God’s promise to a husband-wife union could be revealed through the husband or wife and will be fulfilled to them as a unit. Because the husband and wife are one, a promise to one is a promise to the two-in-one and will be fulfilled to them together. God interacts with husband and wife as one and illustrates the relationship through his covenant with Abraham-Sarah: a conditional promise to be God to all that worship and serve him.
We discuss God’s interaction with Abraham regarding his conditional promise to be God to all that worship and serve him. The promise was for Abraham-Sarah as a union, their descendants, and all humanity. However, God revealed the promise to Abraham as an individual. The context of the interaction enables an understanding of aspects directed at Abraham or Sarah individually and aspects directed at Abraham-Sarah as a union. God provides a message through the interaction: that his promise to a husband-wife union could be revealed through the husband or wife but will be fulfilled for them together as a unit.
Abraham understood the message but doubted the promise could be fulfilled for him and Sarah considering their age. He appealed for Ishmael in an apparent attempt to “help” God find a path to fulfillment of the promise [Genesis 17:17–18]: “Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, ‘Shall a child be born to a man who is one hundred years old? And shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?’ … ‘Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!’” Then God clarified the promise: “No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him” [Genesis 17:19]. Thus, God explained to Abraham that the promise is for Abraham-Sarah and will be fulfilled to their descendants through a son of their flesh. He spoke to Abraham to convey a conditional promise for Abraham-Sarah.
It is perhaps easy to understand that the promise of a child to a husband or wife is a promise to the husband-wife union. However, we may need greater consciousness of the message to appreciate its other implications. Whether in regard to wisdom or knowledge, physical possession, child bearing, or any other areas of human need, God’s promise to a husband or wife belongs to the husband-wife union and will be fulfilled to them as an indivisible unit. They need to be functionally together and interact with God as one in order to receive fulfillment of the promise. They could lose the promise if one person should become greedy and seek to claim individual ownership of any part.
We discuss God’s interaction with Abraham as described in Genesis 17 to understand the message of the covenant as it relates to husband-wife interactions and relationships.
Abraham and Sarah sought to have a child through their maid Hagar because of anxiety about God’s promise regarding their offspring. They were old and losing hope of child bearing. Hagar conceived but tried to use the pregnancy to disrupt their relationship. They resisted her successfully, choosing their union over the possibility that the child of Hagar might be the key to their promised offspring expansion.
God promised Abraham and Sarah a great expansion of their offspring and blessing for them and all humanity through their offspring. As we discuss in a previous bible study under Husband-Wife Leadership from Abraham-Sarah, God spoke to Abraham alone but the promise was for Abraham-Sarah union. They were anxious about the promise because they did not have a child and were old and losing hope of child bearing. They explored the possibility of having a child through Sarah’s maid, Hagar, in accordance with their custom. Abraham impregnated Hagar as permitted under agreement with Sarah.
Hagar was to remain subservient to Sarah and bear the child for her according to their custom. But she displayed a different aspiration as she sought to displace Sarah from her husband’s love. However, Abraham and Sarah valued their union more than the possibility that Hagar was carrying the child of their promise. They resisted Hagar and sought to impose Sarah’s authority over her. But Hagar would not submit. She instead fled from the household.
The attempt to have a child through Hagar was a temptation that potentially could have disrupted the Abraham-Sarah union and maybe fulfillment of God’s promise to the union. They overcame the temptation because of their belief in the supremacy of their union. In this bible study, we discuss: (1) their initial succumb to the temptation because of anxiety to receive fulfillment of God’s promise; (2) their recovery to overcome the temptation because nothing mattered enough to them to disrupt their relationship; and (3) aspects of their history to understand they built their marital bond through longevity of several decades of respecting, honoring, and caring for each other.
Interactions at the call of Abraham illustrate God considers husband and wife as one and relies on husband’s leadership and effective communication with his wife to guide them toward his purpose. He spoke to Abraham alone about a mission and promise for his family and relied on him to share the information with wife Sarah to lead their unity of purpose and obedience to God toward accomplishing the mission.
We continue our study of God’s purpose for husband-wife interactions through a mini series on Abraham and Sarah. The biblical accounts of Abraham and Sarah are more often about God’s interactions with Abraham, which intertwine with Abraham-Sarah interactions to tell us about God’s view of their relationship, thus adding to understanding his purpose and expectations for husband-wife interactions and relationships. In a previous study on Adam and Eve (Union of Seamless Complements), we saw that God considers a husband and wife to be one and inseparable. We see more evidence through Abraham-Sarah interactions, based on God speaking to Abraham alone during most encounters when he provided instructions and promises directed at Abraham-Sarah family.
Our study of Abraham-Sarah interactions is divided into four parts in order to focus enough on some of the details. We learn through the four-part series that God considered Abraham leader and representative of the Abraham-Sarah union (therefore, family). Secondly, he considered them as “one in God” such that his promise to one is a promise to the union and any commitment from one is a commitment from the union. Although subtle and at times easy to overlook, the lesson about God relating to Abraham-Sarah as one appears central to his relationship with them. He spoke promises to Abraham that were really promises to Abraham-Sarah and got commitments from him that really were commitments from the husband-wife union.
