Summary: Staking a claim in the land of Canaan.
THE CALL OF ABRAHAM
Our history begins in Ur of the Chaldees, in what is now Southern Iraq, a predominantly pagan city of about 250,000 people, with a central temple to the moon god Sin. Here Abram’s father Terah was thought to have been a craftsman within the moon cult. At a crucial turning point in history, and for reasons unknown, Terah and various members of his family determined to travel to Canaan, and, uprooting themselves from all that was familiar, took to the road.
They got as far as Haran, another centre of moon worship on the trade routes between Syria and Turkey. The allure of this pagan city detained them, and there they settled down (Genesis 11:31). Where they stopped, there Terah died.
Abram was called to leave his father’s house in order to go to a land which the LORD would show him (Genesis 12:1). So with his wife and nephew, and the people he had gotten in Haran (Genesis 12:5), he ventured out once more, into the unknown. This was a step of faith not unlike our initiation into Christianity, where we are required to leave all and follow Jesus (Luke 9:57-62).
Along with the command, the LORD made two promises. First of all there was a promise of land (Genesis 12:1). Secondly, though Abram’s wife Sarai was barren (cf. Genesis 11:30), Abram was informed that he would become a great nation (Genesis 12:2).
Furthermore Abram would be blessed in his walk with God. That blessing would manifest itself in a tangible “greatness.” The “exalted Father” (as his name means) would become a source of blessing to others (Genesis 12:2).
God was focussing the whole of salvation history into one family. From that family, the whole world would be blessed (Genesis 12:3). Yet every single person who opposes this family, which is ultimately the family of Jesus Christ, falls under a divine curse.
At 75 years old Abram obeyed the call of the LORD, left Haran (Genesis 12:4), and came to Canaan (Genesis 12:5). Shechem may have contained a Canaanite teaching shrine (Genesis 12:6), but it was there that the LORD appeared to Abram and promised him the land (Genesis 12:7). Abram staked his claim by building an altar.
From there, Abram and his entourage moved to a mountain to the east of Bethel (Genesis 12:8). The pitching of his tent in this mountainous area represented a departure from the well-used trade routes. This was unknown territory, and who knew what lay ahead of them? Again Abram built an altar, and called upon the name of the LORD (Genesis 12:8), before continuing southward (Genesis 12:9).
Abraham’s name is found in the list of faith’s champions (Hebrews 11:8-12). There we are reminded that Abram obeyed God, stepped out beyond the spurious security of all that was familiar, and set his sights beyond the temporal to the eternal. Sarah’s faith is also praised in relation to the birth of their son.
This is only the beginning of the life story of Abraham, but we know from the rest of Scripture that it had a good end. Certainly Abram possessed little by way of land within the land of promise, but he was blessed with prosperity there, and received the promise of posterity (Hebrews 6:13-15). And through Jesus Christ “the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1) blessing does come to “every tribe and kindred and tongue and nation” (Revelation 5:9).