Wednesday, January 16, 2013

When Peacemaking Costs You Something

Today is the third day of week two in our "Read the Bible Through in a Year" excursion.  Our scriptures today are Genesis 21-23, Mark 8, and Psalm 107.  There's a lot of good reading here, and I hope that God speaks to you through it.  This morning, I want to focus on just one section of our reading: Genesis 21:22-34.  I've copied it below in its entirety.

22 At that time Abimelech and Phicol the commander of his army said to Abraham, “God is with you in all that you do. 23 Now therefore swear to me here by God that you will not deal falsely with me or with my descendants or with my posterity, but as I have dealt kindly with you, so you will deal with me and with the land where you have sojourned.” 24 And Abraham said, “I will swear.”
25 When Abraham reproved Abimelech about a well of water that Abimelech's servants had seized, 26 Abimelech said, “I do not know who has done this thing; you did not tell me, and I have not heard of it until today.” 27 So Abraham took sheep and oxen and gave them to Abimelech, and the two men made a covenant. 28 Abraham set seven ewe lambs of the flock apart. 29 And Abimelech said to Abraham, “What is the meaning of these seven ewe lambs that you have set apart?” 30 He said, “These seven ewe lambs you will take from my hand, that this may be a witness for me that I dug this well.” 31 Therefore that place was called Beersheba, because there both of them swore an oath. 32 So they made a covenant at Beersheba. Then Abimelech and Phicol the commander of his army rose up and returned to the land of the Philistines. 33 Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba and called there on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God. 34 And Abraham sojourned many days in the land of the Philistines.

This is a story about peacemaking, and how sometimes it costs you something.  

Unless you live in Antarctica, everyone has neighbors.  Abraham's neighbor was Abimelech, a man with whom Abraham had a tenuous peace.  Easton's Bible Dictionary says this about Abimelech:

my father a king, or father of a king, a common name of the Philistine kings, as "Pharaoh" was of the Egyptian kings. (1.) The Philistine king of Gerar in the time of Abraham (Gen. 20:1-18). By an interposition of Providence, Sarah was delivered from his harem, and was restored to her husband Abraham. As a mark of respect he gave to Abraham valuable gifts, and offered him a settlement in any part of his country; while at the same time he delicately and yet severely rebuked him for having practised a deception upon him in pretending that Sarah was only his sister. Among the gifts presented by the king were a thousand pieces of silver as a "covering of the eyes" for Sarah; i.e., either as an atoning gift and a testimony of her innocence in the sight of all, or rather for the purpose of procuring a veil for Sarah to conceal her beauty, and thus as a reproof to her for not having worn a veil which, as a married woman, she ought to have done. A few years after this Abimelech visited Abraham, who had removed southward beyond his territory, and there entered into a league of peace and friendship with him. This league was the first of which we have any record. It was confirmed by a mutual oath at Beer-sheba (Gen. 21:22-34).

Sometimes peacemaking costs you something.  In fact, if you want to make a lasting peace with someone with whom you have a difficult history, it's almost always going to cost you something.  In ancient times, treaties were often struck by giving gifts and by making sacrifices.  Sometimes, members of one family would be given in marriage to members of the other family, to seal the deal.  They didn't take peacemaking lightly, but understood its importance by investing even their own posterity in the contract.

Easton points out the price that Abimelech paid (Genesis 20:1-18) in order to make peace with Abraham.  Compared to this, the seven ewe lambs that Abraham paid to keep the peace in the matter over the well was a small price to pay.  In fact, Abraham was simply giving back to Abimelech a portion of what the king had given to him.

Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God (Matthew 5:9)."  Making peace isn't free--it isn't even cheap.  It costs something.  When we were enemies of God, Jesus made peace by giving Himself as a sacrifice on our behalf.  To seal the deal, we offer ourselves up as the Bride of Christ. Peace with God is just that important--we give whole selves into the covenant.

Today, I wonder--who do you need to make peace with?  What price are you willing to pay in order to make that peace?  I pray that you will find, and make, the peace that you need to make today--and that by God's grace you will be able to keep that covenant. 

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