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B'resheet/Genesis 15:7 I brought you our from Ur of Kasdim to give to you this land to possess her
HaShem's statement here precipitates one of those "How could they say that?" moments. The chapter starts withHaShem encouraging Abram and promising him a reward. Not unreasonably, Abram responds by asking HaShem what use a reward will be to him since he is childless and as things currently stand, his steward would inherit all his household. HaShem then assures Abram that he will yet have a son of his own and that his descendants will be as many as the stars. Verse 6 brings Abram's statement of faith - "That he believed in the L-rd; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness" (B'resheet 15:6, NASB) - and the confirmation that righteousness comes from a faith relationship. HaShem continues the conversation with our text above: Why else did I bring you here if not to possess the land? At this point, as if having now crested the wave of faith, Abram appears to step backwards and asks, "O L-rd G-d, how may I know that I shall possess it?" (v8, NASB). Centuries later, one of his descendants, a certain priest named Zechariah, was to ask a very similar question (Luke 1:18)!
TheRamban is definite that, "This is not similar to the question of Hezekiah, 'What shall be the sign that the Eternal will heal me?' (2 Kings 20:8)", simply asking for a sign; "but Abram desired to have definite knowledge that he would inherit the Land and that neither his sin nor that of his seed should withhold it from them. Or perhaps the Canaanites might repent ...". The Ramban is saying that Abram is trying to determine whether the promise is conditional - that is, in some way dependent on him or his offspring - or absolute, dependant only on G-d. "The Holy One, blessed be He, made a covenant with him that he will inherit the land under all circumstances."
Hirsch, on the other hand, comments that while the wording of the first time this promise is given, "To you and your descendants I will give this land" (B'resheet 13:15) requires no co-operating action on the part of Abram or his descendants, the wording here "'to give you this land to take it into possession' has the idea of self-action to strongly that it is used with the meaning of conquering or capturing" in which Abram and his descendants have to participate with G-d to secure the promise in physical terms.
Davidson lists a number of related meanings for the root : 1. to take, seize upon; to take possession of; 2. to dispossess, to drive out; 3. to possess, hold in possession; 4. to inherit. So theSforno comments, "to give you this land that you, yourself, should take possession of it through an act of acquisition; to inherit it so that your children will inherit it from you as an inheritance which is never ending." Abram has already been told (B'resheet 13:7) to walk the length and breadth of the Land, one of the methods of acquisition (b. Baba Batra 100a), so here, Abram is being reminded that it was G-d's intention that Abram should perform the acquisition so that he can transmit it to his children as an eternal inheritance.
Both of these ideas are found in one of Rav Sha'ul's more frequently quoted writings: "for by grace you have been save through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of G-d, not a result of works, so that no-one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Messiah Yeshua for good works, which G-d prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:8-10, ESV). The basic thrust is that salvation is from G-d, He provides it, we appropriate it by faith, but that faith in turn also comes from Him. It was always His intention that we should be believers, united with Messiah. At the same time, we have to participate in that process; firstly, by exercising the faith we have been given, by walking in faith and not in unbelief; and, secondly, by doing the "good works", deeds of righteousness, that He calls us to and has already prepared for us to do. James, the leader of the Jerusalem church famously comments that, "You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone" (James 2:24, ESV); it is a joint effort - the gift and intentionality of G-d, and the obedience and exercise of man.
This is why we find Rav Sha'ul saying, "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is G-d who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12-13, ESV). G-d has a plan for each of our lives, a way to bless and grow us while also advancing the Kingdom and reaching other people with His invitation to become a part of that Kingdom. G-d is not subject to random change, simply reacting to events as they happen on the ground; He acts according to a specific and deliberate purpose and plan, that all mankind may acknowledge Yeshua as the Messiah of Israel and the Saviour of the world, that "the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the L-rd as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11:9, ESV). Yet in spite of G-d's over-arching plan for the whole universe, we are not reduced to simply being nameless or faceless cogs in the machine. At the very same time as He is working on the master plan for history, G-d also has an individual plan for each of us and our generation; He says - originally to the captives in Babylon, but equally to us today - "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the L-rd, 'plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope'" (Jeremiah 29:11, ESV). This is why G-d brought us out of sin and death to give us a share in His Kingdom to possess and inherit.
Further Study: Job 23:8-14; Isaiah 58:8-12
Application: How are you co-operating with G-d to actualise your inheritance today? Are you aware of the moving of G-d in your life and the lives of those around you to bring about His purposes for you? How could you participate more fully with Him to make that happen? Why not ask Him these questions today so that together you can move forward as a team!
© Jonathan Allen, 2008
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