Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Distant Harvest

Vincent Van Gogh, the legendary artist whose paintings fetch astronomical amounts of money today, went to his grave having sold just one painting, Red Vineyard at Arles which resides today at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow. I was reminded of this escalating "momentum" of one's life work following death as I continue to study the life of Abraham.

God's promises in Genesis 12 to Abraham for a "great nation" and "land" have distant fulfillment. Full fruition of the promises would come not to Abraham, directly, but to his descendants, and, ultimately, through Jesus Christ. So Abraham laid the roots for a distant harvest. Or as Victor P. Hamilton writes in his fabulous "Handbook on the Pentateuch," [The patriarchs] are catalysts and not conclusions."

For those of us who fancy metrics and measurements and outcomes and results, it's a little difficult, perhaps, to fathom that God's purpose for us is something that we may never live to see here on earth. Our purpose may come to fruition long after we're gone. Yet we have a role to play that God has deemed important enough to create for us by virtue of our very existence.

Abraham was a facilitator for a distant harvest. He set his eyes on land he would never possess, and he was, we may theorize, OK with this. As Hamilton noted, "On several occasions, he does ask God, 'Where is my heir?' But never does he ask God, 'Where is my land?' For him, living in tents was fully satisfying. (Heb 11: 9-10)"

What's emerging in my mind is a portrait of a patriarch who didn't need constant reassurance and encouragement or man-made benchmarks and measurements. He didn't need peer reviews, performance assessments and acclaim. Following after God was really all that mattered. "True, he does not have, in terms of personal realization, all the promises of God, but he does have the God of all the promises... The giver, not the gifts, is Abraham's highest reward and his consuming obsession," Hamilton writes.

Red Vineyard at Arles by Vincent Van Gogh

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