Feb 7-13 (Genesis 12–17; Abraham 1–2) Come Follow Me Insights with Taylor and Tyler – powered by Happy Scribe
Hello, wonderful viewers.
My name is Benjamin Griffin and I am the editor and producer for Come Follow Me Insights. I am so excited to be announcing that we are going to be releasing a short film on the life of Abraham, Sarah and Isaac on the Messages of Christ’s YouTube channel.
So make sure that you subscribe to Messages of Christ, which is a subsidiary and affiliate of Book of Mormon Central. We are so excited that you have been watching our videos all this time and we invite you to watch this upcoming video as a special sneak peek preview. We will be including a scene from this upcoming film on Abraham. We had such a fun time making this video and we are excited to share it with you. Please enjoy this short little clip.
Eternal Father, my God, God of our fathers, blessed be the name of the Lord. I offer this sacrifice for my behalf and for my posterity if it be possible that we have a son in thy Holy name. Amen.
And I’m Tyler.
And I’m Carrie.
This is the Book of Mormon Central. Come Follow Me Insights today. Genesis, chapter twelve through 17 and Abraham one through two. And we’re joined with our friend Kerry Mulestein. He’s a longtime expert in Egypt and Egyptology and also the Book of Abraham. So we have a lot to learn together. Thanks for being here, Kerry.
I’m happy to be here.
Let’s begin with kind of this big picture notice as we look at where we’ve been. We’ve covered the story of Adam and Eve back at the beginning in the Creation. We then went to our next dispensation head with Enos and his story. From there, we’ve covered Noah and these came at us in fairly rapid succession. You get to the fourth dispensation head, Abraham, with the story of Abraham and Sarah. It’s interesting to see how once we get to the story of Abraham, things tend to slow down a little bit and stretch out in our narrative. In Genesis. How many chapters do we get in Genesis for his story alone?
We get 14 just for Abraham and Sarah. And it’s true.
This is almost like a prologue. In some ways, Genesis is a prologue to the rest of the Bible. This is how you get to the story of Israel and their birth as a nation in the Exodus story. But the first eleven chapters are prologued to the rest of Genesis where you get to the story of the family of Abraham.
And really all of scriptures are about Abraham’s family. And so you get these huge, cosmic, sweeping, global stories here.
And then we zero in on one man and woman and their story and the story of their family.
And that’s where the rest of scripture goes is with that story.
That’s beautiful. So again, you can see that contrast to eleven chapters of Abridging, their history and 14 on Abraham and Sarah. So this is significant not just for us as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints, but for all Christians anywhere, as well as all Jews and all Muslims. This story is the root of three of the biggest world religions that we have in existence today.
It’s really globally important.
So let’s jump in initially to our Pearl of Great price account, Abraham, chapter one, we’re going to do this week’s episode and actually two parts. So we’re going to cover Abraham one, one and two in Genesis twelve through 17 today. And then part two, we’re going to come back with Carrie and do a second standalone episode just covering the entirety of the book of Abraham and its three facsimiles and some of the questions and concerns that have been expressed about the book and some possible ways to look at how we got the book and what its significance might be in our Canon of scripture. So if we don’t cover it in the first half, we’ll cover it in part two today. So let’s begin here. You have facsimile one. And for anybody who spent time as maybe a child or a youth in a longer than expected Sacrament meeting, and you start scrolling through the scriptures, there aren’t very many pictures in these books, but the book of Abraham has three of them where you’ve maybe spent some time looking at these pictures. And as we begin with facultimily one, help us Orient us here. Carrie.
What should we know?
Well, I think to understand facsimile one, we probably have to start even before that with the first couple of verses of chapter one, because those first few verses are what’s set up the story that we have, in fact, simply one. And really, this is where Abraham gets tied into Adam. This is where all that is tied together, because Abraham is really explicit that he is searching for something he knows. He talks about fathers and that’s not his immediate father, but his ancestors, and he wants to find what they’ve had, despite the fact that his immediate father has turned away from God. But Abraham is aware from writings he’s received, and I presume these are some of the writings that was talked about in the book of Moses. But from writings he’s received, he has become aware of a Covenant. Right. And he speaks of it in verse two, saying finding there was greater happiness and peace and rest for me. I sought for the blessings of the fathers and the right where and who I should be ordained to administer the same. So he wants to hold the priesthood for the right reason. He wants to be able to help other people receive these blessings.
And what kind of blessings do you receive through the priesthood? It’s Covenant blessings, right. So if we look at verses three and four, especially Abraham is really specific that the blessings or the Covenant he’s seeking for is the one that Adam had you get at the end of verse three that he gets these even the right of the firstborn or the first man who is Adam or the first father threw the fathers unto me. So this Covenant that Abraham receives and follows, which ends up in the story that’s in Facsimile one is the Covenant that Adam had, and it’s just being renewed with Abraham. It’s beautiful stuff.
That is beautiful. If you look closely at verse two, notice the descriptive words that are being used to describe what Abraham’s desires are look at this and finding there was greater happiness and peace and rest for me. I sought for notice. He’s not sitting back waiting for something big to happen. He’s actively seeking for the blessings of the fathers and the right one, too. I should be ordained to administer the same. He’s going into it actually expecting not just to answer a curiosity question, but he’s expecting to put his agency on the line for the Lord to say, look, I want these blessings, and I know it’s going to take effort for me once I have them to be able to administer the same and to bless other people with them. Then he goes on, having been myself a follower of righteousness. So once again, he’s not sowing seeds of doubt and seeds of wickedness, expecting to harvest fruits of righteousness. He’s been a follower of righteousness. His life is one of in the face of, as Kerry said, adversity with his own immediate family and father. He’s been a worker of righteousness against all odds.
And then notice this word desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge and to be a greater follower of righteousness. So he’s already a follower of righteousness, but he wants to be a greater follower of righteousness. It’s this line upon line, what some have called divine discontent. This idea that I’m trying, but I want to be better. And you sense that from these words coming from Abraham here.
And it’s not just as you said, it is a greater follower of righteousness, but also possessing greater knowledge. Right. So this idea, he doesn’t Plateau out. Everyone’s going to Plateau us sometime, but he’s not satisfied on that Plateau. As you said, he’s got some discontent with that.
He’s going to keep pursuing that and desiring to receive instructions and to keep the Commandments of God. I became a rightfuler of the high priest. So you’re seeing this pattern recently at a devotional with Elder Neil Anderson. Elder Anderson had asked Bradley Wilcox to go around and interview people and ask them how they make time for the Lord, because President Nelson has pled with us to make time for the Lord every day. I thought it was fascinating. One of those people that he interviewed happened to be President Kevin J. Worthen, the President of BYU. And what he said really struck me as tying in beautifully with what is going on here in chapter one, verse two. He said that when he wakes up in the morning, he never checks his phone for social media, for emails, for texts, for any outside communication. He says, I’ll take care of all that later. First, he studies from the scriptures, and I think specifically he mentioned from the Book of Mormon, he wants to establish that connection with God first. Then he’s going to deal with all of the other problems and other communications that are going to come his way.
Now, that’s not to say that everybody has to do exactly what President Worthy does. It’s the idea that we find ways to do exactly what Abraham has talked about here so that this week’s come follow me lesson isn’t just about going, hey, that’s really cool for Abraham. Look how neat that is that he did that. The idea is. So what could I do to actually turn this into part of my story as well, to tie into that legacy? If we want to be sons and daughters of this faithful couple, Abraham and Sarah, from the past, then we probably ought to figure out more of how we can do the works of Abraham and Saranarda today.
