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And Lot dwelt in a city of the neighbouring people, and pitched his tent in Sodom. But the men of Sodom were evil, and exceedingly sinful before God. And God said to Abram after Lot was separated from him, Look up with thine eyes, and behold from the place where thou now art northward and southward, and eastward and seaward; for all the land which thou seest, I will give it to thee and to thy seed for ever. And I will make thy seed like the dust of the earth; if any one is able to number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed be numbered. Arise and traverse the land, both in the length of it and in the breadth; for to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. And Abram having removed his tent, came and dwelt by the oak of Mambre, which was in Chebrom, and he there built an altar to the Lord. – Genesis 13:12-18
Here God makes Abram a stupendous promise, that his seed would number as the dust of the earth, i.e., that his descendants would be countless, a promise repeated several times in Genesis. Abram’s physical descendants through Isaac and Ishmael have indeed attained large numbers in the course of history, the far greater in number being the sons of Ishmael. God’s covenant with Abraham had nothing to do with Ishmael, however, but only with Isaac, the son of the promise. The point here is not demographic numbers or the spread of a biological group sharing similar DNA. Abraham is father in the Faith to all who believe in the Savior Whom Isaac prefigures. The true children of Abraham are the children of the Church.
During Great Lent, we children of the Church read Genesis to remind us that we are part of one great, single story, the story of all the true believers in the true God from Adam until now. We read how the lonely, righteous patriarchs, each in his turn, made the critical choice to believe God when He promised him invincible help if only he would trust in Him, and this choice, the choice of one lonely man, led to eternal life for countless souls. Now it is our turn: What choice will we make? Our feeling lonely is no excuse to say No to God. We have too much precedent against that. Each of us, in this life, will make the choice. Each of us, in the next life, will stand before God’s Judgment.
Some say that man’s repentance is now impossible and the end is near. Since they go right on enjoying their daily cup of coffee and posting cute videos on Facebook, it is not easy to take them seriously. They forget that, living by Faith, one of them could beget or bear or teach or inspire one child who, like Abraham, could become “the father of many nations,” whose life and labor could bring to repentance many souls and thus stave off the end, possibly unto the salvation of countless souls. They forget the duty of all Orthodox Christians: to implore God with tears to make them into the parents or godparents or priests or elders or teachers…of a saint.
The duty is ours. The consequences are God’s. Let us cast off fear and live this day in Faith.
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