1.What did G-d tell Avraham he would have to give up and why? Have you had to give up anything for your faith?
In the very first verse of this Torah portion it says, “Get out from your country, and from your family, and from your father’s house, to a land I will show you.”
a.What does it mean get out from your country? For Avraham it meant physically leaving and going to another place that G-d would show him. For us it may have that same meaning or it may mean to not conform to the ways of our land. Conforming is such a strong force in our world and country. No one wants to seem odd. But for us as believers our faith demands we are not to conform to the godlessness around us.
b.So Avraham had to leave the influence of his land behind. He also had to leave his family behind. Sometimes our families are not the best influence in our lives. We may be called to not conform to how our family sees life and faith. Avraham’s family members were idol worshippers. G-d called him to leave that behind. Sometimes we need to put some spiritual distance between us and our families, not to just conform and go along. What might be examples of how this works out in your life?
c.Finally Avraham was told to leave his father’s house. As you might have noticed this leaving process has become more and more focused. First land, then family and now his father’s house. Nothing influences us more than our immediate family. Our early ways of dealing with life are learned from our close family. In his case, Avraham’s father was an idol worshipper. G-d called him to break that pattern and follow Him, the only true G-d, the Maker of Heaven and Earth. So G-d calls us all to be responsible for our own spiritual life. We are not to leave our spiritual life to the decisions of others. We all are called to stand before G-d and give an account of our own life. (Ezek 18:20) The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.
G-d wants all of us. He wants our undivided devotion, our single mindedness to follow Him no matter the cost. So it was with Avraham. “Be not conformed to this world,” Romans 12:2 G-d is a jealous G-d and wants our all. If you want to know Me you must leave your land, your family and your father’s house. In effect He was saying leave everything and follow me.
Does this sound familiar? Yeshua called His disciples with the same words. (Luke 5:27-28) “After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,”Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him. So what can we learn from Avraham and from Yeshua’s call on our own lives? As believers we are not to become like everyone else, maybe even in our faith. That need to fit in applies also to religion. A Biblical way of approaching G-d is never easy and is sometimes met with resistance. But often that resistance comes from not wanting to rock the boat. Conforming to the world takes less effort.
In seeking our true selves we must always remember that G‑d’s purpose in creating us was so that we could serve Him. This verse ends with, “The land that I will show you,” can be treated as, the land where I will show . . . you—I will show you who you really are. The part of our lives that is connected with G‑d is who we really are – our true self.
We cannot erase our past, our family’s past influence or other experiences we have had in life but we cannot let those define who we are. Allowing G-d to use those experiences to make us into the person He wants us to be is what we should all strive for.
2.In Genesis 12:1 we read where G-d tells Abraham to “Go to yourself.” What could this mean to this man and to us? What does it mean to “go to yourself?”
G‑d told Abraham, “Go to yourself,” leave those influences behind and find yourself. Leave your country, leave your birthplace, leave your parents’ home and find out who you are in Me. I think G-d was saying to Abraham there is more. Become who I created you to be. I have a plan for your life. It may be far different than anything you have ever dreamed. Think about it. Abraham lived in a society where no one had any idea about G-d. He lived in a world of idol worshipers, a world where the weak were at the mercy of the powerful.
3.There is something we see a surprisingly large number of times in scripture – women who require divine intervention in order to birth children. How many examples can you find in scripture where G-d intervened in a barren woman’s situation? Why, after telling Avraham he would be the father of many was Sarah unable to birth even one child? Why would G-d do such a thing?
Every one of the matriarchs – three successive generations – had divine intervention in the birthing of children: Sarah, Rivka, Leah and Rachel. To these can be added the nameless mother of Samson, Hannah the mother of Samuel. The prophet uses the same device allegorically as he voiced G-d’s promises to Jerusalem, the symbol of hope for the Jewish nations in exile: “Shout, O barren one, you who bore no child! Shout aloud for joy, you who did not travail! For the children of the wife forlorn shall outnumber those of the espoused — said the L-RD” (Isaiah 54:1, NJPS).
Sarah and Avraham waited 25 years from the time G-d promised them an offspring and the time Isaac was born. This was a test of Avraham’s faith. Isaac’s birth was also a miracle birth that was witnessed by everyone around Avraham and Sarah. On lookers could visually see their G-d was a G-d of miracles.
4.See if you could come up with the meaning of “ivre” found in Genesis 14:13. What does “ivre” mean literally? What is this saying to us? It means to cross over, to be “other.” All the world was on one side and Abraham was on the other side. He did what he knew was right. It can be lonely, yet G-d expects us to carry on if it is just us. The majority is not always right. So it is with us. G-d expects us to do and be what He has called us to be. He expects us to be “other.”
5.In Genesis 12:10-20 we read of a famine in the Land of Canaan. When they were entering the land of Egypt to avoid the famine Avraham asked his wife to pretend to be his sister. Why did he ask Sarah to do that? What were the consequences?
Here we see a problem arose in Canaan, a famine, and we see Avraham’s reaction. My point as we read this story is each of us will meet situations and have our faith tested. Do we really believe G-d is in control or in our anxiety. Do we sometimes fall back on our own solutions and forget G-d’s promises?
There is a surprise in the action of Avraham when he took Sarah his wife and went to Egypt to wait out the famine. What do we not see? There is no evidence that he prayed or heard from G-d before he took this action. We also read the consequences of his actions.
As Avraham was entering Egypt he told his wife to lie, well sort of a half-truth and tell the Egyptians she was his sister. Genesis 20:11-13 Abraham replied, “I said to myself, ‘There is surely no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife. Besides, she really is my sister,the daughter of my father though not of my mother; and she became my wife. And when God had me wanderfrom my father’s household,I said to her, ‘This is how you can show your love to me: Everywhere we go, say of me, “He is my brother.”
If you think of Avraham leaving G-d’s land and entering Egypt as a picture of when we step out of G-d’s protection and enter a spiritual Egypt we can see similarities. We start making compromises with our faith. Avraham suddenly didn’t believe G-d was capable of protecting him so he asked his wife to lie.
Another picture of where Avraham was we see that in Canaan Sarah was his wife. Think of this spiritually. In Canaan G-d was as close to Avraham as a husband to his wife. Remember, when we marry we choose our mate. G-d had chosen Avraham and when Avraham was living out his faith that closeness remained. However, when he got to Egypt he wanted her to appear as his sister. Here Avraham lost that closeness of husband and wife, not only with Sarah but also with G-d. A sister is a completely different relationship than a wife. Sometimes we lose the closeness of our faith, we wander away, but thank G-d, the relationship is not broken. It is still there, waiting to be rekindled as between husband and wife.
Avraham returned from Egypt and so can we. G-d is still there waiting for us to come back to regain that closeness, to return to our future. Because we lose the vision temporarily does not mean we can’t recover it. May we all live in G-d’s future for us.