Abrahamic Community (2)
Introduction to the Nature and Identity of the Abrahamic Community
The Abrahamic community is one given a destiny by God. The love which expressed itself in creating the Abrahamic community was not exhausted by that creation and choice, it was a choice of love on behalf of all humanity. It was God's intention concerning Abraham and his children that, 'all people of the earth will be blessed through you' (Genesis 12:3; see 18:18; 22:18; 26:4).
God didn't lift Abraham out of the world and into heaven when he chose him. He called him out of the world that he might be a witness for God in and for the world.
For the nation to lose sight of this and to become self-centered was (1) to deny in practice the profound breadth, depth and grandeur of the love of Yahweh which embraced all humanity in every age and, (2) to lose sight of their own destiny as the bearers of this love to humanity.
The Abrahamic community is one with a specific ethical lifestyle.
What we have already said about the nature of the community has profound consequences for the way it sees and lives its life.
It doesn't operate on the basis of autonomous reason or rational proposals but as a result of how God (who later reveals himself as Yahweh) moved toward them.
It doesn't operate from a basis of self-sufficiency but complete dependence;
It doesn't operate from a basis of spelled out certainties but trust, even in the face of uncertainty;
It doesn't operate from a basis of earning God's affection but assurance;
It doesn't operate from a basis of self-centeredness but mission;
It doesn't operate from a basis of individualism but community.
Genesis 18:19 says this, 'For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.'
One reason for the call (18:19) was that there might be a people who would 'keep the way of the Lord'. The way of the Lord is life in keeping with the character of God as it would show itself if lived out in terms of a redeemed human community. The righteousness and justice of this new community was to be a God-imitating righteousness and justice.
The continuity between Israel and Abraham shows that Gen 18.19 has a direct bearing on the Mosaic covenantal law which must then reflect God's intentions as expressed here. Their social and political life (that is, their life as 'citizens' and fellow humans within the parameters of the Mosaic law) was to be one of 'God-imitating righteousness and justice' in keeping with this text. In other words, what we see fleshed out in detail in the Mosaic covenant is the development of 'the way of the Lord' here.
But, it was such a justice and righteousness within an elect community! The justice and righteousness of Israel was peculiarly shaped and so witnessed to something which went beyond the justice and righteousness of outsiders. It bore witness to Yahweh and all that that would involve.
Their ethics were theological as well as social. The Abrahamic community did not do justice and righteousness because everyone expected it of them, or because everybody else was just and righteous, or because some god or other called for it, or because it was what enlightened self-interest would dictate, or because it was what 'practical reason' would lead them to. Their total lives were lived out in light of Yahweh's dealings with them! I judge this truth to be of fundamental importance and should keep us from 'secularizing' justice and righteousness.
Israel was called out of Egypt and the kind of society they became was radically different from Egyptian society. Israel's Lord was altogether different from Pharaoh, the Lord of Egypt who used cunning, murder plots and cruelty to further his oppressive ends. The gods of Egypt as understood and proclaimed by the Egyptian hierarchy were the foundation of Egyptian society and the foundation and shape of Israelite society took it's rise from the character and purposes of Yahweh which is why we have Leviticus 18:1-5.
The Abrahamic community had certain indelible marks of its identity.
Putting together what has been said up to this point, let me spell out what that means in some specific areas.
The boundaries of the Abrahamic community were determined by Yahweh alone;
Not all physical kin of Abraham were in the elect community;
The visible forms of the Abrahamic community were variable through the ages;
There has always been only one Abrahamic community.
God didn't choose Melchizedek in creating the new Community. Nor did he choose Abraham's father, uncle or nephew. That was the Lord's sovereign right. As Paul would put it in Galatians 3:16, God didn't say, 'and to seeds,' so making a covenant with many people (he spoke to Abraham alone), he did say to Abraham 'and to your seed' ('your,' that is, Abraham's seed, which came to fullness in Jesus Christ).
And while God cared for Lot, Ishmael and Esau (out of his grace he blessed them richly), they were excluded from the covenanted community as the line through which God would bless humanity in Jesus Christ. So although they were Abraham's physical kin, they and their peoples (Arabs, Edomites, Ammonites and Moabites) were excluded. Paul makes this point in Romans 9:6-8.
The Community as Abraham, Isaac & Jacob was a waiting, wandering, dependent, trusting (though weak at times), called community. It multiplied in Egypt while it waited, a dependent, vulnerable, persecuted and pleading community. It was rescued and nationalized at Sinai, was purged, instructed and at the same time sustained in the Wilderness. Its social shape changed, its community structure changed and new laws came in to shape, convict, protect and enlighten it. It became a settled people, a divided people, a faithless people and an exiled people. Their life as a called community was sustained by the 'righteous remnant' who were God's gift to the nation at large (Isaiah 42:6; 49:8 messianic also).
In NT times, the Abrahamic community was peopled by trusting Jews and Gentiles who turned to the Jewish Messiah, who epitomized all that 'Abraham's seed' was intended to mean. In becoming Christ's who was Abraham's seed, believing Jews and Gentiles became Abraham's seed and heirs.
Down through the centuries there has been the true Abrahamic community even within the physical descendants of Abraham through Jacob.
Those Jews who rejected the Messiah (Abraham's seed) were 'cut off from among his people' (Acts 3:22-23).
©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.