Called to Follow

Torah Portion: Lech Lecha (Gen. 12:1–17:27)
Gospel Reading: John 17:1–26
Commentary by: Kelsey Bryant

“Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I shall curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.’” (Gen. 12:1–3, NASB)

Thus begins Abraham’s story in Genesis 12. God has a history of choosing one specific individual or group to do a task, a mission that furthers God’s purposes for His kingdom. They must leave behind what they’ve known and try not to look back.

During the early centuries of the earth, after people had migrated from Babel and formed nations that did not worship the one true God, the Lord made Abraham His representative to mankind. Abraham built altars that established Yahweh-worship in the land of Canaan (Gen. 12:7; 13:18); he boldly proclaimed Yahweh to be the most high God (Gen. 14:22); he interceded for those doomed to destruction (Gen. 18:17–33; 20:7, 17); and he became the father of the nation of Israel, the bearers of light to the world (Ex. 19:5–6; Deut. 4:6–8; Is. 42:6–7).

God used Abraham to further His kingdom, not because he was perfect or sinless, but because he had a heart to obey. The world was dark, but Abraham shone as a lamp lit by Yahweh’s light.

“Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who gave birth to you in pain; when he was but one I called him, then I blessed him and multiplied him.” (Isaiah 51:2)

Much later, after millennia of heroism and failure on the part of Israel (but overwhelmingly failure), God sent Yeshua, the perfect, sinless, obedient descendant of Abraham who was greater than Abraham (John 8:58), to be the ultimate divine representative and reconciler between God and man. He was the Light, the starter flame that lights all the others. Like Abraham, He left His Father to sojourn in another place where He had a special mission to fulfill (John 17:4–5); He boldly proclaimed God’s Word (John 17:6, 8, 26); He prayed and interceded for people (John 17:9, 12, 20); He did not compromise with evil (John 17:19); and He became the leader and father of a powerful movement of light bearers, all united to Yahweh through Him (John 17:21–23).

While John 17 helps us understand Yeshua’s mission and how it succeeded, it also teaches us, His disciples, our part in this mission of bearing light and blessing to the nations.

First and foremost, John 17 assures us we have Yeshua’s full backing: He prays for us, sets us apart, and leads us by example. We could not, as Matthew 28:19 puts it, “Go therefore” (see the match with Abraham’s calling?) “and make disciples of all the nations” without Him. Like Abraham, we could not set forth without God’s call. (There is even a tradition that Abraham made disciples.)

Since I don’t want to run too long, I’ll end by encouraging you to read and meditate on John 17 to find other exhortations on fulfilling the mission. One of the most poignant, to me, is Yeshua’s desire that His disciples be unified…“so that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:21). Yeshua was one with His Father and Abraham was one with his son Isaac and with God (Gen. 22). Another exhortation that stands out is going out into the world (John 17:18) and teaching others to believe in Yeshua (v. 20). We do that best by being unified under the common goal of furthering God’s kingdom. Taking a cue from Ezekiel 33:24, we realize Abraham was one when he inherited the land and began to follow God’s purpose for his life; so should we, though we are many, follow the same purpose.

How do we go about fulfilling our mission? Leave our old nature behind, unify our desires with God’s as outlined in His Word, and put our full trust in Yeshua. This is radical living. May we all be like Abraham and like Yeshua, willing to stride forth at God’s command and fulfill the special mission He has entrusted to us.