the Genesis file, part 2. Men that believe

An occasional commentary. I wouldn’t be making any doctrine out of this stuff if I were you.

Genesis 11: 4. Let us make a name for ourselves.
That’s pretty much the whole problem, isn’t it. We’re all so full of ourselves, babel-ing away about our self-sufficiency. So they built a city “lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” But God already told them to “fill the earth.” Pride is the root of disobedience.

Genesis 11: 6. This is only the beginning.
What an interesting commentary on the power of language. Because they have one language “nothing they propose to do will now be impossible.” Language is a wonderful gift, easily corrupted.

Genesis 12: 2. And I will make of you a great nation.
Babel he disrupts. Abram he blesses. It’s the difference between “we will” and “he will.” The problem at Babel is “we will make a name for ourselves” and the blessing for Abraham is “I will make your name great.” Pick one.

Genesis 12:6. At that time the Canaanites were in the land.
“There was a famine in the land,” too (12:10). People are watching how we respond to tests of our faith. In this case Abram fails. God brings him to Canaan and he flees to Egypt with “all that he had.”

Genesis 13: 4. To the place where he had made an altar at the first.
We often have to go back where we started, to the altar of sacrifice and renewal.

Genesis 13: 6. Their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together.
Stuff always gets in the way. Here Lot and Abraham part ways. “Let there be no strife between you and me,” Abram says. The Canaanites were still in the land, watching. This time they see Abram trusting God.

Genesis 14:23. I would not take a thread or a sandal strap of anything that is yours.
When offered the bounty of war, Abram chooses the blessing of God. “Fear not,” God assures him. “I am your shield; your reward shall be great.” That should be enough.

Genesis 15:6. And he believed the Lord.
Abram believed God, and God counted it to him as righteousness. Righteousness comes from the inside out, as God changes us. The only alternative is to make a name for ourselves. See Babel above.

Genesis 16: 2. And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.
Usually a good idea, listening to your wife. But in this case Abram was abdicating his responsibility for his unborn child. Sending his concubine alone into the desert was sort of a low-tech abortion. God intervenes. “I have seen him who looks after me,” Hagar says.

Genesis 17:7. To be God to you and to your offspring.
God changes Abram’s name here and reveals the true purpose of the covenant: to be God to you. I will make, I will establish, I will give. And I will mark. Through circumcision the covenant “will be in your flesh.” So Abraham and his son and his servants were circumcised “that every day.” As Calvin’s motto puts it: “My heart I offer to thee, O Lord, promptly and sincerely.” (The other Calvin, the one in the comic strip, says “If I’m not going to be eternally rewarded for my behavior, I’d like to know now.”)

Genesis 17:17. Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed.
He was 86 when he had Ishmael. Now, another son, with Sarah, who’s 90? Sarah laughs too, but denies it. “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure (18:12)?” Is anything too hard for the Lord? This is not a rhetorical question; it is a real one we face every day.

Genesis 19: 16. But he lingered.
Faced with God’s wrath and judgment at Sodom, Lot lingers. And his wife looks back. Commanded to flee to the mountains he seeks refuge in a city. “It is a little one,” he says. And then, in chapter 20, his role model Abraham (for the second time) lies about his wife. She is my sister, he tells us Abimelech. It was a lie, “a little one” from Abraham’s perspective. She was his half sister, but that wasn’t exactly the point. (And why, exactly, was Abimelech wanting a 90-year-old woman? She must have been a good looking woman, that Sarah. And one whose youth was restored so she could have a promised son.)

Genesis 20: 6. It was I who kept you from sinning against me.
God protected Abimelech from the consequences of Abraham’s deceit. “I thought there was no fear of God in this place,” Abraham explains. But there was God’s mercy, for a king who humbled himself. Pride, after all, is the root of disobedience.

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