He left that place, went to the hill East of Beit-El and pitched his tent.
(Gen 12:8 CJB)
The English in this text reads 'his tents', because it refers to Abraham's tents. But when looking at the Hebrew text we notice that, though the text seems to refer to Abraham, the possessive suffix at the end of the word 'tent אהל', is feminine written as 'o'elah אהלה thus saying: 'her tent' in the feminine singular. The Midrash (a Jewish book of biblical commentaries) comments that this teaches us that Abraham first pitched the tent of his wife, and then his own. From there we we see that when a husband needs to do something for himself and for his wife, he should take care of his wife's needs first.
The sages have encapsulated Abraham's life in what is called 'THE TEN TRIALS OF ABRAHAM.' These trials were not herculean types of trials having to do with physical strength or endurance in suffering; neither were they about personal wit, religious practice, correct doctrine, or spirituality. These trials were much more down to earth. These trials had more to do with the same type of tests each and everyone of us goes though each day. They were tests of ethical integrity and virtue.
Our Rabbi, Teacher, Master, and Redeemer Yeshua also taught his disciples in these word, "If you are children of Avraham, then do the things Avraham did! Joh 8:39. In other words, 'The proof is in the pudding!' Those of us who claim descendance from Abraham, be it biological or grafted in, need to honor that descendance by doing what Yeshua coined as 'the things Avraham did.', or in Hebrew, 'כמעשי אברהם עשיתם 'do after the deeds/actions/works of Avraham.'
Let us then take the time to study these things that Avraham did.
How did he handle the intense trials that HaShem allowed to go through?
First, let us go through the enumeration of the ten trials of our Father Avraham:
- The call from his homeland
- The famine in Cana'an
- The abduction of Sarah in Egypt
- The war with the four kings
- The long wait for a son and his marriage to Hagar
- The commandment of circumcision
- The abduction of Sarah by Abimelech
- The exile of Hagar after she gave birth
- The exile of Ishmael
- The sacrifice of Isaac
According to this writer, what made Avraham so great in not necessarily his connection with HaShem nor his loyalty and obedience. Many believers are, and have been tested with as great if not greater demands from HaShem, but we and they all had Avraham to look back upon for inspiration. Abraham on the other hand was the first. Unlike us, he did not have a reference point.That is why he is often called 'The Father of Faith. Like a pioneer in uncharted territory, He blazed the trail for us. Let's take a look at some of the things he went through.
1. The call from his land
We learn a lot about Avraham from he Letter to the Hebrews. It says,
By trusting, Avraham obeyed, after being called to go out to a place which God would give him as a possession; indeed, he went out without knowing where he was going. By trusting, he lived as a temporary resident in the Land of the promise, as if it were not his, staying in tents with Yitz'chak and Ya`akov, who were to receive what was promised along with him. For he was looking forward to the city with permanent foundations, of which the architect and builder is God. By trusting, he received potency to father a child, even when he was past the age for it, as was Sarah herself; because he regarded the One who had made the promise as trustworthy. Therefore this one man, who was virtually dead, fathered descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky, and as countless as the grains of the sand on the seashore. All these people kept on trusting until they died, without receiving what had been promised. They had only seen it and welcomed it from a distance, while acknowledging that they were aliens and temporary residents on the earth. For people who speak this way make it clear that they are looking for a fatherland. Now if they were to keep recalling the one they left, they would have an opportunity to return; but as it is, they aspire to a better fatherland, a heavenly one. This is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. By trusting, Avraham, when he was put to the test, offered up Yitz'chak as a sacrifice. Yes, he offered up his only son, he who had received the promises, to whom it had been said, "What is called your 'seed' will be in Yitz'chak." For he had concluded that God could even raise people from the dead! And, figuratively speaking, he did so receive him.
(Heb 11:8-19 CJB)
On the same concept, Yeshua said,
Everyone who has left houses, brothers, sisters, father, mother, children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times more, and he will obtain eternal life. (Mat 19:29 CJB)
Another version of Mat 10:29 says,
"If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father, his mother, his wife, his children, his brothers and his sisters, yes, and his own life besides, he cannot be my talmid." Luk 14:26
These verses have often caused people to think that it is OK to prioritize religious activities over family responsibilities. I have seen, and still see today families broken due to this erroneous understanding of Yeshua's statement and of Avraham's actions. It is not about one replacing the other, but about stating that our for HaShem is so great that by comparison the love we have for our families pales. In truth, taking proper responsibility for our families is one of the greatest and proof testimony of our love for HaShem .
Leaving home and family may seem to many today as a freedom statement, but in the days of Avraham people lived in a tribal society, several generations under the same roof. People just didn't get up and leave home. Let's look at what Avraham's motivations may have or not have been
- Avraham leaving was not the result of an attempts to independence nor of acrimonious relations with his family. Even with his new belief and discovery of HaShem as the sole Creator of heaven and earth, Avraham stayed many years subject to his family and fulfilling his family obligations.
- Abraham remained subject to HaShem's will and did not try to do things on his own.
- In the same manner, our new-found faith should not cause family break-ups. Yeshua did say that family divisions would be caused due to our discipling to him, but this division does not have to end up in break ups; and if it ever does, we should be able to come to the Father and said that we have gone to the 'nth degree of humility and submission in ordered to ensure that it would not happen.
