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Rumination #3: Why is the life of faith so often called a "walk"?

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, HaShem appeared to Abram and said to him, "I am Ek Shaddai; walk before Me and be blameless. And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly."
Genesis 17:1

Throughout the Scriptures, G-d uses the metaphor of walking to describe the life of faith. It starts in the Garden, where He walked with Adam. What is it about walking that He wants us to pattern our life after?

Beloved, in Scripture, walking is not merely action: it action with purpose.

The notion of "let go and let G-d" cannot survive the biblical example of "walking with G-d." G-d is not a mode of transportation. He desires us to put one foot in front of another… and to walk with Him. As HaShem said to Abraham our father:

Arise, walk in the Land through its length and its width, for I give it to you.
Genesis 13:15

Walking is synonymous with obeying His commandments.

Therefore you shall keep the commandments of HaShem your G-d, to walk in His ways and to fear Him.
Deuteronomy 8:6

Beloved, everyone is walking. Some are walking with HaShem, others are walking contrary to Him. The choice is ours.

And after all this, if you do not obey Me, but walk contrary to Me, then I also will walk contrary to you in fury; and I, even I, will chastise you seven times for your sins.
Leviticus 26:27

The next time you think about the "walk" of faith, think of our Father Abraham. He obeyed HaShem, when G-d told him to walk out of Ur.

Parashat Lech Lecha - 'Go out' -  (Genesis 12:1-17:27)

There are times that I regret we are following annual instead of the triennial system for reading the Torah. This week is one of those times. This week we will study six chapters of the Torah, like most weeks in the annual schedule. The triennial schedule allows for time for these most important six chapters that deal with the life of our father Abraham.

With that in mind, my suggestion to you this week as you study parashat Lech Lecha is that you keep focused upon the title "Lech Lecha" and what that means to these six chapters. Although the title was chosen by the sages, the words that introduce us to our father Abraham are HaShem's words. The simple words "go out" may mean far more than you realize. The title for this week's portion comes from the first verse:

Yayomer HaShem el-Avram lech-l'cha mearts'cha umimoladt'cha umibeit avicha el-ha'arets asher areka.

Now HaShem had said to Abram: "Get out of your country, from your family and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you."

The phrase, lech lecha [go out] is in the imperative. It is a command. At the end of the previous chapter, we read briefly about Abram. They are words about his relationships. They are descriptive words that identify Abram with his country, his family, and his father. As this week's portion opens, we are given a different perspective, which gives us a glimpse into the other side of reality: the unseen. Faith is about acting upon an unseen reality. It is about visible actions because of invisible truths. Abram was not intended to be merely a man from Ur, son of Terah, brother of Nahor and Haran. He was not even intended to be merely the husband of Sarai - or later, the father of Ishmael. The Almighty had something different in mind for Abram: A relationship. That will lead to a completely different identity for our father Abraham.

Lech lecha comes from the root verb halak [walk]. There is nothing unusual about this common verb - except when it is a command issued by the Holy One, blessed is He, to one of His creations. It is this command that sets Abraham apart. This is the command in which we are introduced to our father Abraham's life of faith. We have seen this word before, but not as a command. Remember Enoch and Noah?

Enoch walked with G-d three hundred years...
Genesis 5:22

Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with G-d...
Genesis 6:9

What is it to "walk with G-d?" We are given a glimpse of what it is in the very command that HaShem gave to Abram in Genesis 12:1. Let's break it down.

He was commanded to "lech-lecha" [go out, walk out] of/from:

He was commanded to "lech-lecha" to:

Abram's walk with G-d would take him from his country, from his family, from his father's house. His walk with G-d would take him to a land that HaShem would show him. Please notice that G-d did not command Abram to go to a place. The place would be evident because G-d would be showing it to him. The key is that Abram would be walking with G-d. Always remember it is a walk with G-d. Our faith is one of walking with G-d.

In verse 4, we are simply told that Abram obeyed. How funny it is that some of the most profound events are detailed in so few verses. Beloved, in these short four verses, we have the essence of what it means to cross over into the Kingdom of Light. In response to Abram's obedience, we see that G-d replaces those things that he left. Verses 2-3 say,

I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
Genesis 12:2-3

Follow the exchange:

Add to those, the following additional promises:

For those of us who come from a western background, it is always important to remember that these blessings and promises are not merely "spiritual." Biblical reality is always defined by the visible and the invisible - the physical and the spiritual.

