Abraham:  Called to Wait

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The Testing of Delay is One of the Hardest Ones to Pass

Last time, in Episode #3 of Biopic #1, we learned about Abram’s latest encounter with God.  It came on the heels of his victory over the four Kings from Mesopotamia, his meeting with Melchizedek, and the temptation presented to him by the King of Sodom.  During this encounter, God expanded upon His revelation to Abram, revealing to him for the first time that he would father a son of his own.  Emphasis was placed on the fact that, at this promise of a Son, Abram believed God and his faith was credited to him as righteousness.

At the time, God also reaffirmed His promise that Abram’s descendants would inherit the land, prompting Abram to ask for some tangible evidence—a guarantee of some sort—that this would be so.  His request was followed by a dream in which God revealed to Abram the future of both those descendants and the land—a dream which was followed by a Covenant-Cutting Ritual in which God bound Himself by blood to fulfill His Promise. 

In reality, this Covenant represented the Marriage Contract between God and Abram, in which Abram pledged his descendants—the future nation of Israel—to be God’s Wife.  As such, it marked Israel’s Official Engagement to God and the beginning of their Betrothal Period—which would last until Moses (acting as God’s Proxy) comes to deliver Israel from her Egyptian bondage and carry her away to Mount Sinai, where their Marriage Ceremony is to take place.  As this was an Unconditional Covenant on God’s part, all that was left for Abram to do was to Believe God and Wait on Him for its fulfillment.

Here, in Episode #4, we will see just how successful Abram was in doing that.  As we await its commencement, here are a few that we need to keep in mind…

  • When this Episode opens, we don’t know how much time has passed since the end of Episode #3 but, because of the ages given for Abram, it probably wasn’t very long;
  • Although Abram has had a faith-producing encounter with God, his wife Sarai has not; and,
  • Not only is Abram at least 85 years old, but Sarai is at least 75—well past the age of childbearing—so the idea that God would give Abram a child through her is humanly impossible.

Episode #4 for Biopic #1
Cast:  Narrator     Sarai     Abram     Angel of the Lord     Hagar

Bearing these things in mind, then, and with the curtain now rising on this Episode, we hear the voice of our off-stage Narrator once again, as he announces…

Narrator:  Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. And she had an Egyptian maidservant whose name was Hagar.  So Sarai said to Abram…

Sarai:  See now, the LORD has restrained me from bearing children. Please, go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children by her.

Narrator:  And Abram heeded the voice of Sarai. Then Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar her maid, the Egyptian, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan.  So he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress became despised in her eyes.  Then Sarai said to Abram…

Sarai:  My wrong be upon you! I gave my maid into your embrace; and when she saw that she had conceived, I became despised in her eyes. The LORD judge between you and me.  So Abram said to Sarai…

Abram:  Indeed your maid is in your hand; do to her as you please.

Narrator:  And when Sarai dealt harshly with her, she fled from her presence.  Now the Angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur. And He said…

Angel of the Lord:  Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from, and where are you going?

Hagar:  I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.

Angel of the LORD:  Return to your mistress, and submit yourself under her hand.  I will multiply your descendants exceedingly, so that they shall not be counted for multitude.  ​

​​Behold, you are with child, and you shall bear a son.  ​​You shall call his name Ishmael, because the LORD has heard your affliction.  ​​He shall be a wild man; his hand shall be against every man, and every man’s hand against him.  ​​And he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.​

Narrator:  Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees; for she said, “Have I also here seen Him who sees me?” Therefore the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; observe, it is between Kadesh and Bered.  So Hagar bore Abram a son; and Abram named his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram.

A Human Solution is Never a Good Solution

At this, the curtain descends, not only marking the ending of this Episode, but also the beginning of our Critical Review.

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Our Review

So far, in our journey with Abram, we have seen God slowly and methodically revealing Himself and His plans for Abram.  We have also seen that following each of these revelations, there has been a period of testing—with this latest revelation proving to be no exception.  In this case, however, Abram wasn’t being tested by fear for his own safety, the lure of riches, or the threat of warfare, but by the Silence of God as he waits for Him to honor His promises.

