Walking with Abraham Part 1: Pursued by God

J.R. Waller, MBA

Introduction

In Walking with Abraham, a muti-part study, we glean examples of Christian living and learn about God’s attributes by following the story of one of the most important figures in Christianity.

In this first lesson, we will look at a quick biographical overview of Abraham to become familiar with this great man of faith. (Heb. 11:8)

Then, we will examine the first steps of Abraham’s life, and what his early seeking after God has to teach us about God’s pursuit of those who do not know him.

Ultimately, when God’s glory appears and we follow, good things unfold from the most unlikely of circumstances.

Who Was Abraham?

For those unfamiliar, Abraham was originally called “Abram.” However, God eventually re-named him Abraham. (Gen. 17:5)

He is perhaps the most important figure in the entire Old Testament next to Moses, with nearly one-quarter of the book of Genesis devoted to him.

His life has been so influential that he not only stands as a considerable entry in the chronicles of Christianity and Judaism, but also in Islam, which grafted onto the story of Abraham the idea that Muhammad descended from Abraham’s son Ishmael.

Thus the three major religions of the world all lay claim to Abraham in some way. Nevertheless, Abraham was a Hebrew patriarch. In fact, he was the first Hebrew.“Though massive in scale and scope, Abraham’s journey is strikingly similar to the journeys of all believers.”

He was born around 2165 BC, and lived for 175 years. God called Abraham early in his life out of Ur of the Chaldees (Mesopotamia) to found a new nation started by God.

This nation, known as Israel, and which still exists today, was founded by God in heaven and by Abraham on earth.

It is the same the nation from which Jesus draws his heritage. Jesus in fact descended from Abraham. (Matt. 1:1)

While Israel is a nation comprised of Jewish people as a human race, Gentiles, or non-Jewish believers in Jesus Christ, are also included in God’s family. Thus, the nation that Abraham founded was not just a physical one, but a spiritual one.

Abraham was known as the “Friend of God” (Isa. 41:8) and his journey in obedience to God’s call to establish a nation of God’s chosen people took him on a vast journey.

Abraham traveled from as far east as Ur (southeast Iraq) to Haran in the north (southeast Turkey) to as far south as Egypt – a trip nearly 2,000 miles long!

His life along this journey is marked more than anything else by faith, and all of the accounts of his life and journey provide significant life lessons for us today.

In fact, though massive in scale and scope, Abraham’s journey is strikingly similar to the journeys of all believers.“God’s grand narrative is consistent through the entire Bible and throughout all of history. He is redeeming the world back to himself.”

Just like all Christians, he was a man of no account, he was merely a sinner who was merely chosen. Still, Abraham’s legacy cannot be overstated.

Jesus’ lineage comes from Abraham’s line, he is the father of the Jews, the entire world has been blessed tremendously because of that, and Abraham’s near sacrifice of Isaac offers us a stunning portrait of Christ prefigured.

Truly there is a lot to unpack when it comes to Abraham. However, perhaps the greatest legacy of Abraham comes from Genesis 15:6 when Abraham “believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”

God’s salvation by grace through faith is not just confined to New Testament believers. It was always God’s method of salvation.

God’s grand narrative is consistent through the entire Bible and throughout all of history. He is redeeming the world back to himself. (2 Cor. 5:19)

Nevertheless, our redemption requires obedience, and in Abraham, who was by no means perfect, we see an exceptional portrait of a man who walked by faith and obeyed God, even when it was hard.

To follow, we’re going to look at what characterized Abraham’s first steps to God.

Taking First Steps

Abraham’s story begins in the second half of Genesis 11, immediately after God scattered mankind from The Tower of Babel. (Gen. 11:8)

After the incident at Babel, Moses, the author of Genesis, gives an account of the generations of Shem, which is the family line from which Abraham directly descended. (Gen. 11:10)

Shem was one of Noah’s sons (Gen. 10:1) and his chosen line was Abraham’s  lineage. Abraham is first mentioned in the verses below, which are situated in the midst of Shem’s genealogy…

26) And Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran.

27) Now these are the generations of Terah: Terah begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran begat Lot.

28) And Haran died before his father Terah in the land of his nativity, in Ur of the Chaldees.

29 And Abram and Nahor took them wives: the name of Abram’s wife was Sarai; and the name of Nahor’s wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran, the father of Milcah, and the father of Iscah.

30) But Sarai was barren; she had no child.

31) And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his son’s son, and Sarai his daughter in law, his son Abram’s wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there.

32) And the days of Terah were two hundred and five years: and Terah died in Haran.Genesis 11:26-32 (KJV)

These verses provide important background information about Abraham.

First, we learn about his family. Terah was Abraham’s father and Nahor and Haran were his brothers. (Gen. 11:27) Haran was the father of Lot who was Abram’s nephew.

Two women are also mentioned. They are the wives of Abraham and Nahor – Sarai and Milcah respectively (Gen. 11:29). Sarai, we learn, is unable to bear children. (Gen. 11:30)

Second, we learn about the world and local settings of Abraham’s formative years – his hometowns as it were.

Abram’s father Terah took Abraham, Sarai, and Lot from Ur of the Chaldees to Haran en route to the land of Canaan. Thus Abraham spent the first 75 years of his life in Ur and Haran.

While it might appear that Terah was the man behind the move, more likely than not it was Abraham who initiated the desire to leave Ur for Canaan.

The reason for this is that Abraham was not called first by God out of Haran, but out of Ur. We know this because Stephen provides us with some important details about the matter in Acts.“It couldn’t have been easy for Abraham to take his first steps to God, but God was working, and Abraham responded – great things are always in store in such instances.”

According to Stephen, God’s glory appeared to Abraham in Mesopotamia before he lived in Haran. (Acts 7:2)

Ur is where Abraham was called by God. This is why Genesis 12:1 says that God had said unto Abraham to get out of his country, away from his family and to a land God would show him. (Gen. 12:1)

When Abraham leaves Haran in chapter 12, he is following God’s command once more with renewed vigor and verve (“as the Lord had spoken unto him.”) (Gen. 12:4)

We see in Abraham’s journey from Ur to Haran a man taking his first steps toward God. At this stage Abraham had an intellectual faith, but not a saving faith.

Abraham didn’t obey God to the fullest yet. He took his family with him to Haran, this is why Tereh is mentioned as having taken them. Abraham hadn’t left his family behind yet as God had commanded.

Abraham was more or less reaching around in the dark, he believed in God enough to obey him, but still hadn’t been saved. That would happen about a decade later in chapter 15. (Gen. 15:6)

Regardless, God was sovereignly leading Abraham along the path he had set out for him. (Gen. 15:7, Acts 7:4) He is the author of our salvation after all. (Heb. 12:2)

Who is to say that God does not orchestrate the unique circumstances of each of his children’s salvation, including the steps that lead them to the moment of their new birth (salvation) in Christ. (Jn. 3:5-7)

Abraham’s first steps took him out of pagan lands, and he had enough gumption to follow God even in the midst of places like Ur and Haran which were known for moon worship. Moreover, Terah worshiped false gods. (Josh 24:2)

We can see why God would want Abraham out of such situations. We can’t serve God and man. (Matt. 6:24) God calls us to be holy and separate. (2. Cor. 6:17)

Undoubtedly it couldn’t have been easy for Abraham to take his first steps to God, but God was working, and Abraham responded – great things are always in store in such instances.

Ultimately, when God’s glory appears and we follow, good things unfold from the most unlikely of circumstances.

Conclusion – God Pursues Us

The picture we are left with at the end of Genesis 11 is rather bleak in some ways.

Terah dies at the age of 205 in Haran. (Gen. 11:32) Sarai is still unable to conceive and Abraham is still going through the early stages of his journey. The future was murky to say the least.

Abraham was living in a childless marriage in a hostile environment with his nephew Lot, and at this point both his father Tereh and Lot’s father Haran were dead which naturally must have caused them grief.“God chose and called Abraham out of his pagan upbringing and God brought him out of pagan Mesopotamia irrespective of Abraham’s lack of stature or pedigree.”

Still, God was working in the midst of everything. There is never a situation too meager for God to work in.

God chose and called Abraham out of his pagan upbringing and God brought him out of pagan Mesopotamia irrespective of Abraham’s lack of stature or pedigree. (Gen. 15:7)

God was pursuing Abraham. Abraham was set forth on the path to God, seeking after him, albeit intellectually at this stage, and was on his way to becoming a child of God.

This is how things are with all believers. To be sure, some get saved the moment they first hear the Gospel. For others though it can take more time. In every instance however, God initiates and pursues us.

Some find religion and works first. Others require God’s use of time and witnesses to slowly melt their heart. In fact, it often takes multiple touches by different people for someone to become a Christian.

Still, when God’s glory appears to us, just like it did to Abraham in Ur, his pursuit begins.

God’s glory for us simply comes when what I call “the great maybe” takes place. Something of God causes us to think “maybe there is something to this Christianity thing after all?”

We begin to question everything we’ve come to naturally know as natural born sinners.

The process of becoming a Christian isn’t always quick and easy if Abraham’s first steps out of Mesopotamia are any indication. Sometimes people need more time, and that’s ok.“Abraham’s early life and seeking after God is a wonderful illustration for those who are praying for loved ones to be saved or for those who are not yet there themselves.”

Yes, today is the day of salvation. (2 Cor. 6:2) There must be a sense of urgency to Christian witness. Nevertheless, we must remember that God saves, and that even if someone we witness to doesn’t come to saving faith to our knowledge, God is still pursuing them.

Salvation is God’s work, and we must be careful not to smother someone with our witness when they might require more breathing room to examine, reason and consider what it means to become a Christian.

Abraham’s early life and seeking after God is a wonderful illustration for those who are praying for loved ones to be saved or for those who are not yet there themselves.

Maybe you think your situation or background is too messy for God to save you out of. To that I point you to Abraham who dwelt in pagan lands when God first called him.

Or perhaps you’ve felt God call you, but you’re still seeking – you’re concerned about committing to him or don’t know what it is all about.

To that I encourage you to listen to God’s pursuit of your soul and let him save you from your sins.

Answer his knock on your heart’s door by accepting him as your savior and believing in Jesus’s death on the cross as the payment for your sin. (Rev. 3:20, Rom. 10:9-10)

In our next Walking with Abraham lesson we will learn the details about God’s call to Abraham, and how Abraham’s seeking after God began to manifest itself through dedicated worship.

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