Praise the Lord for Not Knowing

Hebrews 11:8 has always been one of my favorite verses:

“By faith, Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.”

I’ve felt like this a few times in my life, where I’ve literally quit my job and moved home, or quit my job again to go to grad school, or now rejected a job while trusting that God is leading somewhere unknown {I’m sensing a common thread…}.

I’m always so encouraged by Abraham’s incredible faith, faith that completely trusted God to lead him, even though he did not know where he was going. I wrote about the blind runner in the epilogue to my book, and I think the reason I loved that image was because it reminded me of Abraham, just running blindly and trusting. 

And he’s great—yay Abraham!

However, what I learned last year by actually going to that place where Abraham didn’t know he was going has profoundly shifted my understanding of that verse.

Context: Abraham left his home, his family, and all that he knew in the land of Ur. He didn’t know where he was going, but he trusted God to lead. He ended up in the Negev.

To give you a picture of the Negev, here’s a shot of our group walking through the endless “dry place” to Arad.

Do you know what “Negev” means in Hebrew? I didn’t, but I learned in a lecture in Jerusalem one year ago as we prepared to head to the Negev for a four day “field study.” The name literally means “dry place.” So yeah, God led Abraham to a place that literally means what it is: a desert.

 

I spent four days in the Negev, and that was enough for me. Why? Because it’s literally the desert.

Here’s what I wrote in my journal after a couple of days in the Negev:

“…this was the land God was calling him to….I wonder if, had Abraham actually known where God would lead him, the story would have gone the same way….I wonder if maybe the focus [of that verse] should shift…the focus could be on God’s sovereignty in not letting Abraham know exactly where He was leading. The unknown is daunting and not always what I prefer, but more often than not, it’s so good that I don’t see the whole picture from the start, or there’s a good chance fear or disobedience would set in. 

The Negev isn’t exactly a land that screams, ‘Come and stay awhile!’ but without knowing where he was going, Abraham may have been able to more easily follow. In a way, not knowing where I’m going is a blessing from God. In that unknown, I can focus on what I do know: that the God who calls and leads me is good and faithful. Then I can take one step at a time…and then continue to move where He leads along the way.”

I mean, I can’t make this stuff up. I was learning this a year ago, and as I read this last week I encouraged myself with the things I learned a year ago because I am sitting back in the unknown.

I’m pretty sure in my now 19 years of Christian education I must have learned that “Negev” means dry place or at least must have heard that it’s not an ideal stomping ground. However, sometimes I have to see things for them to make sense, and I’m a pretty spatial person who loves the idea of place. One of my favorite things to do while traveling is to run while I’m there because I love seeing the place from a different perspective—actually running with my own feet over the territory and getting a feel for the land, in a sense.

So, having seen and spent time in the Negev (again, not some spiritual superiority complex), Hebrews 11:8 has this new perspective for me: it very well may have been God’s grace that Abraham didn’t know where he was going. Abraham is still great and a good example of faithfully following and running blindly, but God is even greater because He knew what Abraham needed to know and when he needed to know it, and it was probably a whole lot better for Abraham to just trust God in faith than to know what was going to happen—i.e. that God was literally leading him away from home and family to “Dry Place.”

As mentioned, here I find myself back in the unknown, having graduated with my Master’s degree and turned down my old teaching job. I’m a little bit scared—mostly in my head because my heart knows that He is faithful and things always work out in His sovereignty. But maybe, just maybe, that’s okay. Maybe it’s good—even better—for me to be in this unknown because it forces me to look to the Known, to God and His unfailing, forgiving love when I disobey; to his absolute sovereignty in my life and over all; to His faithfulness and the picture He is painting which I can’t even see. 

I know He is faithful, so maybe it’s better that I don’t know where He’s leading me. 

As scary as the unknown can be, I know that if God revealed to me where He was leading me ahead of time, too often I would start to turn back in fear and distrust. Yet, when I don’t know where He’s leading, I have to trust Him, and when I get there, He sustains me, even if I’ve ended up in “Dry Place,” the Negev.

So praise the Lord for the not knowing, uncertain as it may seem.

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