This will be a multi-part series about a rather unassuming and yet unusual man who through his unwavering acts of faith became the patriarch of all who believe and trust in God.
Abram was his original name, there was nothing especially unique about him. He was born in the Chaldean city of Ur in Mesopotamia, an area currently known as Iraq. Abram was a worshipper of idols until one day God appeared to him and he became a believer, that was his first act of faith. Abram took Sar’ai as his wife after the death of his father Terah. Then God commanded him to leave Mesopotamia for a new land that He promised to show him whereupon God made him a massive sevenfold promise.
God said, “And 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 curses you I will curse; and by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves.” (Genesis 12: 2-3)
Abram departed Haram with his family entourage at the age of seventy five, this was the cement in the second leg of Abram’s profession of faith which always requires action as a response to the word of God to make faith valid. Who among us would pack up and leave our home of seventy five years for a distant and unknown land?
Abram was by this time a man with considerable possessions, flocks and shepherds in his employ, the prospect of moving to an unknown location must have been daunting!
Without faith it is impossible to please him. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)
True faith requires action; “What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”
“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. And Abram took Sar′ai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions which they had gathered, and the persons that they had gotten in Haran; and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan. When they had come to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the Lord appeared to Abram, and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. Thence he removed to the mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord.” (Genesis 12: 4-8)
There was a famine in Canaan, Abram took his family and went to Egypt for a time and later returned to Bethel and worshipped God. This next event is fascinating and shows what character and how selfless Abram was, perhaps something we can all hope to build on and emulate in our own lives.
“And Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents, so that the land could not support both of them dwelling together; for their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together, and there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s cattle and the herdsmen of Lot’s cattle. At that time the Canaanites and the Per′izzites dwelt in the land.
Then Abram said to Lot, “Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herdsmen and my herdsmen; for we are kinsmen. Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left.” And Lot lifted up his eyes, and saw that the Jordan valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zo′ar; this was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomor′rah. So Lot chose for himself all the Jordan valley, and Lot journeyed east; thus they separated from each other. Abram dwelt in the land of Canaan, while Lot dwelt among the cities of the valley and moved his tent as far as Sodom.” (Genesis 13: 5- 12)
Abram’s act offers insight into his selfless character. God had given all the land to him and yet he offered the best portion to Lot. God renewed his promise to give Canaan to him so Abram moved to Hebron and built an alter to God.
Chedorlaomer was at the time King of Mesopotamia, while warring against the cities of the Plain at the Battle of Siddim, the King went to Sodom and Gomorrah to collect booty. At Sodom, amongst the spoils of war, he took Lot and his entire household captive. When Lot's uncle, Abram received news of what happened, he assembled a battle unit of three hundred and eighteen men who pursued the Elamite forces north of Damascus to Hobah where Abram and his men defeated Chedorlaomer. (Genesis 14: 11-17)
Abram’s action to save his kinfolk against great odds was the sign of a man with a shepherd’s heart. After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Elie′zer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “Behold, thou hast given me no offspring; and a slave born in my house will be my heir.” And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, “This man shall not be your heir; your own son shall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” And he believed the Lord; and he reckoned it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15: 1-6)
It is clear then that Abram’s faithfulness was key to his relationship with God. Would that we could hear God’s voice as clearly as Abram did? Perhaps we aren’t listening and have become desensitized by the noise of the world around us and the busyness of our own lives. The only answer we have in present time and circumstances is to spend a little quality time each day in the word of God, the holy bible. God said,
“You will seek me and find me; when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13)
Know this, “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3: 16-17)
By God’s word we are convicted of sin and righteousness and what we must do to change the course of our lives and become pleasing to God.“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)
As we grow in the grace and knowledge of God and His Son Jesus Christ so grows our faith and our faithfulness which is the active response to the will of God as He reveals Himself to us. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old received divine approval. By faith we understand that the world was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made out of things which do not appear.” (Hebrews 11:1-3)
(To be continued)