Last week when I posted on Abraham’s call, I felt that I didn’t really cover all that I wanted to. The idea of the barren being called to life by God was just such a strong theme that I really wanted to focus on. However, there were also a few other thoughts about Genesis 12:1-9 that I wanted to touch on. I thought about trying to tack it on the last post, but it felt forced and the post was already getting a bit too long. So I decided to continue, but the focus will be more on the start of Abraham’s journey after accepting the call to go to the land God will show him.
Abraham is often presented as a person of great faith and a figure that we are to emulate. While there is much to bolster such a view, we should be careful not to take such a one dimensional view of Abraham. Abraham is very human. There are times where his trust in God produces great acts of faith. At times though, we see Abraham struggle to trust God or do exactly what God has told him to do.
It is possible that at the beginning of this journey we can see this dual reality of faithfulness and struggle. Abraham responds to the call of God and sets off, but he brings his nephew Lot. Now it is hard to say if this is intended as a negative or not. When God calls Abraham, Abraham is told to “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household…”Yet we see Abraham taking Lot, part of his father’s household, with him.
This by itself isn’t enough to really make any sort of solid conclusion, but as we go on there are a number of complications that center around Lot. It certainly seems possible that taking Lot with him, wasn’t exactly part of the plan. Even if this isn’t an example of Abraham’s humanity and lack of faith, there will be other examples as we continue on.
Another point of interest is that Abraham’s journey of faith, even at the start, seems like it will not have complete resolution of God’s promises in his lifetime. We see this in Genesis 12:7 where God says, “To your offspring I will give this land.” The land will be given to his offspring, not to Abraham himself. Even with Abraham’s response of faith to God’s promises, Abraham is not going to see all of those promises fulfilled.
As I think about this, I wonder does our faith have the same challenge? It is hard for me to say, I do think that as we journey on our faith it is continual and we don’t always see the full manifestation of what is promised to us, but often I feel that what is promised is not fully physical like land, a nation, or offspring. If anything I feel that our struggle is in seeking to be like Christ, but yet failing due to the conflict of our own humanness in our attempts. I’m not convinced this is exactly the same thing, but what do you think on that?
The final note regarding this passage has to do with the Canaanites and this note comes largely from Walter Brueggemann’s commentary on Genesis. I think often it is easy to quickly view the Canaanites as enemies to be ousted as we know about the later conflicts that arise, but Brueggemann doesn’t think this is the case here in Genesis.
First, he does acknowledge that there is a bit of a conflict, but he frames it in a bit of a different way. He says, “the promise of God is never easy to believe and practice. It must always be believed and practiced in the midst of those who practice more effective and attractive ways.” I find this interesting, mainly because so many want to present the Christian faith as the most effective and attractive, but Brueggemann doesn’t seem to do this. It would appear that he presents following the God we claim as a faithfulness to a promise that doesn’t follow the order of the world around us, and is often very slow-paced in comparison.
Second, Brueggemann speaks about the interesting dynamic that Abraham seems to take with the Canaanites. They aren’t enemies to defeat or be in constant conflict with. He doesn’t even seem to attempt to convert them at all. Instead Abraham seems to live in the midst of them and interact with them in a positive manner.
This leads us to the third and final point that Brueggemann brings up. He notes the fact that Abraham builds altars to and calls upon the name of the Lord. Bruggemann comments on it by saying, “Abraham’s calling on Yahweh’s name means that he had resolved to cling to none other than to the promise-maker.”Now while we see no active interactions between Abraham and the Canaanites regarding conversion, the building of altars to the Lord would present where Abraham’s loyalties lied. This reality would surely present Abraham as one who followed a God and a promise that the Canaanites did not. Again this doesn’t seem to be done in a framework of conflict here, but neither would Abraham’s beliefs be completely unknown either.
So here are a somewhat random collection of notes regarding the start of Abraham’s journey. Maybe they weren’t worth a separate post, but I thought they were kind of interesting. Next time we look at Genesis we’ll move on to Abraham in Egypt. If you’ve any insights or thoughts to add feel free to comment.