He gave directions to Abraham, spoke promises to him, and received commitments from him: all on behalf of Abraham-Sarah union. His communications with Abraham applied equally to Sarah as if he spoke to Abraham-Sarah when he spoke to Abraham. For example, when he instructed Abraham to relocate to “a land I will show you” [Genesis 12:1], he was calling Abraham-Sarah to a mission. Abraham’s responsibility to obey God included effective communication with his wife so they could work seamlessly together to accomplish the mission.
We discuss three biblical examples to illustrate that God may send message to a child as a clear instruction to the parent on behalf of the child. One example is drawn from God’s instruction to Abraham regarding circumcision of male offspring, the second from his instruction to Rebekah regarding Jacob-Esau relationship, and the third from his instruction to Joseph (earthly father of Jesus) regarding the flight to Egypt and back to Israel to protect baby Jesus from King Herod’s massacre of male children.
We continue our bible study series on parent-child relationships, focusing initially on the understanding that God sends messages to children through their parents. The study purpose is to increase awareness of the potential significance of parent-child interactions as among the mechanisms through which a parent passes critical guidance to a child. As we discuss in a previous bible study under Call of Samuel Example, God’s message to a child through the parent could be in the form of a clear instruction to the parent or a hidden instruction. In the case of a hidden instruction, God prompts a parent with information the parent passes to the child with neither parent nor child knowing at the time that the information is indeed a message from God. The current study focuses on messages delivered as clear instruction to a parent.
The example regarding Call of Samuel appears to be a mixture of the two forms. We will discuss hidden-instruction examples in subsequent bible studies.
In the current study, we discuss three examples of God’s message to a child delivered as a clear instruction to the parent. A characteristic of such message is the parent has responsibility to implement the instruction either directly for the child or by guiding the child through the implementation. The first example is drawn from God’s instruction to Abraham regarding circumcision of male offspring, the second from his instruction to Rebekah regarding Jacob-Esau relationship, and the third from God’s instruction to Joseph (earthly father of Jesus) regarding the flight to Egypt and back to Israel. Each of the examples discusses a clear instruction to a parent on behalf of a child.
FAITHFUL FOLLOWER AND COMPASSIONATE HOST Lot assisted Abraham on a mission to establish homeland for Christ’s ancestry and earned a stake in God’s promise that “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Several generation’s later, his descendant Ruth married Abraham’s descendant Boaz and both became grandparents in the lineage of Christ. Lot performed an act of righteousness by providing food, shelter, and protection in Sodom to angels that he thought were ordinary strangers. His compassion to the “strangers” positioned him to benefit from Abraham’s intercession, whereby God promised to not sweep the righteous away with other inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah. God saved Lot on account of Abraham as he destroyed the twin city.
We continue our study series on Ruth by looking back in her ancestry to understand interactions between Lot and Abraham in relation to God calling Abraham (then Abram) to a special mission and Lot’s interactions with his community prior to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. We are interested in Lot because he was father of the Moabites and therefore progenitor of Ruth’s lineage.
FAITHFUL FOLLOWER Lot assisted Abraham on his mission to Canaan and worked with him until their peaceful separation: “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you” [Genesis 12:1]. As we discuss in a previous bible study (Leading or Following: Right Heart for Strategic Alliance), Christ taught several generations later that God rewards faithful followers: people that assist in his mission and contribute to its fulfillment. Therefore, by following and working with Abraham on a mission to establish a home for Christ’s ancestry, Lot placed himself in position to partake in God’s promise to Abraham that “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” [Genesis 12:3].
INTERCESSION God revealed himself in human form to Abraham, told him about his judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah, and promised to offer the people one more opportunity to repent: “I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know” [Genesis 18:21]. Abraham interceded on behalf of the people and God promised to save the city if enough people showed themselves righteous. Lot was saved on account of Abraham’s intercession because he showed compassion to angels that he thought were ordinary strangers. However, other inhabitants of Sodom did not take advantage as they confirmed themselves wicked by seeking to attack and molest the “strangers.”
COMPASSION Lot’s compassion to the two strangers endeared him to God and contributed to he and his daughters being saved as God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. God offered a final opportunity for repentance to the people through two angels that visited them in human form. Lot saw the two strangers in the evening, offered them shelter and food, and stood his ground to protect them as Sodomites descended on his house from every direction to attack and molest the strangers: “But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof” [Genesis 19:8]. God saved Lot and his family when he destroyed the city with all inhabitants.
The responsibilities of a head of household include spiritual commitment and prayer on behalf of the household. We can understand this based on interactions among Paul, Silas, the city jailer, and a lady Lydia; in Philippi during the Second Missionary Journey. Paul and Silas found themselves in jail, where an act of compassion by Paul touched the jailer spiritually and prepared him to receive the gospel. When he asked what he needed to do to be saved, Paul and Silas advised him to make a spiritual commitment to the Lord Jesus on behalf of himself and his household.
The concept of household spiritual commitment by the head goes back to God’s covenant with Abraham, reiterated to Jacob at Bethel, and renewed at Shechem by Joshua and representatives of all Israel. Furthermore, we learn about prayer by head of household, ministering by compassion, and other principles applicable to present-day human interactions and relationships.