The Test of Silence—
or, Learning to Walk in the Light of the Last Revelation

Shhh–The Test of Silence is Underway

I’m inclined to think that after such an exhilarating experience as the covenant-cutting ritual, Abram was expecting to see God act on his behalf immediately.  After all, what would be the point of any further delay…

  • Both he and Sarai were already well past childbearing ages, so the birth of a son now would still be a miracle for which God would get the glory;
  • Having lived in the Land of Promise for ten years and having paid their dues there by now, they had already waited long enough; and,
  • With God having made such a big production of this latest Revelation, wouldn’t this have been a good indication that its immediate fulfillment was all but guaranteed?

So why the silence, why the wait, why the delay?

In order to answer this question, we first need to determine just what God wants to accomplish through our testing?  We can get an idea of His objectives in the following passages of Scripture…

Some of God’s Objectives in Testing

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That being said, let’s now look at the particulars of our Story to see if we can determine what God wanted to accomplish in the lives of Abram, Sarai, and Hagar through the Test of Silence and Delay…

  1. Who initiated the action in this episode and why?

Sarai did—no doubt because she felt like a failure as a woman.  To be unable to bear a child in that culture was considered to be a sign of God’s displeasure.  If Abram had come home and told her all about his encounter with God, thinking that it was her fault that they were still childless, she may have thought it was her responsibility to remedy the situation.

  1. Was Sarai’s solution to their problem a legitimate one?

While it was perfectly legal and culturally acceptable at this time to use one’s servant as a surrogate, it was not God’s solution to the problem.  It demonstrated a lack of Faith in His Promises and His ability to do the impossible.

  1. Abram “heeded the voice of his wife”—what past event does this recall? What was the outcome of that event?

This, of course, takes us back to Man’s Testing in the Garden of Eden.  Here, just as in the case of Adam and Eve, instead of acting as Head over his household, Abram caved into pressure exerted by Sarai—with likewise disastrous results.  In this instance, pleasing his wife (perhaps silencing her complaints and laments) became more important that believing God.

  1. How does Sarai respond to the circumstances which she brought about?

Rather than admitting that she made a mistake and taking responsibility for the consequences of it, she blames Abram.  Like Eve, she shifts the blame—this time to Abram, who then shifts it back to her.

  1. Hagar flees…what kind of treatment should Hagar have expected from people professing to know God?

Since Hagar was Egyptian, Abram and Sarai most likely brought her back with them when Pharaoh kicked them out of Egypt.  As an idol-worshiper who had come to live in the home of “God’s People,” she should have expected to be treated with more consideration, rather than as a baby-making machine.

  1. The Angel of the Lord makes His first recorded appearance here. Who does He appear to and what does He do?

The appearance of the Angel of the Lord here is likely a Pre-Incarnate Visitation of Christ—who, instead of appearing to Abram or Sarai, seeks out the lost and the outcast Hagar.  This is reminiscent of the Good Shepherd who, in pursuit of the one lost sheep, leaves the ninety-nine behind.

  1. What is significant about the Angel’s instruction to Hagar?

It is very much like what we read in 1 Peter 5:6-7…

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.

Although Hagar has been treated badly by Sarai, she is told to go back and submit to her authority once again.  In so doing, she and her child would be protected and provided for by the Lord.

  1. What does Ishmael represent? In Galatians 4:22-26, the Apostle Paul explains his spiritual significance in this way….

…that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman.  But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar—for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children—but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all. ​

As Hagar is a picture to us of the Old Covenant which gives birth to bondage, Ishmael becomes a picture of the Works of the Flesh produced by those living under that bondage.

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Now, to see what the Test of Silence, Delay, and Waiting accomplished or revealed in the lives of the parties involved, let’s assess them in the following way…

A Scorecard for Abram, Sarai, and Hagar


In Summary—

Before leaving this Episode, and in order to complete our Review, we need to ask ourselves these all-important questions…

  1. What Life Lessons can we take away from Abram’s experience here?

One of the most important lessons that we can take away from this is, if we fail or refuse to wait upon God and attempt to accomplish His Will through our own human wisdom and fleshly means, we will…

  • Wreak havoc in our homes and in our relationships;
  • Delay even longer the fulfillment of God’s Promises to us; and,
  • Give our enemies and the enemies of God an opportunity to question our salvation and to bring a reproach upon God.
  1. Does this Episode make any contributions to God’s One Big Story of Redemption?

