Torah reading: Genesis 12:1 – 17:27
Haftorah reading: I Samuel 20: 18-42
The week’s Torah reading provides us with a shift in the direction of the narrative thus far. During the first eleven chapters of Genesis, there has been a consistent theme of sin followed by punishment. It began with Adam and Eve.
Before long we had the days of Noah in which mankind had already sunk into untenable moral decay. God saw the condition of mankind as a whole and He destroyed the earth and all its people, except for Noah and his family, with a flood.
Not too long afterward, there was the Tower of Babel where mankind had gathered together and decided to build a tower that would reach the heavens in order to ‘make a name for ourselves.’ (Gen. 11:4) At first glance, it seems as though the human situation is looking up. The people were unified, they all spoke the same language and they were co-operating together on a common project. Yet God punished them – the whole group of them – by confusing their language and scattering them across the earth.
What was their sin? ‘…let us make a name for ourselves..’ It could very well be that had they attempted to build a tower in order to be closer to God and His heaven – in other words – to exalt the Name of the LORD instead of their own name – the story would have ended differently.
Therefore in the early chapters, we see the recurring theme of man’s failure to exalt His Creator and instead to follow the evil intent of his own mind which brought upon them the chastisement of the Almighty.
Now, as we move on to chapter 12, suddenly God speaks to one man, to an individual, Abram, instead of to mankind in general.
Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your country and from your relatives and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make you a great nation and I will bless you and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; I will bless those who bless you and the one who curses you, I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.’ Gen. 12:1-3
Abram wasted no time in arguing with God or procrastinating about what he’d been told. The text indicates he obeyed without hesitation and with his wife, his nephew Lot and others of his household, he set off after the call of God. At the time he was 75 years old. (take courage, it’s never too late to be used by God!) Not until he was 100 was Isaac born.
Abram embraced the call and the promise of God quickly then awaited its fulfillment patiently, much longer than he anticipated having to wait.
From that one man would eventually arise a people with the mandate to be ‘a light to the nations’. It never fails to impress me that in the days of Abram, whom God re-named Abraham, there was no Torah, no written scripture of any kind, no Bible study groups.
But there was a man of FAITH. There was a man whose faith did not waver, whose trust in the one true God did not dissipate and whose confidence in his God’s integrity he never questioned.
Abraham’s greatest legacy to us is the value of FAITH. It is faith that pleases our God and centuries later the prophet Habakkuk would write, ‘the righteous man shall live by faith.’
It had to begin with Abraham; it could not have started with Moses. For unless the faith came first, the commandments are meaningless, a compilation of do’s and don’ts fit for robots. It is FAITH in the Holy One of Israel that prompts us to want to honor His Name not just in word but also in deed.
Abraham is the father of the Hebrew people because of his exemplary faith. It is faith that pleases God, first and foremost, It is faith that causes us to ‘love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul and all our resources.’ Deut. 6:5
In Tune with Torah this week = Faith is more than mental assent. Biblical faith is a conviction in the heart that our God is real, He is Almighty, Everlasting and utterly Faithful. He has drawn us to Himself and loves us with an unending and extravagant love.
The saying ‘Seeing is believing’ is backwards when it comes to spiritual understanding. The truth is ‘Believing is Seeing.’
If your faith is in need of strengthening, take some time this Shabbat to read His Word and ponder it quietly in your own heart. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you. He will.
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