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02 June 2024 // Genesis 12

Moving Onward!
Abram’s Call (vs. 1-3)
Great land
Great nation
Great name
Great blessing
Great protection

Looking Upward!
Abram’s Commitment  (vs. 4-9)
Trusts in God’s command
Steps out on faith
Follows God’s direction
Receives God’s blessing
Worships God for it

Failing Downward!
Abram’s Collapse (vs. 10-16)

Proceeding Forward!
God’s Unfailing Promise (vs. 17-20)
Increased wealth
Continued blessing and hope

  • What did the message teach me about God/Jesus/Holy Spirit?
  • What did the message teach me about the human condition?
  • Is there anything I need to confess, repent, or be grateful for, because of this passage?
  • How do I need help in believing and applying this scripture to my life?
  • How can I encourage others with this passage?

“So Abram went, as the LORD had told him” ( Genesis 12:4). This is the demonstration of faith that the author of Hebrews, as well as Paul in Romans 4, celebrate when they speak of the faith of Abram and his obedience to God. And it is easy to read over it and miss it. Yet imagine you had a dog that you called to come to you. But instead of coming when called, the dog lay down. You’d say that was a bad dog. If you told your child to pick up her toys, but she said no and sat down, that would be a disobedient child. If you instructed an employee to call a client, but he said no and never called them, that would be a bad employee. The point is, we notice when someone does the wrong thing, but do we notice when someone does the obedient thing? Abram’s demonstration of obedient faith here is something believers should both celebrate and emulate. He is an example of faith for us to imitate.

The Land of UR:
Sir Leonard Woolley’s excavation of the ancient Mesopotamian city of Ur in the 1920s and early 1930s was a media event. During the thirteen years of excavations, the great newspapers of the world followed his progress in countless articles. Woolley’s discovery of the royal cemetery of Ur with its large cache of gold objects and evidence of human sacrifice attracted travelers from around the world, including mystery writer Agatha Christie. Young Agatha married Woolley’s assistant, M. E. L. Mallowan, and set her 1936 mystery Murder in Mesopotamia in an excavation in Iraq. Later she wrote in her autobiography:
Leonard Woolley saw with the eye of imagination: the place was as real to him as it had been in 1500 B.C., or a few thousand years earlier. Wherever he happened to be, he could make it come alive. While he was speaking I felt in my mind no doubt whatever that the house on the corner had been Abraham’s. It was his reconstruction of the past and he believed in it, and anyone who listened to him believed in it also.

Having seen the traveling exhibition of “Treasures from the Royal Tombs of Ur” at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, I can testify to Woolley’s ability to make the past real. His scaled map of the city of Ur in the time of Abraham with its ziggurat topped with the temple of Nanna (the moon god), the palace of Ur-Nammu, the temples of Ningal and Enki surrounded by the city’s walls and harbors, his schematic drawings and photographs of the “Great Death Pit” with seventy-three bodies of servants arranged in sacrifice around Queen Puabi’s gorgeously decorated corpse—all serve to make the past come alive.

But most of all the artifacts themselves make Abraham’s context live. Puabi’s incredible golden headdress and beaded cape, the gold and lapis lazuli headbands of her attendants, the gold beech leaf wreaths beaded with carnelian, the gold, silver, and ivory vessels, and the great lyre with the golden bull’s head portray the ruler’s vacuous hopes of a good life to come. Puabi’s body, and those of her unfortunate servants, as well as her gold and silver all lay for over three thousand years in the Death Pit until unearthed by Sir Leonard.

These treasures of Ur tell us that Abraham’s social and religious context was as sophisticated and pagan and claustrophobic as that of any Babylonian or Egyptian dynasty. Ur was desolate and barren of knowledge of the true God. Ur’s intrusive, lunar religion dominated life from birth to the grave.[1]

The Oak of Moreh:
The Oak of Moreh is mentioned only here. However, ‘Oaks of Moreh’ (plural) associated with the same general area are mentioned at Deuteronomy 11:30. The specific type of tree denoted by the Hebrew term is disputed, but most modern versions understand it to be an oak tree, either the Tabor oak (Quercus ithaburensis) or the common evergreen oak (Quercus calliprinos). However, many commentaries take it to be a terebinth (Pistacia palaestina). The name Oak of Moreh means ‘Oak of the Teacher’, which may imply that the peoples of the land used this tree for divination. If that is the case, then this tree may also be mentioned at Judges 9:6, 37, where it is called ‘the Oak of the Pillar at Shechem’ and ‘the Diviners’ Oak’. In any case, it seems that the Oak of Moreh is probably referenced again at Genesis 35:4 and Joshua 24:26, though the name Oak of Moreh is not used in either passage.[2]
      1.  What does Abram's obedience to God's call teach us about faith and trust?
      2.  How does God's promise to Abram relate to His plan for humanity as a whole?
      3.  How does Abram's journey through Canaan symbolize the journey of faith?
      4.  In what ways does Abram's deception of Pharaoh reflect human fear and survival instincts?
      5.  How does God's intervention in Pharaoh's household reveal His justice and protection of His chosen ones?
      6.  How would you have responded if you were in Abram's place, facing a foreign land and famine?

  [1] R. Kent Hughes, Genesis: Beginning and Blessing, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2004), 181–182.
[2] Andrew E. Steinmann, Genesis: An Introduction and Commentary, ed. David G. Firth, vol. 1, The Tyndale Commentary Series (London: Inter-Varsity Press, 2019), 146–147.