Excellent. And maybe we can just take that and touch on one little line that I think is so important here at the end of verse two, where he says, and you read it, but it says he’s desiring to receive instructions. And most people I know aren’t looking like, Please tell me more things that I should do. But in fact, that’s what we should be doing, right? That’s what I think President Nelson has told us to do both when he said, you’re not going to survive without personal inspiration or with revelation from the Holy Ghost regularly when he said, make time for God, which is what Elder Anderson and President Worthy were talking about there we should be. It’s actually good for us in our lives if God is giving us instructions, it gives us more opportunity for happiness and joy and progression and everything else. But it’s this key we see in Abraham that he wants more righteousness, more knowledge, more instructions. Just tell me what to do, God, and I’ll go do it. It’s what we kind of get from Abraham.
I love that. Now, with scriptures, you’ll notice that they’ll often put the opposites juxtaposed right next to each other. We’ve just introduced Abraham’s great desires for righteousness and for knowledge and more revelation and more power and priesthood and capacity to bless the world. That’s in verse one through four. And then notice the contrast. Verse five, my fathers, having turned from their righteousness and from the Holy Commandments which the Lord, their God, had given unto them, unto the worshiping of gods of the heathen, utterly refused to hearken to my voice. So you get this polar opposite right there on page one. And welcome to the world of agency, right? Nobody is sitting in your front room forcing you to love God or forcing you to seek his will. This is your choice. And this verse five is also available to us to choose, but it never ends well. Look at verse six. For their hearts were set to do evil and were wholly turned to the God of Elkana and the God of Lebanon and the God of Mamakra and the God of Khorash and the God of Pharaoh, King of Egypt. So they turned their hearts to the sacrifice of the heathen.
There’s a beautiful story. We don’t know if it’s true. It’s a rabbinical tradition among the Jewish rabbis from antiquity. It’s found in a canonical, nonscriptural source kind of late, and it’s late, so we don’t know if it’s true. But the principle, I think, is instructive to us. It’s about young Abraham working in his father’s idol shop. Terra is his father, who in this telling of this story, owns an idol shop. What does he do one day that Terra is gone?
Yeah. This is part of his efforts, because you saw how he said there that they refused to hearken to his voice, which tells us he doesn’t say it explicitly, but it tells us he’s been trying to teach them. He’s been trying to preach against idolatry. And so one of the key elements here is that Abraham knowing that this could go wrong because no one’s listening to and people are pretty set in their idolatry, as he mentions in verse six and seven, he’s still going to try and teach them. And just talking to them hasn’t worked. So at least in this story, he goes into where they have all of the idols and he breaks them all down except for one. And if I remember it, he leaves the little stick right there by that one.
By the biggest idol, he’s got the stick.
And then everyone comes in and they say, what happened? All of these were broken. What happened to these? And Abraham says, that guy did it right? And he’s pointed at the one idle that’s left. He did it. He did it.
He must be jealous of all these others. So he finished them off.
Yeah. And they say to him, that’s ridiculous. You had to have done this. He can’t have done this. And Abraham says, well, then why are you worshipping him? Right. And I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I love the story because it’s a great way of Abraham trying to show them the foolishness of worshiping idols. And we have to keep in mind, since we do want to relate this to ourselves, that we may not have idols of stone, but we have equally silly idols that seem so important to us. And our task is to identify what those might be in our lives. But I love the story and whether it happened that way or not, there are tons of ancient traditions about Abraham preaching against idolatry in one form or another. And that’s what Enos up in Facimly One, what’s depicted, in fact, simply one.
Right. Which actually brings us back to the very first version just for a second before we turn the page over. I don’t believe that Abraham intended for verse one to be humorous, but in my mind, it’s one of the funniest verses in all of scripture. In the context of Facsimley One. When he opens and says, in the land of the chalvians, how do you pronounce that chalvians?
Either way is good.
Either way is good. At the residence of my father’s, I Abraham saw that it was needful for me to obtain another place of residence. Living here is not healthy for me. It’s not great for my life.
Yeah, it might be good to live when everyone here is trying to kill me. I’m just saying that’s basically verse one.
Right, exactly. So now they’re describing in verse seven that their hearts have been turned to the sacrifice of the heathen and offering up their children unto these dumb idols and hearken not under my voice.
These are really great insights. And we’ve talked to other lessons about how important it is to know the names of people, because names are the lesson. And in the name Abraham or even Abram, you have this element AB, which means father. And if you look at the first five verses of Abraham, one in circle, how many times the word father or fathers show up and Abraham’s name contains that element of father. And really, we all are looking to our father. So I love that Abraham’s name conveys and invite us to look to the Father, where we get all instruction, all righteousness, all goodness. And just like Abraham leaves his earthly homeland to find a better place, all of us are seeking a heavenly homeland because the earthly one we have is not sufficient.
Well, while we’re talking about that and the importance of fathers for Abraham, I think Abraham becomes kind of the prototypical story of someone who comes from less than ideal family background. His father is not the kind of father that we would all hope for. He’s trying to kill him, for one thing. And so he turns to his heavenly Father. It doesn’t matter what kind of family background we come from. If we focus on our heavenly Father, then we have the Father that can do for us what we need to do.
That is profound for people who have less than ideal family situations today. So now, as we jump into verse eight, now at this time, it was the custom of the priests of Pharaoh, the King of Egypt, to offer up upon the altar which was built in the land of Caldia for the offering unto these strange gods, men, women and children. So isn’t it fascinating how the devil takes things that God has established? In this case, sacrifice, where Adam and Eve were taught to sacrifice animals to the Lord and then the devil has a counterfeit where there are a lot of similar elements here, but he has twisted it to one of the most evil practices in the history of the world. So Abraham is right there in the middle of this practice going on. Look at verse eleven. Now, the priest had offered up on this altar three virgins at one time who were the daughters of Oneida, one of the Royal descent directly from the loins of Hem. Why did these three daughters lose their life? Because of their virtue. They would not bow down to worship gods of wood or of stone. Therefore, they were killed upon this altar, and it was done after the manner of the Egyptians.
In fact, I think if we look at this, I can’t read God’s mind to know, why does he deliver Abraham and not deliver these three fair virgins that are so full of virtue? But I think we can think of at least a couple of things. One, there’s clearly a work left for Abraham to do. Abraham has to do something. My guess that’s why he’s delivered. And maybe before we move to other things, maybe I can just touch on a couple of historical, cultural elements of this sacrifice story. Because what you get here is it presents the picture of a mixing of Canaanite and Egyptian religious practices. And that’s really interesting. And we can actually kind of plot out where the places where the Egyptians did actively try and control some areas because they were key for trade routes and military routes and things like that. And so we’re going to guess that Abraham is in one of those areas. There are nearby areas that they just completely left alone because it didn’t matter economically and from a strategic point of view for them. So we can kind of guess where Abraham is. But we also have to think, okay, it talks about the sacrifice and it says specifically after the matter of the Egyptians.
But what does that mean? Does it mean the Egyptians were often offering children? Probably not. In fact, I’ve studied this a lot. I do think that the story we see here fits with Egyptian practice very well. We see that the Egyptians did sacrifice people when those people were disturbing the correct religious order and preaching against the worship of Egyptian gods and knocking down gods. That would certainly do that, right. And there was a specific way they would do it on an altar. And you can use a knife and it’s a Flint knife. Actually, they look a lot like what’s pictured in this facsimile and that kind of a thing. And then they would burn them. And in a lot of the traditions, they say they were going to burn Abraham. And this one talks about using a knife. And I think that both are probably correct. You use a knife like you do with an animal, you kill it and then you burn it but the idea of child and children, that’s probably more of a Canaan eye practice. And we do know that happens from the Bible. We know that happens from some of the local culture around there.
