The Anatomy of God's Call (Gen. 12:1-9)
After the flood, God told Noah and his descendants to “the fill the earth” (Gen. 9:1). Instead, they proudly settled in one place and attempted to build the tower of Babel (11:1-9). In judgment, God confused their language, causing them to separate from one another and form the nations of the earth (Gen. 10). Following the account of Babel is a genealogy (11:10-32) that brings us to Abraham, the man God will use to bless the nations he has scattered.
God is faithful, and we can trust his promises.
The book of Genesis is structured around sections that begin with the phrase “these are the generations of…” And so, Abraham’s story (12:1-25:12) is really the story of his father Terah’s family (Gen. 11:27). The last few verses of Genesis 11 introduce us to this family and highlight some people and details that will become important in these chapters.
One thing we learn about Abraham and his family in these verses is that they are from “Ur of the Chaldeans” (v. 28), and as Joshua later recounts, they “served other gods” there (Josh. 24:2). Terah eventually took his family and left Ur, intending to go to Canaan, but settled instead in the land of Haran where he died. We also learn from these verses that Abraham’s wife Sarah was barren.
At some point while he lived in Ur (see Acts 7:2-4), God came to Abraham with a call and a promise. The call is found in Genesis 12:1: “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” Verses 2-3 show us God’s promise: “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
God’s call on Abraham’s life is a costly one. By telling him to dissociate himself from his land and family, he’s calling him trade in familiarity, security, and comfort for what is unfamiliar, dangerous, and risky. On top of this, God’s calling him to trade all that in for the sake of a promise which, while sounding wonderful, seems to defy all logic! How can a great nation possibly come from him if Sarah can’t even have children? And even if he were to somehow have kids, he’s being asked to give up so much to gain what he could never hope to see within his own lifetime.
Which makes verse 4 all the more stunning: “So Abram went, as the LORD had told him…” He went all in and trusted God to do all the things he said he would do in verses 2-3. Packing up everything he owned, he left Haran “not knowing where he was going” (Heb. 11:8).
When he arrived at Shechem in the land of Canaan, God revealed to him that this was the land he would give to his offspring. In response, Abraham builds an altar there and in the hill country (v. 7, 8). By doing so, Abraham was both worshipping God and claiming the land for God. It was a declaration that, even though he was currently childless and living in tents in a land that was already populated (v. 6), it would one day be filled with his descendants.
- How do you think Abraham felt when he heard God’s promise to him? What thoughts do you think were going through his head?
- Read Philippians 3:7-14, 20-21. In what ways is the life of the Christian similar to the life of Abraham?
- Has God ever called you to do something unfamiliar or risky? How did you respond? Is he currently calling you to do that in some area of your life?
Hebrews 11:8 – “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.”