Through the Bible in a Year: Genesis 21 to 25:10

My original reading plan said we would read until Gen. 24:10 today, but I meant Gen. 25:10. This will bring us to the end of Abraham’s life.

Today we find Sarah once again expelling Hagar, and this time her son with her. Once again, God spoke to her and took care of her.

Ishmael, the father of the Arabs, is left here and discussed no more. The Bible is not a history of the world; it is the story of the people of God, through whom God intends to bless the world.

Woe to us that we have so often been a bane rather than a blessing.

The Sacrifice of Isaac and the Lamb of God

In chapter 21, we find one of the greatest stories of the Bible. Abraham is asked to sacrifice Isaac, his son, upon an altar. In the story is one of the greatest lines in the Bible. Abraham didn’t tell Isaac that he was to be sacrificed, so the boy asked, "Where is the lamb?"

Abraham replies, "My son, God himself will provide a lamb."

The center and heart of the message of Scripture—nay, not just of Scripture but of all history—is that God would provide a lamb himself.

In the Revelation we are told of a Book of Life in which are written the names of all those who will live forever. That Book of Life is the book of "the lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8).

From the very beginning, from the very foundation of the world, a Lamb was slain on our behalf. Jesus’ death was not an accident, nor a stopgap measure. Jesus’ death is the height of human history. The ram that redeemed Isaac from physical death is a figure of the lamb that would redeem us all from spiritual death. However, Jesus’ death is more than just the our redemption from sin and its effects. God has planned to bring all of history together in Jesus Christ, so that he is Lord of everything in heaven and on earth (Eph. 1:7-23).

Spiritual Death

I made a terrible blunder on day one, Genesis 1 to 5. I did not talk about the fact that God said to Adam, "On the day that you eat of [the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil] you shall surely die."

Adam did not die physically until 930 years after eating from the tree. On the day that he at of it, he died spiritually. The result is that all of us are in the same condition (Rom. 5:12-14 and Eph. 2:1-2).

As we proceed through this year, we will see that spiritual life and death are central to the new covenant.

Since we have room here, let’s also point out that spiritual life and death are perfectly pictures by the two trees in the garden. The Law gives us the knowledge of good and evil, but this does not bring us life. In fact, it brings us death because the knowledge of good and evil awakens the sin that lives within us. The Law gives us the knowledge of good and evil, but it does not give us the ability to act on that knowledge. We sin, and we die (cf. Rom. 7).

The Tree of Life is the source of life for us, both in the garden and under the new covenant. Jesus’ death redeems us from sin and death, but it his life which will save us from wrath (Rom. 5:9-10). We do not return to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil when we become Christians. We begin to live by the Spirit of God, by Jesus’ very life in us (Gal. 2:20; 5:16-18 and many other passages).

A Wife for Isaac

The end of chapter 22 has Abraham being told of the children of his brother Nahor. This seems off track, but the passage is introducing us to Rebekah, who will become Isaac’s wife. Rebekah is Nahor’s granddaughter.

We find that marrying a cousin, someone from the same family, was preferable in Abraham’s day. We will find that Rebekah will look for a relative for Jacob to marry as well, and he, too, marries a first cousin.

Abraham sends his servant back to the Mesopotamia to find a relative as a wife. God blessed his journey, and we are introduced to Laban as well, whose daughters will become Jacob’s wife.

A Note on Abraham

Abraham is the father of our faith. He is used as an example often in Paul’s writings, and Jesus honors his willingness to believe God. He left his home and adventured in dangerous lands, and he was even willing to offer up his son as a burnt offering to God.

Today’s reading ends Abraham’s biography, and Monday we will move on to Isaac. Let’s not forget Abraham. If we are to be good students of the Word of God, we must return to it and continue to consider what we have read and heard. It would be good to read back through Abraham’s life and remember his free, open faith in God, which took him all over his world and granted him favor wherever he went.

Truly, God blessed those who blessed him and cursed those who cursed him. And now, more than 3,000 years later, God has left to him the father of many nations, both physically and spiritually.

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2 Responses to Through the Bible in a Year: Genesis 21 to 25:10

  1. Ruth says:

    “Since we have room here, let’s also point out that spiritual life and death are perfectly pictures by the two trees in the garden. The Law gives us the knowledge of good and evil, but this does not bring us life. In fact, it brings us death because the knowledge of good and evil awakens the sin that lives within us. The Law gives us the knowledge of good and evil, but it does not give us the ability to act on that knowledge. We sin, and we die (cf. Rom. 7).”

    so was sin resident in humanity but dormant until Adam ate from the tree? is that why eve was deceived and ate but Adam was held responsible because he knew
    better and ate?

    • Shammah says:

      I’m not good at “why” questions, but on the other, yes, I think sin was resident in humanity, but dormant until Adam ate from the tree. Now mind you, I think the Garden story is an allegory, not literal history. When I read a story about a man named “Man,” a woman named “Life,” a talking serpent, and trees that bestow eternal life, I think “allegory.”

      I do think there was a point where God breathed into man’s nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul. The goal, then, was to deliver us from what is human and earthly nature (literally “nature”). We live for ourselves. What we care about is our survival. We have longings put in us that have to do with survival. Our job is to rise above the flesh and become spiritual creatures. We no longer live for food, sex, and survival. We put down those sorts of desires, and we become sons of God, whose care is the glory of God and loving those around us.

      Now that I think about it, though, I think the issue of responsibility is important. Man was held responsible because he was responsible. He was in charge in the garden, and because he followed Life in sin rather than leading her in submission to God, he was the guilty party.

      Responsibility and authority go hand in hand. That’s an important principle, though I’ve not come close to fully explaining it in that last paragraph.

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