Partnering With God

Lech Lecha (Genesis 12:1-17:27)

Partnering With God

In Parashat Lech Lecha we begin learning about a character by the name of Abram. As we know, his name will eventually be changed to Abraham, and our knowledge of his life is pivotal to our understanding of God’s plan for humanity. In fact, the entire Scripture hinges around this one person. When we read this week’s portion, Abraham’s courageous faith immediately becomes apparent when we read of him leaving everything behind in order to obey God’s command and move to the land of Canaan. This is the first of several of Abraham’s trials we read about in this small section of Genesis. 

The next trial we learn about is his encounter with Pharaoh and how he attempts to protect his family from the Egyptians. Then we read of the dispute between his nephew Lot’s shepherds and his own, and the trial of dividing the land between his nephew and himself. We also read about his trial of rescuing Lot when he and his household were captured in a by invading armies. The next trial is overcoming the pain of being childless and results in the taking of his wife’s servant Hagar as an additional wife through which his son Ishmael is born. The last trial in this portion is the commandment for Abraham to circumcise himself and all the males of his household. But there is something unique about how this trial is introduced.

When the LORD began instructing Abraham in regard to circumcision, He began by saying, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be perfect, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly” (Genesis 17:1–2). When God made His covenant of circumcision with Abraham, it was with the intention of making Abraham something greater than what he was. Somehow this act of obedience through altering his physical nature would produce in Abraham a partnership with God that could not be achieved otherwise. It’s a difficult concept to grasp, but one that is deserving of our attention.

The topic of circumcision is a volatile topic these days. The secular world sees it as a barbaric and cruel practice. Many Christians view it negatively as well, due to Paul’s statement that in regard to salvation it is a “mutilat[ion] the flesh” (Philippians 3:2). But we have to remember that the God of the universe is the one who instructed Abraham and all future generations of his descendants to undergo this transformation. But why would God want man to do such a thing if He created them uncircumcised to begin with? The answer connects us back to the introduction of His covenant of circumcision: “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be perfect.”

God desires to partner with man in order to bless him and to do great things in this world. When man partners with God to accomplish wonderful things—even in seemingly minute things—we are fulfilling our calling to walk before Him, striving towards perfection just as Abraham. For instance, God did not create trees that produce bread. It would be nice if we could pick the loaves of bread from a tree and enjoy them without any effort on our part. Instead, God only provides the grain for the bread. Man must do the rest. We must harvest the grain, thresh and winnow it, grind it, mix it with other ingredients and then bake it before it becomes a delicious loaf of bread. By doing so, man partners with God to create something beautiful and beneficial for humanity.

The same is true in our spiritual lives as well. Although we may be born a certain way, we must realize that we are not supposed to remain that way. We should never be satisfied with “the way we are,” but should always strive to become something more than how we were created. Just as we work together with God to create bread, just as Abraham worked with God to circumcise all the males of his house, so should we work with God to alter ourselves in ways that make us more like our Creator. It’s not an easy task, but through much patience, diligence, and hard work we can partner with the LORD to become the person He envisioned when He created us.