As a result of his lapse of Faith and his failure to wait on God for His Provision of a Son, Abram‘s self-efforts produced Ishmael—whose descendants have been Israel’s enemies throughout most of her history.

  1. Are there any Revelations of God to be found in this part of His Story?

Although God is noticeably silent where Abram and Sarai are concerned, He reveals Himself to Hagar as the God who desires that all—both Jew and Gentile—to come to Repentance and Faith through His Son, Jesus Christ.

 

Your Assignment

 

Images of Abram, Sarai, and Hagar courtesy of freebibleimages.com.

 

 

Abraham:  Called to Wed

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God’s Covenant with Abraham

When we left Abram at the end of Episode #2, he had just returned from the daring and successful rescue of his nephew, Lot, along with the other inhabitants of Sodom and the surrounding cities.  Although, before he could return the captives and the loot taken in the raid, he was met by Melchizedek—the Priest and King of Salem—with whom he shared communion and to whom he gave tithes from the spoils of that war.  As a result of this worshipful encounter, when he was offered the recovered loot by the King of Sodom, Abram was fully prepared to turn it down, choosing instead to maintain his integrity and witness before the pagan king and the peoples of the land.

This temptation turned out to be the third in a series of Tests that Abram has been undergoing.  As we have seen in our study of him, God has progressively been revealing Himself and His plans for Abram and his descendants through a series of revelatory encounters—with each one involving a promise, and each one followed by a period of testing.  This chart summarizes Abram’s progress so far…

Abram’s Report Card

This, then, brings us to Abram’s next revelatory encounter in Genesis 15.  Although he doesn’t know it yet, throughout this process, God has been preparing him to become the Father of Israel, a role we will see him step into here in Episode #3 of his story, as he enters into a marriage covenant with God for his descendants–those who will eventually become the nation of Israel, the Wife of Jehovah.

With the lights now going down now in the theatre and the curtains slowly starting to rise, we hear the voice our off-stage Narrator once again, as he begins setting the stage for us…


Episode #3 of Biopic #1
Cast:     Narrator     God     Abram

Narrator:  Lot has just departed on his merry way to Sodom, leaving Abram shaking his head and wondering whether all his efforts to rescue and restore his backsliding nephew have not been totally in vain.  The king of Sodom has left, rubbing his hands over the recovery of all his goods, at no cost to himself and, no doubt, discussing with the secretary of his treasury what particular form of insanity possessed Abram so that he refused his share of the spoil.  Melchizedek has gone, leaving Abram with only a memory and a new appreciation of God.  Aner and Eschol and Mamre have gone, congratulating one another on their prowess in war and gloating over the rich profits they have reaped.  And Abram is left alone, somewhat depressed and a little fearful perhaps lest his unexpected display of military power might not stir the Canaanites into a league against him.  Moreover, he has probably been listening to the excited chatter of Lot’s children, which reminds him—he has no child of his own.  It is at this point that God, in His love and care, comes to talk with Abram about the building of his family…[1]

NarratorAfter these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying…

God:  Do not be afraid, Abram. I AM your shield, your exceedingly great reward.

Abram:  Lord GOD, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?  Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!

Narrator:  And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, saying…

God:  This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.

Narrator:  Then He brought him outside and said…

God:  Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them….So shall your descendants be.

Narrator:  And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.  Then [God] said to him…

God:  I AM the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it.

Abram:  Lord GOD, how shall I know that I will inherit it?

God:  Bring Me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.

Narrator:  Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, down the middle, and placed each piece opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds in two.  And when the vultures came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.

Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him.  Then God said to Abram…

God:  Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years.  And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions.

Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age.  But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.

Narrator:  And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces.  On the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying…

God:  To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates—the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.

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The Critic's HatWith nothing further to add, this Episode comes to a halt, indicating that it is time for us to pull out our Critic’s Caps and begin our Review of it.  As always, we will be approaching this Episode from three levels…

  • The Earthly Level—where we will be looking for any Life Lessons that we can take away from it;
  • The Heavenly Level—where we will be looking for the Contributions it has to make to God’s One Big Story of Redemption; and,
  • The Eternal Level—where we will be looking for the Revelations of God contained in this part of the Story.

