Monday, November 7, 2011
The Seed of Immortality Genesis 13-14
Genesis 13: Abraham's Immortality.
13: 16 And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered.
At the turn of the 19th century, when pioneers began to cultivate and settle the southeastern region of our nation, the Carolina Parakeet existed in copious numbers. Their brightly colored feathers and intelligence made them popular pets that were often captured and trained. Highly sociable birds their distress over a fallen or wounded comrade kept them from fleeing when faced with an imminent threat of gunfire. Afterward, many were known to perch nearby on branches or over their fallen friends unaware of the hunters’ malevolent sport. By the beginning of the 20th century this social behavior played an important role in their eventual extinction.
Extinction sends a permanent death sting to the last of a species seed. Without seed God’s creations are but a blink in his vast universe. Without seed all that the Carolina Parakeet could have taught us about compassion, sociability, loyalty, friendship, and innate intelligence is, along with their genetic memory code, lost forever.
If extinction means to loose the perpetuation of one’s seeds, what does immortality mean? If one could find a way that their seed were ensured exponential reproduction would they not be defining one type of immortality? Abraham would not live forever, but his moral beliefs, teachings, and increase of intelligence would, if he could find a way to ensure his seeds survival. And what of our God? Would Abraham’s survival not testify to his power and love for all of mankind?
As I was reading how Abraham was promised that his seed would become as the “dust of the earth, ” I wondered who were Abraham’s contemporaries? Other than the “Epic of Gilgamesh” which archaeologists had to search for and is dated before Abraham’s time, we don’t know. Yes there are civilizations in China, in Asia, and other parts of the world but where are there genealogical records that tell their story? Their records did not purposefully survive to tell their tale. The key words are “purposefully survive.” Why was Abraham’s seed able to not only purposefully survive but also purposefully retain a written historical record? The answer lies in the true covenant that Abraham enters into with the God of Heaven and Earth.
I thought about Abraham and about God’s role in helping his progeny beat the odds of extinction. Clearly life was treacherous. No civil law had yet succeeded in bringing sustainable peace. As Genesis 14 points out the kingdoms were at war and barbaric practices allowed them ransack and plumage their foes. Although Abraham was given great wealth and promised great land, his desires turned more to the protection and preservation of his family. In order to find immortality and defy extinction, one must begin to think less about self-survival and more about family and community welfare. Was it part of God’s plan that Abraham had to wait and sacrifice for his own seed?
The Carolina Parakeet understood the principle of caring for one another. Prior to farm settlement their system of group protection had served them well. But faced with ever changing circumstances and the threat of immoral predators the parakeet lacked the power to find evolutionary answers. Abraham must have understood that a higher power would be needed to ensure the survival of his seed. The ability to perceive, believe and understand this higher power would need to be instilled within the moral code of his seeds genetic memory.
In a time when childhood mortality, war, natural disaster, disease, famine, drought, plagues, and other expected accidents bore constant threat to one’s survival, Abraham’s contemplation of immortality through the continuation of his seed might have seemed off centered, just a bit. Abraham begins to consider his father’s idolic religion as empty and vain. He turned to the prophetic counsel that followed Adam’s creeds and settled in his mind the reality of one God and one creator. He defies his father’s multiplicity of Gods and listens to only one God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth.
Abraham’s faith in the God of heaven and earth led him to understand God’s omnipotence. He becomes the chosen “son of Adam” to enter into a spiritual and binding covenant with a living and powerful God. He begins to ponder how his family’s social behavior affects their prospect of survival. His recognition of his prosperity and success as a direct blessing from his "most high God" sets an example for his family and community. When offered the plumage of warfare by King of Sodom, he refuses so that King of Sodom cannot say that he has made Abraham rich. (Genesis 14: 23)
Abraham wants to make it clear where his blessings come from. He begins to consider that there are life events that he alone cannot control, but with the help of an all-powerful Creator, he might not only increase his chances for survival but through the power and example of “exercised” faith he could ensure the survival of his seed as well. (Genesis 14:22)
Abraham’s decision to put away idol worship and serve one God sets into play a new way of thinking and considering life. When he hears God speak, Abraham listens. He teaches Sarah to listen. Together they begin a pattern of life that allows God’s power to direct and protect them. Abraham’s God is powerful. Abraham is able to converse and counsel with his God over major life decisions. Abraham is able to enter into a covenant that promises him all that he would need to ensure his immediate and eternal survival.
I love hearing stories about the Carolina Parakeet. They were not only beautiful birds to gaze upon but their behaviors toward one another causes my heart to pause and ask, “Why couldn’t they have flown away? Why couldn’t they survive? Why did this beautiful specie of a bird have to become extinct? What was lacking in their evolution that kept them unaware of the dangers?
I believe the answer lies in understanding the importance of whom you place your faith. If we chose to place our faith in society and in our own strength we too might face extinction. But when we, like Abraham face our fears and believe in the inward power of faith in a true and living God we find a power greater than that of evolutionary selection. Abraham became God’s man of covenant because he understood God's power of love and this inward contemplation of the power of love. He set in motion a new type of man, one that would worship not out of rote desperation, but rather out of a true power of faith. An obedience born of enlightenment and respect for divine truth.
And this faith is what would ensure Abraham’s seed the possibility of not only the security of a happy life, but one possible of ensuring that his seed might one day be as numerous as the infinite “dust of the earth.”