Saturday, April 28, 2012

Who was Abraham?

This is what we've studied thus far:



It is now that a man called Abram comes into the picture.
(if you're clueless as to what picture he comes into, scroll back to previous posts about our readings starting in Genesis)

Abram was born around the 2000 B.C. mark, and was the father of Isaac and the grandfather of Jacob (whose name was later changed to Israel). [1]

(Old Testament Student Manual)

Abram, the man destined to be known as Abraham, the Father of Many Nations, was a descendant of faithful Noah (we looked at him here).

The Lord spoke to Abram many times.

This is what the Lord told Abram early on in his story, as recorded in the book of Abraham:
Behold, I will lead thee by my hand, and I will take thee, to put upon thee my name, even the Priesthood of thy father, and my power shall be over thee.
As it was with Noah so shall it be with thee; but through thy ministry my name shall be known in the earth forever, for I am thy God.
(Abraham 1:18-19)

Such beautiful words.
But did you catch the main promise?  The Messiah is to be known forever through the ministry of Abram.

Hello.  Not a bad promise.

Abram was actually from Ur.  Ur was a town of the Chaldees people, and is identified nowadays with a town called Mugheir, in present-day Iraq.  So it was near Egypt.
And Abram travelled to Egypt.  He travelled quite a bit, in fact.  First to Haran, and then Canaan (see my timeline below), and then Egypt due to a famine (as recorded in Genesis 12).  The Lord protected him and his family by directing them where to go.

It's important to note the location of Ur.  Although the peoples of Chaldea and Egypt were separated geographically, it's almost certain that in Abram's day, the peoples shared many religious beliefs and practices.

And that's important to note because it explains the environment Abram grew up in.  And what state of mind his dad was in ... but we can look at that later.

Here is a brief timeline of Abraham's life for your studies.
I've put the keywords in bold.  I'm not really sure why.
Go ahead and start marking those scriptures of yours.  They're screaming for attention.


You can read more about Abram (Abraham) here, in the handy dandy Bible Dictionary.
It tells us that Abraham is regarded throughout the Old Testament as the founder of the covenant race, "which is personified in the house of Israel".

This is what I want to focus on today.  Because ...
“We are a covenant people.  That is, we are subject to covenants and obligations as members of the Church.  It has always been so.  The Lord established covenants with Adam in the beginning.  ... He made covenants with Enoch. ... He made a covenant with Noah, which resulted in the saving of Noah’s family and great promises being given to him in the flood.  Then Abraham received covenants – very definite and important covenants that concern us very materially today.” [2]
I belong to a way of life that requires covenants.  There are certain BIG covenants that I must make - some I have already. 
When I was eight years old, I was baptised a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Which is a mouthful, but it was the right thing to do.  I like (and agree) that we baptise when the person is accountable for their decision, and understands the simple truths of Jesus' gospel, and can decide their beliefs accordingly.  That is, they are old enough to have a testimony.  A teeny tiny ounce of faith and belief.
No sprinkling or baptising babies.  We do it the way Christ showed us.  It's a covenant, after all, and the coventee needs to be aware of what they are getting themselves into.

I promised this:  to take upon the name of Christ, to always remember Him, and to keep His commandments.

It was a big deal.  And I renew that covenant each week as I take the sacrament.  Other than remembering the Saviour and His crucifial sacrifice for me, I am re-promising what I said I would do when I was eight year old.  That I would take the Saviour's name upon me, always remember Him, and keep His commandments. 
I renew that promise every week.


(Woah, check it out.  Me and my Dad, at my baptism.  My little sister is in the pink.  And that's a close friend on the right.)

More recently, I made another covenant.  I went to a holy place called a temple (read all about it and the difference between a church and a temple here and here) and married my best friend.  He was also the tallest man I could find.

In the temple, I promised this: to be sealed (united) to my spouse for my mortal life and all eternity.


Us.  On that day.  When we promised lots of things.

These are examples of covenants - two way promises with we make with God, where God sets the terms, and is bound when we keep our word.  Mm, hello blessings!
I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.
(Doctrine & Covenants 82:10)
But remember:  Broken covenants have no eternal or lasting value.


Getting back to Abram, God made a BIG covenant with him - and consequently us.
We call it the Abrahamic Covenant.  Clever.

And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:
And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

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:
For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever.
And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered.
Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee.

(Taken from Genesis 12:1-3; 13:14-18, underline added)

My name is Jehovah, and I know the end from the beginning; therefore my hand shall be over thee.
And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee above measure, and make thy name great among all nations, and thou shalt be a blessing unto thy seed after thee, that in their hands they shall bear this ministry and Priesthood unto all nations;
And I will bless them through thy name; for as many as receive this Gospel shall be called after thy name, and shall be accounted thy seed, and shall rise up and bless thee, as their father;
And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee; and in thee (that is, in thy Priesthood) and in thy seed (that is, thy Priesthood), for I give unto thee a promise that this right shall continue in thee, and in thy seed after thee (that is to say, the literal seed, or the seed of the body) shall all the families of the earth be blessed, even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal.

(Abraham 2:8-11)

Why are we looking at promises made to a guy many moons ago?
Because we are entitled to the same blessings.  Literally.

Bonus.

So.

Specific promises (blessings) were made to Abraham and his seed.  (Told you so)
These blessings covered the spectrum of land, posterity, name, and blessing the nations of the world.

