This week’s Torah portion continues the saga of Abraham. We learned last week that Abraham was chosen to be the father of the Jewish people in order to be a blessing to “all of the families of the earth.” This week we learn more about the process of how this is to take place. It is revealed to us by the Lord when he is describing the unique calling of Abraham. We read in Genesis 18:19 “For I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him.”
This verse reveals the process by which the nations of the earth would be blessed by Abraham and his descendants. Abraham and his descendants were to live in a way that reflected the character of G-d. By living this way, G-d would fulfill the covenant calling and promise. While the covenant itself is unconditional, there is the necessity of living a certain way for the effects of the covenant to take place. This means that when the Jewish people are living faithfully as a people, it benefits the world – the nations of the earth will be blessed! Abraham and his children were to live according to the “way of the Lord.” In Hebrew “way of the Lord’ is derech adonai. “Derech” is a road or a path or a journey. The Way of the Lord is the path or journey of life. The phrase is often used in conjunction with a reminder to live according to the commandments of the Lord. See Deut 30:16 as an example. This helps us to understand that the “commandments” are not a list of laws but rather a description of the kind of life that we should be living. The laws describe God’s ways. The verse tells us that the way of life is the way of righteousness and justice. This includes an attitude of faithfulness and loyalty to god. Abraham demonstrates the way of the lord in his concern for the righteous people of Sodom (“Wilt Thou indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” Gen 18:23) as well as his attitude of concern toward Hagar and Ishmael when Sarah told him to send them away (“And the matter distressed Abraham greatly because of his son.” Gen 21:20) and in his obedience to the command to sacrifice Isaac. Perhaps we could say that these three illustrations of the “way of the Lord” could be translated in our world as a concern for social justice, concern for family and loyalty to G-d.
The obedience of Abraham in taking Isaac up the mountain for sacrifice is considered the highpoint of Abraham’s life of faithfulness to G-d. This is an excellent example of the “Way of the Lord.” Abraham is not simply obedient to a command. He trusts G-d for the outcome even though he does not know exactly what the outcome will be. First he says I and the lad will go yonder; and we will worship and return to you.” (Gen 22:5 NAS) so he knew that they would both return. He also says “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” (Gen 22:8 NAS). But Abraham does not know how this will work out but he is obedient because he trusts God. It is an obedience of trusting God.
When we are walking in the way of the Lord we are moving along the journey of life in a way that reflects the character of god in our lifestyle and in our attitudes and in the decisions that we make. We do not simply keep a list of things we have to do and things we cannot do. We follow the path of god in all of our circumstances. The way of the Lord means being concerned for this world and the people in it; it means taking responsibility for our families; it means following the Lord because we trust him even if we do not know the outcome. In all of the narratives in the Torah – the stories of the patriarchs, we learn that what is pleasing to G-d is an attitude of devotion to G-d and a following of his ways. We see in every story both victory and failure in the lives of godly people. What they all have in common is a devotion – a loyalty to G-d and his ways. As Messiah followers, we have a calling on our lives to make a difference today…by walking in the way of the Lord. If you want to make a difference in this world; if you want to be a blessing to all the peoples of the earth….walk in the way of the Lord.
By living in this way, we make a difference in the world…Abraham and his descendants are called to live this life in order to bless the world. May we have a world view that includes living in such a way that reflects the character of god and brings blessing to the world. Thy word is a lamp to my feet, And a light to my path. (Psa 119:105 NAS)