2. Wrong Settling

Meditations in the life of Abraham : 2. Settling in the wrong place

Gen 11:31,32  Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Haran, they settled there. Terah lived 205 years, and he died in Haran.

There are mysteries in life, things we’ll never know this side of heaven. It’s like that in the Bible as well. There are times when the Bible seems frustratingly sketchy and we want to ask lots of questions. Why did Terah leave Ur? Why did he settle in Haran? We simply aren’t told, so this tends to be a little speculative. All we can do is look at what we are told and speculate in the light of what we know about life.

There are two areas where the Bible gives us information about Terah. The first is about his family. As we noted yesterday, when his first son came along, he seems to have high hopes of the family name being carried on through this son for he names him ‘exalted father’. Yet as the years pass that doesn’t happen. Obviously it would be a number of years before Abram grew up and took a wife, and then some more years before they concluded she was barren. In the meantime Haran is married and has a son, Lot, but then some unspecified time later, dies.

Now it may just be possible that Terah takes the family and leaves Ur because he wants to escape the unhappy memory of losing Haran. That is one possibility. It may also be possible that, being a superstitious man, he wonders if Ur is an ‘unlucky’ place and further wonders that if they go somewhere else, Sarai may be able to conceive and have a child to carry the family name through the eldest son. There is a faint possibility that Terah heard from God because their departure was with the express intent of ending up in Canaan, which is where, we find, the Lord told Abram to go. The truth is we just don’t know, but life decisions are so often made through a combination of such things. There is a further probability that we’ll consider later.

Now there is a second area of information about Terah that we only get later in the Bible. Presumably the story of Terah was handed down by word of mouth and that in more detail than we find recorded in Genesis 11. We have to wait to some way through Joshua that we find this prophetic word coming from the Lord through Joshua:Joshua said to all the people, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: `Long ago your forefathers, including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the River (Euphrates) and worshipped other gods. But I took your father Abraham from the land beyond the River and led him throughout Canaan and gave him many descendants (Josh 24:2,3). Ah, Terah worshipped idols!  It is said that the moon-god was worshiped at both Ur and Haran so it is likely that Terah worshipped the moon at least. Now there is an interesting thing about people who worship the elements or idols; they indicate a need to reverence some other Being or force.

They recognize a spiritual existence but may be completely misled in their understanding of it, for understanding of reality can only come from God. But their hearts are inclined more in His direction than in no direction, such as the atheist would claim.  So Terah sets out from Ur and intends to go to Canaan. As we’ve said previously, we are not told why he left and even more we’re not told (here) why he was aiming for Canaan. As we wondered previously, is it coincidence that Abram ends up in Canaan? (Yes, as we read on we’ll get answers but in these early verses these are legitimate questions). However he’s got his leading, and we said it may be through a variety of feelings or circumstances, he’s had this sense that he wants to take his family to Canaan. When we consider all that subsequently took place in Abram’s life, we can only conclude that that initial sense was a good one. So he sets out from the place of hurt towards a place of hope. (We will come to more definite conclusions later in the series).

On the way he passes through Haran, which in the Hebrew, I’m told, is spelt differently from his son’s name, but was it sufficient to trigger the memories all over again of the son he has lost?  We read,when they came to Haran, they settled there.” To settle means to stop moving on. If Canaan was Terah’s destiny, he stopped short of it, he stopped moving towards it and never arrived. We read that he died there in Haran.

Terah is the picture of a man who caught a sense of something new but stopped along the way and settled, so that he never reached it.  How many of us mirror in our lives what happened to Terah? We started off well, clear about where we were going with our lives, but somehow, somewhere along the way, we settled. Is it too late to get under way again? No, but we’ll probably need the Lord’s help to get out of our rut. When you settle, it’s difficult to get under way again, but not impossible.

Did you give up going to church some way along the path? Did you stop reading your Bible, stop praying, stop attending the mid-week meeting, stop giving, stop whatever it was that became your ‘stopping off point’?  If you stay in Haran you’ll die there. It’s not the place of your destiny. There’s a land out there for you to reach, a land filled with milk and honey, a place of plenty of goodness, a place of God’s calling. Please don’t settle, don’t remain at Haran, don’t accept second best. A lot of people are. There are a lot of people who are Christians who stopped along the way and settled. Your calling is to be a man or woman of God, a person of faith. The first step is to get under way again. If you remain in Haran it will kill you. Move on!

