Welcoming committee

16 welcoming committee

The two angels arrived at Sodom during the night and encountered a man sitting at the city gate.

When Lot saw the two men approaching, he bowed low out of respect for the strangers. “Please, masters,” he said. “Come stay the night with your servant and wash your feet. You can get up early and be on your way if you wish.”

“No,” they said. “We’ll spend the night down in the square.”

Lot knew better than to let the men fend for themselves in Sodom after dark, so he pressed them until they relented and followed him home. He presented a feast before his guests, and recognizing them to be righteous and noble, he served bread made without yeast to symbolize the purity of their assembly.

As they were turning in for the night, they heard from outside the shouting of an approaching mob. All the men of Sodom, young and old, surrounded every side of Lot’s house and began banging on the walls.

“Where are your guests?” one of the Sodomites shouted. “Bring them out so we can give them a proper welcome.”

A roar of laughter followed and the banging on the walls grew louder.

Lot went out and latched the door behind him. He said, “Please, brothers, curb your evil for one night.”

The men stepped closer as Lot’s back was pressed against the door.

“I have two daughters,” he suggested in a panic. “They’re virgins, and you can do whatever you want with them. Please spare my guests, whom I have sworn to protect.”

One of the Sodomites reached around, grabbed Lot by the nape of his neck and said, “Down, dog!” Lot faltered, and his knees hit the hard earth.

Another Sodomite chimed in. “This man came to Sodom as an outsider, and now he’s trying to play magistrate. Suppose we tie you up naked and invent new ways to violate your laws.” And another said, “That’ll teach him to judge us.”

The crowd pressed in harder, some clamoring for Lot’s tunic and others rattling the latch of the door. Suddenly, the angels appeared from inside and pulled Lot back in the house, shutting the door behind them. Those who clawed at the door were struck blind and could no longer find the latch.

Amid the sudden but deafening silence, the mob dispersed unassuaged, assisting the blind men back to their sordid dens.

Inspiration: Genesis 19

Negotiating terms

 

15 negotiating terms

The visitors finished the food that had been prepared by their gracious host, and then stood to leave Mamre Oaks. Gazing out over the distant waters toward the fertile plain of Sodom, the Master asked, “Should I hide what I’m about to do from you, my chosen one?”

The sun began its early evening descent, and a warm breeze wafted through the encampment.

“You’ll be a great and mighty nation,” the Master said, his eyes meeting Abraham’s. “Every nation will be blessed because of you. I’ve chosen you to teach your children and their children to keep my ways, to walk justly and uprightly. This is the way of the promise.”

The Master turned again toward Sodom. “Sodom and Gomorrah have brought their wickedness to new levels. I’m going down to see just how bad it has become.”

The two men traveling with the Master began their way toward Sodom, but Abraham stood on the path, the words of the promise echoing in his ears.

Then he asked, “Master, will you destroy the good with the bad? What if you find fifty good people in Sodom. Will you still destroy the entire city? In other words, would the Judge of all the world do what’s unjust?”

The Master said, “If there are fifty good people in Sodom, I’ll spare everyone.”

Abraham then asked, “Who am I to press the issue, but what if you only find forty-five good people? Will you still spare the whole city?”

The Master answered, “For forty-five, I’ll spare both Sodom and Gomorrah.”

Abraham continued, “Forgive me for asking, but what if there are only thirty good people in Sodom? What then?”

The Master said plainly, “I won’t destroy the city if there are thirty good people living there.”

Again, Abraham spoke. “What if you find twenty?”

“Then I’ll spare the city.”

“Ten?”

The Master put a hand upon Abraham’s shoulder and smiled. “For the sake of ten good people, I will spare the entire city.” Then he set out for Sodom.

Abraham went into his tent and slept soundly.

Inspiration: Genesis 18

Promise confirmed

14 promise confirmed

The glory of God appeared to Abraham one afternoon as he sat expectantly at the entrance of his tent at Mamre Oaks. Looking up, Abraham saw three men standing near, so he ran to them and knelt at their feet.

“Master,” Abraham said, “if you please, allow your servant to bring water for your feet and bread for your hunger. Rest under the shade tree awhile before continuing your journey.”

The men nodded. “Very well.”

Abraham called to Sarah and said, “Hurry, make three cakes with the good flour.” Then he ran over to his stockyard, took a tender calf from the herd, and gave it to a servant for preparation.

He served his guests roasted calf and cakes with butter and milk, and he stood by, serving them as they ate under the shade tree.

