Abraham’s First Steps In Faith.
Genesis 11: 10 – 12: 20.
The first mention of Abraham was immediately after the Babel incident where Yahweh judged and rejected a rebellious and self-willed humanity, dispersing them and confusing their language (Gen 11:7). Following Babel, Terah, Abram’s father, uprooted his family and migrated from the Chaldean city of Ur in southern Mesopotamia to Canaan. For some reason, they settled at Haran (in northwest Mesopotamia; Gen 11:31). After Terah’s death, when God spoke to Abram to depart from Haran, He inaugurated His special relationship with one individual, promising him that his descendants would be a blessing to the world (Abram was 75 years-old then; Gen 12:1-3). It would be 25 years later. Subsequently, God changed his name from Abram to Abraham when he was 99 years-old (Gen 17:5)
It is strange that Abram had no problems recognizing Yahweh’s voice (e.g., he did not even enquire who it was who was speaking to him; c.f., Joshua 24:2) neither did he question God’s instructions. Abram simply obeyed and prepared to relocate with Lot and all the people and possessions they had acquired (Gen 12:4-5). Humanly speaking, the only basis for such familiarity was a constant human-divine communication, possibly between Terah’s family and Yahweh, which Abram was perhaps privy (c.f., Gen 3:8-11; Gen 4:6-10; Gen 6:13-14, 22). Now, God merely instructed Abram to complete the journey his father had undertaken! Subsequently, His appearances and their conversations carried on uninterrupted with a continued level of mutual awareness (Gen 12:7; Gen 13:14; Gen 13:14-17). Faith is a gift of God (Eph 2:8), and its profound growth is dependent on an ongoing relationship with Him. Venturing literally into an unknown occupied territory was a test of Abram’s faith in overcoming his trepidations and submitting his family’s vulnerability to God. Were these fears the very ones that prompted Terah to remain in Haran?
At that point, Abram believed God and trusted Him to fulfil His promises despite its inexplicable assertions and perhaps his struggling doubts. However, God was looking for obedience as the first step towards faith, and He found this in Abram. When he arrived at the oak of Moreh in Shechem, God again assured him of His prior promise, with an additional gift of territory. He then moved into the mountain east of Bethel, built an altar and worshipped the Lord, before journeying on to the Negev (Gen 12:6-9). For in the generations to come, Abram’s obedience became an exemplary rallying point on countless occasions. For example, encouraging the remnant Babylonian exiles, in Stephen’s defense, in Paul’s justification by faith, and the Hebrew writer’s heroes of faith (c.f., Isaiah 51:2-3; Micah 7:20; Acts 7:2-8; Rom 4; Gal 3:6-14; Heb 11:8-10).
Abram’s fears reflected his humanity and his choices in subsequent events indicated this initial fragile faith in God. Why did he not trust God to care for his family during the famine in the Negev, since God did not direct him to move his family to Egypt? Further, by positioning his wife, Sarai, as his sister to Pharaoh and again to King Abimelech in Gerar (Gen Gen 12:10-20; Gen 20), he sought to compromise Sarai in the interest of his survival. Earlier, he was not afraid of the Canaanites, why would he suddenly be fearful of the Egyptians and the Philistines? Was he attempting to help God in His promised inheritance by sacrificing Sarai’s in preserving his own life? God was faithful, and He did not rebuke Abram but redeemed him from his disgraceful cowardice and protected his family (c.f., Psalm 105:42-45). Often, the choices we make betray our motivations and invariably leaving telltale signs of our faith or lack of it in our God. God’s promises despite our changing circumstances will always hold, as He is the I AM! Our convictions in God’s character is still the basis of our faith in Him, and this is dependent on a consistent personal relationship with Him (Heb 10:23; 1 Thess 5:24).