This chapter marks an important turning point in the book of Genesis with the introduction of one of the central figures of the Bible, Abram (who would later be renamed Abraham). In this first section about Abram, three things jump off the page.
First, the most impressive characteristic of Abram throughout his life is his faithful obedience to God. In verse 1 God said, “Go” and in verse 4 “Abram went.” Hebrews 11:8 says that he stepped out on faith “not knowing where he was going.”
Abram did not ask “How far?” or “For how long?” or “By what route?” He simply packed up his family and started walking with only the voice of God to guide him. What radical faith!
Second, we see that Abram is a worshiper. When God spoke to him in verse 7, Abram built an altar and worshiped. We have to assume that somehow he knew the example of his ancestors, Abel (Genesis 4:4) and Noah (Genesis 8:20). Like them, Abram piled up some stones, built a fire, and offered an innocent animal as a burnt offering to God. Again in verse 8 he built another altar and “called upon the Lord.” Abram is an enduring example to worshipers. He was consistent and sincere, and he had a heart for God.
Last, Abram was on a journey. This is true physically: he set out for Canaan (v.5), traveled toward Bethel (v.8), and continued toward the Negev (v.9). He was a man on the move, a God-following nomad who was constantly pitching and packing up his tent.
But on another level, Abram was on a journey of spiritual growth. This is very clear in the account of Abram’s trouble in Egypt (v.10-20) when he lied about Sarai’s identity. Don’t be too quick to pass judgment on Abram here. His faith was still growing. He had no Bible, no church, no community of believers to support him. He had no godly person to disciple him. And don’t forget that he didn’t know where he was going and that he was following a God he could not see. What’s more, Abram came out of an idol-worshiping family, none of whom knew the Lord.
In his new and growing faith, Abram thought he had to lie to protect himself. He had not learned the protecting power of God up to this point. But God displayed that power by “afflicting Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai” (v.17).
We need to learn what Abram learned: God protects His children and He guards His plan, ensuring that His will is accomplished.
SOME HAVE ASKED…The Bible version I preach and teach from is the New King James Version (NKJV), but I am using the English Standard Version (ESV) for my daily reading and blogging. I really like the ESV, and I’m starting on my third year using it in my quiet time. Any biblical quotes you see in these blogs are from the ESV.