So, with these as our goals, let’s begin our Review by first going over…

The Most Important Points in this Episode

1. In our previous episodes, when God “spoke” to someone, it was not made clear just what form that took. But here, the Word of God came to Abram in a vision—making this the first mention of a vision in Scripture.  This kind of appearance is called a Theophany, and is a pre-incarnate vision of Jesus Christ.

2. With this visitation coming closely on the heels of his battle experience, God reassures Abram that he did the right thing in rejecting the spoils, and that whatever happens as a result of his “military offensive,” He would be Abram’s protector and provider.

3. Given that in each of his previous encounters with God, Abram was promised either a nation or descendants, when he meets with God this time, it only seems logical that the first thing he mentions is his lack of children—after all, how can you have descendants if you don’t have any children?

In response, the Lord promises him—for the first time—that his heir will not be his adopted servant but a son born from his own seed.  At this, he is told to count the stars.  Back in Genesis 12:14ff, God told him that He was going to make his descendants as the dust of the earth.  These two promises speak of Abram’s two seeds—his natural and supernatural descendants, with the natural being those who are born of the flesh—the Jews, and the supernatural descendants being those who are born of the Spirit—the Church.

4. The Lord’s self-identification as I AM is used here for the first time. Later, in John 8:56-59, Jesus stated unequivocally that He was the I AM.  In this particular confrontation with the Jewish leaders, when He told them…

…if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death…

…the Jews said to Him…Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word he shall never taste death.’  Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead?…

Jesus answered…Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.

Then the Jews said to Him, You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?

Jesus said to them, Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.

5. Although Abram had believed God before—enough so that he packed up, left his homeland, and became a wanderer in the Land of Promise—this is the first time that it has been said that his belief has been accounted to him for righteousness. Why do you think that is?  

Unlike all of God’s previous promises to Abram, this is the first mention and direct promise that a son would be born to him, and that this son would also be in the lineage of the Seed promised to Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:15.  It was his faith in this promised Redeemer that is being counted or credited to him as righteousness.

6. In spite of the fact that we have just been told that Abram believed God, when God promises him the land again, he asks for a signwhy? Does this demonstrate a lack of faith?

No.  Back in Genesis 9:8-17, God gave Noah the Rainbow as a sign or reminder of their Covenant that He would never again destroy the earth by a flood.  So, in asking for a sign, Abram was asking what the tangible reminder of this Covenant would be.   We can regard the sign, then, as the equivalent of God’s signature on this contract.

Abram Prepares and Protects the Sacrifice

7. To this, Abram is told to prepare an offering/a sacrifice. Even though he very quickly obeys, there is a long delay before anything else happens—other than him having to chase away the What do you think these things might mean?

The delay was probably meant to indicate that the fulfillment of this Covenantal Promise would not be immediate; while the Vultures were meant to be a picture of the demonic forces that would be at work until then, trying to keep this Covenant from being fulfilled.  Later, in Luke 8: 5, 12, in the Parable of the Sower, Jesus used a similar analogy to illustrate this practice of the enemy

A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it…

Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.

8. After protecting the sacrifice all afternoon, when darkness falls, a deep sleep overtakes Abram and in it, he is shown in dream of the future of his descendants, where they will be afflicted in a foreign land for 400 years. This raises such questions as…

  • After giving the Land to Abram, why would God allow them to be taken out of the Land of Promise?

In later chapters of Genesis (especially chapter 28), we find that the corrupt culture of the Canaanites was beginning to impact the behavior of Jacob and his family.  To protect them from these negative influences—while giving the people of the land plenty of time to repent before bringing judgment upon them—God removed His People from the land and sequestered them in Goshen, the best land in all Egypt.

  • Why would God allow His Covenant People to be subjected to such suffering and affliction?

During the first part of their sojourn in Egypt, as the family of Joseph, the Israelites enjoyed special treatment and were being provided for by Joseph.  Even during the great famine, they were prosperous, not really needing to look to God for anything because their needs were being met by the government.  But, when a ruler came to power after Joseph, they lost their privileged position and were reduced to slavery instead.  It was then that they began to call upon the Lord again.  So, their affliction can be seen in one of two ways—as the means God used to restore His People to faith in and dependence upon Him, and as a picture of the persecution that the World routinely inflicts upon the People of God. 

