I’m of an age where I’m beginning to look back as much as I look forward, and I’m surprised just how much I enjoy these reflections. Of course there are the regrets, mainly caused by my stupidity. But even here, I see God’s grace and redemptive work, which humbles me and fills me with awe, wonder and praise. He truly is the God of History. He knows all things and works all things for the good, even my mistakes, failings, downright sin. He never gives up on us. 
 
We don’t really know why Abraham ended up in Egypt. We can guess why he let Sarah end up in harem, but it is only a guess. What we do know for certain is that whatever the why’s and wherefores of those decisions, God didn’t abandon them to suffer the consequences alone. He was there with them both throughout, and supernaturally intervened to lead them out. My reflections on the past strengthen my resolve for what’s left of my future on earth. Going forward, I want Him to work with me not in spite of me for the good. And I can only imagine Abraham felt the same as he headed home from Egypt, humbled and wiser.
 

 
 
The reason I wrote Patriarch was because it is a story of God revealing Himself to ordinary people just like you and me. It is hard sometimes to appreciate Abraham and Sarah were ordinary, frail, fickle human beings. We read Hebrews 11 and can’t imagine the writers of the Bible talking about us in these terms. We look at the stained glass windows or Biblical art, and don’t see anyone at all resembling us pictured there. And yet they really were human, with all our fears, insecurities and selfishness. It seems almost sacrilegious to suggest as much. But actually, to suggest less is sacrilegious. The glory of Abraham and Sarah’s story belongs to God. What He shaped in their lives over the course of their lives is  a testimony to His grace and love. Just as what He shapes in your life and mine is the same. Enjoy this podcast telling the stories of real people coping with very extraordinary circumstances. For the first time, in this little section of the story, we see God intervening supernaturally in Abraham and Sarah’s life. 
 
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I love nature. Always have. As a kid I had an aviary and bred canaries. These days I live in my Father’s aviary. The Scottish croft from where I record Patriarch is set up as a nature reserve and is so full of crazy creatures, that at times I feel as though I’m in a muppet movie! So imagining Abraham climbing over the hills to look down upon the Nile hinterland was one of my most fun times writing Patriarch. I drew on my privileged experiences across the globe, (including watching Bee-eaters on the Nile), to describe the exotic vibrancy of the scene. But even this wasn’t enough- David Attenborough and others had prepared me for some of what I saw, but not so with Abraham and the Hippo! Nature has a habit of soothing anxiety, and distracting us from grievance, but sadly these things don’t so easily go away. Somewhere, somehow Abraham and Sarah encountered Pharaoh’s harem. That too would have been a remarkable sight, though as with the cultic Canaanite worship, not particularly easy to describe in a Christian novel! I’ve tried to walk sensitively, as we lay the foundation for the first of a number of crises to befall Abraham and Sarah. Do check out the bible reading notes at biblenovels.com and if you’ve time some of the ministries this podcast supports. Thanks Colin.
 

 
 
My personal pilgrimage story is that I so often seem to have to go round and round in circles until finally I’m ready for what God has for me. It’s so frustrating but always necessary. Abraham had made it to the land where he would ultimately settle but that time was not yet! We don’t know why Abraham headed off to the Negev and from there to Egypt where he faced huge personal challenges. It was probably a whole mix of things, including fear and uncertainty, as well as the need to deepen his walk with the God he was still getting to know. My hunch is the hostility and downright evil he experienced in Canaan probably exposed these frailties. Abraham was moving from agnosticism to a personal faith through God’s revelation of Himself. He was on a journey, and the cultic worship he would have encountered in Canaan would have been a shock. It’s hard for us, particularly westerners like me, to comprehend this. Our exposure to spiritual things is limited at the best times, and few in my culture talk about powers of evil and a spiritual battle. But it is real, and the battle in Canaan was hotting up. Abraham began to worship far more publicly and this must have elicited a response from the cultic priests of the day. Once again I’ve sought to downplay the details of what this confrontation could have involved. But we are in a battle between good and evil, far more hideous than any of us could ever imagine, and we need to be wise to the fact. Our walk with God isn’t through meadows with pastel skies. It’s trench warfare. I’d love to hear your reflections at biblenovels.com or the Biblenovels facebook group.
 