And that’s what I think you’re getting here, is this mixing of culture, which is exactly what the text describes, is you get those two cultures mixing together, and when they mix together, it perfectly creates the scenario that we see happening in this story. It just fits with that time period and with what we know of their practices from that time period.
Very helpful. Thank you. So let’s jump into verse twelve. It came to pass that the priests laid violence upon me, that they might slay me also as they did these virgins upon this altar. And you may have a knowledge of this altar. I will refer you to the representation at the commencement of this record. So he’s referring us back to faculty one, saying, now, I’m going to tell you the story of that picture again. We don’t know if that story of him destroying the other idols in his father’s idol shop is actual, if it’s factual. But if it were, that would be a case that would cause Terra, the idol worshiper, to say, okay, that’s a capital offense, what you just did and deliver him over to the priest.
Yeah. It’s disturbed that religious order so much that the only response is a ritual response.
Yes. We’re going to sacrifice you on this altar. So verse 13, it was made after the form of a bedstead such as was had among the Chaldians, and it stood before the gods of Elkana, Libna, Mamakra, Khorash, and also a God like unto that of Pharaoh, King of Egypt. And then he tells you, just so you can see a representation of these gods, I’ve given you the fashion and the figures in that facsimile. Is there anything that we should know about those representations of the gods? Sure.
I mean, there are plenty of things we could talk about the way it’s drawn here, and we have to recognize we don’t know who was there a drawing originally? Did Abraham make a drawing? If so, was it like this, or is there someone else who takes a drawing that Abraham had and they draw it the way they’re used to, drawing in an Egyptian style. We don’t know exactly how this particular form or style gets introduced, but the way it’s drawn, these are figures that we would identify typically as the four sons of Horus and the canopic jars that would go often go under an altar like that. But what seems to be happening here is that those Egyptian gods, the technical term we use, are being syncretized. And this is when. And it’s a really common practice in the ancient world that you have a God that represents one thing and you meet another culture that has a God that’s somewhat similar. And you mesh them together and you say, okay, well, these two gods are kind of the same thing. So we’ll call them by these different names. So those names actually seem to be Canaanite names.
We can identify at least all four of them, at least some way. And we’ve got really good evidence for a couple of them. So, Elkanov, for example, my guess is and we don’t really know, but my guess is that what we have are depicted here is kind of a meshing together or synchronization. That’s the technical term for this kind of thing that happens all the time of Canaanite and Egyptian gods or just an assigning of Canaanite gods to a typical Egyptian figure, which we also know happened all the time.
So, Kerry, Let’s Orient people just to make sure we’re on the same page here, because we know what we mean when we’re using terms like Egyptian and Canaanite. But not everybody always does. And sometimes it makes scripture study confusing and frustrating, and we feel like we’re not getting it. So a really simple description is you have Egypt, which at the time it is a dynastic power in their known world.
That would be the Mediterranean Sea.
Mediterranean Sea. There here just to Orient you. There is where we would put Jerusalem today close to the Dead Sea. There’s the Jordan River in the Sea of Galilee, anciently when he keeps using this term, Cana Knight Canaanite, we’re talking about that region.
Now there’s some argument as to exactly where Abraham and this error that he’s in in the land of the Chaldean is some people would place it in Mesopotamia, which we’d like way over here in modern night Iraq. But based on the evidence from this and there are people who even without the Book of Abraham, have proposed this. But based on this evidence of the Egyptian synchronization that’s going on here, it’s quite likely that it’s kind of up here on the border between Syria and Turkey, which Canaanite is kind of a weird term. It’s what we apply to all sorts of older people that we don’t know exactly what they were saying. It’s not really a uniform culture, but there are some uniform elements. So this is kind of cane and proper. But we still often use this term for this whole area. And so it’s quite likely that Abraham and we have some different kinds of evidence we can bring in archaeological, textual and scriptural evidence to deduce this. But I suspect that this is probably the area that it’s happening in. And it’s got a lot of this kind of Canaanite or Semitic religious influence and Egyptian influence.
So now verse 15 says, and as they lifted up their hands upon me that they might offer me up and take away my life, behold, I lifted up my voice unto the Lord, my God. Let me pause there, look back at the facsimile again, as Kerry said, we don’t have Abraham’s actual first autograph version of facsimiles number one. So is this a copy of a copy of a copy times ten or times two? Or is it somebody taking something else that he had produced? We just don’t know. But what we do have, what God has given us, it has some pretty interesting features. And I’m no Egyptologist, but I spent some time as a kid in Sacramento studying this and some things that stick out to me that are fascinating. If I am on an altar and some guy is coming towards me with a knife, I can almost guarantee where my eye is going to be. It’s going to be on that knife. And you’re going to notice where Abraham’s eyes are. In this particular version of Facsimile one, he’s not even looking at the guy nor the knife. He’s not looking at his problem or his potential problem.
He’s looking heavenward. He’s looking to the solution. He’s looking to God. And you’ll notice where his hands are. His hands aren’t trying to defend himself against this guy. His hands in this depiction, are in an attitude of pleading.
Yeah, it’s a supplication gesture to God.
I like that, because you and I all have in our own ways, these struggles, these trials, these oppositions of the world coming at us. And it would be easy to focus only on those problems, which would probably lead to greater anxiety and stress and panic. Whereas this facsimile, to me, teaches a lesson all by itself just in the way it’s depicted to say, look to God and live.
Well, I find it fascinating that if we actually rotated this 90 degrees, it actually looks like Abraham is trying to make progress on the Covenant path. And you have a Satan character who’s trying to thwart him.
Well, and typically in Egyptian symbolism, when you have the legs spread like that, it does denote movement, trying the power and ability to move and progress.
What it means.
In fact, actually, if you look at ancient Egyptian statuary, many of you have seen Egyptian statues. The Pharaoh almost always is never standing straight like this. It’s often with the feet, a stance like this in a power pose of movement. And Abraham has that. And actually, that’s what God offers all of us, the power to walk with him.
So the Lord hearkened and heard, and he filled me with the vision of the Almighty. And the angel of his presence stood by me and immediately unloosed my bands. It’s beautiful, this redemptive story, an atonement object lesson, a redemption story, yet again saved from death and delivered from that death by God. And our bands are loosed. It’s powerful. And then what is he here? Verse 16. His voice said was unto me, Abraham, Abraham, behold, my name is Jehovah. Now, do we have an earlier account of him hearing the name change from Abram, which is what Terra calls him to Abraham.
In fact, if you look at the earliest manuscripts that we have where Joseph scribes are copying down the book of Abraham. It’s originally Abram here as they were editing it. They later changed this to Abraham, I assume, to make it so that people just understood what we were talking about here. But this is before his experience of having his name changed. And that’s the way it read originally. And then it was edited at some point to read Abraham. Good.
So word meanings Abram exalted father Abraham.
Father of multitudes, which is bound up in the Covenant. God makes to Abraham that he’ll be a father of many nations, which fulfills his desire, Abraham’s desire to be a father of many nations. And by consequence, all of us, as children of Abraham, we all get access to those same promises.
