Abram acted in faith in response to the voice of God.
The events that shaped Abram’s life both during his youth and as an adult in the city of Haran prepared him to hear from God. Nonetheless, it must have come as some shock the first time he actually heard from God in Genesis 12:1-4.
Genesis 12:1-4 (ERV)
1 The Lord said to Abram, “Leave your country and your people. Leave your father’s family and go to the country that I will show you. 2 I will build a great nation from you. I will bless you and make your name famous. People will use your name to bless other people. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse those who curse you. I will use you to bless all the people on earth.”
4 So Abram left Haran just like the Lord said, and Lot went with him. Abram was 75 years old when he left Haran.
The reader might be somewhat nonchalant about the exchange that marked the beginning of Abram’s eternal walk with God, but this was a truly monumental experience. Abram had been uprooted by his earthly father Terah and moved from Ur of the Chaldees to the city of Haran in the land of Canaan. In doing this, Abram was being obedient to his father. It is a bit more challenging, however, to understand how Abram at age 75 could just pick up and leave with his family and nephew after hearing a voice from somewhere. The Spirit of God must have been dealing with Abram in a deep way all of his life in order for him to be able to hear God’s voice and obey.
Abram gathered all of his possessions, his wife, his servants and his nephew Lot and set out on a journey. He did this as an act of faith in response to the voice of God. He was rewarded for his step of faith when God actually appeared to him as he went. God declared that the land of Canaan would be given to Abram’s seed, meaning his descendants. Abram certainly must have been overwhelmed at hearing God’s voice. Awestruck with the prospects and implications of this declaration, Abram immediately built an altar to worship and call upon (pray to) the name of the Lord (Genesis 12:5-8).
Abram and Lot both prospered greatly in the new land to which God had called Abram. In fact, they prospered so much that Abram and Lot could not continue to dwell together. They had outgrown the land and went separate ways. Abram gave preference to Lot and let him choose the region that he desired, which was the plain of Jordan. Abram went into the remaining land, the land of Canaan, and there encountered God yet again. God declared His intent for Abram in Genesis 13:15-17.
Genesis 13:15-17 (NKJV)
15 . . . for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants for- ever. 16 And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered. 17 Arise, walk in the land through its length and its width, for I give it to you.”
It is worth noting that the totality of God’s plan was not given to Abram in his first encounter with Him when he entered Canaan. God’s direction to Abram was: “Leave your country and your people. Leave your father’s family and go to the country that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1 ERV). Abram was instructed to leave his family and people, but he allowed his nephew Lot to go with him. Once he left the company of Lot and they went their separate ways, he was finally in the position that God wanted him to be in. He was alone, dependent upon God, and free of the influence of his family who worshiped idols. When his separation was complete, God was then able to reveal more of His plan for Abram.
This is an important principle to understand. We have a very hard time moving forward if we are anchored in the past. The past may be people, possessions, places, or attitudes. Until we are ready and able to leave our baggage behind, we limit our ability to receive what God has in store for us. God can reach and help us much more easily once we are separated from these influences.
Abram’s obedience and faith were accumulating their rewards as God continued to impart His blessings on His servant. His relationship with God was growing through his obedience and faith. This allowed God to bring more and more blessing into Abram’s life. He not only established blessings for Abram but also for all of his seed or descendants (Genesis 13:15). Descendants? Wait a minute! Abram is over 75 years old, and as yet, he does not have any children!
Cutting The Covenant
The covenant relationship that is discussed in Ideolatry has particular importance for Abram. God made a covenant with Abram that was very one-sided. It is described in Genesis 15:1-18.
Genesis 15:1-18 (ERV)
1 After all these things happened, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision. God said, “Abram, don’t be afraid. I will defend you and give you a great reward.” 2 But Abram said, “Lord God, there is nothing you can give me that will make me happy, because I have no son. My slave Eliezer from Damascus will get everything I own after I die.” 3 Abram said, “You have given me no son, so a slave born in my house will get everything I have.”
4 Then the Lord spoke to Abram and said, “That slave will not be the one to get what you have. You will have a son who will get everything you own.” 5 Then God led Abram outside and said, “Look at the sky. See the many stars. There are so many you cannot count them. Your family will be like that.”
6 Abram believed the Lord, and because of this faith the Lord accepted him as one who has done what is right. 7 He said to Abram, “I am the Lord who led you from Ur of Babylonia. I did this so that I could give you this land. You will own this land.”
8 But Abram said, “Lord God, how can I be sure that I will get this land?”
9 God said to Abram, “We will make an agreement. Bring me a three-year-old cow, a three-year-old goat, a three-year-old ram, a dove, and a young pigeon.” 10 Abram brought all these to God. Abram killed these animals and cut each of them into two pieces. Then he laid each half across from the other half. He did not cut the birds into two pieces. 11 Later, large birds flew down to eat the animals, but Abram chased them away.
12 The sun began to go down and Abram got very sleepy. While he was asleep, a very terrible darkness came over him. 13 Then the Lord said to Abram, “You should know this: Your descendants will live in a country that is not their own. They will be strangers there. The people there will make them slaves and be cruel to them for 400 years. 14 But then I will punish the nation that made them slaves. Your people will leave that land, and they will take many good things with them. 15 You yourself will live to be very old. You will die in peace and be buried with your family. 16 After four generations your people will come to this land again and defeat the Amorites. That will happen in the future because the Amorites are not yet guilty enough to lose their land.”
17 After the sun went down, it got very dark. The dead animals were still on the ground, each animal cut into two pieces. Then a smoking firepot and a flaming torch passed between the halves of the dead animals.
18 So on that day the Lord made a promise and an agreement with Abram. He said, “I will give this land to your descendants. I will give them the land between the River of Egypt and the great river Euphrates.”
God ratified the covenant, a blood covenant, which is the strongest kind while Abram was in a deep sleep. The Spirit of God, in the form of a smoking furnace and a burning lamp, passed between the pieces that Abram had prepared at God’s instruction. Abram supplied the faith and the sacrifices, and God supplied the promises. These promises included innumerable offspring and land in which they would grow and prosper.
The whole weight of the covenant was on God. This is so incredible. God asks so little but gives so much!
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