As they ate, the men asked, “Where’s Sarah?”

Abraham answered, “She’s in the tent.” He realized these strangers knew him and his family.

One of the men said, “I’ll be back when the time is right, and she will have a son.”

Hearing her name, Sarah put her ear closer to the entrance of the tent, and she laughed under her breath. She thought, Imagine an old woman and her lord having a child at our age.

The Master said to Abraham, “Why’d your wife laugh? Is anything too difficult for the Master?”

Abraham’s face grew solemn. He had heard this promise before and realized his guests perceived Sarah’s doubting. At that moment, he knew he was in the presence of heavenly beings on a mission to confirm the way of the promise.

“When the time is right, I’ll return. Your wife will have a child.”

Sarah came out of the tent and blurted, “I didn’t laugh.” She was noticeably shaking with fear.

The Master closed the case, saying, “Yes, you did.”

Inspiration: Genesis 18

Eternal contract

13 eternal contract

When Abram was nearly a hundred years old, God appeared and said, “I’m God Almighty. Walk before me and be perfect. I’ll make my promise between us, and I’ll make you abundant.”

Abram fell on his face.

God continued, “Here’s the promise: I’m making you the father of many nations. Your name is hereby changed to Abraham, “Father of Nations.” Even kings will come from you. This promise is established forever through your generations. I’ll give you and your offspring this foreign land, that is, all of Canaan forever, and I will be their God.”

Abraham remained prostrate on the ground with his forehead down in the dirt.

“As for you and your side of the promise,” God said, “you and every male among you, through every generation, will cut off their foreskin. This is the way of the promise. When each baby boy is eight days old, including slaves born in your house or any other male purchased with money, they will be circumcised. Why? For the promise to be irrevocable, it must cut into the flesh. Anyone who has not had his foreskin cut off will himself be cut off from your people, because he will have broken the promise.”

Abraham remained still and silent before God.

“As for Sarai,” God continued, “she is now Sarah, and she will give you a son. I will bless her, and from her womb will come nations and kings.”

Abraham couldn’t contain a sudden fit of laughter. He muttered under his breath, “We’re too old to have children, and my wife is barren.” He lifted his head. “Bring Ishmael into the blessing.”

God answered, “Sarah will bear you a son next year, and you’ll call him Isaac. Through him my eternal promise will be secured, not with Ishmael. As for Ismael, I will bless him for your sake and give him a large family. He will be a great nation, the father of twelve kings.”

When God ascended, Abraham took his son, Ishmael, and all the male slaves born or purchased in his house, and he cut off their foreskins. Then he had someone cut his own foreskin.

Ishmael was thirteen years old when his foreskin was cut off.

Inspiration: Genesis 17

Cruel mistress

12 cruel mistress

Abram and Sarai had no children of their own. Sarai wanted to pave a way for God’s promise to be fulfilled for Abram, so she suggested that Abram sleep with her Egyptian slave, Hagar.

“Since God has prevented me from giving you children,” she reasoned, “perhaps I can have a child through her.”

Abram considered this, and after they had lived in Canaan for ten years, Sarai brought Hagar into Abram’s bed. When Hagar got pregnant, she hurled insults at Sarai and behaved with an air of superiority.

Sarai lit into her husband. “May the tables turn on you! I offered you my slave as a second wife, and she became a monster. May God be the judge between us.”

Abram deflected. “She’s your slave. Take care of the situation however you wish.”

On that very day, Sarai’s treatment of Hagar became so unbearable that the slave escaped and ran away into the wilderness.

An angel of God approached Hagar as she trudged along a spring toward Egypt. “Hagar, where’d you come from?” the angel asked. “And where are you going?”

Continuing along the path undeterred, she answered, “I’m getting away from my cruel mistress.”

The angel stepped in front of Hagar, stopping her in her tracks. “Turn around,” the angel said. “Go back and submit to Sarai. As a reward, I’ll give you more descendants than a census can track.”

Hagar dropped to her knees and held her belly. How could she go back to that abusive woman?

The angel of God knelt beside her and said, “Your son will be named Ishmael, because God hears your pain. However, Ishmael will make an ass of himself and will have enemies all around him, including his own family.”

“And I’ll call you Elroi,” Hagar answered in astonishment, “because you’ve apparently seen God and live to tell about it.”

After the encounter, the well of the spring was called “Beerlahairoi” or “Well of the Living One Who Sees Me.”

Hagar returned to her mistress, bore Abram a son, and named him Ishmael. Abram was eighty-six years old.

