Foundational Themes in Genesis – Study 56

Theme: Faith (Part 4)

(Key verses: Gen 12:5-8 Gen 13:1-4; Gen 13:14-18; Gen 22:1-19)

In the fourth part of our discussions on the foundational theme of faith, we will touch on another important aspect of the gift of the faith of Christ and its development and application in us (Eph 2:2-9; Php 3:9). The faith of Christ comes through many examples and types in the Old Testament although all of them “died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off” (Heb 11). But through the life and journeys of Abraham, the faith of this man is given by God as the prime example for us to learn from (Rom 1:20). From his initial city of Ur in the Chaldees to the cave of Machpelah in Canaan, Abraham’s life is “written for our learning” and we truly live by these words in our appointed time (Gen 11:26 – Gen 25:10; 1Co 10:11; Rom 15:4; Mat 4:4):

Rom 4:16 Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all.

Gal 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

We meet Abram (only later called Abraham) in the scriptures as a man with a tent – revealing his sojourning heart and mind:

Heb 11:8 (MKJV) By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out into a place which he was afterward going to receive for an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he went.
Heb 11:9 By faith he lived in the land of promise as a stranger, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs of the same promise with him.
Heb 11:10 For he looked for a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

Besides his tent Abram was also fond of an altar – revealing his attitude toward sacrifice in order to obey God. The first time the word “altar” is mentioned in the scriptures is after the global flood in Noah’s days:

Gen 8:20 And Noah builded an altar [Hebrew: “mizbêach”] unto the LORD; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.

The word “altar” is translated from the Hebrew word “mizbêach” which comes from the root word “zâbach” which means “to slaughter an animal”. The shedding of the blood or the life of an animal was instituted by God right in the beginning when an animal had to be slaughtered to cover the nakedness or sin of Adam and Eve (Gen 2:25; Gen 3:21). God made it very clear from the beginning that He will always have respect if we follow His examples and commandments in all things, even when we bring an offering to Him. This example was very important for Abel, the second born of Adam and Eve, which cost him his earthly life:

Gen 4:2 And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.
Gen 4:3 And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD.
Gen 4:4 And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering:
Gen 4:5 But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.

Abel was the type of Christ, the second Adam, who came to set the example for us of how we will also be enabled by Him to follow Him and take up our own cross and lose our own earthly life. This is the true altar of God which few can eat at in this age (1Co 15:45; Gal 2:20):

Mat 10:38 And he who does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.
Mat 10:39 He who finds his life shall lose it. And he who loses his life for My sake shall find it.

Heb 13:10 We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle.

Without the shedding of blood or the giving up of a life, there is no remission or redemption from sin (Heb 9:22-23; Rom 8:20-23). The word “altar” appeared eleven times in the book of Genesis and five times Abram was mentioned in connection with an altar. Five is indeed the number of grace through faith in the Scriptures, and these altars of Abram connect the chastening grace of God with our growth in faith:

Heb 12:6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth [Greek: “paideuō”], and scourgeth [flogs] every son whom he receiveth.
Heb 12:7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth [Greek: “paideuō”] not?

Tit 2:11 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,
Tit 2:12 Teaching [Greek: “paideuō”]us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.

God is not abusive as some want to perceive Him when He ignores human political correctness – God punishes and corrects every spiritual son He receives for their good, even as He works our time of slavery and captivity under sin and spiritual delusion (Ecc 3:1-11; Eph 1:11; 2Th 2:11):

Jer 24:5 Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel; Like these good figs, so will I acknowledge them that are carried away captive of Judah, whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans for their good.

The first time Abram encountered an altar was immediately after he entered Canaan:

Gen 12:5 And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came.
Gen 12:6 And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem [Hebrew: shekem = ridge or the shoulder], unto the plain [Hebrew: “êlôn” = strength / oak]of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land.
Gen 12:7 And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him.

