Following Directions

Sometimes I feel like a broken record with my ongoing praise of the Collects of the Church Year.  I know that I often say that some are better than others, but I honestly can’t recall finding one I didn’t like.  So it is that again this week you’re reading me say, “I love the Collect for this Sunday,” which I do, but I like it even more because yesterday’s post actually garnered a comment.

The Rev. Adam Trambley, raised an interesting question in regards to the story of Abram’s leaving.

“Here’s the question that jumped into my mind as I read the Genesis passage this morning. God says “Go. Leave your family…” Then it ends saying, “Lot went with him.” Over the coming chapters, very little good seems to come of Lot going with him. Did Abraham disobey here? What say you?”

The first thing I say, something that I should probably say more often, and something that Adam knows well, is that I’m not an expert on this stuff.  I hadn’t even noticed the Lot issue before Adam raised it, but it did invite me to do a bit of digging.  My gut reaction was to say no, Abram didn’t disobey God because we’ll hear several times throughout scripture that Abraham believed and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.  Abraham is known for his repeated acts of faith: answering God’s call here in chapter 12; his welcoming of God by the Oaks of Mamre in chapter 18; and the sacrifice of Isaac in chapter 22. Of course, there moments where he wasn’t quite so perfect too: see especially the story of Hagar and Ismael in chapter 16, so I dug a little deeper.  My HarperCollins Study Bible has a note on verse 4a that says, “Abram’s obedience is immediate and unquestioning,” which is a pretty strong argument, but I decided to dig a little deeper.

Matthew Henry’s Commentary deals with issue of who went with Abram after God said, “leave your kindred.”  “He took his wife, and his nephew Lot, with him; not by force and against their wills, but by persuasion. Sarai, his wife, would be sure to go with him; God had joined them together, and nothing should put them asunder. If Abram leave all, to follow God, Sarai will leave all, to follow Abram, though neither of them knew whither. And it was a mercy to Abram to have such a companion in his travels, a help meet for him. Note, It is very comfortable when husband and wife agree to go together in the way to heaven. Lot also, his kinsman, was influenced by Abram’s good example, who was perhaps his guardian after the death of his father, and he was willing to go along with him too.

I’d prefer to eliminate the “perhaps” in Matthew Henry.  As chapter 11 comes to a close, Lot’s father, Abram’s brother, has died and is being cared for by his grandfather, Terah, who in turn dies.  It seems clear that ultimately the childless Abram and Sarai became the guardians of Lot and so his inclusion in their leaving is a logical one.  Abram will have plenty of time to disobey the LORD, just not yet.

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One thought on “Following Directions

  1. Thanks, Steve. I’d been waiting all day to hear what you’d come up with. We need to have more of these kinds of conversations among preachers, and a blog like yours is a good place because you look at things and raise good questions.

    Mr. Henry’s response seems a bit on the pious side to me. It makes sense, but I remain skeptical, especially since the passage doesn’t say anything about Sarai going along (although she did, of course). Somehow the juxtaposition of “So Abram went, as the Lord had told him;” and “Lot went with him.” seems to indicate some sort of raised eyebrow on scripture’s part — I’m just not sure how seriously to take it.

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