17 Abraham called to Canaan

Please read Gen 11:26 – 12:9 beforehand


After the Tower of Babel the people grouped according to their languages, moved away from Babel and each group settled in its own area. There they multiplied and became different nations.

Their languages were new, but at heart they were unchanged. They did not love God, but pursued their own desires and made themselves idols which they worshiped.

The unfaithfulness of mankind did not deter God from his intention to have people that would walk with Him, listen when He spoke and obey Him; that would be glad to have Him as their God and Father. Amidst all these unfaithful people, He found one such a man and decided to build himself a God-fearing nation from this man. 

  • We read about a man named Terah who lived in Ur of the Chaldeans.  He decided to move to Canaan and took some of his relatives with him, but got only as far as Haran, then settled down and died there. His son, called Abram, was one of those that had accompanied him and he got married to a lady called Sarai, but they had no children as she was barren.

Ur was in the same general area where the Tower of Babel had previously been built and from where mankind had dispersed.  This was a heathen country where the residents worship idols.

For what reason had Terah decided to emigrate to Canaan?  Had God spoken to him?

Canaan was a relatively small country but of great significance in God’s planning.  It is there where God would later settle His people, the nation of Israel, and where Jesus Christ, the Son of God, would be born, would minister, be crucified and be resurrected.  Through all the ages, that portion of land played a very important role in world history and will continue to do so in future.

Terah never reached his goal, never realized his dream, but got only as far as Haran.  Some people start off obeying God and have lofty ideals, but follow Him for only a short distance, loose their motivation, slow down, stop and settle down short of the winning post or turn right back to their starting line and never reach the heavenly Canaan; they do not even reach the wonderful goals which He had planned for them for this life.

  • God spoke to Abram.

Abram was an elected (chosen) man through whom God wanted to build a nation for Himself.  After Terah’s death, God spoke to Abram. Whether He spoke to him only in an audible voice or whether He appeared to him and spoke to him, we are not told, but what is important, is that Abram knew that it was God that had spoken to him and he could understand what God had said to him.

God still speaks to man – to us

We may find it amazing that the almighty God speaks to minute man but, did He not create us to be to Him like sons and daughters to whom He could speak on all matters relating to their lives and who would reply to Him as they would to one another? Therefore, He enjoys speaking to us and listening to what we have on our minds.

Some people do not hear when God speaks to them, because they do not want to hear. They fear that God may tell them to do something which they have no desire to do, or stop doing something in which they take much pleasure. In short, they see God as a spoil sport Who, if they would get into close contact with Him, would rob them of the things of life which they enjoy; therefore, they turn Him a deaf ear. They do not realize that the Lord wants to take them on an exciting journey to a new country and bless them exceeding abundantly. So, having spoken to them again and again, He eventually turns away, disappointed, and speaks to someone else.

Just be quiet for a moment and think whether God has spoken to you at some time or other, what He said to you and what He required of you.

Hearing when God speaks

The question is often asked, “How can I hear God’s voice?” The answer is actually, quite simple: He first of all conveys His general thoughts that apply to one and all of us, in writing, by His Word. He can also do this by the preaching or testimonies of other children of God. There is a wealth of things He wishes to say to us by these means. These things are the principles of his kingdom that apply to all of us.

Then there are also personal things which He wants to convey to us; personal questions that He wishes to answer; questions like: “Lord, whom do You want me to marry: Mary, Joey or Jacqueline?” Or: “Which occupational direction am I to choose?” 

Those replies He imparts to us by His Holy Spirit Who puts strong impressions (convictions) into our hearts and confirms them by things He allows to happen in our lives to assist us to move in the right direction.

In our example, Mary may emigrate, Joey may fall head over heels in love with another man and Jacqueline may gradually get to like you more and more – (or, if you are lucky, no one will be interested in you, allowing you to keep your income to yourself? Just joking). The Christian who listens attentively to what the Lord wants to convey to him, has an, “unfair advantage,” over those that depend solely on their own intellect for God is an all-wise, all-knowing Counselor.

 God gave Abram a three-fold instruction

God gave Abraham a threefold instruction which was formulated in such a way that he could see that the Lord knew exactly what it would cost him to obey.  What He said to him was, that he was to leave his country, his family and his father’s home and was to relocate to a country which God would show him.

