“His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him (Abraham) in the cave of Machpelah, near Mamre in the field of Ephron, son of Zohar the Hittite, the field Abraham had bought from the Hittites. There Abraham was buried with his wife Sarah.” Genesis 25:9-10
I am not really sure Abraham and Sarah were ever the perfect couple. There does not seem to be a lot of romance or even happiness between them. Yet here they are together in the end. This cave is a fascinating story. In chapter 23 we learn how insistent Abraham is that he pay for the land and that it is actually deeded, written into historic records of the Hittites. Later his children and their spouses are all buried there, except for Ishmael. Ishmael shows at the funeral, then he is gone for a long time. We hear little about him and lots about his descendants. But this cave…. In 1967 Egypt blockaded the Straits of Tiran, an act of war according to the international establishment of Israel as a state in 1948. Israel acted swiftly and destroyed the Egyptian air force in what we know as the six-day war. But there is something few know. Around ten years ago notes of conversation Moshe Dayan had with Ariel Sharon and Yitzhah Rabin leading up to the war have been declassified. In those notes, Dayan makes a startling statement to his general in charge. “When we destroy the Egyptian air force, send troops to take back the cave of our patriarchs.” The cave was under Muslim control in 1967 and Dayan wanted it back. Today the holy site houses both a mosque and a synagogue. There is a long history of tension and murder surrounding the cave. Daily tension for a holy site fills the air with no peace in sight. We cannot help but recognize that Abraham’s legacy is not a peaceful one.
“Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called upon the name of the Lord, the eternal.” Genesis 21:33
At this moment, Abraham chooses to plant a tree rather than build an altar, and a tamarisk tree at that. This time, Abraham planned to stay a very long time. He was not just passing through, not moving on, but beginning to put down roots. Here is where the promises of God would be realized for him and his family. This tamarisk tree that he planted grows in the harshest of weather. One might stand all alone in the middle of the desert, the only shade for a hundred miles and no water in sight. And they can live thousands of years.
The oldest recorded tree on the planet was a tamarisk tree. For centuries, Abraham’s descendants would come to this spot and know Abraham had put down roots. Here is where the promise came to fruition. Abraham knew what he was doing. He was giving his descendants a visible legacy. They visit this place for centuries and remember. It becomes a holy place. I hope and pray I have done something for my descendants that will last that long. What a legacy!
Is the Bible the Word of God? Adam Hamilton argues …
Is the Bible the Word of God? Adam Hamilton argues that the Word was Jesus, God in the flesh, and that our references to the Bible as the Word point to a form of idolatry. We worship the book rather than the God behind the book. I believe every word of the Bible has purpose for us and can lead us to right relationship with God, but I am not a literalist. I have read too much literature to think of the Bible as a Literalist. The Bible is filled with all kinds of writing: history, fiction, poetry, narrative, essay, drama, apacolyptic. Rarely is it meant to be taken literally. Inerrancy seems to me to be a fallacy as Hamilton argues.
At the same time, this does not mean we need to discard passages that do not match our contemporary understanding of God’s nature. Hamilton says, “Christians may legitimately set aside clear teachings of scripture as no longer binding, seeing them as written primarily for another time and not reflecting God’s timeless will.” P. 177. He goes on to use Acts 15, the Jerusalem council, to justify setting aside passages. In Acts 15, the disciples choose to set aside clear guidelines given by God for inclusion into the covenant of law. Jesus proclaims a new covenant of grace, and so it is not only understandable, but necessary, for the disciples to rethink how God will relate to Jew and Gentile under this new covenant. If in fact God is doing something new, establishing yet another covenant that follows law and then grace, then we should all expect to be writing new ethics about His relationship with us today. But if we are still living in the covenant of grace, then rewriting our code is ever so dangerous.
In Acts 15, the disciples were divinely ordained by the Holy Spirit to discover and offer this new covenant of grace through Jesus to the whole world. If the church is not entering a time of a new covenant, then we are relying on our own thoughts and desires without the direction of the Holy Spirit. This is a dangerous undertaking. The church is facing a war with our society over ethics. Society has chosen to normalize divorce, abortion, a welfare state, and now is in process of changing its sexual ethic. The mainline church is dying. Society is rejecting old forms and antiquated thought systems of the church. So to stay in step, the church is changing its ethics. To do so, it must reject passages of scripture that offend. It may be that God will establish a new covenant that does not offend. I do not believe we live in that covenant today. Jesus clearly identifies the covenant of grace as one with ethical standards. Everything we want is not OK. We need to keep the Bible intact and wait on God’s Spirit to reveal a new order. He died on the cross to create the grace covenant. I can only imagine what He will have to do to establish the covenant of Glory.