Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
The first eleven chapters of Genesis tell the story of God calling a people to Himself, a people distinct from those around them. The text has included examples like Enoch, Shem, and Noah. God continues to work out His plan through Abram, but if we begin reading only in chapter 12 we miss the strangeness of God’s choice. Abram’s wife Sarai is barren (11:30), which seems to mock God’s promise: “I will make you into a great nation” (12:2).
Already God had been forced to act in decisive judgment on three occasions (see Genesis 3; 7; 11) and humanity continually seemed to try to thwart God’s purposes. With Abraham we see God’s perseverance. Our God will not give up or abandon His plan for His people.
Further difficulties arise. No sooner had Abram left than famine afflicted the land of his promised inheritance, forcing him to abandon it (v. 10). Abram then willfully endangered his marriage and the promise of a new nation (vv. 11–15). But God refused to let Abram’s folly wreck His design. The Egyptians suffered from a plague, and the end result was that Abram kept the livestock and other possessions given by Pharaoh despite his deception (vv. 17, 20). God’s blessings upon Abram are completely undeserved. They come because they serve God’s purpose, not because Abram earned special favor.
Through his obedience, Abram shows hints of comprehending God’s purpose. He willingly left comfortable surroundings to sojourn in unknown territory. On his journey, he avoided the comfortable towns of Ai and Bethel (v. 8), knowing that he needed physical distance to achieve a clean break with his pagan past. This obedience was evidence that Abram had faith in the Lord.
Apply the Word
God’s patience with Abram should encourage us. Despite our many failings, Abram’s life shows that God uses broken vessels and often saves us from ourselves. His love for us forgives our sins and should restrain our willful wandering. Our response to this love should echo Abram’s, who built an altar and “called on the name of the Lord” (12:8).