From Abram to Abraham
Honestly, I feel odd writing this. I almost feel like I’m about to preach a sermon, which is not my training nor is it my intent. I wouldn’t set myself up in that way.
All I want to do is share a little, each week, about something I learned from someone of faith in the Bible – someone whose faith shows us how to hope and pray and follow God, even when times are downright awful or following God in the situation makes absolutely no sense. There are also people worth studying who spent a long time ignoring God – but God still followed after them and found them. Because that’s who He is. We can learn from those people, too. Because no matter our story, God is the Seeker of souls and our Help in trouble.
Given that my initial plan before the advent of COVID-19 (colloquially known as coronavirus) here in the US was to do a series on the patriarchs and the beginnings of the Jewish faith, my plan as of now is to still start with the patriarchs. But we’ll go beyond them, because we can. Because people from all parts of the Bible are worth studying, especially in times like these.
So. Let’s take a look at Abraham. Or, as he was known at the beginning of his life, Abram.
Many of you will have heard of the “Abrahamic Religions.” Three major world religions see this man as their founder – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
However, Abraham – or Abram, rather – was not born Jewish, or Christian, or Muslim. He lived in a place called Ur, in Mesopotamia. At the time the area was influenced by both the Sumerian and Akkadian cultures, who worshipped a pantheon of gods including Ishtar (the only one I’m thinking you may have heard of!). The famous Epic of Gilgamesh also came from these cultures, and the origins of the epic stem from around Abram’s time.
Abram moved with a large portion of his father’s family to Haran, in modern-day Turkey, sometime after his marriage to a woman named Sarai. Why they moved, we don’t know, but since Haran was situated on a trading route, perhaps the family sensed an opportunity.
I’m sure we can all imagine Abram’s surprise when a God he had ostensibly never heard of gave him a nudge. I’m sure we can all imagine how torn he was.
This God was telling him to leave with his wife, and head south to a land called Canaan. He had a great plan for Abram; a great nation would come from him.
And every. Other. Thing. In Abram’s world was screaming at him to not do that.
His family was in Haran – and they’d likely just gambled quite a bit to get there and set up their means of profit. His livelihood was there. His culture was there. His wife, by the way, was barren – no great nation seemed to be on its way.
With no children and no prospects other than that of his family, his life was in Haran.
So why go?
There’s a verse in the Bible that always stuck with me.
“Abram believed the Lord, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6)
Abram believed God. So he went. Why did he believe? We can’t know his exact reasons. But we can see the results.
Remember God’s promise to build a great nation from Abram? He ended up having a son, Isaac, the next patriarch of the Jewish faith. In 2009, over 13 million people in the world identified as Jewish. And we’re still talking about Abram today, five thousand years later. That’s a pretty good run if I do say so.
By the way – remember how Abram’s name changed to Abraham? God changed it. Abram means “high father.” Pretty good, right? But not as good as the name God gave him: “father of a multitude.”
Where does God want you to go today? Where is the place of growth, either spiritual of physical, that He wants to lead you to? We can see His results, time and time again. He does not fail. Trust Him, and see where He takes you.
Don’t stand still. God has so much more for you than that.
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One further observation about God’s initial call to Abram: (Genesis 12:1-9) God doesn’t even identify the destination initially. He simply says go “to the land I will show you.” By the time Abram sets out, it is noted that he set out for Canaan, but this could itself be a prolepsis in that the reader would know that was the eventual destination, even if Abram did not.
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