There is so much that happens in this parashah:
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- Abram (not yet called Abraham) is called by God to leave his father’s house, and he does so, receiving the promise from God that his seed will be a blessing to the entire world (which, by the way, has certainly been proven true);
- Abram gains wealth when the Pharaoh of Egypt takes Sarai (not yet called Sarah) as a wife, but God causes a plague to fall on his house so that Sarai is protected;
- Abram returns to Canaan and he and Lot separate, then God promises Abram his descendants will inherit all the land Abram can see, in all directions;
- There is a war with Sodom and Lot, with his whole family and possession, are taken captive, but Abram saves him;
- We are introduced to Melchizedek;
- God makes a physical covenant with Abram reiterating the promise to inherit the land and also tells Abram of the Egyptian bondage that will happen later;
- Abram gives birth to Ishmael, Hagar runs from Sarai but God has her return, promising her son will also be the progenitor of many nations, but will always be a wild ass of a man, with his hand against every other person, and their hands against him;
- When Abram is 99 years old, God tells him that he will now be called Abraham (and Sarai wil be called Sarah) and that he and all his descendants are to be circumcised;
- God promises Abraham that Ishmael will become the father of many nations, but it will be his own son, Isaac who will be the inheritor of the promises God made with Abraham.
Well, that should be enough to keep us talking for what? a year? Don’t worry- I won’t keep you here that long.
The challenge of having a teaching ministry is that there is so much to teach, and it is often difficult to determine what to teach about. I try to do everything in a way that glorifies God and edifies those who hear me, and more often than not I count on the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) to have something “hit” me when I am reading through the parashah.
What hit me today was how Abraham was not only willing to do as God told him but that he did it…immediately.
When God told Abraham to leave everything he knew, where he was comfortable, where his family and friends were, and go somewhere that God will show him when he gets there, he goes. Just like that; packs up everything and leaves. He doesn’t even know where he is going, but he goes, all the same (Gen. 12:1.)
When God tells him after he has set up camp coming out of Egypt, to go walk the length and breadth of the land, he goes (Gen. 13:17.)
When God tells him he will be a father of many nations, he believes him, which is counted to Abraham as righteousness (Gen. 15:6.)
I know that isn’t really doing anything, but it is such an important foundational aspect of salvation, I had to make sure I added it.
When God tells Abraham to circumcise every male as the sign of the covenant God has made with him, that very same day he circumcises himself, Isaac, and all the males in his household (Gen. 17:26.)
Abraham is the ultimate example of faithfully obeying God. Moses asked not to go to Egypt, then hesitated on the way; Gideon threw the fleece before the Lord (twice!) to test him; Jonah ran in the opposite direction; and even the great prophet, Isaiah, asked God to kill him because he felt wasn’t making a difference (he was wrong, of course.)
So many of the great Bible heroes showed some form of hesitation when called by God, but Abraham never hesitated for a second. Whatever he was told to do, he did ASAP.
How many of us can claim to have faith that strong? Of course, to be fair, how many of us have heard God calling us to do something? I haven’t had a divine revelation to teach, but it came about slowly as I grew more and more in the Lord. Yet, I have had a calling on me, twice, when I was asked to be a member of the Council at the places where I have worshiped. And you know what I did? I hesitated. I asked if they were sure, not because I felt unable to do the job, but because I didn’t really want to. I knew it would involve me putting in extra time and energy and would carry great responsibility. It was a calling that I didn’t answer immediately. Eventually, I did accept and what I thought would happen did; when in Philadelphia, I ended up taking on the job of the Rabbi when our Rabbi left to have his own ministry, and here in Florida I ended up holding three of the four executive positions on the Council and also teaching every other week.
This isn’t about me, though, it is supposed to be about you. I shared my own experience with you so you can see that I am no Abraham. But what about you? Have you been called by God to serve in some way? Did you answer right away or hesitate? Did you make excuses or immediately “pack up and leave”, as Abraham did?
Do you even think you have a calling from God? I ask God to not only show me what he wants from me but strengthen me to do it because I know whatever God wants me to do, it will be outside my comfort zone and will entail work that will get in the way of what I want to do.
But that is how it has to be. Staying inside our comfort zone is the same as never going anywhere; to be comfortable all the time is to be stagnant. To serve God we have to be more than willing to do something, we have to actually DO IT!!
I am going to conclude today’s lesson from this week’s parashah with this: when you hear the calling from God, don’t think about it, just do it. I know, really, how easy that sounds and how hard it is to do, so you need to prepare yourself. The best way to do that is just read the Bible every day to see how, throughout history, God has taken care of those that obey his calling. Trust in God and demonstrate that trust through faithful obedience (I just posted about obedience yesterday) and no matter what God asks of you when you obey his calling you will be blessed beyond your understanding.
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Until next time, L’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!