For the week of November 8, 2008 / 10 Heshvan 5769
Torah: Bereshit / Genesis 12:1 - 17:27
Haftarah: Isaiah 40:27 - 41:16
Journey to the Unknown
Now the LORD said to Abram, 'Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you.' (Bereshit / Genesis 12:1; ESV)
The story of Abraham is foundational for our understanding of biblical spirituality. The first eleven chapters of the Torah vividly explain the human predicament. The reason why life is not all it should be is because our first parents disobeyed God. The reason why we could live on such a beautiful planet, yet be surrounded by violent conflict, sickness, and death is because Adam and Eve chose to do their own thing rather than submit to God's ways.
Bereshit / Genesis 3:15 records God's words to the serpent who tempted Eve to transgress the one restriction that God gave to her and her husband: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel" (Bereshit / Genesis 3:15). This is the first Messianic promise in the Bible: a descendent of Eve would one day destroy evil at a great cost to himself.
It is not until chapter 12 that the outworking of this promise begins to take shape. God calls an old childless man and tells him that he would make him into a great nation through whom blessing would come to the whole world. This promise is the essence of what the New Covenant Scriptures call the good news: "And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel (the good news) beforehand to Abraham, saying, 'In you shall all the nations be blessed'" (Galatians 3:8; ESV). The purpose of God's call upon Abraham was not ultimately for his descendants alone, but for all nations.
Abraham's trust in God's promises stands in contrast to Adam and Eve's disobedience. While Abraham himself is not the promised deliverer, he was foundational in the outworking of God's plan of salvation. Not only is Abraham called the friend of God (see Isaiah 41:8), he is also the father of all who truly trust in the Messiah (see Galatians 3:7). He then is an example of what true faith really is. There is so much we can learn about what faith is all about by looking at Abraham's life.
To begin with, Abraham, or Abram as he was called at this point of his life, was called by God to leave his homeland and relatives to go to the land that God would show him. He was to leave all he was familiar with and journey into the unknown. It is not as if he didn't know the geographical destination to which he was headed. In the previous chapter we read how along with his father they left their homeland to go to the land of Canaan, the region which would eventually be known as the Land of Israel. So Abraham knew that he was going to Canaan. Yet God had said that he was to "go to the land that I will show you." It wasn't so much the geographical destination that was unknown as much as the details of the journey.
True faith is a journey into the unknown. That the journey would include certain known items in some way makes it a greater challenge. When we are in situations that are completely foreign to us, we tend to have no expectations and are highly aware of our need of help. But when we are in unfamiliar situations in which we have some grasp of what is going, we have a tendency to rely on what we think we know. This fools us into thinking that we can effectively rely on ourselves, instead of upon God. Also, that we are not always aware of the depths of the unknown into which we are called prevents us from relying on God the way we should. God never reveals all the details of life. He gives us just enough to lead us in his ways, but never enough to satisfy our desire to control our own lives. We need to learn, as Abraham did, to trust his word without having to know all the details - to journey into the unknown.
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