Genesis 12:5 records an event early in the life of Abraham. It says,
And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan.
Although the ESV glosses over this unusual text, more literal translations such as the King James version reveal an underlying problem with interpretation. The King James says, “And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran” (emphasis added). The problem is understanding what they had “acquired” or “gotten” in Haran. The Hebrew behind this phrase is וְאֶת־הַנֶּפֶשׁ אֲשֶׁר־עָשׂוּ בְחָרָן — literally, “and the souls they had made in Haran.” This is the same verb used for the construction of the various components of the Tabernacle and its service. For instance, “They shall make an ark of acacia wood” 1 or “You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold” 2 or “you shall make a veil of blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen.” 3 It is the same word found in the prohibition against idol making: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” 4 In light of this particular wording, that Abraham and Sarah “made” souls in Haran, the midrash tells us that these people were actually disciples or proselytes. 5 In other words, Abraham didn’t just purchase slaves or servants in Haran. He made disciples.
Whether these “souls” were full proselytes just whole-hearted followers of Abraham and his God is to be debated. However, the Bible specifically records just two chapters later that Abraham took 318 of these “trained men,” who were “born in his house” into battle against Lot’s captors. The Hebrew word for “trained men” means “follower” coming from the root, חנך (chanak), meaning “dedicated.” It’s the same root from which we get the word “Hanukkah” (Dedication). These “dedicated followers” were “born” into Abraham’s house. With these evidences it is not a stretch to say that because of their relationship with Abraham they experienced a spiritual rebirth which gave them the dedication to follow Abraham even unto death. Abraham invested into others. Abraham was a disciple-maker.
It was for this reason that the Almighty specifically chose Abraham to be called out from among his people. The LORD said, “For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice” (Genesis 18:19). Please note: not only does is say that Abraham will teach his children, but that he will also teach “his household.” Abraham proved these words to be true not only with Isaac, but with his 318 disciples as well.
“I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” — Genesis 22:17,18
The Father of Faith
Who is this man upon whom the three monotheistic religions of the world are based? Who is this man called “friend of God” (James 2:23), the one whom we call “Abraham Avinu” (“Our Father Abraham”)? Who is this mere mortal by which the King of the Universe defines Himself?
The One, True, Living God — the God of the Bible — is known as the “God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” He initially reveals Himself to this man Abraham as אל שדי (“El Shaddai“) — “God Almighty” or the “All Sufficient God.” However, His first self-designation, to anyone other than Abraham is that of “God of Abraham” (Genesis 26:24) He identifies Himself in relationship to this one man whom He called out from among his brethren to become the singular person through whom all humanity will be blessed. The Holy One is also known as the “Shield of Abraham,” from His promise to Abraham which states, “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield” (Genesis 15:1). In any case, God has inseparably wrapped Himself up in this man named Abraham.
Abraham is probably best known as the “Father of Faith,” a title which has been bestowed upon him because of how he exemplifies one who is trustworthy in all things. Both Paul and the author of Hebrews refer to him in similar terms. In one instance, Paul refers to him as “Abraham, the man of faith” (Galatians 3:9). In both his epistle to the Romans and to the Galatians, Paul makes the argument that besides the physical descendants of Abraham, all those who trust in Yeshua (Jesus) are considered spiritual children of Abraham because they model Abraham by responding to their calling through faith. Thus Abraham is “the father of all who believe” (Romans 4:11). (more…)
A week ago this past Sunday I spoke at a couple of services at Mt. Vernon Baptist Church here in central Arkansas. My family and I were warmly received and had a very positive experience. I had met the pastor around ten years ago when my design company developed some branding, CD artwork and a website for his evangelistic ministry. Since that time he took on the pastorate where he has been serving for the last four years.
Over the last few months he and I have had an opportunity to catch up, because a good friend of mine has been helping serve at his church. I also found out that he was friends with both the pastor and youth pastor of our church as well. Our discussions lead to us discussing the basic need for the church to have a greater commitment and to be educated in the ways of the Lord. In one word, “discipleship.” They have two morning services to which I was invited to speak. I laid forth my Four Primary Responsibilities of A Disciple of Yeshua (Jesus):
Here is about three-quarters of my message. Unfortunately, the audio is not the greatest quality (it was pulled from a video from the back of the sanctuary) and it is incomplete. However, it will give you an idea of the things I shared and may raise some questions worth pondering and discussing. It is available both as streaming audio or as an mp3 download. I would welcome any feedback you might have.
