FIRST IN A SERIES
As a young Christian, more than fifty years ago, I knew that Abraham was a key figure in the Bible. He is an example of justification by faith (Gen. 15:5–6; Rom. 4:2–3; Gal. 3:26–29), and his willingness to offer Isaac as a sacrifice, the child of promise, is an example of his great obedience. Yet, after many decades of Christian service, I have come to understand the importance of Abraham in a deeper sense than ever before. I also believe this deeper understanding sheds light—biblical light—on some of the major issues of today.
That, I think, is one of the amazing things about the Bible. There are precious nuggets of truth that are, so to speak, on the ground available to all, even a newborn Christian. Yet digging deeper in the Word, through prayer, the leading of the Holy Spirit, and the application of some Bible study disciplines, one finds the most amazing gems of truth. Such study helps one connect a lot of the dots that seem, at first, scattered everywhere, without any discernible relationship but now the lines of connection become exceedingly clear.
I also want to make a disclaimer. I have found that there are authors, both Christian and otherwise, with whom I disagree on many issues, and yet some of them have insights that I find very valuable. I’m talking about the scholars of ancient history who are also specialists in linguistics and dead languages. Most of us might look at a cuneiform clay tablet that is four thousand years old and conclude that it was made by turkeys walking in the mud! How wrong that conclusion would be.
For many of us the word “scholar” has a negative connotation. If a writer quotes a “scholar,” then that writer’s book is not worth much because anything a “scholar” would say probably reeks of unbelief. Be careful! Why? Because there are some scholars who know things about ancient history and ancient languages that most of us don’t know anything about. Especially when it comes to studying Abraham, and his Mesopotamian origin, most believers do not know enough about Ugaritic, Akkadian, The Gilgamesh Epic, and the Hebrew of the Bible to do careful research.
The Bible does speak about God’s common grace. Jesus said, “… for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:45; see also Acts 14:17). I’ve said all of that to say this: Just because I quote an author, or refer to an author, does not mean that I endorse everything that author has said.
Abraham and the Visible World
Abram, “meaning exalted father,” or “high father”—his name was later changed by God to Abraham, meaning “father of a multitude” (Gen. 17:5)—was the son of Terah, who had three sons: Abram, Nahor, and Haran (the latter was the father of Lot, Abram’s nephew). (Gen. 11:26–27). According to Joshua 24:2, Abram, his father, and Nahor worshipped idols. They were from Ur of the Chaldees located in Mesopotamia, the “fertile crescent,” located between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.
When Abram was seventy-five years old (Gen. 12:4), he received a personal call from God to migrate to Canaan (Gen. 12:1–3). This caused a division in Abram’s family clan. Abram’s nephew Lot went with Abram to Canaan (the future land of Israel), while the rest of the family stayed in Haran, which is now southeastern Turkey, where Abram’s relatives are found living later in the Genesis account.
As part of his call, Abram was told that he wasn’t simply going on a sightseeing trip to Canaan. “And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing. And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 12:3). Abram didn’t understand the far-reaching implications of this call. Abram was to have a very special family and, more than that, the whole Earth will be blessed, in some way, because of his family.
Abram’s home, Ur of the Chaldees, was a very ancient city that flourished until about 300 B.C. The great Ziggurat of Ur (a huge elevated structure with steps) was built by Ur-Nammu around 2100 B.C. and was dedicated to the moon god Nanna. Some of the groups that persecute Abraham’s descendants have the crescent moon on their flags.
So, Abram lived in a world with a collective memory of the Flood, a world that was getting overburdened with the tyranny of Nimrod, whose name means “Let us rebel.” Abraham’s life was riddled with domestic strife and confusion, yet he held true to course, though at times, like all of us, fear and a lack of faith led him to behave in a way that even received the rebuke of the unbelieving world. In Genesis 12:17–20, the Lord sent severe plagues to the pharaoh’s household, which immediately signaled to the pharaoh and his people that they had been deceived by Abram. Pharaoh, the Egyptian, acted with more integrity than Abram in giving back Sarai to her husband without punishing the couple.
The binding of Isaac on Moriah (Gen. 22:1–19) powerfully illustrates the miraculously thin thread that Jewish existence relies on. Even after Abraham has seen the birth and growth of the child of promise, he raises the dagger only to hear the words of the angel, “Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me” (Gen. 22:12). The timing is perfect. Isaac is kept alive and God’s covenant promises proceed with unnerving accuracy and precision despite all that would seek to make God’s promise null and void.
