Heroes of the Faith –

Abraham and Sarah

Genesis 12:1-5, Abraham and Sarah Leave It All Behind
Genesis 18:1-2, 16-33, Abraham Reasons with God
Genesis 18:22, Abraham Stood Before the LORD
Genesis 22:1-19, Abraham Risks Everything God Gave Him
Random Walk in a Gallery of Religious Art, Step 4: Genesis 24:1-10, Map of Armenia and Assyria

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Genesis 12:1-5, Abraham and Sarah Leave It All Behind (1/11/2010)

Have you heard of the Nigerian scam?  You get an email from someone you don’t know.  This person offers you a million dollars, and all you have to do is give him $10,000 and your bank account number.  Do you think you would do that?  No!  You’re too smart for that!  (Although a surprising number of people have sent the $10,000 and never heard from the emailer or their money again.)
How long would you have to think it over if someone you never saw before came to your door and said, “I want to give you a great reward.  All you have to do is quit your job, leave your home, abandon your friends and family, and come with me.  You don’t have to give me any money.”  Do you think you would do that?  Nah.  Who is this guy, anyway?
How about if you were sitting in church, praying for guidance, and God said, “I want to give you a great reward.  All you have to do is quit your job, leave your home, abandon your friends and family, and come with me.”  You know what?  I don’t think I would have the courage or faith to do that either!  
Abraham and Sarah did.  

Genesis 18:1-2, 16-33, Abraham Reasons with God(1/12/2010)

A long time ago, I spent months reasoning with God about why I was not going to sign up for the Bethel Teacher Training class that was going to be taught at my church.  I was just out of grad school and not in the mood for more class work.  I had two little kids and a job.  I had good reasons. However, I ended up taking the class, teaching Bethel for 30 years, and doing this study every day.  When we reason with God, we usually come around to God’s position.
It is an important theological point, however, that sometimes God comes around to our position.  Abraham interceded for any good people who might hypothetically be living in Sodom or Gomorrah.  Now, you will read commentaries and hear sermons that say that God was just testing Abraham to see what he would say, or that maybe God didn’t really plan in the first place to wipe out the whole city if there were some good people there.  Nevertheless, the plain reading of the text is that God had determined to wipe them out if they were as bad as he had heard, and Abraham talked him into cutting the cities some slack if there were even 10 good people there.  Intercessory prayer is important!  It does take courageous faith to tell God why you think he should change his plan, though.

Genesis 18:22, Abraham Stood Before the LORD(1/12/2010)

An interesting thing about this passage is vs. 18:22, which is usually translated something like, “Abraham stood before the LORD.”  There is a list of about 11 verses (lists differ; this verse is on them all) called “the emendations of the scribes.”  These are verses that the ancient scribes believed to have been changed from the original by even more ancient scribes.  The scribes believed – and as far as I know, most scholars agree – that this verse originally read, “The LORD stood before Abraham.”  Now, somewhere along the line, society (not God, so far as I know) decided that the person “standing before” was in an inferior social position to the other person.  It wasn’t acceptable to the ancient, ancient scribes to imply that God was inferior to Abraham, so they changed the word order.  Most of the emendations are of this sort – they enhance the dignity of God, Moses, or some other personage.  None are important to salvation, so you don’t have to worry about them. 
The fact that this emendation even had to exist, however, shows that Abraham was a tremendous figure.  He had the insight to realize that God could be reasoned with, unlike all the other gods of the time, who could only be manipulated. He had the courage to risk God’s anger over the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah.  Most importantly, though, he had the approval of God.  He was a hero of the faith.

Genesis 22:1-19, Abraham Risks Everything God Gave Him(1/13/2010)

In their old age, Abraham and Sarah had the beautiful, happy little baby that God had promised to them.  What do you supposed Abraham was thinking when he and Isaac walked over to the place where God had told him to sacrifice Isaac?  That God would give him and Sarah a replacement baby?  Or that God could raise Isaac from the dead after the sacrifice?  Or maybe he, Abraham, had done something wrong, and the whole deal was off?  I can’t imagine what he was thinking.  
This we do know:  Abraham had such great faith in God, and his faith gave him such great courage, that he was willing to do what God told him to do no matter what he personally thought about it.

Random Walk in a Gallery of Religious Art, Step 4: Genesis 24:1-10, Map of Armenia and Assyria (3/5/15)

The larger version of the map may take a bit to download, but it will be well worth your time.

Abraham was living in Canaan, which is just east of the Mediterranean (“Great Sea”) in Section Cb near the lower right of the map (modern Israel). Ur of the Chaldees is at the bottom of Section Db, in the far lower right of our map, and that’s where wikipedia puts it, too. I have seen other studies that put it somewhere up in Turkey, and indeed our map has a second Ur, just to the left of the “M” in Mesopotamia. Either way, it was 600 or 700 miles, which is a long way to ride a camel.

Remember that Abraham’s father had moved his family from Ur to Haran; apparently Haran and Padan Aram are roughly alternative names for Aram-naharaim, where Nahor, Abraham’s brother, had stayed (Genesis 11:27-32). On our map, Aram-naharaim is shown as a region in Mesopotamia, and Padan Aram is just to the right of the “M” in Mesopotamia. “Mesopotamia” literally means “between rivers,” and you can see that it’s located between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. This map appears to me to cover at least a millennium in time; Rome, for example, dates back to about the 8th century BC, whereas Abraham is customarily dated at about 2000 BC.

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Map of Armenia, Assyria, Etc. Click to enlarge.
Armenia, Assyria, Etc., is from the Thomas family Bible, now in a private collection of a family member.

More Heroes of the Faith

Introduction: The Heroic Faith of Our Ancestors

Old Testament Heroes
Abraham and Sarah
Caleb & Joshua
Esther and Mordecai
Shadrach, Meshach, & Abednego
King Josiah of Judah
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego

New Testament Heroes
Peter & John
The Woman with a Hemorrhage
The Canaanite Woman

Preaching in Difficult Circumstances
Courage to Challenge the Status Quo

Copyright 2010, 2012, 2015, 2016 by Regina L. Hunter.  All rights reserved.

Opinions expressed on this page are solely those of the author, Regina Hunter, and may or may not be shared by the sponsors or the Bible-study participants.  Thanks to the Holy Spirit for any useful ideas presented here, and thanks to all the readers for their support and enthusiasm.  All errors are, of course, the sole responsibility of the author.

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