By Sam E. Stone
“God’s Covenant” is the general theme of our lessons this month highlighting several events in the life of Abraham. He is one of the most important figures in the Old Testament. He is first mentioned in Genesis 11:26, in the section before today’s printed text. There he is called Abram. It was not until many years later that the Lord changed his name to Abraham (Genesis 17:5).
In Hebrews he is described like this: “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going” (11:8). “He was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (v. 10).
Abraham’s father Terah had two other sons, Nahor and Haran. While still living in the land of his birth, Abram married Sarai. Scripture explains, “Now Sarai was barren; she had no children” (Genesis 11:30).
The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” God spoke to him while he was still in Mesopotamia. The call to Abram contained both a command and a promise. He was told to leave all that was there and step out on faith, taking God at his word, obedient to his will. The land God selected was Canaan—the promised land. It appears that Abram did not even know where this was (Hebrews 11:8). When he was still in Ur (Acts 7:3), God’s call came. This was before he had taken a single step toward altering the life he had lived in heathenism!
I will make you into a great nation. Later in life, Abraham would become the father of the Jewish people. God’s promised blessing would make his name great and make him a blessing to all peoples on earth. This greatest blessing of all would come through one of Abram’s descendants—Jesus, God’s Son, the one who would bring salvation to a lost world. C. F. Keil notes, “Abram was not only to receive blessing, but to be a blessing; not only to be blessed of God, but to become a blessing, or the medium of blessing, to others.” God’s promise to him included seven parts (Genesis 12:2, 3). The promises were later reaffirmed to his descendants.
Genesis 12:4, 5
So Abram left, as the Lord told him. True faith requires obedience (Hebrews 11:8). Simply saying, “I believe,” is not enough. True faith is demonstrated by what one does (James 2:14-26). Abram was 75 years old when he left Haran.
He took his wife Sarai. She is one of the few women mentioned prominently in the Old Testament. She demonstrated her faith just as her husband did his. Her name was later changed to Sarah (Genesis 17:15). She was the daughter of Terah by a different mother than Abraham had (Genesis 20:12). At length their large entourage arrived in the land of Canaan.
At that time the Canaanites were in the land. These few words are significant. Abraham and his family were monotheistic, but they were relocating into a pagan, idolatrous culture. Shechem was evidently a site of pagan worship, but Abraham made it clear that he was not following the local pagan deity, but rather the one, true, living God.
The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” In response, Abraham built an altar there. One of his first tasks in the promised land was to sacrifice and pray to the God who had called him here. He traveled next to the hills east of Bethel, just miles north of Jerusalem. Here he built another altar and praised God.
Then Abram set out and continued through the Negev. He went next on to the desert country south of Beersheba that represents the southernmost section of the promised land. So began his remarkable relocation as he followed God’s plan for him.
Herbert Lockyer said it well: “He uttered no prophecy, wrote no book, sang no song, gave no laws. Yet in the long list of Bible saints he alone is spoken of as ‘the father of the faithful’ and as ‘the friend of God’ (Isaiah 41:8).”
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.