Thursday, January 30, 2014

Father Abraham's Children by Linden Malki

Abraham is described throughout Scripture as the classic example of obedience and faith, and is told that his family line would become a blessing to all of humanity. We are familiar with the line of Isaac, the "Son of the Promise";  but there is more to this family.

We see that Abraham, when he followed God's leading to the land God had promised him, his family included his nephew Lot, whose father was dead.  Lot and Abram (as he was then) soon found that their large entourages could not live together peaceably.  Abram told Lot to choose part of the territory that had been promised to him, and Lot chose the the southern part of the Jordan valley that adjoined several prosperous cities.  Not long after that, we hear Abram telling  God that he has no heir within his own family, so somehow Lot was not his heir.  The next time we see Lot, he is living in the city of Sodom, which so corrupt that God warns Abram that it is under judgment. Abram challenges God to spare the city if there are any righteous people there, all the way down to ten men,  but even that cannot be found. We find within the Jewish tradition to this day the belief that ten righteous men can form the basis of a worshiping community and preserve it from God's judgment. Lot and his family are given a warning of upcoming disaster, and even the men who were engaged to marry Lot's daughters turn down the chance to escape.  In the end, only Lot and the two daughters survive, and they become the ancestors of two tribes living on the east side of the Jordan river:  the Moabites  and Ammonites, whom we next see as pagan enemies of the Israelites.

Abraham's oldest son Ishmael, born of Abram and Sarai's impatience with God's promise, also became the father of twelve tribes. They are described as being quarrelsome and warlike, and the most famous of their reputed descendents is the family tribe of Mohammed.  Their internal rivalries and broken relationships with the rest of Abraham's descendants is still making headlines  today. 

There is an ancient tradition that Abraham's last wife, Keturah, is actually Hagar under another name.  There were six more sons,  the most familiar of whom is Midian. We see one of his descendants living in the wilderness not far from the Red Sea four hundred years later--Jethro, described as a priest of God, who became Moses' mentor and father-in-law.  Unfortunately, when we next see them, the Midianites have apparently lost the knowledge of the true God and are pagan enemies of the Israelites under the judges.

As we follow the stories of Abraham's  descendants, we will see even being part of the "main line" of Abraham's family doesn't absolve anyone of the responsibility of having the same kind of faith and obedience.  In the long run, a legacy of faith is a good starting place..but not a guarantee of salvation.

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