Following Lord Jesus is not something that we decided to do but it is a blessing from Him for He chose us in eternity past even before anything came into being. Many are called but few are chosen and these few are then justified through His sacrificial death on the cross, resurrection and ascension to His throne of authority and power in heaven. This places us in a special category of people different from all others. But this must get reflected in our daily living also for others to see and emulate for we are the salt of the earth. What is this uniqueness of Christian life?
How does our uniqueness start – Lord Jesus was there in the Old Testament as much as He is the New for He was there as Creator in the book of Genesis and a Shepherd trying to get His sheep back into His fold later. As the Redeemer He stepped right into the book for what was thus far a story of the mankind became as much His story. The walk of a follower of God remains the same in the Scripture and the only difference is the clear definition provided now.
Abraham was commanded by the Lord to ‘go forth’ to a place “that I will show you” while neither a route nor the destination or any other detail is provided. While Noah is introduced in the Scripture narrative as “a righteous man” (Genesis ) there is no specific trait of Abraham mentioned therein. In like manner believers are told to move in faith in compliance to the Great Commission edict, where He has all the authority in heaven and on earth on everything. Hebrew words “lech lecha”, translated as ‘go forth’ define as much Abraham’s as our vocation in service to the Lord to move on in His mighty name. ‘Lech lecha has four different connotations, each clarifying a different aspect of our walk with and in the Lord.
1. Journey for yourself – This is to travel for your own benefit and good for “I will make you into a great nation” was the promised blessing to Abraham (Genesis ). The curse of being childless will be removed and in faith Abraham was to become the father to all Jews and also believers. He was asked to say goodbye to his birthplace, land, parental home and relations to acquire a future, thus moving from familiar to unfamiliar. This was to be a leap into the unknown in faith and trust in the invisible power of a God his ancestors did not know anything about, for “they served other gods” (Joshua ). This is to be a journey for self believing in what one can become under the blessed hand of God, your final destiny.
2. Go with yourself – Under this the travel into the unknown is for extending one’s influence beyond what is there, into a large territory that God has given. Abraham was like a jar of scent with a tight lid over it, put away in a corner not known to and about others. This travel, ‘lech lecha’ was meant to remove the lid so that his fragrance of hidden good deeds could ne spread into distant lands, thus revealing and spreading the hidden greatness to the world. He was to move in faith to become witness of an omnipotent and omnipresent God through spreading the God given knowledge about Himself, leaving a trace of the perfume within. This was to go with your way of life, your faith and your cultural beliefs to serve the living God while discarding the idols of his ancestors.
3. Go to yourself – This was to be a journey to the root of his soul, to obtain a deeper understanding of self. In heaven nobody will ask me why I did not become like Billy Graham or someone else equally well known. But I will definitely be required to answer for the fact of my not becoming what I am supposed to be – my own self. I must discard all, that makes me what I am not supposed to be and discover my real persona, to be that. This is a journey to oneself to know self and the inner potential.
4. Go by yourself – After creation process was completed God saw and declared everything to be good. Every human being has an individual relationship with the Creator despite being surrounded by various earthly relations. Lech lecha is a command to go by yourself, to be singular, alone and unique God of these very traits. Thus man is supposed to leave the natural sources of personal identity – family, friends, relatives, land, culture and society to stand alone above nature before God.
Journey into the unknown is freedom from all the old ties and pressures and one is to move into and for freedom. It is to leave behind all that makes man predictable – social forces, family ties and pressures an d circumstances of birth to defy the laws of nature to carve a new and different identity with faith, courage that comes from that and self discipline. It is to move beyond the laws of history that repeats itself, to overcome disintegration and decline to lay new foundations that are not subject to biological, economical and psychological conflicts. This new self then comes and operates under the sole authority and power of the Word and Will of God.
Lech lecha is a lonely walk for Lord Jesus declared that anyone who loves his father or mother more than Him is not worthy to serve Him (Matthew 10:37). It is to challenge status quo in our Lord God’s name. In this new life we are not what we own but what we share for it is call from outside ourselves to make a contribution to the world. It is to be ‘salt of the earth’, to preserve and restore by hearing the still small voice of eternity to journey toward that unknown destination promised by the Lord – to a life of abundance in Him.
Abraham followed Terah, his father, or charted a new course – Abraham was chosen by God and in the same way are we to become ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession’ (1 Peter 2:9). What did he or I do to deserve this? The call seems to come from nowhere and nothing prepared us for this change. We are to simply rejoice in this blessed state and with Abraham, in faith, have a sudden break from the past. Terah left Ur of the Chaldees to go to the land of Canaan but settled on the way in Haran (Genesis 11:31-32). Terah and his ancestors ‘served other gods’ (Joshua 24:2) and he decided to follow the vision of his son Abraham to move. Abraham, after his father’s death left Haran “with all that he had and reached Canaan” (Genesis 12:5).
Originally people worshipped God only and after their language was confused and they were scattered over the face of the earth for their attempt to reach God through the Tower of Babel, they started offering sacrifices to created things. Sun, moon, planets and human and animal forms worship started late. Probably Terah already had some insight about the Living God and Abraham followed later. Noah is defined as a person who ‘walked with God’ (Genesis 6:9) while there is no such character trait of Abraham mentioned. He was simply commanded by God to ‘walk before Me and be perfect’ (Genesis 17:1) for his destined role was different. Parents create space for their children to let them grow and our call from God our “Avinu” – Father – is such to move into a new role to ‘dominate and subdue the earth’.
