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And the Lord said to Abram, Go forth out of thy land and out of thy kindred, and out of the house of thy father, and come into the land which I will shew thee. And I will make thee a great nation, and I will bless thee and magnify thy name, and thou shalt be blessed. And I will bless those that bless thee, and curse those that curse thee, and in thee shall all the tribes of the earth be blessed. And Abram went as the Lord spoke to him, and Lot departed with him, and Abram was seventy-five years old, when he went out of Charrhan. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot the son of his brother, and all their possessions, as many as they had got, and every soul which they had got in Charrhan, and they went forth to go into the land of Chanaan. And Abram traversed the land lengthwise as far as the place Sychem, to the high oak, and the Chananites then inhabited the land. And the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, I will give this land to thy seed. And Abram built an altar there to the Lord who appeared to him. – Genesis 12:1-7
After the scattering of the peoples from Babel, the true knowledge of God remains intact among one family only, and their lineage produces Abraham, who will become the Father in the Faith for all true worshippers of God until the end of the world.
As with Noah, the Lord chooses a particular person to carry out His plan, and the choice of this one man to have faith and to obey God affects the salvation of uncounted souls. As with Noah, the Lord gives him a difficult task that he cannot fulfill without great faith and obedience. As does Noah, Abram offers sacrifice unto the Lord.
So too our lives, if we are indeed heirs of the Promise, will bear these marks of particularity, faith coupled with obedience, and sacrifice.
Particularity – When we see that few share our convictions, we must not be shaken. There have been many and critical times in history when almost everyone had fallen away, and God called the few – sometimes just one person and his family – to carry on the true knowledge of Him and the true worship of Him. These few were never distinguished by superior wealth or power or cleverness, but only by this sheer fact, that God had called them.
Faith and obedience – Faith is a free gift, a grace from God: He reveals Himself, giving us the true knowledge of Who He is, and He infuses the grace of Faith coupled with this revelation. It is also our assent to this knowledge, but even the ability to assent is God’s gracious gift to us. In return for this gift, God demands obedience: “All right, Noah, I have given you the gift of Faith. Now build the Ark.” “All right, Abram, I have given you the gift of Faith. Now risk everyone and everything dear to you, and go off with them to a place you have never been before and know nothing about, trusting Me to take care of you.” When God gives us our appointed task, it is clear that we have to do it or we will perish, spiritually if not physically. It is also clear that without Him we cannot do it, but with Him success is never in doubt. We must step out in Faith and not look back.
Sacrifice – Abram, upon arriving in the Promised Land, immediately built an altar to the Lord. The true worship of God always accompanies the true faith in God, and true worship, from the beginning of our race, has always centered on sacrifice, culminating in the One True Sacrifice that takes away the sins of the world, that of Our Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross. Therefore, in our particular and humanly impossible adventure of faith and obedience, we struggle in every way possible to ensure that we and ours will have access to the True Sacrifice that takes place only on Orthodox altars at the Divine Liturgy, at which the One Paschal Sacrifice of the Lamb of God is made present again and again until the end of the world, “for the remission of sins and life everlasting.” Even if it turns out that we have to live in a cave somewhere, let us make sure that the cave has a true altar and a true priest. With God helping us, it can be done.
A simple program, really, if you think about it.
This commentary was taken from The Eternal Sacrifice: The Genesis Readings for Great Lent by Fr. Steven Allen. You can order a copy from Lulu at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/FrStevenAllen