- As an example, we as humanity have a broken relationship with the Father, but He took upon Himself the blame and payment of our transgressions in the figure of Mashiach in order to preserve the relationship. Yeshua taught that if we do the the same with those with whom we have problems, we will be: ... perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. Mat 5:48
2. THE FAMINE IN CANA'AN
When Abraham arrived in Cana'an, the land was occupied.
- He did not force his stay thinking, "I got a revelation straight from God that me and my children should inhabitant this land." He believed the Word, but he waited on his God to fulfill it. Paul agreed with that M.O. he said, for God is the one working among you both the willing and the working for what pleases him. Php 2:13
- It's like Murphy's law. Everything that could go wrong went wrong: the land was occupied, and a famine struck. Abraham didn't doubt his message because, the message he received was real, not a emotional premonition based on wishful thinking.
- Only something real like that can provoke this kind of faith.
- Avraham did not blame God but was entirely subjected to the doings of the Almighty.
3. THE ABDUCTION OF SARAH IN EGYPT
- In Egypt, his plan to conceal the true nature of his relationship with Sarah in order to protect his life went awry. We may be quick to blame Abraham for a big mistake and a sort of lie
- As a side note, I think that we should be careful before condemning the fathers. The Torah forbids speaking evil of the leaders of our people. Also they are not there to defend themselves so the judgment is made in absentia. We are not in their shoes so we cannot exactly judge. What would WE have done in the same situation? Probably worse. We must remember that it is by Abraham's virtue and ways that we inherit Messiah, so somehow, what HasShem has called clean, may we not be found to call unclean. Sometimes we just don't fully understand a situation, and most of the time, it is none of our business to judge anyways.
- Avraham wisely weighed the situation: HaShem had given him no other resources but Egypt -- He would be killed for his wife because for Pharaoh, adultery was very big sin, so he got around it by killing a husband in order to steal his wife, because murder was not a big deal for Pharaoh.
- Abraham estimated that murder is worse than lying, and that the weight of his death and of the covenant God made with him was more serious of a sin than the lie to protect it. (Even Yeshua spoke of lesser and weightier commandments.)
- Abraham had more respect for the covenant than for his own righteousness or reputation, which is just like Yeshua who having not sinned made Himself sin so He could fulfill the covenant.
4. THE QUARREL WITH LOT
- Lot acted selfishly toward his uncle who had helped him make something of himself but Abraham didn't retaliate. He let Lot have first choice, even though again, the Land was his by divine right.
- Both the Master and Paul taught the same thing: "But I tell you not to stand up against someone who does you wrong. On the contrary, if someone hits you on the right cheek, let him hit you on the left cheek too! If someone wants to sue you for your shirt, let him have your coat as well! And if a soldier forces you to carry his pack for one mile, carry it for two! When someone asks you for something, give it to him; when someone wants to borrow something from you, lend it to him. "(Mat 5:39-42 CJB)
How dare one of you with a complaint against another go to court before pagan judges and not before God's people? Don't you know that God's people are going to judge the universe? If you are going to judge the universe, are you incompetent to judge these minor matters? Don't you know that we will judge angels, not to mention affairs of everyday life? So if you require judgments about matters of everyday life, why do you put them in front of men who have no standing in the Messianic Community? I say, shame on you! Can it be that there isn't one person among you wise enough to be able to settle a dispute between brothers? Instead, a brother brings a lawsuit against another brother, and that before unbelievers! Actually, if you are bringing lawsuits against each other, it is already a defeat for you. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? (1Co 6:1-7 CJB)
Talmud: "The disciples of Abraham our father are generous, poor in spirit, and humble." m.Avot 5:19
5. COURAGEOUS LOYALTY/THE WAR WITH THE FOUR KINGS
- After being cheated and wronged by Lot, Abraham still went to rescue him
- Abraham not only freed his nephew but also all the peopler from Sodom and Gomorrah.
- He refused to take anything from the loot. It was an act of total random selflessness.
- Because of these acts, HaShem continued blessing Abraham and confirmed His covenant with him.
5. BUILDING A FAMILY
- Polygamy was acceptable in the world in the days of Abraham, but seeing his wife barren and as an obstacle to the great divine covenant, Abraham passed the test in choosing to remain with Sarah
- The 'Hagar' idea was Sarah's. It may seem a strange idea to us, but it is very close to today's idea of surrogate mothers artificially inseminated
- Sarah wanted a baby; she had no choice in her barrenness; unlike many women who today chose to not have children or wait till their 30's, thus not giving the best of their strength and years to their children, but keeping it for themselves.
- They both were willing to sacrifice to great length in order to see the covenant fulfilled. It is commendable for Sarah, Hagar, and Abraham who loved Sarah.
- I may not need to emphasize how a man circumcising himself at over one hundred years old may be a test. Try it using the same tools Abraham did, and without anesthetics. It is then that Adonai, accompanied with two angels, came came to visit him.
Adonai appeared to Avraham by the oaks of Mamre as he sat at the entrance to the tent during the heat of the day. (Gen 18:1 CJB) The expression ,'... during the heat of the day' is usually understood as ' at the height of the post-circumcision fever.'
IS THERE SOMETHING WE CAN LEARN FROM THE ACTS OF FATHER AVRAHAM?