A Weekly Bible Reading for Bridge Builders
Reading – Father of the Faithful (Genesis 12:1-2)
Providence is usually defined as the unceasing activity of God in blessing (Ps.145:9), upholding order (Acts 17:28), governing events (Ge.45:5-8) and directing everything to his ultimate purpose and for his glory (Eph.1:9-12). (See New Bible Dictionary, 3rd.ed. p. 979 for more helpful insights on providence) Over the next six weeks we will look at God’s unmistakable and providential hand has worked through Bible history to provide the Saviour we will soon celebrate.
We naturally think of Abraham as a nomad, a tent dweller, whose wanderings are recorded in the early chapters of the Bible. However, for the first seventy-five years of his life, Abraham was a metropolitan, a city dweller, living in the bustling, sophisticated and important trade centre of Ur on the Euphrates River and later further north in the equally important city of Haran.
Both Ur and Haran were worship centres for the sun and the moon and Abraham, was raised to be a polytheist, like his father. The building that dominated Ur, and still dominates the site today, was the temple, a ziggurat or stepped tower dedicated to these pagan gods. We get a picture of their purpose by looking at the Tower of Babel, which was such a tower.
“Then [men] said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth’” (Ge.11:4)
This was a city in which a community and nation might gather and a tower that would establish a name, identify a people of renown. This was the background from which Abraham was called, these were the gods he was called to renounce for a God who promised him a name and who would make him a great nation:
“Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.
I will make you into a great nation
And I will bless you;
I will make your name great...” (Ge.12:1-2)
When Abraham’s wife, Sarah heard the promise of a child she laughed because she was old and passed child bearing age (Ge.18:10-15) but “Abraham believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness” (Ge.15:6) When Sarah had a son Abraham called him Isaac, which means laughter.
“Sarah said, ‘God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.’ And she added, ‘Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.’” (Ge.21:6-7)
Who would have said indeed? A man called by God out of the pagan world of his father, promised a son and, in his old age, borne a son by his elderly and barren wife. Is it any wonder that Sarah laughed at such incredible events? The providence of God would continue to operate and, from the most unlikely, even impossible circumstances raise up a line that would eventually bring salvation to the world for his purpose and to his glory.