Thursday, January 8, 2009
The LORD Appears to Abram
The relationship between Abram and God is about to get deeper, first the LORD spoke to Abram, now He, The LORD of the Universe shows up in person! The LORD appeared to Abram and said, "I am going to give this land to your offspring." Not such good news for the Canaanites, but futures trading in the seed of Abram went up like a rocket.
And Abram built an altar there to commemorate the LORD's visit. He piled rocks to contain a fire and prepared to slaughter an animal from his herd. When ever you see the word altar in the old Testament, it is taken from the word slaughter or slaughter place. There was already an existing altar by the oak of Moreh, a giant tree thought to have spiritual power by the Canaanites, but Abram built a new untainted altar for his sacrifice by hand. He chose a fine sheep from his herd and pet it for a few minutes, calming it, Abram had an uncanny gift with animals. Then in a flash, he cut its throat with a flint knife and snapped its neck, a painless and panickless death, instant. Then he placed it on the fire. Abram offered a pouring of wineskin and after the animal was consumed by the fire, Abram tossed in incense of myrrh, a reddish-brown resinous material, dried sap of a Commiphora myrrha, imported from Yemen and worth a hundred days wages. Sometimes incense was added after a sacrifice hoping the aroma would be pleasing to God.
<= = = That is so barbaric, you are telling me that they worshipped God by killing animals, that is so wrong. And it is unhygienic; lucky Abram didn't start Sheep Flu from blood contact
We all come from very barbaric roots and to those roots most of us are returning. You are passed that age Master Cohen, but the Canaanites even sacrificed babies and young children, I have seen the altar at Megiddo myself. But don't act like you are not in a violent world yourself. You haven't heard of the pirates of Somalia? The drug wars in Mexico and who knows what is going on in the Middle East and Africa, where nine year olds are soldiers with guns. And keep in mind that when this people group wanted meat for dinner, they could not sail into Whole Foods and buy it skinned, blooded, prepared and wrapped in cellophane. They were very used to the whole slaughter to live concept. Bushmeat is not a new buzzphrase.
The point is not the animal ( or whatever you sacrifice, people also did fruit, wheat and so forth ), it was the heart attitude. Abram's gift was that he recognized the voice of God, he handled an appearance of God and he has a pretty good track record of obeying God.
In any case, after the sacrifice was complete, Abram mustered his camp and after that, Abram traveled southward and set up camp in the hill country between Bethel, which means House of God, a strategic town on the north south route of travel through the hill county on the west and Ai, a quaint craft and artist colony that barely qualifies to be called a city on the east. Abram liked the place, it was the highest point, which is good from a military perspective, Abram's tribe was about a thousand fold at this point. It also was and still is a fabulous view, a classic Mauka (mountain) and Makai (sea) double hitter. Abram could look south to Salem, now Jerusalem. You can see into the Jordan valley, and on a clear day, you can make out the Mediterranean.
Abram had a lot to think about. His generation knew for sure God existed, it had only been ten generations since the flood, they had the oral tradition or oral history and everyone was very clear, don't make God angry! However, God had been fairly silent since the flood, in fact the whole Tower of Babel thing had been done with stealth like a team of Navy Seals silently inserting into a remote region of Afghanistan, completing their mission and leaving with no one ever knowing they were there.
However God had both spoken to Abram and He had also appeared. And God had made an unconditional offer, "I am going to give this land to your offspring." Abram liked the land, it was arid to be sure, but there weren't too many people, Ur had always been a bit confining. Abram took a road trip to the area around Bethel and Ai to see some of his future inheritance. This was an auspicious day.
There, near Bethel, Abram built another altar and worshiped the LORD. Then Abram set out and continued toward the Palestine region to Negev.