THE CALL OF ABRAHAM
With the call of Abram, later named Abraham, God began a people whose descendants are living in ethnic purity to this very day. God had promised that He would send a Deliverer to undo the curse of sin that befell the human race when Adam and Eve sinned.(Gen. 3:15) After Cain killed Abel, God gave them another son whose name, Seth meant "the appointed one". God later choose Noah, a descendent of Seth and a righteous man, to save mankind when God judged the wicked men on the earth in the Great Flood. Through Noah's son Shem, in the ninth generation, God choose another man named Abram (meaning "exalted father") to be in the lineage of Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
God had promised that He would send a Savior and salvation to man. His plan was to call this man Abram, and from him make a great nation of people who would be, not only the people from whom the Messiah would come, but also they would be God's chosen nation, a witness of God to all the earth. (See Deut. 7:7-8, 28:37, Isa. 43:9-10)
When God called Abram he was in a city in Babylonia, named Ur of the Chaldees. Ur was a very advanced city and was believed to have been founded some five hundred years before the time of Abraham.
Ur, could be compared to a modern city, having libraries, schools, a system of law. It was a rich city and many valuable treasures have been discovered including elaborate jewelry.
The false religion of astrology which was begun at Babel was practiced there as it was in all Babylonia. Abraham's father, Terah according to Joshua 24:2, worshiped idols. Jewish tradition refers to Terah as an idol maker. Ur was an idolatrous city worshiping many different Gods such as the god of fire, moon, sun and stars. Sin was the name of the chief idol deity of Ur. Ningal, was the wife of the moon-god, Sin, and was worshiped as a mother God in many other cities. Ur was a evil and sinful city as can be seen in the worship practices of the moon-goddess, Ningal. Every female in the city at some time in her life would have to take her turn in serving as a priestess prostitute in the temples.(1)
With a father who worshiped idols and a city dedicated to wickedness, Abraham was not raised in the best of environments. Yet, when God called, Abraham believed God and by faith followed God's instructions. Hebrews 11:8, states that: "By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whether he went."
Abraham heard the voice of God. There is no hint that when God spoke to him that he questioned who God was. Further, he did not confuse the voice of God with the idols and false Gods that his father worshiped. He knew who was speaking to him. It is apparent that he believed that it was God that was speaking to him and because it was God, he believed the promise that God made to him. Abraham's call was a call to salvation and a call to service. God called Abraham to eternal life. A new life that began when he by faith trusted God's Word to him. "Therefore if any man [be] in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (2 Corinthians 5:17) The call to salvation is a call to a new life. Many miss this truth. Before Abraham, could accept the promises of God he had to believe God and receive eternal life. Hebrews 11:8, says, "By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went." Abraham first exercised saving faith and the evidence of his having saving faith was that he trusted what God said. God told him to leave his country, his relatives and his father's house and go to a land that He would show him. Abraham's faith was tested and proven in that he did what God said. He showed his faith, by putting his trust in the Lord, and acting upon God's word.
Abraham's life was changed! His trust in God set him on a new course for his life. It is that way for one who believes today and receives eternal life by believing God and trusting in God's son the Lord Jesus Christ. The believer is set on a new road. The old road, marked by a life of sin and self serving, is abandoned! The new road is one of believing, obedience and serving God, by serving others. Years ago, after preaching a message on this very subject of a Christian's service to others as God's instrument, an unfaithful church member became very offended at being called a servant. He said he was a child of God, a son of God, and not a servant! I replied that one could not be a child of God without being a servant. So many miss this truth. God's called to salvation is a call to a changed life. God's call is to a new life of serving God. Many profess to know Christ and have eternal life yet, absent from their lives is commitment and service. Being a Christian to many is a Sunday affair. During the week, it is business as usual. In everyday life service to the Lord takes a back seat to the every day affairs of life. It anything conflicts with their responsibilities to the Lord, these responsibilities go lacking.
It seems to be a paradox that many who profess to know the Lord believe they have exercised saving faith and have had their sins forgiven, yet they do not seem to have the faith to turn their lives over to the Lord. Saving faith is a faith that does turn ones life over to the Lord. You can not accept salvation without accepting what goes with it. God plan is that the saved man then lives the rest of his life by faith. Nothing else will please Him. "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him (Hebrews 11:6).
The Bible's example of the actions of a saved man has always been that those who receive salvation by trusting in the Lord, live changed lives.
God made a covenant, (contract) with Abraham. This covenant was an unconditional one. God did not say, "Abraham, if you do certain things, then I will do certain things". God's promise to Abraham was unconditional. God said, "Abraham, I WILL make of thee a great nation, and I WILL bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou SHALT be a blessing: and I WILL bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee: and in thee shall all the families of earth be blessed". Genesis 12:2-3 Note that there is no condition in the covenant for Abraham to fulfill. That is why it is an unconditional covenant. God was promising to do these things and nothing could prevent it.
The Covenant was fourfold:
(1) God would make Abraham's descendants a great nation.
(2) God would bless Abraham materially and make his name great.
(3) God would protect Abraham by blessing those that blessed him
and cursing those that opposed Abraham.
(4) God would bless all the families of the earth through Abraham.
God fulfilled His promise to Abraham:
(1) Abraham's descendants became the nation of Israel. Until this very day the child of Abraham, the Jews have remained an ethnically pure people. They, of all the peoples on earth, are the only people on earth that can make that claim. It seems it would be impossible for a people to remain ethnically pure for four thousand years. And in truth it would be, except that God made an unconditional promise to Abraham. The continuing fulfillment of that covenant can be seen today. The Jews have been scattered all over the earth in every continent. Almost every city in the western world has a population of Jews. For example, many peoples from all over the world have come and settled in the United States. However, most immigrants in a generation or two lose their ethnic identity and become simply "Americans". However, the Jews have remained a pure people and retained they identity as Jews. Clearly God has done this and is keeping His promise made to Abraham.
(2) Abraham was richly blessed materially, and also in his descendants. Although the Jews have suffered great persecutions throughout their history, they are not know as a poor people. They have always been powerful in business and had great economic and political power. Their power in Europe was the cause of Hitler's great hatred of them. At the heart of his plan for a new Germany and Europe was the elimination of all Jews and their influence from Europe. Today, in the United States and Europe, the Jews are very powerful people. They have great economic and political power. Although the present day Israel, is one of the smallest countries on the earth, it is one of the most powerful. Its economic, political and technological power revels even that the USA and the USSR. Surely the hand of God is all this.
Further, the name of Abraham is a world renowned name. He is the father of not only the Jews, but of Christianity, and all the Arab world as well. The three great religions of the world, Judaism, Christianity and Islam all look to Abraham as their father. Apart from the Jesus Christ, no name is as well known as that of Abraham.
(3) God promised to bless those that blessed Israel and curse those that cursed them. Every government that has persecuted the Jews has fallen even to modern times. The Russian government, which has had a national policy of persecution of the Jews, is in shambles. However, the United States, who has always been the friend of the nation of Israel, has prospered greatly. No matter how intense has been the persecution of Israel, God has protected them. In 1967, in what is called the Six Day War, the tiny nation of Israel utterly destroyed all the combined efforts the Arab nations which surround them. It has been called one of the greatest military victories in history. Against impossible odds they repelled everything the Arab threw at them. They not only defected these forces, but took great amounts of land including in the south the Gaza Strip to the Nile River, the West Bank and all of Jerusalem. Surely God's protecting hand is upon this small nation.
(4) God also promised that all the families of the earth would be blessed through Abraham. History shows that the coming of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, changed the whole world. The history of western civilization is the history of the spread of Christianity. Even our calendar dates from the birth of Christ. The moral teaching of Christ and the New Testament, have shaped to a large degree all of western nations. The United States Constitution was based on Biblical standards of morals. Those nations which are identified as "Christian", have prospered greatly.
The greatest value of God's promise has been that through the Lord Jesus, salvation is freely offered to the Gentiles (non-Jews). Today in this the Church Age, God is saving mostly Gentiles. The Gospel is being carried around the world, however, not by the Jews God's chosen people, but by the Gentiles. Truly, among every nation on earth, men have heard the Good News (the meaning of the word "Gospel") and have receive by faith, salvation through Jesus Christ.
We can see that God has kept His promise. Satan, has done all he can to defect the plan of God, yet his efforts have been to no avail. God promise stands and will stand till God's plan is completed.
When God called Abraham he was in Ur of the Chaldees. He then journeyed with his father Terah, Lot his brother's son, and Sarah his wife and traveled east to the city of Haran. Haran was some six hundred miles north east of Ur. We do not know how long Abraham remained in Haran, but he was seventy five years old when he left and then journeyed south toward Canaan. Abraham's father, died in Haran. God had told Abraham to leave his father's house. Genesis 11:31, states that it was Abraham's father Terah who took Abraham and left Ur. It is possible that as long a Terah lived it would have been difficult for Abraham to leave. Following his father Terah, Abraham journeyed, not south toward Canaan, but north west. After his father's death Abraham was free to leave. While in Haran, Abraham appears to have prospered because verse 5, says when he left he took with him, "all their substance that they had gathered and the souls (people) that they had gotten in Haran."
Abraham then journeyed south, with Sarah and Lot, and all the herds and flocks of cattle with those that tended them. Taking Lot with him seems to have been an act of disobedience. God had said he was to leave his family. It was a mistake and caused Abraham great difficulty, nevertheless, in time, God separated Abraham from Lot.
Abraham's southern journey took him through the city of Shechem, unto the tree of Moreh. The New King James Version, translates the phrase "the plain of Moreh", however it is literally translated, the "tree of Moreh". This area is identified as being near modern Nablus, between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizum. This is some thirty miles north of Jerusalem, west of the Jordan River in the center of Palestine. The land was occupied by the Canaanites.
God appears again to Abraham and tells him that this was the land God would give him and his descendants. Abraham then built an altar and made a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Lord. Abraham moved again and journeyed about twenty miles south to Bethel. He again built an altar and prayed to God.
Because there was a famine in the land of Palestine, it appears God told Abraham to journey further south. Apparently the famine did not reach into Egypt and so Abraham with his herds entered into Egypt.
Abraham at God's direction had traveled a great distance. He had done so believing in God's promises to him. However, upon entering Egypt Abraham's faith waned. Realizing that Sarah was a beautiful woman he became afraid that when the Egyptians saw her they would kill him and take her. She must have been a very beautiful woman.
According the Oriental tradition, a man could kill a husband and take his wife, however, if she was not married, custom demanded that he must deal with her family to have her. Abraham in stating he was her brother was assured that any one wanting Sarah would have to come to him. Genesis 20:10, states that Abraham was telling a half-truth. Sarah was in fact his half sister. This deception of Abraham, was repeated once more by Abraham (Gen. 20:2) and later in Genesis 26:7, by his son Isaac.
Abraham's sin was that he was not trusting God. He had believed the promises of God, yet he waned in trusting God in the everyday affairs of life. He thought he was acting wisely. It appears he did not even take into account what God had promised him. Part of God promise was to bless them that bless Abraham and curse them that cursed him. God had unconditionally promised to protect him.
As Abraham thought, the Egyptians saw Sarah's beauty and she was taken to the Pharaoh's house. The Pharaoh was not bound by the customs and the people, and he simply took Sarah. It is interesting to note that she was sixty five years old. She later died at one hundred and twenty seven years old. She was in the prime of her live when they arrived in Egypt.
Abraham proposed because of the matter, in that the Pharaoh gave him gifts of many cattle. The Pharaoh did not fair well because God sent serious plagues on his residence. The Bible does not say how the Pharaoh knew the source of the plagues, but some how he knew and confronted Abraham about the matter. In Genesis 20:2, when Abraham pulled this dame deception on Ablimelech, the king of Gerar, God spoke to the king and revealed the whole matter to him. Further, the Bible says God prevented Ablimelech, from having relations with Sarah. It is possible that God did the same thing here. The Pharaoh then sent Sarah back to Abraham, and commanded them to leave with all their possessions.
At various times in Abraham's life he sinned and did not live trusting in God's promises. It should be noted that in the New Testament, there is no reference to Abraham's sin. He is presented as an example of faith to be followed. We are not to follow in Abraham's failures, but should pattern our lives after his faith. God forgave him, and greatly used him, however no one should see this as a license to sin. Abraham's conduct was disgraceful as all sin is. The Apostle Paul addressed this issue in writing to the Romans. He said, "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?" (Romans 6:1-2)
God preserved Abraham even when he sinned. This is a picture of God's protection of all believers. God has promised to preserved all believers and we call this the doctrine of "eternal security". When God promised to save all that believe and trust Him as their savior, it was an unconditional promise. He did not base our salvation on us doing something that would merit us His favor. No, in fact He offers salvation free, when we by faith receive it. He saves us and keeps us saved!
1. Halley's Bible Handbook, Henry H. Halley, Zondervan Pub. House, Grand Rapids, page 95.