Reading through the Old Testament, one might wonder where this Abram came from. What is his significance? Why is he now a main character in this grand story? Why him? And every single one of those questions is completely valid.
It appears as if there is nothing special about Abram except for the fact that he was chosen by God. And that is more than enough. Abram’s value does not seem tied up in the quality of the called but rather in the quality of the one who called him.
In a genealogy of Noah’s son, Shem, a man named Terah is listed last. His crowning achievement? He fathered a son named Abram (Gen. 11:26) who was married to a barren wife named Sarai (Gen. 11:30). This genealogy from the surviving members of the flood comes to a screeching halt. Based on the information given, Abram’s family of origin is known and his descendants seem an implausible dream at the moment. No indication is given if this man is righteous, noble, bold, or innovative. We are unaware if he is a gifted preacher or a skilled leader. It is unknown if he is liar, cheat, or a thief.
We just know that he is chosen by God and that is where the story continues.
What is God’s first marching orders to this mysterious figure? “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make 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” (Gen. 12:1-3).
The last activity observed of which God is involved is his scattering of all the inhabitants of the earth. Now, he wants to take one individual to bless all the people of the earth. Yahweh calls Abram to leave his home for another country (Gen. 12:1). In doing so, God promises to make a great nation from him (Gen. 12:2). As a childless man, Abram would obviously be interested in this offer, but his realism must have been battling against his optimism. He was an old man with no children to care for him, and God was calling him to leave the comforts of his home, his family, and his possessions for an abstract promise.
God’s wording is paramount here: Abraham was blessed in order to be a blessing (Gen. 12:2). The blessing was not an end. The blessing was not even meant for Abram’s benefit. God was going to bless Abram so that the world could be blessed. Good news always spreads with one person telling another. This blessing was passed down to Abram, but he would be expected to spread the message of Yahweh with the world.
The Bible does not provide details concerning Abram’s packing procedures. We don’t know if he debated or even hesitated. The next thing that is said, “So Abram went, as the LORD had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran” (Gen. 12:4). God’s global redemptive plan begins with the calling of one man of whom barely anything is known.
Abram and his company begin on their way and the next major event reveals a first insight concerning this man. As they begin their sojourning, they arrive in Egypt where Abram reveals to the readers his first character trait. Abram reveals his cowardice by lying concerning his wife. “I know that you are a woman beautiful in appearance, and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me, but they will let you live. Say you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared for your sake” (Gen. 12:11-13).
In an attempt to cover his own hide, Abram convinces his wife to allow pagan men to have their way with her. With this blatant disregard for his wife’s dignity, Abram simultaneously loses his ability to prove himself as a noble leader and neglects the chance to prove he is a worthy candidate of such a worthy calling. God’s election of Abram seems to be misinformed or shortsighted.
There is immense beauty in the Bible’s unashamed honesty. If I was compiling a book of my religion’s stories, I would have intentionally left this one out. For the sake of this movement, just sweep this story under the rug. Concerning the movement of the larger story, this event doesn’t even play a critical role. It’s unnecessary to leave it in there especially after this grand calling of such an unknown person, and yet that’s the beauty behind it.
God is communicating once again that the best this world has to offer is still a far cry from God’s holiness. He is revealing that the election of God is not based upon merit or status. God shows us that he does not love the lovable but he makes the unlovely lovely. He loves people not because they are worthy but his love makes them worthy.
God’s promise is not contingent upon Abram’s performance.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Just (About) Married.
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