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AHC G Abraham: Call, Sacrifice, LIFE to the full in the land of Promise - Hebrew Catholics

Association of

Hebrew Catholics

New Zealand Branch

“The Gospel to Every Creature”

www.hebrewcatholic.org.nz

Our Christian Vocation

One Hebrew Catholic’s Perspective 

 Unit 1

Abraham:
Call, Sacrifice, LIFE to the full in the land of Promise.

Step 1: Suggested reading:

  •      “Abraham ~ Father of Many Nations
         [You may wish to peruse the list of key people involved with Abraham,
         which follows].
         This story is in continuous narrative form but includes essential material
         from the Bible text.

1.1 We begin our reflections on “The Gospel to Every Creature” with one of the most enduring of Bible stories. Such accounts are essential knowledge if we are to understand God’s interactions with His people. Abraham remains, for us, a great Patriarch and model of how to respond to God. The recommended guided reading above provides a good and faithful summary of the Biblical account. We recommend you print a copy of it for yourself and mark it as you wish, with annotation and highlighting etc. Make is your own. Devour it! Use it! You will come back to it many times!

1.2 The beautiful story of Abraham, our “father in the Faith” as he is often referred to, has many wonderful twists and turns. It shows, if nothing else, how human and real Abraham was. He was no mythological perfect character with mystical powers. He was very much a down to earth man who, whilst humble and respectful before God, knew how to bargain with God, and in fact get a pretty good deal! The ideal person — nothing less — God wanted, to commence the first phase of a new plan of action. (Genesis 11: 26 to 50: 25.)

1.3 For those who are less familiar with this part of Sacred Scripture, it may be helpful to look at a list of people who appear in it, as an introduction and setting to this amazing sequence of events.

Genesis 11: 26 – 32

 

Thare:

at the age of 70 years became the father of Abram, Nachor and Aran, in Ur of the Chaldees.

Lot:

was Aran’s son.

Sara:

was Abram’s wife (who, unlike Melcha, had no children)

Melcha:

was Nachor’s wife.

Note: Thare, with his son Abram and his grandson Lot and his daughter-in-law Sarai, left Ur of the Chaldees. They went to Haran and settled. There Abraham’s father, Thare, died.

 

Genesis 14: 18

Melchisedec

King of Salem (Jerusalem)

Genesis 16: 3

Agar

Sarai’s servant. Who at Sarai’s request bore a son to Abraham, Ismael.

Genesis 17: 5

Abraham

renamed by God, “father of a throng”.

Genesis 17: 15

Sarai

renamed Sarah by God with the promise of a son.

Genesis 17: 19

Isaac

Abraham’s son, named by God (Commanded in 22: 2 to be sacrificed).

Genesis 19: 37

Moab

son of elder daughter of Lot, obtained by incest.

Genesis 24: 15

Rebecca

Isaac’s wife and daughter of Bathuel (son of Melcha).

Genesis 24: 29

Laban

brother of Rebecca, thus becoming, in due course, Isaac’s brother-in-law and Jacob’s crafty uncle whose cunning matched Jacob’s.

Genesis 25: 1

Cetura

Abraham’s second wife after Sarah’s death.

Note:

Genesis 25: 8 — 10 Abraham died and was buried in a cave on the land opposite Mambre, which he had previously purchased from the owner.

 

Genesis 25: 25

Esau

Isaac and Rebecca’s elder son.

 

Jacob

their younger son.

Genesis 29: 16

Leah

Jacob’s first wife (by Laban’s artifice).

Genesis 29: 28

Rachel

Jacob’s second wife (by Jacob’s choice).

Genesis 35: 10

Israel

Jacob’s new name from God.

Genesis 35: 23 — 26 The 12 son’s of Jacob/Israel

 

Sons of Leah

Reuben (first born)
Simeon
Levi
Judah
Issacher
Zubulun

 

Sons of Rachel

Joseph

Benjamin

 

Sons of Rachel’s Maid Bilhah

Dan

Naphtali

 

Sons of Leah’s Maid Zilpah

Gad

Asher

Genesis 46: 26

The sons of Joseph

Ephraim (younger)

Joseph Manasseh (elder)

 

                                    

   

 

1.4 Take your time to read this wonderful introduction to our heritage and enjoy the story-line. Mark anything which attracts your attention or interest and reflect on it later. This is really important: mark these words, actions, observations — no matter how minor — since they are your footprint, your particular places of engagement with the events recorded. You will return to them; nothing is more certain.

Step 2. Reflection

2.1 The story which unfolds about Abram (later changed to Abraham) is one we will discover we go back to, over and over again. Amongst all the human details, some very special moments stand out as commanding our earnest attention. They are moments of special encounter between God and this great Patriarch.

2.2 “The Story of Abraham” gives us a good overview of a multiplicity of events and detail, all of which help us appreciate the magnificent plan of God for the care of a people He chooses to call His own. So important is this phase in Salvation History we list some special texts from Genesis which are as inspiring to read as they are important to know.

Genesis 12: 1 — 3

Call to Abraham (or Abram, in fact, as he was first named.)

Genesis 15: 5 — 6

and

Genesis 17: 1 — 8

Promise of numberless progeny repeated.

