These two goings of Abram/Abraham become for later generations the very definition of trust in God, the willingness to do what God asks. It is, of course, fair to ask: "Is such blind faith what God asks of us?" This is a deeply troubling question as through the centuries any number of people have decided that God has bid them do quite terrible things from slaughtering enemies, to killing children, to leading trusting people to their doom in Jonestown and Waco and other places too soon forgotten. The wonderful, and terrifying, definition of faith found in the letter to the Hebrews—"the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen"—has empowered and shattered many a believer over the years. That definition seems the epitome of Abram's decision to go, but it surely should not be the last word on what we think God is asking us to do in our time. The fact that Abram went at the call of his God led to the founding of Israel, the call much later for Israel to be a "light to the nations" (Is. 49:6), and to the demand of Jesus to all Christians to "go and make disciples of all nations" (Mt. 28:19). Yet, with all these grand calls, the devil is always in the details. How are we to be a "light to the nations"? How are we to "make disciples of all nations"? What if all nations prefer their own light, and their own understanding of what they mean by being disciples? Like, Abram, we hear the call of our God to go, but also like Abram just how that going is to be done is something we must work out with all nations, before we can ever hope to be a blessing and not a curse.
Author's Note: Here is another reminder of the cruise of the Baltic, departing Copenhagen on September 3, 2014. I will be lecturing on the book of Job, and I hope by then to have copies of my novel, King Saul, available for you to read. For full details of this trip, go to eo.travel. I do hope to see you there!