The place where Abraham first stopped has much significance for us in our walk of faith. The name of the place, namely “Sichem” (also known as Shechem in the scriptures), relates to a ridge or the shoulder of a person or animal (the upper part of the back). We know the expression “to put shoulder to the wheel” because the shoulder is the place of strength where something is placed when we want to carry it or when a task is to be performed. There are also many examples in scripture which confirm this symbol (Gen 9:23; Gen 21:14; Gen 24:15; Gen 24:45; Exo 28:12; Num 7:9; Isa 9:4; Isa 10:27; Isa 14:25; Jer 28:13-14; Isa 30:6; Mat 11:29-30; Luk 15:5; Act 15:10)

Isa 9:6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Mat 23:4 For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselveswill not move them with one of their fingers.

This is also the first time when Sichem (Shechem) is mentioned in the scriptures and in the very same verse the Canaanite is also mentioned. Then Canaanite was the burden Abram and his offspring, physical Israel, were to carry. But this is also spiritually applicable to those who are given the faith of Christ in every age. This is how the apostle Paul describes these Canaanites in our own land – our flesh:

Rom 7:18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
Rom 7:19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
Rom 7:20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
Rom 7:21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.
Rom 7:22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
Rom 7:23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

Abram is showing us what we need to do when we can see these Canaanites in our members and the purpose why God placed them there. Abram built “an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him”. Paul also found the same answer:

Rom 7:24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
Rom 7:25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

The word “plain” in Gen 12:6 is “êlôn” in Hebrew which refers also to an oak tree. Our first tree of death (our old Adam) is to be cut off to make place for the tree of life – the last Adam, Jesus Christ (1Co 15:45-50). It is indeed via this spiritual tree of life that we are redeemed from the curse of this body of death! (Gal 3:13).The word “êlôn” is connected to the Hebrew word “ayil” which means strength. The symbol of the oak tree is to indicate strength – Abram needed God’s strength to deal with the powerful Canaanites in the land. This is what the altar of God brings to us – spiritual strength and life. When we know that we are weak, we give up on our own ideas and solutions as many servants of God, including the apostle Paul, also found it to be the best answer to all of life’s problems (Exo 15:2; 1Sa 30:6; 2Ch 16:9; Psa 84:5; Isa 40:31):

2Co 12:9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
2Co 12:10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

Again the chastening grace of God is linked to our growth of faith. Sichem is connected to the plains or the oak of Moreh. The word “Moreh” means archer or teacher. The altar is the place of sacrifice where we learn to rely on the Word of God and nothing else (Psa 27:11; Psa 32:8; Psa 86:11; Psa 119:33):

Psa 45:3 Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O most mighty, with thy glory and thy majesty.
Psa 45:4 And in thy majesty ride prosperously because of truth and meekness and righteousness; and thy right hand shall teach thee terrible things.
Psa 45:5 Thine arrows are sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies; whereby the people fall under thee.

Psa 25:12 What man is he that feareth the LORD? him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose.

The second time Abram encountered an altar was when he moved from Sichem to a mountain between Bethel, which was in the west of this mountain, and Hai on the east:

Gen 12:8 And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the LORD, and called upon the name of the LORD.

The word “removed” is translated from the Hebrew word “âthaq” which indicates growth or maturing, even as we get physically weaker. As we live from every word from God’s mouth, we are always diligent in our awareness that our faith can only grow through much tribulation and the fading of our fleshly crutches and attachments (Mat 4:4; Act 14:22; 2Co 5:1-7). A mountain in the scriptures always represents either our own natural mind’s haughtiness or the doctrine and mind of Christ. Abram again shows his dependence on the mountain of the Lord – God’s way of doing things (Isa 2:2-3; Mic 4:2; Zec 8:3; Oba 1:21). Bethel links to this mountain of the Lord as it means “house of God” while Hai (or Ai) means “heap of ruins” which again relates to our old man, Adam. Our first tabernacle is indeed a “high place” of clay and dung which is in a marred condition from the start as from the hand of the Potter (Gen 2:7; Eze 16; Psa 51:5; Jer 18:4; Rom 8:20). This is what we encounter in our journey from east to west, even as we typically come from the worldly camp outside and enter through the eastern entrance of the tabernacle or temple through the courtyard with all its copper implements (the best of the flesh). Only after all of that we can enter and be seated in the temple proper with all its gold and purity (the doctrine of Christ):

Heb 10:19 Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,
Heb 10:20 By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;
Heb 10:21 And having an high priest over the house of God;
Heb 10:22 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.
Heb 10:23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)

