Abraham and Sarah were by no means perfect people. There were even aspects of their marriage that could be called quite dysfunctional. (He gave her to other men, and she gave to him another woman.) However they were people who also gave themselves to walk with the Lord in covenant integrity, despite their weaknesses.
God changed Abram's name to Abraham, and Sarai's to Sarah. Both names were changed by adding the Hebrew letter (transliterated by the English letter "H"). The letter H, because it appears twice in YHVH, symbolizes to Hebrew speakers the name of God. So, their identities were changed by adding the image of God into their own self image. Abraham means, "father of many nations"; and Sarah means, "princess".
Every time they spoke their new "God" names, they proclaimed faith in their own God-given destiny. Despite his personal weaknesses, Abraham declared, "I will repossess planet earth that was lost by Adam" (Romans 4:13); "I will be a spiritual father to millions of people in every nation" (Romans 4:18, Genesis 17:5); "My seed will be mighty heroes in the earth" (Genesis 15:5, Psalms 112:2).
Abraham and Sarah stood alone in their faith and covenant integrity. They were unique among the people that lived on the earth in that generation. They became the prototype of all believers in generations following (Isaiah 51:1-2, Romans 4:11, 12, 16). What did they have?
What Made Abraham and Sarah Unique?
They were committed to "outreach" or "evangelism" - They "made souls" in Haran (Genesis 12:5). They were also committed to "discipleship" - Abraham had 318 trained disciples who were ready to fight for the covenant (Genesis 14:14). Abraham had a personal revelation of Messiah Yeshua in the form of the Angel of The Lord. We read that the Angel of the Lord appeared to Abraham at least 5 times (Genesis 12:7; 15:1, 17:1; 18:1; 22:14).
Jewish tradition says that Abraham was tested 10 times. Each incident tested his willingness to obey and sacrifice. His greatest character quality is summarized, "He will command his children and his household after him, and keep the way of The Lord to do righteousness and justice" (Genesis 18:19). This characteristic is what made him the father of faith. He trained his children and those of his congregation in the ways of the Lord. He was a "doer" of the word, not a "hearer only." He stood for justice and integrity. He was a covenant man.
The rabbis asked why Abraham argued with God for the salvation of the Gentiles in Sodom. Their answer is that he already took his calling seriously as the "father of many nations." He wanted to start his destiny to spread the good news that "all the nations would be blessed in him and his seed" (Genesis 12:3; 18:18; 22:18). He loved them as if they were his own.
Abraham and Lot
Throughout the story of Abraham, there is a comparison with his nephew Lot. The two men represent two kinds of believers: one committed to covenant; the other compromising with carnality. They were both believers; both "saved" in the language of the New Covenant.
When the two angels went to Sodom to rescue Lot from the impending destruction, Lot hesitated and lingered (Genesis 19:16). The rabbis asked why there was such a delay. Rashi's commentary states that Lot lingered in order to gather his money before fleeing. While that may not be exactly true, there is an important point to consider.
What was Lot doing in Sodom in the first place? Lot was a righteous man. He was tormented in his soul even while living in Sodom (II Peter 2:7-8). Yet he had compromised. He was extremely wealthy, with much livestock and many workers (Genesis 13:6). He lost everything. He left Sodom at the end with no money, no livestock and no workers.
The lesson of the story of Lot is that God has mercy even on a carnal, compromising believer. God can rescue him (II Peter 2:9), yet he will lose all the inheritance he could have had (I Corinthians 3:15). Lot had honor in Sodom. He was sitting in the gate of the city (Genesis 19:1). Yet he will go down in history as having lost his honor before God.
When the angelic visitors came to Abraham, Sarah helped out with the hospitality (Genesis 18:6). She was his spiritual partner. When the angels came to Lot, there is no sign of his wife helping (Genesis 19:3). She was not his spiritual partner. Lot's workers, his family and even his wife were attracted to the worldly pleasures of Sodom. It seems that Lot yielded to his wife in the way that Adam yielded to Eve in the Garden.
Lot's wife was turned into a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:26). Sodom was turned into salt. Lot's workers were turned into salt. Lot's wife received the same punishment as the rest of Sodom. She was not punished merely for an instant of curiosity. She looked back because she had lived her life in the worldly values of Sodom. God doesn't destroy people for a moment of weakness, but for a lifetime of worldliness.
Whom Will You Be Like?
The angels instructed Lot to flee to the mountain. I believe they were trying to point him to the direction of Abraham. Lot managed to escape the punishment, but never made it back to Abraham. He held on to his salvation, but could not recover a covenant lifestyle.
There are two kinds of "saved" believers in the world. There are carnal believers like Lot, who are righteous in their hearts, but live in compromise. They are tormented in their temptations. They will receive eternal life but lose their reward. I fear there are many Christians and Messianic Jews in this category.
There are other believers, although much rarer in number, who choose to walk like Abraham. They are committed to covenant values. They overcome by faith and faithfulness. They will inherit all the possessions of the kingdom of God. Whom will you be like? Let us follow in the footsteps of Abraham, not of Lot.
Also in this issue of the newsletter:
|Daniel Juster: Islam, Violent Jihad and Israel|
|Moshe Morrison: Longing For Home|
|Marty Shoub: Reaping A Harvest|