Abram physically walked from Ur and Haran to the Land. He physically crossed over. He spiritually walked from where he was, to where G-d showed him. This week's portion gives our father the distinct description of being "Avram ha-Iv'ri"  ["Abram the Hebrew"] (14:13). "Hebrew" comes from the root verb abar, which means to pass or cross over. To be a Hebrew, is to be one that has crossed over.

When we believe what G-d promises through Yeshua, we like Abraham are given a new country, a new family, and a new heritage. We are grafted into Abraham. We are grafted into the family of G-d. Like Abraham, we have crossed over. It all begins by acting upon the command, lech lecha [Go out].

Remember, faith is about living out what is unseen. It is union between what is spiritual and unseen, with what is physical and can be seen. That is what it is to walk with G-d.

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, HaShem appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am G-d Almighty; walk before Me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly.
Genesis 17:1-2

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise.
Hebrews 11:8-9

Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of G-d is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.

Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning.
1John 2:3-7

Haftarat Lech Lecha - 'Go Out' (Isaiah 40:27-41:16)

As we saw in this week's parasha portion, in Genesis 14:13, Abraham is called "Avram ha-Iv'ri" ["Abram the Hebrew"] - or "Abram the one who crossed over." We know that Abraham was not merely one who came from the other side of the Euphrates. We know that he was one who crossed over from the pagan culture of his age, to worship the One True G-d. He left idolatry and worshiped the One G-d.

This week's reading from the Prophets draws from this understanding. After you read this week's Torah portion, savor and ponder its relationship to the haftarah reading from the Prophets. It is the contrast between the idolatrous nations and the faithful servant of HaShem. It is time for those who say that they "believe" to "lech lecha" - to go out... to cross over... to leave idolatry behind. There is only One. There is only the Holy One, blessed is He.

Our haftarah portion opens in Isaiah 40:27 with a word of encouragement to those who are tired, to those who are weary. Like Abram, weary from the journey. Like Abram, weary of the idolatry also in the Promised Land. Like Abram, promised an heir, weary of waiting. Like Abraham, weary of the wickedness of Sodom - and yet fearful for their destruction. We are weary. Those who respond to lech lecha may become weary.

Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, "My way is hidden from HaShem, and my just claim is passed over by my G-d"? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting G-d, HaShem, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, But those who wait on HaShem shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:27-31

Are you weary? Remember the One that you serve. He is not like the idols that you left behind. Those who worship idols serve something other than the King of the Universe. Our haftarah continues by contrasting those who remain in idolatry. The encouragement they receive is from one another, but not from their Creator. There is a clamor as they attempt to muster their strength. To that the Creator commands "Silence!" The idolaters seek comfort and strength, but HaShem offers them nothing but judgment.

Keep silence before Me, O coastlands, and let the people renew their strength! Let them come near, then let them speak; let us come near together for judgment. Who raised up one from the east? Who in righteousness called him to His feet? Who gave the nations before him, and made him rule over kings?

Who gave them as the dust to his sword, as driven stubble to his bow? Who pursued them, and passed safely by the way that he had not gone with his feet? Who has performed and done it, calling the generations from the beginning? I, HaShem, am the First; and with the Last I am He. The coastlands saw it and feared, the ends of the earth were afraid; they drew near and came. Everyone helped his neighbor, and said to his brother, "Be of good courage!" So the craftsman encouraged the goldsmith; he who smooths with the hammer inspired him who strikes the anvil, saying, "It is ready for the soldering." Then he fastened it with pegs, that it might not totter.
Isaiah 41:1-7

To those who are His beloved, He encourages them with His strength. To those who worship others, He commands them to be silent - and to prepare for judgment.

