Genesis 12-17

What is a parasha?

The parasha Lekh Lekha, meaning “go!”, covers Genesis chapters 12 to 17. It tells the story of Abram’s journey in response to God’s call: “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you” (12:1). Abram takes Sarai, his wife, and Lot, his nephew, as they travel to Canaan, however, the journey is anything but straight forward. They are hindered by a famine, which reroutes them through Egypt. Pharaoh takes Sarai as his wife after Abram presented her as his sister, but promptly gives her back. On their return, Lot separates from Abram and settles in Sodom but gets caught on the losing side of a local war. Abram quickly pursues them and liberates the captives just to get Lot back. God then makes a covenant with Abram promising him a great inheritance and more offspring than stars in the sky, but after 10 years and no children, Abram and Sarai take matters into their own hands. Abram conceives his son Ishmael with Hagar, Sarai’s servant, who becomes contemptuous of Sarai. Sarai casts her away into the desert but there the Angel of the Lord meets with her to send her back and bless Ishmael. The parasha ends another 13 years later as God reaffirms His covenant with Abram, changing their names to Abraham and Sarah and giving the circumcision as sign of those included in it.

By considering these stories together, we find a powerful lesson: God does not honour self-preservation but He honours family. Let’s explain how these two things are connected throughout the three main events. First Abram, being fearful for his own life, essentially gives up his marriage and abandons his wife to Pharaoh. It seems that his plan works because he receives great favour and wealth on account of her, but God did not honour this exchange – He “struck Pharaoh and his household with great plagues” (12:17) so that Sarai was returned. God was not moved by Abram’s fear, nor did God honour the agreement made by it, but He was moved by the breaking up of a family and intervened to restore it.

God does not honour self-preservation but He honours family
Secondly, we find that Lot and Abram separate, as their camps were too numerous for the same land. Acting solely to preserve his wealth, Lot chooses the Jordan Valley, the best land, “well watered like the garden of the Lord” (13:10) and yokes himself to Sodom, a very wicked place. God does not honour this self-preserving action and Lot is included when Sodom is taken captive in the war of five kings against four. However, Abram (presumably having learnt his lesson about guarding family), with only his company of men, goes after the four victorious kings to bring back Lot, whom he calls his brother. God grants him complete victory in an unlikely scenario and greatly blesses him though the priest Malchizedek. Thirdly, Abram and Sarai attempt to preserve God’s blessing through their own actions, but this almost destroys their family. Sarai then tries to preserve her authority by sending away Hagar. Moved by the breaking up of a family, God intervenes to return Ishmael to Abram. Even when God reaffirms that His covenant will be passed on through the son of Abram and Sarai, He is moved by Abram’s plea, as one father to another, and responds: “As for Ishmael, I have heard you. I will indeed bless him” (17:20). Ishmael is then circumcised, along with all of the men in Abraham’s camp. Even though Ishmael was born out of fear, God still honoured him because He was born into God’s chosen family.

In these examples it is clear that responding to fear with tactics of self-preservation never elicit the favour of God, but only break down the unity of family that we are all saved to be part of. When we lose sight of God’s supernatural protection of His own, and attempt to find security for ourselves, unity dissolves, but God will always move to restore His family. This is certainly applicable to the nation of Israel. In a time of deeply rooted animosity between Jews and Arabs, where there seems to be no hope of reconciliation, we know that God is moving. Let’s catch the Father’s heart and pray for our brothers who have become enemies through centuries of self-preservation, to be united again. Just as in the time of Abraham, we know that no matter how unlikely redemption seems, the love of the Father will always overcome fear and bring all His family home.

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