The Call of Abram
by Rev Jacky Quarmby 14 January 2022
Jostein Gaarder, the writer of Sophie’s World once wrote, “There are two ways of becoming wise. One way is to travel out into the world and to see as much as possible of God’s Creation. The other is to put down roots in one spot and to study everything that happens there in as much detail as you can.”
The ancient stories in the first eleven chapters of Genesis have ranged far and wide, looking at the big questions of life … who created the heavens and the earth, how did evil and suffering enter the world, where have all the nations come from and why are they so divided?
But from Genesis 12 onwards, we shall put down roots in one spot and consider the life of one man and his family, living in the Middle East – a man called Abram.
Abram was descended from Noah’s eldest son Shem. It is from Shem that the term Semites is derived. Abram grew up in a place called Ur in ancient Babylonia. (On today’s map Ur would be in Southern Iraq, just west of Basra.) Abram’s family was plagued by sadness. One of Abram’s brothers died young leaving behind a small son called Lot. Meanwhile Abram’s wife Sarah was said to be barren and it was feared that she would never be able to have children. So Abram offered to look after his nephew Lot and raise him as his own.
Perhaps because of the sadness associated with Ur, Abram’s father Terah took Abram, Sarah and Lot north to a place called Haran (on the border between Southern Turkey and Syria). Haran is the heart of a highly developed culture. It is where writing was invented and the first cities were built. But it is also a polytheistic society, which worshipped many gods.
And it was here in Haran, that God spoke to Abram and said, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you …”
The Jewish rabbis tell a story about this. They say Abram’s father Terah was a sculptor
who made statues of household gods and Abram had the task of selling the statues
in the marketplace. But Abram was a bad salesman, because he didn’t really believe in the gods that he was peddling. So one day Abram stood up in the marketplace and proclaimed, “This is all junk, it is my father who has made these gods. Now I am going in search of the God who made my father.”
Abram is in search of another God – not a god you can make a statue of and put in a corner of the room – but the God who was there at the beginning and will be there at the end – the God who can make a childless man, the father of many nations – the God who cares not just about the “big questions” but about the life of each man, woman and child who is made in God’s image.
So as we put down roots in rural Palestine and study the life of Abram in as much detail as we can, may we become wise and discover much more about the God who called Abram and who calls us too.
Song: Will you come and follow me
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I thank you that you have a plan for my life and that you have many things for me to do in your service.
In the rush of daily life, help me to listen for your voice and give me, I pray, the courage to say yes when you call. Amen