The Abrahamic Covenant requires us to obey God, but the story of Abraham’s Bargaining with God in Genesis 18 tells us that there is a great deal more to the Covenant than we think.
Our reading from the Book of Genesis this morning is part of major turning point in the Biblical narrative: a fundamental redefinition of the nature of God’s relationship with us.
In the first 17 chapters of Genesis, we read about the classic Judgmental and often distant God of the Old Testament. The God we read about in the Creation, the Fall, Noah and the Flood, and the Tower of Babel. But then we arrive here, at the story of Abraham, whom all the great monotheistic faiths claim as their forebear.
Abraham’s story begins with this distant God commanding him to leave his ancestral home in Harran, which he does: taking along his wife Sarah; his nephew, Lot; and all of their goods and possessions. They eventually settle in Canaan.
And there, Lot and Abraham part ways. And soon after, Abraham rescues Lot when Lot and his family are kidnapped in a raid by the enemies of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Then we read about the declaration of God’s new Covenant with Abraham, which we examined in a sermon here over a year ago. At that time we learned how Abraham’s Covenant demonstrates that God hears all of us and sees all of us. That we are all included in this Covenant with God; and that it is one from which none of us shall ever be rejected. But now we will see how Abraham’s Covenant changes the nature of our relationship with God.
The sticking point is that up until this moment, it has been a one-way relationship: God tells Abraham what to do; Abraham does it. We even see this in the Covenant’s requirement that Abraham and all of his household be circumcised. Abraham immediately does this not only to himself and his son Ishmael, but “all of the men of the house, slaves born in the house and those bought with money from a foreigner.”
But, this is no longer a one-way relationship. So, how does the other direction of this relationship work? By virtue of the Covenant, God must be responding to us in some way. This also means that God must be open to being changed by us. And, that is exactly what seems to be happening in this morning’s reading.
A Covenant is not about rules but about relationship, to ensure that the relationship between the parties will be strong and will prosper over time. Any rules or guidelines in the covenant are to provide guidance on how to ensure this happens, and to protect the interests of both parties. But, if the situation changes (and it always does – as change is the only constant in this world) then, in the interest of preserving the relationship, it is understood that the rules will eventually need to be negotiated – and a new (or revised) Covenant agreed-upon.
This is (with some edits to include important points made in the audio) the draft version of the sermon I gave this past Sunday, when we joined together to “Re-Covenant” our ministries for the start of our Congregation’s “Program Year.” I gave the actual sermon without reference to this draft (for the most part) – and, frankly doing so made for a message that was far better and more relevant than you will read here. (That one should listen when the Holy Spirit stirs within you is a lesson I learned long ago.)
If you wish to hear the sermon as given, the audio can be found at the bottom of this page. (I may someday update the draft to match the audio – in my copious spare time!)
Please join me in prayer…
Lord God, we lift up this morning’s lessons. May they touch our hearts, and speak clearly to our souls, that we may come to more fully comprehend your eternal and undying love for us and for all of your Creation. Amen.
The year is 622 BCE.
Zoroaster, founder of the great Zoroastrian faith is a young boy in Persia. Lao Tse – founder of Taoism, and Confucius, and Buddha, all would be born within the next few years. Classical Greek Culture was just beginning its rise to dominance, and Rome was a small city under Etruscan domination.
In Israel young Josiah has been King of Judah for about 18 years. And, for the first time in generations, his Kingdom is not threatened by external aggression or domination. The Assyrian Empire that his Kingdom had long paid tribute to, and which had destroyed Samaria in Northern Israel just a century earlier, was disintegrating. Egypt was also recovering from Assyria’s domination, and Babylon had not yet laid claim to Assyria’s place as the dominant power in that part of the ancient world.
Josiah about 26 years old, and possibly exploiting the opportunities that arose from his Kingdom’s newfound independence, the Bible tells us he directed Hilkiah, the High Priest, to use Tax Money to renovate the long neglected Temple of Yahweh.
And Lo and Behold! As the renovation of the Temple began, Hikiah found a scroll hidden among the stones.