In the call of Abraham, we’re introduced to God’s promise—a central theme in all the Bible. To the aged Abraham and the barren Sarah God offers a new way of life. Not one built on human potential, but on the promise and power of God.
The purpose of this call is to create an alternative community within a world that has gone wrong. In Abraham’s call, we find the call of faith for people of all times. We make our way forward by learning what it means to rely on God in the face of our own inadequacy and a world closed to promise. What the world has thought impossible is possible by the power of God.
This begins with Abram—the anonymous childless, homeland-less man who the Lord addresses in the twelfth chapter of Genesis. The New Testament later calls him the father of all who believe in God. Yet the development of his faith took many years. Between the call to leave his father’s house at age seventy-five and the finding of a wife for his son Isaac is a period of sixty-five years. We are not told why God chose to speak to Abram, only that he heard those words and acted on them. The way forward for all of us begins by hearing from God.
If Abraham is to be commended for anything in this passage, it’s not in who he is or what he says, but how he responds. God makes great promises to Abram, but to receive them he must leave the life he knows behind. To stay in safety is to remain barren; to leave in risk is to have hope. This is an important lesson for anyone who desires to follow Jesus. We must exchange the known for the unknown if we hope to answer the call of God for our lives.
In a very short time, Abram reaches the promised land and explores its boundaries. He is in the land but does not yet possess it. It would be hundreds of years before the nation of Israel would finally settle there. Yet here the Lord appears to him and here he builds an altar to the Lord. The response to God’s confirming appearance is worship. The same is true for us today.