Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his nephew, and all their possessions which they had accumulated, and the persons which they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan; thus they came to the land of Canaan. Genesis 12:5 NAS95
After Abram’s father died, he told Sarai his wife, Lot his nephew, and the household servants he acquired in Haran to pack. While he advanced toward the prize God had set before him, he was slow in doing it. God allowed circumstance—the inevitable death of Terah—to propel Abram toward his destiny. Abram’s choice to continue the journey to Canaan is progress, but his obedience remained partial. God told him to separate from his father’s house. Lot is still tagging along.
Lot and Abram are the same age and grew up like brothers. They shared similar experiences in life. Yet Abram will end his life as the honored Father of Faith. He left us the example of the one and only faith that works by love and pleases God. Lot became a tragic example of a righteous and godly man who never matured spiritually and left a shameful legacy. He might have fared better in life if he had stayed in Haran.
When God told Abram to separate from his father’s house, he had the best interest of everyone in mind. Abram may have been a good man, but he is also a disobedient man, who did not do what is best for Lot.
They traveled to Canaan and stopped to rest at an oak tree on the plains of Shechem. Abram is separated from his father, which time took care of, and he is in the land of Canaan to see the land. The journey took him fifteen years, maybe more because we don’t know how old he was when God spoke to him in UR, but to God, who lives outside of time and perceives a thousand years as a day, it had only been a matter of minutes.
Now that Abram has arrived, God will add another fragment of knowledge to the knowledge he already has. It is important to note that Abraham’s obedience is partial. He followed a man of flesh instead of leading his family. He is keeping people in his life contrary to God’s revealed will to remove them. But he is in the land of Canaan, which is obedience. God continued to deal with Abraham in his imperfection.
Genesis 12:7 KJV (7) And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him.
Most of the newer translations say God will give the land to Abram’s descendants. That is true, God gave the land to Abram’s flesh descendants forever. But replacing “seed” with “descendants” obscures the equality in the gospel message and the reason Jesus is the only way for us to be blessed by God.
Galatians 3:16 NAS95 (16) Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ.
Before Abram left Ur, God told him if he obeyed, everyone will be blessed. When Abram arrived, God told him I will give this land to ONE of your children. The only one getting the blessing is a child who does not exist.
Abram had traveled to Canaan believing he would live a blessed life in a blessed city and become a great nation that would bless all families of the earth. Two pointed words popped the empty balloon of his expectations: “thy seed.”
Put yourself in Abram’s sandals. What seed? What child? Sarai had been barren for their thirty-five years of marriage. She is 65. Most women go through menopause between 45-55 years of age. By this time, Abram and Sarai have lost all hope of having a child of their own.
He traveled for months to reach Canaan, thinking he was going to move into a palace and be a great king in a new land. When he arrived, all he sees are people living in cities not much different from the one he left. He did not have a reason to hope Sarai would give birth to a child. And where is the city built on foundations of justice laid by God?
God’s bittersweet revelation would have sent my thoughts swirling with confusion and challenging the wisdom of my decision to obey God. The pagan gods Abram’s family worshipped in Ur were immoral gods they could not trust. Is this God any different? Aside from an obscure promise to bless, at this point in his journey there was nothing in the promise for Abram. Why did he travel 1,000 miles from Ur to see land if God was not giving him the land? If I was Abram, I would have been ready to go back to Haran. BUT they are standing by a tree. Adam and Eve were standing by a tree when the serpent questioned God’s integrity. Now Abram is standing by a tree debating if he can trust this God.
Abram’s conversation with God about “a seed” while they stood by a tree may have stirred up memories of stories Grandpa Shem told about God’s judgment upon the first man and woman. And how God promised the serpent that the “seed” of a woman would fatally bruise his head. That would have imparted a glimmer of hope to Abram that he would become the father of the promised seed. And Sarai might be the woman who gives birth to the seed who breaks the serpent’s power over humanity. And of all the families on earth, his family would rule from the city God is building to bless everyone. The prospect of ruling the world at his son’s side would have made the bitterness about the land belonging to his son bearable. The only fly in the ointment was Sarai’s barrenness. Unlike Adam and Eve, who chose to believe the worst of God while standing by a tree, Abram chose to believe the best and built an altar to worship him.