The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. 2 “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.[a] 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”[b]
4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. 5 He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.
6 Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. 7 The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring[c] I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.
8 From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord. 9 Then Abram set out and continued toward the Negev.
Our First Adventurer
Abraham is perhaps the Bible’s first epic hero. While Enoch was righteous, and Noah certainly endured some trials, Abraham is our first figure who stays multiple chapters through the Old Testament through his grand adventure.
As we mentioned in a previous post, there is something noble about the traveler, the adventurer. Abel’s vocation of tending to sheep no doubt made him nomadic, always traveling in order to give his flock fresh fields to graze upon, and this way of life required of Abel to be brave against predators and trusting in God for sustenance. We shall see how Abraham follows in this noble endeavor of nomadism and travel.
Later in chapter 12, we read how Abraham gets into some trouble, settling in the land of Egypt, wherein there is a spirit of jealousy and thievery instead of a spirit of hospitality. Abraham and his family are beset by trouble initially, perhaps even making some unwise decisions in his venture, but not without trusting in God throughout.
The focus of this chapter, however, that I think is important for us to focus on is the element of sacrifice and of a distant promise.
The Epic Tale With No End In Sight
Abraham is told by God that he should rise and go to a distant land and that God will bless him and will make him into a great nation. We hear words like this repeated throughout Abraham’s adventure, wherein God promises to Abraham his offspring will be countless, and his nation will be blessed. However, many of us already know the ending of the story: Abraham sees none of this. In fact, Abraham begins to doubt it at all as he and his wife are having trouble conceiving.
What is good for the reader, and difficult for Abraham, is this testimony that what we see in front of us tends to take up our whole scope of eternity and that many of us will never be able to see in our earthly lives how we affect the world. Abraham indeed is made into a great nation, and more than that helps establish a great foundation for the entire world: the Church. Israel becomes a beacon for the rest of the world to the truth of God and the precepts that man is to follow–we are reading Genesis now to uncover and understand our own human condition. Israel passes this torch to the Church when the Son of God becomes incarnate through Abraham’s bloodline, and brings salvation, transformation, and resurrection to all the world.
Abraham knows none of this. He is given a vague covenant that encourages him to continue on, though in his earthly life he will never see this great nation, and until Christ’s death and resurrection he does not have any understanding of the cosmic impact he has on everything.
Such is the case for us. Many of us are disheartened by the circumstances we endure, the trials we face, perhaps even a sense of purposelessness or defeat. Our hearts and souls are crushed when we think of how we labor in vain when all we accomplish falls apart in front of us.
Yet, there are cosmic repercussions for all our actions, and this impact holds more weight to the degree that we respond to the call. Should we consecrate our thoughts, our hearts, and actions, should we ask God for discernment and direction to our lives, we shall find it. That being said, the journey we will find ourselves on as a result will be tumultuous, perilous. And yet what adventure do we enjoy reading/hearing/watching that doesn’t involve some trials?
The peril we encounter is indicative of a holy path. The listlessness we feel when we are stagnant is a call to adventure. But all along the way, we are to ask God for discernment as to what His plan is for us, how we might leave a cosmic footprint according to His will and plan for us.
Setting God’s Table
The second piece of this story is that of sacrifice. Abraham makes two altars in his journey and on these makes sacrifice.
Sacrifice is a multi-fold action:
- It is a banquet we invite and entertain our divine host into.
- It is an act of gratitude for what we have been given, by giving something up.
- It is a leap of trust and faith, immolating something that perhaps would have served ourselves in value or in sustenance.
- It is the reorienting of the mind and heart to the heavens, refocusing us not on the here and now, but the transcendent, that we may remember our Creator and Sustainer, remember our role as steward, and look to eternity instead of the transient.
Abraham shows hospitality to God, inviting Him on the journey through this sacrifice, “setting the table” for Him (an altar is fashioned as a table, and food offerings are by far the most common sacrifice). Abraham expresses gratitude to God for being called, for sustaining him on the adventure even early on, reminding himself of what he has instead of paying mind to any difficulty or uncertainty. Abraham shows how he is “all in” with this covenant to God, giving up material comforts and sustenance to trust that God will give him what he needs. Abraham makes sure not to make this adventure human-centered but relies on God in this adventure (…well, he might waver in this a little along the way, even as early as his trip to Egypt).
For now, what I’d like us to focus on is the gratitude and trust piece. In our own vocation, calling, adventure, it is important we take inventory of what we have, and it is important we not become too confident in our own sole abilities, take on the world alone, or fall into the trap of a sense of control. Over the big feelings and crisis and over the mundane tasks, we must give these things to God, in sacrifice and praise. And just as Abraham leaves “milestones” through these altars, holy sites to remind him and others of God’s faithfulness, we ought to become creative as to how to create some of these milestones ourselves, these markings that bear testimony to the blessings in our lives, to God’s visitation to us.
Today, consider the following
- How have I invited God into my life? Am I afraid of asking Him to give me work?
- What can I make or sacrifice as a testimony to God’s blessing in my life?
- Do I feel a sense of direction in my life or a feeling of listlessness? What is my direction? How can I combat this listlessness?