Thank you for joining this verse by verse Bible study. I am your host Randy Duncan, and we are making our way through the book of Genesis.
In the last episode, we finished chapter 10 talking briefly about the genealogy of and descendents of Noah. But we spent most of our time in chapter 11, specifically with a discussion about the Tower of Babel. We mentioned that the Tower was most likely a ziggurat, and we also discussed what specifically was wrong about the people constructing such a Tower. If you have never looked closely at the Tower of Babel, and you have just superficially glossed over that story, I would encourage you to listen to the last episode.
And wrapping up a discussion of the Tower of Babel brings us to today’s episode, where we will pick-up in chapter 11, with verse 10
Now, beginning in verse 10, all the way through verse 26, what we see is simply a list of some of the descendents of Shem. Now I said in a previous episode that I very rarely skip over verses, but here is another case where I am choosing to do so. Again, I don’t want you falling asleep while you are driving!
But I would make just a couple of points about this genealogy. First, remember, Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. But why are only Shem’s descendents listed here? Because Shem is the line from which Abraham will come. This is the line from which God will call a people to Himself, to be a light to the rest of the world. This list of descendents, and indeed, the remainder of the Old Testament, is going to focus on one people group, the Jews, and the nation they will become. The list starts with Shem, and ends in verse 26 with Terah, who is the father of Abraham.
The second comment I would make regarding this section is, take notice of what is happening to the lifespans listed at this point! How long are people now living? Remember people like Adam and Methuselah lived over 900 years. And then after the flood, God promised that the life of man would not be over about 120 years. And we saw as soon as Noah exits the ark, that lifespans began to rapidly decrease.
So in these verses, we start with Shem living 600 years, but end with Nahor living only 148 years. So it doesn’t take very long after the flood to see the lifespans plummet, and very soon, they will be right in line with what we see and experience still today
So, picking up with verse 27, V 27-30 – 27 Now these are the generations of Terah. Terah fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran fathered Lot. 28 Haran died in the presence of his father Terah in the land of his kindred, in Ur of the Chaldeans. 29 And Abram and Nahor took 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 Iscah. 30 Now Sarai was barren; she had no child
Now, a couple of things here. Terah was the father of Abram. And notice I said Abram, not Abraham. His name was Abram. Later on, God will change his name to Abraham. Now, solely for the purpose of making it a bit easier to follow, I am going to say his name going forward as Abraham, even before God changes his name. I am going to do that simply because that is the way most people know him and identify him. So don’t think I am unaware of his original name!
Likewise, V29 tells us that Abraham’s wife’s name was Sarai. Just like Abraham, Sarah was not her original name. God will change her name as well. And just as with Abraham, I am going to refer to her going forward as Sarah, for the same reasons.
V31-32 – 31 Terah took Abram his son and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife, and they went forth together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan, but when they came to Haran, they settled there. 32 The days of Terah were 205 years, and Terah died in Haran.
So the takeaway here is that Terah takes Abraham, Sarah, Abraham’s nephew, Lot, and they leave from the area of Babylon, the Ur of the Chaldeans, and they are headed to Canaan. But they stop and settle in Haran. And that is where Abraham’s father, Terah, dies.
The last comment here. Going back to V30…it is very short and to the point. 30 Now Sarai was barren; she had no child.” That seems like it may be an insignificant footnote, but it isn’t. Much of what we will see in the next few chapters revolves around the fact that Sarah is not able to have children. A natural obstacle existed in the fullfillment of the promise from God to make Abraham the father of many people. And so it will require divine intervention, a miracle from God, just like the Virgin birth required a miracle from God. In both cases, God demonstrates His power and control over nature.
And that brings us to chapter 12, which is where we see God calling Abraham
As we begin chapter 12 , let me pause and mention a couple of things
First, we have now covered the first 11 chapters of Genesis, what some people might call pre-history. Most of what we covered is referred to as the antediluvian period, which simply means the time before the flood.
Now, much of the early parts of Genesis are a bit of a mystery relative to when the events occurred, meaning, we are not certain how long ago many of the episodes took place. We can make some educated guesses, but the reality is, that is all they are, educated guesses.
But when we get to Abraham, as we are now, that all changes. We know with a reasonable degree of certainty, when these events occurred. We have the historical record and scientific confirmation of much of history from this point moving forward.
We know that Abraham was born about 4000 years ago. So from here on, everything we read is much, much nearer to us in time. We have historical records, written documentation, archaeological discoveries, scientific evidence, etc that gives credibility to the biblical narrative.
So with that, let’s jump right into chapter 12.
V1-3….12 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
So first thing here, The God who called the universe into existence now calls for Abraham to bring a nation into existence.
God calls Abraham to leave his home, his birthplace, his family, and pick up and move to a place where he will not show him until later. Think about that for a moment. God is asking Abraham to leave everything he knows, everything he has known his entire life, and just pick up and move. Would you have done that? Would you do that even now? In our modern world, where we can speak to anyone anywhere in the world on a daily basis, facetime, video chat, etc. would you still just pick up and leave everything you knew? I doubt it. I have lived in TN, FL, CA, AR, GA, I have lived across the country from my home and my family. Take it from someone who has moved 22 times now in the last 26 years, it is no fun, and it’s certainly not easy!
So what Abraham has to decide here is whether to abandon the land he knows in favor of the land God is promising him. To abandon the family he knows in favor of the family God will give him. And keep in mind, Abraham must be thinking this has to be against all logic because Sarah is barren. His wife cannot have children. So where is the family going to come from? He has to decide whether or not to set aside his family blessing, his inheritance, for the inheritance God is promising.
But isn’t that, in some ways, what we all have to choose? We all have choices in life to make. We can choose to live short-sighted lives, selfish lives, lives where all that matters, and all we are focused on is what the world can provide us.We can choose to focus on what the secular world promises us, or what God promises us. The world teaches us that there is no God, that we are the result of chance, a cosmic accident, the result of chemistry and physics, and that when we die, that’s it. You have no immortal soul, there is no life after death, no ultimate meaning, no ultimate justice.
Just like atheist Richard Dawkins has described the universe “ no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.” Welcome to 2021 and the modern world perspective that we are propogandized to believe, even from an early age, and certainly once we enter high school, and dramatically moreso if you attend college.
So we can choose that worldview and perspective, or we can choose the one God has provided us in scripture. We can choose to trust God, that there is meaning, and love, and that there is such a thing as good and evil, and that God has a plan, he is in control, and that there is something greater, there is a life after death, an eternity, that you indeed have a soul, there is more to you than merely a body being animated by chemistry and physics, and that God has communicated to us the path and plan so that we may be reconciled to Him.
And just like us today, Abraham must trust God to deliver what he has promised in order for him to give up so much.
But the Hebrew expression here for Abraham to leave, to go from there by himself, means to make a determined “dissociation of oneself”, literally, “leave by yourself”.
This call to Abraham to leave is also found in Jesus’ call to his disciples, to “Follow me”. God tells Abraham that he will make into a great nation, Jesus tells his disciples he will make them fishers of men.
God is asking Abraham to trust him, Jesus said ‘You believe in God, believe also in me”
And let’s not forget something here…who was Abraham before God called him? I mean, we read about him in the Bible, so many people don’t really consider this question. They assume he was a Jew, or a Christian. But neither of those even existed yet! No, he wasn’t a Jew or a Christian. He was an idol-worshipping gentile in Babylon!! And then God called on him. …..Who were you before God called you??
And so I want to make sure we stop and consider how big of a deal this was. We are familiar with the story, so we just sort of gloss over it, just read that God called Abraham and he followed God. No problem. No big deal. But it IS a big deal. It’s a huge deal. It wasn’t easy. It would have been very difficult. It took guts. It took courage. There is a reason why Abraham is the father of all three major monotheistic religions in the world today…Judaism, Christianity, and yes, even Islam. We are going to learn, as this story unfolds, Abraham was truly a great man
Now, God told Abraham that “I will make of you a great nation. And I will bless you and make your name great”. Interesting contrast with the people who attempted to build the Tower of Babel. They settled and tried to make a great name for themsleves. Here, God calls Abraham to become unsettled and God himself would make Abraham’s name great.
3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
I mentioned in the last episde I think, what it means to be blessed by God. Blessing has to do with being in favor with God, and under his protection and care. And so to be cursed means God has removed the protection and favor
But it also says that ALL families of the earth will be blessed through Abraham. What is in mind here is that Abraham’s family will become the conduit through which God’s blessing will flow to all people. It will be Abraham’s family through which God will reveal more of His character and his morality. It will be Abraham’s family, Israel, that will introduce and carry out the laws, and it will be Abraham’s family through which God would step into history in the person of Jesus Christ, to provide a means of salvation for all mankind. Again, notice that God isn’t doing this just for the sake of Abraham’s family. He is not doing this just for the sake of the nation of Israel. God is doing this in an effort to bless ALL of humanity. People all over the world. And we will see this ultimately fulfilled in the person of Jesus, the seed of the woman spoken of by God all the way back in the Garden of Eden after the Fall, in Genesis 3:15
So this is all not some knee-jerk reaction by God. God isn’t changing His plan due to the actions of mankind. It isn’t like God is wringing his hands, sweating it out, full of anxiety, trying to figure out what to do next to try and help out rebellious man. No, this was the plan from the beginning.
Remember what John the Baptist says to his disciples when he sees Jesus approaching…John 1:29 tells us ”29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
And Rev 13:8 tells us that the lamb of God, referring to the Messiah, was slain from the foundation of the world! This was the plan all along. This was the plan before the creation of the world.
The fact that Jesus came for all of humanity is seen in verses like John 3:16, that tell us “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Notice it says that God loved the whole world, and that “whosoever believes”, not just Abraham’s family, not just the Jewish people, not just Americans, not just the Baptists!…Whosoever. God’s invitation is open to all people. And there will be people from all over the world that accept God’s amazing gift.
You see, humans are good at differentiating between ourselves. We divide ourselves up into tribes. We pit people against one another, Baptists versus Methodists, blacks against whites, men against women, etc. But Romans 2:11 tells us that God is not a respecter of men, that he shows no partiality. God doesn’t care about any of that. That is humanity’s creation. God cares whether or not you are separated from him by your sin, and whether you have accepted the provision He has provided for you to cover that sin. Period. Your affiliation with any other group is not going to do you any good when you physically die and then have to answer that question of the creator of the universe
In Revelation 7:9, we are told by John 9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb
So we know that there will be people from all over the world who will be in heaven, people who have believed in Jesus Christ. And this blessing will start with Abraham’s call, through the Jewish people and the nation of Israel, and will culminate, ultimately, through Jesus.
The famed atheist physicist Stephen Hawking said that “Heaven is a fairy story created for those afraid of the dark”.
In response to him, the brilliant Oxford professor John Lennox said that “atheism is a fairy tale for those afraid of the light”
In John 8:12, Jesus says “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
In the next episode, we will begin our journey with Abraham as he answers God’s call. It is quite a journey indeed. And it is much easier for us to look back with 20/20 vision and see how everything works out. And it is easy for us to read and see and understand why Abraham should not have worried because God had it under control from the beginning. But for Abraham, living it in real-time, we will see that it wasn’t all that easy. It was often difficult. I mean, how well do we do in that department? How often do you worry, and make rash decisions, and walk outside of God’s plan and screw things up?
And so the same is true for each of us. If you answer the call of God, if you accept the provision God has made for your sin and your soul, to be reconciled back into a right relationship with God, in the person of Jesus, life is still going to be difficult. Don’t you believe for a minute what some preachers try to convince you of through some so-called prosperity gospel or doctrine. Just because you follow God doesn’t give you a free pass on the hardships of life.
In fact, Jesus tells us that very thing. That is why he says to “pick up your cross and follow me”. Picking up your cross doesn’t sound at all like a proserity gospel to me. It sounds difficult. That is why he also warns that “if they persecuted me, they will also persecute you”
As a Christian, you are not promised a life free from suffering or persecution. You are not promised an easy life. You are not promised a life blessed with material wealth and possessions just because you “have enough faith”. And if you hear that being preached or taught, it is a lie.
What we are promised is that “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Psychiatrist Carl Jung said “That which we need the most will be found where we least want to look.” I imagine for Abraham, just as for many of us, there is a lot of truth in that. What we need the most is found in the place we least want to look. What we need the most is God. But discovering God reveals and exposes a lot about ourselves and our own shortcomings and inadequacies, and that is a place we rarely want to explore.
Thank you so much for listening in, and I hope you will join me again as we begin to follow the life of Abraham as God ushers in the next phase of his plan to reach lost and sinful humanity. Until then, God bless.