Summary: Abram was told to break away from all he had known. God is silent on the details, but He promised to walk with Abram. He filled in the details along the way.
The Call of Abram, Genesis 12:1-8 Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts
I’d like to share a typical military experience. I was teaching a Character Guidance class one afternoon to a Company of soldiers from the 519th MP Bn at Fort Meade, MD. About halfway through my presentation, in walked 2 Chaplains from the Post Chaplain’s office. They took their coats off and sat in the back. I thought that was a bit unusual, since they normally never came to observe my training. For part of the class I used a video; so after turning it on, I went back and greeted them. I then learned why they were there. With a grave expression, the senior of the two said, “Bob, we’re here to inform you that you’ll be receiving orders for an unaccompanied tour in Korea with the 2nd Infantry Division.” This meant a year away from my family in a potentially dangerous area of the world.
Whether it’s good news or bad, God calls us in varied ways--sometimes He uses a change in employment, a health-related issue, or a family situation. Even in those rare times when we think we can “write our own ticket,” He guides our decisions and impresses us with what we should do. God takes an active part in the plans of our lives.
In the case of Abram, God intervened directly. He appeared to this chosen man and spoke. Abram was in his seventies, an elder in his community. Perhaps his life experience prepared him to hear God’s call. It was time to harvest the wisdom of a lifetime. He was at a crossroad, facing a journey like no other. He was also in a pagan culture where gods had form and was placing his trust in a non-physical, unprovable deity asking for trust.
In these verses, God gives Abram several promises but issues only one command. The command, to “go”, is simply the logical outcome of the promises. God offers Abram a call to break from the past by offering him a new life, from an environment of idolatry to a place of fellowship with his Creator. This was also a call to separate from the familiarity of his hometown. For those of you who’ve lived here in Saugus all your lives, leaving would be traumatic. Leaving involves loss, yet losses lead to growth. Abram’s call was an emotional test. In his bestselling book about Abraham, Bruce Feiler observes that, “If we can learn anything about the early life of Abraham it is this: God is listening when humans cry.”
In Abram’s day, leaving home was an unthinkable act. This might not seem so difficult or unusual to us in our mobile society; but in Bible days extended families banded together out of necessity, for protection and prosperity. We see few examples of extended families anymore. In Abram’s day, families developed into tribes. The homes into which people were born provided an education, occupation, spouse, religion, and purpose in life. Abram was told to break away from all he had known.
A nagging complication in Abram’s call is that he wasn’t specifically told where to go. We can assume he knew the general direction, but not a specific destination. He might have preferred it all mapped out. When we follow God, He always gives us enough light to take the next step. We think life would be easier if God handed each of us a specific plan detailing all the places and choices and events of our lives…but if He did that, there’d be no need for faith! God is silent on the details, but He promises to walk with us. He fills in the details along the way. As Abram moved on, the purpose of God became increasingly clear.
God not only sends Abram, He equips him. In verse 2 God explains, “I will make you”. Abram was not “self-made”; God made Abram what he was. God tells Abram that he would receive and be a blessing. Through the experiences of life, God forms our character. He has a plan for us. Our predicaments are part of His plan.
God promised to protect Abram from a hostile world. In God’s promise to Abram we see a warning to any who might mistreat his descendents. God will curse those who curse His people. To curse Israel is equivalent to cursing God. All manifestations of anti-semitism will encounter the wrath of God. So how should we relate to the children of Israel today? Their rejection of Jesus does not allow us to treat them harshly. Someone condescendingly wrote, “How odd of God to choose the Jews.” Cecil Brown replied, ”But not so odd as those who choose a Jewish God and spurn the Jews.” We must show the children of Israel our love, and tell them how grateful we are for our Jewish Messiah, Who has allowed us to become part of His family and Who is the Savior of all who believe.