Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Bible, concerning Abram and now, Hagar and Ishmael

One of my problems in reading through the Old Testament involves the battles and the wars that took place, almost regularly, and I have to wonder if that is why the "Preachers" of our day seem to be reluctant to oppose war.  Surely they have seen the grave markers of so many of our "the best and the brightest among others" go off to war with their futures ahead of them, only to return in caskets and be absent as we pause to commend them.  How sad.  War is such a wasteful occasion, both sides lose and our futures are even threatened by the thought of a resumption, elsewhere.  So it has been in the years of my life.  As I may have reported earlier, I was in in the Air Force  and on duty in Japan as the Korean War erupted and for reasons beyond our comprehension, it still exists, except for the temporary truce that was established over fifty years ago.

Now, we pause in Genesis, chapter 17 which opens to the saga of Abram and Sarai's illicit contract. The result will be the boy, named Ishmael, the name given to him by an angel sent by God.  Before we get too involved in the relationship between Abram, Sarai and the slave woman, Hagar, we ought not to overlook the fact that God was aware of the circumstance.  God renames Abram, as Abraham, and his wife, Sarai will become Sarah.   Ishmael is not to be circumcised, an essential for all Hebrew children, and God promises that he will become fruitful and He declares that he will multiply him exceedingly.  He will become the father of twelve princes and I - says God will make him a great nation. (v 17:20)  But now we have to wait until the 21st chapter to discover more of the life of Ishmael.

Meanwhile, we come to the situation with Lot and his family as they resided in Sodom and Gomorrah and the controversy that has sprung up in recent years concerning the fate of these cities.  I - for one, am not interested in such debates.  It proves nothing as our Gay brothers and sisters have created a community (without borders) for themselves and some say, flaunt God with their behavior.  I have an opinion, but to debate what actually happened thousands of years ago is an insult to all who are more concerned with living in peace with all persons.

Chapter 21 not only announces the birth of Abraham's heir, the boy, Isaac, but it also reveals what the Bible has to say about his elder brother, the slave woman's son, Ishmael.  "God was with the lad and he grew, and he lived in the wilderness and became an archer.  He lived in the wilderness of Paran, and his mother took a wife for him from the land of Egypt."  There is more to be said about Ishmael and the burial of his father, Abraham, and his generations as they are mentioned in Genesis 25:12-18. .

NOTE:  I just made a mistake here as I was looking forward.  Not that it is really important, but I wanted you to know.  Such is life....  I often wonder, how many other assumptions have made it to print in the Bibles we read.  It ought not to discourage us.  It may disturb those who believe that God actually took a pen and we are actually, reading his thoughts.  I can say this, they are His thoughts IF He has personally confirmed it to you.

Moving on from where we were, we will learn that Abraham and Sarah had another son, this one a gift from God and they named him, Isaac.  You will learn that he and his wife, Rebekah, had twin sons, Jacob and Esau, Esau being the first to be delivered and therefore, heir to his father's fortunes, but Jacob - to be hence forth described as the "deceiver", with the help of his mother, stole the inheritance.  What a burden that has placed on many twins born later.  I have never known of a father who would not divide his inheritance among all of his descendants, but then I have never known any such individual.  However, I have been to many church services and have sat through many sermons where the Pastor has often described Jacob as being the "unrighteous" one.  From the looks of the Biblical account, he was but - with the advent of our Lord, Jesus Christ, are we to offer such council? I don't think so and this is my opinion, not expressed in the Bible.

And, a reminder, I am not a theologian.  I read the Bible as it applies to me, directly, and am merely an observer of the other entries.  That should not be interpreted to mean that I won't be made aware of other instances where I should have paid closer attention, but for now, I study my Bible to make certain I have covered most of the passages that do apply.

I earnest beseech - a good Bible word, all of those who read this to make an effort to do likewise.

There is much more to be said about Jacob and that ought to be an encouragement to all of us who have sinned and come short of the glory of God.  There is one passage involving Esau that intrigues me and that is found in Genesis 28:9 and I quote, "...Esau went to Ishmael and married, besides the wives he (already) had, Mahalath, the daughter if Ishmael."  If you are reading, I have to add, here is the "bastard" son, again.  Ishmael - to me, is an extremely important figure for us to consider these days - and I will leave it to you to find the answer to that.

Now, Jacob has a dream and its account makes for an intriguing passage for many of us.  He dreams of a ladder reaching into heaven and there are angels ascending and descending upon it.  In the dream, God stands at the top and speaks to Jacob.  Heavy stuff.  Jacob saw a figure and knew it was God?  Ooops.  Moses knew God personally and yet, only saw His back side.  That raises lots of questions for many of us, but the others get so excited about what God says that they move on without thinking about this.  I am certain there are plenty of theologians and would be theologians who can explain this, but I want to raise the question for my readers so they they understand, it is far more important to study what the Bible says than to repeat what some thought it said.

Jacob moves on and meets Rachael at a well where she is watering her father's sheep.  Jacob is - in a word, smitten at the sight of this beautiful woman and bargains with her father so that she could become his wife.  He is to work seven years for her father and then the father offers another daughter in Rachael's place.  And what does Jacob do, of course, he sleeps with the replacement and then bargains for his first love.  Another seven years!  A word to the wise for parents teaching their teen-agers about the Bible, it would be good to pass by Genesis 29:10-35.

Sleeping around?  Even within a family, this is what those folks might have called, not kosher! Perhaps this account remains in the Bible for reasons far beyond my knowledge, but we read what we see and once read, the thoughts that develop find a hiding place within the mind.  One of the worst examples of life as we know it today is the fact there are so many abortions as a result of sex without an agreement to go beyond sex and live in support of one another - for a lifetime..  While living in Orlando, FL, my wife and I had been prompted by the teaching of our church regarding abortions that we decided to investigate for ourselves and we were led to a black lady living in a part of the city where blacks were the prominent people.  I will never forget walking into her office and - at first, glancing at the wall where we could see pictures of over a hundred babies.  "Yours?" I asked.  "In a sense, yes," she replied, "these are babies whose mothers had decided, it was better to abort them than to bring them into the world in which they grow to maturity."  If they were males, the probability was that they would become unwed fathers.  If females, they would become unwed mothers and thereby, eligible for government support.  We would hear that many of the young women, as a matter of fact, agree to sex for no better reason than a baby would make them eligible.  "Who helps you?" I asked and I would learn that her "primary" support came from Him, pointing to a framed picture of Jesus on a nearby wall.  She was quick to add that she did receive support from local churches and concerned citizens in her community and from others around the city.  "How can we help?" we asked and she reminded us, it was a two-step process.  First, you open your heart to this tragedy and next, open your wallet.  We did what we could, but that was thirty years ago and I would like to suggest, it is still the predominant factor in black communities throughout our nation.  Raise a child that learns hunger from an early age and you have - far too often, someone who will do "anything" to ease the pain.  I have asked many young black men why they did what they did and they are quick to respond, "What would you be doing if you were raised in a ghetto?"   I can't answer that question as I was privileged to be raised on a farm where hunger was never a problem, but sex was.  I was a shy kid and more often embarrassed when I heard sex mentioned, but when it becomes the most intriguing way for youngsters to "entertain" themselves, what can we expect?  It seems to be a problem that will not go away and I have to ask a question, "Why are we talking about sex in a Bible study and remaining as silent as we seem to do when it is not our problem?"  Am I not my brother's "keeper" - to love as we are expected to do as disciples of our Lord?   We have come a long way with regard to race relations. We still have a long way to go - ought to be obvious. 

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