Journeys with Abraham Part 2
So we have an apparent conflict between what Hebrews says of Abraham and what Genesis records. Prior to resolving the difference, let me pose a question. How many of us have instantly obeyed the Holy Spirit each time He has spoken to us? Whether He spoke via scripture, a dream, vision or prophetic word, how many of us have instantly obeyed? If you are like me, many of you have struggled at times with obedience to His call upon your life in both great and small things. In fact in talking to people I believe this is the testimony of most Christians. Yet we are often told of Abraham’s great obedience and how he simply and obediently walked out his call from Yahweh. We also often hear of the instant response of His disciples when Jesus called them. Just this past week I heard a radio preacher talking about how the early apostles immediately dropped their nets and followed Jesus when He first called them; he then held them up as the standard of how we should live.
My only issue with the idea of these early apostles instantly dropping everything to follow Jesus when He called them is that it isn’t true! It appears some did respond instantly, but if we look at Jesus calling Peter, Andrew, James and John away from their fishing we need to look at the timing and location. This took place at the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel and is recorded in Matthew 4:12-22, Mark 4:14-20 and Luke 4:38 -15:11. Matthew and Mark record the 4 of them immediately leaving their nets after they were called. However Luke provides more detail. We find that the day prior to these events Jesus was in Peter’s (Simon) house and healed his mother in-law. The next day he taught out of Peter’s boat before calling them and they were aware of the miracles He performed before He called them. More importantly, Matthew and Mark record that these events took place after John was imprisoned by Herod. Why is this important? It is important because after Jesus had been baptized by John we find in John 1:29-51 that two of John the Baptist’s disciples left him to follow Jesus, one of whom was Andrew, Peter’s brother, he immediately went and got Peter and introduced him to Jesus. Jesus then called Philip, who was from the same town as Andrew and Peter and Philip went and recruited Nathaniel. So what we have is a group of at least 5 people called to follow Jesus, probably all disciples of John the Baptist at this point. The fifth of the four was likely John as he narrates these events. All of this happened prior to the events recorded in Matthew, Mark and Luke. Some, if not all of them, had already been following Jesus and had returned to fishing before being re-called.
How does this apply to Abraham and Hebrews and our lives? It goes to grace. What Hebrews records and what actually happened are at odds. Yet are they? Just like we have ‘halls of fame’ in sports, music or the arts, Hebrews 11 is the great hall of fame of faith and concludes as follows.
39 And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, 40 God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us. Hebrews 11:39-40 (NKJV)
It says they all ‘obtained a good testimony through faith’ and Samson for example is included in the list. What does it tell us? It tells us that in the final record of our lives the Lord focuses on how we obeyed Him! He views even weak and faltering following as a great example of faith. Our success depends on Him in us anyway. He asks us to keep following and when we fall to fall forward into His arms so He can pick us up and point us in the right direction again. This is not using grace as a license for sin. It is acknowledging the reality of failure and the need to keep looking to Him and His strength to be found faithful to follow Him. The key is not how we start, it is how we finish! The more we become accustomed to hearing and obeying Him the deeper we walk into His heart and purposes.
Another important point is that at times I think we fail to understand the opportunities we have in Him. It may not fit with your theology but I believe scripture teaches that many things are more open ended than we may believe. Genesis 11 records an important point.
31 And Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot, the son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they went out with them from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan; and they came to Haran and dwelt there. 32 So the days of Terah were two hundred and five years, and Terah died in Haran. Genesis 11:31-32 (NKJV)
This passage tells us that Terah was the initiator in taking his family and leaving Ur with the intent to go to Canaan. My question is whether Yahweh initially called Terah to do what Abraham did? I believe Abraham did what Terah failed to do. Below is another scriptural example of what I am referring to.
13 And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the LORD your God, which He commanded you. For now the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14 But now your kingdom shall not continue. The LORD has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the LORD has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you.” 1 Samuel 13:13-14 (NKJV)
When Saul fails in his role as king Samuel then informs him that if he had made the right heart choices his kingdom would have been established forever. He lost this and what Saul lost was given to David as spoken through Nathan the prophet to David.
12 “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” 2 Samuel 7:12-13 (NKJV)
What David was given is what Saul had. I believe that those we read about throughout scripture and those who follow Jesus are the ones who said yes. He gives great opportunity to all and the question is, no matter how feebly, are we saying yes when He calls? A couple of years ago I shared with a friend that I had the same birth date as Dietrich Bonhoeffer and commented on how much he had accomplished compared to me, she commented, “Yes, but you’re not dead yet.” Like you, there is great opportunity before me!
In my next post I would look at how the first portion of Genesis 12 lays the foundation for the covenant Yahweh would later make with Abraham, how Yahweh began to call a people out of a people, and how the foundation was laid through Abraham for the eventual nation of Israel to become connected to the land.