Speaking of Life 2029 | The Roots of Promise
Genesis 18:1 records a famous exchange between Abraham and God. And it gives us a pretty clear setting:
“And the Lord appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day.” Genesis 18:1 (ESV)
This is the famous site where Abraham had his bizarre meeting with the three strangers, and when God promised him a child. Today there is a site near there with an ancient tree that some believe to be the tree itself that Abraham leaned up against as the three strangers appeared.
The tree is estimated to be about 5,000 years old and has been a location for religious pilgrims for both Christians and Jews for centuries. Like many pilgrimage sites, it has also been a flash point in politics and geography, and disputed by historians as to its authenticity. It has also been exploited for gain by the surrounding merchants and villages.
So, is it the tree where Abraham and Sarah languished, waiting for God’s promise? Maybe, maybe not. One thing we can learn from this event is that our faith is rooted in history. Biblical history is not an abstract group of timeless ideas, but a story carved out in a very human world. A world that eventually Jesus came to—to live in a working-class family on the not-so-great side of town.
As the old, gnarled roots of this tree reach into the ground, so the roots of our faith reach into flesh-and-blood history. God himself entered our history with all its political rivalries and squabbles and exploitation and selfishness. As the tree has weathered thousands of storms and seasons, so has the church, which is God’s foot on the ground in the earth. The church has weathered pressure from without and within and somehow managed to continue to stand-by God’s sheer grace.
God in Christ entered our ridiculous world and risked misunderstanding, misrepresentation, misuse, and finally risked death itself. He knew our response to him would be woefully imperfect, and yet he still came. He still walked into the story, maybe even walked right under the branches of that tree.
Jesus Christ broke history. He broke the endless cycle of offense and revenge, the dog-eat-dog survival of the fittest and instead brought us forgiveness, grace, and love. Even though he knew what lay ahead, he walked in because he loves to love.
Do we live like that today? Do we live as children of the God who broke into the world in real time and said I will redeem all of this? His word is truth. Like this old tree, older than any of us. God’s love for you is tough, strong, real and—despite everything—still standing. That is his promise.
I’m Greg Williams, Speaking of Life.