To leave his friends and family circle was necessary, because he was embedded in a heathen society which, of course, was having a strong impact on him and his family.  In that new, distant, country the Lord would become his best Friend and he would become a friend of God (James 2:23).

But what he did not know, was that the Lord would, through him, also set out to reclaim the land of Canaan from the Canaanites so that He could give it to his people, Israel, that He was going to raise up. 

Abraham’s crisscrossing through that land would be an act of taking possession of it by faith which act would be recorded in the heavens, and would, 400 years later, take effect on earth. Abram would be performing a legal action on God’s behalf. God had great plans in mind of which Abram knew very little, as a servant knows little of what his Master is planning.

 God gave Abram a seven-fold promise.

God’s instruction to Abram was accompanied by a seven-fold promise, all wrapped up in one packet, namely that He would cause a great nation to proceed from him, that He would bless him (cause him to prosper and  be joyful), make a great name for him (that he would be highly esteemed), that he would be a blessing to others, that God would bless those that blessed him and curse those that cursed him and that the blessing that would come upon him, would be so great that he would be a blessing to all the generations on the earth (through all the ages).  Awesome, but Abraham would not have understood all the implications of this promise. He would not have comprehended that from his seed, Christ would be born, and that by Him, eternal life would be offered to all the nations of the earth.

A lesson: receive God’s blessing and become a blessing

The truth of getting blessed by God and then becoming a blessing to others, is also very important to you and me.  We first need to be blessed by God, before we can really be a blessing to other people. 

We come into this world without a scrap of clothes on our bodies, nor a hat on our heads nor shoes on our feet, and we first need to receive something before we can give out something.  A child has to go through, let’s say 21 years, of training and receiving from his parents and teachers before he will have something to give back to the community by way of entering into some or other kind of employment.

This is even more so applicable to the spiritual realm where we need to receive a spiritual blessing from God before we can be a spiritual blessing to others.

The reverse is also true: God wants us not to hoard the blessings we receive from Him, but to use them to bless others. This applies to material as well as to spiritual blessings; receive with the one hand and give with the other hand.  Like a small stone cast into a dam that causes ripples all around it, reaching wide and far, we will be amazed to see how far our influence can go if only we would be willing to be cast by God’s hand into the dam of his choice, in order to disturb the complacency of a godless community and make ripples for God.

God will take care of you

Lastly, there is also a warning contained in God’s promise to Abram: it is scary to note that those causing grief to children of God, will experience that the Lord will cause their malicious deeds to return to them (Gen 12:3).

  • Before Abram could act, he had to clear three things for himself.
    • Was it really God speaking to me?

Firstly, he had to decide whether he had heard from God.

Of course, we must be sure that we are not embarking on a wild goose chase, but we also need to have faith in our ability to hear from Him and in His faithfulness to keep us from doing a foolish thing. Sometimes we miss what God wants to give to us, because we are afraid that we had heard incorrectly what He had said; so, we rather remain quietly in our safe and comfortable little corner, than daring to step out in faith.  Fear is an enemy that robs us of God’s blessings. Obedience to God, calls for an ever-increasing measure of boldness.

(But how can I be certain that I heard correctly from Him?  By declaring emphatically to the Lord that I want to do his will, nothing more, nothing less and then waiting patiently on Him until his peace fills my heart when I am contemplating on what I heard from Him.)

    •  Is God able to give what He promises?

Secondly Abram had to believe that God could give him what He had promised.  His promises were breath taking, but how great was God really?  Did God know that Sarai was barren; how would God raise up a mighty nation through her?  Would He be able to carry out what He had promised? 

All of us, at some time or other, were terribly embarrassed when people who had promised things to us, were unable to fulfil their promises because they themselves had landed up in some or other predicament. Would God not come up against unforeseen barriers and have to abandon his great plan?

    • Will God not loose interest in me and in this project?

Thirdly he had to decide whether he could trust God to keep to His word and not to change His plans the next day or the day after, and leave him in the lurch, stranded there in the foreign land. Is He not an unseen God; where would Abram find Him to remind Him of His promises and to insist that He carry out His word?

So, it was first of all a victory of faith that he had to gain over his human weakness of unbelief.

