Friday, 3 August 2012

I am Abraham's Servant

Now isn't this cheating? Surely this isn't God speaking but rather Abraham's servant? (Gen 24:34) Well, yes it is but Genesis 24 is the culmination of 3 amazing chapters in the Book of Genesis. There is a theme and pattern which surely cannot be accidental. Let's take a look and see if we can justify adding this 'self-revelation' to the list.

Genesis 22. Moriah and The 'Sacrifice' of Isaac.

This chapter tells the amazing story of the lengths that Abraham was prepared to go to in order to please God, or does it? Here is the clue to its interpretation;
Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” Gen 22:1–2 NKJV.
Now if we remind ourselves that the name Abraham means 'Father of a multitude' and take notice of the phrase 'your son, your only son…' we shall discover that we are reading the account of 'a father who is resolved to offer his only son… as a sacrifice.' Does that sound like a familiar story line?

How old was Isaac? Jewish tradition says that Isaac was 21 years old but the next date we are given is in Genesis 22:1 where we read that Sarah was 127 years old. If we recall that Sarah was 90 years old when Isaac was conceived we can calculate that Isaac was 36 years old when Sarah died. No one really knows how old Isaac was when 'father and son' made their journey to the place of sacrifice but I have a strong suspicion that he was 33 years old! You will guess my reasoning.

A few years ago a foolish evangelical leader dismissed the teaching of penal substitutionary atonement in which the Father poured his wrath upon his son, as cosmic child abuse. If he had read Genesis 22 more carefully he would not have made such a reckless statement. Twice the account gives us a little progress marker; Gen 22:6, 8. They went both of them together. In the scenes that open before us we see 'father and son' united in their mission. The father did not impose his will on a juvenile Isaac but father and grown son journied 'together' on their mission to the land of Moriah. Isaac means 'laughter' and he was the apple of his father's eye, his daily delight.

Now that you have the key follow the story yourself and let its truths soak into your soul.

Genesis 23. Machpelah and the Hiding Place.

Why would God give over a whole chapter to the purchase of a burial plot? Well it has significance in the first real-estate owned by the family of Abraham but I think there is another significance. Sarah had died and Abraham wanted a place where …I may bury my dead out of my sight. Gen 23:4 NKJV. The phrase is used twice; Gen 23:4, 8.

In sophisticated societies we have lost much of the horror of death. Many who read these words will have seldom seen a corpse and perhaps none will have seen the horrors of putrefaction that visit an unburied body. We need to see that 'death' and its consequences are repulsive to God. Death is not 'a friend' in Bible language, it is the 'last enemy'. (1 Cor 15:26.) Death and its accompaniments are the result of sin, and not even the memory can be allowed to remain in God's presence.

Abraham, the father, pays the price to purchase a safe repository where 'death and its consequences' can be 'hidden from my sight'. There is a parallel. The death of Christ has provided a means whereby God can 'hide dead things from his sight.'

Genesis 23. Nahor and the Bride.

Let's follow the tracks.
  1. Genesis 22. the Father's sacrifice of the Son.
  2. Genesis 23.The Purchase of a Hiding Place for Sin and Death.
  3. Genesis 24. A Bride for the Son who has passed through Death.
Can you see a pattern here?

Abraham's servant is a picture of the Spirit sent on a mission by the Father to seek out a bride for the Son who has passed through death. It is very possible that the 'servant of Abraham' is actually Eliezer from Gen 15:2 NKJV, but it should not surprise us that in Genesis 23 he acts anonimously. He is the self-effacing agent of the Father's will who has little to say of himself but whose mission is to declare the will of the Father and the attractions of the Son.

Listen to his cameo description of Isaac. He is the Father's Son to whom the Father has given all that he has. Gen 24:36 NKJV. See the commission with which the Servant is entrusted; And if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be released from this oath; only do not take my son back there.” Gen 24:8 NKJV. See how she receives this emissary and responds to his approach; Gen 24:17–19. See how gentle he is in his approach to the potential Bride and how the Servant gives her the tokens of the Father's good intentions. Gen 24:22. And see how in addition to all these sure indications of the will of God the Servant still awaits her full hearted consent; Then they called Rebekah and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” And she said, “I will go.” Gen 24:58 NKJV.

And then see how he leads her safely to her Bridegroom and watches as she prepares to surrender herself to the Father's Son; Then Rebekah lifted her eyes, and when she saw Isaac she dismounted from her camel; for she had said to the servant, “Who is this man walking in the field to meet us?” The servant said, “It is my master.” So she took a veil and covered herself. Gen 24:64–65 NKJV.

The story is delightful but its revelations of the character of the Servant are even more so. How gentle and tender are the Spirit's ways with those he is bringing to the Son. He will tell you little of himself until you are safely in the embrace of the Son.

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