The kind of staking out of names is an important part of the Covenant making process and ancient covenants between nations. And certainly in the scriptures, I suspect we have that starting here because we get God stating his name very clearly. Right. My name is Jehovah, and I have heard thee. That sounds like the beginning of a Covenant making process to me. And so I suspect this is where it begins because also the next thing he says is I’m going to take you away from here to a strange land. Well, that’s one of the main parts of the Covenant is I’m going to give you this other land. And so I think we have the beginning of the Covenant making process that we’ll look at. It happens more and more fully. I think as we read today’s reading, we see Abraham enter into it. A lot of people have argued, well, so why is he entering into the Covenant like this one was a precursor, and the next one, he’s kind of telling him about it. And the last one, he finally gets into the Covenant or are these different traditions and people ask all these questions, but I think we enter into the Covenant in stages, right?
We do. We enter into it at baptism, but we enter into it more fully in the temple and more fully as we’re sealed in the temple to spouse and so on. So we enter into the Covenant in stages, and I think we see not necessarily a precise mirror of that, but an Echo ish kind of mirror of it in the Abraham story.
That’s beautiful. If you jump down to verse 18, notice he takes that idea exactly what you just described. Behold, I will lead thee by my hand. The leading by the hand denotes a journey. It denotes a process, it denotes a passage of time. I’m going to do this in an instant and then leave you alone because you’ve got everything you need. I’m going to lead you by the hand and I will take thee to put upon thee my name, even the priesthood of thy father and my power shall be over thee. Did you notice that God gave him his name in verse 16. Very clearly, my name is Jehovah, but I’m going to put my name upon you, Abraham. You’re going to have my name put upon you. And from that point on, Abraham, and later on, Sarah, those two become the father and mother of all the faithful. If you’re saved, you find Salvation by being adopted into their faithful family. And when you get adopted in, you take upon you the family name. Well, what’s the family name? It’s the name of God that he has placed upon them.
And we do that through our because we enter into the same Covenant, we very much focus on taking the name of Jehovah or Christ upon us.
So as we turn over to now, starting the story in verse 20 through the end, you’re going to get a lot of description here about Pharaoh, the original Pharaoh and Egypt and Ham and Egyptus and the patriarchal line coming down through that family. We’re not going to spend a ton of time on that. You’ll notice that in verse 27, it says now, Pharaoh, being of that lineage by which he should not have the right of priesthood notwithstanding, the Pharaohs would feign claim it from Noah through him. Therefore, my father was led away by their idolatry. Which brings us back to something Taylor talked about earlier, where you take those ideas, those covenants, those priesthood ordinances that have been given anciently, and they’ve modified them and owned them for their own purposes. And we come down to verse 30, it talks about this famine prevailing. So we’re going to watch wherever he is, wherever I really is, they’re going to start making a transition over towards Egypt. He’s going to leave here, comes down into here, into this new end because the famine is so bad. And then from there, it’s going to bring us all the way down into Egypt.
Turn the page over to chapter two, which is where it’s describing this journey, starting in verse one and then verse two describes some of the we’re introduced to some additional characters in the family. It came to pass that I, Abraham, took Sarai to wife, and Nahor, my brother, took Milka to wife, who was the daughter of Haron. Haran is the third brother of Abraham. So you’re going to find that now that the narrative slows down a little bit and starts flushing things out, you’re going to get more detail about some of the relationships, as we just saw in verse two, with Nahor marrying Milka, who is the daughter of Haran, his brother. So this would be his niece. How do these family relationships work in the way we label them in antiquity? Because in English we have all kinds of words to show various familial relationships, but not always the case in antiquity.
Yeah. So it gets a little bit confusing because we’ll get someone who’s said to be a mother or a daughter or a sister but there aren’t words. We don’t know exactly what Abraham is speaking, but in any of the languages that are potential things he’s speaking, there’s not a word for aunt or niece and so on. And so you just say if it’s an older female relative, it’s a mother. And this works for men as well. Older male relative, it’s a father. If it’s someone of the same generation. So cousin’s, second cousin’s, third cousin, twice removed, that’s a sister or a brother and younger generations, nephews and nieces, whatever else, those would be children or sons or daughters. And so when we talk about Sarah being his sister, there are some sources that make it seem like she really is his half sister. But we can’t nail it down really precisely. But she’s some kind of close relative along that same generational line, that kind of horizontal line. So she would be correctly referred to as sister. It’s the only word you can use to describe her.
So as you work your way down, that first column, verse four, tells you that he left the land of Er to go into the land of Canaan. And then verse five, the famine abated. And my father carried in Haran and Dwelt there as there were many flocks in her on. And my father turned again onto his idolatry. Therefore, he continued in her on.
More heartbreak for Abraham, right?
I just think it’s kind of the Book of Mormon pride cycle going on here in this family of Abraham. That idea of, boy, it’s a famine, we’re going to die. Everybody gets humble, turns to God, please deliver us. And that humility, that repentance, God does deliver. And now we’re prospering again. Okay? Now we can get back to the way things used to be and back to the idol worship, those terror and forget about God and forget about God, because I don’t need them anymore, because I’ve got food in my belly again and the rains are coming and we’re good.
Maybe we can use that as a segue to the next topic of this chapter, because we often talk about the pride cycle, and that phrase is ingrained in members of the Church like we couldn’t believe. But I think there’s actually a better, more descriptive term, because it’s not just the pride cycle, it’s a Covenant or a Covenant corruption cycle. Right. Because everything you just talked about happens in terms of the Covenant. When you keep the Covenant, you get the blessings and then you think it’s because you’re great. And so you stop keeping the Covenant. It’s the same cycle, but it’s always connected to the Covenant. And that’s exactly what we’re seeing here, is that Abraham was keeping the Covenant. His father had stopped, started again, stops again. Abraham is going to stay consistent. He doesn’t go through the cycle. He doesn’t get to the corruption part of the Covenant corruption cycle. He just stays in the Covenant. And which has started to be established, but we’re going to see it established more fully as the next thing in this chapter.
So to verify that look of verse six. But I, Abraham and Lot, my brother’s son, prayed unto the Lord and the Lord appeared unto me. So they’re prospering. Now, it would have been easy to say, Adrian can be married, we’re good. But he continued to turn to the Lord, prayed to the Lord, and the Lord appeared unto me and said unto me, Arise and take Lot with thee, for I have purpose to take thee away out of her on and to make thee a Minister, to bear my name in a strange land, which I will give unto thy seed after thee for everlasting possession. When they hearken to my voice, did you notice that when it’s a condition, it’s not a guarantee. There’s nothing you need to do. I’m just going to force this on you whether you want it or not. When they hearken to my voice, I’m going to promise this land to them.
And let’s say verse seven and eight is again, we see this Covenant. I guess we could call it the kind of trappings of the Covenant where he says again, identifying himself, I am the Lord thy God, and identifying who he is. I dwell in the heavens and the Earth is my foot soul. I stretch out my hand over the sea. And so he tells them, he’s the one who creates and controls creation. We get down to verse eight. My name is Jehovah, and I know the end from the beginning. Therefore, my hand shall be overthe. Right now, starting in verse nine, he’s going to really start to get into specifics of the Covenant. But always the first element is establishing who you are, establishing who I am, our relationships. I am God the Creator. You’re, Abraham. I’m going to help you out. But let’s be clear who we are. And now we’re going to get into the specifics of the Covenant.
So now these are the promises that God is offering to Abraham. And we may be amazed at what God says, but I want all of us to pause and remember that these promises are also ours. That’s why we focus so much on the Abraham and Sarah’s story. Is that what God is offering them? By extension, all of us have access to the same blessings. And here’s these beautiful promises. I will make of thee a great nation. I will bless thee above measure and make thy name great among all nations. I’m going to pause there. We talked in the last lesson about how the people of the Tower of Babel, they wanted to make their own name great. And in society today we see people wanting to make their names great. And what we learned in Abraham’s story is that that is God’s work. It is God’s work to make our name great. And it becomes great because we actually take his name upon us. And thou shalt be a blessing unto thy seed after thee. And that in their hands they shall bear the Ministry and priesthood unto all nations. And I will bless them through thy name.
