Monday

06 November 2017

“In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (v. 3)

Psalm: Psalm 118:1-18


Background

Abraham (originally Abram, as he is here) is an antidote to the anti-Babylonian propaganda (the stories have a 6th century BC context as well as their 14th century BC setting) of Genesis 11. Better to be a stranger than part of a society which has its own ideas. God gives Abraham (or those filling in the Jewish back-story do) an idea of a better place, a persistent mythical concept, both golden age (the reigns of David and Solomon) and land of expectation (Moses' 'land of milk and honey' (eg Exodus 3:8)). It is an impossible dream, never achieved, but a motivation to the near-paragon of Abraham.

Abraham offers an enormous challenge because he belongs to none of 'us'. The Jews have the strongest claim to him, though many Christians read his story and find him an instructive human and spiritual figure. Yet the Muslims claim him too as the foundational monotheist par excellence. The Bible itself, though it uses the words, has no concept of the whole world, the vast bulk of which was completely unknown. Inevitably, we try to make sense of this as we bring our world into contact with the biblical text. In the real world we puzzle over how exactly Abraham has total world significance. Nevertheless, he is a world figure, the patriarch (alongside the matriarchs) of three great world religions. Jews, Christians and Muslims are spiritual cousins, or family - Abraham's family. We should be sharing our family connection with each other, for the benefit of all people, trying to implement the Abrahamic blessing.


To Ponder

  • What does it mean for you to see Jews and Muslims as family?
  • How do you fit into the world or follow in the footsteps of Abraham?


Bible notes author: Julian Bond

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