"By Faith Abraham Obeyed..."
The eleventh chapter of Genesis ends rather typically, but the twelfth chapter begins with a bang and we're not really told why. The eleventh chapter is a genealogical as it traces the lineage of families. It ends with a discussion of Terah's family. One of Terah's sons mentioned in chapter eleven is about to take a very prominent role in God's plan of human redemption.
Just reading through the text, it appears as if the decision is almost arbitrary. There is no reason given. God directs Abraham, son of Terah, to leave his homeland and family. He is to move to a far away land where his descendants will be made into a great nation, and God will give them the land, and that one day all the families of the earth would be blessed through Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3).
The Bible says that Abraham immediately did what God had told him to do. He believed God. The Bible will later explain that Abraham believed "in the Lord, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness." (Genesis 15:6). Abraham was already a worshiper of God and a man of faith at this time. Abraham believed, or trusted God.
But Abraham had grown up in a pagan land. Even his family were pagans, worshipers of many gods. "And Joshua said to all the people, 'Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, 'From ancient times your fathers lived beyond the River, namely, Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, and they served other gods.'" (Joshua 24:2).
There are several valuable lessons to be learned in all this. One important lesson is that though we live in a society that is increasingly pagan, anti-God and immoral, faith is possible. Abraham rejected the paganism of his family, clan and city. Later Jewish writers confirm that God chose Abraham only after he had rejected the sin of his people. According to some of these traditions, at age 28 Abraham confronted Terah, and Terah admitted to Abraham that he was right but pleaded with him not to voice his disapproval of idolatry lest they be killed. At age 60, Abraham actually burned down a pagan shrine before leaving Ur. That may only be a fanciful legend, but the things we read in the Bible about Abraham are true. The book of Hebrews, as well as other New Testament books all refer to Abraham's great faith.
"By faith Abraham obeyed..."
And that is exactly what the descendants of Abraham do today even though surrounded by unbelief. I am not talking about physical descendants necessarily, but Abraham's spiritual descendants of all nations (Romans 4:13-18; Galatians 3:26-29). In twenty-first century America, people of faith do the same thing that Abraham did thirty-nine centuries ago. By faith, we obey the Lord. That's not a one time event; its a way of life.
By Jon Quinn
From Expository Files 7.9; September 2000