Being chosen is in one way continuity of heritage – complete what Terah had started while starting afresh by leaving the past and continue. God prepares us for the future through life experiences to shape our thought and faith. In adolescent years we feel we are leaving our parents ideas but it is much later that we realize how much we carry forward from them. God chooses us not to erase the past but to add new dimensions to interpret life differently. Each situation leads us to our new place and Saul was told by the Lord “It is hard for you kick against the goads” (Acts 9:5). Saul a Jewish Roman citizen and a scholar of the Old Testament used his knowledge and status to interpret the Gospel for the Gentiles by becoming Apostle Paul. It is this new understanding that placed him in opposition to others during the ‘circumcision debate’ regarding non Jewish believers.
Not everyone is commanded by the Lord to move out from their present circumstances and the new assignment becomes to remain in the same social milieu and influence them with our testimony. God provides us the power to transform self and others. Lord Jesus declared, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go” (Matthew 28:18) thus giving the authority and power of the Word and His Spirit to the disciples to go and fulfill their new role. A policeman draws his authority from his uniform while the state gives him power to enforce the law. We are from God and overcome the evil ‘for He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world’ (1 John 4:4). Being chosen is to be blessed with the indwelling Holy Spirit to ask and receive and bring glory to God.
The command to make disciples revolves around the question, whether God has given up on those who do not obey His commands. Definitely not, for had it been so most of us would not qualify for His mercy and redemption. The person who presented me the Holy Bible was not aware that I had been chosen by God, nor do I know of others whom I reach out to. The first eleven chapters in the Book of Genesis are about the humanity as a whole and it is only after that, that the narrative shifts to individuals. Adam and Eve or Cain and Abel are individuals but their actions impact all of humanity and I like manner the tales of Noah and the Tower of Babel. Flood comes when each is doing is what is “right in their own eyes”.
Freedom destroys order and results in the Tower of Babel, for there must have been many who wanted no part in this, whereas order destroys freedom. God confused the language of people to restore their individual freedom. It is then that the story of one people – the Jews – takes shape but God did not give up on others for He revealed Himself to others through them. Joseph’s reply to his brothers for condoning their sin of selling him as a slave is about God’s concern for others – “You intended it for harm but God sent me ahead to save many lives” (Genesis 50:20). The “many lives” included lives of Egyptians and others in the region who suffered the effects of famine and would have perished otherwise. Prophet Jonah was annoyed with God for not punishing the Ninveites, the enemies of Israel, but God revealed His care for humanity, “Should I not have concern for the great city of Ninveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people, who cannot tell their right hand from their left” (Jonah 4:11). Like God brought the Israelites from Egypt, He also brought the Philistines from Caphtor and Arameans from kir (Amos 9:7).
Prophet Isaiah revealed God’s plan for the future, “A time will come when the Egyptians will worship God and He will rescue them from oppression” (Isaiah 19:20-21). God is of all people irrespective of their personal affiliation to worship other gods or idols though each one of us has an individual relationship with God for we became a child of God through personal faith in the Messiah. The individual relationship with God is further established through the coming of the Son of God as the Redeemer. We become part of the Heavenly Family not as a group or a race but on the basis of personal faith in individual capacity for it is famously said “God does not have any grand-children”.
Humanity follows a mob culture, sinning, killing people and doing evil. In that wicked scenario God became a teacher in His Son to personally teach His ways. He does this in two ways – one, by setting general rules and secondly, by using role models. The rules set the basic two commandments – “Love your God with all your heart, all your mind, all of your soul and with all of your strength and also to love your neighbor as yourself”. The Son of God became the great Role Model Himself and then the chosen twelve and others thereafter set high levels of morality to be emulated by others. Judas Iscariot, Simon Peter and all the twelve sinned by deserting Him. Though all repented and felt remorse, Judas lost faith for not having paid due attention to His teachings and committed suicide while others receives forgiveness to serve Him. Role models, through setting a personal example, reveal the ways to follow God’s commands and live in close proximity to God. They do this not only for their own sake but for the humanity as a whole.
Scripture teaching is categorical that ‘God will be king over all the earth one day’ (Zechariah 14:9) and that all nations will bring their glory into the gates of New Jerusalem with their kings (Revelation 21:24). God’s kingdom will thus be established on the earth by Lord Jesus after His second coming but till that happens, we as believers have a specific responsibility. We are to be Christians in true spirit and for the sake of it and through our lives show others how to recognize the True God, live by His will and serve Him. Probably the Only Scripture many people will ever read is through a fellow Christian’s life and be saved. Our calling is not to convert humanity but ‘to make disciples’ who follow righteous living in the presence of God. Along with a clear vertical relationship with God, our horizontal relationship with His created beings is equally important for we cannot really love God without loving ‘the neighbor’. We are ambassadors of Lord Jesus on the earth and be a blessing for others, for this is our challenge and our new walk in the Lord.
We have been chosen by Lord Jesus and made into a new people who love God and all people, especially those in need equally well. We can neither be angry with someone for long nor refuse to forgive others, whether they seek forgiveness or not. We did not deserve this blessed state but it is His grace and mercy. This is the real meaning of a believer’s life and a new walk in the Lord!