As the story of Abram begins, Moses assumes that you already know who he is. He's a man who needs no introduction. We aren't given a whole lot of information about the events spanning the time from the tower of babel to Abram's era. We find out the lineage of Terah and the fact that he had three sons, all of whom got married. We know nothing of Abram's upbringing or background, we don't know of any of his accomplishments to that date. We don't know what he looked like or what his innermost thoughts were. There doesn't seem to be anything unusual about Abram or his wife Sarai. But out of the blue, God chooses Abram, in the words of Scott Hoezee "cleared his divine throat one day and spoke somehow to Abram." It was on that day that the river of history took a serious bend.
Throughout history, God had had different ways of dealing with mankind. We call these dispensations. Dispensations are not different methods of salvation. There is only one- ransom by the blood of Jesus. Dispensations deal in part with how much of that plan of salvation God chooses to reveal to us.
There is a song I like to listen to titled "accoustic curves" Six instruments join the song at different stages, and though the melody is played by new instruments with each addition, none of them stop playing. Dispensations are like this. Each one builds upon the last. Now theologians do not agree on exactly what the dispensations are, but by my estimation, we have seen two. The first, in the garden of Eden, was innocence. The second was conscience. And of course, since we all start out as babies, conscience did not do away with innocence. (We do that ourselves.) Conscience and innocence worked in concert in the years before Abram. Now a new instrument would soon be added to the song. God would create His own nation which, if it did what it was supposed to do, it would serve as His representative to the entire world. And it was all going to start with Abram. Of course, Abram didn't know this at the time. All he was told was that through him, God would create a nation through which all the world would be blessed. He didn't know how the world would be blessed. He also didn't know how God would bring this about. The Lord was sending him and his wife- who happened to be infertile, into a land that was already occupied and running low in the food department, to become a great nation. Counterintuitively, Abram did exactly that.
Now we're not through with Abram. Not by far. Though Abram's part in history was not as grandiose as that of Adam or Noah, he is nonetheless a very important part of history, and we are going to take some time to study the events of his life. But for now, this is sufficient.
The way that the calling of Abram fits in with the river of history is obvious by now. God had sent people to colonize the world from Shechem. He had diversified language, disbursed peoples, and created nations. Presently, He was fixing to create this new nation for Himself right in the middle of all of them.
Abram, as far as we know, was not an unual man. By human standards, there was no reason God should pick him to be the progenitor of a holy people. But Abram did one very important thing. He did what God told him to. God's providence can be like fire, ice or lightning. In the account of the flood, we saw the cold side of God's power. The world was steeped in sin, and so mankind was destroyed, save for Noah's family. At the tower of Babel, God didn't punish anyone. He simply changed things to favor His own plan. Not cold, but still very powerful. Here, God demonstrates the hot aspect of His power- the ability and desire to reward the faithful in marvelous ways. Because Abram did this thing that God asked of him, God would make Abram into a nation which would, at a time still in our own future, dominate the entire world.
Abram was a man through whom God could and did show His preference of demonstrating kindness. He also allowed God to show how much He appreciates faith and obedience. In short, Abram demonstrates not only that God is good as a righteous and fair judge who is as willing to reward as punish, but also that God is good as a person, taking pleasure in giving good things to those who will, by their actions, permit Him to do so.
Draco brought out last week that pagans cannot reconcile the concept of a loving God with the picture of the vindictive, wrathful smiting machine that they have either painted for themselves or had painted for them. Abram demonstrates that God is about so much more than just punishing evil, and he's going to continue doing so.
Next week: FATHER Abraham
Today's Reading: Genesis 12:1-7
12:1 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.
2 "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.
3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."
4 So Abram left, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran.
5 He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.
6 Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land.
7 The LORD appeared to Abram and said, "To your offspring I will give this land." So he built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him.