For as many as received this gospel shall be called after thy name and shall be accounted thy seed, and shall rise up and bless Thee’s, Father.
And notice how we get this kind of extension of names going on. Right. So I’m God and you’re going to take my name upon you. But because you’re doing that, Abraham, and you’re becoming like me, then other people are going to be involved with your name. And we get this is very similar to what God does, the Father does with Christ. Right. He sends his son, his Son comes down to send others. Those others bring people to Christ and he brings them to the Father. And that’s the exact pattern that we’re seeing here.
That’s a cool connection.
That’s amazing. And isn’t it neat to notice that God could have prevented the famine? God could have made it so that Abraham and Terra and Lot and everybody could have just stayed prospering up in her. But the famine caused some movement. They come down to Canaan and the famine keeps going and they’re going to move into Egypt. So what you get with Abraham and Sarah’s story is this little microcosm back then of what God is doing with his covenantal promises today. He’s spreading it among the nations. He’s spreading it among different Peoples rather than keeping it insular. Don’t let anyone in and don’t you dare go out and interact with and talk with anybody. Abraham and Sarah’s story is a perfect example of what happens when God scatters the people. It’s not just the people, it’s also this message, the scriptures, the connection with God and that name.
Again, just my opinion, but I think what we’re reading right now in the next verse is one of the biggest reasons that the book of Abraham was restored to Joseph Smith. Because if you study the Covenant and the way that we have it in Genesis and the way we have it in the book of Abraham is very similar, except for one thing. There is one element that is completely missing in the Genesis account that is a really big deal in the account, the way we get into the book of Abraham. And it’s this idea that they will bear the Ministry and the priesthood that we had in verse nine or in verse eleven after this first part, very typical of what we’ve seen in Genesis. I will bless him that bless thee and cursed him that cursed thee. But listen to this and in thee that is in thy priesthood and in thy seed that is in thy priesthood. For I give unto thee promise that this right shall continue in thee and in thy seat after thee. But then he says, even with the blessings of the gospel, which are the blessings of Salvation, even of life eternal.
And so there’s this obligation. If we read the Book of Abraham account, one of the main obligations of the Abrahamic Covenant that we’re all part of is to share that Covenant with others by administering priesthood ordinances to them that make that Covenant available. Right. That is a huge part of this. You do not find that in the Genesis account. I think if you read first Nephi’s Vision and it talks about before, it talks about plain and precious truths being taken out, it says that the covenants are taken out. And I think this is the part of the Covenant that Satan wanted out the most. If you get this part out, it doesn’t matter. Okay. We got a few small group of people that have the Covenant, no one else. Satan wins. All right. But if this part is restored as it was, that part of the obligation of the Covenant is to give the Covenant to everyone, to all the world. Now we’re doing God’s work.
Yeah, that part right there, that little phrase, shall all the families of the Earth be blessed. This Covenant wasn’t intended to be exclusive to that one group. It’s to bless everybody. That is one of the most often repeated concepts in Scripture. You find it in the Old Testament. You find it in the New Testament. You find it in the Book of Mormon, the doctrine of covenants, the Pearl great price repeatedly is that God isn’t just giving us those blessings so that we enjoy them in isolation. In fact, if we want to be more Christ like, the greatest joy comes in turning outward and sharing all the good things that God has given us with as many people as we can. Hence our zeal for missionary work and our zeal for sharing and teaching and never tiring of giving those things that heaven has given to us and temple work as well.
It’s the same thing, right?
Both sides of the veil.
That’s right. We want you to relive. Yeah.
Now, verse twelve, after the Lord had withdrawn from speaking to me and withdrawn his face from me, I said, in my heart, Thy servant has sought thee earnestly. Now I have found thee.
I love that verse. Yeah, I love how that ends. Did you see that tie in to those first verses in Abraham, one where he was just so deeply desirous and he’s had all this trauma and difficulty, and now he’s, like God, has saved me. This deep desire I’ve had has not been fulfilled.
And again, it’s tight in the Covenant. What he says in those first few verses, I want those blessings in that Covenant. And once he gets the Covenant, he says, I found it. This is how we find God is through his Covenant.
And then notice he doesn’t stop there and say, I’ve arrived. Now I can relax on the Covenant path. Verse 13. Thou did send thine angel to deliver me from the gods of Elkanah. And I will do well to hearken unto thy voice. There’s something beautifully Christ like about that. You’ll notice the pattern, even with the Savior Jesus Christ himself when he came to the Nephi in 30, 511, here he is. He’s a resurrected glorified, perfected being. He’s a God. He’s arrived, he’s finished. And when it comes to those Nephi, when he gets into verse chapters 15 and 16 of 35, he tells them, I need to deliver a message to you that I was commanded of the Father to give to you. And I’m going to fulfill that commandment here. He is a resurrected God. And what is he still doing? Keeping Commandments given to him by God the Father. I think there’s a beautiful pattern for us that Jesus and Abraham are both showing us in different spheres that obedience to God’s Commandments is not a chore. It’s not distasteful, it’s not fine. If I have to, I’ll do it. Please tell me, what can I do better?
And let me joyfully try to figure out how to make that happen in my life.
Desiring to receive more instruction.
And it just never ends. So verse 15 is where he takes Sarai to wife. You’ll notice Sarah, her name is going to get changed to Sarah, Abram, changed to Abraham. They both begin with one name, and then they become something else. A new name is given to them as they move forward as the father and the mother of the faithful.
And that’s again indicative of Covenant. As you make a Covenant, you become a new person, you take on a new life, and so you get a new name to represent the new person as you’re reborn and born again.
Yeah, like in baptism, you take on a new name, you take on the name of Christ. So we see this in the Bible that there are these transition stages in people’s lives when they make covenants, they are given a new name, and it’s often a signal that they are now in a new covenantal relationship and we have the same in our lives.
So the rest of this chapter, this new couple, Abram and Sarah, Abraham and Sarah. He describes we’re 16. Eternity was our covering and our rock and our Salvation as we journeyed from Haron by the way of Jerson to come to the land of Canaan. And he built an altar, offered sacrifice. And verse 19, the Lord appeared unto me in answer to my prayers and said unto me, Unto thy seed will I give this land. So he’s in that more traditional, what we would call the land of Israel, the Holy land of Canaan. And God promised him, I’m going to give you and your seed this land. And then he built another altar, called again upon the name of the Lord. And then he journeys down into Egypt in chapter 22 or verse 22.
I’m going to jump in here. What’s interesting is he keeps building altars. One time he says it’s to ask the Lord, devoutly, will you please remove the famine? Remember, God promised, I’m going to give you land. Now, this is kind of a challenge. Would you want to worship a God who says, I’m going to give you land and you get there and it’s a famine. Wait, did God lie to you? And so Abraham has to find himself all the way down in Egypt to get away from the famine. And it’s not like God hasn’t answered his prayers yet. So you might say Abraham could just be unfaithful and say, I’m not believing anymore. He also has promised a lot of seed children. And what happens in Egypt, Syria gets taken. So it’s really interesting. Immediately, God actually puts Abraham to the test to see if Abraham will trust that God’s promises are sure, these very clear promises. You’re going to have land, you’re going to have posterity Oops. You don’t get either of those right now. And Abraham persists and endures. And the way the story unfolds is that Abraham shows trust and faith in God, and he gets all those things back.
