardless of who we are and where we’re at. In deed the greater the challenge, the greater the opportunity to move ahead in our understanding of God. In my reflection of this part of the story: Abraham struggles, Sarah blossoms and Abimelech, the pagan king, surprises us all. Each day, every experience is an opportunity for you and me to move on. Let’s take this opportunity.
Well done for sticking with this story! it doesn’t make easy listening! But then we don’t live in the small small world of Disney. We live in a hugely complex world in which we need to make decisions with significant consequences not only for ourselves but those we love. And to make matters worse we only get one shot at life. Blow this one and there is no rewind button. What we do have though is a Father in heaven to whom we can turn for guidance through those decisions and help to navigate the messes when we get them wrong. The Bible and stories like that of Abraham reveal something of His heart and mind and teach us how best to respond in our culture and context
On the face of it this isn’t the most uplifting of episodes. Desperation and doubt, failure and fear: all lead to a series of poor and at times quite hideous decisions. We’ve just seen how absolute God’s judgment is. And yet here, as everyone tries to get on with life in the aftermath of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, we see how low life can get without Him. Ordinarily both God’s presence and His absence is a fearful thing, albeit for very different reasons. But in Christ, we can know Him in all holiness and beauty, both intimately and safely. And then life has a purity and purpose again. There is one character in this episode who foretells something of the promises of life in all its fulness that we find in Jesus; it’s joys and hopes despite our circumstances. For Sarah her dreams are about to come true, albeit in the context of being badly let down by her husband again!
Day One – Genesis 11 v 27-30
27This is the account of Terah. Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran. And Haran became the father of Lot. 28While his father, Terah, was still alive, Haran died in Ur of the Chaldeans, in the land of his birth. 29Abram and Nahor were both married. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife was Milcah; she was the daughter of Haran, the father of both Milcah and Iscah. 30Now Sarai was barren; she had no children. 31Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Haran, they settled there.
From the very outset of Abraham’s story the Bible makes it very clear that his was just an ordinary family like any other, regardless of time or culture. They enjoyed the celebrations of births and marriages, and suffered the pains of death and barrenness. This is therefore to be a fascinating and hugely relevant tale of how God can impact a real-life family. The only way this story can be irrelevant to you and your family, is if you choose to let it be so, by not letting it impact your life. As long as faith remains theoretical, and we don’t give our Father access to the realities of the joys and pains of our lives, then the Bible will not impact us. So make a decision now, not just to open your Bible, but to open your life too.
Reflections and Prayer
What are your joys and your pains? What hurts and disappointments do you carry? Have you laid these before your Father and given Him permission to speak into them? Why not do so now?
- Abram is named first in the list of sons, but probably wasn’t the eldest. The Bible probably just focuses on him as the key character in the story.
- Abram married his half sister, and Nahor married his brother’s daughter. This was customary for the time.
- Sarai’s barrenness would have been a major cause of heartache for both Abram and Sarai. However there is no indication Abram sought another bride as would have been common at the time and in the culture. This could say much about the man, and the relationship he enjoyed with Sarai.