Reason and Sensibility: A Meditation from Abraham’s Life

There seems to be a different approach and response to our challenges that are addressed with sensibility and reason compared to challenges that are fraught with complications and perplexities that require something more of us. One defaults to good sense in the context of faith and the other an acquiescence to the providence of God beyond reason and sensibility.

When Abraham left his comfortable life in the Fertile Crescent, it was complicated, complex and very unsettling. The total destruction of two neighboring cities right before his eyes was an astounding and confusing experience for him. Years later, the offering up of Isaac is no less the most perplexing divine directive ever recorded in human history. In these three very complicated and perplexing circumstances, nothing remained for Abraham but to surrender to the provisional understanding that God knows what He is doing regardless of how unreasonable it seems. These types of experiences although noteworthy and recorded for our benefit should not be considered the normal way God expects us to approach and respond to challenges in life. If this were the case, our lives would be overwhelming and disquieted: a peaceful life would be illusive and infrequent.

Mostly, Abraham managed his life in a very sensible and reasonable way. There are many, but one strong example of this is revealed when he struck a very favorable treaty with a neighboring Philistine dignitary. Abraham was living a nomadic life and wanted a more permanent and less stressful lifestyle. He also had a grievance with the neighboring king’s servants: Abraham’s employees would dig a well, a very important asset in the region at the time, and the king’s servants would fill them up, rendering them unusable. Abraham’s sensibilities and knowing what was expected and reasonable to give and receive created the mood to strike a favorable agreement.

The treaty stopped the well stoppers and ensured a quiet non-nomadic life for years to come. In return Abraham paid taxes to the King, but without the expected rendering of servitude and homage to the King Abimelech:something that Abraham could or would never do because of his faithfulness and worship to God. After the treaty was finalized, Abraham planted a grove of trees dedicated to honoring God.

One long-ago prominent church teacher wrote, “When we hope nothing from God but what our senses can perceive, we owe God the highest honor for His intervention, when in affairs of perplexity, we nevertheless entirely acquiesce to His providence.”

Joseph C. Hutchison, Rochester Hills, Michigan 2020

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