Genesis 21:22–34: The Callings of Abraham
Abraham has seen God work in powerful ways over the course of his life. God has spoken to him, made special promises to him, appeared to him, empowered him to overthrow great warriors, established a covenant with him, given him the covenant sign of circumcision, revealed to him his secret decrees, permitted him to intercede on behalf of Sodom, and given him a son in his old age. Through these events, we have seen the ups and the downs in Abraham’s life, as he sometimes walks by faith and other times does not. With every remarkable step, God has led him into a deeper relationship with himself.
What, though, has God accomplished during the ordinary times? We have previously noted that the extraordinary events do not all take place one after another. Sometimes many years pass before God reveals anything new to Abraham. As in the life of Jesus, the Scriptures simply do not tell us what happened during certain long periods of time. The text certainly suggests that Abraham (and Jesus) faithfully discharged their vocations (that is, their callings) during that time, whether as a husband, a father, and a rancher (Abraham), or as a son, a brother, and a carpenter (Jesus). Nevertheless, we typically do not get to see their ordinary faithfulness recorded for us in the text of Scripture until we arrive at Genesis 21:22–34. In this passage, we see one of the most mundane, ordinary interactions that we have encountered from the life of Abraham so far. Nevertheless, from this event we see that God is at work in a routine treaty negotiation just as much as he is at work in establishing covenants or overthrowing wicked cities. Even in the most ordinary circumstances of our lives, God sanctifies us through our vocations.
1. What vocations has God given you toward others? Brainstorm your relationships in family, friends, workplace, neighbors, and community. What does God intend to accomplish in these through your relationships? What does God intend to accomplish in you through your relationships with them? How should your vocation shape your prayers, attitudes and actions?
2. Is it possible to make idols of our relationships with other people: of our families, friends, or our career associates? How can we recognize when our relationships turn our first allegiance away from God? How do we love other people for God’s sake? Or, how can love and service toward our neighbors qualify as an act of loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength?
3. What has God promised us as his long-term plan for our lives? God promised to give Abraham the land of Canaan; what does he promise to give to us? What does God use in our lives to accomplish that work progressively over the course of time? How do trials prepare us for what God is doing? What might we do to keep our eyes focused on eternity in the present?
4. Why does God assign us vocations? Does God need something from us, or does he call us to our vocations for some other purpose? How do our vocations wean us off of our love for the world? How do our vocations increase our love for God? How does God use our ordinary vocations to accomplish deep work of sanctification over lifetimes in ways that we hardly notice?