Mon, 21 April 2008
Paul's argument in Romans uses forensic logic and a precise application of key verses from Genesis to stress that Abraham did not earn the righteousness that was credited to him by faith (cf. Gen 15:6). Our faith must be an obedient faith and our obedience must be in faith; believing for decades and learning from his prior failures, Abraham's faith grew to a point that he was willing to sacrifice his uniquely beloved son Isaac to follow God's commands. It is impossible to earn salvation, but an active faith that produces good works is necessary for one's salvation (cf. Jas 2:20).
Abraham's spiritual pilgrimage took him from Ur in modern-day Iraq to Haran in modern-day Iran and then to the land of Canaan, the land of promise. Sojourning in tents for decades, this city-boy from Ur trusts in God more and more at every step of the journey. Abraham's witness should convict all believers to allow the Word of God, especially His promises, to dwell richly in them, leading them on a pilgrimage wherein they begin to lose their love of the world and become increasingly attached to the things of heaven (cf. Heb 11).
Both the offering of Isaac and Melchizedek (my righteous king) the Prince of Salem (Prince of Peace) prefigure Christ. In reference to the former, Isaac must have been a teenager when he journeyed with his father to Moriah, and Rabbinical literature confirms that he willingly stretched out his arms to be bound on the altar. Just as Jews imagine their prayers being offered to God like Isaac's willingly spread and bound hands; Christians should ever be mindful that our prayers are offered to God through Christ's outstretched arms bound to the cross. Turning to the Book of Hebrews, the words of Genesis exactly foreshadow the crucifixion (11:17-19).
Jacob's dream during his flight after stealing the birthright from his slothful brother Esau shows us that God is always with us wherever we travel (Gen 28:10). Jacob the con-man is humbled by an even craftier man, Laban who exploits him for 21 years. When Laban's daughters take the household gods upon their departure from Laban, it is a claim on the inheritance, not an effort to continue idolatry. Over time, Jacob realizes he must make peace with his brother Esau. In his weakness after losing the wrestling match to the Angel of God, Jacob finally surrenders everything to God and is renamed Israel. We then hear of Joseph, his beloved-son, who becomes a Christ-figure when he is hated because he tells the truth and will save his family by doing so.
Genesis is ultimately about the relationship about God and man, and every Christian must recapitulate the spiritual dimension of each of these stories.
Much has been said about the Fathers of the faith, but the Mothers of the faith are also strong characters throughout Genesis. When Peter praises the "reverent and chaste" behavior of women he uses Sarah as an example (1Pt 3:6), but Abraham's wife was no doormat! New Testament exhortations for women to be submissive must not be construed as a command for women to make themselves in victims, rather they are to be pillars of strength and obedience by virtue of their faith in God.
Music: "Airs des Silvains" from the album "Rameau and Leclair" by Philharmonia Baroque. www.magnatune.com