In Genesis 12, we read about how God spoke to Abram and told him to leave his country, his people, and his father’s house, and go to a land He would show him.
Leave his country, his people and his father’s house. They all mean the same thing, actually. You’ve heard of a double-emphasis? This is a triple-emphasis, if you will. It was God’s way, in poetic speech, of impressing on Abram the need for him to be totally severed from all these ties so that He could start something new in and through him. We see a similar thing in Christ’s invitation to His disciples. When Jesus said, “Follow Me,” He was really telling them to LEAVE all behind and RUN after Him. And this they did. Peter and Andrew “left their nets and followed Him”. The sons of Zebedee, James and John, “left their boat and their father and followed Him”.
What have you left behind in order to follow Christ?
The invitation Abram received in Ur was to follow God. And the first thing required of him was to leave behind his family, his people, his culture, his way of life, his national identity. Having done that, Abram was to follow God to a certain place whose location is till then hidden from him.
The Bible tells us that Abram left Ur, accompanied by his wife, father and nephew. But, in reality, it was Terah, Abram’s father, who took Abram and company out of Ur. It was possible to Terah was already thinking of looking for ‘greener pastures’ and received God’s command to Abram as a confirmation of what he already had in mind. In other words, Abram did not leave Ur in obedience to God’s command.
The shortest way from Ur to Canaan would be through the Arabian Desert. But that would be suicide. So they went followed the Euphrates River until they came to Haran before turning southwards to the land of the Canaanites. At Haran, Terah died, leaving Abram to continue the journey with his wife and nephew.
We are told that by the time Abram left Haran, he had accumulated much possessions and acquired many people (probably servants). This implies that he must have remained in Haran for a substantial period of time in order for this to have happened. The question is, why? Why did Abram remain in Haran for so long? the most likely reason I can think of was because his father was to frail to travel due to old age. And being a filial son that Abram probably was, he chose to remain in Haran to care for his aging father.
Do you understand now why Jesus said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26).
The word “hate” evokes strong reactions from modern men. But not so from those in Bible times. They do not understand “hate” the way we do. When the Bible says, in Genesis 29:31, for example, that Rachel was loved more than Leah; Leah was unloved; Leah was hated. To be hated, here is to be loved less than another.
In Romans 9:13, we read Paul’s citation of Malachi 1:2: “JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED.”
We know that God chose Jacob above Esau, that He gave Jacob the preeminence and blessings that normally came to the oldest son. But God did not hate Esau in the way we think of hate. We see God’s compassion on Esau and on his descendants. God hated Esau in the sense that He loved Jacob more.
So what Abram ought to have done was to love God more than he loved his father, and move on from Haran even if it meant leaving his father behind.
Passed over to the other side
Moving on from Haran, Abram crossed the River Euphrates and into the land of Canaan. In other words, Abram passed over to the other side. This is the meaning of the term “Hebrew”, and Abram became the first Hebrew when he crossed the Euphrates (Gen 14:13).
For centuries, Arabs and Jews both claim to be descendants of Abraham. Christians claim to be his spiritual descendants. But are all Hebrews? Abraham had a personal, direct experience of God. It was this experience that made him a Hebrew. It caused him to come out of his land and background to live a life that no one in his family or culture had lived before. God was real, living, and present to him.
What about you? Have you ever had an experience where God was so real and living to you that He lead you out of the established pattern of your life? If you have never had such an experience then you are not a Hebrew. Personal, direct experiences with God produce real Hebrews, not race or religion.
Living the Life of a Hebrew
Perhaps you have already met God. If so you can rightly claim to be a Hebrew. But let me ask you, are you living the life of a Hebrew? Even as a Christian there are many things that God wants to bring us out of. The believers at the beginning of the book of Acts were experiencing and enjoying God in a wonderful way. They were really changed by God’s dynamic salvation. Yet 30 years later they still had not fully come out of their background. The epistle to the Hebrews was written to encourage the wavering Hebrew believers to come out of their old religion and to cross over to the full enjoyment of Christ in the church life.
Many Christians today are like the Israelites who were wandering in the wilderness. They had, at one time or another, rejected God’s word and directive. As a consequence to their disobedience, they could not enter the “Promised land”, to possess their inheritance – the blessing of God. Did they continue to experience God in their lives? Certainly. The Israelites saw the pillar of cloud and fire every day during their forty-year wandering. But it was nothing compared with what they could have had in “the land flowing with milk and honey”.
When the first generation Israelites had passed away in the wilderness, Joshua was commanded by God to lead the second generation into the land to possess it. In order to do that, they had to cross over one more time. This time, they had to cross over the River Jordan. They had to become Hebrews again.
This is an example of what members of the Torah Club will learn. Contact me if you wish the Torah Club today.