Inspired by Genesis 15:1-6
Our Bible story for this week, which comes from the fifteenth chapter of Genesis, began with the words, “After these events…” So, some of you may have been wondering what those events were that the author was referring to. Well, last week, we read from chapters two, three, and four, so, we’ve skipped a few stories as we will in the coming months because there’s just too many for us to get to them all. We skipped The Flood, which we read in year one of the Narrative Lectionary, the Tower of Babel, when God first reveals Godself to Abram which is also when God first revealed the promise of a great nation from Abram’s line, a note that will be important later. Abram then journeys to Egypt to escape a famine, where he gets in trouble because apparently, his wife Sarai was so beautiful that he thought they’d kill him to get to her so he tried to pass her off as his sister only to bring a plague on the Egyptians who quickly kick them all out. Oh, silly Abram. Then, he and his nephew Lot, whose family and possessions had been with Abram this whole time, decide to go their separate ways to avoid any conflict between their clans. Abram settles in Canaan, where he prospers, and Lot in Jordan but then Lot gets captured in a war. Abram then mounts a rescue attempt with his own army and was successful. So, these are the events that the author is referring to and that brings us to today’s story.
This story, though short, provides the foundation for, well, for the rest of this book to tell you the truth. God reiterates the promise of a family to Abram, the one thing that Abram wanted but didn’t have. Actually, it’s the one thing that most any man would want in Abram’s day because it said so much about who you were as a man. A man without a family of his own was not really seen as much of a man at all then. A man with no one of his own bloodline to pass on his traditions, religion, possessions, land, was really a lost cause in the eyes of the ancient world. More than that, it was a sign that the man’s god was either displeased with him, or that his god was not a very powerful god to begin with! So, there was a lot at stake here for Abram, his identity as a man, as a follower of God, as a successful businessman, were all under the spotlight, all because he could not produce any offspring.
Those last lines are everything here. When Simba says, “But I can’t see them, Dad.” And Mufasa says, “Keep looking, son. Keep looking.” Which brings me to where I think the gospel is to be found in this old story, remember gospel simply means “good news.” And the good news happens not at the end of this story, not with the amazing promise that God gives to Abram. No, grace can be found with those opening lines of God’s to Abram, when God said, “Don’t be afraid.” And if you think about it, it’s kind of an odd thing to say. Why would God say that, particularly at this point in the story? Abram just got back from defeating an army to save his nephew Lot, he somehow escaped the wrath of Pharaoh after he learned that he’d been lied to by Abram, not to mention the fact that he was doing quite well now in his new homeland of Canaan. What would Abram be afraid of? And why would God saying, “Don’t be afraid” be filled with so much grace?