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Abram and his wife were full of years, but childless. God told his human friend in a vision that he would receive a great reward, but Abram was puzzled, because he had no blood heir, and had designated his steward Elizer of Damascus to inherit all that he had when he died. God assured him that his heir would be the fruit of his own loins. They went for a walk, and when it was night, God asked Abram to look at the stars and see if he could count them. So shall his descendants would be.

There are only about 6,000 stars visible to the unaided human eye but Abram got the idea. He trusted that God would do as he said, and God laid this trust to his account as righteousness. God agreed to reward Abram in this way, and Abram agreed to worship only God and trust that he would always do what he said he would do. This was the basis of the first covenant between God and man. And just as the covenant between God and all the living creatures of Earth was marked by the sign of the rainbow, the Abrahamic Covenant was marked by a very strange ritual where Abram took a cow, a goat, a ram and split their carcasses in two. Then a floating barbecue and a floating torch passed between those pieces.

Evangelicals today have a doctrine that says a person must accept Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior or they will burn in hell for all eternity. This leads to some difficult questions, such as, what about Abram? He never accepted Christ, but God took his trust that he would grant him blood heirs to qualify as righteousness. Jesus attested that Abram (Abraham) was in paradise by his parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. In reply, these Evangelicals claim that Abram’s faith was in a future Savior. He looked ahead in time to the Messiah, just as all the other Old Testament saints did (say the Evangelicals), where we look back.

But this is not found in the text without seriously mangling it. Abram had no need to anticipate a future Savior. God himself told him that he was his shield. The concept of a future Messiah did not appear in Judaism until their line of earthly kings had come to an end. It was a wish for the return of the “golden age” of David and Solomon. As for Abram, the head of a large nomadic clan and possessor of great riches, he was already living in the golden age as far as he was concerned. Abram did not pine away for “salvation” or an afterlife. He had lived a full and blessed life, he accepted that he was mortal, and the only thing left that God could promise him was that his name and his DNA would be carried into the future by a people who would live in the land of what could be termed “Greater Israel”, which was to extend from the east bank of the Nile to the west bank of the Euphrates.

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Strangers In Paradise