January 7, 2013

GENESIS 12: Abram’s Calling


Form chapters 1 though 11, the book of Genesis has addressed the history of all humanity. However, starting on chapter 12, the narrative focuses on a particular family: Abram and his descendants.

As we mentioned before, Abram was originally from Ur of the Chaldeans (what today would be in the vicinity of Kuwait). He later settled in Haran with his father and brother. That is where God called him from:
(Genesis 12:1-3)  Now the LORD said to Abram, "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."


  
The Hebrew text uses a very peculiar phrase: “Lech lechah”. In English it is usually translated as “go”, but it could read literally “get out of your own self”. It is as if God was telling him to leave everything that was known and familiar to him up to that point.

What was he to leave behind?
*  his country
*  his kindred
*  his father’s house
*  what he had been doing so far

He had to detach himself and get away from what was familiar to him up to that moment.

According to Jewish tradition, Abram’s father was an idol maker, which agrees with what is written in the book of Joshua. 
(Joshua 24:2)   And Joshua said to all the people, "Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, 'Long ago, your fathers lived beyond the Euphrates, Terah, the father of Abraham and of Nahor; and they served other gods.

Abram had to leave behind idolatry and everything that was familiar to him. That was clear. However, where was he to go? He did not know that, because God had not revealed it to him. All he knew was that he would go to a place the Lord would show him.

Many times the Lord works with us just like that. He asks us to take a step, but he does not reveal to us more than the task at hand. He does it so that we learn to trust in Him, not on the plans themselves. The result obedience brings is always a blessing.
. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."


THE PROMISE
God promised several things to Abram if he obeyed and left everything to follow Him (Genesis 12:1-3):
*  I will make of you a great nation
*  I will bless you
*  I will make your name great
*  You will be a blessing
*  I will bless those who bless you and will curse him who dishonors you
*  In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed

Even though God set apart Abram and his descendants from all the families of the world, His ultimate purpose was to bless everyone.

PURPOSE
What did Abram do? Did he respond to God’s calling?
(Genesis 12:4)  So Abram went, as the LORD had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.

Abram was not young. He was an old man. We may even think that he had a few years left to “the end” of his life. But in God’s sight, that is when he was beginning his life. The Lord gave him one hundred more years to live; but more than that, He gave him an enormous purpose for his life, that would transcend generations.

Abram left everything behind to start over. Sometimes we think that it is difficult to give up everything is exchange for “nothing?”  But when God asks us to give up everything is because He has something better for us.


THE FIRST HEBREW
Abram  was the first one to cross the river, on his way to Canaan. That is why he was called a “Hebrew” -- from the Hebrew word “Ivriy”, that literally means: “one that comes from beyond”, that is, that comes from beyond the Great River.
(Joshua 24:3)   Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan, and made his offspring many. I gave him Isaac.

Abram was the first Hebrew, the first to cross the river. Throughout the Bible the image of “crossing the river” is very significant. It represents leaving a way of life to begin a new one.
(Genesis 12:5)   And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan.

Abram did not only leave with his wife Sarai, but also with his nephew. Abram did not have any children, and Lot’s father, Haran, had passed away, so he adopted his nephew Lot.


THIS IS THE LAND
Abram did not know exactly where he was going. But when he came into Canaan, God told him that the land where he was standing was the Promised Land.
(Genesis 12:6-7) Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, "To your offspring I will give this land." So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him.

  

Shechem is located right at the heart of the Promised Land.

It is the same place where the Israelites, Abrams descendants, were to confirm the covenant with God, after conquering the Promised Land.
(Deuteronomy 11:29-32)  And when the LORD your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, you shall set the blessing on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Ebal. Are they not beyond the Jordan, west of the road, toward the going down of the sun, in the land of the Canaanites who live in the Arabah, opposite Gilgal, beside the oak of Moreh? For you are to cross over the Jordan to go in to take possession of the land that the LORD your God is giving you. And when you possess it and live in it, you shall be careful to do all the statutes and the rules that I am setting before you today.


DOUBLE PROMISE
In Shechem, God expanded his promise to Abram.
(Genesis 12:7)  Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, "To your offspring I will give this land." So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him.

Abram received a double promise: land and descendants.

Surely Abram must have wondered how was this going to take place, since he had no children and he was already 75 years old. On the other hand, the territory at that time belonged to the Canaanites and as a foreigner he was not allowed to buy any land. Clearly a miracle had to take place in order to have that promise fulfilled.

Shechem is a valley, so after hearing the promise, Abram went up to a nearby hill, probably to look over the Land God was offering to him.
(Genesis 12:8)  From there he moved to the hill country on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. And there he built an altar to the LORD and called upon the name of the LORD.

Contrary to what had been attempted at Babel, people trying to make a name for themselves, Abram called upon the name of the Lord.

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