Sunday, August 5, 2012

Movement (part 2 of 3)

Continuing our observation of the “movement” of Scripture, Abram is not long in the land before there is a famine.  In response, he moves south to Egypt (Genesis 12:10).  Later, he is expelled from Egypt due to deceptive acts perpetrated by he and his wife (12:20) but not before receiving “sheep and cattle, male donkeys, male servants, female servants, female donkeys and camels” (12:16b).  Owing to that, and with these possessions, Abram left Egypt and “returned to the place where he had pitched his tent at the beginning… This was the place where he had first built the altar, and there Abram worshiped the Lord” (13:3b,4).  Once again, we see a foreshadowing of the great movement of the people of God, in an exit from Egypt, an altar, the worship of the Lord, and mention of a tent. 

Shortly thereafter, we hear God saying to Abram, “Look from the place where you stand to the north, south, east, and west. I will give all the land that you see to you and your descendants forever.  And I will make your descendants like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone is able to count the dust of the earth, then your descendants can also be counted” (13:14b-16).  Not only is Abram directed to look, but God adds to this by saying “Get up and walk throughout the land, for I will give it to you” (13:17).  Yet again, just as we have seen when Noah and his family make their departure from the ark, God demands movement.  There is a more than a superficial correlation between God’s command to Noah to fill the earth, and God’s command to Abram to get up and walk throughout the land.  In both cases, there is a promise from God connected to movement.  As a result, “Abram moved his tents and went… and he built an altar to the Lord…” (13:18)  Additionally, let us not discount the importance that can be attached to “looking.”  Moses, though he is not denied the opportunity to move with the people of God into the land, is given the opportunity to look upon the land, thus enabling us to make an appropriate connection between the two men that can be thought of as bearing God’s covenant. 

When the Lord comes to Abram in a vision and gives him a promise of an heir and descendants, and the reiteration of a promise of a land to possess.  These promises are accompanied by a reminder of his being taken out of Ur of the Chaldeans (15:7), a promise that those descendants will go into subjection to a foreign nation in a foreign country (15:13), and a promise that when they come out of that foreign land that they will do so with many possessions (15:14).  This, of course, is what was supposed to have sustained Israel during their time in Egypt, as well as the evidence (many possessions---plundering the Egyptians, and thus providing an even further revelation of the tremendous symmetry of Scripture---both Abram and Israel would go down into Egypt and leave Egypt with more than they possessed when going in) that would have been purposed to increase their trust in the covenant faithfulness of their God, that He would bring them into the land that had been promised to Abram.  We note with interest that when God speaks to Abram, he reminds Abram of his own exodus, just as when God speaks to His prophets or speaks to His people through His prophets, He is almost always very quick to remind them of their exodus.  For Abram, the exodus is linked to Ur, and for Israel it is linked to Egypt.  When God speaks, He is quite often reminding His chosen ones that He is the God of exodus---the God of rescue. 

We will find Abraham (now with name changed) journeying again, settling “between Kadesh and Shur” (20:1b).  It is said that “he lived as a temporary resident in Gerar” (20:1c), which can be taken to imply that Abraham pitched his tent in that place.  It is here that Abraham will have his dealings with Abimelech, in which he again engages in deceptive acts regarding the nature of the relationship between he and his wife.  This time however, Abraham is not expelled from the land, but is told “Look, my land is before you; live wherever you please” (20:15).  It appears to be the case that it is in this place that Abraham’s wife, Sarah, gives birth to Isaac, for we later learn that “Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines for quite some time” (21:34). 

The next time we find Abraham moving, it is in connection with this son that was born to him according to God’s promise, when God says to Abraham to “Take your son---your only son, whom you love, Isaac---and go to the land of Moriah!  Offer him up there as a burnt sacrifice on one of the mountains which I will indicate to you” (22:2).  The faithful movement of Abraham in response to this commandment results in an offering on an altar (but not of Isaac), and yet another reiteration of the original covenant promise to Abraham (22:17-18).  Not surprisingly then, we immediately read that Abraham “set out” (22:19).  Though this setting out was simply a return to his home, the fact that there is a  “setting out” set before us following a revelation of God should not go unnoticed.          

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