So I just think it’s compelling, even our own lives. We may pray to God, we may place things on the altar. We want something. We’re pleading with him to give us something he’s promised. We have to endure to the end. We have to be faithful, like Abraham and Sarah to give ourselves, give God the time to work out his Salvation in our lives.
And it seems honestly, if you look at his whole story now as we jump into Genesis, chapter twelve, everything we cover from Abraham chapters one and two. And now as we proceed forward, I can’t find a time in Abraham’s life where he has this long period of finally, okay, there’s no testing going on. God’s just prospering everything, and it’s just smooth, flowing, easy, clear waters for him. It seems that his and Sarah’s life in its entirety is one of test after test after test, and gratefully. We call them the father and mother of all the faithful, because he just seems to find a way to stay faithful.
I think we sometimes underestimate how much is asked of him. Right. He’s going from an urban lifestyle to becoming a Nomad for the rest of his life. He’s going to be in a land that will eventually be given to him in a sea. But God actually tells him it’s going to be 400 years, just so you know. And so he’s living where other people feel like they control. And he always has to be careful of that, moving from place to place to place continually. It is never easy, and as we’ve said, never seen it for a long time. How are these prayers and these blessings going to be answered? Nothing about Abraham’s life is easy at any point.
So let’s jump into chapter twelve, Genesis, where we transition from in a roundabout sort of way what could be considered a Joseph Smith translation, because we’re getting all of this additional stuff from the book of Abraham. Now we jump into the biblical narrative, chapter twelve, verse ten, and there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there famine was grievous.
Sorry, maybe I can just interrupt and say, I think that just where we see the famine in Egypt in both these stories. It gives us the idea that this first part of chapter twelve is probably just a different version of what we had in chapter two. And neither one is more full or more or Jesus. Correct. They both just give us some different things, different information, and there’s overlap between them. But it seems to be this kind of establishing of the Covenant. I don’t know that we can tell that for sure, but that seems to cover the same ground as it were.
And I’ll point out we have all this beautiful new revelation that we get this new doctrine and updates to the story from the book of Abraham. If all you have is the Bible, there’s actually this incredible plot twist right there’s, this cosmic history going on. And then suddenly out of nowhere, God shows up. You go from chapter Genesis eleven to Genesis twelve. And out of nowhere, God shows up and chooses one man to give him all these blessings. And from a literary standpoint, this is actually kind of mind blowing plot twist. And there’s a deep focus on one man and his family and all these promises that God wants to give. And it really captures your attention. Now, what I love is that we have all this enormous backstory of Abraham’s ongoing faithfulness to the point that God says, okay, I can trust you, that you will always follow me, and therefore I’m giving you these eternal blessings. And because of your faithfulness for so many years, you will be a blessing for so many people because these blessings will now be offered to everybody who comes through you or joins your family. So I just kind of love how the Bible puts it together.
I actually love both approaches.
Now, let’s shift gears and go fairly quickly through some of the elements of the story. We come down into Egypt. Sarah apparently is very good looking, and Abraham is concerned when we get here, they’re going to kill me so they can marry you. So you get this interesting little interlude in the story where verse 13 says, Say, I pray that thou art my sister, that it may be well with me for thy sake, and my soul shall live because of thee. And a lot of people are a little bothered by that because they would say, well, it looks like he’s lying, but based on what you’ve said about names of relationships, it would tie in.
Yeah, they’re just choosing which part to emphasize. And I think it’s also key in the book of Abraham account, it’s actually God who instructs it. He’s the one who comes up with the ideas as opposed to Abraham. And that’s also a little bit of a game changer.
Absolutely. And then while he’s in Egypt, you’ll notice back in your book of Abraham, facsimile number three, he describes that as Abraham sitting on Pharaoh’s throne teaching the people about the Cosmos, about eternity, about God, teaching the gospel, which is what that Abrahamic Covenant was intended to do. Go teach share this knowledge.
In fact, in the book of Abraham and come follow me. We’ve already covered chapter three. But you go from chapter two, where the Covenant is really outlined and established, to chapter three, where he says specifically, I’m sending you to Egypt. Here’s what you’re going to teach them. Use astronomy to teach them these principles. And then we don’t get the account of his doing it. We just get the picture that tells us that he’s doing it. The account was probably in the book of Abraham. We don’t have the whole thing, but all we get is that drawing that says he did it.
That’s right. So now in chapter 13, he returns from Egypt into Cayman. And you’ll notice verse four, unto the place of the altar which he had made there, the first. And he calls on the name of the Lord again. He just keeps coming back again and again to the Lord. I guess the question that beg is asking is when can we stop going to the temple? When can we stop going to the house of prayer and taking the Sacrament? When have we done enough? And I think Abraham would say, just keep going. You just keep going. And so now you get this interesting story between Lot and Abraham, and they’ve prospered in Egypt. They’ve got a lot of possessions, a lot of servants, a bigger household. They come into this land of Canaan and there’s obvious discord between the keepers of the flocks and the different families. And you can see that this isn’t going to work to have us in the same place. So Abraham says to Lot, you pick where do you want to go? And what does a Lot pick?
He picks the fertile Valley of where the Jordan River flows is down towards where all the people are living down there because it’s so fertile and there’s water.
So he goes that way and Abraham goes to the west into the less fertile part. And this is that famous story that you’ve probably heard in a seminary lesson or a Sunday school lesson. In verse twelve of chapter 13, Abraham dwelt in the land of Canaan in Law, dwelled in the cities of the plain and pitched his tent toward. Sodom it’s that idea of putting your tent door, you’ve pitched your tent towards the city of Sodom in this case, well, the next thing we’re going to hear about Lot is his family has moved into Sodom. And then the next thing is Sodom is going to have moved into his family. It’s that progression of where do you pitch your tent facing? And many of you probably had lessons tying into King Benjamin’s people where they were in their tent with the tent door facing the temple and facing God’s Prophet. Beautiful object lesson there for us to consider.
And the Hebrew word here, the odd when it says toward kind of indicates like it’s going that direction. So I think it probably is with the tent door facing that. I don’t know that we can tell that for sure, but it’s certainly that that’s where he’s heading, right? That’s his orientation. That’s the movement he’s going. That’s the direction he’s going.
That’s where he’s going to end up ultimately. And then you get into chapter 14, where Lot is actually captured in these battles among the Canaanites. There have been a lot of battles. And from the book of Abraham, we find that God has told him that the Canaanite wickedness is going to be become so widespread and so deep that they are ripe in their iniquity. And you’re seeing this here with these battles taking place, and Lot is taken. So verse 13, there came one that had escaped and told Abram, the Hebrew, that this has happened. And so Abram goes to help deliver. And we get introduced to one of our most famous biblical characters that is largely overlooked now somewhere like, wait, how can he be famous and yet largely overlooked? It’s thanks to restoration scripture. Melchizedek story and place in our gospel dispensation today, as well as back in his own day, I think has been restored largely. What do we know about Malcolm?
Well, we know a lot of things. We know he’s the person who the priesthood is named after because he’s so Holy and righteous that he is a ruler who had all sorts of discord but brought peace because he got his people to be so righteous. He seems to be the kind of file leader for Abraham. He’s the one who ordains Abraham. Abraham pays ties to him. There are even some hints from some modern day profits that perhaps even was successful in having a city translated. We don’t know that, but there are some suggestions that may be what happens. And so he’s a type or a symbol of Christ, for sure. You get the sense that he’s so important that you actually do end up with a lot of apocryphal books and pseudo for graphic books about Malcolm. Everyone can tell there’s something here. And so people start making stuff up, but there’s no doubt and some of it is probably preserving ancient traditions that are correct. You get this mixing, but there’s no doubt. You get the sense that there’s something more here. And we’re blessed to have restoration Scripture that gives us more good. Yeah.
