Genesis 12:1-7, Ruth 2:13–19, Job 31:24–32
For many of us (if not most), the call of Abram (who would become Abraham) doesn’t seem that significant from a strictly human perspective. Yes, any of us would find being called by God significant, but the calling away from relatives and land is not so strange. This is not the case here. There is a relationship with the land. The land of one’s ancestors. There is also the concept of leaving one’s family.
American culture, especially Western American culture, has some significant breaks with the culture of Abram. The settler and/or explorer mentality which underlies much of American founding is not conducive to family roots, or least always staying near home. America celebrates individuality and individual freedom to culturally understand what God is having Abram do. The only exception to this break had been agricultural families, but with the increasing transformation from family to corporate farms, even that is going away.
Abram was separated from his family and land by choice. Yes, it was God’s direction, but in his culture, leaving was a big break. While he had his household, he was now a household of wanderers. Where is home for such wandering group? By leaving the ties of the land, Abram would now effectively be a guest wherever he went.
Ruth was the same. Yes, she had married an Israelite, but he was dead. She didn’t have to leave her homeland. However, in her heart she had made a decision that her husband’s family was truly her own, breaking her family ties. What made her decision even more significant was that all that was left of her husband’s immediate family was his widowed mother. Not much of a family structure for support. Now that Ruth and Naomi were back in Israelite land, Ruth was now responsible for both. By the grace of God, she fell into the care of Boaz, a distant relative. Boaz welcomed her above and beyond a servant. He truly welcomed her to his table to eat. She had no functional value to him, yet he welcomed her.
And welcoming others to the table is what Job did, too. He was righteous in this. It wasn’t that he had a long line of people that would take advantage of this ( strong cultural taboo against it), so turning people away likely didn’t happen. He welcomed people to the table.
1) Abram was a guest. Why would other landowners welcome him to their table? Why might they not?
2) Culturally, much of American culture has turned away from welcoming strangers (hospitality). Why do you think that is? When do you think it started to change?