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2. To Abram

“God turned up” Meditations: 2 :  To Abram

Gen 12:1,2 The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.

I wonder how many people God speaks to but they don’t realise they are being spoken to. Adam and Eve, we saw in the previous meditation, were very much aware of the Lord’s presence and of Him speaking to them. No longer do we see the Lord and thus we only ‘hear’ him in our spirit unless, on very rare occasions, He should speak out loud into our world. But Abram heard him.

Abram’s family lived in Ur which is believed to be in the south east of Mesopotamia, where modern Iraq is. Now all the Biblical account tells is that, “Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Haran, they settled there. Terah lived 205 years, and he died in Haran.” (Gen 11:31.32) Haran is in the far north west of Mesopotamia.  So what we are told is that Terah, Abram’s father, had led them from their home in Ur up the trade route towards Canaan but when they had got to Haran they settled there and there they remained until Terah died, after which Abram and his family set off again for Canaan.

Yet in Acts we read, “The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran.” (Acts 7:2) In other words it was before they left Ur that this word we find at the beginning of chapter 12 came to Abram and when we later read, “So Abram left, as the LORD had told him,” (Gen 12:4) that actually refers to leaving Ur. What is intriguing about all this is that the chapter 11 account has Terah leading the way although it was Abram who receive the prodding from the Lord.

Now culture experts will tell us that in that culture the father was the one who led the family and they did what he said, but it still means that Abram must have gone to his father and convinced him that he had heard from God. Now that in itself is intriguing when you think about it, because one wonders what Abram knew of God because the revelation of God, apart from the early accounts at the beginning, was very spasmodic to say the least. Moreover just how did the Lord speak to Abram?  This is a key question because we are not told he had an angelic visitation or that he heard a voice out loud, which rather supposes that it was simply in his mind he was getting this ‘message’.

Did the message come once, or twice, or was it an ongoing nagging thought that just wouldn’t go away. Whatever it was, it was sufficient to go to his father and convince him. Had his father been hearing from the Lord as well? It is a grey area and we just don’t know. What it does tell us, however, was that from the outset Abram was someone who believed in the divine and also that he could be ‘spoken to’. Centuries had passed since Enoch or Noah had lived, the most recent men who appeared to have some relationship with the Lord, and so although information had no doubt been passed down the family line, it would have been very sketchy.

So there is Abram, living with his family, married but childless, in Ur, and he starts hearing God. God turns up on his radar. We really don’t know if he had had any prior contact or knowledge of the Lord but now suddenly God starts speaking in such a way that Abram hears it. Bit it isn’t a quiet general word – leave your land – it is much more comprehensive than that.

There are really six bits to it. First, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household.” The only problem about that is that it included leaving his father which culturally was not on. So he shares it with his father, who concludes they all need to go and it is not until they settle in Haran and his father eventually dies, that he is able to fulfil this command. Second, and go to the land I will show you.” Although the chapter 11 account speaks of Canaan it is not clear that they knew that this was the destination when they set out. Third, I will make you into a great nation.” Now that was amazing for he was childless. That flew directly opposite to his experience. Fourth, and I will bless you.” That was very reassuring, “I will do good to you.” Fifth, I will make your name great.” He’s going to become famous! Sixth, and you will be a blessing.” In other words you will do good to other people.

This is an amazingly comprehensive message for this dweller in Ur to receive. He heard it, understood it and took it in and conveyed it. It is pure prophecy. Abram appears from no where; he is a nowhere man, a nobody, just the son of another nobody – and then God turns up and nothing is ever the same again.

There is something important to consider before we finish. All this might have been wonderful but it would just have remained a series of thoughts in the mind of a nobody, if he hadn’t then gone and done something about it. He tells his father in such a manner his father is moved into action. The working out of the “go to the land I will show you” took time and included delays, yet eventually we find, they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.” (Gen 12:5) and the rest, as they say, is history – but it needed him to respond to the voice of God – as it does us.