A famine in the land of Canaan caused Abram and his family to move south, and they eventually ended up in Egypt (Gen 12:9-10). Egypt is spiritually the place where flesh rules supreme and is domineered by its lusts and pride (Exo 1-20; 1Jn 2:16). It is here where we compromise the Godly standards, and we increase with earthly goods, even as Abraham and his family wanted to save their lives from the famine in Canaan, and their faith in God’s provision faltered (Gen 12:11-16). It is in Egypt and Babylon where there is no place for an altar that pleases God, even as Abram’s old Babylonian lifestyle and riches caused lukewarmness (Jos 24:2; Rev 3:17):

Gen 13:2 And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold.

But through God’s humiliating judgment of his fleshly attitudes, Abram was forced by the rebuke and correction of the heathen Pharaoh to move back to the promised land (Gen 12:17-20). God will use the world to correct us and show us the way back because even the wicked is a servant of God (1Ch 29:11; Job 1:6-12;2:1-8; Pro 16:4; Jer 2:19:Jer 25:9Jer 27:6; Isa 44:28):

Psa 17:13 Arise, O LORD, disappoint him, cast him down: deliver my soul from the wicked, which is thy sword:
Psa 17:14 From men which are thy hand, O LORD, from men of the world, which have their portion in this life, and whose belly thou fillest with thy hid treasure: they are full of children, and leave the rest of their substance to their babes.

It is then that we, like Abram, return from our backslidings to the same altar of the Lord we left in Canaan:

Gen 13:1 And Abram went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the south.
Gen 13:2 And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold.
Gen 13:3 And he went on his journeys from the south even to Bethel, unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Hai;
Gen 13:4 Unto the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first: and there Abram called on the name of the LORD.

As soon as Abram and his family were back in Canaan, the altar of the Lord is back in its proper place. Abram returned to the same altar in the mountain between Bethel and Hai. This is the time when we start to accept the inevitable destruction of our flesh and all its attachments. It is spiritually the reinstatement of the deadly wound to one of the seven heads of the beast which is now working the complete destruction process to all seven heads of this beast (we are). Our growth in faith reveals the inward application of God’s work to strengthen our faith to overcome the influence and roles of Egypt and Babylon, the spiritual harlot, which ruled our lives (Rev 12:1-17; Rev 17:9; 1Jn 5:4):

Rev 13:1 And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.

Rev 17:3 So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.

It is at this time that the separation with Lot follows (Gen 13:5-18). While Lot lifted up his eyes to behold “all the plain of Jordan”, God told Abram to lift up his eyes in all directions, even far beyond the earthly glamour with its hidden limitations which our natural perception cannot see. After this separation from Lot we see the fourth time an altar is mentioned in Abram’s life:

Gen 13:14 And the LORD said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward:
Gen 13:15 For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever.
Gen 13:16 And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, thenshall thy seed also be numbered.
Gen 13:17 Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee.
Gen 13:18 Then Abram removed his tent, and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and built there an altar unto the LORD.

God’s elect are given to be “full of eyes” to see behind the veil of flesh, even as it is torn progressively as the faith develops through the separation of the Lots in our lives (Job 16:9; Psa 7:2; Hos 6:1). When our faith is developed to see that God is indeed the most powerful lion of Judah who devours all flesh, we will walk in obedience and the fear of God. Abraham “removed his tent, and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is Hebron, and built there an altar unto the Lord”. The name “Mamre” means vigour or strength. Our growing faith in God gives us the vigour and strength to overcome increasingly. Mamre links with Hebron which means ‘company’. Our vigour and strength comes from our fellowship with Christ and His church as we receive the love of God for His body here on earth (Heb 10:19-25; 1Co 12-13). While Lot endeavoured to be relevant and a ruler in Sodom, Abram focussed on God and his family. God promised a seed through whom “all the nations of the earth be blessed”, referring physically to Isaac and his offspring, who is a type of Christ and His elect (Gen 22:18; Gen 28:14; Rom 4:13; Gal 3:16; Gal 3:29). This all prepared Abram for his ultimate test of faith – the call of God to sacrifice this very seed, his son Isaac. This is the fifth time an altar is connected with Abram:

Gen 22:1 And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt [Hebrew: nâsâh]Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.
Gen 22:2 And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.

