Friday, June 24, 2011

When God Calls: Part I

Václav (Wencelaus) Hollar, "God Calls Abraham"
The Call of Abraham (Genesis 12)

The overarching theme of the book of Genesis is one of the Lord as Creator; of the One with Whom all things are possible (cf. Matthew 19:26), as the One Who makes all things out of nothing. He fashions us, humankind, after His own image and likeness, and gradually over time, in spite of our refusal to His invitation to life with Him, the Lord begins through His call to Abram--whom the Lord would rename "Abraham"-- to fashion us into a nation, a people, and ultimately on earth into the Body of Christ, destined in eternity to be nothing less than His bride!

Just as the Lord called Adam and Eve into being, the call of Abraham is nothing less than a call to life and to covenant with the Lord. The Lord asks much of Abraham: to obey His command to leave the land and the people he has known all of his life. But the Lord promises in return infinitely more than what He asks. The Lord promises Abraham, who is 75 years old, something beyond human reason: his wife, Sarah, is also old and is barren, yet the Lord promises Abraham an heir, and to make of him through that son “a great nation.”

Abraham was called to leave his land and his people—and to set off for an unknown land. While he did not go alone, taking his wife, his nephew Lot, his servants, and all of his possessions, at his age, Abraham would hardly be able to defend himself and those with him if anyone should attack them on the way. Did he at his age have the strength even to make a journey of an unknown length, and then to resettle wherever his journey eventually took him?

Nevertheless, Abraham’s response to the Lord's command was one of immediate obedience, without question. There is no specific statement on what motivated Abraham, but it is clear that he, like Noah before him, took God at His word. When Abraham set out on the journey, he knew God only through His voice, in the hearing of a command. Later, God appeared to Abraham, to specifically tell him that it was the land of the Canaanites that God would give to him and to his descendants. Abraham's response was in kind: to build an altar; to offer sacrifice and worship to the God who had revealed Himself to Abraham. Again later, Abraham builds another altar, this time initiating the relationship, in calling upon the name of the Lord. As part of his journey ever closer to the land which God has promised, Abraham also draws closer to the Lord, eventually putting aside his doubts and fears and attaining an ever greater faith and trust in the Lord as his provider.

Václav (Wencelaus) Hollar, "God Promises Abraham"
The call of the Lord completely changed Abraham's life and his destiny-- because Abraham said "yes," acknowledging the Lord as God. Before receiving the Lord's command to leave his land and his people, Abraham likely lived a very predictable life, one to which he had likely resigned himself. His wife was barren, and we can well imagine that Abraham mourned this, but on some level had accepted it, perhaps living a life of “quiet desperation.” But now, on his journey with God, Abraham lived a life full of uncertainty and anxiety--- but also, for the first time, one of great expectation and hope!

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