Hagar: Tears, Empowerment, & the Faithfulness of God

Corot_Hagar_in_the_WildernessToday we continue our Lent series, “The Weeping Word“, looking at different moments of crying, lament, and tears in the Scriptures.

In the early chapters of the Bible, there is perhaps no greater symbol of injustice than Hagar, the Egyptian servant of Abraham and Sarah. She is under forced labor, and is made by her master’s wife to bear a child by an old man. She is, in essence, a sex slave. After Hagar has her son, Sarah deals very harshly with her, causing Hagar to run away. God chases her down:

The angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, slave-girl of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?”

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Responding to the Covenant | Genesis 35.9-13

God appeared to Jacob again when he came from Paddan-aram, and he blessed him. God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; no longer shall you be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” So he was called Israel. God said to him, “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall spring from you. The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you.” Then God went up from him at the place where he had spoken with him.
Genesis 35.9-13

Here is God renewing the Abraham covenant with Jacob. Notice that this is not a new covenant, but a passing of the mantle of stewardship on to Jacob. This is the same covenant we are under, except this mantle of stewardship has gone to, and stayed with, Jesus himself.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

The Echoes of History & Abraham| Genesis 24.22-23

When the camels had finished drinking, the man took a gold nose-ring weighing a half shekel, and two bracelets for her arms weighing ten gold shekels, and said, “Tell me whose daughter you are. Is there room in your father’s house for us to spend the night?”
Genesis 24.22-23

On a random historical note, though it is clear that these stories come from older narratives and traditions written down much later, it is interesting that these stories still have features that would have been accurate for the time at which the story took place, millenia before the story was written down. You can see an example here. At the Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology, you can see artifacts from this area and supposed time (where I have seen with my own eyes the type of jewelry that this would be referring to). From doing that, it really looks like things such as these bracelets and gold rings were used for currency a lot more at this particular time in history. Later on, in a story such as this you would have more references to gold, money, cattle, or more established forms of barterng.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

And the story moves from Abraham to Isaac… | selections from Genesis 26

Now there was a famine in the land, besides the former famine that had occurred in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went to Gerar, to King Abimelech of the Philistines.
Genesis 26:1

This reads like a later interpolation because of confusion between the two drought accounts.

The Lord appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; settle in the land that I shall show you.
Genesis 26:2

God’s first word to Abraham: “Go”. God’s first word to his son: “Do not go”. I love that. Not sure why, but I do.

Abimelech said, “What is this you have done to us? One of the people might easily have lain with your wife, and you would have brought guilt upon us.” So Abimelech warned all the people, saying, “Whoever touches this man or his wife shall be put to death.”
Genesis 26:10-11

Oh the mercy of God, and how he protects the vulnerable here. But how do we understand when he doesn’t act in protection like this?

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Law & Grace, Law & Grace | Genesis 12:10

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.” Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you, and to your offspring after you, the land where you are now an alien, all the land of Canaan, for a perpetual holding; and I will be their God.”
Genesis 6:18

Those Lutherans are on to something. God really does seem to come at this on the front end with some works and law, and then does the covenant switcheroo.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

The God of Chance & Randomness | Genesis 13.14-18

The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Raise your eyes now, and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth; so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted. Rise up, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.” So Abram moved his tent, and came and settled by the oaks of Mamre, which are at Hebron; and there he built an altar to the Lord.

Genesis 13:14-18

I find it really interesting that this promise comes after Abram more or less left this land allotment to chance and Lot’s choice. He let Lot choose what land he wanted, and then God pretty much says to Abram “everything else Lot didn’t choose is yours!” This becomes the Promised Land for the people of God. And it was essentially leftovers. Oh the tension between Providence and Human Action!

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Covenantal Confusion (on my part) | Genesis 6:18

But[, Noah,] I will establish my covenant with you; and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.

Genesis 6:18

I really don’t get how the idea of Covenant fits into the narrative flow here. Is this covenant “different” than the Abrahamic one? How so? What happened to it? How do we know that the Abrahamic covenant isn’t just a new administration of the Noahic one?

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Abraham’s son Ishmael was part of Covenant! | Genesis 17.23-27

This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised… and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you…. Both the slave born in your house and the one bought with your money must be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”… As for Ishmael, I have heard you; I will bless him and make him fruitful and exceedingly numerous; he shall be the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this season next year.”…. Then Abraham took his son Ishmael and all the slaves born in his house or bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house, and he circumcised the flesh of their foreskins that very day, as God had said to him…. And his son Ishmael was thirteen years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. That very day Abraham and his son Ishmael were circumcised; and all the men of his house, slaves born in the house and those bought with money from a foreigner, were circumcised with him.
Genesis 17.23-27

Yes, God said that Ishmael would not be the primary bearer and “administrator” of the covenant, but he still bears its marks. Reminds me of a reading from Lesslie Newbigin where he talks about how through our election and Covenantal relationship with God, Salvation is extended to all the nations. “Election” isn’t about blessing; it’s about responsibility to extend the Blessing to others.

Other peoples (even those not in the elect people of God) participate in and receive the full benefits of being part of the Covenant. To be elect is to extend these Covenantal blessings to all nations (as we see here with Abraham). To be marked as God’s is to be placed on mission.

Ishmael was still joined to the covenant! Praise God for his gratuitous grace!

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Abraham almost loses his son & he worships?! | Genesis 22.13-14

 And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.”
Genesis 22.13-14

This is right after the whole “sacrifice Isaac” thing. To me, this such an odd response. Not only does Abraham worship God after this, which is crazy enough as it is, but he also sets up a memorial to remember this by! If I were him, I’d need some space from this God for a bit and I’d want to forget this incident as soon as possible.

I’ve always thought it odd that the book of Hebrews puts such an emphasis on Abraham and calling him the “father of faith” and extols his faith so much. Whenever I read that I think about how he had Ishmael with Hagar, due to a lack faith, and (twice) gave his wife up to be the wife of someone else because he was scared they’d kill him–another example of a lack of faith!

But then I read things like this and I think to myself, “Oh yeah, now I get it.”

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Father Abraham, had many sons; and many sons, Moses did not.

Rothko-9-White-Black-Wine-1958So…I had my mind blown this past week.

I’m taking this class on the idea of “worship” in all its dimensions, and we read a few pieces that gave me an entirely new framework to understand the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, and how God works in those stories. And no, I’m not exaggerating.

In Genesis 15, God makes a covenant with Abraham, and it’s a little weird, mainly because it’s entirely on God. He promises that he will be Abraham’s God. He promises he will give him many descendants. He promises to make those descendants a blessing to the world. And, most importantly, he takes all of the potential negative consequences of breaking the covenant on Himself. In essence, he makes this covenant with Himself on Abraham’s behalf.

What’s Abraham’s part in this whole thing? “He believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness”, the text says (and he’s supposed to circumcise his kids as a visible mark of his belief). This is one of the earliest and clearest depictions of the unconditional grace-driven nature of God’s relationship to humanity and the world–a relationship that would later be called “The Gospel”. In fact, the Apostle Paul would look at this moment in Genesis and say:

Just as Abraham “believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” so, you see, those who believe are the descendants of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, declared the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you.” For this reason, those who believe are blessed with Abraham who believed.

Okay….so what?
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