We are living in strange times. No one would have guessed this is where we would be at this point in this year. It is a time of extreme uncertainty. There are difficulties at every turn. Mixed messages are thrown all over the place like an overload of bad confetti. Any resemblance of normality seems to have been thrown away and can’t be found. This can be both scary and confusing. For people that like consistency…for those that like a plan…for those that seek security in some sense of rhythm – this can be a nightmare.
We have choices, though. We can fight it all the way. We can embrace the newness. We can slog through the day trying to figure it out as we go. We can throw a tantrum, we can follow, or any of the combination of the like. And we do.
The interesting thing is – in different ways and different circumstances, we have been here before. While this particular situation feels so foreign to us, this is really not as strange as we want to make it. Life is made up of twists and turns, challenges and successes, difficulties and struggles. That’s what life is about – navigating the difficult and finding God at every turn.
As I thought about all the changes we are facing, I couldn’t help but think of Abraham – still known in today’s reading as Abram. They encountered more challenges and difficulties than we can hardly grasp – and that was in an effort to follow God. They were not running…they were seeking to be obedient. And still, this is where they find themselves.
12 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 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 shall be blessed.”
4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. 5 Abram took his wife Sarai and his brother’s son Lot, and all the possessions that they had gathered, and the persons whom they had acquired in Haran; and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan. When they had come to the land of Canaan, 6 Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. 7 Then the Lord appeared to Abram, and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. 8 From there he moved on to the hill country on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the Lord and invoked the name of the Lord. 9 And Abram journeyed on by stages toward the Negeb.
Abraham and Sarah (as they will later be named) find themselves in an interesting place in their lives. God has called them to leave all they know…their familiar – their creature comforts – family, friends, way of life, their own home – and follow, at the age of 75. Follow simply to a land that God will show them. No specifications of the land. No idea of where they will stay. They didn’t get the luxury of touring the new place online and checking out the hot spots around. It wasn’t as if they had the choice to see if this was a better option or not. It was simply a call to go…go to the unfamiliar and uncomfortable. And they went.
Their willingness to go comes with joys that they cannot even imagine. There are lands to be seen and peoples to be discovered. There are children to be born and strangers to take care of. But there are also more challenges than one would ever want to encounter. They face the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. They encountered famine and devastation. They hid their identity to hopefully save their own lives. They took God’s promise into their own hands and ended up doing harm to more lives than their own. They had tests of faith – some they conquered like champs and some they failed miserably and embarrassingly. Would they have taken the journey if they knew it all? We really don’t know. All we know is that they were willing to step forward into the unknown, following God.
That says a lot to me in the situation we find ourselves. We are wandering through the unknown daily. There are way too many opinions and newsfeeds and voices shouting for our attention. There are people that insight fear and those that uproot ignorance. But all of this does not mean this is the end or the worst situation or the absolute biggest nightmare. This is moving forward in the unknown and it can be okay. It can be okay because we do not move forward alone. We do not move forward without God. He is with us. He is guiding us…but we must listen to him.
If we listen to God in times like these, we hear the words he tells Abraham and Sarah. These words include his presence, his provision (he will take care of them), and his guidance (you are not figuring this out alone). He has promises that are yet unfulfilled. He is not done yet. And neither are we. But we sure act like it sometimes.
Did you hear what Abraham and Sarah did in this particular scripture? Sure, they were obedient. They were willing to leave it all behind to follow God into the unknown. They heard him and they said yes. God made promises – that he would keep in his time and in his way. At the end of this reading, don’t miss what they did. Yes, they built an altar. That was common to build something to remember – to signify a moment in time. God’s call was huge and this was to be commemorated. They pass along what has happened through story – verbally telling their children what God has done. This was a physical marker of a part of the story. But that isn’t it. Don’t miss it. He built an altar and what? He called upon the name of the Lord.
That doesn’t sound like such a big deal. But remember – this is the beginning of a relationship, the beginning of a call to something big, a part of a promise. This means that Abraham already sensed that it was important to not only mark the place, but to call on the name of the Lord. He began to pray. As he began the journey, he called on God.
Take a step back for a moment. God called him to this. God has called him from his ordinary life to something extremely unfamiliar. God had made extraordinary promises that would completely blow his mind. He is setting out on this journey of the unknown and still he found it important to call on God. He wasn’t told to. He wasn’t given a command or a list of ways to do it. He wasn’t given rules on how to call on God and the right times. He simply did what came to him…he called on the name of the Lord. It was a part of who he was.
As we move through these difficult and unfamiliar times, has it been instinctive for us to call on the name of the Lord? We have fussed and worried and complained and struggled…but have we called on him? We have done a lot of talking and a lot of whining but have we called on him? Maybe we start back at the beginning. God is with us. God has promises for us. And we should be calling on him – right now. All those who call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.