ONE SHEKEL, TWO SHEKELS, THREE SHEKELS…
The man who lived in the house on a street in Ur went to the door and was faced with a stranger.
Stranger: Good day to you. You’re name Abram, son of Terah and husband of Sarai?
Abram: Yes, sir, that’s me. And you, who are you, sir?
Stranger: Oh, for now you can just call me El Shaddai.
Abram: And how can I help you sir?
El: [looking steadily at the man] I have an enterprise, a purpose, I wish to bring to completion and I’m here to take you and your wife to a place where it will all begin.
Abram: [quietly] May I ask what that enterprise is, sir?
El: [earnestly] I want to save a world, my world—this big round teeming world!
Abram: Are you sure, sir, that I’m the man you need. I love the sound and the glory of the vision but I’m sure I’m not up to the task—my health isn’t the best.
El: I know about your health and I know about Sarai. I know you aren’t up to the task but I know I am. Can you believe that?
Abram: [after only a moment’s thought] Yes, I can and you can count me in, sir.
El: Do you want to ask me where I’m taking you?
Abram: No, sir, I now know all I need to know. I trust you.
And so it was that Abram and his family left Ur and headed for Canaan but ￼they settled in Haran where Terah, the father of Abram died before he and Sarai crossed the Euphrates and made their way down into Canaan. An unlikely pair—he with a body old before its time and she unable to bear the children she longed for.
Abraham entered Canaan seventy-five years old and lived among the people there as a pilgrim, a very successful pilgrim but a pilgrim, a childless pilgrim. He must have looked at his great riches1 and he thought what would happen to them when he died2 and so he made his case to God.3 God assured him the promises would be fulfilled; Abraham believed him and God confirmed his promise in a formal way by making a covenant with Abraham.4
Whatever their flaws as moral creatures and despite the wayward moves they’d make these two were God’s chosen. Peter called her the mother of the faithful and God said that out of her he would bring nations and kings of nations.5 Abraham would be the father of a multitude of nations. But it was twenty-five years before they had the child who was their future and then laughing Sarah died—died away from home. As one great servant of God put it6 they never inherited as much as a foot of ground. It was more than fifty years since they’d been told about a land, a family, a name and their destiny as God’s instruments of world redemption. But at the time of Sarah’s death at 127 years old the only piece of property she and her husband had in the Promised Land was the gravesite Abraham bought to bury her in.7
The Hebrew writer spoke of Abraham and said that he could have gone back to Mesopotamia and taken her with him—at least she could have been buried at home amongst her own people. But because he believed that God would keep his promise that he would inherit a city greater than Ur he wouldn’t leave.8 Watch him as he counted out and weighed the four hundred shekels of silver and weighed them. Hear him say to himself four hundred times as he threw a shekel into the pile to be weighed: “God is faithful!”
Four hundred times he said, “God can be trusted!”
Four hundred times he said, “God can be trusted no matter what appearances, our limits, harsh realities or our personal failures say!”
God looks at such people, said the Hebrew writer, and feels proud of them; “He is not ashamed of them, to be called their God!”9
And what does all that mean to believers in the 21st century? What does all that mean to the nations of the world? What does all that say about God’s intention toward them? How does the one we have come to know as the Lord Jesus, the Christ”? What does it mean when we’re told that having in faith been baptized into Christ that we are “heirs according to the promise”? What does it mean when we think of ourselves as a People who have been called out of “Egypt” and how do we see ourselves when we think of ourselves as a People called out of the world of “Babylon”—from the great city of “Ur”? What does it mean to believers such as ourselves when we use the phrase of God that he is “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?”
1. Genesis 15:3
2. Genesis 15:2
3. Genesis 15:3
4. Genesis 15:2-18. It’s clear to me that Abraham met God who entered the “corridor” between the divided pieces as Abraham’s covenant partner. It’s clear that God’s commitment was “unconditional” in the sense that he would never break it. It’s also clear from the entire biblical witness that to enjoy and experience God’s faithfulness the individual and the nation had to cleave to God in covenant love. For the walking between the pieces to formalize a covenant see Jeremiah 34:18-19.
5. 1 Peter 3:6; Genesis 17:16-17
6. Acts 7:5
7. Genesis 23:1-20
8. Hebrews 11:8-16
9. Hebrews 11:16
©2004 Jim McGuiggan. All materials are free to be copied and used as long as money is not being made.
Many thanks to brother Ed Healy, for allowing me to post from his website, theabidingword.com.