Lucia's Blog: 2013-12-08
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Isaiah 55:8-9

Isaiah 55:8-9

Friday, December 13, 2013

HAMMURABI AND ISAAC - PART II





HAMMURABI - 1792 BC -  The HAMMURABI CODE 

Ancient Babylon is about 55 miles south of today's Baghdad in Iraq.  King Hammurabi inherited Babylon from his father in 1792 B.C.  This king began to expand his kingdom by taking the city of Kish along with other small neighboring cities.  He built up his army, expanded his kingdom and was able to take control of a vast area stretching from Mari to Ur in southern Mesopotamia.

The Code of Hammurabi managed his vast kingdom by controlling trade routes along the rivers and into the Persian Gulf.  He developed a well-known book of laws called the Code of Hammurabi to maintain order.  This code contained 282 laws and was written in Akkadian, the common language of his people.  This was written on 12 tablets and was carved into an eight foot high black stele, a large stone monument.  The Code was then displayed in public for everyone to see.  At the top of this stele was a carving that depicted Hammurabi justice.  Did you know that the early founders of our country chose to include a depiction of Hammurabi along with twenty-three other lawgivers on several U.S. government buildings, including a marble base and the frieze on the Supreme Court Building?  This was done because of Hammurabi's well known focus on law.  This stele had been taken from Babylon in a battle against the Elamites and was therefore lost centuries.  It was rediscovered in Iran in 1901, and is now in the Louvre Museum in Paris.

Hammurabi's laws were sorted into groups:  laws to govern business, labor, personal property, real estate, and family life.  These laws were strict and harsh.  They placed responsibility for crimes not only on the criminals, but also on anyone who might possibly have prevented a crime.  The code was very specific, especially in the areas of punishment.  The death sentence required a trial before a group of judges.

The code of Hammurabi divided the population into three classes:  the awilum(the king and his court, landowners, high officials, craftsmen and professionals), the muskingum(those who owned no property, the beggars) and the wardum(slaves).  Penalties for offenses were less severe for the awilum class.

The following are some of Hammurabi's Laws:

1.    If any one steals the property of a temple or of the court, he shall be put to death as well as the one who receives the stolen thing.  They were both supposed to be put to death.
2.    If any one receives into his house a runaway male or female slave of the court, or a freedman, and does not bring it at the public proclamation of the major domus, the master of the house shall be put to death.
3.    If fire breaks out in a house, and some one who comes to put it out casts his eye upon the property of the owner of the house, and takes the property of the master of the house, he shall be thrown into that self-same fire.
4.    If any one be too lazy to keep his dam in proper condition, and does not so keep it; if then the dam break and all the fields be flooded, then shall he in whose dam the break occurred be sold for money, and the money shall replace the corn which he has caused to be ruined.
5.   If any one fails to meet a claim for debt, and sells himself, his wife, his son, and daughter for money or gives them away to forced labor:  they shall work for three years in the house of the man who bought them, or the proprietor and in the fourth year they shall be set free.

Apparently, after the Babylonian captivity, the Jews began using the Babylonian names for the months of their calendar, sometime after 600 BC.  The Babylonian calendar was based on 12 lunar months, each named for a different god.  The year began in the Spring and was divided into three sections:  beginning, middle and end.  As with the Jews, the Babylonians began their day at sunset rather than midnight.

A consideration of Babylonian history shows us the impact of Babylonian influence in the lives of the ancient Israelites.

