In Genesis 12:5 we happen upon Abram who was considered one of the first hosts as well as a first pilgrim.
“He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions (substance) they had gained and all the people (souls) they had gotten (gathered).”
The context of Genesis 12 is that Abram is being invited to move from Ur. He is invited to be moved by God. Ur was a pagan nation. As an inhabitant, Abram grew up around idols and those who worshipped them. Yet, somehow he discovered God there. Experienced Him enough to be moved from empty practices to an eternal pursuit. This is the marvel of being moved.
The Talmud (written oral tradition) teaches that at age 3, Abram began seeking the true God. He wondered through creation and marveled at its beauty and harmony. He couldn’t believe it was created by an angry god who demanded sacrifice to be appeased. He could only believe the true God was one of the truest love.
Abram committed himself to God and was filled with Him. He found such love he could no longer live in the pagan culture of Ur but had to move to a place where he was free to worship this God he loved without resistance.
The Midrash (ancient commentary connected to the text) tells how Abram would invite people into his home to share a meal, show them love and draw them closer to God. Conversion would come and he would show them how to live in God’s presence always.
When Abraham came into a true understanding of the love of God, it became his hospitality.
Those who came into contact with him found a feast of love and left their pagan gods, even under threat that the god would wreak havoc upon them if they embraced the love of God.
So Abram agreed to move with his family and “all the souls they had gathered.”
Modern translations describe “souls he had gathered” as “people acquired, people taken into His household, servants acquired.”
But the word used for souls is ‘nephesh’. These were those who saw Abram so filled with the love of God that they gave their very lives to this God. In Abram’s hospitality, they found the God of love who did not make demands like their pagan gods and goddesses. Demands that so often equated to human sacrifice. They chose, these souls, to become offerings.
Abram didn’t know where he was going or what he would find there. But he knew his God would be with him. He chose to not be swayed by what surrounded him, but moved by the God he had come to know. And those with him, gathered souls, now knew how to live within God’s presence anywhere they were. They may not have gone on the journey with Abram, but they would live motioned, moving lives.
The man who came to the God who didn’t demand sacrifice would later be asked to give all He had. Abram had to know who God was. If he hadn’t experienced Him, he never could have been moved by Him to that altar. And, to a life of nothing between, with so much to gain.
What moves the soul? The act of sacrifice. Our drawing near.