Since this affects us, take a closer look at these blessings, and read of their significance:


Significance:

The land of Canaan (which is Palestine) was promised to Abraham and all his descendants.  Except .. he never actually personally possessed it.  He never received as much as a foot of it while he lived (Stephen in Acts).  Isn't that interesting.  Why on earth would the Lord then make such a promise?

This is why: "the time [will] eventually come, after the resurrection from the dead, when Abraham and his children who have been faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord, should possess that land, and they shall also spread forth as far as it is necessary for them to receive an inheritance." [3]

Looking further than that - eternally - this means that Abraham's righteous descendants will inherit the earth.
"...the poor and the meek - that is, the godfearing and the righteous - shall inherit the earth; it will become an abiding place for the Father and the Son, and celestial beings will possess it forever and ever." [4]

Not a bad inheritance.  Imagine reading that Will out.


Significance:

Abraham had eight sons, in all.  Did you know that?  But you need to remember, of course, the fact that Abraham was one hundred years old before his covenant son was born.  I imagine the blessing of a posterity - a HUGE posterity that is numberless - would have been perplexing for Abraham to hear.  But God knows what He is doing.  From Issac came the covenant people.  From Ishmael came most of the Arab nations.  From his other sons came the Midianties and other tribes.

In fact, the vast population of the Arab, Moslem, and Israeli world all claim to be descendants of Abraham, and they would number approximately, oh, an easy one hundred million.  And that's just those around today - add that to their ancestors and their future posterities, plus other descendants "such as the past, present, and future members of the Nephite-Lamanite cultures, the lost ten tribes, and the Latter-day Saints" ... and you loose count.  And you realise Yes, God does know what He is doing.  He knew what He meant "concerning the innumberable and unmeasurable blessing of posterity." [5]

Literally, Abraham's posterity will have no end.  His name should be added to this hymn.


Significance:

Well, the priesthood is kinda a big deal.  It's like electricity (I totally stole that from an upcoming Primary lesson I will be teaching) in that, it is a source of power.  God's power.  He used this power to create the Earth.  And you.  And me.  Jesus used this power to heal sick people, raise a few from death, and make several others tremble.  This power was also delegated to some, to act in God's name and represent Him.  So then they could heal the sick and make several people tremble.

I'm not just talking about the twelve apostles that followed Jesus immediately.  The priesthood was given to Adam.  And to Noah.  And most certainly to Abraham.  For these men were prophets and patriarchs.  Of course Abraham received the priesthood power, so he might bless others with it and the gospel teachings that go along with it.

And .. drum roll please .. this is where the mission of the covenant people comes in.  That's US, by the way.  We promise to serve the Lord by blessing others with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Some of you may have made covenants to that effect in the temple.

This is how the earth will be blessed.

Some descendants of Abraham have already bless the earth.  Moses.  Lehi.  Jesus Christ.  Joseph Smith.  [6]

And so, if WE "remain true and faithful to our charge to bless our own family and others with the blessings of the gospel, we will continue to do so throughout all eternity.  ...we will be heirs to all that the Father has through Christ."  (check that out in D&C 84:38-39)



Who are the children of Abraham who will be blessed with Him?
Who may receive the blessings of Abraham?

Paul tells us.  He knows. 

Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.
And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.

For as many of you as have been baptized unto Christ have put on Christ.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. 
 (Galatians 3:7-9, 27-29 (underline added); also read Abraham 2:10) 

Everyone may receive the blessings of Abraham through baptism, even though they may not have been born into the church.  Those not born in the lineage of Abraham may obtain all these blessings through the law of adoption when they join the Church and embrace the covenants.

So why covenants?  Why does God give us covenants?
It is a unique and structured way of blessing us, really.  And we totally benefit by it.  Don't you think making and keeping sacred covenants strengthens us?  Stretches us?  Gives us purpose?

Let's take that thought even further.
The prophet Joseph Smith taught: "God himself, finding he was in the midst of spirits and glory, because he was more intelligent, saw purpose to institute laws whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself."  [7]

You may need to read that a few times.  It is such a powerful principle.

"It is essential to the upward progress of man that he be given certain basic tools by which he can climb." [8]

Love that.
"In order to help His children become like Him, Father in Heaven admonishes them to observe certain gospel principles by means of covenants and ordinances.  The entire gospel itself is referred to in scripture as "a new and everlasting covenant".  That overall covenant includes a series of other covenants that, if observed, will make man like his divine parents.  Covenants, covenant making, and covenant keeping thus become the keys of exaltation, or the kind of life God enjoys." [9]
I am so thankful for the scriptures.  I am a descendant of Abraham (some way or another), but regardless of how, I am entitled to blessings under the Abrahamic Covenant.  And so are you.  AND we are the instruments for some of these blessings.  The scriptures give us so much insight on this!

And really, although this covenant-making process began with Adam and all those other patriarchs after him, it is through the Abrahamic Covenant that we get a fuller idea of what's involved in making and keeping covenants.


[1] See Bible Dictionary, “chronology,” 635–36
[2] Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, p.285
[3] ibid, 1:88
[4] Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p.211 - but you should read D&C 88:14-26, 111 first.
[5] Nyman, in Sperry Lecture Series, 1975, p.13 

[6] John Taylor, in Journal of Discourses, 20:224
[7] Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 6:312
[8] Old Testament student manual, p.61 - this enrichment section is gold.
[9] ibid


2 comments:

  1. Great post. I love Abraham and studying his life and who he was. Deep stuff. Love it!

    ReplyDelete

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