Retelling the Call of Abraham
Abraham is living in the land of Ur at the happy old age of 75. Life is good, Abraham has made a name for himself, he’s established, and he’s in an all-around good spot. You could say he’s just kicking back and enjoying the retirement life. The only thing it seems like Abraham has missed out on is having kids with this wife Sarah. But they’re both passed childbearing age anyway and at this point they’ve settled for the good life they have now.
Or so they thought.
Little did they know that God had a different plan for them. Don’t ever think you’re too old for God to use you. Or for that matter, too young. In fact, don’t ever think anything is impossible when the Creator of the heavens and earth calls on you. God comes to Abraham and says to him, it’s time to pack up, leave your home behind, and leave everything you know, because we’re going on a little trip. I’ll be your guide day by day, and when we get to a land that I’m giving you to call home, I’m going to turn you and your wife into the father and mother of many. You’re going to become the father of a nation and not just like any other nation. You’re not going to exist just for yourselves. I’m going to cause a people from you to come into existence and exist for the sake of the world. You will be a nation that exists to bless the world, even beyond your own borders, and bless the world you will for many generations to come.
And with that, Abraham packs up, gets his wife Sarah and nephew Lot ready, and they begin following God to the land of Canaan with everyone else. Along the way, God makes it clear that Abraham and his wife are going to have children who will inherit the land and you can imagine the inner laughter knowing they were both too old to have kids anymore. They hadn’t had any children at this point and it was little crazy to think they would too. Little did they know that having children late in life wouldn’t be the biggest miracle that would come from all this.
Generations later, a Messiah, Jesus the Christ, would be born of flesh and blood from this family line, and the promise would be kept. The promise to exist for more than just oneself in order to bless the world. And indeed, Jesus would bless the world beyond anything we could ever imagine. Who knew it would start with an old man being willing to take a few steps into the desert, into the unknown.
Storyline Commentary on Genesis 12:1-9
Setting Abram is happily living in the land of Ur, having made a life for himself, when God calls him to leave the life he knows behind for a new life that God will use to bless all the families of the earth from this point forward.
Characters Abraham (Abram), his family, and God. We don’t have it in this particular story, but it’s important to note that Abram becomes Abraham. The name change signifies what is happening long term: Abram–high father to Abraham–father of a multitude.
Tension God calls Abram to pick up everything, to leave what he knows behind, and to go to a land that God will guide him. God will turn Abram and his future family into a great nation to bless the world even though Abram and his wife Sarah have no children yet and are past childbearing age at this point. In fact, Abram is 75 years old. Abram is giving up everything he knows, giving up in order to follow God’s call on his life and trusting in the impossible. The tension is in the question, “Will Abram lay it all down for the life of the world?”
Resolution All families of the earth will be blessed because of Abram’s willingness to lay everything down and to follow God wherever God takes him. Abram and Sarai would receive new names that represent God’s transformation in their lives to being a father of the multitudes and mother of the nations.
Application God has been active and at work from the very beginning. This story comes directly after the Tower of Babel story. Even though humanity had, was, and still is trying to be the gods of their own destiny, God was at work laying a foundation that would prove God’s love for the world. God’s plan is to bless this world, not curse it, and starting with Abram (truly even further back), God is inviting us along in this mission.
Why has this story endured? This story speaks to the sacrificial nature of what it takes to be a blessing to others. This story played out to Jesus shows one, that God is invested in the life of the world longterm, that God desires family for us and not just in the biological sense. Poems, histories, laws, letters, prophecies, and more carry this story all the way to New Creation for us when Jesus is set as King for a heavenly nation that spans thousands of generations.
What does this story tell us about God? God is a God of blessing. We tend to attribute our human understandings to the character of God but this story clearly articulates a God who wants life for the world and a God who partners with humanity to prove it.
What does this story tell us about humanity? We’re not useless to God and God isn’t some puppeteer pulling our strings. God wants life for us.
What is true for them then that is still true for us today? God is still among us today, in the flesh as Jesus, and in the Spirit continuing to guide us and lead us towards life. We discover it when we’re willing to surrender everything we know about life and pursue Jesus wherever he may take us.
Where is the Gospel/Good News in this story? God doesn’t hate us. God enters the story the story to partner with Abram in blessing the world, which includes even us thousands of years later.
How does this story help us love God more? It’s hard to understand that God wants the blessing of life for us even though we know this side of Abraham that we continually do things that mess life up. God is more good than we’ll ever be evil.
How does this story help us love people more? This blessing promised through Abraham is for our families, our friends, our neighbors, and even our enemies and even though we’re not Abraham, we’re called to walk with God because the lives we live while following God will be a blessing to people immediately around us and generations to come.