Thursday, March 15, 2007

1 out of 3 ain't bad

Some tests have different sections. It’s possible to pass one section of the test but fail others. The first time Abram appears in scripture, he is given a three-part test. Three commands wrapped into one moment of contact with God. Abram, on this first opportunity passed one part of the test, but failed the other two. (It’s a pattern we will see him repeat.)

We know that Abram lived in Ur (Genesis 11:31). We know that he lived there with his father Terah, and that they were idolaters (Joshua 24:2). We know (Acts 7:2-3) that while they were in Ur, God spoke to Abram and gave him three commands. (The timing of this can be a bit unclear in the Genesis record. It helps to realize that Genesis 12:1 is probably best translated as “The LORD had spoken” rather than “The LORD spoke.”)

The three-command-test of Abram was:

1) Leave this country.

2) Leave your family, specifically your father’s house.

3) Go to a place I will show you.

Abram passed the first test, but failed the second two. He left Ur. But he failed leave his father’s house. Terah (his father) and Lot (his nephew) both went along. He failed to go to where God would show him. He went to “Haran” and stopped for several years.

If we understand the reasons he only obeyed one of three commands, it might help us understand ourselves a bit better.

While the scripture does not give any underlying reasons for Abrams actions, one reasonable possibility is that his relationship with his father may have been a contributor. As noted, Terah moved with Abram when Abram should have been moving away. They all stopped in Haran (apparently named after Terah’s deceased son, Lot’s father) rather than go until they came to the place God would show Abram. I suspect (with admittedly little more than a hunch) that Terah was still grieving for his son Haran, when Abram announced his intent to leave. If that were the case it would make sense that Terah might have insisted on going along (unwilling to lose another son) and Abram lacked the strength to say “NO.” It would also make sense for Terah to insist that Haran’s son Lot also join them. It would also explain why they stopped when they came to a place called “Haran.” (It would be very reasonable for a grieving father to pick a place to stay that wasn’t so far away from the rest of his family, name it for his deceased son, and just stay there) Finally, they stayed in Haran until Terah died, and Terah means “delay.”

While honoring our families is clearly good, an inability to say “no” and even to disappoint them may be a danger sign.

After Terah died, Abram, Sarai, Lot and all they owned (animals and servants) left Haran. Abram completed his obedience to the third command by continuing on until God showed him the place to stay. But Abram was still disobeying the second command. Abram was supposed to leave his father’s house behind, but he still had Lot, his nephew, tagging along.

When they arrived in Shechem, the Lord appeared and promised that Abram’s offspring would possess the land. Abram built an altar to the Lord, there.


God gave three commands. Abram obeyed one right away. He obeyed the third after a long delay. At this point in time, he has still not obeyed the second. But please note Abram’s failure did not negate God’s promises. God was faithful to every promise he made to Abram despite Abram’s failure to obey completely or immediately.

While God kept his promises, we will see (as we continue with this story) that there were consequences to the partial and delayed obedience.

How often do we get in trouble because we obey only one of three commands (leave Ur), or because we delay our obedience to a time that seems more convenient for us (stop in Haran rather than go all the way to the place He shows us), or because we simply don’t obey at all (keep our nephew around despite the command to leave our family)?

No comments: