Stepping out in faith carried its risks. Abraham had to leave everything safe and comfortable about his home in Haran. At 75 years old, he had to travel thousands of miles to a land where he would be known only as a foreigner—being a pilgrim required of Abraham a sacrifice: a sacrifice of time, safety, comfort, identity, and control. Abraham was no longer dictating his life; he surrendered power to God by choosing the pilgrim’s life.
Action and Pilgrimage
Abraham’s faith is impressive. It was more than just mental agreement or sentiment. He obeyed God. The intensity and level of Abraham’s faith are described in the manner of his obedience.
First, Abraham obeyed immediately: He responded to God’s call to leave his home in Ur, of the Chaldees. His instant obedience stands out against those who rationalize and procrastinate out of doing what God clearly demands.
Second, he obeyed, not knowing where he was going: He believed God would give him what was best for him. He had confidence in Jehovah’s words, which were enough for him.
Although he left with the firm promise of an inheritance of land, he did not immediately receive it. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob never owned the land God promised. Similarly, they all died before the promise was fulfilled. More so, the Bible indicates that the only property in Canaan that Abraham ever owned was the small parcel of land he used to bury Sarah, his wife.
Abraham seemed to have a keen sense of what made a sacred place. In an era where there were no shrines, Abraham set up his own:
“The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring, I will give this land.” So he [Abram] built an altar there to the Lord who had appeared to him. From there, he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord.”
In any place where Abraham sought or had a profound experience of God, he set up a shrine and an altar. Moreover, the pilgrimage was not for him just about the destination, but he was constantly paying attention to where he experienced God on the journey. Sometimes when we travel, we forget that every moment and every place has the potential to be holy. And so, we get so caught up in our expectations of what we will experience at our goal that we do not recognize or mark the places along the way that are equally holy. It is not popularity that makes a place holy – only the presence of God can do that.
Throughout the rest of his life, Abraham was a wanderer. Because there was nothing else constant in his life, Abraham had to cling to his faith in God. Moreover, he was a resident alien: the world was not his home. Also, he lived detached from his permanent residence in anticipation of a better place. Just as Abraham’s faith is a prototype of what God expects of us, we are called to live as sojourners.
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