God Revealed As Seen Through Abraham's Eyes and Ours
Categories: Abraham and Sarah, God's Provision, Guidance, Personal Growth and Progress
Imagine: you've been worshipping idols all your life. There are many gods around. Suddenly you hear a voice – a very clear and strong voice, a voice of true authority: "Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father's family, and go to the land that I will show you" (Gen 12:1 NLT). What would you do?
Abram (Abraham) responded to this clear, strong voice -- to the voice of God. This God was a concept that was not part of his culture or belief system. Abram's journey not only enlivened and enlightened his view of God and changed his life, but also changed ours.
Each time God talks with Abram, Abram gains a clearer understanding of God. Twenty-four years after God initially called Abram (Abram is now 99), God says to him, "I am El Shaddai. Walk in My ways and be blameless. I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I will make you exceedingly numerous" (17:1-2 JPS Torah Commentary).
God reveals more of His nature to Abram. There is a new name for God here -- El Shaddai. Most English translations say this means, "God Almighty." The concept that God is All-powerful and able to achieve all good is wonderful. But the implications of the name El Shaddai are profound, even startling, to the conventional concept of God. According to the website Hebrew for Christians, El Shaddai means, "The All Sufficient God. Shad means 'breast' in Hebrew (Gen. 17:1)…. Indeed, God first uses this Name when He refers to multiplying Abraham's offspring (Gen. 17:2)."
Indeed, Lynne Bundesen confirms that "scholarship over the last century has brought to light that the word means 'Breasted One'" (The Feminine Spirit 40). So, God as Mother enables Abram and Sarai (whose names God now changes to Abraham and Sarah) to conceive and have a son named Isaac -- the heir God had been planning all along. Abraham's concept of God is much fuller now: God is masculine and feminine, totally complete and sufficient.
What does it mean to walk in El Shaddai's ways? Bible scholar, Nahum N. Sarna explains: "Allegiance to Him means to condition the entire range of human experience by the awareness of His presence and in response to his demands" (JPS Torah Commentary 123). God is commanding Abram, which includes us, to rely totally and completely on God for every single thought and action. We are to be aware of El Shaddai (the All Sufficient Breasted One) at all times, in every way, in all circumstances, and we are to respond to God's slightest demand.
Let's take a moment to think about what that means for us in our daily lives -- as we do homework, wash the dishes, apply for a new job, travel across the world, talk to a family member, pray for our government.
If something bad happens to us, or if someone talks to us in a demeaning or rude way, how do we respond? Do we react to the awful situation or to the callous remarks? Or can we respond, instead, to God?
What would happen if we asked ourselves:
- How does God see this situation, this person?
- How would God want me to respond?
- What is God asking of me here?
- How can I respond to help the situation, the person, myself?
If we respond to God, then we don't have to give energy to the tragedy or insult. We can rise above emotionalism or anger and stay in control. We can be safe and protected. And we can learn more about God and about ourselves in the process.
The beauty of Abraham's story applies to all of us. It's a promise that shows that God meets us where we are. As we're open to God's messages, we will keep understanding and learning about God's nature -- and that will have a direct impact (for good!) on our lives.
Let's decide to commit to responding to and following God. Let's totally leave behind any old concepts of ourselves, of our family members, friends, school or business associates. Let's be willing, like Abraham, to let go of old concepts of God and gain a more expansive view of God. Let's be willing to embrace God's view of us, God's plan for us, God's promise of abundant blessings!