• to banish (a person) from his or her native country.
• to withdraw (oneself) from residence in one’s native country.
• to withdraw (oneself) from allegiance to one’s country.
Now Yahweh said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you…”
One of the most difficult aspects of the life of an expatriate is experiencing separation from family. Although we are not given any details of the inner wrestling Abraham endured at the thought of having to leave his relatives and his father’s house behind, I suspect that Abraham found the decision to be a painful one. Abraham understood that his journey was one way. Yahweh gave Abraham no reason to expect that he would ever see his relatives, or his father’s house, again.
Let me take a moment to reiterate a thought here. The life of an expatriate, of an alien and a stranger in this world, is set forth from the first book of the Bible to the last. It is a continuous theme. There was rarely a man or woman of faith whose life was recorded in the Scriptures who did not share aspects of this experience. It is important for Christians to understand this Biblical theme, for everyone who accepts the call to be a disciple of Yahshua must adopt the mind and heart of one who is a wandering pilgrim on this earth.
This is not to suggest that men and women of faith will never be led of the Father to purchase a piece of land, nor to build a home to live in. Not everyone who has the heart of a Christian expatriate will have to leave their relatives, or depart from their father and his household. I can cite a number of examples of men and women at this present moment who I know to be walking by the Spirit, living the life He has chosen for them, who have land and homes and who still dwell among extended family. Many of these men and women have known seasons where they did not have their own home, and did not dwell among family, and this may be their experience again.
The key issue is whether a person will hold loosely all things of this world, being willing to surrender them at any moment as the Father requires. It should not be considered the norm to have house and land and to dwell among family. The words of Yahshua, and the testimony of Scripture, reveal that the true norm is to be asked of God to lay these things aside.
“He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.”
“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, shall receive many times as much, and shall inherit eternal life.”
All those who confess that they will follow Christ as His disciple will be tested in these matters. Abraham is given as an example for the saints today. His life is set forth as a testimony of the ways by which Yahweh deals with those whom He calls friends. Not only did Yahweh test Abraham’s heart by asking him to leave his relatives and father’s household, but after many years of wandering across the land of Canaan Yahweh tested this man again. God had given Abraham the desire of his heart. He was given an heir from his own loins, a child of his old age. Isaac was born to Sarah when she was ninety years old and Abraham was one hundred years of age.
Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” And He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah; and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.”
The church has erred greatly in deeming Abraham’s experience to be unique, something that was exceptional, never to be repeated. I cannot envision a conclusion that is further from the truth. Yahshua would not have stated that a man must hate his father and mother, sons and daughters, wife, brothers and sisters to be His disciple if Abraham’s experience was a one-off event. No! What Yahweh required of Abraham He will require of all those who are called to walk with Him.
Even as Abraham’s great test came after he had ben following Yahweh as an alien in the land for some years, the Father brought me to a similar test. Yahweh called me to leave all I was familiar with in 1999 and to go wherever He directed. By 2004 I knew that my wife was not going to continue this journey with me much longer. When she left, I knew she would take our son Josiah with her. Josiah was fourteen years old at the time. This may be close to the age of Isaac when Abraham was commanded to lay him on an altar.
On July 15th, 2004 my wife announced that she was leaving me. She longed to return to the life of ease that is the portion of most American Christians. The demands of a life of faith were too difficult for her, the trials too bitter. As anticipated, my son Josiah chose to stay with his mother. In one day I lost my wife of seventeen years, and my son. It was a bitter experience.
It had been my practice for some time to read out of a devotional book each day. At the time I was using the excellent book titled Streams in the Desert. On many occasions the Father used the day’s devotion to speak specifically to the experiences I was passing through. When my wife decided to leave, the person whose home we had been invited to stay in dis-invited me. I was asked to pack up my things and leave. I loaded what little I possessed into the car we owned and I drove to the Walmart parking lot where I spent the night. I had only $5 in my pocket, and had no idea what the future held for me. I felt stripped, and emptied, but I had peace with God knowing that I had not turned back from the path Yahweh called me to walk, even when it was exceedingly painful.
As I sat in my car at Walmart I read the devotional entry for the next morning, July 16. I was met with the following words, which the Holy Spirit brought to me with great force and affirmation.
Because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will… make your descendants as numerous as the stars of the sky… because you have obeyed Me. (Genesis 22:16-18)
From the time of Abraham, people have been learning that when they obey God’s voice and surrender to Him whatever they hold most precious, He multiplies it thousands of times. Abraham gave up his one and only son at the Lord’s command, and in doing so all his desires and dream’s for Isaac’s life as well as his own hope for a notable heritage, disappeared…
This is exactly how God deals with every child of His when we truly sacrifice…
We sometimes seem to forget that what God takes from us, He takes with fire, and that the only road to a life of resurrection and ascension power leads us first to Gethsemane, the cross, and the tomb.
Dear Soul, do you believe that Abraham’s experience was unique and isolated? It is only an example and a pattern of how God deals with those who are prepared to obey Him whatever the cost. “After waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised” (Hebrews 6:15), and so will you. The moment of your greatest sacrifice will also be the precise moment of your greatest and most miraculous blessing…
People of God, there was no ram in the thicket for me. Yahweh did not restore my wife or son to me as soon as I proved willing to bear the cost of obedience. He is not obligated to keep us from suffering. Yahweh did not exempt Himself from suffering the bereavement of a Son who was sacrificed. There was no angel that appeared at Calvary to stop the sacrifice of the Lamb of God. There was a cup of suffering from which Christ had to drink. There is also a cup presented to those who would follow in His steps.
