Monday, February 25, 2013
In Search Of Truth, Genesis 12:1-7
Yahweh (the personal name of God indicated in English Bibles by the all caps "LORD") was commanding something requiring significant sacrifice and trust on the part of Abram. To obey God, Abram had to leave his father's house and his home country to go to a new, unfamiliar land that God had given almost no details about.
In the ancient world, a man's identity was in his father's household, along with his inheritance. By leaving his father's home and land, Abram was giving up his rights to any inheritance or family property.
Abram probably also encountered resistance or at least a lack of support from his father, Terah, who did not worship Yahweh (Joshua 24:2) and so would not have understood or believed that Abram was doing the right thing.
God makes a string of massive promises to Abram. Abram would become a great nation, God would bless Abram and make his name "great", meaning in the Hebrew that Abram would become famous, important, powerful and/or do great things. And because of this, Abraham would be a blessing to others as well.
God also promised to support Abram, blessing his allies and cursing his enemies. Finally, through Abram, "all the families of the earth shall be blessed."
This last phrase is of particular apologetic value to me. In other words, I think it provides compelling evidence for the existence of God and his unique involvement with Israel. Moses, who wrote Genesis, never could have predicted the hugely significant role that Israel would play in world history, and certainly couldn't have predicted that Israel would produce Jesus, whose life radically altered cultures around the world and whose death and resurrection make it possible for all to have eternal life.
In order to deny the significance of this prediction, one has to cling to ideas, like the Documentary Hypothesis, which assume from the beginning that supernatural events are not possible, and ignore large amounts of archaeological evidence. Going this route also requires the assumption that the supposed later writers/editors of Genesis were expert historians with vast archaic cultural and linguistic knowledge and were also intentionally deceitful. Neither of which is the testament of history.
So this promise given to Abram is one of many sources of evidence and encouragement for my faith, which is vital to my day to day life. Vital because living the life God has envisioned for us requires faith. It requires trusting that it will be worth it to give up something now to gain something much better later. The same thing that Abram was willing to do in this passage. Faith seems repeatedly to be God's "love language", as everything he says to his people can virtually be boiled down to "Trust me. Trust that my way is the best way."
Abram trusted God, packed up everything he had, brought his wife, nephew and those working for him, and left for an unknown land. Unknown but inhabited.
Shechem was an important city in the middle of Canaan, and the Oak of Moreh was likely a giant oak that served as a well-known landmark. It was at this place that Yahweh told Abram that this land would belong to his offspring. An idea that, again, required faith to believe, given that the land was already inhabited by the Canaanites. If Abram's descendants were going to inherit this land, God would either need to miraculously remove the Canaanites... or there was some serious conflict and difficulty ahead.
Even so, Abram built an altar to Yahweh. In the ancient world, altars were built as either sacrificial platforms or to commemorate the beginning of worship of a new god in a new land. Since Yahweh had not given Abram any sacrificial instructions and Abram was entering places that were new to him as he traveled, the second possibility seems more likely.
Abram left security behind and willingly embraced a future that would likely be difficult, all because he trusted that in the end, God's way would yield the most pleasure, fulfillment and purpose.
Last week we looked at relationships, and how they require effort and sacrifice to invest in. And yet they are part of God's intended design for our lives.
I look at Abram's faith and it strikes me as immense. But the way in which God used him is beyond immense. It's unquantifiable. His life is one we can come back to again and again as we face the sacrifice of a geeky pleasure or loss of security in order to better live for Christ. Whatever that thing may be that God wants us to set down or prioritize less, the reward for trusting him in that is something so vast and long-lasting we can't possibly measure it.