Genesis 15 is a very interesting chapter in some ways. I actually think it’s one of the most significant chapters in scriptures, particularly the ending. We get kind of this strange story. Most of us don’t pay attention to it. And if we do, it’s a little confusing where you get these animals that are cut up, the cutting Covenant. Can you tell us about that for a bit?
Yeah, I think the symbolism in 15 is incredible. So this is another place where Abraham will enter more fully into the Covenant, and you can tell it’s really more fully. And he does it by this ordinance that we don’t really read up anywhere else. But it’s rot. Well, it’s fraught with symbolism where he takes several animals and he cuts them in half and lays half on this side and half on that side. And that seems odd. And I’m not sure we understand all of the symbolism behind us, but there’s quite a bit of symbolism I think we can understand. In Hebrew, there are two phrases that they use for entering into the Covenant. One of them is enter, but that’s not used very often. You enter into it, but most often you say you cut a Covenant. And that’s really interesting because it’s almost an oxymoron, because the word for cutting means to cut. But the word for Covenant breed has that at its roots to bind.
So like it’s cognates or it’s similar words in Akkadian actually convenient fetters to bind someone to something or together, like handcuffs kind of a thing. Right. It has binding at its root, and yet in some ways it’s element also has to cut, asunder we actually have a word like that in English, to cleave to cleave means both to cut something and to hold to it tightly. Right. To put it together tightly and not let it go apart. That’s an interesting tension. And I don’t know that this is the symbolism, but I kind of think that it may be a little bit of the idea that because of the fall, we are cut off from God’s presence, we are separated from him. But then we will have to go into that gap between us and God and partake of a Covenant that can bring us back together. The same thing that separates us in a way can also be part of what brings us back together. And, of course, Christ is the one who makes both the Covenant and the coming back together with God possible. So I think we have a lot of symbolism in here.
And note that Abraham has been separated, and it’s not until the burning fiery lamp goes between them, which it really means light. It’s not really a lamp. It’s a burning light is what it says, which probably signifies some kind of angelic being, but I think probably God. If not, it’s an angel representing God. So the idea is that once God’s presence is there, then that cutting can be overcome with a binding, and we are bound to God, and that’s what can overcome our being separated from him.
The scripture sometimes feel like a foreign country. What we’re trying to say is the gospel isn’t foreign. It’s all about God wanting to be bound to us. And sometimes the way the stories are expressed might seem confusing, but the essence is God is simply trying to get us back into his presence and to be in relationship with us.
To bridge that gap between the two animals. Right? He is the bridge between the two halves, actually.
He is the Covenant path that brings it together.
So the way that we’ve talked about it before, this nutshell definition, and there’s a lot more to it. This is very simple. The Covenant connection with God is him saying, I will be your God and you will be my people. If you look, if you search for that phrase and search for that phrase, your God, my people, you’re going to find these phrases showing up all over scripture. Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, this idea that any Covenant that we make with God kind of back to Carrie’s idea of we make them in stages, line upon line, precept on precept. We increasingly say, I want you now more than ever to be my God, and I want to be thy people more than ever before. Rather than going after the gods of the world, I want to deepen and strengthen and enrich that Covenant connection because God has established it, and he did that because of his goodness, not because of ours.
Bringing this up brings up a really important thing. I mean, the rest of this reading really is about the Covenant. All of this reading is about the Covenant. And this is a foundational step in all of Scripture today’s lesson that we’re covering today. You will not be able to understand the rest of Scripture if you don’t understand the Abrahamic Covenant, what it entails, and you’re going to keep getting it here, you’re going to get it in Leviticus and Deuteronomy and so on. But we have to understand what that Covenant is and how important and central it is to the rest of Scripture. Because every Prophet in the Old Testament, but also in the New Testament, you get it in the doctrine of covenants. You get it in the Book of Mormon. They presuppose that you know what the Covenant is and you understand it. And they just make illusions to it. They just kind of refer to us. So they’ll refer to it just by saying, then I will be your God, or then you will be my people. And we have to clue in and say, Ah, talking about the Covenant, or then you’ll have great posterity, right?
Isaiah does this all the time. There’ll be so many people, you don’t have room. You have to make your tent larger. Well, what he’s doing is he’s talking about the Covenant, then you’ll really prosper because these are all blessings we’ve been talking about. And reading the land, right? Or then you’ll receive the land, or then I will protect you. All of those are things we’ve just read were part of the promises of the Covenant, and they’re referred to all over in scripture. But if you miss that they’re referring to the Covenant, then you’re not going to understand what they were intending for you to understand. But once you start seeing that Covenant and because Covenant is about our relationship with God and binding us to God. So Covenant and relationship with God is the central Tenet of all scripture. But we’re talking this year about Old Testament. It’s the central Tenet of the Old Testament that God wants to bind us to him and bring us back to him. And of course, Christ is the one that makes that possible. Once you understand that, then you’re going to see Covenant everywhere and everything will make just a little bit more sense to you.
I love it.
So do you find it odd that Abraham has been given all these promises posterity where back in chapter 15, look at the stars. If you can count them, then you can count your posterity or the Sands of the seashore. There you go. And yet he’s getting along in age, and Sarah is getting along in age, and those promises don’t seem to be coming to pass for him directly right then, right there. But he doesn’t shake his fist in anger and frustration at heaven. He continues to say, I don’t know how, but I’m going to trust you’re still my God, I trust you. And the book of Hebrews, chapter eleven. The writer of the Hebrews points that out, that Abraham and Sarah exercised this incredible faith in the face of such odds.
And I think it helps us, at least in our trials, if we can identify with Abraham, because while Abraham has his faith, it doesn’t mean he’s without question. But he’s saying, okay, God, how is this going to work? I’ve got the servant Elias. Is that how this is working? And we do the same thing. Okay, I thought this meant this, but maybe it means this and sometimes it does mean the other thing and so on. When we’ll all go through those things, we’re like, I don’t understand how this is working out, and neither did Abraham. But Abraham still believed it would work out, and that’s the key. So he still presses on. He still keeps his company. He doesn’t give up on all of it, even though it doesn’t quite make sense to him. And it’s been a long time, depending upon which account, whether you go with the Genesis account or the book of Abraham account, we’re talking like 25 to 30 something years where Abraham is waiting for this to happen. That’s a lot of patience and a lot of faith. And it’s not without question. It’s not without struggle. But he maintains his faith, and that’s something we can learn from beautiful to tie into that.
You’ll notice that sometimes those questions and those I wonder if it’s going to be fulfilled this way. Sometimes we do our best effort to fulfill the prophecy or to bring to pass those covenantal blessings. And that’s exactly what happens in Chapter 16, Abraham and Sarah. I mean, you can imagine these conversations. Sarah is the one who says, hmm, maybe I need to give Hagar my handmade to you, to wife and her children. I’m going to claim them as my own. Maybe that’s how it’s fulfilled.
Yeah, I love that. Because you see them saying, okay, is there something else that we should be doing? Is there another step we should be taking to make this happen? And they get their thinking, hats on, right? They’re getting creative and say, okay, let’s see if we can figure out how to make this work.
They work within their culture, and God doesn’t actually recommend them. He actually lets them work within their own culture and he works with them in their own culture and time.
And Ishmael is going to be born through that process with Hagar. And you’ll notice. So he’s about 14 years older than Isaac. It’s not as if, okay, that was a nice attempt, but let me give you the right answers. We’re still talking 14 years or 13 years before the promise of her getting pregnant. That is a long time to still be scratching your head saying, Is this the right thing or did we mess up?
