Then the Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.
– Genesis 18:17-19
“In King Lear (III:vii) there is a man who is such a minor character that Shakespeare has not given him even a name: he is merely ‘First Servant’. All the characters around him – Regan, Cornwall, and Edmund – have fine, longterm plans. They think they know how the story is going to end, and they are quite wrong. The servant has no such delusions. He has no notion how the play is going to go. But he understands the present scene. He sees an abomination (the blinding of old Gloucester) taking place. He will not stand it. His sword is out and pointed at his master’s breast in a moment: then Regan stabs him dead from behind. That is his whole part: eight lines all told. But if it were real life and not a play, that is the part it would be best to have acted.
“The doctrine of the Second Coming teaches us that we do not and cannot know when the world drama will end. The curtain may be rung down at any moment: say, before you have finished reading this paragraph. This seems to some people intolerably frustrating. So many things would be interrupted. Perhaps you were going to get married next month, perhaps you were going to get a rise next week: you may be on the verge of a great scientific discovery; you may be maturing great social and political reforms. Surely no good and wise God would be so very unreasonable as to cut all this short? Not NOW, of all moments!”
– C. S. Lewis, ‘The World’s Last Night’ (Emphasis, the author’s)
When you read the title and then you read the Scripture, you think, Abraham?! A minor Character?!
But what was Abraham’s accomplishments? He finally owned property late in life, in order to bury his wife, Sarah. Yes, he was wealthy. He had a lot of livestock and servants. He sent his servants to rescue Lot in Genesis 14. In the chapter, one of those unusual specific numbers is mentioned: 318 well-trained servants, born in Abraham’s household, went to the rescue. Abraham had more than 318 servants. I am sure he didn’t leave his flocks unattended.
No, Abraham only did one thing that caused him to stand out among the people of his time. The Scripture above said that he taught his household to do what was ‘right and just.’ Abraham was faithful to God.
Dr. Seuss wrote about an elephant in Horton Hatches the Egg. Horton’s oft repeated line was “An elephant faithful 100 percent.” That was Abraham. Spoiler Alert: Horton got eventual justice when the egg hatched and what popped out was an elephant-bird, a creature with some qualities of Mayzie, who laid the egg, and some qualities of Horton, who hatched the egg.
Abraham only had one son through Sarah, Isaac. He would die long before God’s promise to him was fulfilled, not just in the people of Israel, but in Jesus Christ. Was Abraham disappointed? Or did Abraham take one son to fulfill that promise as another test of his faith?
Now we come to Lewis’ quote. Lewis highlights a single minor character in the play, and Lewis lifts him to great heights. ‘First Servant’ saw injustice, went to avenge the injustice, and died without ever seeing the end of the play. That has been the epitaph of so many through the ages, but a noble epitaph, albeit, for too many, lonely and forgotten.
Lewis goes on in this essay, beyond what was quoted, to scoff at those who try to predict the end of the world. He also takes the role of ‘First Servant’ further in saying that none of the players in the play know how the play will end. Yet, in the Second Coming, we do. We don’t know when, so we must be ready. In God’s time, Jesus will come again. He will conquer. And He’ll bring His own to a New World.
When you read Lewis’ line about the end times may be before you finish reading this paragraph, did you stop, look up, and then continue reading? I did. The point of his essay is to be ready, at any time. The wedding, the rise (pay raise), the scientific discovery, and the social reform are all unnecessary at that point. All are made moot upon the return of Jesus.
I would be remiss if I did not mention Mother’s Day. In the history of histories (as Kevin Blackistone would say), mothers will often be cast as minor characters, but maybe only due to mothers not writing too many history books. All those heroes, and villains, in those history books had mothers.
My mother and I disagreed on a lot of things, too many to list, but one thing from the Scripture above stands out. My mother taught her three children to do what was right and just.
Happy Mother’s Day