Possessing an eager heart

possessing an eager heart
'Abraham Receiving the Three Angels,'
Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Wikimedia Commons
Reading the story of Abraham and his three angelic visitors, I was struck by the verbs. When Abraham saw the angels standing by the tree, Genesis 18 says that he “ran” to meet them. Once he got them settled, it says he “hurried” to Sarah to have her prepare bread for the guests, which he told her to do quickly. Next it says that he “ran” and selected a heifer for their meal.

Just picture him: Abraham, an old man at this point, is hotfooting his way through the account, bolting this way, then that.

Most commentators focus on Abraham’s hospitality. That’s obviously appropriate, and it’s perhaps the most important aspect of the story. Icons of the event are often billed as “The Hospitality of Abraham” for that reason. Abraham’s actions paint a picture of openness to God, welcoming him into our lives.

But what about those verbs? More than just serving the Lord, Abraham served eagerly and energetically. He raced to the Lord and for the Lord, and he encouraged others to do the same.

In his Homilies on Genesis, Origen calls attention to this fact:

Behold in the individual matters how great is [Abraham’s] eagerness to receive [the angels]. He makes haste in all things; all things are done urgently; nothing is done leisurely (4.1).

That Abraham ran or hurried may be more descriptive than prescriptive, but it makes me wonder how often I race to serve. Not enough, I can tell you. I apply myself dutifully, obediently, and even promptly some of the time, but I want more of Abraham’s eagerness, more of his sense of urgency.

It’s a mistake to think Abraham’s story is about speed, as if the Christian walk were primarily about hustling for Jesus. It’s about heart. Abraham’s racing is an outward, physical sign of an inner, spiritual reality. And presented with the example, I pray for a heart as eager as his.

Question: How does Abraham’s example challenge you?

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  • Abraham is one I’ve always wanted to study further. I was in Genesis this week reading through some parts of Abraham and Jacob’s story. This is definitely helping me to dig deeper into scripture to learn more. Thank you Joel for the challenge.

    I know I’m in a constant hustle in life and take little time to “be with Christ” I pray for my heart to be after the face of Christ, to seek him, embrace him, and go forward with that true heart. Truth is, he has never stopped pursuing me. Amen. Thank you for the great reminder.

    • Thanks, Dave. I’ve been reading Genesis closely again and really benefiting from it. One book to read (sounds heavy but isn’t) is Patrick Henry Reardon’s Creation and the Patriarchal Histories. Just finished it. Solid stuff.

  • Great post, Joel. I’m trying to remember times when I’ve hurried around to serve a guest—usually an unexpected guest.

    I think what’s motivating me in those times is a sense of excitement, a sense that I want to get the details taken care of so I can settle into just being with that person. I don’t want to miss out on anything. I’m not sure how long he/she is going to stay, so I don’t want to miss a single second. That’s why I hurry to take care of the practical needs. I just want to “be” with that person.

    If it’s someone I’m not excited to be with, all kinds of excuses and procrastination will come into play.

    This post has spoken to me, not so much about what I should be doing, but about paying attention to what I am doing. What does my scurrying around or lack of scurring tell me about how I value my guest (e.g., Christ.)?

    • Amen. We’re often told that we shouldn’t scurry, but isn’t the real issue the intent of the haste? Origen’s word “leisurely” is convicting. To leisurely serve God makes it sound like we’re not taking it seriously. We should be eager, even intense.

  • Love this piece Joel…and love the painting. It challenges me to rethink the way I use my energies. I tend to swing from being a “hurry up” girl to a complacent one. Balance has never come easy to my flighty disposition. As I get older I find I am more purposed in what I do and this reminds me to be more aware of why I do it.

    • That’s awesome, Patsy. It’s encouraging to hear your struggle with this.

  • Well said, I think we all could improve our daily eagerness to attend to the Lord’s direction in our lives. It’s so easy to become all to eager to please others and pursue material things when eternity is all that matters.

  • Beautiful, Joel. I really like this emphasis on eagerness.

  • Joel,
    Thanks for the message today. It has really made me think about how eager I am to serve. Am I rushing to serve because I *want* to serve, or because of how it will look?

    It’s something I am probably going to blog about, and will reference back to your site.