Last week we looked into the subject of GREATNESS, and how humanly perceived greatness is often something completely different from the way greatness is pictured in the Biblical Scriptures. As a matter of fact, the word greatness is mostly used IN CONNECTION WITH YAHWEH, and only rarely in connection with human beings. To mention just a few of the things that are said in connection with Yahweh’s greatness: The greatness of Yahweh’s arm makes men silent as a stone (Ex 15:16). It is by the greatness of Yahweh’s kindness that we may enter into his presence (Ps 5:7) and by the greatness of his compassion that our sins are forgiven (Ps 51:1). The greatness of Yahweh is worthy of all praise and beyond all reckoning (Ps 145:3).
Against this background, we discovered FOUR ORDINARY MEN in Scriptures, to whom some form of greatness was ascribed. Firstly, AVRAHAM, who would bear a great name, based upon the blessing that his faithfulness would bring upon the nations of the world. Secondly, YAHUSHUA (Joshua), who became renowned as a powerful instrument in Yahweh’s hand among the hostile nations of the land of Canaan. Thirdly, DAVID whose fame spread to all the known countries of his time, and who was feared among his enemies, because it became clear that Yahweh’s hand was upon him. And fourthly, MORDECHAI, who was a hero among his own people and even won the favour of a foreign king, because he chose righteousness and loyalty to Yahweh, above everything else.
This week’s Parashah (Genesis 18 to 22) contains a number of obvious references to AVRAHAM’S GREATNESS – Avraham, who was the first of the four great men that we highlighted, last week:
Gen 18:18 “Avraham is certainly going to become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him.” The fact that this greatness was never seen by Avraham in his own lifetime, takes NOTHING away from the fact that thousands of people, including us, have been blessed abundantly by the faithfulness and obedience of Avraham.
Gen 18:27 “Avraham answered and said, “Look, please, I, who am but dust and ashes, have taken it upon myself to speak to Yahweh.” It was exactly because he dared to humble himself and speak to Yahweh on behalf of others, that his name was remembered. Yahweh knew about the dust and ashes, but He gives beauty for ashes and a garment of praise for a spirit of heaviness (Isa 61:3).
Gen 19:29 “Thus it came to be, when Elohim destroyed the cities of the plain, that Elohim remembered Avraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when He overthrew the cities in which Lot had dwelt.” There are not many individuals in Scriptures of whom it is specifically said that Yahweh REMEMBERED them. In Avraham’s case, it was even more special: Avraham was not remembered, for the sake of himself. He was remembered for the sake of Lot and his family, and the greatness of Avraham was that others were saved because of him.
Gen 22:2-3 And He said, “Take your son, now, your only son Yitzchak, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriyah, and offer him there as an ascending offering on one of the mountains which I command you … and Avraham arose and went to the place which Elohim had commanded him.” The commandment to “OFFER” his son, to which Avraham agreed at the beginning of this chapter, is a commandment with unimaginable intensity. Quite literally, it is a commandment to lift up, to set up, to offer up and to give up his only son, the only tangible connection that Avraham had, between the PROMISE of an offspring, and the FULFILMENT of this promise. And the astonishing fact is that this chapter reveals that, upon receiving this impossible commandment, Avraham arose (without a fuss) and went to the place which Elohim had commanded him. Greatness in the eyes of the world? Not really. Greatness in the eyes of Yahweh? Let us hear what YAHWEH HIMSELF was saying about it: “Because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, I shall certainly bless you, and I shall certainly increase your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore, and let your seed possess the gate of their enemies” (Gen 22:16-17).
Looking at Avraham, our forerunner in matters of belief, it seems that human greatness is all about FORGETTING ONESELF, looking away from oneself, humbling oneself and giving oneself for the benefit of the people that became part of one’s circle of life. It is interesting that Avraham was promised the blessings of the NATIONS, but that he never aspired to become more visible in the eyes of the nations or the multitudes, far from home. He focused on THE ONES AROUND HIM. His wife, his sons, his housekeeper, his servants, his nephew, and the community of the area where he was living. In today’s context, I doubt if Avraham would have become part of the board of executives of the United Nations. He was not interested in achieving greatness in the public eye. His sole purpose was LOVING Yahweh and SERVING Yahweh and BELIEVING Yahweh. And serving Yahweh, in Avraham’s understanding, always included serving those around him. Because they were part of Yahweh’s creation and Yahweh’s plan. But serving people, to Avraham, was NEVER more important than serving Yahweh. Therefore, he never hesitated to offer up his son, when Yahweh asked this from him. Avraham would have been a complete misfit in today’s HUMAN-RIGHTS ORIENTATED SOCIETY. Elevating the rights of human beings above the righteousness of Yahweh, wasn’t part of Avraham’s way of living, neither part of his way of thinking. If he was alive today, with this kind of thinking, not many people would have regarded Avraham as a person of greatness or special significance.
Nevertheless, Avraham is a ROLE-MODEL that we, as Biblical believers, may imitate and follow, without hesitation. There is a lasting and deeply founded greatness surrounding Avraham that has impacted our own lives, and the things that we believe today. Y’shua clearly said that the true children of Avraham are those who do the works of Avraham, not those who can prove their Jewish identity (John 8:39). It is a TRAGEDY of great proportions that more and more so-called Torah observant believers are embracing Jewishness, and even looking to convert to Judaism without Y’shua, instead of looking for obedience. We should stop looking to become Jewish in our actions and beliefs and start doing the works that Avraham did. What kind of works are these? Y’shua mentioned three things in JOHN 8 that proved that some of the Jews of his time, were never true followers of Avraham. (1) They rejected the truth about Yahweh, as it transpired within the works and words of Y’shua; (2) They were not free like Avraham, because they had become slaves of sin, and (3) They were not looking forward to the day of Y’shua, like Avraham had done.
The name of Avraham appears 12 times in Yahuchanan or John (the 4th book of the Messianic Scriptures), 9 times in Romans, 9 times in Galatians, 10 times in Hebrews and once in the letters of Kepha or Peter. The SINGLE TIME that Kepha mentions the name of Avraham is worth looking into. He wrote in 1 Peter 3:6: “Sarah obeyed Avraham, calling him master, of whom you became children, DOING GOOD, AND NOT FRIGHTENED BY ANY FEAR.” We are not the natural children of Avraham. We BECAME children, like the people to whom Kepha addressed his letter. And whether we call Avraham “Master Avraham” like Sarah, or “Father Avraham” like Kepha and his fellow believers, doesn’t really matter. As long as we have the understanding to “SEE” the greatness of Avraham. Not because Avraham is greater than Y’shua the Messiah. No! Not for one moment! Remember, Avraham had the understanding to “see” the greatness of Y’shua, the seed out of his loins, who was yet to come. And we should have no hesitation in following the legacy of belief, left to us by Avraham. Just as Shaul (Paul) could say, Become imitators of me, as I am an imitator of Messiah (1 Cor 11:1), so Kepha reminded his fellow believers: You should become imitators of Avraham, as he was a (pre-messianic) believer in Messiah, in the true sense of the word! He truly believed that this Seed was going to be born, and that his life would change the world! We have become the children of Avraham, the imitators of Avraham, by believing in Y’shua. The time has now come for us to start doing good and not become unsettled by any kind of fearful thing, like Avraham did. His greatness was simply a reflection of the exceeding greatness of Yahweh. We can attain greatness, in the eyes of Yahweh, by believing and acting like Avraham! And let us not forget Ps 145:3: The greatness of Yahweh is worthy of all praise and beyond all reckoning!