For the week of October 23, 2004 / 8 Heshvan 5765
Torah: Bereshit / Genesis 12:1 - 17:27
Haftarah: Isaiah 40:27 - 41:16
The Risk of Faith
The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you" (Bereshit / Genesis 12:1).
The first book of the Bible is commonly referred to as "Genesis," which mean "beginnings." The Hebrew name is "Bereshit" which is the first word of the book: translated into English it is "in the beginning." Genesis is a book of beginnings. This week's portion is about the beginning of the unfolding of God's plan to resolve the predicament our first parents got us into.
By God's right he could have completely destroyed the human race through the Flood of Noah's day, but he didn't. He chose rather to restart the human project by preserving Noah and his family.
It would be some time later that God would begin to reveal his plan of salvation by calling Abram (whose name God would eventually change to Abraham). Throughout history there have been a great number of attempts to significantly change our quality of life on earth. These causes or movements have had a wide range of effects on our existence. But only what we may call the "Abraham movement" is God's true solution for the human predicament.
Perhaps the most notable quality of Abraham's life is that of faith. From the start of his relationship with God his trusting in God was central. (Note that the words "faith" and "trust" in the original languages of the Bible are the same. Therefore I use them interchangeably.)
There is something found in this first interaction between Abraham and God that is foundational for any life which desires to truly know God. Many years later the prophet Habakkuk would say, "the righteous will live by his faith" (Habakkuk 2:4). Faith is not a religious commitment, nor is it something that is simply thought inside our minds. Faith is a way of life. Faith was the way of Abraham's life. And the only way to truly live life is to trust in God in the way Abraham did.
Look how the life of faith begins for Abraham. He was to leave what was familiar and journey into the unknown. It is important to understand that it wasn't the risk factor itself that set Abraham apart, but that he took this risk in obedience to God's directive. At the same time, if we study faith in the lives of other Bible characters we would see that God would often lead them into the unexpected, the unfamiliar, and the unknown.
Moses, for example, was called to speak on God's behalf, both to his own people and to the King of Egypt, after running for his life and living as a shepherd in the wilderness for forty years. He was required to trust God for miraculous signs and wonders of the magnitude that he himself had never experienced before. David too was a shepherd, called to be King, having not grown up in a royal family. Eliyahu HaNavi (English: Elijah the Prophet) predicted such incredible dramatic things that if God had not come through for him, he would have been left looking like an idiot.
Everything in us resists the call into the risky places of faith. We would rather rely upon our own abilities and knowledge, preferring to remain in the familiar surroundings we are used to, where we think we know how to handle life. Yet God regularly calls us away from the familiar situations and to those places like Abraham where we must rely upon God.
I wonder how many of us have resisted the call to be part of the Abraham movement, because we refused to let go of those familiar things in which we find security. Is it possible that as a result we could be missing the opportunity to know God's blessing and to be a blessing like Abraham? It all depends on what God is saying to you.
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