Summary: Learning how stubborn we are from the O.T. Prophets
Since the beginning of sin it has been man’s nature to fall away from God. If it were not for God’s persistence and mercy, none of us would have a chance. If we go back to the Garden of Eden, we see Adam and Eve, God’s people, in the garden. A paradise set up for them both with everything they would ever want or desire. That’s the funny thing about us humans, even when we have everything, we want more. What an awful selfish existence. So here we have Adam and Eve in Paradise, and God comes to make a covenant with them. He says, in His distinct, loving voice, “You will have all you ever need, and in return all I ask is that you not take of the tree of knowledge of good and evil”. Adam and Eve agreed and lived in wonderful communion with God. As you know the story of the beginning, Eve is tempted by the serpent and partakes in a meal that she probably regretted for a long time thereafter. Bringing the fruit to her husband both of them breaking the covenant that God had established with them found themselves naked. And they hid themselves.
God has, since the time of the garden, in efforts to keep a link with His people, established different covenants throughout the Bible and throughout history. Over and over again, God’s people prove that His covenants are alike with His curses, conditional. God sets up a covenant with His people and the people rejoice. But soon something begins to happen, His people begin to become proud, they boast that they have a covenant with God and they begin to adopt the “once saved - always saved” mentality. By doing this they wander away from what God has asked or wanted and begin to embark in immorality and syncretism. You are probably sitting there wondering what in the world syncretism is and why in the world is he using big old words like that. Let me start with the easy question. Syncretism is like a big pot of stew. You start out with what God asked for, say the potatoes, and then you add things that other religions might offer or things of the world, say carrots and onions. What you get when the pot stops simmering is something that God never intended. The potatoes have absorbed the flavor of the carrots and onions and now takes on a taste of it’s own. Now you asked why am I using big old words like that, and the answer is equally as simple, it’s what my entire sermon bases around. There you happy?! Now you know what my whole sermon is about before I have even started, I guess you can all go home now.
We serve such a great God, even when we have such a hard time following Him, He goes far out of His way to bring us back. The Hebrew language has a word that brings this into focus. The word is “Nabi”, and what it is, in short means prophet. The word itself means “one called by God” or “one with a vocation”. God has these prophets, or “Nabi” to communicate with the people who have gone astray, to bring them home and to give them chance after chance.
Many people get the impression that the God of the old testament is a mean and ruthless God. I hope to convince you of just the opposite. The answer is quite logical, seeing that we have the same God today that the Israelites had when they were being led out of Egypt and the same God that guided Jesus through His life. So what is the difference then? Why is it that God would ask Abraham to sacrifice his son or why would God find it necessary to destroy all life on the planet and spare but one family. To sum it up, God meets us where we are, but He doesn’t stop there, He cleans us up and takes us home.
In the time of Abraham (Abram as he was called at the time of this event) paganism was predominant throughout the land. And this paganism wasn’t unique to just the heathens. God’s people, His chosen were guilty of syncretism. That’s right, here’s that lovely word I used earlier, syncretism. You see it was a popular belief that sacrificing your first born would get you in good with the gods. Seeing that Abram came from a pagan background and seeing that God meets us where we are, God asked Abram to sacrifice his only son. Now the really neat thing is, that we might just see one lesson while there are other lessons for us to learn. The most commonly accepted lesson is that God was teaching Abram faith, and that means a lot to us today, but the most important key to understanding the Bible is understanding context. If you lose the context you lose the meaning of whatever it is you’re reading. You have to first understand what it meant to the people of the time before you can start applying it to your own life. What did Abram learn from this whole ordeal? When God stopped him from sacrificing his son and provided an offering for him, He was telling Abram, “Hey, you shouldn’t be sacrificing your children, that’s not what I asked for.” And once again you see the practices of the world embraced in a way that God never intended.