Genesis 12:11-13 gives the story of Abraham telling a partial truth to protect himself from death. Abraham was scared that the Egyptians would kill him and take his wife from him. We will set aside the acidic belief that Abraham had that he and his tribe alone “feared” God. That discussion alone deserves more time. However we will look at how Abraham did something that the weak have always done to protect themselves from the strong. Engaged in deception.
Howard Thurman speaks of this in his book Jesus and the Disinherited. We often engage in deception because it seems to be the only form of defense that the weak have. But is it the only defense we have? Thurman reminds us, that we always have the option of standing forth and stating the truth. There may be repercussions. In most cases there will be repercussions, but the only hope of a better world is not to hide behind a lie which keeps the status quo as is. Neither is the hope for a better world in the destruction of the more powerful by might. Such only perpetuates the pain that is already in the world and at best creates a new oppressor. No the way to a better world is to confront it and say to it, “This is wrong, Here is the truth, and if you must punish me for standing for the truth, then so be it!”
Such was the mindset of Civil disobedience. Such was the mindset of the Civil Rights Movement. I don’t blame those who feel that they must survive, but real change comes from standing up to evil and saying “no!” The Christian church has been called to be a witness to the truth especially in these last days. Will we stand up and be a witness for the truth?
This weeks Sabbath School lesson provides a look at the father of the faithful and what we can learn from such a look. One thing that we can learn from Sunday’s and Monday’s lesson is that this father of the faithful wasn’t always pictured as exactly our idea of what is faithful in the text.
The Promise to Abraham
Sunday’s lesson gives us the promise of God to Abraham found in Genesis 12:2. Abraham would be a great nation. However, the problem was that Abraham didn’t have a child. And Abraham was getting up in age. So Abraham came to God and offered to adopt Eliezar to be the son of that promise. (Gen 15:2-3). Here Abraham looked at his circumstances and realized that it was not exactly in line with the promise that God had given to him. Certainly God didn’t mean that he would have a son at his age. How often do we look at the promise that God has for our own lives and see that they don’t make sense? How often do we begin to seek to find ways to fulfill that promise? I don’t really blame Abraham. Abraham simply realized that he best do something now. But God wasn’t with that plan. Genesis 15:4-5 has God saying that Abraham would be the natural father through birth.
Taking Advantage of the Weak to Fulfill God’s Promise
So Abraham and Sarah once again sought to fulfill this promise. They did it by giving the slave Hagar to Abraham. (Genesis 16:1-3) While supposedly this was a custom of the area, it is still just as despicable as it would be today. That act caused the creation of problems between two sons both who have right to be called the son of Abraham. That act caused problems in the home that would never be resolved. Here both Sarah and Abraham took advantage of their status as “slave masters” over the slave to fulfill the “promise of God.” It is easy to be so caught up in attempting to do what God has promised that we don’t take time to think about who we hurt? Perhaps the greatest evils in the world have been done in the name of God or for God’s glory. When God’s promise comes, we cannot take advantage of others to fulfill that promise.
Sarah will be the Mother
Finally, God said “Sarah will be the Mother!” Genesis 17:16, 19. As I read this text, I begin to wonder why God didn’t just say that up front? Why did God go so slow? If God, in this narrative, had said totally up front, “Abraham, you and Sarah will have a child and through that child there will be a great nation. If God had done that, Abraham may have done the same thing that he did in this case. Maybe not. But in any case, the story reveals something that is often the case. Sometimes we learn God’s will in life. Sometimes we learn God’s will by trying and failing. Sometimes it is only after a misstep that God reveals more of God’s plan.
At the very least, all of these missteps didn’t stand in the way of Abraham still being called the father of the faithful. While gives me hope. Even when I have not done as I should have done. God does not cast us off.
The problem of some Black preaching that makes it difficult to engage in authentic Adventist preaching is that we often celebrate, according to Rock, “doctrinal neutrality camouflaged in verbal vehemence.”
If we are honest with ourselves, we will realize that we have allowed people to prostitute the Black Tradition by simply yelling. We hear preachers copying the sermons from media ministers talking about our “Breakthrough” or our “blessing” while the teachings of our Adventist tradition and our Black tradition lay dormant.
Yelling and telling folks that they need to “worship God with noise” is not the essence of the Black preaching tradition. Less I am misunderstood, Celebration is an important component of Black worship and preaching. We should celebrate the goodness of God and the Gospel, but something is wrong when people are celebrating and have not been given any true reason for celebration.
There are some great Adventist preachers in the Black tradition, but noise without a core justice hermeneutic ain’t the beast of the Black tradition. And yelling without any application to the traditions of our own church ain’t Adventist preaching.
What is called for from Rock is not simply yelling…It is adherence to the Spirit of the Black Preaching Tradition as well as the Adventist Preaching Tradition. As we continue we will look at what Rock Considers we should do to get to that kind of preaching.