February 13, 2023
“Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country[b] and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
When my husband preached on the call of Abram, I distinctly remember him mentioning that in the KJV Abram is to “get thee out!” from his country to go to a land shown to him by Yahweh. Abram’s call is not a suggestion. It isn’t tame. Yet it also comes with a promise: Abram’s offspring will grow into a mighty nation, but more than that: the whole purpose of this ascendancy would be to be a blessing to the entire world. Abram is blessed to be a blessing.
A call to go is a call to leave. Abram is to leave behind his pagan gods and follow Yahweh. A call to go is also a call to listen to God’s step-by-step leading. Abram doesn’t know where he is going and yet God promises that He will show Abram the way. A call to go means that Abram will be renamed and this Abraham is sent as a blessing. Ultimately, the call to go, to follow, and to become mighty, happens through the ordinary and often painful process of death to self. Gone are Abram’s plans, his comfort, and his gods; the life of faith means going.
Ultimately, Abraham’s call points forward to Jesus’ call. Jesus is our true and better Abraham. Jesus’ call meant going: leaving heavenly glory to rescue and redeem his people. No distance was too great for Jesus to seek and save the lost. Also, Jesus’ call was lived out in a step-by-step communion with the Father and the Spirit. We see in the Gospels how Jesus’ earthly ministry was directed by the Father through the power of the Spirit as he walked on the way, as he healed, as he taught, as he was interruptible and as he withdrew to commune with the Father. Likewise, Jesus’ whole ministry was a blessing — a blessing capacious enough to include not just the people of Israel, but also the whole world — so that every tribe and tongue and nation would be grafted into a new body of belonging, the Church.
We are recipients of the call of Abraham and the call of Jesus. We who, through Christ’s atoning work, now wear the blessing, the breaking and the giving of our Savior, are also called to go. We become the hands and feet of Jesus: poured out; we are blessed to be a blessing.
As men and women in the PCA in the twenty-first century, how might we then live?
It’s easy to see God’s call to go to be one of retreat. While we must retreat from the pagan gods of our day, to renounce the gods of therapeutic deism and the gods of comfort and convenience, the call to go often looks like what James Davison Hunter calls “faithful presence within” the places God has put us in. In our comings and goings, in our neighborhoods and households, in our work to listen and see those at the margins of society, we are blessed so that we can be poured out. The call for us today in a world rapidly inert or secular, is not to retreat but to move towards the broken and the hurting. We are to be the hands and feet of Christ, poured out to be a blessing, always moving in step with the Spirit, so that in both how we declare the gospel and how we live it, we not only point back to Jesus and to Abraham but also point forward to the coming of Jesus Christ as King, the one who was broken to be a blessing. May we follow humbling in his steps.
Ashley Hales, Ph.D, is an author, podcaster, and co-founder of The Willowbrae Institute. She is married to Bryce, who pastors Trinity Church in San Luis Obispo, California, and they have four children.