We are usually comfortable within our tribe of family members and close friends who love us, nurture us and are there for us. A tribe, in case you never stopped to think about it, is defined as a social division in a traditional society consisting of families or communities linked by social, economic, religious, or blood ties, with a common culture and dialect, typically having a recognized leader. When push comes to shove, so to speak, “blood is thicker than water”. This phrase came to be when family, even those who don’t get along, come to the aid of someone in their tribe is being attacked from outside the tribe. It is the human condition.
So, then—who is your tribe, those you can trust and depend on when you have troubles? Who quickly comes to your side when you are needing assistance in huge projects? Here is the real test—who will come and help you move from one house to another? These people are your real tribe!
How does a group of people (tribe) come together? It usually begins by being born or adopted (chosen) into your family. If you are the first born, you are given more responsibilities. The first born naturally takes care of the needs of subsequent children born to the family. The first born is favored by the parents somewhat because of the greater responsibilities and expectations given to them to help the family.
Being first born carries the weight of promoting the tribe’s culture, customs and tradition, the stewardship (management) of the family along with expectations of modeling the standards of the given tribe. We learn from Genesis, the beginning of the nation of God’s people through Abraham’s generational line. We will watch the rise and fall of the successors responsible in fulfilling God’s promise to Abraham.
Remember God’s promise? (Recap)
At 75 years old, Abraham is introduced in Genesis 11:26 under the genealogy of Shem, who was Noah’s first-born son. However, he had lived his entire life to this point (and then some) as Abram. It was the Lord who later changed his name to Abraham, which means, “father of many.” Indeed, Abram became Abraham, a patriarch of great renown, and it all started with a promise.
God’s Promise to Abraham
Abraham’s story picks up with his family settling in Haran, which today would be the country of Turkey. It is here, after the death of his father, God’s call and promise to Abraham is first recorded. Even so, one of Jesus’ disciples, Stephen, indicated that this call on Abraham’s life happened many years prior.
Stephen said, “The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran and said to him, ‘Go out from your land and from your kindred and go into the land that I will show you’” (Acts 7:2-3, ESV).
It is unclear whether or not the promise attached to this call was simply recorded here, in Haran, after being previously given, or if it was actually given for the first time after the family had moved from their homeland in Mesopotamia. Either way, the timing isn’t all that important. It’s the promise itself, along with Abraham’s resulting faith to obey, that matters.
With that in mind, God’s promise to Abraham was as follows,
“Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3, ESV).
This was an incredible promise, setting into motion the greatest testimony of God’s sovereignty and providence the world has ever seen. What came next, is the unfolding and expanding of such a promise, throughout the remaining chapters and books of Scripture.
What we see here, was just a glimpse. If you are just “tuning in” to this reading a chapter a day in the story of God and His people you might want to go back and catch up on how the “tribes” are formed. The greatness of God through His people cannot be matched!
Genesis 25, The Message
1-2 Abraham married a second time; his new wife was named Keturah. She gave birth to Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah.
3 Jokshan had Sheba and Dedan.
Dedan’s descendants were the Asshurim, the Letushim, and the Leummim.
4 Midian had Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abida, and Eldaah—all from the line of Keturah.
5-6 But Abraham gave everything he possessed to Isaac. While he was still living, he gave gifts to the sons he had by his concubines, but then sent them away to the country of the east, putting a good distance between them and his son Isaac.
7-11 Abraham lived 175 years. Then he took his final breath. He died happy at a ripe old age, full of years, and was buried with his family. His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah in the field of Ephron son of Zohar the Hittite, next to Mamre. It was the field that Abraham had bought from the Hittites. Abraham was buried next to his wife Sarah. After Abraham’s death, God blessed his son Isaac. Isaac lived at Beer Lahai Roi.
The Family Tree of Ishmael
12 This is the family tree of Ishmael son of Abraham, the son that Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s maid, bore to Abraham.
13-16 These are the names of Ishmael’s sons in the order of their births: Nebaioth, Ishmael’s firstborn, Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah—all the sons of Ishmael. Their settlements and encampments were named after them. Twelve princes with their twelve tribes.
17-18 Ishmael lived 137 years. When he breathed his last and died he was buried with his family. His children settled down all the way from Havilah near Egypt eastward to Shur in the direction of Assyria. The Ishmaelites didn’t get along with any of their kin.
Jacob and Esau
19-20 This is the family tree of Isaac son of Abraham: Abraham had Isaac. Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan Aram. She was the sister of Laban the Aramean.
21-23 Isaac prayed hard to God for his wife because she was barren. God answered his prayer and Rebekah became pregnant. But the children tumbled and kicked inside her so much that she said, “If this is the way it’s going to be, why go on living?” She went to God to find out what was going on. God told her,
Two nations are in your womb,
two peoples butting heads while still in your body.
One people will overpower the other,
and the older will serve the younger.
24-26 When her time to give birth came, sure enough, there were twins in her womb. The first came out reddish, as if snugly wrapped in a hairy blanket; they named him Esau (Hairy). His brother followed, his fist clutched tight to Esau’s heel; they named him Jacob (Heel). Isaac was sixty years old when they were born.
27-28 The boys grew up. Esau became an expert hunter, an outdoorsman. Jacob was a quiet man preferring life indoors among the tents. Isaac loved Esau because he loved his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.
29-30 One day Jacob was cooking a stew. Esau came in from the field, starved. Esau said to Jacob, “Give me some of that red stew—I’m starved!” That’s how he came to be called Edom (Red).
31 Jacob said, “Make me a trade: my stew for your rights as the firstborn.”
32 Esau said, “I’m starving! What good is a birthright if I’m dead?”
33-34 Jacob said, “First, swear to me.” And he did it. On oath Esau traded away his rights as the firstborn. Jacob gave him bread and the stew of lentils. He ate and drank, got up and left. That’s how Esau shrugged off his rights as the firstborn.
WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?
God’s Promise Fulfilled
While Abraham ended up having two sons, it was his son Isaac who fathered Jacob, and Jacob who fathered 12 sons of his own. These 12 sons grew to become the 12 tribes of Israel. A great and mighty nation.
Esau, first born of the paternal twins, gave over his rights and responsibilities to Jacob. What drama! Who says God’s Word is not exciting? When the story involves God and His created, anything can happen—and does! Esau’s hunger ranked higher than his first-born rights! He easily gave them up over a bowl of stew! There’s more to the story as we will learn in the days ahead.
At the same time, Ishmael was not completely void of God’s blessing, as the Lord explained further,
“And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year” (Genesis 17:20-21).
Two sons, two mighty nations, just as God had promised. But what about the other promises? Stay tuned…
What is the responsibility I have in my tribe? How seriously do I fulfill that responsibility given to me? What is God asking of me as members of His tribe, followers of His Son? How I respond reflects what I believe about God. Read, think, pray, live.
Your promises to us are true for our tribes of those we love. You promised a Savior. You loved us so much you sent your one and only Son to save us. You loved us so much you sent Your Holy Spirit to guide us on our journey of growing faith and trust in You. Your promises are true, unchanging and steadfast all because of your relentless love and compassion for us. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” No one. I trust in you, dear Jesus. I trust in your care and guidance. Thank you for saving me and making me whole while consistently working on and in me to be who you created me to be and do.
In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen