Journeying by Stages
12 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse, and in you, all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” a
4 So Abram went, as the Lordhad told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. 5 Abram took his wife Sarai and his brother’s son Lot, and all the possessions that they had gathered, and the persons whom they had acquired in Haran; and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan. When they had come to the land of Canaan, 6 Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. 7 Then the Lord appeared to Abram, and said, “To your offspring, I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. 8 From there he moved on to the hill country on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the Lord and invoked the name of the Lord. 9 And Abram journeyed on by stages toward the Negeb. 
Chapter 12 marks the beginning of the Abrahamic cycle and a major shift in the Genesis narrative. The first eleven chapters of Genesis may be thought of as etiological tales. These stories helped the early Hebrew people to make sense of their world by explaining how the world as they experienced it came to be. In chapter twelve, the narrative shifts from general stories about the world to focus on a particular people group. Having answered the question of how the world came to be the text now turns to the more personal question of how we (the children of Abraham) came to be and what is our place in the world.
The Abrahamic cycle begins with a call story. God speaks to Abram telling him to leave his country, kindred, and his father’s house to go to the land that God will reveal. No further details are revealed. Abram is not told where this land will be found, how long it will take to get there, or what he will find when he arrives. He is simply commanded to go with God’s blessing. The blessing is for Abram and his descendants. Abram will become the founder of an enduring dynasty and as such his name will be remembered and become great.
If Abram has any questions or hesitation the text does not record them. He simply did as the Lord commanded. With his wife Sarai and his nephew lot and all the members of his household in tow, he sets off for the land of Canaan. Arriving in that land Abram come to Shechem. There under the oak of Moreh, God once again speaks to Abram confirming that this is the land of the promise that land that God would give to Abram’s offspring. Hearing this Abram rightly responds by building an altar and worshipping God. He then travels on by stages through the Negeb.
As I write this reflection, we are approaching the second Sunday in Lent, the second stage in our Lenten journey. Like Abram, God calls us during this season to embark on a journey into the unknown. For most of us, it will not be a physical journey. We will not be required to leave home and family. Instead, the season of Lent invites us to journey beyond our comfort zone in other ways. We are invited to move deeper into the wilderness of our own inner being through prayer and fasting and to move deeper into our inherited story by reading and meditating on the scriptures. We are also called to turn our world upside down by placing the needs of others ahead of our own needs, by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the sick and the broken. The Lenten journey reminds us that like Abram we are sojourners traveling by stages through a foreign land on our journey to the Promised Land. Therefore, we are to love the strangers who sojourn among us.
My dear fellow travelers, as we journey together by stages through the wilderness of Lent, I pray that you and I will draw closer to the perfection God is working in us.