Genesis 12 – The Promise
Abram’s Promise from God
Today, we will begin our study in Genesis 12. As you open your Bible to read, please join me in prayer. Father, thank you for your words in the Bible. Please open our minds and hearts to help us understand this chapter today. Show us how we are like Abram and Sarai. Thank you. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.
A most astonishing thing happened to Abram. The Lord God talked to him! Nearly 2800 years have passed since the last recorded conversation between God and man (Noah). The message changed Abram’s life just as much as Noah’s life changed when God told him to begin building an ark.
“Go from your country, your people, and your father’s household to the land I will show you.” (12:1) Can you imagine? Some of you probably can. Often careers, the military, the ministry…require us to move away from our families, at least for a time. But we usually know where we are going, and we will still be able to talk with our families when we get there. But in Abram’s day, that would have meant little to no communication – much like the pioneers who moved from east to west in our country, often never seeing their families again.
It’s not every day you hear a directive from God that changes your life completely, especially one which included a dramatic promise.
“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.” (12:2) Wow. It must have made his heart beat faster as he considered its implications. But God wasn’t finished. “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (12:3)
Gulp. Think about how his mind must have run with it…
Really? I’m going to be famous?! My household will grow so big that I’ll become my own nation! Everyone will know about me and the whole earth will be blessed by me? Why, that must mean I’ll be rich! But – wait – you are going to curse people who try to hurt me? Why would you do this for me?
Although it looks like Abram left the next day, it wasn’t quite like that. According to Acts 7:2, God told Abram to leave while he still lived in Ur. Genesis 11:31 tells us Abram’s father, Abram and Sarai, and Abram’s nephew Lot left Ur together, and traveled around 850 miles to Haran, in modern day Turkey.
I wonder why his father went along, even though the instructions said to leave his father’s household?
Perhaps Terah didn’t give them the choice. He might have been unwilling to miss out on this deal – or just didn’t want to say good bye to his children. (Sarai was Abram’s half-sister.) Or maybe Abram needed his father’s courage to make the trip. Joshua 24:2 tells us that Terah worshiped other gods instead of the Lord. We don’t know if he ever changed his mind, nor if he believed Abram had heard from God. It might be why Abram was supposed to leave his father behind.
They settled in Haran for a while until Terah passed away. We have no idea how long it was from the initial directive from God to Abram’s departure from Haran. But Abram didn’t forget. When the opportunity came, Abram continued the journey toward the unknown promised land.
Some 300 miles later, when he got to the right place, the Lord appeared to show him the land, just as He had promised. What an amazing affirmation to Abram after a long, two-part journey! I wish I would have been there to watch him gasp with joy when God appeared.
It proved Abram had heard correctly. He hadn’t been following a pipe dream. And what’s more, this time God’s words made the promise a little bit clearer: “To your offspring, I will give this land.”
Wow. To my offspring – not just my household! I’m going to be a father!!
Astonishment washed through Abram. In humble adoration, he built an altar in praise to the God of the universe. In the days that followed, he moved throughout the land God promised him, dreaming of the days to come. It pleased his God. Take a moment to read Hebrews 11:8-10 to see what God thought of Abram (whose name later became Abraham).
But life has this way of distracting us.
Severe famine came to the land. In order to eat, Abram and Sarai went to Egypt to live for a while. Entering a foreign culture, Abram became afraid for his life. He believed that the Egyptians would see Sarai’s beauty and kill him, so they could have her. So, he concocted a plan to save himself. If he claimed to be only her brother, then the Egyptians would offer a good price for her and treat him well.
Well, I’m just going to say it. That was horrible on many levels. He totally forgot God was on his side.
Before we even have time to consider that Abram might have just been paranoid, the next verse says that Egyptians did exactly what he expected. She must have been a beauty – Pharaoh himself wanted her! He took her to be one of his wives.
But God intervened. He inflicted disease upon Pharaoh, and somehow made it clear to him that it was because of Sarai being in his household. Perhaps the Lord appeared to him and told him, perhaps it was a dream, we don’t know. We only know that Pharaoh sent for Abram, gave him his wife and told him to leave.
I love the fact that the promise included Sarai. God told Abram he would curse those who cursed him. But the first time that happened, it was in Sarai’s defense. Clearly the promise was not just for Abram. But it would be while before either of them fully understood that.
God would keep his promise, because God is faithful – even when we are faithless.
Questions for thought:
- Group discussion: Why do you think we let life distract us from obedience to God?
- Application for your life: Have you ever had a clear directive from God that changed the direction of your life?
- For extra study: What city was Abram looking forward to in Hebrews 11:10? These verses will help you understand: Hebrews 11:13-16, 12:22-24, 13:14; Philippians 3:20-21.