Living By Faith
Submitted by Jay McCumber, Executive Director of TTWM
There were many voices in those days. It was a confusing, spacious time of noise and increase in the region, a great seeking of the rhythms and ways of the gods that, in turn, the people might be blessed with fertility and plenty.
The mighty temple stood like a massive lopsided pyramid at the center of the great Chaldean city of Ur. They say it began as the great tower to which all of humanity flocked in wonder and awe, working together to build it to the heavens, to be as the gods. The aged fathers still speak of that great time of confusion, under the mad king Nimrod, when families and communities were separated by the confusion, unable to speak or understand one another, flung to the ends of the earth in chaos and fear, a true Babel.
The great rivers plodded southward through the land, meandering in broad, lazy pathways, turning what should have been a desert into a land of goodness. Legend was that this place was once the garden of the Great God, that of all places on earth, He had chosen this plain between Tigris and Euphrates to nestle His creation.
But times and seasons change. War drums played, armies marched and leaders hungry for power sat in their towers of jewels, aspiring to the place of the gods and demanding worship. Though stability of government reigned, there was no end of fear of the gods. Commerce was strong, but so was slavery. Security was found only in power and power was becoming centralized in ways that helped the few and threatened the many.
It was in this age that tragedy found the family of Terah in Ur. His oldest son, Haran, died too young, his loving father and young son, Lot, by his side. The pain and memories were too much for Terah, and the commercial and political situations in Ur too tenuous, so took his family and departed Ur.
To the west, Terah moved his family, seeking the mysterious land of Canaan, that land of peace-loving warrior giants whose ancestors were the spawn of angels. Whispers on the wind said the gods of the land of Canaan were harsh, demanding even the sacrifice of one’s firstborn to appease their wrath, but the sacrifice was worth it. Rumors abounded about this spacious, fertile place of gigantic harvests – grapes as large as a man’s head and never-ending rivers of milk and wine. It was to this land of fearsome gods and massive abundance that Terah intended for his family. After all, his firstborn was already sacrificed.
But the journey was hard and Terah was old. They stopped and homesteaded a settlement together just north of the great sands of Arabia in Assyria. Terah named the city he founded after his dead son, Haran. It was in Haran, that Terah departed this world to the eternal valley of the gods. And it was here that his living oldest son, Abram, intended to stay with his wife, Sarai, his younger brother and his family and his now adopted son – though truly his nephew – Lot, the heir of the deceased Haran.
But things were to change for Abram. Terah’s original intent to plant his family in Canaan was to become a reality.
Abram, a merchant shepherd by trade and loyal follower of the gods, was alone one day when God spoke to him. “Abram, go from your country 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 the one who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
This was new: a God who speaks. All his life, Abram had seen the gods represented, and had learned of his father their prescribed expectation, what was required to please them that blessing might come and protection be had. But to be personally engaged by a god, to have personal communication, to be verbally blessed...never. Wood, dirt, stone and metal cannot speak. The voice of this God was worth following. Going where? The voice of God would say. How would he know when he arrived? The voice of God would speak. What to do when he got there? Again, the voice of God was enough.
Idols demand senseless sacrifice, but this Great God was offering blessing. A world-changing people who would forever stand as the people of God, the children of Abraham. It was fantastical, but there was a Voice. It was the voice of YHWH, the true voice of God, and it called Abram to faith. Abram listened, obeyed, and was blessed.
This was the beginning of it all. God inserting Himself into the story of humanity with goodness and grace, in direct opposition to gods of the world who served as cold statues of oppression and fear. Light had been spoken into the world.
This God offered grace in the place of Abram’s deep failure.
This God made a one-sided covenant of grace and blessing rather than requiring Abram to hold up his end of the bargain.
This God turned a dry desert into a place of plenty for the sake of his son Abram.
This God saved the treasured nephew of Abram from the miserable destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
This God called for the sacrifice of Abram’s firstborn, then offered grace rather than requiring death.
This God spoke to His son Abram, inserting Himself again and again into the fabric of the tapestry of His people. So began the story of the greatest people the world has ever known.
The children of Abraham would bless the entire world. They are the children of God, and their greatest calling is ours as well: the just live by faith.