January 29, 2014
Journeys with Abraham
I want to spend some time looking at Abraham’s life as an encouragement in our walk with the Father. I will begin by laying out some history and basic facts then look at his life from our perspective and from the Father’s perspective. Abraham is introduced in Genesis and most of what we know about his spiritual journey is found in Genesis. However to get a sense of how important he is in our spiritual history, he is also referenced in 1 & 2 Chronicles, Nehemiah, Psalms, Isaiah, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Act, Romans, Galatians, Hebrews, James and 1 Peter. Quite a list!
So what do we know about Abraham’s background, decisions and walk with Yahweh? We know that Abraham was from Ur (Gen. 27:11-31, Neh. 9:7, Acts 7:1-4). We are also often told that he left a great city. It is more probable that he left a smaller less significant city. Ur was a large city on the banks of the Euphrates river about 50 km West of where it joined the Tigris and then emptied into the Persian Gulf. However scripture says Abraham left Ur of the Chaldees, and as one commentary notes,
Ur of the Chaldees. It has been somewhat of a mystery why this southern city would be referred to as Ur of the Chaldees—since at this time the Chaldeans were settled primarily in the northern section of Mesopotamia. An alternative was provided when textual evidence from Mesopotamia began to produce evidence of a smaller town by the name of Ur in the northern region, not far from Haran (where Terah moves his family). This town could logically be referred to as Ur of the Chaldees to differentiate it from the well-known Ur in the south. This would also explain why Abraham’s family is always seen as having its homeland in “Paddan Aram” or “Aram Naharaim” (24:10; 28:2, descriptions of northern Mesopotamia between the Tigris and Euphrates). Bible Background Commentary – The IVP Bible Background Commentary – Old Testament.
So Abraham appears to be from this northern city of Ur. From here the family moved to nearby Haran and then Abraham, Lot and their families moved to Canaan, which became modern day and ancient Israel. Here we have an anomaly introduced in how Abraham’s life is generally understood and it has implications for our walk with Jesus. To understand it we must be careful to let scripture interpret scripture.
It is generally taught that Abraham left Ur when he was called by Yahweh, we have that testimony in Hebrews.
8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. Hebrews 11:8 (NKJV)
So it appears that we have a call by Yahweh, a response by Abraham and on we go. This seems to be affirmed by Stephen,
1 Then the high priest said, “Are these things so?” 2 And he said, “Brethren and fathers, listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, 3 and said to him, ‘Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you.’ 4 Then he came out of the land of the Chaldeans and dwelt in Haran. And from there, when his father was dead, He moved him to this land in which you now dwell.” Acts 7:1-4 (NKJV)
Our anomaly is that while Hebrews 11:8 informed us that Abraham obeyed and left when called, and this seems to be affirmed by Stephen, a careful reading of Genesis suggests something different. Below is a passage of scripture that will clarify this.
27 This is the genealogy of Terah: Terah begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran. Haran begot Lot. 28 And Haran died before his father Terah in his native land, in Ur of the Chaldeans. 29 Then Abram and Nahor took wives: the name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran the father of Milcah and the father of Iscah. 30 But Sarai was barren; she had no child. 31 And Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot, the son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they went out with them from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan; and they came to Haran and dwelt there. 32 So the days of Terah were two hundred and five years, and Terah died in Haran. 1 Now the LORD had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. 2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” 4 So Abram departed as the LORD had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. 5 Then Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people whom they had acquired in Haran, and they departed to go to the land of Canaan. So they came to the land of Canaan. Genesis 11:27-12:5 (NKJV)
An important point here is that Abraham is at this point known as Abram, Yahweh has not yet changed his name to Abraham. I will however simply refer to him as Abraham and cover the significance when we come to his name change. We know from what Stephen said that Yahweh appeared to Abraham while he was still in Ur. Whether this was a vision or an actual encounter we do not know. This appearance is affirmed in Gen. 12:1-3 where we even have recorded what Yahweh spoke to Abraham. However, verse one says Yahweh ‘had’ spoken to Abraham (in Ur) and then verse 4 says Abraham departed, however it says he departed from Haran. So we know from letting scripture interpret scripture that Abraham was called while in Ur and responded from Haran. So while Hebrews presents a picture of instant obedience (By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called) the chronology of history in Genesis does not support this presentation. In my next post I will get into why this is so and how it applies to our lives.