No, you didn't miss Part I. That will come later, hopefully Friday.
However, today I'm glancing backwards at the latter half, so it seems appropriate to call it Part II. I never said I was a great writer, after all…
This past Sunday night I finished preaching the first half of 50 sermons in Genesis. I'm going chapter-by-chapter, and though the first thought was to go straight through Bible, finishing sometime 13 years from now in Revelation, I'm going to take a break. I'll be more topical for a few weeks, then we'll go to Luke. After Luke, I'll finish Genesis, then back to the New Testament, then back to the Old Testament. The goal is still that, by the end of 13 years or so, I will have preached once on every chapter in the Bible. More than once on a few, but once on every one of them.
Having just done Genesis 1 through Genesis 25, I've spent a good deal of time on Abraham. Not enough to be a great Abrahamic scholar, but enough to be the Almyra area expert. He occupies the latter half of this section of the Bible. He gets chapters 12 through 25, which covers more than the thousands of years of human history that precede him.
Here's a few basics on Abraham:
- 1. He's the first person in the narrative that we have a very definite location for. We can place Babel in Shinar, but not exactly where. Abraham is definitely in a city that we know where was: Ur of the Chaldees.
- 2. He's the first person in the narrative that we can place a pretty good date on. Within about a 100 years, at the least, that is. While I respect the efforts of Archbishop Ussher and look forward to reading his complete works in the year to come, I am somewhat concerned that we cannot quite ascribe precise dates to the first 11 chapters of Genesis. These things are true: they happened. They happened at definite points in history. But when? Abraham, though, has a pretty good date range: 1900-1800 BC. (that's pretty good for a 4,000 year old target.
- 3. He is considered by Judaism, Islam, and Christianity to be the originator of monotheism. Even secular philosophy pegs him with that idea, though the identification is often that he invented it. He's important to all 3 of the major monotheistic religions, to the cults that have bizarred off of them, and so to all of world history. The vast majority of people on this planet are theists of some sort, and most of the monotheists will recognize Abraham as important.
Those are facts on Abraham. There's more in the text, and then even more in the Talmud and Jewish traditions. Islamic and Baha'i traditions provide other stories of Abraham (or Ibrahim), and Christian tradition tends to lean most heavily on Judaism for Abraham (and most Old Testament people).
Here's my thoughts on Abraham: We tend to focus on the great moments in Abraham's life. Whether moments of great faith or moments of great failure, he's always larger than life. There's no sense of the general life of the man.
This is also true when you start digging into the legends. He's teaching his father the falsehood of idolatry. He's here, there, and everywhere.
Yet we need to remember that while Scripture is adequate, it's not comprehensive. Abraham has a lot of life that's unmentioned. He's got thoughts that aren't recorded. I wonder about those. I wonder if he had days of self-doubt, or times that the silence of God was overwhelming to him.
If there were times that he thought "Great nation? Right, I can't even keep up with all my sheep!" "Great name? My shepherds are laughing at me behind my back. Some name! I'll never be anything!"
Maybe he didn't. Maybe he was the great hero that we've always made him out to be. Yet I think he was as human as you or I. He had mediocre days, ordinary days---and the reason his life turns out significant is not because he had a few great days, not because he survived a few great calamities.
It's because he hung on in between. In the days between the great calling and birth, between circumcision and sacrifice, between speaking with God Almighty as a friend and fleeing Abimelech's territory, in the days when he got up, fed sheep, looked for water, and ate a little bread with honey. On the monthly chats with Sarah that there was no baby coming, on the weekly attempts to steer Lot to the right path….
He stuck with it. He fought the monotony and was where he should be. Let us be the same. Let me be the same.