Abram’s life was in shambles. He was seventy-five years old when his father had died. He was living in Haran, far from the land of Canaan, the place where his father Terah had hoped to go. His beloved wife remained barren, which brought deep shame to her from everyone in their society. Yet they faithfully bore the responsibility of caring for Lot, Abram’s orphaned nephew. Then the LORD came to him. What God said to him is one of the most significant things ever declared in history;
“‘Leave your country, your people, and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.
I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you;
I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’”
Wow. Read that again. God told Abram to leave everything. He was to abandon whatever life he had in Haran and go into a strange land. But with that obedience would come overwhelming blessings. God would lead him to Canaan, the land of his destiny. And for his faith and obedience, the LORD promised to make Abram’s descendants into a mighty nation.
This promise was called a covenant. If Abram obeyed, God would bind himself to Abram with a sacred promise that he would never break. Now remember, when God speaks, things really happened. That is how he made the whole universe. God’s words also make things happen in the future. Abram could be as certain that God would keep his covenant as he was that the sun would rise every morning. And what a blessing this covenant would be.
Abram would be like Shem! He would father an entire people group! God also promised to make his name great. God would curse anyone that tried to hurt him. And somehow, God was going to use him to bless all the nations of the world. What a bright and wonderful hope! But Abram had to choose to believe it.
When God promised to protect Cain after he murdered his brother, Cain chose not to believe. He built a fortress city to protect himself. He did it on his own. When the children of Noah were wandering the earth, they were supposed to scatter to far off lands. Instead, they stayed together. They thought they could keep themselves safe apart from the help of God. They tried to make a great name for themselves apart from God by building a temple. They did it on their own.
Now Abram would have a chance to show where he put his hope. He could follow in the ways of Cain and build a life on his own. Or he could do it God’s way. He would have to have faith to leave the land of safety and go out into dangerous regions of unknown people and their unknown ways. He would have to trust God to protect him in ways his forefathers had refused to. Abram would have to have faith that God could create something out of absolutely nothing. It was impossible for his wife to have children, let alone give birth to a nation. He would be staking his whole life on a miracle. But in the end, he would have the highest honor. He would not have to make his own name great. It would be the gift of God for his righteous faith. He would be rewarded for trusting in the LORD with abundant blessings. Those blessings would be poured out onto the nations of the whole world!
What would Abram do? Would he rebel like so many had in the past, showing himself to be the offspring of God’s enemy? Or would he stand in faith and see the blessings of God?
Abram proved to be a man of wondrous faith. It was very simple. He just did as God said. The Bible tells it this way: “So Abram left, as the LORD had told him.” He heard, and he obeyed.
How different was Abram’s pilgrimage from the writhing efforts of the people at Babel! When Abram chose to step out in faith, the course of human history changed. The rest of the Torah, which is the first five books of the Bible, will tell the story of how God kept His promise to Abraham. He would raise up a nation through Abram, and He would take them to the Land of Promise. The rest of the Old Testament, all the books after the Torah, is the story of God’s faithful relationship with Abraham’s children once they entered the Land of Promise. It all began with God’s powerful, initiating promise and Abram’s first great steps of faith.
Abram’s nephew Lot went with Abram and Sarai, and they brought everything they owned with them. Their servants came with them, too. They threw everything they had into God’s plan! They headed for the land of Canaan, and as they passed through, right into the heart of the land, God appeared to Abram again. He said, “‘To your offspring I will give this land.’” What a beautiful promise to a man who had spent so many years without children. What a wonderful promise to see wide, vast lengths of lands stretching in all directions and know that God Himself had claimed it for him! How do you think Abram felt as he looked out on the trees, the great river Jordan, and the mountains and valleys of Canaan? Because God said so, the land was as good as Abram’s, even though all kinds of other mini nations and tribes, cities and villages of people were already living there. The land was Abram’s because God gave it to him, and he is the Maker and Owner of it all. Yet He also had a plan for how Abram’s descendants would take the land, and that time had not yet come. For the two great blessings of God’s covenant promise, for a child and land, Abram was being called on to wait.
Abram believed the LORD and built an altar to Him. Once again, Abram showed himself to be totally different from the other people and nations of the world. Where they built massive cities and empires for their own glory, Abram left the city to become a nomadic wanderer, unknown and far away from the places where the powerful built their fame and their palaces. Where the people of the world plotted to build idols and temples to false gods, Abram faithfully built an altar to the true and living God. Just as Noah had proven himself to be righteous and faithful in all he did, Abram was showing that he was a man that God could trust to honor and obey his commands. He was proving to be the right man to be the father of God’s priestly nation.
The family traveled on to a place near Bethel, where Abraham built another altar to the LORD. Building these altars was a way of claiming the land for God. The local people, called the Canaanites, worshiped demonic idols. They polluted the land with their devotion to false gods and sinful lives. But Abram had come as an act of worship to the God of the universe. He stood against the religious deception and declared in a physical way that he was not given over to the fear and power of Satan’s idols. Each altar showed Abram’s faith that one day his descendants would rule there. And at each stage, Abram continued to turn to God in dependence and praise.