The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you” . . . . So Abram went, as the LORD had told him. — Genesis 12:1, 4
What does it mean to be a man of faith? In Jeremiah 17:7-8, we are reminded that “one who trusts in the LORD…is like a tree planted by the water…It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green.” A man of faith thrives and is fruitful because he is connected directly to the Source of Life. Through the timeless teachings or Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, we look at the defining characteristics from the lives of six biblical, godly men.
The first time we meet Abraham (or Abram, as he was then called) in the Bible, God gives him a straightforward command and an incredible promise. God told Abraham to leave his country, his people, and his father’s household, and go to a strange, distant land. In doing so, God would bless Abraham and make him the father of a great nation.
Abraham’s response, as recorded in the Bible, goes like this: “So Abram went, as the LORD had told him” (Genesis 12:4). Looking back on this interaction thousands of years later, we marvel at Abraham’s faith, at his trust, at his obedience. We wonder, given those same circumstances, would we have made the same choice? When you consider the culture in which Abraham grew up and his own upbringing, his decision is even more remarkable.
You see, Abraham grew up in a society where multiple gods and idols were worshiped. In fact, Abraham’s father, Terah, not only worshiped idols — he made idols. That was his business. And as the oldest son, Abraham more than likely was expected to follow in the family business and become an idol-producer himself.
But according to rabbinic tradition, Abraham came to realize that there was only one true God and that idols weren’t the answer. He tried to help his father understand this as well. The story goes that when his father was out of the workshop, Abraham destroyed all the idols, except the largest one, next to which he put a stick.
When his father returned, Terah was furious, and according to tradition, the exchange went something like this: “What happened here, Abraham?” his father demanded. Abraham replied with, “Well, the big idol got angry at all the other idols and he destroyed them.” To which his father answered, “That’s impossible. He doesn’t move. It’s just stone.”
“Exactly, Father,” Abraham said. “It is only a stone. There is but one true God.”
Because of his faith and his willingness to stand not only against the cultural norms of his day, but also against his own father, Abraham has been credited as the founder of worshiping only one God. He became the first person in the Bible to be called a Hebrew, iver, meaning “side,” because he stood on one side from the rest of the world. For his faith, Abraham the father of a great nation — the Jewish people.
His bedrock faith in one true God is the very foundation upon which Jews and Christians alike have built our faith traditions.
It’s always a good time to take stock. How rock solid is our faith? Are we willing to stand against the cultural norms, perhaps even against our family and friends, for believing in the one true God? How might you live out the answers to those questions today, and in the days to come?