Father Abraham

Since I was about thirteen years old, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Abraham of the Bible. That was the year my dad moved us out of the church I had grown up in, having been called “like Abraham, not knowing where he was going.” At first, I hated the patriarch if only for being the Biblical justification for the cause of my teenage angst.

But let’s face it, there are so many other reasons to hate Abraham. Who can forget that whole fiasco where he claimed his wife was his sister, thus bringing undeserved curses upon Pharaoh’s house? Coward. And what about when he slept with his servant because he had not produced an heir in the bajillion years he had been on earth? Creep. And if that wasn’t bad enough in its own right, he ended up treating the servant and the son she bore him like dirt. Jerk.

But there are a million reasons to love Abraham, as well. Like the way he steps up to the plate and rescues his idiot nephew from invading armies. And the way he bargains with God for the redemption of Sodom. Even though he lost that wager, it spoke volumes for the compassion in his heart. And of course, there is the famous story of that trek up Mt. Moriah when Abraham obediently prepared for the ultimate sacrifice, thus proving his devotion to the God who selected him to be the father of the Jewish faith.

Abraham has a crazy story of ups and downs, high points and low points, great triumph and great tragedy.

A story like mine.

Let’s be honest, it is hard to judge Abraham for his foolish mistakes when I make them just as often. (So perhaps I will not make a mistake so monumental that it causes war between nations for thousands of years to come, but if Abraham had known in advance the consequences of his actions, you can be certain he would not have taken them.)

Ahem.

So here is Abraham—a story I have returned to a thousand times. Abraham, who was called by God to leave his country, his people, and his father’s house to go to the land God would show him. Abraham, who believed a promise that would take years, decades, even centuries to come to fruition. Abraham, who followed God through the wilderness, trusting it would be the inheritance of the children who had not yet been born to him.

What I’ve realized through Abraham’s journey of lost and found, of victory and setbacks, is this: The people God calls do not find themselves magically at the finish line. More often than not, they find themselves wandering through the wilderness for years at a time.

Even Jesus had his wilderness season. He wandered in the desert for forty days. What was He doing there? It’s hard to tell. Obviously the God of the universe did not have to go on a journey to “find Himself” or His calling. He had the entirety of His human life mapped out already. So why would He take to wandering?

Maybe He just wanted to let us know the wilderness is an essential part of our stories. Maybe He wanted to remind us that He meets us in our deserts like He cannot on our mountaintops because we find Him only when we are not so distracted by the view.

God calls us all, like Abraham, to follow Him. Not knowing where we are going and clinging to a promise that seems tenuous at best, we obey. We stumble, we fall, we get back up and wipe the blood and dirt from our knees. And we continue on this journey of lostness and foundness,  walking through the wilderness hand-in-hand with the Creator.

 

a voice calls us out

Abraham, Isaac, and… Israel?

Do you remember that great passage in the Bible where God names Abraham? The name was given to him as a promise: “No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham for I have made you a father of many nations.” (Genesis 17:5) From that moment on, there is no mention of Abram and Sarai. They have been completely replaced by Abraham and Sarah.

Now skip forward several chapters to where Abraham’s grandson has a similar experience. “Then the man said, ‘Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.'” (Genesis 32:28) Strangely enough, the first two words in the very next verse are, “Jacob said.” Twenty-five mentions of the name Jacob later, God appears to him once more and declares his name to be Israel. (Genesis 35:10) I don’t think Jacob ever fully claims that promise. Want to know why? I counted the number of times Jacob and Israel were mentioned throughout the remaining chapters of Genesis. Israel is named 30 times, but Jacob comes in first place with 46. That whisper of a promise was there the whole time, resurfacing every once in awhile, but in the end it seems that Jacob couldn’t rid himself of the title “Deceiver” and to this day, Yahweh is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The promise was seemingly not claimed by Jacob, but it was handed down to his children nonetheless as they call themselves the nation of Israel.

My point is: God has promises for you if only you are willing to claim them. Are you willing, like Abraham, to step out into the unknown, trusting that God’s Mighty Hand will guide you? Or will you fluctuate tenaciously back and forth as did Jacob – er, Israel? I pray that you would find the courage to embrace the promises God has for you. May you step out and be willing to change so that you may accept the full extent of God’s blessing.