Friday, 25 January 2013

Reading the Bible 8: Gen 18
The theme of hospitality runs through this passage.  Abraham is the epitome of the good host to the three ‘men’ who appear before him.  He is exemplary in his welcome offering them water to wash their feet and having the fatted calf killed to serve them.  (I wonder if Jesus was thinking of this when he told the parable of the Prodigal son?).  There is also a question in my mind whether he would have been as good a host if these were just ordinary men and not emissaries (angels) from God?

In any case there is certainly nothing that he can be faulted for in the hospitality department.  However, the other feature of this passage – putting aside the miracle of Sarah’s destiny of bearing a child in her old age – is Abraham’s bargaining with God.  It is human nature to bargain with God – If you will do this for me God – won’t you give me a Mercedes Benz as Janice Joplin prayed – then I will worship you or I will be happy or I will follow your commandments.  This relationship to God is correctly, I believe, not encouraged (despite the Prayer of Jabez phenomenon of a few years ago).  It is not the basis for a mature spirituality.   

However, I believe that Abraham’s bargaining on behalf of the inhabitants Sodom is different precisely because it is on behalf of other and not for his benefit.  So Abraham bargains the salvation of Sodom from fifty righteous people down to ten.  However, even that is not few enough as we know from the account in the next chapter Sodom’s fate. 
However, it is a compelling question.  Can we bargain with God and to what end.  Can we really bargain for ourselves or more righteously for others?  Was there a cosmic bargain between God and his only begotten son to bring salvation to humankind.  I have always had problems with this interpretation of Easter.  But that is for another reading. 

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