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  • Writer's pictureElpidio Pezzella

Look Now Toward Heaven

'Then He brought him outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”'

(Genesis 15:5 NKJV)

The cycle dedicated to the figure of Abraham follows that of Noah in Genesis. Between the two stories there is a passage that tells of the Tower of Babel and man's attempt to build a city and then rise to the sky. God himself intervenes, disapproving of this intent. And after having confused and mixed humanity, we learn about this Aramean, whose call and journey are the story of the believer, the one who is called to follow his God without asking questions. The patriarch does not represent the perfect man nor does he embody an above average human being, he is someone who learns on the journey to deal with the precariousness and mobility of his tent. And this is why his faith is migration, like the mobile tent of the tabernacle that will accompany Israel into the desert. His wandering is a journey with no return, a journey without holds and security. The departure is from Ur, the first Carran destination (south-east of Turkey), and from here to Canaan together with Sarah, his wife, and Lot, his nephew. Abraham's call arises from the Tower of Babel's human attempt to build a name. Before even giving him that name that embodies his hidden desire for him, God makes him four specific promises: to make him become a great nation; bless him; to make his name become great and to make himself become a blessing for those who recognized him blessed by God. Everything starts from an imperative, "go away", which should be better rendered with "come back to you, become what you are". The journey to which he is called is also discovery, discovery of himself. His only compass will be the Word received. Abraham must open himself to trust and to the future of the adventure: "Where I will show you".

It is striking how the Aramean does not ask questions and does not hesitate in the least in front of that vocation. He is not yet the man who blindly trusts in his 'God of him'. In fact, in Egypt he will use human artifices to defend himself, but he will risk losing his wife. Called to fight to save Lot, he will not back down. In chapter 15 we find him alone, in his tent, wrapped and covered by his fears and anxieties about him, when we read one of the most beautiful passages, in my opinion, not only of Genesis and the Old Testament, but of the entire bible. A night vision, in which he echoes at the opening the divine invitation "Do not be afraid", because God will be his shield and his reward. But Abraham is in crisis, he replies disconsolately and almost annoyed, because he has not yet touched the fulfillment of the promise. Abraham's journey is about to know one of the fundamental stages. After his grievances, God does not leave him, but after announcing his plans, he leads him out. I cannot help but imagine the heavenly Father who takes elderly Abraham by the hand and leads him out of the tent, a place of confinement, but also a hotel for thoughts and fears. The patriarch must come out of his tent, to look at the sky, God's tent (Psalms 104:2), full of stars, those stars that only God can count and call by name (Psalms 147:4).

There are circumstances in which God invites us to leave our human horizon, an insurmountable limit and an obstacle to traveling by faith. Looking at the sky is looking at history with the eyes of God. The stars that light up the night say that there is no darkness that cannot be loosened and removed. Outside the tent, with his gaze towards the sky and God at his side, Abraham trusts and believes. For the first time, the Bible offers us the verb "to believe": which means "to be founded", "to cling" like a baby on the mother's breast, and sometimes even "to feed". Abraham becomes the first believer, the one who will be the father of all believers (Romans 4:11). That night becomes the dawn of a new path, where Abraham will still have to learn, because along the journey he will see divine fidelity fulfilled. Wherever your wanderings are today, don't let yourself be locked up in the tent. Wherever God has placed you, do not build walls around you as in Babel, and do not bring bricks under your feet to climb, because it is God who has come down from you. Come out and see the sky.

Weekly Bible Reading

Plan #46

November 08, Jeremiah 43-45; Hebrews 5

November 09, Jeremiah 46-47; Hebrews 6

November 10, Jeremiah 48-49; Hebrews 7

November 11, Jeremiah 50; Hebrews 8

November 12, Jeremiah 51-52; Hebrews 9

November 13, Lamentations 1-2; Hebrews 10:1-18


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