Luci



ISAAC - PART I


 "Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.  But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, 'Abraham, Abraham!' And he said, 'Here I am.' He said, 'Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.'''' 
Genesis 22:10-12


GIANTS OF THE FAITH:  ISAAC

When Abraham was 100 years old, Sarah bore him a son whom they named Isaac, meaning laughter.  On the day that Isaac was weaned, possibly at the age of three to eight years old, Abraham threw a party, Genesis 21:1-21.  "Weaning" is of course the end of a child's nursing stage, but in the Ancient Near East, this was more than just that; it was a milestone in a child's life.  It was a cause for joy in those days since many children died in infancy.  Weaning feasts were very common in those days.  At the party, Sarah saw Ishmael mocking Isaac, "Now Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, mocking.  Therefore she said to Abraham, 'Drive out this maid and her son, for the son of this maid shall not be an heir with my son Isaac.'"  Genesis 21:9-10.  She asked Abraham to get rid of the boy and his mother.  What exactly caused Sarah's anger is unclear.  But, the fact is that Sarah wanted it to be clear that Isaac was the favored son who would receive the inheritance.  We read from Galatians 4:29 that Ishmael persecuted Isaac.  Sadly, Abraham had to send Ishmael and his mother away.

After some time had passed, The LORD appeared to Abraham telling him to take Isaac to the region of Moriah to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering (the location is unknown, but the name means "ordained by God,").  "And He said, 'Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah; and offered him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.'"  Genesis 22:2.  The burnt offering consisted of cutting up the entire animal into pieces allowing it to be consumed by fire.  God's request might have seemed shocking to some; even outrageous!   Abraham seemed to be familiar with the idea of human sacrifice from his time in Ur.  Again, we see an Abraham used to facing difficult tasks which demanded a great FAITH.  Remember, he obeyed God when He asked him to leave his family to go into an unknown country.  He sent away his first-born son Ishmael--but this task was far from the hardest and most dreadful of all.

Abraham's GREAT FAITH is remarkable and we can see it emphasized in the story.  His FAITH is so GREAT that he offers no OBJECTION or remark, but simply sets out to OBEY.  This is beyond words.  In genuine OBEDIENCE he and Isaac set off the next morning with a donkey and two servants.  He offers no explanation to his servants or to Isaac.  After three days of traveling, they finally approach the mountain that God had designated for the sacrifice.  Here is what Abraham tells his servants, "Stay here with the donkey. and I and the lad will go yonder; and we will worship and return to you."  Genesis 22:5.  He is implying that he and Isaac will return when Isaac won't.  He says nothing about a sacrifice, despite having gathered wood for the burnt offering.  When Abraham and Isaac are alone, Isaac asks his father the obvious question:   "My father!"  And he said, "Here I am, my son."  And he said, "Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?"   And Abraham said, "God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son."  

When they finally reached the site, Abraham builds the altar arranging the wood for fire.  Then he binds his son Isaac and lays him on the altar.  Notice, no words are exchanged and there is no evidence of any struggle at all.  What an emotional moment this is!   Here we see an Isaac who is TRUSTING his father and an Abraham who is TRUSTING his God.  As Abraham was raising his knife and preparing to kill Isaac, and angel of the LORD cries out from heaven saying:  "Abraham!  Abraham!"  And he said,  "Here I am.'"And he said, 'Do not  stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I KNOW that you FEAR God, since you have not withheld your SON, your only SON, from me."' Genesis 22:10-12.

Then Abraham raised his eyes, probably weeping for joy, and sees a ram behind him, caught in the thicket by his horns.  He offers it up as a burnt offering to the LORD in place of Isaac.  He names that mountain "The LORD Will Provide" because God did indeed provide the sacrifice, just as Abraham had told Isaac.  Abraham's GREAT FAITH is AMAZING.  His FAITH has survived God's testing, and God is immensely PLEASED with Abraham.  Then the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven, saying "By Myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son, indeed I will GREATLY bless you and I will GREATLY multiply your SEED as the stars of the heavens, and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your SEED shall possess the gate of their enemies."  Genesis 22:15-18.  Abraham's OBEDIENCE to God is our best example and motivator!  We need to be like Abraham who placed his life in God's hands, trusting God's judgment more than his own.  Abraham placed his utmost FAITH in God believing with all his heart that God is Master of life and death, and that God is ALMIGHTY able to do the impossible.  Did you know there are similarities between Abraham's near sacrifice of Isaac and God's REAL SACRIFICE of His own Son, Jesus Christ?

