Romans 5:1-5 and Genesis 18:1-15
(Quoted scripture is New Revised Standard Version)
A Midrash is the genre Jewish Rabbis use to comment and interpret the Torah, the first 5 books of Hebrew scripture. Their interpretation and commentary becomes a story in itself. The earliest Midrash was recorded during the 2nd century AD. I’m going to share a Midrash with you today, but first I want to set the stage.
Abram and his wife Sarai were living with their family in Haran in Upper Mesopotamia in what is now modern day Turkey. In Genesis 12 we read –‘the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.”’ (vs. 1-2) Abram gather’s everyone up, including his nephew Lot and his family, and off they go to the land of Canaan. God appears to Abram again and tells him –“To your offspring I will give this land.” (v. 7)
Faith sees the light of God’s promises. Abram was seventy-five years old at the time and Sarai was sixty-five and they had no ‘offspring’, no children. That should be our first clue that God was up to something big, something that would require some faith that when God makes a promise, he keeps it.
We wonder why Abram did what he did. He was settled with his family in Haran, and yet when God called him, he answered yes and packed up everything and moved out. That took faith on Abram’s part and it also took God being faithful to the promise he made to Abram, “-To your offspring I will give this land.” (v. 7)
A quote we often hear on Christian radio stations is “Faith at the start and faith at the end is easy, It’s faith in the middle that’s hard.” Abram would have to have a lot of faith in the middle, as he waited for God to fulfill His promise to him. We also must have faith in the middle.
On your wedding day you have faith the marriage is going to be wonderful, and then the conflicts, money troubles, health issues come, and the vision of bliss becomes a struggle. The new baby is born, you have faith that he or she will be a delight to you all through your life, and then the teenage years come and you insist on a DNA test to see if that moody, argumentative person living with you is really yours! You have visions of a great, active retirement, then your body begins to betray you as you age, and life becomes much more of a struggle than you envisioned.
Take heart! Keep the faith! Keep your eyes focused on the light of God in Jesus Christ. Remember God is for us, He is with us, and He is within us. Another quote that we hear on Christian radio stations is, “You lose your hope when you don’t see a future.” We have the promise of a glorious future, a light at the end of the tunnel, if we are walking with the Lord. We also have the promise that God is with us in the midst of our struggles.
Marriage becomes stronger through the struggles. Many of us here can testify to this. That teenager will become sane again around the age of 25. As for retirement, enjoy every day, even the aches and pains. Each day is a gift, that’s why we call it the present!
We have hope because of God’s love.
The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 5:3-5 “--we know that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
God changes Abram’s name to Abraham and Sarai’s name to Sarah in Genesis 17. In today’s reading from Genesis we find Abraham sitting at the entrance of his tent by the oaks of Mamre, in the heat of the day. He sees three men coming, runs to meet them, offers them water to drink and to wash their dusty sandaled feet, and even invites them to dinner. He then goes into the tent and tells Sarah to bake some cakes for them and Abraham then runs to the herd to find the choicest calf to butcher and serve to his three guests. Here’s where the Midrash comes in.
In this particular Midrash, when Abraham runs off to find that prime calf to butcher and cook for his three guests, he has a hard time catching it. The calf leads him on a merry chase, until it enters an undiscovered cave.
Following the calf inside he discovers something remarkable: two graves. And not just any graves; these are the graves of Adam and Eve. Abraham experiences a mystical vision then, in which the cave becomes filled with light. The light forms itself into a great and mighty river, a river of light which flows out from that place to enlighten all the world. After such a powerful vision, Abraham chooses this very cave for his own burial site. It is this cave of Machpelah, that becomes the burial place of both Sarah and Abraham.
When the three visitors come to Abraham, he’s nearly 100 years old. He’s lived nearly a century with the growing knowledge that he would have no legitimate male heir. The Lord had made covenant with him, promising him descendants, as many as the stars in the heavens. But where are they?
In the Midrash, Abraham’s mystical vision gives him hope, hope that is soon realized in the birth of his son Isaac. Faith sees the light of God’s promises.
The problem with God’s promises is that we have to trust in them. We have to believe they will be fulfilled, and live as if we believe that they will be. In our humanness, we want proof before we believe.
Proof doesn’t work with God. Hebrews 11:1. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Abraham had not seen God’s promise fulfilled, and yet he found hope in the light of God he experienced in that cave. Our faith depends upon what we experience in the light of God’s presence in our life. We have to take the risk of believing and trusting and venturing into a relationship with God before we understand the one whom we are trusting keeps His promises. That’s faith.
The Apostle Paul wrote “… since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have access to the grace in which we stand; and we boast of our hope of sharing the glory of God” (Romans 5:1-2).
The peace of God through our relationship with Jesus Christ, and the strength we gain through the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives is a huge part of our faith journey. Faith is the way a person relates to everything in life, and to the God who is present and at work in all of life. Faith sees the light of God in everything.
Faith allows us to believe that God is working out blessings in our lives and in the world.
When the diagnosis comes, faith sees the light of God with us, and gives us strength to face the illness, and maybe even death, knowing God is with us.
When a relationship appears beyond reconciliation, faith sees the light of God with us, and gives us patience to wait, trust and pray for God to soften the heart of the other person, or for the humility to ask for forgiveness. If it is necessary to leave a harmful relationship, faith sees the light of a future with God strengthening us for the change.
When all we see of the world is darkness, problems and pain, faith sees the light of God with us, and we move out to address the problems in our own neighborhoods and communities.
Faith sees the light of God in every day and believes in God’s promise to be with us always even to the end of the age. I challenge you to live out your faith every day, keeping the eyes of your heart focused on the light of God with you, in the good times and in the bad. Faith sees the light of God in all circumstances.
Pastor Rosemary DeHut