Monday, July 28, 2008

Genesis 18:16-19 On Gaining God's Confidence

Genesis 18:16-19: Then the men rose up from there, and looked down toward Sodom; and Abraham was walking with them to send them off. And the Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, since Abraham will surely become a great and mighty nation, and in him all the nations of the earth will be blessed? For I have chosen him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice; in order that the Lord may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him.”

God had the final word and then He and the men with him left Abraham’s home. When God speaks, He does not sit around to argue with you or me. It is up to us to decide what to do with what He has said. Sarah was left with God’s final word on her actions.

Abraham’s visitors looked down toward Sodom and moved in that direction. Again, like a model host, Abraham walked with them part way to see them off. Abraham was exhibiting the honor his guests deserve. And it is because of this honor and love that he extended to them, that clearly God paused long enough to consider whether or not He should share with Abraham what was about to happen with respect to Sodom. God takes those that love Him dearly into His confidence on certain matters. That is why sometimes we hear devoted people say, “I have a peace in my heart about what God is going to do here.” In Abraham’s case, the Lord speaks again, but it is not clear whether he spoke to Himself or to those that were with Him, or openly so that Abraham could hear Him. Nevertheless, because of who Abraham is and what he will be, God decides to let him in on the future of a land that is dear to Abraham, if only for the fact that his nephew Lot and his family had settled there.

Part of God’s reasoning in sharing the future with Abraham was the phrase, “For I have chosen him.” When God chooses us, He has great plans for us and He works with us on those plans if we let Him. He was doing that earlier with Abraham with respect to an heir and here in this passage, He is about to do it with respect to Sodom’s future. But tucked away in these verses is part of the on-going relationship requirement between God and His chosen ones. The text says God chose Abraham “in order that” he “commands” his children and household (which included Abraham’s business in those days) to keep God’s way by doing what is righteous and just. But it does not stop there, it continues to say, that all this is required “in order that” God brings to Abraham the blessings or covenant He has made with him.

This passage certainly gives rise to questions. What does the word ‘command’ mean here? What if Abraham does his part, but the children do not? What about God’s promise to Abraham? Why won’t God help Abraham if the children or household do not live righteously and justly? And so on.

Today we may use the word command in two ways, both to order others to do something (as in “I command you to leave”) or to take charge and be responsible for the operation of something (as in “he was in command of the ship”). The Hebrew word used in our current text is tsavah and translators seem to favor the first of our two modern uses of the word. I know I will be in contentious waters here, but I believe God wants us as parents and heads of households and businesses to command those under our authority to follow God’s way but only as long as they want to remain in our authority. We cannot allow our children living at home to do things that are unrighteous or unjust. They cannot break the laws of God or the laws of the land. Employees in our employ and our entire business must be run in a righteous, fair, and ethical manner. But at the same time, we must also note that doing righteous things and acting justly does not constitute a total relationship with God. God wants us to love Him and desire Him as a God and Father.

Based on those two ideas then, a parent or a business owner can only expect that in his household and business, those under his authority will act righteously and justly. He cannot control their hearts or minds. Once they leave his authority, as children get older and get married, as employees leave the business, etc., the father or owner is no longer responsible for them. Clearly, should they continue to live righteously and justly, it will stand the head of the household well, but I believe it is not a requirement for him to receive his promised blessing from God.

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