For the week of October 16, 2021 / 10 Heshvan 5782
Torah: Bereshit/Genesis 12:1 – 17:27
Haftarah: Isaiah 40:27 – 41:16
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Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Bereshit/Genesis 12:1-3)
I don’t know if you have heard of the show, “The Chosen,” the first-ever multi-season dramatic depiction of the Gospels, currently with season three in development. At some point I want to do a full review of it on my weekly video podcast “Thinking Biblically,” but for now let me say that I have found it very insightful, especially in reminding me how very real Yeshua, his followers, and the time they lived in were. Also, it has shown me how much I have read into the Bible without realizing it, including elements such as emphasis and tone. The Chosen depicts the characters and the cultural context in surprising ways, challenging me to give more thought to these elements than I usually have. Their interpretations aren’t necessarily correct but are certainly worthy of consideration. Here’s an example.
Up until watching the Chosen, I always understood Yeshua’s call as “Follow me,” (e.g. Matthew 9:9) with the emphasis on the “me.” That preaches well. As Messiah and Son of God he calls us to focus on him. After all, he is Messiah, Lord, and Savior, “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6), the only one who can restore our relationship to God. But in the Chosen, the Yeshua character doesn’t say it like that. Instead, it’s “Follow me,” With the emphasis on “follow.” (I have provided a link below to the Chosen clip of Yeshua’s call of Matthew the tax collector, where you can hear it yourself.)
Of course, we don’t know for sure how it sounded. It was probably Aramaic anyway, though it could have been Hebrew (the scholarly jury is still out on that one). The point is, however, the “follow” in “follow me” is at least as important as the one we are called to follow.
Last week, we looked at what I called “Noah’s secret,” which is walking with the Lord. I mentioned that doing so is a mark of every good Bible character. Whether or not a person heard the actual words, “Follow me” as did many of Yeshua’s disciples, true godliness is expressed by living according to a course set by God, a course that is most often very different from that of the prevailing culture.
Few characters exemplify this as much as Abram, whose name became Abraham, as described in this week’s parsha (Torah reading portion). I never tire of thinking about what it must have meant for this elderly man to journey in those days from his homeland to live as a nomad in hostile foreign territory. His following a God unrecognized by those around him is the biblical model of faith.
The call to follow is a call to direct our lives in God’s direction alone. He doesn’t lasso us and drag us on a leash (sorry for the mixed metaphor). He is intent on finding those who are willing to keep in step with him, whatever the cost. To follow is to give ourselves to him as he leads us into the great unknown, a life out of step with the crowd, to go against the grain, to swim upstream, and as I mentioned last week, to march to the beat of a different drum.
To follow is not to enter into an alternate spiritual state disconnected from reality. Far from it! It is to journey through life according to reality, the reality of a creation God designed and is restoring. To follow is to live like Abraham, who, by turning his back on what others thought was normal, helped to set the course of God’s rescue plan whereby all the nations of the world would be blessed.
You can be part of that plan. But are you waiting for God to swoop you up on a magic carpet and carry you along on some spiritual high? Or will you get up, turn from whatever it might be that is holding you back, and follow the Messiah right now?
An example of “Follow me” from The Chosen:
All scriptures, English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible