Summary: Why did God choose Abraham? what did accomplish through this great man. How should we respond to God's promises?
The Life of Abraham: Part 1: The Call
We begin today with the study of Abraham who is one of the most important persons who ever lived. He is revered by Islam, Judaism, and Christianity alike. The call of Abraham marks a huge development in God’s plan of redemption of the earth from the curse which resulted from the fall of Adam and Eve,
The book of Genesis shows five blessings which God gave to the human race. He breathed life into them, a life which was made in the image of God. He gave Adam dominion over creation. He gave Adam and Eve land, a garden. He gave them fellowship with Him as well as human companionship. Finally, he gave them the means to create children to fill the land he had given them.. All of these were affected by the fall. But God chose to redeem rather than destroy. He gave Eve a promise of a special child who would come in Genesis 3:15. After this, Adam and Eve were cast from the land. They lost control over the earth in that briers, thorns, and hard work would be necessary. Life would be limited by death, God would not walk with them like before in the cool of the day, and human companionship would be marked by strife. Finally, the offspring would be under threat from harm. This threat would come from within, such as the murder of Abel by Cain, and from wild beasts and by storms and other phenomena.
The whole of the Bible can be seen as God working to redeem man from this fivefold curse to the fivefold blessing. This work as we shall see is demonstrated in the life of Abraham. The promises given to Abraham involve the next unfolding of God’s great plan.
We might ask: “Why did God choose Abraham? Did he have more insight to the ways of God than his peers? Was he chosen because Abraham was a good man? Or did God choose Him because He knew in advance that Abraham would obey. Let us see.
Joshua 24:2 gives us an important clue to the “before” picture of Abraham. Joshua who was near death reminded Israel that Abraham and his ancestors worshiped other gods. This means that Abraham was an idolater when the LORD called him. Joshua emphasizes the mercy of God to Abraham as the reason Abraham was chosen. So God’s call was not a reward for Abraham’s good works. Instead, the call given to Abraham was solely by God’s unmerited favor which we call grace. All of God’s works proceed from grace. One can even say that even the fivefold blessing given to Adam and Eve was an act of grace. After all, they hadn’t done anything to deserve these as they did not even exist at this point to deserve either good or ill. They are also by grace because God foreknew that Adam and Eve would disobey.
The first mention of Abraham occurs in Genesis 11:26 when we are introduced to him by his original name of Abram which means “Father of the High Place” or perhaps “Exalted Father.” This means that he was a man of prominence in the city of Ur of the Caldees. Ur was near Babylon and is located in what is today called “Iraq”. It was a very advanced city for its time and gained great wealth through trade. The civilization there rivaled that of Egypt. There were magnificent pagan temples there, and some think that Abram was a priest of the moon goddess there, although we have no proof of this.
We also know that Abram married his half-sister Sarai who would later be called Sarah. It mentions in 11:30 that Sarai was barren and had no child. This is the first mention of a threat to Abraham’s posterity. He had no child. In verse 31, it says that Abram’s father for some reason left this magnificent city to a border town named Haran and took his family with him. Abram’s brother had died and left a son named Lot in his father’s and later Abram’s care. Lot would become Abram’s heir if He and Sarai continued childless. While Abram’s father lived at the border of Canaan in the town of Haran, he died, leaving Abram as head of the clan.
Exposition of the Text
Chapter 12 represents a sea change in Abram, Sarai, and Lot’s lives as well as for the entire human race. The voice of the LORD had been silent for a long time. The human race after Noah had forgotten the LORD and were worshiping other gods. No one was expecting what happened next, most of all Abram and Sarai. The LORD came to Abram and called him to leave the land of Haran and to go to another land which He would show him. Here there is the promise given to Abram of a restored land and dominion over it. The promise came with few specifics. What kind of land was it? Where? Abram was summoned to follow the LORD on faith. If as I suspect Abram did not know the LORD or His voice prior to this point, this would have been quite a shock to Abram. He would gain title from a strange to a land he had not seen before and would have dominion and influence over the people there, wherever there was.