Abraham and the Invisible World
Jonathan Cahn is an immensely popular Christian writer, and deservedly so. In his prophetic warning to Biden, in which he applies the prophecy of George Washington, Cahn (YouTube “Jonathan Cahn’s Prophetic Message II” to Joe Biden) powerfully, prophetically, and persuasively warns the occupant of the highest office of the land.
I had the privilege of interviewing Cahn in August of 2022 on his book, Return of the Gods. Cahn observes that we are living on “the planet of the gods.” He writes, “For most of recorded history, the gods were in every land and enthroned on the pinnacle of every major culture and civilization, from the god Enlil of Sumer to Ra of Egypt, Amarok of the Arctic, Kukulkan of Central America, Wotan of Northern Europe, Dionysus of Greece, Obatala of Africa, Tiamat of Babylon, Bixia of China, Oro of Polynesia, Ahura Mazda of Persia, Perun of Russia, Shamash of Assyria, Dagda of Ireland, Juno of Rome, Shiva of India, and a countless multitude of others” (p. 11).
Cahn points to the use of the Hebrew word shedim in several key Scriptures. Idols are not just scary little images carved in wood or stone. In Deuteronomy 32:17, we read that the people “sacrificed unto shedim.” In Psalm 106:36–37, we read, “And they served their idols: which were a snare unto them. Yea, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto shedim.”
Cahn shows that shedim comes from the Hebrew root shud, “to act violently,” or “to lay waste.” In ancient Babylonian writings (Mesopotamia and environs—the land from which came Abraham), the same root refers to malevolent spirits.
When the ancient Jewish scribes translated their Hebrew Old Testament into the Greek OT (the Septuagint) for reading in a Hellenistic world, they translated shedim with the Greek word daimonia, i.e. “demons.” The meaning is clearly explained in Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church. In 1 Corinthians 10:20, we read, “But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils [daimonia, shedim],” and not to God.” Evidently, it is possible to actually sacrifice to demons.
Immediately after this statement the apostle writes, “… and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils [daimonia, shedim].” This is huge. We normally think of idols as pieces of wood and stone, but according to these scriptures, those idols are, somehow, more than pieces of wood and stone. Sacrificing to them brings the devotee into fellowship with demons. We see this again in verse 21: “Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils [daimonia, shedim].”
The Warfare Worldview
This worldview states that if you really want to know what is going on in the world, you have to look behind the scenes, not only at the working of God but at the opposition God is facing in implementing His plan and delivering His people.
This appears in a most startling way in Daniel 10. Daniel has been praying intently and fasting for three weeks and was finally visited by an angel. The angel assured Daniel that his prayer was heard three weeks earlier, but there was a problem.
God’s intended quick response was significantly delayed by the activity of a certain evil cosmic power that the angel identified as “the prince of the kingdom of Persia,” who put up stiff resistance. It was only after Michael, “one of the chief princes,” came and entered into close combat and won, that the angel was able to relay to Daniel what was really going on.
In the worldview of the Old Testament, malevolent spirits can affect people and nations. Isaiah 19:14 says, “the Lord hath mingled a perverse spirit in the midst thereof” to cause the Egyptians to stagger as though drunken.
First Kings 22:21–23 refers to a “lying spirit” that was sent by the Lord’s heavenly council to deceive the false prophets of Ahab into telling him that he could safely wage war against Ramoth-Gilead, a prophecy that ultimately led to Ahab’s death (vss. 29–37). Though there are those who might attribute all irrational and strange human behavior to a brain lesion, a chemical imbalance, or some kind of psychiatric problem, the worldview of the Bible leads us to a different conclusion.
In this series, Lord willing, we will continue discussing this and other factors relating to Abraham and God’s covenant with the Jewish people involving Israel. God has done several things in the ongoing battle with dark forces to preserve and encourage the Jewish people. The Abrahamic Covenant was part of God’s battle plan to keep His covenant promises on track despite the anti-Semitism and rage against the people of Israel.
The church, which during the age of grace, is an important part of God’s dealings with Abraham and his descendants, is empowered by the Holy Spirit who was poured forth upon the church during Pentecost (Acts 2). Likewise, the Millennial Temple is part of the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant.
Though Amillennialists and replacement theologians try to allegorize it, they have missed the whole point of the Abrahamic Covenant. In the absence of a literal Millennial Temple, the Abrahamic Covenant would be like a football game that is unfinished.