[bible:365] Day 3 – Genesis 11-15

The Tower of Babel

The Tower of Babel story is rather odd. It’s a story I’ve heard since I was a child, and I always thought it was pretty crazy, but reading it now it’s just plain odd. The people want to “make a name for themselves” and build a tower to the heavens, and according to God, they can accomplish that goal because they all have one language. At this point, the story seems to be about the power of a people united, that “nothing they propose to do will now be impossible for them” (11:6).

But God sees something bad in this; whether it’s the pride that they want to glorify themselves, that they think they can reach heaven, or that he sees where this will lead (“this is only the beginning of what they will do.” 11:6), he decides this cannot be allowed to happen. So he divides them. According to this story, God is the source of language barriers.

I look at this and can’t help but wonder, was it worth it? So much damage is done in the world because people are divided by race, sex, culture, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status and…. language. I look at the world today and have to wonder, what it would be like if the barrier of language had never been? Would we be less divided? Would there be less hate? Less war? Less discrimination?

In the end though, the game of “what if” can never come up with a good answer. All we can do is live in the world we have, and trust that God knew what he was doing.

The Faith of Abram

Father Abraham, had many sons. Many sons had Father Abraham. I am one of them, and… you get the picture

But, we’re not to Abraham yet, he is still just Abram. The faith of Abram is not an uncommon topic, as he clearly deserves his place in the Hebrews 11 ‘Hall of Faith.” However, I can’t help but read these passages and continue to be amazed at his faith. I think something I take for granted is this is the beginning of the story of God and his covenantal people; those who come after have a rich history in which God proves his faithfulness to rely on. Abram did not, and yet his faith was “counted to him as righteousness” (15:6)

I’m amazed that when told to leave all he knew behind and journey to an unknown land, he does so. – 12:1-4

It’s crazy when he goes after the army that captured his nephew with just 318 men, trusting God that he will be victorious. – 14:14-16

It’s astonishing that Abram, getting on in years and yet childless, is told he will have descendants “as numerous as the stars,” and he believes. – 15:5-6 (It’s a good thing Abram didn’t live in modern-day L.A., he would have had three descendants and a helicopter!)

Thing is, this kind of faith can be hard to live up to; I know I often lack this kind of faith. But then I look at the rest of the story, and am encouraged. Abram pretended his wife was his sister so the Egyptians wouldn’t kill him (12:10-20). When God tells Abram to leave his home, he promises great reward (12:2-3). Abram doubts how the promise of descendants will be fulfilled (15:2-3), and when God reassures him, Abram asks what assurance he can have (15:8).

It’s comforting to know that the faith of Abram is not without questions and uncertainty. He has faith, it just isn’t blind faith. Dallas Willard addresses this idea, saying that faith that is not based in knowledge is powerless (you wouldn’t take your car to the mechanic that has faith he can fix your car, you want the one with faith and knowledge).

The Order of Melchizedek

Here’s a topic not commonly discussed, which leads me to wonder how many people understand it. This is unfortunate, because it is vitally important and relates directly to Jesus Christ.

It’s amazing to me how this small event in Genesis 14 can have such a profound, thought oft unnoticed, impact on our faith. Melchizedek (מלכי–צדק – “King of Righteousness), king of Salem (שלם – ‘peace’) is called the priest of God Most High. He is a priest of God Most High, the God of Abram, and yet he is not one of Abram’s household, not to mention the Levitical priesthood won’t be founded for generations. Here we have something completely different, which is confirmed in Psalms and again in Hebrews.

The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” – Psalm 110:4

In this passage the Lord God is speaking to the Lord David, swearing him into the priesthood after the order of Melchizedek. It’s interesting to note how we get here, when this is the first mention of Melchizedek since Genesis 14. The Order of Melchizedek is part of the Jewish tradition, written about in documents not in our canon (11Q13, 2 Enoch, and the Book of Melchizedek). He is clearly given the role of priest, and David (and hence his lineage) are sworn into this priesthood.

Here we come to the crux of the matter as related in Hebrews 7:1-8:13: Jesus, coming from the line of Judah (not Levi) is not a priest, hence he has no authority to offer sacrifices on behalf of the people. However, as he comes from the line of David, he is a priest after the Order of Melchizedek, a priesthood higher than the Levitical priesthood (Melchizedek is greater than Abraham, blessing him and being given a tithe, and therefore greater than Levi who comes from Abraham). Hence the efficacy of a single sacrifice for all mankind.

(Talk about a brief explanation of a complex topic. Read Hebrews 7:1-8:13 in this context, it’s crazy stuff!)

Other Thoughts…

  • “the Lord came down to see the city” (11:5) – Interesting perspective of God where he “comes down” (A view of God characteristic of the Yahwist source)
  • Abram’s lie to Pharoah isn’t just not punished by God, it’s rewarded (he gets lots of stuff!)
  • Abram stops and builds altars at significant points – we ought to stop and “build an altar” at significant points in our journey to remember what God has done for us and worship him
  • Abram let’s Lot have first pick of the land, Lot picks the best area, God tells Abram he’s gonna get it all anyway – the first shall be last…
  • 2 most important things to people at that time: land and descendants. Land is their well-being, descendants are how they live on after they die (didn’t believe in an afterlife!), and this is what God promises Abram
  • To make a covenant is literally “cut a covenant” in the Hebrew (15:9-21) – ancient practice to slaughter an animal, cut it in half, and have both parties walk between the halves as a symbol of the covenant… and a warning to the one who would break it (hence a covenant is made with the spilling of blood…)

Sorry these are so long, there’s just so much good stuff!

What are your thoughts on the Tower of Babel story and the effects of language barriers? What do you see in the faith of Abram?

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One thought on “[bible:365] Day 3 – Genesis 11-15

  1. Pingback: [bible:365] Day 7 – Genesis 31-35 « A Radical Journey

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