This chapter seems to have quite a few miscellaneous justice and balance regulations. I was going to say that they are oppression and mistreatment laws, but then i realized that they are not rules to tell people not to do something so much as they are regulations to help you live in justice and balance. Here are some examples. Do not pervert justice. Don’t take bribes. Take care of your enemy’s beasts even if your enemy isn’t willing to take care of them himself. Work six days and make sure you rest on the seventh. Plant for 6 years but let your fields go fallow for the seventh.
Then YHWH goes into our responsibility to honor and celebrate Him. Three times per year the people are to get together and celebrate feasts to God. Offer sacrifices with unleavened bread, not leavened, and bring your first fruits into the house of the LORD. It’s all about recognizing and honoring Him above all.
Finally, YHWH talks about what He will do. He will send an angel to guide and direct them. He will bring terror of them on their enemies. He will bless the land and the people. He will drive their enemies out ahead of them… not all at once, so that the land is not overrun by wild beasts. But the people MUST make sure that they do not pursue the false gods of the people of the land.
Overall, i don’t see an overarching theme that describes / covers the entire chapter, but these concepts need to be understood and applied to fully honor God.
I’m finding, as i do this project, that things that i have previously learned and assumed don’t always work out the way i expected them to. For instance, over the previous chapters we have been looking at the life and times of Abram. Now i know this story well, and i know that Abram becomes Abraham. I have heard and read it since i was a child. However, in spite of the fact that the transition occurred yesterday (Chapter 17), i am having a very difficult time making that transition in my mind and writing. I have gone to write Abraham, and i keep writing Abram. It’s very annoying. It’s just after having spent so much time writing Abram, it’s difficult to make the transition even though i have been prepping myself for it since i uncomfortably started writing Abram instead of Abraham.
That having been said, i was also very perplexed in part of this chapter. In Chapter 17 God tells Abram, to be called Abraham, that he will have a son through Sarai, now to be called Sarah. He tells Abram that this will occur in the same season in the next year. Now, God tells Abraham that within a year Sarah will be holding her baby, and Sarah laughs? She already knows that this is supposed to happen. Hence she has been being called Sarah instead of Sarai. So why is she surprised by the idea that she could/will be holding her new baby within a year?
Finally, i was trying to process the relationship between Abraham and God. Abraham is bold enough to question God and His decisions. He is confident enough to stand in the face of God and say, “You’re THE Judge. You aren’t actually thinking of destroying Sodom if there are 50 righteous people in the city. That would just be unjust and wrong!” Then God turns, actually takes the comment seriously, and makes clear his plans.
To me, it’s interesting the ways that God’s people respond to the things He says to and about them. How do we respond when God speaks to and about us? Do we laugh and doubt Him? Do we confront Him and seek / demand clarification? Do we even hear or acknowledge that He is speaking to us? Do we even recognize the freedom we have in our relationship with God?
Genesis 16 is a lesson to us all. God had made a promise to Abram. That promise was going to take a miracle. There was no way it was humanly possible for Sarai to have a baby at her age. Yet God had told Abram that he would have a son. This could be seen as an opportunity, rejection, or false promise.
It could be a false promise (or disillusion) in that either God did say or Abram only thought He said, and that there was no real plan for the fulfillment of the promise.
It could be that God was going to bring it to fulfillment, and simply had not yet (which we know to be the truth). However, that seemed less and less likely every day.
Finally, it could be a rejection. God could have been making the promise to Abram while rejecting Sarai. This was likely the struggle that Sarai was going through. She was past the age of child birth, but Abram was not. She could not have children, but her husband still could. The promise had been made to him and not to her. He needed an heir, and she couldn’t provide it. So she did what she felt needed to be done to fulfill God’s promise for Him… and it was the wrong thing.
In Sarai’s defense, as far as we know, there had never been a single woman past the age of childbearing who had miraculously conceived. It was unheard of. Is that a valid excuse? No, not really, but it does explain her decisions. She knew what her husband and family needed. She knew she couldn’t provide it, so she did what she thought was the only feasible solution… and it backfired on her.
It also wasn’t fully her fault either. Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. He accepted her assessment and solution.
Ultimately though, the question comes back to us. What promises that God has made to us are we trying to fulfill of our own power? Are we trying to “help” God fulfill His promises, or are we resting in the promises of the God who promises and fulfills?