The Bible talks about the calling of Abraham and the subsequent people of God as “called” or “chosen.” Sometimes we see the Israelites and later Jews misunderstand this idea of “chosenness” and Christians sometimes struggle with the same misunderstanding. Being chosen does not mean that you are better than another. It doesn’t mean that you are God’s child and that God doesn’t care about those who are not called by the same name as you. To be called is to follow after God and to trust in him even when the way seems dark or obscure. To be chosen is to be a servant to live your life to bless God and to bless others. God sometimes calls us to a new occupation, a new city in which to live and minister. Genesis 12:1-8 tells us about the calling of Abraham. Much like Abraham, we must must decide if we will accept the call. Will we live the journey God choses for us or chose our own way and reject his call.
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Called to Journey with God
Abraham was invited by God to go into the unknown, learning only later that the land of Canaan is the land promised to him by God. Through the Abraham narrative, we travel to the Western Highlands of Canaan, the Negev of Southern Canaan, down to Egypt, back to the Negev and Western Highlands, throughout the region in a war narrative before settling back into the Negev. Along the way, Abraham built altars to God and prayed to God, he dug wells and planted trees, he worked with his neighbors, and he even fled from famine and set out in war. When he returned to the region after his journey into Egypt, God again told him that Canaan would be his home (Ge 13:14-17). All the way through the story, we see that Abraham was not alone. God was always with him on the journey, through the good decisions and the bad one.
We are journeying through an unknown time right now. It is a time of pandemic and a time of economic uncertainty, a time of political unrest and social upheaval. In your own journey, there may be a path through unplanned cancer or the death of a family member. You may be called to a new job or blessed with a new child. Through whatever situation you face, you are called to journey with God and to trust him along the way, no matter how dark the path or foggy and unclear the future.
Called to Walk by Faith
Abraham had to trust God in order to leave his home land and his family. Because of Abraham’s belief in God, he is considered righteous by God (Ge 15:1-6). The story makes clear that belief is not some sort of checklist of ideas to understand. Abraham is told he will have a son. We read soon after that he and Sarah totally misunderstand this and he has a son through her maid-servant Hagar. We also see that Abraham’s righteousness is not based on any action on his part at the time he is called righteous. If Abraham did anything, he walked out of his tent when instructed and looked up at the stars when instructed. The emphasis of the text is that he saw the stars, heard God’s promise that his descendants would be as numerous, and he put his faith in God that God was trustworthy to keep such a promise. We do find that such faith is later demonstrated by action, but Abraham’s righteousness is not based on action.
When the child of promise is finally born to he and his wife Sarah, Abraham must make a painful decision. He must sacrifice his son and through away the promises that were to flow through this child or he must disobey God’s call to sacrifice his son and thereby break covenant with the one who would provide the covenant promises through this son (Ge 22). He was between the proverbial rock and hard place. Abraham chooses allegiance to God over the hope of the promise, but God stays his hand and his son is spared. God then swears by himself that the promises made to Abraham through Isaac would certainly come to be (Ge 22:16-18).
In the New Testament, we are told that we are children of Abraham if we live by faith (Ga 3:7) and so are part of the stars and sand too numerous to count (He 11:12). The journey we are called to is the same type of journey as Abraham. We are called to journey by faith through this land. We are not to be loyal to our land for it is not our own. We, like Abraham, remain exiles longing for a heavenly city (He 11:13-16). Like Abraham living as a nomad in the land promised to him, we live in this fallen world awaiting the day God will resurrect it along with our bodies into the Kingdom of God. It is this but not now. It is here but not yet. We are foreigners and strangers living by faith in the one who calls us. When God calls us to a new city, a new profession, a new marriage, our allegiance is first to God over any personal preferences we might have. Abraham, when told that God’s way was a child of promise to be born of barren Sarah and not the “natural” child born of Sarah’s maid-servant, Abraham questions this and asks, why cannot Ishmael live under the covenant blessings (Ge 17:17-18)? What we want is not necessarily what we need. God is the one we trust.
Called to Be a Blessing
God’s calling to Abraham included a promise that all peoples on earth would be blessed through him (Ge 12:2-3). Throughout his life, we find him blessing others. He was a blessing to Lot, giving him his choice of the land (Ge 13:8-11), rescuing him from captivity (Ge 14:12-16), rescuing him in his prayers for Sodom and Gomorrah (Ge 19:29). He was a blessing to the cities who lost loved ones as war captives (Ge 14:16). He sought to be a blessing to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, asking if God would destroy the city if righteous remained in their walls (Ge 18:23-33). He was a blessing to the Philistines at Beersheba, creating peace between his people and them (Ge 21:22-34).
Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, says the promise to Abraham that his offspring would bless all nations (Ge 22:18) was fulfilled in Jesus. If we belong to Christ, we are Abraham’s seed and heirs of the promise alongside Jesus, whether we are Jew or Gentile, male or female, slave or free (Ga 3:8-9, 14, 28-29). Today, Paul would have added “Democrat or Republican,” for we need to be more committed to King Jesus than to the USA or to any party that seeks to divide the body of Christ. (As Hebrews said above, we seek a better country and should have no ultimate allegiance to our current land.)
We see the promise of Abraham’s seed blessing others lived out in the story of Zacchaeus. When he announces that he will give half his wealth to the poor and repay fourfold anyone he has cheated, Jesus replies, “This man also is a son of Abraham” (Lk 19:9). That is, he is a blessing to others. We are called to bless others by being a servant to them. We have lots of opportunities that present themselves each and every day to be a son or a daughter of Abraham. Just a little thing we can do in the pandemic is to wear a mask in order to protect those more vulnerable than ourselves.
Have you ever pulled up to a drive-thru window and found out that the car in front of you paid for your food? Did you feel blessed? Did it make you want to pay for the person behind you so that they could share in the blessing you had experienced? Recently, a man ate at a Colorado restaurant for breakfast. His bill was $20.04. He asked his waitress how many employees were working that day. Seven, she replied. He asked her to make sure that every employee received the same amount of his tip. He wrote on the receipt, “COVID sucks! $200.00 for each employee today!” and tipped $1,400.00. That man was on a journey when he stopped by the restaurant. He saw others struggling through their own journeys. He chose to be a blessing that day. He trusted in something other than his personal resources that day. He trusted in community and enacted Jesus’ teaching that it is better to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).
Called to a Journey of Faith and Blessing (Ge 12:1-8)
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