Abram, on the other hand, was promised that he would live a long life and die in peace.

9. While he is asleep, the Presence of the Lord passes between the sacrificial elements. What do you think is significant about this?

In the Ancient Near East, when a covenant was made, it was ratified by first slaughtering animals and then creating a path between their divided carcasses.  Both parties would walk through these animals, pledging to fulfill the terms of the covenant

By cutting the animals in half during covenant ceremonies, the parties making the covenant were effectively saying, ‘Let this be done to us if we break the terms of this covenant…’

By being the one who passes between, Yahweh places the penalty of violating the covenant on Himself.  He is showing Abram how serious He is about His promises.’ [2]

God Ratifying the Covenant

In Summary…

…we have learned that…

  • For the first time, Abram has had a face-to-face encounter with Jesus Christ—an encounter of faith which has made Abram righteous in the eyes of God;
  • God allays Abrams’ fears about his past actions and assures him of a glorious future with a Son of his own to be his heir;
  • This Son of Promise will be the foundation stone upon which the nation of Israel will be built; and,
  • As a sign of this Promise, God “Cut a Covenant” with Abram in which He swears by oath that He will fulfill every promise He has made concerning Abram and his descendants.

Now, in conclusion, we need to ask ourselves..

1. What Life Lessons can we take away from Abram’s experience in this episode?

  • Everyone, no matter how important or insignificant they may be, must come to God in the same way—that is, through a personal faith encounter with His Son, Jesus Christ;
  • Once they stand righteous before God, He will cover their pasts, and protect and provide for them as they follow Him into the future;
  • God’s tests are not punitive but preparatory. They are designed to grow everyone in faith and in righteousness, and prepare them for their divinely ordained destinies.
  • Like Abram, Believers today are participants in a Covenant with God—a New Covenant, written in the very Blood of Jesus, in which the Spirit of God comes to live within them, writing God’s Laws upon their hearts and teaching them to live like Children of the Most High God.

2. What Contributions does this episode make to God’s One Big Story of Redemption?

This episode marks a pivotal point in God’s One Big Story.  Everything that has gone before has merely been preparation for this event—the cutting of the Covenant between God and Abram.  In reality, this Covenant is a Marriage Contract in which Abram betroths Israel—the Nation that will come from him—to God.

In the Ancient Jewish Wedding Tradition, which provides the format for the Story of the Bible, the three phases in a Jewish Marriage are…

  • The Negotiation or Arrangement Phase—in which the Bridegroom’s Father, the Bridegroom himself, or his Agent goes to the Father of a Bride and negotiates a marriage contract. If arrangements acceptable to both parties can be arrived at, and if the bride gives her consent, then the Bridegroom and Bride become legally betrothed or engaged.  At this point, the Bridegroom returns to his Father’s house and begins preparing a home for his Bride.
  • The Betrothal Phase—which usually lasts for about a year, is a time during which the Bridegroom is at work building a home and the Bride is busy preparing her wedding garments
  • The Consummation Phase—which includes the actual Marriage, its consummation, and the Wedding Feast that follows, only happens when the Father of the Bridegroom is satisfied with the work of his Son and gives him permission to go and get His Bride.

So, with the Marriage Covenant between God and Abram having been ratified by blood, the Negotiation Phase is now complete and God and Israel have entered into the Betrothal Period.

3. What Revelations of God does this episode give us?

As we have just learned, God is seen here as the Celestial Suitor, the Bridegroom who has just become betrothed to the Nation of Israel.  And, even though she isn’t even a reality in the natural as yet, in the mind and heart of her Beloved, she has been in existence since before the foundation of the world.

Here is a video that will help explain the Love Story behind the One Big Story of the Bible a little better…

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Early on in our study of Abram, we learned that he was called to Wander, Worship, and Witness, and in our last episode, we learned that he was also called to Warfare.  In our next episode—in Chapter 16—we will discover that he has also been called to do one of the hardest things ever—and that is, to Wait!

 

[1] John Phillips, Exploring Genesis (Neptune, New Jersey: Loizeaux Brothers, 1992), 132.

