Friday, February 8, 2013

Noah & Abraham (part 2 of 2)

Continuing here in chapter twelve of Genesis, the covenant making God continues speaking to Abram and says, “I will bless those who bless you, but the one who treats you lightly I must curse, and all the families of the earth will bless one another by your name” (12:3). With these words, a further connection is forged between Abraham and Noah, as Abraham stands in the line of covenant speaking and covenant language that begins with Noah, because according to the Scriptural narrative, there is only a people to be blessed through the nation into which the Creator God has promised to make Abram, because God told Noah (and Noah was faithful to), “be fruitful and multiply; increase abundantly on the earth and multiply on it” (9:7).

Continuing on then, we can look to chapter fifteen, in which Abraham, still childless though having a promise from God, says “O sovereign Lord, what will you give me since I continue to be childless, and my heir is Eliezer of Damascus?...  Since you have not given me a descendant, then look, one born in my house will be my heir!” (15:2-3)  By this report, it becomes quite clear that Abraham was taking his God very seriously.  He was not wavering at the promise.  In fact, it could be said that these are questions rooted in faith.  Presumably, because of that ongoing response of faith, the Creator God does not rebuke Abraham but rather says to him, “This man will not be your heir, but instead a son who comes from your own body will be your heir…  Gaze into the sky and count the stars---if you are able to count them!...  So will your descendants be” (15:4-5).  Here is where we find the source of Paul’s quote in Romans (which would call to mind the Abraham narrative), where we then read “Abraham believed the Lord, and the Lord considered his response of faith as proof of genuine loyalty” (15:6).  Here, along with seeing that righteousness (in right covenant standing) is equated with a genuine loyalty to God, we learn that just like had been experienced by Noah, Abraham was given a promise of things not yet seen, reverently regarded the promise of his God, and through faith became an heir of righteousness.

Staying in Romans and going forward, which continues to give us insight into the ways in which the Abraham story was understood in the days of Paul (and Jesus), we find that “Against hope Abraham believed in hope with the result that he became the father of many nations according to the pronouncement, ‘so will your descendants be’.” (4:18)  Like Abraham, did not Noah believe God against all reasonable probability?  Remember, the Noah story, as part of the Israel story, is understood against the backdrop of the Abraham story (for without the Abraham story, there is no Israel story, and no record or purpose for the Noah story). 

For the Noah story, it appears to be the case that what God was talking about seemed highly unlikely, based on mankind’s experience up to that point.  It was no different for Abraham.  The people of that time understood that really old people didn’t have children.  Yet Abraham, and Noah likewise, “did not waver in unbelief about the promise of God but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God” (4:20).  The Creator God received glory through Noah’s faith-motivated construction of the ark, in confident expectation that his God would deliver on His promise.  Both Noah and Abraham were “fully convinced that what God had promised He was also able to do” (4:21).  This “was credited to Abraham as righteousness” (4:22), which is what the Hebrews’ author would come to say of Noah as well. 

So what is it to which all of this is leading?  Just like Noah, and just like Abraham, who became the heir of righteousness (Noah) and the father of many nations (Abraham) when they believed, so believers in the Christ likewise become heirs of the Creator God’s promise of a resurrection just like Jesus when they believe in His new covenant of the Gospel message that Jesus is Lord.  Believers become recipients of what Paul refers to as the down payment ,and heirs of the complete inheritance of eternal life (the life of the age to come breaking into the creation) that is set forth in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  As Paul writes, in the same way that Abraham was credited with a complete trust in his God’s covenant faithfulness, it is those “to whom it will be credited, those who believe in the One Who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead” (Romans 4:24).  Though Noah became an heir of righteousness that comes by faith, “God had provided something better for us” (Hebrews 11:40a), that being those that believe in, and live as if Jesus is Lord, as they walk and serve in response to Christ’s Resurrection power---as instruments for the out-raying of the glory of their God.        

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