 

Abraham had made it to the land where he would ultimately settle but that time was not yet! My personal pilgrimage story is that I so often seem to have to go round and round in circles until finally I’m ready for what God has for me. It’s so frustrating but always necessary. We don’t know just why Abraham headed off to the Negev and from there to Egypt to face huge personal challenges. It was probably a whole mix of things, including fear and uncertainty, as well as the need to deepen his walk with the God he was still getting to know. My hunch is the hostility and downright evil he experienced in Canaan probably exposed these frailties. Abraham was moving from agnosticism to a personal faith through revelation. He was on a journey, and the cultic worship he would have encountered in Canaan would have been a shock. It’s hard for us, particularly westerners like me, to comprehend this. Our exposure to spiritual things is limited at the best of times, and few in my culture talk about powers of evil and a spiritual battle. But it is real, and the battle in Canaan was hotting up. Abraham began to worship far more publicly and this must have illicited a response from the cultic priests of the day. Once again I’ve sought to downplay the details of what this confrontation could have involved. But we are in a battle between good and evil, far more hideous than any of us could ever imagine, and we need to be wise to the fact. Our walk with God isn’t through meadows with pastel skies. It’s trench warfare. I’d love to hear your reflections at biblenovels.com or the Biblenovels facebook group.

 

 
 
 
I wanted to rewrite this episode for the second edition. I don’t like it! But at the end of the day, I couldn’t, because bluntly it is intrinsic to the rest of the story. It begins so wonderfully on the shores of Galilee. I often sit on our shoreline wondering about the Celtic missionaries who sailed past our croft those centuries ago. The stones are the same stones they would have scrambled up: true rocks of ages! Did Jesus reflect upon Abraham’s journey through his backyard in the same way? I imagine so. He was, after all, to fulfil the promise made to Abraham to bless all peoples on earth through him. But that was 2000 years hence! Right here right now, Abraham faced a barbarous land full of barbarous people, the extent of which is barely fathomable to us. And yet we need to understand something of it, if we’re to appreciate just why the God of the Old Testament seems so uncompromising towards the occupants of the land He was giving to Abraham. Otherwise the paradox of wiping out a people before Abraham so He can be a blessing to all peoples makes no sense. Even so, I’ve tried my best not to overstate the evil of the cultic worship. Ultimately Abraham was a fallible human being, just like you and me, but as he walked by faith, stumbling and falling along, God watched over him, picked him up, and shaped him into the patriarch of faith. That’s my story too, and perhaps yours. I’d love to hear your reflections at biblenovels.com or the Biblenovels facebook group.
 

 
 
 

Revelation from God is pretty amazing, even when it is less dramatic than Abram’s! The only problem comes when you need to explain what God has revealed to those around you. It’s a recurring theme through scripture. When you get to heaven ask Mary! For Abram it was doubly difficult because his beloved Sarai not only hadn’t personally experienced the revelation but struggled to believe the message. It just rudely and crudely exposed her life- longfailing. It was a cruel joke that all God promised Abram would be dependent upon her delivering what everyone knew she was incapable of.  

The spiritual chasm between the two at this point in their lives was bottomless. One hoped and believed. The other despaired and doubted. And yet somehow they soldiered on. Ultimately Sarai would need God to speak directly to her cynicism. However right now she just had to pack up and carry on. This is my take on the resilience of a remarkable lady.  