How does this happen?
How does this work? And in a beautiful way, you get Ishmael becoming the father of many nations that to this day, many people look back to the story of Abraham and they see Abraham and his faithfulness through the lenses of Ishmael’s posterity that they are a part of. In fact, to the point where if you read the Quran and you read about the sacrifice of Abraham and Isaac, it’s not Isaac in that story. It’s the sacrifice of Abraham and Ishmael.
And it’s clear that Ishmael has a Covenant with many, many blessings.
Correct. And those blessings are going to get going to be fulfilled.
So now we get to Genesis, Chapter 17, verse one is a very powerful verse. Now, sometimes as members of the Church, we fall into the trap of perfectionism. We believe that we have to make ourselves perfect and we actually stop God, or we try to stop God from making us perfect. Notice what God says to Abraham when the Lord appears to Abraham says, I am the Almighty God, walk before me and be thou perfect. Now, we might listen to this and say, oh, my gosh, that’s a tall order. I just can’t ever commit to sin ever again or any transgression. The reality is we are all going to mess up. So is this really what God’s asking is to never ever in all your life ever make any mistake? I think that what we actually have going on here is that the word perfect is a technical Covenant, a word that means loyalty. The God is saying, I want you to walk with me again. Think about a marriage relationship. You don’t want one partner in front or one behind it’s right side by side. And I want you to be loyal to me. So when you see that word perfect, if you actually think of the word loyal or faithful, that might be getting closer to what God is asking of Abraham.
He’s saying, Abraham, I’m offering all these promises. Now what I want in return from you is your love and loyalty and faithfulness. Now, how do we make this happen? Today we’ve said this before. The Sacrament is a great opportunity every week to declare your loyalty to God, that you will walk with him. And that’s why I think Genesis, Chapter 17, verse one, is so powerful because it still resonates today. God wants to walk with us and he wants our loyalty, our love and our faithfulness.
And I think even to add and compliment that there are connotations in this word that is perfect, that means completed or fulfilled or made whole. Right. So it seems to me I think you’re right. I think he’s saying, I mean, you think about it. If we were to say this, walk before me and be completed now we’ll come back to loyal in a second because I think that’s absolutely part of it. But let’s think of it in this way, walk before me and be completed, and I will make a Covenant between me and the I think part of what he’s saying is I’m going to help complete you. Let’s make this Covenant. That’s your next step in being completed, that’s the next phase of being made whole is to make this Covenant with me. And then if you’re loyal in that Covenant, if you’re striving within that Covenant, then I’ll keep moving you along until eventually we get the full completion, the full made whole. Right. But he seems to be saying, let’s take the next step in that right now. You demonstrate that loyalty and I’m going to get you through this.
That’s a great insight. It’s that circle. You cannot get to that perfection or completion without God. I love the way you made that connection.
So some of you are probably thinking, wait a minute, I thought he had already made that Covenant back in Chapter 15 and even before multiple times in twelve and back in Abraham two and parts of Abraham one. The element is there. It’s back to what Carrie had said earlier. Just because God has made a covenantal connection with you in the past, your baptism or your endowment or your ceiling, doesn’t mean that you can’t strengthen and deepen and establish a deeper Covenant connection with God. And that’s what you see going on here. Look at the wording, by the way, in verse seven, and I will establish my Covenant between me and the did you notice the significant thing that often gets overlooked? Who establishes the Covenant? It’s not Abraham writing up this legalese document and saying, God, I’m going to do all of this. And if I do this, then you have to do this. Sign here. It’s not us who set the terms of the agreement. We don’t establish the Covenant. We’re not the messenger of the Covenant. We don’t build the Covenant. That’s God who does that. And by the way, it strikes me as absolutely awe inspiring that the God of the universe, a being who has infinite power, infinite knowledge, infinite capacity, would care so intimately and infinitely perfectedly about little old me and you and you and you.
This God of the universe, would actually take the time to come to Abraham and to us individually and say, I care about you. I want you to have this relationship with me, and I’ve set the terms of the agreement. Those aren’t negotiable. Are you willing to do it?
Yeah. It makes sense to me. Why I would want to bind myself to God. Right. I just want God to strap me to his back and see if you there. But why would God want to bind himself to us? And the only answer is love, right? There’s nothing else. As you said, that kind of being has no other motive to bind himself, to tie himself to us.
Now let’s start over again. Verse seven. I will establish my Covenant, noticing the personal pronouns here between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting Covenant, to be a God unto thee, unto thy seed after thee. Did you notice the wording to be a God unto thee? Book of verse eight. And I will give unto thee, unto thy seat after thee. Because that’s what a God has the capacity to do. A God can actually give things. I will give unto thee and thy seat after thee. The land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession. And I will be their God. He just keeps reestablishing it. And now the entire rest of the Old Testament from here moving forward. God is faithful. God doesn’t get tired of the people like his prophets often do. And like we get tired of each other, God is faithful. But you’re going to find that the entire rest of the story is variations on a covenantal breaking theme. And reestablishing it where they’re going after false gods. God reestablishes the Covenant, brings them back, reconnects, and then they’re going to go away.
Like we said, not just the pride cycle, it’s this covenantal cycle. We watch it over and over and over again. And gratefully. That’s just applicable to the Old Testament and not to the 21st century. Right.
That’s one of the great keys to learning from the Old Testament is to recognize that what God does with his Covenant people as a whole, he does with Covenant individuals. So as you read about what Covenant Israel is doing, and it’s going to take us a couple of generations to get where we’re going to call it Israel. But it’s really only a couple of generations away from the Abraham story. When we read about what God does with Covenant Israel, he is going to do that with you as a Covenant individual. And what Covenant Israel Enos to do strain is what we as individuals tend to do. And so we should, as we read this, ask ourselves not if you’re doing when we read about stupid things they do in the wilderness or whatever else stupid idolatry. Don’t ask yourself if you’re doing it, ask yourself how you’re doing it, and then look for how God is going to work with you while you’re doing it.
So to finish off chapter 17, you’ll notice up to this point, God has been telling Abraham, this is what I’m going to do. You’ve got to be faithful. And the sign that God picks for Abraham in their generation for their faithfulness is in verse ten. This is my Covenant which Ye shall keep between me and you and thy seed. After thee, every manchild among you shall be circumcised. Interestingly, it’s these verses here, ten through 14, that later on in the early movement of Christians in the Book of Acts, even though they didn’t call themselves Christians, other people had called them that. You get this big battle between many Jewish Christian Cumbers and Gentile Christian Cumbers over this question of do you really have to keep the law of Moses and this part of the Abrahamic Covenant in order to then become a convert to the Church and be baptized? And it’s going to be a very divisive issue for them.
But eventually they conclude that it is not necessary anymore. Jesus is the updated Covenant.
But it will still be assigned throughout the rest of the Old Testament. When you see them say uncircumcised, that means someone not of the Covenant right, and circumcise someone of the Covenant as we finish.
We just wanted to point out the fact that the message of the Scriptures, the message of our prophets, the message of the Angels, the message of all of eternity, is that the infinite God of the universe is infinitely interested in little old me and you, and he’s reaching out to us to not just establish at a superficial level some sort of a connection where we say a prayer once in a while and open a scripture once in a while and go to Church every once in a while to check the boxes, but a deep and abiding cleaving Covenant to connect us with him eternally. It blows me away to contemplate that level of love and that level of care and compassion for us who have nothing to really offer him. But he has everything to offer us. And we leave that with you. And the name of Jesus Christ. Amen know that you’re loved.