[2] Calvin Park, “Cutting a Covenant,” Bible Study Magazine, September 19, 2017, http://www.biblestudymagazine.com/bible-study-magazine-blog/2017/9/19/cutting-a-covenant

Some images used courtesy of Free Bible Images.

Back on Track–The Journey Resumes

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It’s Time to Get Back to the Land of Revelation Knowledge!

All Aboard and welcome back, fellow travelers!  I am happy to say that, after a rather lengthy but edifying visit to the Workout Room, the time has come for us to once again head out on the Truth Train and resume our Bible Study tour through the Land of Revelation Knowledge.  For those who are joining us for the first time, this tour is unique in that it presents the One Big Story of the Bible as a Play; one consisting of two Acts with six Scenes each and one long Intermission between the acts.   These scenes and the intermission, as well as an epilogue at the end of the play, are being acted out for us on fourteen different Stages, positioned along the route we are taking through this vast and incredible land.  When we broke for our detour to the Workout Room, we had just left Stage #1 where Act 1, Scene 1 had completed its run, and we were on our way to Stage #2 where Act 1, Scene 2 had been scheduled to get underway.

Now that we are back on track and heading in that direction once more, considering how long it has been since we left the first Stage, I think it would be wise if we used this travel time to Review  briefly what took place in Scene 1, and to Preview what will soon be taking place in Scene 2.  For those who may feel the need of a more thorough review, one can be obtained by visiting the His Truth, My Voice Theatre page, where all of the material we’ve covered so far has been arranged chronologically for easy viewing.

Reviewing Where We Have Been

In Act 1, Scene 1 of God’s One Big Story, we were introduced to the Sovereign God of the Universe, whom we discovered is not only the Main Character of the Story but also its Author.  From the opening verses of the Script(ures), we learned that this God is…

  • A Trinity of Three Unique Persons united in One Divine Purpose;
  • Pre-existent and Eternal; and,
  • All-Powerful, All-Knowing, and Present Everywhere at All Times.

As for the Story itself, we learned that it is a Love Story, borne out of God’s Heart and His passionate desire to have a Family of His own to love.  It was for this reason that He created the world and the people living in it—people who, as they multiplied, would eventually become the nations from which one, Israel, would graciously be chosen to become God’s Wife.  When Act 1 opened, however, no such nations existed; therefore, to prepare for Israel’s eventual entrance onto the earthly stage of the Story,  all the action taking place in the opening scene was for the purpose of bringing them into being.

The way in which this was accomplished was revealed to us through the use of nine dramatic Vignettes, or mini-scenes, covering the major events in Genesis 1-11–these being…

The Creation of the World;
The Creation of Man and Woman;
Their Sin and Fall from Grace;
The Consequences of their Sin…

…Personally,
…In Their Family,
…In Society at Large;

The Judgment on their Sin through the Flood;
The New World after the Flood; and,
Mankind’s On-going Rebellion and its Judgment. 

Over the course of these Vignettes, we learned how God used elements from the real-life experiences of people living on the Earthly Stage at the time to tell the Bigger Story of Love and Redemption that was taking place on the Heavenly Stage.  In fact, by the end of Vignette #9, we were able to see how the mini-scenes of Genesis 1-11, when viewed together, formed a Panoramic Prophetic Picture of all human history—creating, in effect, a Spiritual Overture of the themes and motifs which would be reappearing throughout the rest of the Story.