Promise to Abram that (1) he will be the father of a multitude of nations; (2) that God will give him the land of Canaan. God changes his name to Abraham (“father of a throng”).

Genesis 22: 1 — 19

Sacrifice of Isaac demanded God’s angel repeats God’s promise.

 

Recommendation: if you read “Abraham — Father of Many Nations “, you may wish to read the above four short portions of the ancient art text it was taken from, i.e. Genesis.

Step 3. A Very Special Pattern

3.1 In our world, skeptical of all religious knowledge, instruction and practice, we need to be able to read Sacred Scripture in a manner that is both valid and authentic. The Church, guardian of the Scriptures, is our authority in the correct interpretation. Without that guidance we become lost in a labyrinth of paths and detail, and are likely to suffer the fate of all who claim personal authority to interpret “as the Holy Spirit leads”: a tendency to miss the point, follow personal priorities and reduce the strength of the message.

3.2 The long passage of Genesis 11: 26 to 50: 25 is an enthralling story. It is referred to in several New Testament contexts by speakers (including our Lord) and writers, all of whom have pondered and meditated on the very, very human aspects of the story, as well as the divine. We offer below one approach to viewing all the detail and beholding the awesome plan of God as it unfolds. It is an approach which depicts a call to partnership of a kind, and the blessed outcome which results.

3.3 As mentioned in our general Introduction, many readers will immediately see links to the over-arching Covenant theme throughout Sacred Scripture. We do not treat that subject as such in this “workshop” come seminar document, since it is a preparation for going on later to develop this great theme. Our exercises here are a preliminary build-up, which we would like to suggest, actually find their fulfilment in our Lord’s parable of the “Prodigal Son” as well as His enactment of the New Covenant.

3.4 The passages of the Genesis text we listed in 2.2 above reveal three momentous high points in God’s interaction with Abraham, either directly or via His angel messenger. We referred to them in 2.1. as:

 

“Moments of special encounter”.

 

CALL 

Genesis 12: 1 ― 3

“Leave your country,
your own people and
your own family ―
and travel to the
land I will show you.”              

Promise

“I will make a great
people from you
and your name
shall be a benediction
and in you, all the
races of the world shall
find a blessing.”   

 

Genesis 15: 5 – 6

“Look up to the sky,
and count if you can,
the stars in it. Your
race, like these, shall
be numberless.”   

LOVING RESPONSE

Abram faithfully
followed the path
God showed him.

In doing so he had to
bear with many
set-backs and
hardships.

Genesis 22: 1 — 4

“Take your only son,
your beloved son
Isaac, with you to the
land of Moriah, and
there offer him to me
in burnt sacrifice on a
mountain I will show
you.”                                        

NEW LIFE

God chose Abram
(Abraham) to begin
a new people, and
give them
fullness of life in
a new land.

 

Genesis 17: 1 — 8

“Here is the
Covenant I make
with you. You
shall be the father
of a multitude of
nations.”

 

 

“I will give you the
land in which you
dwell now as a
stranger, the whole
land of Canaan, their
inheritance forever.
And I shall be their
God.”                                       

3.5 Here we note the three elements which will emerge again and again as God’s plan unfolds.

CALL
and
  PROMISE  

LOVING

RESPONSE

NEW LAND
and
NEW LIFE

 

Summing Up

In a way the chart in 3.4. above: “Moments of Special Encounter,” offers a skeletal summary of the key ideas laid out in the Genesis account. Abram, (later Abraham) demonstrated amazing faith in God who put him to the test and later blessed him and his descendents with many gifts. We draw attention to just two items in this skeletal; summary.

First

We can rejoice that the Covenant God made with Abraham, as he was then called, continues and thus we are part of that evolving Plan of God. The same dynamic will operate in our dealings with God:

  • Listening for His call;
  • Following His Word, which requires loving obedience and sacrifice.
  • Living as people in His Presence.

Notice how when God CALLS He gives specific instructions for immediate attention, but also gives at least some information about the benefits for the future. But the latter are not achieved without a loving response in this case sacrificial obedience, and then only after a long period of successive attempts and failures.

If we call Abraham our “father in the Faith”, and if we consider ourselves as participants in the Covenant God made with him, then we will also need to remember our responsibilities to be worthy of His Promise:

“I will make a great people from you and your name shall be a benediction and in you all the races of the world shall find a blessing.”

There is a lot to ponder here, but the reference “all the races of the world” signals an inherent responsibility if we are sons and daughters of Abraham, to take God’s blessings to the whole of humanity.

Secondly

Remember God’s own words to Abram:

“I will make a great people from you and your name shall be a benediction and in you, all the races of the world shall find a blessing.”

Despite frequent criticism from Christian sources, Judaism at large has retained this awareness and has been very consistent in acknowledging the obligations it has to the world. It is very common to read in Christian literature how exclusive the Jews became and thus possessive of their privilege as a Chosen People. It would seem prudent that we audit our own behavior and attitudes from time to time to ensure we do not display symptoms we seem to find so readily in our observations of others.

It seems that if we want to know what it means to take the Gospel to every creature: WE MUST BE THE GOSPEL TO EVERY CREATURE!

 

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