For the latest news from Colin and Melissa and a daily devotional guide visit www.biblenovels.com

 

 
 

But for me the really interesting journey is the spiritual one. The one upon which Abram was embarked. The complexity of selling up, moving on and settling down is a mere backdrop to something far more profound- one man’s quest for God, and God’s revelation of Himself to that man. Remember Abram had few signposts on his journey. It really was into the unknown. Paul in Romans tells how mankind is without excuse because God’s invisible qualities are clearly seen (that’s a fun concept!) in creation, and our consciences deep within tell of His nature. Christ invaded time and space to reveal in history what the world round about us and the convictions of our heart has told every generation of humanity everywhere is true. And this was pretty much all Abram had to go on. But go on he did. And God simply can’t resist someone who seeks Him. The quest might be a long one, because the journey is an important point of the discovery. However, the destination is assured. Seek and you will find. And what you find is richer, fuller, fairer than anything you can conceive or imagine. 

For the latest news from Colin and Melissa and a daily devotional guide visit www.biblenovels.com

 

 
 

And now it’s the turn of the women to enter the story, most significantly Sarai.  

I love the characters of Genesis and particularly the women. Despite the cultural context into which they were born, they were obviously strong personalities. My personal favourite is Rebecca, but Sarai is right up there too. Rarely are the women overwhelmed by their partners, but rather they complement and often seem to complete the men in their lives, as well as being very able to stand on their own two feet, when they needed to. Their relationships are complicated but true love is normally very evident. None more so than in the case of Abram and Sarai. If you’re not familiar with the story, you might need to take my word for it at this stage in the telling, but you’ll soon see what I mean.  

The problem with characters in a story set millennia ago in a land, for most of us, far far away, is that we struggle to appreciate their humanity- their fears, hopes, dreams, and above all their loves. So stop reading the story through the stained glass window you saw in church, but rather through the bathroom mirror. Then even if your appreciation of the characters will still be flawed, it will still be significantly more real, down to earth and human.  

Sarai was obviously a very beautiful older lady, but at the time that mattered little, while she was still childless. As with Abram, her value, purpose and identity was limited. She was a failure. Of course it might not have been her fault, but she was still to blame. The fertility test of the day was simple- get a second wife and see if it goes differently. And yet Abram didn’t do this. You can only believe his desire for his wife trumped his desire for a son. And that is extraordinary. It suggests a very very special bond between Abram and Sarai, albeit one that was to be sorely tested and probably broken. But that’s down the line, Right here right now, that bond was strong enough to compensate for what was glaringly missing. 

Patriarch isn’t just a story of God’s revelation of His love for a man, but also a man’s love for his wife and her’s for him. It bumbles and stumbles along, as Abram and Sarai’s flaws are exposed but the soundtrack which constantly recurs in the background has a melodious depth and romantic rich refrain. 

For the latest news from Colin and Melissa and a daily devotional guide visit www.biblenovels.com

 

Having set the scene, it’s now time to introduce the other main male characters, and what fascinating lead players they are.  

Terah and Abram we’ve met. Nahor is Abram’s older brother, and like Abram, he’s seeking to come to terms with being childless in a culture where identity and legacy are intrinsically linked. He’s just going about it in a very different way to Abram. Nahor does pop up from time to time in Genesis and comes across as cautious and predictable- a safe pair of hands. Perhaps because he’s trying to compensate for not producing grandchildren for Terah, he seems to perform the role as the dependable family man. I can’t see that he and Abram had much in common or in deed much to talk about. Then there’s Abram’s nephew, Lot. Whether or not Nahor was the practical one and Abram the thinker, you can be pretty sure Lot was neither. All that can be said about Lot’s decision making was that it tended to end in disaster. And yet there is obviously a greater bond between Abram and his nephew than Abram and his brother. You don’t sense in any way they are kindred spirits, and yet there is a bond. Lot may have been a pain in the neck to Abram but you never sense he tired of him. He may have won his way into Abram’s affections as the son he never had. But perhaps he stayed there, because of the life Abram never lived: seemingly carefree, but actually chaotic and crisis ridden! Who knows? 

What we do know is that a prosperous family’s comfortable life was about to be turned utterly upside down, and I would have loved to be a fly on the wall when it happened! This is how I imagine it unravelled. Enjoy! 

For the latest news from Colin and Melissa and a daily devotional guide visit www.biblenovels.com