Moving to consider Abraham and the early patriarchal community, one of the key things to note is that they do not yet possess the land. Unlike Eden in the past, and unlike Canaan in the future, at this stage there is no geopolitical dimension to God’s rule. Rather, as a pilgrim community, they must share a common world-stage with those who do not believe.
In this regard, what is significant is that while Abraham and the patriarchal community are indeed clearly shown to be religiously distinct, this is not so when it comes to matters of culture. To say it another way, they are religiously distinct, and yet culturally common.
This is further clarified as we read of the covenant that God made with Abraham. Unlike the Mosaic theocracy (where God’s people once again are in possession of a land), at this point the Abrahamic covenant is shown not to contain any instructions relating to Abraham’s activity in the common-grace realm. His place in culture was much as it had been before; both as he continues to involve himself in business with those around him (Gen. 23:16) and even as he is brought to interact with various kings (Gen. 20:17). This type of interaction, however, is very different from what happens in theocracy. Nevertheless, it is a sanctioned approach at this point of the story. Why is it sanctioned? There is a simple reason. God’s people don’t yet possess the land. In the next post we’ll further discuss the importance behind this idea. Stay tuned.