Beloved, have you come out of idolatry? Like Abraham, is that your former life? Many read passages about idolatry and equate it merely with the obvious silliness of bowing before hand-made idols. We look at this as an ancient and ignorant practice. Do not be fooled beloved. Although ancient, idolatry is not simply the practice of otherwise ignorant people. The most idolatrous people in history were also the most advanced in civilization. I am speaking of the "Coastlands" mentioned in Isaiah 41:1: The Greek city-states. Ironically, Greek idolatry is present even today. It is found in the philosophical pursuit of knowledge that denies the Almighty. It is even found in the most conservative of theologies. "What," you may say, "how can good biblical theology be idolatrous?" The fact that we can ask such a question shows how thoroughly trained in idolatry we are.

Idolatry is likened to this: the study of the "art" of farming, but never planting or harvesting anything. It is like reading about travel, but never going anywhere. It is like enjoying the beauty of a rose, but never bending over to enjoying its fragrance. Beloved, that is what idolatry is: it is "faith"... without works.

You see, those man-made gods require nothing of us. We construct them in our own image because we want no one to tell us what to do. Lech lecha demands more. We must respond. The Almighty King of the Universe demands obedience. Abram did not merely "believe" in Genesis 15. Remember the context. The Abram of Genesis 15, who "believed and it was credited to him as righteousness" was the same Abram that responded obediently to HaShem's command, "Lech lecha!" [Go out] in Genesis 12. "Believing" is always evidenced by obedience.

Theology is little more than "studying the art of farming without planting or harvesting." It is idolatry when left by itself. "Believing" is little more than "reading about travel, but never going anywhere." It is idolatry when left by itself.

HaShem wants more from us, and for us. Lech lecha. He wants us to leave idolatry behind.

Our haftarah continues with more encouragement to those who have "crossed over" and left the culture and philosophy of the world behind. It is an encouragement to His people. To Israel, His servant. Not idolaters. Not a people more enamored with theology than with His very Presence. Not a people who "believe" but do not do.

"But you, Israel, are My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the descendants of Abraham My friend. You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest regions, and said to you, "You are My servant, I have chosen you and have not cast you away."
Isaiah 41:8-9

We don't worship deaf and dumb idols that are in our own image, that we can imagine their requirements for us (always the things we think are right anyway). No, we worship and serve the Living G-d Who has spoken. His words are words of life; but they are words that require our subservience to Him. We are His servants - not His equals or His master. He is King. We are His servants.

The King's servants will face opposition from idolaters. They hate those who obey the King. They hate the servants of HaShem. It has always been this way. Be prepared. It is why the words of encouragement are found in this passage. HaShem's words of encouragement to us are the same to Abraham, whom He loved: "Al tira" [fear not] (Gen 15:1).

Al tira [Fear not], for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your G-d. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.
Isaiah 41:10

For I, HaShem your G-d, will hold your right hand, saying to you, "Al tira [Fear not], I will help you. Al tira [Fear not], you worm Jacob, you men of Israel! I will help you," says HaShem and your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.
Isaiah 41:13-14

Beloved, al tira. Do not be afraid. Respond to the Almighty's call of "lech lecha" [go out]. Do not be afraid of what others will say. Do not be afraid that even some of our brothers and sisters may think that you have abandoned "faith" for a form of "legalism." Obeying G-d can never be wrong, and any theology that says such is merely one more form of idolatry. Cross over.

May we be numbered among those listed in Hebrews chapter 11 who were categorized as men and women of faith - because their faith was evidenced not by a creed or a statement of "belief" but by what they did.

Our Master, Yeshua, did not merely "believe" that He could redeem us. He lived a life of redemption, and then He took the obedient steps to actually purchase us. Ours is not a "thought religion" - because that would be idolatry. For us, it must be Lech lecha.

Prayer Focus for Lech Lecha -  'Avot' [The Fathers]

Blessed are You, HaShem, our G-d and the G-d of our forefathers,
G-d of Abraham, G-d of Isaac, and G-d of Jacob;
the Great, Mighty, and Awesome G-d, the Supreme G-d,
Who bestows beneficial kindnesses and creates everything,
Who recalls the kindnesses of the Patriarchs and brings a Redeemer to their children's children,
for His Name's sake, with love.
O King, Helper, Savior, and Shield.
Blessed are You, HaShem, Shield of Abraham

-- ArtScroll translation

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