Inspiration: Genesis 16

God’s promise

11 gods promise

After Abram’s conquest and victory over the king of Elam, he stirred sleeplessly in the night, fearing retaliation.

“Don’t be frightened, Abram.” God appeared in a vision and spoke as if in the flesh. “I’m your protection, and your reward will be significant.”

Abram remembered the promise God had made when he called Abram out of Ur, so he answered, “But what will you give me? I’m childless, and my heir is my adopted son and servant Eliezer of Damascus.”

God’s voice was clear. “Eliezer won’t be your heir. Your own flesh and blood will pave the way of my promise.”

God led Abram outside of his tent and said, “Count the stars if you can. Your sons and daughters will be as many.”

Abram believed God’s promise, so God declared him righteous.

“I’m God. I took you from Ur to give you everything as far as the eye can see.”

Abram faltered. “How can I be sure it’ll be mine?”

God answered, “We’ll make a pact. Bring me a heifer, a female goat, and a ram, all of them three years old. Also bring a turtledove and a pigeon.”

Abram did as he was instructed, bisected them, and stacked each half onto the other. The birds he left whole. Abram guarded the sign of God’s promise against birds of prey, driving them from the pyre until he grew weary.

At sunset, Abram fell asleep and descended into a terrifying nightmare. The vultures circling overhead turned into captors of his future offspring, and he saw them carried off to a strange land for four hundred years. God said, “Your descendants will be slaves, poorly treated and beaten down, but I will punish the nation responsible. In the end, they will be adorned with great riches.” Then he said, “Abram, you’ll die at a ripe old age and will be buried in peace.”

Abram’s night terrors subsided, and he began to breathe easier. God appeared once more and said, “Your offspring will come back here and take the land in the fourth generation. That’s when the Amorites will have come to ruin because of their evil practices.”

The sky was black when a vision of a smoking firepot and a lighted torch passed between the carcass halves. He said, “I give this land to your blood relations, from the Nile to the Euphrates.”

The embers smoldered and the presence of God lingered into the next morning.

Inspiration: Genesis 15

Salem’s alot

10 salems alot

For thirteen years a syndicate of kings, including King Bera of Sodom, served under King Chedorlaomer of Elam, east of Babylonia. All the kings had to pay tribute from the resources of their rich lands, and soon this became intolerable to the kings of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Bela (a little town later renamed Zoar). (Incidentally, Sodom falls under the curse of Canaan, while Elam comes from the house of Shem. Recall here the prophesy that Shem would rule over Canaan.)

In the fourteenth year, King Chedorlaomer and his band of loyal kings went to Siddim Valley to quell the rebellion and to force tribute, if only by the tip of the sword.

The valley was peppered with tar pits, and as the rebel kings fled, some fell prey to the pits while the rest found safety in the hills. King Chedorlaomer went and took all the spoils of Sodom and Gomorrah, including Abram’s nephew Lot, and all he possessed.

One of the Sodomite rebels who escaped went to plead with Abram at Mamre Oaks. When Abram learned of his nephew’s capture, he rallied all of those of his own blood relations who had been trained in the art of war and the religion of the Hebrews. They totaled 318 men, an impressive family gathering but a poor turnout for an invading army.

Abram called on his allies, Mamre, Eschcol, and Aner. Together they pursued the armies of Chedormaomer as far as Dan, where they regrouped. At nightfall, they divided their ranks and attacked them by four sides at Hobah.

This shock and awe strategy brought Chedorlaomer and his mighty armies to their knees. Abram brought back Lot and his possessions. And although he was under no obligation, but for Lot’s sake, he liberated the Sodomite women and other captives along with their goods.

Abram and his men were camped at King’s Valley, and the king of Sodom came out to meet him. Melchizedek, King of Salem and Priest of God Most High also came and presented refreshments of bread and wine to Abram and his men.

He blessed Abram, saying, “God Most High, maker of all things, blesses you, Abram. May God Most High be blessed for delivering your enemies to you.”

As a humble token of respect and thanks, Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth of all the spoils of war.

Bera, King of Sodom, pulled Abram aside and said, “Give me the people and you can have the goods.”

Abram fixed his eyes onto the king. “I swore to my Lord, God Most High, maker of all things, that I’d not take a single thread or shoe,” Abram said. “I’ll not have it said by anyone, ‘I have made Abram rich.’”

The king was dumbfounded.

Abram concluded. “I’ll take nothing except what my men have eaten. Let my allies, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre take their share.”

Inspiration: Genesis 14