 Faith in action

But then he had to get into action.  To get what God had promised, he had to run the race.  He had to conquer his fear of the unknown country and its people.  He had to overcome the mocking and reproaches of family and friends.  Many of them probably made out his calling as foolishness and spoke their minds quite openly: “Just use your common-sense; use the brain God gave you!” they might have shouted at him.  For the unsaved world, the ways of a man lead by the Holy Spirit, is foolishness and incomprehensible because he often acts contrary to the accepted principles of life. Abraham’s faith and obedience affected his family and everybody around him. His faith compelled them to think about God and to decide whether they had real faith in Him like Abram had.

(When, at the age of 65 I, (including of course my dear wife) resigned from a mission society where we had a house, monthly salary and other benefits and used our meager savings to establish a new work of God in a foreign country amongst a nation of which we could not speak the language, many eyebrows were raised and well intended questions asked. It was only after some five years of toiling and fumbling, that it was clear that we had heard correctly and that the Lord was indeed with us. Faith chases unseen goals.)

Back to Abraham. Then, on a certain day, everything was packed, everybody greeted, the camels loaded sky high and Abram moved away, following his unseen God into an unknown future to settle in a land of which he had only heard.  He had no intention of ever returning and took his wife, slaves and possessions with him.  He was then 75 years old.

He also took his cousin, Lot with him.  God had not commanded him to do so and this would cause him many headaches.

 The leap of faith rewarded

He trekked deep into Canaan, up to Shechem, not that far from where the capital city, Jerusalem would one day be built.  At the oak tree of Moreh he pitched camp.  The first step of faith had been taken and God rewarded him and strengthened his faith by appearing and speaking to him.  The Lord said to him that He would give this land to his descendants.

On our way to heaven, the Lord will reveal Himself to us in our spirits, and at times we will be deeply conscious of His presence.  There is nothing that can strengthen our faith as His speaking to us, either by His written Word or by His Spirit.

 Abram builds an altar.

Abram’s heart was deeply touched by God’s visitation and he desired to show his love to Him in an explicit way, so he built an altar on which he could bring offerings to Him from time to time.  This would also serve as a public confession of his faith and an action in which his family, including his slaves, could take part.

When we experience the glorious presence of God, we will bring sacrifices of praise to Him by means of songs of adoration as well as financial offerings to promote his Kingdom.

A person who never experiences an upsurge of joy erupting in songs of praise when worshiping the Lord in church, must be suffering from some severe spiritual disorder. I say this because I have been in congregations where some of the members stare fixedly and emotionless into their song books as if it were an income tax assessment received at the door.

Is your family alter operative?

For a father to call together his family for a family altar meeting for the first time, is not always an easy matter, but once it is done, the ice is broken and from then on it will be easier to repeat.  The family altar is a joint point of contact with God and a barrier against the enemy of souls.

(After I got born again, our first family altar was our double bed in our bedroom and the meeting normally took place at night after the light had been switched off. I would be smoking my last pipe for the day and my wife, Martie would use the opportunity to ask me question upon question regarding my change in behaviour.

The darkness and lack of eye contact seemed to give her more boldness to ask these sensitive questions and the same with me; I was newly converted and not yet as free to speak on my experiences as I was later on. Nevertheless, precious thoughts were exchanged and, I am sure that there was a sweet aroma ascending from our little altar up to the throne of God, notwithstanding that it was somewhat polluted by the smoke from my pipe (or was it?).

Well the effect was that within a short time, Martie also came to the Lord. Then we got together in our living room and once our children were born, they became part of it.

Sorry for interrupting the Bible study, but after some 50 years, those moments are still so fresh in my mind and so precious to my soul.)

The land of promise

As time went by, Abram further explored the land of promise.  In so doing, he acted by faith as if the land already belonged to him.  Again, he built an altar there where he settled.

How far have I explored my new life in Christ; am I still camping at the point of entry?

Have I read through the brochures of this land, the 66 books of the Bible to get to know what the land holds for me? Are my footprints seen right through the Old Testament, or do I only read a Psalm now and then? And have I yet followed the footprints of Jesus in the Gospels? Have I explored Paul’s Epistles to understand more about the basic truths of the Christian faith and lifestyle?

What is more, to what extent has my old Adam nature been put to death and how clearly is the image of Jesus imprinted into my life?



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