I love to read biographies and stories about famous people. The missionary stories are my favorite. Amy Carmichael and Elisabeth Elliot are my top two favorite missionaries to read about and after. I also love the stories from the Bible. I love to visualize Adam naming the animals (Aardvark? Really?) and the walls of water on each side of the Red Sea as Moses and his grumbly gang crossed over on dry land. I can only imagine how cool it was to watch small David kill Goliath with a sling shot. I love to think about Jochebed spending hours weaving a basket strong enough to use to put her son in and push him off into the crocodile infested waters of the Nile River.
As I dream and use my imagination to experience these great stories, I tend to think that stepping out on faith was easier for these folks than it is today. Our society is more advanced and it is harder to live a sold-out Christian life. Right? It is harder to quit our jobs and do something God has called us to because we have responsibilities and debt. Right? It is harder to be a witness because so many people don’t believe in God. Right? I start thinking this way and it gives me a way to excuse my lack of obedience and faith.
This week I read the story of God’s covenant with Abraham. It was an amazing honor that God bestowed on Abraham and a huge responsibility. In Genesis chapter 17, Abraham and God have another vision-casting session. God is repeating the promise he made to Abraham to multiply his seed and make a great nation from his family. Abraham is probably high-fiving himself all over and enjoying God’s attention. Up until now, Abraham and Sarah have been asked to leave their home but things were pretty normal. Right when Abraham starts getting comfortable with the previous step of faith, God adds a new twist to the story. God changes Abraham and Sarah’s names. God then leans down and whispers into Abraham’s ear that he wants a physical mark on all the male members of the family. CIRCUMCISION! I can only imagine that Abraham said, “You want me to cut what…. from where????” I know, I know… all the guys reading this are cringing. My guys wouldn’t even let me tell them about this blog! Now think, if we have a hard time talking about this today after thousands of years of getting used to the idea, imagine what Abraham thought. It was the first time this concept had been introduced and not only was he going to have to circumcise himself, he was going to have to explain it to his family and servants and circumcise all of them. I’m pretty sure this wasn’t an easy step of faith required of Abraham. Here are some things I learned while studying this story:
- Obedience and faith are hard. Imagine the conversation Abraham had to have with his group. I am sure they were sitting around the fire singing uplifting praise and worship songs waiting to hear what God had shared with Abraham after the vision-casting session. Here comes Abraham, “Well folks, I have good news and bad news. Umm, guys, God is still going to bless us and everything but he wants us to, ummmmm, cut a tiny little part off “you know what” to show obedience.” LOL! Not the team-building chat I would like to have with any group, for sure! However, Abraham obeyed… that same day! Genesis 17:23
- Obedience and faith don’t require understanding. I don’t see anywhere in the story where God explains why he is asking Abraham to circumcise the gang. He doesn’t give scientific studies or group data on how circumcision will help the new nation. He just gives Abraham the charge and off he goes. I’m pretty sure that the steps of obedience God is asking of me are way easier than what Abraham faced that day, yet I still struggle. Genesis 17:9-14
- Obedience and faith are rewarded. As weird and hard as this was, Abraham obeyed. He took action the very day that God talked with him. He didn’t wait to pray about it or Google it; Abraham obeyed. Because of his obedience and faith, Abraham and Sarah conceived at a 100 years old! (I don’t want that, for sure but they did!) Their children were blessed and their family became the mighty nation of Israel. Abraham and Sarah are both listed in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11.
As I struggle to obey God in my life, I am actually comforted by the magnitude of what God asked of Abraham. If Abraham can trust God and take a step of faith like circumcision and then talk hundreds (maybe thousands) of guys into jumping on board, I am pretty sure I can take the small steps of faith God is asking of me.