For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake…
Some have asked me over the years why God would lead obedient sons and daughters to experiences of separation and loss among their families. Some have expressed difficulty reconciling the following passages of Scripture:
“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”
“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.”
Why would Yahweh declare the marriage union to be holy in His sight, and then state that a man must hate his wife to be Christ’s disciple? Why would God command a man to honor his father and mother, and then say a man must hate father and mother? Why would God call children a blessing, and then take from a man that which He has given?
I think the answer has to do with priorities. Yahweh wants a husband and wife to love one another. He desires for children to honor their parents and for parents to love their children. Yet these relationships, as important and precious as they are, cannot take precedence over a man’s love, devotion, and obedience to Yahweh his Creator. All things must be kept in their proper order, otherwise chaos will enter into the creation. Even love for family will bring forth death if love for God is not greater still.
We read that Eve sinned in the Garden because the serpent deceived her. Adam, however, was not deceived.
I Timothy 2:14
And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being quite deceived, fell into transgression.
It was not Eve’s transgression that resulted in death to all mankind. The seed is found in the man. Had Adam not listened to the voice of his wife and joined her in transgression, death would not have entered into the creation. Mankind would not have become enslaved to sin.
Why did Adam sin if he was not deceived? The first clue we receive is found in the testimony of the man and his wife.
And the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” Then Yahweh God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
Again we find that Eve disobeyed God because she was deceived. Adam, however, was not deceived. Adam ate because his wife entreated him to do so. Adam placed his love for his wife above his love and obedience to God. Yahweh confirmed this when He told the man what would result from his fateful choice.
Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it‘”
Yahweh expressed His will to the man, and Eve expressed her will to the man. Adam placed his love for the woman first. He listened to her, rather than listening to God. The result was death. The creation fell under the curse of sin and death because man had brought confusion to the proper order of all living things. Yahweh must ever be man’s first love, his first priority. To alter this order results in death.
And one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment.”
Adam did not transgress by loving his wife. His transgression was that he loved his wife more than he loved God. Christ said to His disciples, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” Whose commandment did the man keep? Adam did the bidding of the one he loved the most. Adam chose “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” over his Creator.
Is it any wonder that this issue has been a point at which Yahweh has tested mankind ever since? Abraham was tested when Yahweh commanded him to leave his relatives and his father’s household. He was tested when Yahweh instructed him to take his son, his only son, Isaac, and slay him on an altar. Did Yahweh want Abraham to hate his family? No! It is the will of God that we love one another, but our love for Yahweh must always be foremost of all.
I remember well a time when Yahweh was leading my family through some very painful experiences. He had provided for us a home during this season in a community called Payne City (Pain City). My wife did not want to be there. On a number of occasions during our stay in Payne City I remember her saying to me, “You must truly hate me.” Every time she spoke these words I assured her that I loved her, affirming that it would not be love for me to disobey God by shrinking back from the experiences He had chosen for us.
People of God, this is what Christ meant when He said no man could be His disciple unless he “hates” his family. Yahshua will lead His disciples to experiences that their family members find repugnant. Like Eve, our family members will direct us to take another path. We must choose to obey God, or to obey our wives, our parents, our brothers and sisters, our sons and daughters. We will choose to love God foremost in our lives, or to put others before Him.
Some of those reading this writing can see a test looming before them. Yahweh has not changed the ways in which He deals with His sons and daughters. There continues to be a high cost to walking with Him. Some men who read this blog know that if they surrender their life fully to go wherever Christ leads them, and to do whatever He requires, that their wife, their children, their parents, their brothers and sisters, will protest. The opposition may be severe. Parents may cut you off from an inheritance. Wives may threaten to leave you. Children may rebel. Brothers and sisters may betray you.
Do not think God will not bring you to the test. Christ has stated:
“Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.”
Christ will put you to the test. He will require of you an obedience that is odious to the members of your household. Will you follow when He commands it? Or will you delay to appease wife, or son, or daughter, or father, or mother?
Know this, you who refuse to surrender all to the will of the Father; placing family before God will bring forth death. Adam condemned all his future generations when he put the love of his wife before the love of God. Do you suppose that you or I can make the same choice and reap a different result? Do not be deceived!
Yahshua has not misled any man. He proclaimed boldly to the multitudes that there is a high cost required to be His disciple. He said those who will not pay the cost are unworthy of Him.
All is not bitterness, however. There is a fellowship to be found with Christ as we partake of His sufferings. What we lose in earthly relationships, we gain in intimacy with God. “There is a Friend who sticks closer than a brother.” “Nothing can separate us from the love of God.” Yahweh is called “The God of all comfort.” He knows how to bind up the brokenhearted, and how to comfort the afflicted. There is also a great hope set before those who endure sorrow for a night, for joy comes in the morning.
Do you hear Christ calling you to the expatriate life? Know then that the call begins as it ever has.
“Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you…”
“Come, take up your cross and follow Me.”
There is no hope that by delaying the decision to follow Christ you might avoid the cost incurred among family members. One man came to Yahshua and said, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” I do not believe this man’s father had yet died. The man was requesting that he might delay following Christ until his father passed away. He likely anticipated that his father would object to his commitment to follow Christ, and he wished to avoid the pain of division and strife in his family.
Do not say, “I will wait a little longer before I yield myself to follow Christ wherever He would lead.” There is no promise that there will be an opportunity tomorrow. We must choose to obey Christ while He is beckoning. Don’t wait for your entire family to get on board. That will likely never happen. The prophet Jeremiah wrote:
And I will take you one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion.
One from a city and two from a family are not great numbers. It is ever a remnant who will heed the call to come out of Babylon and make the journey to Zion. Will you be one of them?
This is an excerpt from Expatriates.
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