Come out – with JOY

The first Book of the Bible provides us with contrasting stories of two men, each of whom can rightfully be said to be our physical and spiritual fathers — Noah and Abraham.  Noah was told to build an ark, because the world as he knew it was going to come to an end.  Abram (he would be re-named later) was told to come out of the world he knew.

It is from the patriarch Abraham that all of the twelve tribes of Israel descend.  It was to that same father Abraham that some of the most important and dramatic promises in all of history were made.  And it was arguably Abraham who was the first man in Scripture to be given the CHOICE to “come out of her,” as Revelation 18:4 later admonishes us.

The fundamental elements of the entire story are outlined in the first three verses of Bereshiet (or Genesis) chapter 12:

“And YHVH said unto Abram, ‘”Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you.
And I will make of you a great nation; and I will bless you and make your name great; And you shall be a blessing.
And I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.'”

These are the first recorded words spoken by YHVH to him.  And Abram was already 75 years old, to boot.  Why does Scripture make the point to tell us that?  Perhaps in part it’s to help us understand that what is being asked of him.  At an age that now marks a time for many men to have settled into retirement, such a request might be considered out of our “comfort zones”.

But the story of Abraham was only beginning.  He left, “as YHVH had spoken,” and went where he was directed.  What followed has been described as a sequence of “tests” in the life of the first Hebrew…to leave the land he knew, to learn kindness and hospitality and strength, to manage his house, and ultimately culminating in the “Akeida” — the offering up of his son Isaac:

Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”
Then He said, “Take now your son, your only [son] Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”    (Genesis 22:1-2)

Many people have been troubled by this final test of Abraham, even though it appears to foreshadow the Son of God.  How could Scripture countenance what appears to be a command for human sacrifice?  We know that Abraham believed YHVH, and his “faith was counted for righteousness.”   (Romans 4:1-5)  I tend to think the answer is so simple that we overlook the obvious:  Abraham’s faith, and his willingness to hear and obey YHVH so great, that he never even considered the possibility that Isaac’s life would end.  He knew — and had SEEN! — that this was the son he had been promised.  This was the son whose miraculous birth was marked with joy, and even whose name meant “laughter”.  This was the son through whom the promises of Elohim would be fulfilled!

I believe that Abraham “rose early” to start his journey, and that “both of them went together” to “the place Elohim had told of” because
he was excited to see just what miracle the Almighty would work in their lives this time!

And it was truly one of the most striking, and important, and JOYFUL, in all of history.

Our choice is in some respects even similar, and may even sometimes seem almost as difficult to each of us as individuals.  Most of us, arguably, have not heard the promises of YHVH spoken to us directly, although we do have His Word.

We, too, are told to leave behind the things of this world, and “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness“.

And we, too, are tested — by the challenges of the world, and by the chastening of our Creator.  Also like father Abraham, we are told to “come out of her,” so that we do not partake of those sins, nor the coming plagues.   (Revelation 18:4)  The Book of Revelation if filled with similar admonitions in the letters to the seven churches as well — telling us to “persevere” and be “Overcomers”.  Yet the ‘world’ is pervasive, and persuasive, and certainly threatening to those who seek to “follow Him, and Him alone”.  Weren’t we even warned that the world would “hate us”, for His sake?  (John 15:18-23; Luke 6:22, 1 John 3:13, etc)

The key is to learn to “fear not”, and develop the KIND of trust in YHVH and His promises that enabled Abraham to simply walk in obedience, and accept His blessings with joy.  Yaakov (James 1:2-3) put it this way:

“…  count it all joy, my brethren, when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience [perseverence]…so that you might be complete, lacking nothing.”

Even when our testing seems too much to bear, He assures us it is not, and reminds us that those He loves, He chastens.  But even so, testing is a lot easier when we can learn to focus on the joy.

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