Those who know their election accept that the faith they were given need testing and trials. The word “tempt” there in verse 1 of Genesis 22 comes from the Hebrew word “nâsâh”, which means test.  Here is the Apostolic Bible Polyglot (an English version of the Greek Septuagint Old Testament) of the same verse:

Gen 22:1 (ABP+) AndG2532 it came to passG1096 afterG3326 G3588 these words,G4487 G3778 G3588 GodG2316testedG3985 G3588 Abraham,G* andG2532 saidG2036 to him,G1473 Abraham,G* Abraham.G* AndG2532 he said,G2036Behold,G2400 it is I.G1473

Strong’s number for the word “tested” here is G3985 which is the word “peirazō”. Here is the same “peirazō” in the New Testament version of this same event in Abram’s life:

Heb 11:17 By faith Abraham, when he was tried [Greek: “peirazō”], offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son.

So the word “tempted” is actually related to the word “tried” or “tested” and it all links to what trials are about, especially the trial of faith which is something we learn to count all joy when we are in these severe trials:

Heb 11:36 And others had trial [Greek: “peira” = the root word of “peirazō”] of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment.

Jas 1:2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations [Greek: peirasmos = from “peirazō”];
Jas 1:3 Knowing this, that the trying [Greek: “dokimion”] of your faith worketh patience.

1Pe 1:7 That the trial [Greek: “dokimion”] of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.

It is all the same concept, but it is also important to note that God Himself does not tempt anyone (Jas 1:13). Our stronger faith improves our spiritual perspectives, and here we have a clear indication how God “tempts”:

2Sa 24:1 And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.

1Ch 21:1 And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.

Now we are able to receive this truth that God created all evil and all evil spirits, for the very purpose to bring trials and eventual destruction to the flesh (Pro 16:4):

Isa 45:7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

Isa 54:16 Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy.

It is because of the darkness which we experience first, that we can learn what light is. We are first put through an experience of evil (flesh) to be humbled to learn what good or spirit (God) is all about (Gen 1:2; Ecc 1:13). Right from the beginning God used Satan, the old subtle serpent, and all evil spirits in this regard (Gen 3:1; Job 1:12; Job 2:6-7). Abram was moved by God to build an altar “to offer [Isaac] there for a burnt offering”:

Gen 22:9 And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.

God never intended for Abram to sacrifice Isaac as human sacrifice is not part of God’s commandments ever (Jer 7:30-31). Some claim that the judge, Jephthah, sacrificed his daughter as a burned offering because of a vow he made to God (Jdg 11:30-40). That is not true as the vow he made was that she would “knew no man” and that she will remain a virgin all her life. Jephthah himself was rejected by his own family but chosen by God to lead Israel into victory against the Ammonites, the very offspring of Lot from his younger daughter (Gen 19:30-38). This example of Jephthah and his daughter give us a beautiful type of the elect of God who “bewail [their] virginity” with tears of joy with a sacrifice in the mountain of the Lord. The elect of God are committed to perform their vows to God and not commit any whoredom with the world and its false doctrines (Rev 14:1-5; Mat 25:9-10; Act 21:9). Our flesh shall not have an offspring in spirit – only through the spirit and work of God in us that we can bring forth spiritual fruit. Abraham’s heart already offered Isaac knowing God is able to bring him back to life to fulfill His promise to Abraham. The new heart or renewed mind (through the faith and works of Christ) is where true spiritual sacrifices are made from which our daily actions or “reasonable service” can be judged (Rom 12:1-2):

Jas 2:21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?
Jas 2:22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
Jas 2:23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
Jas 2:24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

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Want let op julle roeping, broeders: julle is nie baie wyse na die vlees nie, nie baie magtiges, nie baie edeles nie; maar wat dwaas is by die wêreld, het God uitverkies om die wyse te beskaam; en wat swak is by die wêreld, het God uitverkies om wat sterk is, te beskaam; en wat onedel is by die wêreld en wat verag is, het God uitverkies, en wat niks is nie, om wat iets is, tot niet te maak, sodat geen vlees voor Hom sou roem nie. (1Kor 1:26-29)
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