Parashat Lech Lecha
Beresheet (Genesis) 12:1–17:27
This week’s reading portion is well known, as it speaks about God’s call to Abram (who later became Abraham) to leave everything that he knew and to follow God’s lead to a place that He would show him:
Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you.
Before I continue, I would encourage you to read the last two blogs that I wrote about this very important portion, as I believe that it is foundational for us to understand the rest of Scripture. The first one speaks about the parallel between Abram’s call and our personal call (click here to read) and the second one speaks about God’s faithfulness to His promises, which we are a part of today (click here to read). This week I wanted to share some thoughts from a perspective different from my last two blogs about this parasha. Abram had an amazing encounter with God, which resulted in him receiving a great promise; Abram believed this promise, and his faith was considered righteousness:
Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.
Abram’s faith was evident in other ways as well. For example, he told his family member, Lot, to choose which part of the land he wanted to settle in, not taking God’s promises to him as a matter of pride but rather of humility (Genesis 13). Abram also showed his faithfulness to trust God’s promise through his encounter with Melchizedek, the King of Salem by refusing all of the plenty that was offered to him (Genesis 14:17–24).
However, with all of his greatness, we also see a selfish side of Abram, where he feared men and sometimes lacked faith that God would fulfill His promises. Genesis 12:10–20 tells us of the story of Abram and his wife Sarai (who later became Sarah) going down to Egypt due to the famine that was in the Land. Upon their arrival to Egypt, Abram’s selfishness and his fear of men caused him to lie:
And it came about when he came near to Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, “See now, I know that you are a beautiful woman; and it will come about when the Egyptians see you, that they will say, ‘This is his wife’; and they will kill me, but they will let you live. Please say that you are my sister so that it may go well with me because of you, and that I may live on account of you.
As we can see in this account, Abram’s selfishness (which is shown in what he says to his wife: “that it may go well with me”) caused him to compromise his wife’s safety and wellbeing and to outright lie to the Egyptians about their relationship.
As we continue to read, we see that the Egyptians ended taking Sarai to Pharaoh’s house, from which Abram actually benefited:
Therefore he treated Abram well for her sake; and gave him sheep and oxen and donkeys and male and female servants and female donkeys and camels.
However, God had a purpose for Abram and Sarai, and therefore God Himself intervened and caused Pharaoh to send them out of Egypt. God saved Abram and Sarai from the situation in Egypt since He had a very specific purpose for them. God promised Abram not only that He would inherit the Land of Promise, but also that Abram would have a son who would continue to inherit the promises of God (Genesis 12:7; 13:14–17; 15:1–5, 18–21).
Yet, again, Abram compromised and did not stand his ground to believe that God would fulfill those promises. We see this in his willingness to have relations with Sarai’s handmaid, Hagar, in order to bring forth this promised child:
Now Sarai, Abram’s wife had borne him no children, and she had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar. So Sarai said to Abram, “Now behold, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Please go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children through her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.
Just like Adam who did not stop Eve from eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, which resulted in sin, so it is with Abram. Instead of standing his ground and telling Sarai that they should wait & trust God, he agreed to take matters into their own hands, which had terribly painful results! Hagar birthed a son, Ishmael, which stirred up a great deal of jealousy on Sarai’s part, resulting in both Ishmael and Hagar being thrown out from the camp.
But God, in His infinite goodness, redeemed Abram’s disastrous disobedience, and He not only made a provision for Ishmael, but also kept His promise to bring forth an heir through Sarai’s womb. In Genesis 17, we learn that in spite of Abram’s doubts of God’s faithfulness due to his age (see verse 17), God reaffirmed His promises to Abram, to bless him, to make him great (He changed his name to Abraham, which means “a father of many nations”), and to bless him with a child whose mother would be Sarai (indeed, Sarai’s name was changed to Sara reflecting this).
As I wrote before, we see that Abram compromised and did not stand his ground on those promises and in many ways did not believe that which God promised him. But we can be encouraged by his example even in his weakness!
God isn’t asking for perfect vessels through which to make His name known; He seeks willing, humble hearts that are willing to trust Him no matter what. Is there an area in your life that you are struggling to trust God completely? Are you tempted to take matters into your own hands rather than be still and trust in God’s promises?