A PILGRIM’S PROGRESS
Lord, thank You for choosing Abram and using him so greatly.
Read GENESIS 12:1-9
The Call of Abram
12 The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
2 “I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.[a]
3 I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”[b]
4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. 5 He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.
6 Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. 7 The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring[c] I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.
8 From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord.
9 Then Abram set out and continued toward the Negev.
a Genesis 12:2 Or be seen as blessed
b Genesis 12:3 Or earth / will use your name in blessings (see 48:20)
c Genesis 12:7 Or seed
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“Hail Abraham’s God and ours! / One mighty hymn we raise, / all power and majesty be yours / and endless praise” (Thomas Olivers, 1725–99, “The God of Abraham praise”).
Abram is called to leave ancient Mesopotamia, part of the area known as the “Fertile Crescent” or the “cradle of civilization”. It is difficult to pinpoint the patriarchs precisely in history, but the first great wave of city-building occurred in the valleys of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers long before the patriarchs migrated to Canaan. Abram’s movement may have been part of a wider shift of population, although his journey stems from a specific promise and command of God. There are parallels with the modern world, in which many people are on the move – including Christians who have heard the call of God to “go from your country” (cf. 1). Here we have a biblical theology of migration.
Two themes stand out. The first is hope, since the fulfillment of the promise lies in the future. Note the contrast between words of great blessing and promise and the reality of the phrase, “At that time the Canaanites were in the land” (6). This is what makes Abram such an example of faith, since, despite every setback, he retains the hope that the promise will be fulfilled. Such faith suggests a knowledge of God, pre-dating the call described here; Abram must have already been convinced of the goodness and faithfulness of the God whose voice he obeys without question.
The second theme concerns pilgrimage, seen in the repetition of words like “set out”, “travelled”, “went on”. The landscape he traverses becomes dotted with memorials of the places where God had appeared to him and reaffirmed the promise (7, 8). For pilgrims, the most challenging part of the journey of faith is the space between the altars; the long days, months, or even years when there is no word from the Lord, and faith gets tested in its absence.
Find Thomas Olivers’ hymn, “The God of Abraham Praise”. Read it through slowly and prayerfully.
Lord, direct us on our personal journey just as You directed Abram those many centuries ago.