– September 30, 2020 –
Abraham, the Father of the Faithful is one of the “cloud of witnesses” who are sources of encouragement in time of need. While we appreciate Abraham’s faithful walk with God, we may miss the fact that Abraham’s faith walk was probably commercial, not merely agrarian. We are also alike in that we pass through “wilderness times,” where resources grow scarce and the knowns become unknowns.
If we were to share with Abraham how the pandemic impacted our lives and businesses, we might be surprised how well Abraham could relate. Archaeological discoveries show that Ur, where Abraham grew up, was a metropolis of its day with large factories and warehouses for holding goods being shipped by sea or caravan between India and Egypt. Abraham was most likely involved in some form of commerce and we are told he grew wealthy. Then God told him to walk away from it all. By the time Abraham settled in Canaan, he had journeyed around 2500 km. Since God had withheld the destination from Abraham, he was unable to make a transition plan or establish contingencies for his future. He had the resources he was able to transport or purchase. Basically, he had to start over — maybe just like some of us right now.
Genesis focuses on the key events that resulted in Abraham’s profound faith and deep relationship with God. But there are lots of incidental indications that help us appreciate that Abraham developed into the Father of the Faithful in a marketplace environment, not just sitting under a tree hoping his flocks would multiply.
For instance, a plot on the map of all the places in Canaan where Abraham “sojourned” would reveal a strategic plan to be at the key junctions, choke points of the two busiest and most important trade routes between Mesopotamia and Egypt. Abraham’s large flocks were valuable commodities for supplying the large caravans. More than once, issues arose over water rights. There was probably more at stake than just giving one’s sheep a drink. Caravans needed large reliable supplies of water.
When the five Kings of the north successfully invaded Canaan, enslaving the inhabitants, Abraham rapidly assembled 315 trained fighting men (not just putting a sword in the hands of a butler). What normal civilian shepherd would have such resources? Perhaps a civilian who, as part of his entrepreneurial thinking provided armed escorts (for a fee) through some of the dangerous wilderness between Canaan and Egypt. When we see the strife between Lot’s people and Abraham’s, the repeated negotiations with local power brokers over water rights, the impact of unforeseen devastating famine, we have a recognizable context for viewing our faith journey.
It is very encouraging to look back at Abraham, look at us now and project ourselves into the future realizing that we are on the same journey. And while it is easier to read about it than to live through it, we know that we are students in the same “school of faith” as God’s hero, Abraham.
KIROS Board Member