For example, in this Overture, we saw how

  • In the story of Creation—in going from darkness to light, chaos to order, and from death to life in response to the Word of God and the “hovering” work of the Spirit—we were provided with a picture of the recurring spiritual theme of Re-creation or Rebirth.
  • The story of the First Adam and his wife, Eve, gave us the prophetic picture of the Second Adam, Jesus, and His Bride, the Church—who, like Eve, was fashioned from a “rib” (the disciples) taken from the Second Adam as He slept in death.
  • The story of the Two Trees in the Garden was an illustration of the only two “salvation” alternatives available to mankind—the counterfeit system of works or the genuine system of salvation through faith in Christ.
  • In the story of Cain and Abel—in which God’s acceptance of Abel’s offering by faith and His rejection of Cain’s self-righteous offering provoked Cain to envy, anger, and the murder of his brother–we were given a spiritual illustration of the wicked’s on-going rebellion against and persecution of the righteous.  We were also shown a picture of Cain as a type of Israel—the brother who, after his slaying of the righteous Son, was marked for protection before he began his wanderings in the wilderness of the world.
  • In the long “Reign of Death” taking place between the stories of Cain and the Flood, we were shown how sin affected all men, leading to their deaths, and the futility of life lived apart from God.
  • In the translation of Enoch just before the judgment of the flood, we were given a prophetic picture of the Rapture that will take place prior to the Great Tribulation, when those who are “walking with God” will be translated to heaven without dying.
  • The lawlessness and demonic activity preceding the Flood gave us a preview of the conditions that will exist before the Tribulation, as self-absorbed humanity abandons faith in God, violence increases, and doors are opened to ever-increasing levels of satanic activity.
  • And the Flood, in which the wrath of God was poured out from heaven against the unrighteousness of men while a small righteous remnant in the Ark was being spared, provided us with a picture of the end-times Tribulation, when the wrath of God will once again be poured out from heaven against the unrighteousness of men, while a righteous remnant is being preserved on the earth.
  • In the story of Noah after the Flood, when those in the Ark came out to a new earth and entered into a new covenant with God, we were shown a “type” of the “new world” that will exist when Christ sets up His Millennial Kingdom following the Tribulation–where the righteous remnant will live on a cleansed earth, under a new covenant with God, for a thousand years.
  • The rebellion at Babel gave us a prophetic picture of Satan’s final act of rebellion—when, at the end of the Millennium, he will be released from his thousand year imprisonment to lead one final revolt against the righteous rule of the Lord.
  • And, in the Judgment of the Nations at the Tower of Babel, the final Judgment of the Nations is in view, when the Lord gathers the nations together—separating the “sheep” nations from the “goat” nations— and judges them according to the way they have treated His “brethren.”

In Genesis 1-11, We Start with Nothing and End Up with a World Full of Nations

Now, having refreshed our memories as to what we have seen, and with Stage #2 fast approaching, let’s prepare ourselves for what we can expect to see when the curtain goes up on Act 1, Scene 2 of God’s One Big Story.

Previewing Where We Are Going

Whereas in Scene 1, we were introduced to God as “The Celestial Suitor”—who, in anticipation of obtaining a Bride, created and prepared the world to be her future home—in Scene 2, we are going to be introduced to the Patriarchs—or, the line of godly ancestors through whom “Israel: the Beloved of God,” will come into being.  Much like Scene 1, where the story was told through the use of 9 Vignettes, in Scene 2, the story will unfold by means of 4 Bio-Pics, or four biographical pictures of these ancestors of Israel, found in chapters 12-50 of the book of Genesis.  They are…

Abraham—the Exalted Father who becomes the Father of a Multitude;
Isaac—the Long-Awaited Son of Promise who displaces the Son born in Bondage;
Jacob—the Scheming Shepherd who becomes a Prince with God; and,
Joseph—the Betrayed Brother who not only becomes His Brothers’ Savior but the Savior of the World, as well.

Before we can move forward with the story, though, there is still the all-important matter of Formatting that we need to take into consideration.  Hopefully, those of you who have been with us from the beginning of this tour will remember that during our visit to the Welcome Center of the Word, we viewed the video, The Bible: The Story Behind the Story.  In that video, we learned that the Story of the Bible has been formatted according to the Ancient Jewish Wedding Tradition—a tradition completely foreign to our present day concepts of marriage.  Because of this–and, in order for us to truly appreciate the Love Story that the Bible has to tell–we must first come to an understanding of the Wedding Tradition upon which that story is based.

The Format of the Story

Because Family was at the center of Jewish life and culture, the choice of a marriage partner was a very serious business.  This selection was not to be determined by some fly-by-night or emotional impulse of the moment; it was achieved through an involved Marriage Process, consisting of three distinct phases…

The Arrangement or Negotiation Phase;
The Betrothal Phase; and,
The Marriage and Consummation Phase.
 