After Abraham's FAITH is tested, Sarah dies at the age of one hundred twenty-seven and he buries her in a cave he had bought from the Hittites, Genesis 23.  It is then that Abraham realizes that his life is coming to an end and doesn't want his son Isaac to marry a Canaanite.  So, he sends his servant on a quest for a match for Isaac.  Abraham's servant was trusted to find an acceptable match for Isaac in another country where he knew no one.  What a tremendous responsibility this servant was given!  Apparently, this servant had full knowledge of Abraham's affairs.  He showed loyalty to Abraham as if he were his own brother.  He certainly shared Abraham's FAITH in God.  This is demonstrated in his prayers and deeds throughout the story.

The servant promised to find a suitable wife for Isaac from Abraham's own family back in Mesopotamia.  Abraham made him seal his promise in a very personal way; he, the servant had to place his hand above his thigh.  By placing his hand on this area and by swearing in the name of God, the servant was binding himself to Abraham's God.  Notice, that the lands where his servant was traveling were filled with the gods of those lands.  Abraham wanted to be assured that his servant was not going to turn aside from the true God.  The servant promised that he would not let Isaac marry a Canaanite, but that he would find a suitable wife from Abraham's family.  Also, Abraham wanted to be assured that his son Isaac and his seed were not going to be corrupted.  Abraham set a standard that was going to be upheld years later when Joshua led the Israelites into the promise land.  This is what we read:  "Lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land and they play the harlet with their gods, and sacrifice to their gods, and someone invite you to eat up his sacrifice; and you take some of his daughters for your sons, and his daughters play the harlet with their gods and cause your sons also to play the harlet with their gods."  Exodus 34:15-16.

The servant sets out with 10 camels and great quantities of supplies and gifts.  When he reaches Northern Mesopotamia he stops near a well.  Both he and his camels are in need of water from the well.  It was common in those days for young unmarried women to draw water in the evening.  He is hoping to meet Isaac's match.  He prays to the LORD to show him which girl he should choose for Isaac according to what he asked for.  He will ask an unmarried girl at the well to give him a drink from her jar.  The chosen girl must not only give him a drink, but his camels also.  In this way, he would know the Lord's choice for Isaac.  It was not customary for young unmarried girls to speak to men outside of their home, much less a foreigner. Nevertheless, Rebekah fulfills all of the prayer's requirements.  She draws water for the servant and offers water to the camels until they are full.  She is also part of Abraham's family.  Another requirement she fulfills. She is unmarried and beautiful.  God goes beyond the servant's request in such a bountiful way that the servant has to bow down and worship.  What an amazing God we have!  When he realizes that Rebekah is the one, he gives her gold bracelets for her arms and a ring for her nose.  This is a sign of a marriage arrangement.  The servant gets invited by Laban her brother to dinner.  He tells Abraham's story to Laban and her father, Bethuel.  After hearing the story, both Laban and her father agreed that Rebekah would be a good match for Isaac.  Rebekah is not consulted about her own marriage, which was normal for a patriarchal culture.  When the deal is made, the servant then takes Rebekah and returns to Abraham, but Laban and her mother ask him to delay, "But her brother and her mother said, 'Let the girl stay with us a few days, say ten; afterward she may go.'"  Gen. 24:55.  The family consults Rebekah and she agrees to go with the servant immediately.

When Rebekah and the servant arrived in the Negev,  Isaac sees them from afar.  When she sees Isaac approaching, she finds out he is her intended husband, she veils her face.  Isaac and Rebekah are married in Sarah's tent.  What a  beautiful "fairy tale" love story!

The following are some parallels between the Genesis stories of Ishmael and Isaac:

Gen. 21:12
God orders Ishmael to leave
Gen. 22:2
God orders Isaac's sacrifice
Gen. 21:14
Leave in the morning with supplies
Gen. 22:3
Leave in the morning with supplies
Gen. 21:16
Ishmael is about to die
Gen. 22:10
Isaac is about to be sacrificed
Gen. 21:17
Angel calls to Hagar
Gen. 22:11
Angel calls to Abraham
Gen. 21:18
Ishmael will be a great nation
Gen. 22:17
Isaac's descendants will be innumerable
Gen. 21:19
God provides a well
Gen. 22:13
God provides a ram


May our Lord help us to have Abraham's OBEDIENCE.  His obedience to God is our best example and motivator!   May we be like Abraham, who placed his life in God's hands, trusting God's judgment more than his own.  

