This is an excerpt from week 2 of my weekly podcast. You can listen to the complete episode here: Journey – Exploring the world of the Bible – God’s Story or click the picture below.
When Abram comes on the scene in Genesis 12 all we know about him is that he’s a descendent of Noah’s son, Shem, he’s 75 years old, and he’s an immigrant from Ur, living in Haran, a city that today is in Southeastern Turkey.
Arriving in Genesis 12, God has been silent for 10 generations since Noah until he speaks to Abram, saying:
“Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1 NIV)
Now, in that time and place in history the two most important things to every man were family and land. This is how your legacy was passed down through generations, obviously. Land was passed down from generation to generation and of course you needed descendants to pass the land to as an inheritance. God’s been silent for 10 generations and when he speaks He demands that Abram leave behind the things that are most important to him and his society and trust God by heading out into the unknown.
God goes on…
“I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you;” (Genesis 12:2)
Abram probably wondered, how is God going to make me into a great nation? I’m 75 and my wife is 65. We’re old and childless. How can this be possible?
And God goes on…
“I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.” (Genesis 12:2 NIV)
What does that mean? In the time and place where and when Abram lived, names were not simply a way to keep track of your kids. Names were an expression of the very essence of a person’s being. Coincidentally, or perhaps not, Abram means father, yet this man has no children. So this statement leads me to expect that Abram’s name is going to be fulfilled and also, Abram will be remembered as a man of great character, which he is. Check out Romans 4:3 and Galatians 3:6 or ask any Jew, Muslim or Christian. Abram is definitely remembered.
God finishes with:
“I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:3 NIV)
No questions asked, Abram leaves his familial roots and caravans off towards whatever God is going to show him…
He walks into what will one day be the kingdom of David and Solomon, down a road we call today the Watershed Ridge Route. It’s like the Continental Divide in the United States. All water to the west of the ridge flows to the Mediterranean. All water to the east flows into the Rift Valley and down to the Dead Sea. Abram walks all the way down this road and into Egypt, where he becomes very wealthy. Then there’s a scandal around his wife Sarai, and they get kicked out of Egypt. They split with Abram’s nephew Lot who decides to settle next to Sodom, which isn’t going to turn out well.
God Speaks, Again…
Finally, God speaks a 2nd time to Abram:
“Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.” (Genesis 13:14–17 NIV)
Years after Abram set off from Haran into the unknown, God says, “Abram, this is the Land I am giving to you.” Now there’s something to pass down to those descendants that Abram still doesn’t have.
Next comes an episode where Abram rescues Lot by defeating the combined army of four kings, then there are some really interesting verses where Abram meets a man named Melchizedek, king of Salem, which later will be called Jerusalem. It’s particularly interesting because the Bible says Melchizedek is not only a king, he is also the “priest of God Most High.” That’s interesting because this means that there are people in Canaan outside of those whose stories are in the Bible, and these people know and serve the one true God. This makes me wonder what happened in Canaan in the 6-800 years between Melchizedek and the Israelite conquest for God to order the destruction of the Canaanites in Deuteronomy 20:16-18? Apparently the Canaanites had their own narrative to tell about their relationship with God, but by the time Joshua and the Israelites come on the scene something has changed, and God is not present among the Canaanites. Something to think about.
If you appreciate this post please listen to the full podcast by clicking this link: Journey – Exploring the world of the Bible – God’s Story. A new podcast will be posted each week through May, 2015.
Grace and peace.