  1. The Arrangement or Negotiation Phase

The Ketubah–the Marriage Contract

In Jewish culture, when it was time for a young man to marry, typically his father would choose a bride for him and then send an agent or representative to the bride’s family to negotiate an arrangement for a marriage.  The bride, of course, had to give her consent and if she did, a mohar or Bride Price was established and a Ketubah or written document was drawn up in which the bride price, the promises of the bridegroom, and the rights of the bride were clearly stated.  This document would have to be executed and signed prior to the wedding ceremony.

Gifts were then given to the bride and a cup called the Cup of the Covenant was shared between the bride and groom—the rite of erusin or betrothal being completed when the groom gave something of value to the bride and she accepted it.  This completed rite was known in Hebrew as kiddushin or sanctification, and the covenant between the bride and the groom would be sealed with the drinking of the wine.  Once agreed to, this covenant was a legally binding contract which could only be dissolved by divorce.

The Cup of the Covenant

Afterward, the bridegroom would go back to his father’s house, where he would begin preparing a home for his new bride.  Before leaving, though, he would reassure her of his eventual return with this promise:  “I go to prepare a place you; if I go, I will return again unto you.”  After his departure, the bride would undergo a mikvah—or water immersion—a ritual of cleansing marking a separation from her former way of life to a new life with her spouse.

  1. The Betrothal Phase

This marked the beginning of the Betrothal Period, which usually lasted a year.  During this time, the bride was consecrated and set apart, busily preparing her wedding garments for the big day; while the bridegroom was away making, ready their new home.  The bride had to be ready at all times because she had no idea when her groom would return for her.  Even the groom didn’t know when that would be because he first had to get permission from his father—who had to be completely satisfied that his son’s house was in order.

  1. The Marriage and Consummation Phase 

Once he received his father’s permission, the bridegroom would return—usually in the middle of the night—with a shout, “Behold the bridegroom comes,” and with the blowing of the shofar or ram’s horn.  He would then abduct his bride from her father’s home and carry her away in a sacred procession to the chupah or wedding canopy where the marriage would take place.  There, they would be treated as royalty, with the bridegroom in the role of a newly-crowned king, and the bride as his queen.

Under the Chupah

Following the wedding ceremony, the bridegroom and bride would go into the wedding chamber where the marriage was to be consummated.  The friend of the bridegroom would take up his position outside the door where he, and all of the assembled guests, would eagerly await word that the consummation had taken place.  Upon receiving the signal from the bridegroom, the friend of the bridegroom would announce it to the guests, and great rejoicing would break out.  The couple would remain in the wedding chamber for a total of seven days and when they came out, they—along with all the guests invited by the father of the bride, would enjoy a great Marriage Supper.[1]

Although this wedding tradition bears little relevance to our lives today, because it was such an integral part of everyday life when the Bible was written, we must take time to familiarize ourselves with each of this tradition’s three parts if we are ever going to understand the Story it has to tell.  For, not only do these phases provide the framework for all of God’s Great Love Story, they also serve as the basis for the Plot, and propel the Action of the Story forward in both the Old and the New Testaments.

As we shall see in the upcoming scene, in the Old Testament—which is all about God’s love relationship with Israel…

  • The Negotiation Phase is what takes place in Genesis 15, when God—as the Bridegroom Himself–enters into a covenant with Abraham, and negotiates a marriage contact in which the future nation of Israel will one day become His Bride;
  • The Betrothal Phase will follow on the heels of this negotiation and will cover the period of time from Genesis 15 to Exodus 19. At that time Moses, acting as God’s representative, will abduct Israel in the middle of the night from the “house of Pharaoh,” and lead her in a sacred procession to the Marriage Chupah at Mount Sinai;
  • Then, in Exodus 20, the Marriage Phase will begin, as Israel vows to forsake all other gods, agrees to the terms of God’s covenant, and becomes the Wife of Jehovah. 

With this as the backdrop to our Story—and with the train now coming to a halt at our next destination—the time has come for us to leave the train and make our way into the theatre, where Scene 2, “Israel, the Beloved of God” will soon get underway.

 

 

In place of our usual music selection, here is the video referred to earlier, “The Story Behind the Story”…

 

 

[1] Information on the Jewish Wedding Tradition gathered from Edward Chumney’s book, The Seven Festivals of the Messiah (Shippensburg, Pennsylvania: Destiny Image Publishers, 1994), 125-135.