Genesis 12-Sacrifices and Epilogue of the Adventure

Genesis 12:1-9

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. “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?

Genesis 5-The Blessed Life of Nomadism (Nomads)

The famous American Gothic painting, an evoking image of the banal sedentary life.

Genesis 5:1-5, 18-24;

This is the written account of Adam’s family line.

When God created mankind, he made them in the likeness of God. 2 He created them male and female and blessed them. And he named them “Mankind”[a] when they were created.

3 When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth. 4 After Seth was born, Adam lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters. 5 Altogether, Adam lived a total of 930 years, and then he died.

18 When Jared had lived 162 years, he became the father of Enoch. 19 After he became the father of Enoch, Jared lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters. 20 Altogether, Jared lived a total of 962 years, and then he died.

21 When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. 22 After he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. 23 Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years. 24 Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.

The Apple that fell a little further from the tree

Genealogies tend to be quick reads for me as the list of names and repetitive writing style used in conveying Biblical family trees is often dry and overwhelming to me. That being said, these trees are still important documents, and if we take some of these under a microscope we may end up finding some nuggets of truth.

Of the genealogy we read in Genesis 5, there was one particular figure that stood out to me: Enoch.

I’ve recently been encouraged to go through the apocryphal writing of the Book of Enoch. It’s a rather illustrative and fascinating “Old Testament” Book that tells of Enoch and the visions he had, such as those of heaven, hell, the underworld, angels, demons, and the like. It’s at times a difficult read, but you might be surprised what you find in there.

It is no surprise to me after going through Enoch that his name is given some attention in this family tree. It’s actually a curious thing to me how of all the sons of Adam Enoch is the only one mentioned as walking faithfully with God. We aren’t given details in this family tree as to what that looked like, but I thought we’d hone in on that little detail.

Reading through the laconic descriptions of this family tree is a bit disappointing at first, having to go through 7 generations before we hear something holy and good about Adam’s kin. Finally we hear about Enoch who walks faithfully with God, though it took us seven generations to get that accolade. As a father, that detail is a concerning one. I’m no more perfect than Adam, and to hear that even Seth is given no accolades and not even his grandchildren is a sobering message to me of how truly difficult it is to lead a blameless life.

walking faithfully

But what of this walking faithfully? Does that make Enoch blameless? Righteous? Perhaps neither, though the word choice of “walking faithfully” ought to grab our attention. The text could have merely described Enoch as “faithful” or used an entirely different word. Enoch is perhaps the first man given any accolades, and what is praised so simply is that he “walked faithfully”.

Walking implies movement, it is the opposite of stagnancy. There’s a number of possible interpretations of what that may have looked like. Perhaps Enoch left the settlements of his forefathers and traveled. Perhaps his relationship with God was not that of rote ritual and professed belief, but action. Perhaps he endeavored to adventure in his relationship with God, further than any of his forefathers. Perhaps he simply took walks and gave some sacred time to God in quiet contemplation.

What seems to be a constant theme of the noble Biblical characters is that of travel. Abraham left his father’s home and traveled to different countries and lands, hearing from God as he traveled. Joseph left his father’s land and became something great in Egypt. Moses and the Israelites ventured for a long time then after Egypt. Jonah travels to a distant land to preach repentance. Jesus, the Son of God, seems to have never had much stagnancy at all since His Birth and infancy, and this is repeated throughout the Gospels as Jesus tells us “a prophet is never welcome in his own hometown” and “foxes have dens, and birds of nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest.”

But let us venture all the way back to the beginning, to perhaps the first and most subtle “praise” we see in the BIble: Abel. We might forget this in the detail of the story, but Abel’s profession is not one of stagnancy. Although Shepherds had pens, this profession was largely nomadic given the needs of the herd to continue to find greener fields to graze. Abel had signed up to a life of adventure and movement, and with said movement came a great deal of risk, a great need for one to trust in God. What if he entered into lion territory, or stumbled into a land struck by famine or plague? Abel’s life is not one of comfort, but of noble danger, of constant movement and vigilance in order to keep his herd safe and well fed.

Not so with Cain. While we never really understand why Cain’s sacrifice does not gain much acceptance, I think we can infer here that there is something less noble about Cain’s profession by comparison. Cain is a farmer, the primordial “planner”. Within this life, Cain can form a schedule of rising and rest, can structure out the work needed to work the soil, fertilize, and nourish his crop, and he has the seasons to inform him when it’s time to plant, to reap, to rest. Cain’s life is one we can all appreciate, because it is a life of routine, of normalcy, of comfort. Most of all, Cain does not need to travel for his work…on the contrary…he needs to stay still.

modern nomads and farmers

This is not meant to be a criticism on work that keeps us sedentary or in a routine; there ought to be praise of schedules and routine, especially when it assists our health and our spiritual lives. That being said, there is a challenge in this life that one grows less reliant on God, finds fewer reasons to trust in His power and protection. Sure, we can pray for good crops and good weather, but even the wise farmer saves up for dry spells, and we all learn in this sedentary way of life to be self-reliant and perhaps even lazy in our spiritual lives and our personal growth as human beings.

And so, of all the accolades we read in the Old Testament, the first we hear given to mankind is that Enoch “walked faithfully with God”. Enoch may have not been a shepherd, but I think it’s very likely that this man stepped outside of his comfort zone, trusted God to go on some sort of adventure, and through this journey grew closer to God and grew as an individual. Enoch is remarkable not for winning any outstanding battles, not for appearing a certain way, not for having a certain amount of offspring or wealth. Enoch stands out merely because he walked faithfully with God.

To close, we can’t forget about the “faithful” adjective here. Faith carries a connotation of conviction and reliability at the same time. When someone is “faithful” to a spouse, they come through on their vow to their spouse, they invest in that union, they do not compartmentalize that person to specific times or needs. Enoch examples the spousal relationship we are meant to have with God as “co-yoked,” a relationship that requires of both parties to lean on the other, to come through on their part, and to stick it through even when the going gets tough. More over, like any good relationship, it does not become comfortable in the routine. Any good relationship will require effort to keep things “exciting” or “fresh.” This too is where the kinetic nature of Enoch’s life is important: we do not sit or stand in stasis with our loved one, but rather walk, move, try new things, and learn to trust the other along the way.

Some things to consider today:

  • Which parts of my life are sedentary or comfortable? Are those aspects necessary to remain as such?
  • What parts of my life invite growth or newness? How have they changed me?
  • What adventure or travel would I find edifying to partake in?
  • What venture or goal could I set for myself to bring some life, some movement, some growth into myself?
  • What relationships could use some more “movement” or trust?