Question: What do you think the main problem in the church today is? Ignorance or Apathy?
Answer: I Don’t Know… and… I Don’t Care
I had forgotten about this when I posted my article on Failed Discipleship earlier. It is a prime example of how we have succeeded at creating church members, but failed at creating disciples. Listen to this first-hand, gut-level honesty of a minister explain why they are canceling EVERYTHING at their church due to Lack of Interest:
One day a ten year old boy came home with a note from his teacher. The note said,
“We are concerned that your child is illiterate. Can we have a parent-teacher conference?”
The next morning before school the mother stormed into the class room, slammed the note down on the teacher’s desk, looked her straight in the eye and said,
“I’ll have you know, I was married two years before little Ricky was born!”
That said, I have to call a spade a spade. The plague of biblical illiteracy is upon us. We must “take arms against a sea of troubles, and thus by opposing, end them.” But as long as we accept them, they will exist and persist.
“Americans revere the Bible – but, by and large, they don’t read it. And because they don’t read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates.” – George Gallup and Jim Castelli
How bad is it? Here is a list of results from various surveys…
Fewer than half of all adults can name the four gospels
Many professing Christians cannot identify more than two or three of the disciples
60 percent of Americans can’t name even five of the Ten Commandments
82 percent of Americans believe “God helps those who help themselves” is a Bible verse
12 percent of adults believe that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife
A survey of graduating high school seniors revealed that over 50 percent thought that Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife
A considerable number of respondents to one poll indicated that the Sermon on the Mount was preached by Billy Graham
I’ve personally heard the following:
Is Galatians in the Old or New Testament?
Wasn’t Jacob the guy who got swallowed by the whale?
That’s a book of the Bible?
ALL of the disciples were Jewish?
And many more, that I can’t remember at the moment (and some which are too embarrassing to share).
Let’s face the facts: “Increasingly, America is biblically illiterate.” (A quote by George Barna.) And people like George Barna tend to blame churches, pastors and youth pastors. But is it really their problem? Isn’t the problem the mothers and fathers of the children, who are commissioned to teach their children (read the book of Deuteronomy — Book #5 in the biblical lineup, in case you need help — it’s a constant theme) the Bible and biblical values? We have not only failed on a personal level by not engaging the biblical record ourselves, but we have failed the generations of our children, grandchildren and all future generations.
We have a breakdown in the process of discipleship. In order to be a true Disciple of Yeshua (Jesus), we must imitate him. But in order to imitate him, we must know his life and message. In order to know his life and message, we must understand his teachings. In order to understand his teachings, we must have a very good understanding of the Bible he used: the Tanak (a.k.a. the “The Old Testament.” And in order to properly understand the Tanak, we must first understand God’s initial self-disclosure to humanity found in the Torah (or the “Pentateuch” — Genesis through Deuteronomy).
Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr (president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) sums it up quite well by saying:
We will not believe more than we know, and we will not live higher than our beliefs. The many fronts of Christian compromise in this generation can be directly traced to biblical illiteracy in the pews and the absence of biblical preaching and teaching in our homes and churches.
Again, this requires effort to correct.
“A person wants to become a scholar and a leader overnight, and to sleep that night as well.”
—Rabbi Yaizel of Navorodock
If we expect to be good disciples sheerly by osmosis, we are sorely mistaken. It requires an investment.
Start your investment today, so that you will have dividends you can enjoy tomorrow.
Description: The Four Responsibilities of a Disciple addresses the question, "What will it take to change the world for our Master?" After many years of searching, my answer is that it has to start with you and me. Too many times we want to go out and change the world and start off by trying to "fix" everyone else. But the path to permanent, lasting, sustainable change has to begin with ourselves. Yes, we should be working to change the world, but it must begin with ourselves. In order to "make disciples" as our Master tells us in The Great Commission, we first have to become disciples ourselves. A glimpse at the true meaning of a Disciple from a biblically Hebraic perspective.