Over the last decade or so, the word karma has woven itself into the fabric of our English language. Rooted in Eastern religions, karma—according to the Klassen Dictionary of Everyday Vernacular—means payback. If you steal, eventually someone will steal from you. If you live a life of deception, eventually you will be deceived. And if you are kind, you will receive kindness as well. What goes around, comes around.
While the Bible affirms sowing and reaping, I’m glad it isn’t an airtight, universal law. If it were, we’d be in trouble.
Today, in a selection from one of our readings, we’re going to delve a little deeper into the deep faith of a flawed man named Abraham. If karma were true, he probably wouldn’t appear in the Bible.
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
Genesis 20:6. After being told that he had taken a married woman into his harem, God appeared to King Abimelech in a dream and said, “I have kept you from sinning against me.” I don’t know where to go with this—God kept Abimelech from sinning. I wonder how often he prevents us from sinning, and why doesn’t he do it more?
Genesis 20:16. A thousand shekels is equivalent to more money than a worker could earn to make in a lifetime.
Genesis 21:11. The translation of this verse understates Abraham’s feelings about kicking Ishmael out of the family. Abraham was more than distressed, he was angry about losing a son whom he dearly loved.
Genesis 21:20. This is another example of God’s hand on Ishmael. He may not have been the child of promise like Isaac, but he was a recipient of God’s convenantal blessing.
Genesis 22. Finally, we get a glimpse of Abraham’s great faith. After God told Abraham to sacrifice his only son, he left instructions with his servants saying, “We will worship and then we will come back to you” (Genesis 22:5 emphasis added). Mt. Moriah is usually identified as the location of the Temple (and present-day Mosque of Omar). Abraham’s sacrifice on the mountain foreshadowed the sacrifices on the same mountain hundreds of years later—and the sacrifice of Jesus, the lamb of God, almost 2000 years later.
Matthew 7:24-27. Who or what is the rock in this parable? I’ve often heard people say it’s Jesus or the word of God, but both are incorrect. The rock is obedience to Jesus and his word. “Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matthew 7:24).
Psalm 9. This psalm is a great reminder of not only who’s in control, but the character of the one in control.
THE WORD MADE FRESH
One of the reasons I’m convinced that the Bible is true is because it refuses to gloss over the shortcomings of its characters, even its most important characters like Abraham.
In today’s reading, Abraham once again allows his wife Sarah to be taken into the king’s harem. The first time, he was living in Egypt (Genesis 12:10-20). Since it occurred immediately following his initial covenant with God, I said to myself, Let’s cut Abraham some slack—he’s just beginning his relationship with God.
But two covenants later, Abraham commits the same offense by allowing his wife to be taken into another king’s harem. Most disturbing to me is that this happened after the final covenant, when God changed his name. With the change in name, I guess I would assume that Abraham would have undergone some sort of transformation. But what’s true of me must also be true of him. Transformation never happens over night. If it even happens.
Although Scripture hails him as a great man of faith (Hebrews 11:8-19), Abraham was still a man with faults like you and me. Paul writes in Romans 11:9 that “God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.” Like Abraham, if God only gave us good things when we exhibited faultless behavior, none of us would have anything.
Let’s be honest. If karma existed and God rewarded us for our behavior, we’d be toast!
- What insights did you have as you read the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac in Genesis 22?
- Has God ever asked you to sacrifice something dear, only to give it back? Please share.
- In Matthew 7:15-23, Jesus issues a pretty stern warning against false prophets. Do you think we’re as watchful as we should be? Why or why not?