In his book “THE GIFTS OF THE JEWS: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels”, Thomas Cahill made the following profound observations.
“The Jews started it all-and by “it” I mean so many of the things we care about, the underlying values that make all of us, Jew and Gentile, believer and atheist, tick. Without the Jews, we would see the world through different eyes, hear with different ears, even feel with different feelings.”
“For better or worse, the role of the West in humanity’s history is singular. Because of this, the role of the Jews, the inventors of Western culture, is also singular: there is simply no one else remotely like them; theirs is a unique vocation. Indeed, as we shall see, the very idea of vocation, of a personal destiny, is a Jewish idea.“
What’s interesting is that Mr. Cahill attributes this monumental shift in human consciousness to Abraham’s calling from God to “Get yourself out of your country, away from your kinsmen and away from your father’s house, and go to the land that I will show you.”
I don’t think many of us realize how utterly staggering and revolutionary this calling was.
In response to God’s calling, the Scriptures tell us “WAYYELEKH AVRAM” (“Abraham went”).
These are two of the boldest words in all literature.
They mark a final departure from everything that has come before in the long evolution of culture and traditions.
Before the Jews entered world history, the existing view of the cosmos was cyclical.
In other words, there was no such thing as a unique event.
Every event that occurs is already an event that has occurred in the past and will occur again in the future.
Life was seen as part of an uncontrollable, endless, and hopeless circle of birth and death.
However, once the Creator of the universe called Abraham, this circle was broken.
Abraham and his progeny the Jews would begin seeing time differently.
Once God called Abraham away from the paganism of his ancestors, time would now have a beginning and conclude with a triumphant end.
To put it simply, God gave Abraham hope for the future!
In a world mired in a circle of hopelessness and despair, God promised Abraham that he would have a son and eventually end up becoming the father of a great nation.
Again, I reiterate, before Abraham, there was no hope for the future.
All civilizations believed that man could not escape his fate.
Upon hearing of Abraham’s journey, the Egyptians would have informed Abraham:
“There is none born wise. Copy the forefathers. Learn what has been said in the past. And then you will set a good example.”
The early Greeks might have proffered:
“Remember the story of Prometheus, whose quest for the fire of the gods ended in personal disaster. Do not overreach. Come to resignation!”
In India, Abraham would have been told:
“Time is black, irrational, and merciless. Do not set yourself the task of accomplishing something in time, which is only the dominion of suffering.”
In China, the anonymous sages would have advised:
“There is no purpose in journeys or in any kind of earthly striving; the great thing is to abolish time by escaping from the law of change.”
The ancestors of the Maya in America would have pointed to their circular calendars and said:
“Everything that has been comes around again. Each man’s fate is fixed.
Lao-Tsu and the Buddha would have told Abraham:
“Do not journey but sit; compose yourself by the river of life, meditate on its ceaseless and meaningless flow-on all that is past or passing or to come-until you have absorbed the pattern and have come to peace with Great Wheel and with your own death and death of all things in the corruptible sphere.”
On every continent, in every society, Abraham would have been given the same advice reflecting the cyclical worldview of the universe.
Yet God called Abraham and he went.
I believe God is calling you to a new life as well.
How will you respond?
CONNECTING THIS TEACHING TO THE NEW TESTAMENT
By trusting, Abraham obeyed, after being called to go out to a place which God would give him as a possession; indeed, he went out without knowing where he was going. By trusting, he lived as a temporary resident in the Land of the promise, as if it were not his, staying in tents with Isaac and Jacob, who were to receive what was promised along with him. For he was looking forward to the city with permanent foundations, of which the architect and builder is God.-Hebrews 11:8-10