Luci

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

WALKING BY FAITH, NOT BY SIGHT





 "For we walk by FAITH, NOT by sight."  
II Corinthians 5:8


Our God is glorified in our weaknesses and His joy is our strength.   There are days, moments and seasons in our lives where God takes us by surprise.  This surprise may feel like a big blow to our dreams, hopes and expectations.  We may not even be conscious of it at that moment; but often those big surprises require us to lay down ourselves and surrender to Him and the unknown.  At times, I just have to smile and shake my head.  Of course, this is God's plan and purpose for my days. It is then that I become aware that I must remove my thoughts of FEAR and TRUST Him, knowing in my heart without any hesitation, that this is His plan and the path that He is laying down before me.  I have concluded that God has different plans for us as the years unfold.  This demands a lot of FAITH!  Faith not in ourselves and our abilities, but a FAITH in our Jesus who loves and walks with us the path of life in GRACE.  

At times, Christians make a life changing commitment to love and follow Christ, but fail to live in the fullness that God has purposed for them.  On such occasions, we must recommit our FAITH.  We must never forget that the only thing that is worth holding on to in our lives is our FAITH.  We must choose to put our FAITH in Christ throughout our lives,  TRUSTING that He is the AUTHOR of good things and the GIVER of life even when our lives are not going the way we have planned.

In Hebrews 11:1 we read, "Now FAITH is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things NOT seen."  There are times in our lives when things don't look encouraging, when life is full and chaotic. We feel inadequate!  But it is at this moment that we know and must be CONSCIOUS that our FAITH is being put to the test even though we cannot SEE the purpose.  It is hard to be CONFIDENT in God while our path unfolds before us and the circumstance or perhaps our mental state is bigger than we can imagine.  

When the storms of life hit us, they almost always appear to be stronger to us than God's Word.  We cannot afford for a moment to allow our perceptions to CONTROL us.  This can be very deceptive and damaging! So, my question is, what are we going to do when circumstances strike us putting FEAR in our hearts?   Where is our FAITH?  God wants us to trust Him with all of our mind, soul and heart without hesitation.  It is here that we must be of good COURAGE, knowing that we must walk by FAITH and not by sight. (II Corinthians 5:8).  This pleases our Father in heaven.  

I find myself often asking our God for that FAITH  it will take to trust Him in my life.  And I realize I must live in a state of humility in the midst of my humanity.  This is powerful!  God intends for us to live in fellowship with Him.  He wants me to trust His Grace because His Grace is sufficient for all I am lacking.  "And He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.'  Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me."  (2 Corinthians 12:9).  Walking by FAITH is not the EASIEST road to take.  It may not seem to be a road that makes any sense from the OUTSIDE, but there are so many blessings filled with God's presence and FAITHFULNESS; building our faith stronger and stronger as we draw nearer and walk closer to Him, the AUTHOR of all good things.  

As we walk this path of life, we must turn our hearts and fix our eyes on Him and toward the UNSEEN, walking by FAITH alone.  If we walk NOT BY SIGHT, our vision becomes much more focused.  "And without FAITH it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a REWARDER of those who SEEK Him."  Hebrews 11:6.  Is God asking you to trust Him perhaps today,  with the assurance of things unseen?  Remember, God gave His only begotten Son so that we may boldly live our lives TRUSTING Him, instead of what is right IN FRONT of us.

May our Lord helps us to WALK our path of life by FAITH, TRUSTING in His goodness and His Grace with that assurance of things unseen, believing that He is and that He is a REWARDER to those who diligently seek Him.

Luci