The story of Abraham’s calling begins at the end of the line. If you trace the descendants of Adam through Noah and then to Terah, the line of family was about to disappear because Abraham’s wife, the daughter of the first-born of the last of Adam's line, was barren. While it had survived against great odds - it was about to be extinguished.
For 1,000 years between Noah's covenant and Abraham there had been no word from the Lord. "This is the sign of my covenant" – and then silence for a millennium. I've wondered how they were able to live on so little from God when we expect to hear from Him constantly. Could we survive for any time at all if God were silent? I think not...and yet most of the saints talk about the times when God is hidden.
It was the end of the line in another way as well.
Taking A Break
His father had set out for Canaan but settled in Haran and died there. Life changed for Terah on the way to somewhere else. He took the wheels off the mobile home and settled half-way there. It was not a detour, side road or wrong turn but a rest stop that became a residence.
There is a powerful urge to settle in, find a comfortable place and still feel like you are on the way. You've just stopped for a bit. But that bit becomes a lifetime. I can imagine them after a while continuing to talk about the dream of reaching Canaan or even reminiscing about their home in Ur and saying, "Tomorrow or the next day we are going to get on our way to Canaan. We've not stopped. We're just taking a break."
Haran was an interesting place. It was not out of the way or off the road. It was in the middle of everything. There was constant activity with traders, travelers, new ideas, and interesting experiences. There was the illusion of going somewhere by constant exposure to people who were.
I think Abraham grew up knowing his family was on the way to somewhere else when they settled in Haran. Do our kids wonder about our "Canaan"? We talk about where we came from but do we ever talk about where we are headed - what we dream about? Those things that we set out to do...and still think about even if we've settled in short of where we were headed.
Haran is any place we park on the way to where we set out to go. It's not disobedience like Babel. It's just settling instead of going on. It may be psychological, spiritual, relational or any number of things, but it is where we have stopped and stayed.
“Leave everything you know
Take everything you have,
And you will not be coming back.”
Those are God’s words to Abraham.
No sugar coating or comfort. No assurances. Just go. He calls him to leave and follow - with no destination.
Most of us like to have a destination in mind - that is our definition of calling - but God sometimes asks us simply to follow with no other instructions. Ironically, he takes him to the place where his father was going and then takes him through it to somewhere else for years - Egypt. Later, he brings him back, but Abraham goes from place to place until he comes to Bethel - the place where he had started.
God uproots Abraham for most of his life.
Thinking In Generations
Even then God tells him that this land will not be his but will belong to his offspring after they have been enslaved and mistreated for hundreds of years. God's perspective and ours are different. He thinks in generations. We want a satisfying life now and God is creating a legacy of which our life is a part - but not the whole.
I used to think each of our lives has an independent story - unconnected to those who came before and those who follow. We each have our dream and individual call. To foist our dream on our children is wrong and to carry the burden of our parents' unfulfilled dreams is as well. However, as I read this, I realize our lives are not a collection of independent short stories. They are chapters in a larger novel that plays out over generations - each of us being connected and accountable to those who came before and those who follow.
Our lives are not merely our own.
I love this story. It is a story that begins at a dead-end - a cul de sac. The lights are going out. The dream is dying. Yet, it concludes with the start of a new nation, a new people and the salvation of the world.
What happens when we settle in our Haran - the place we've parked and taken the wheels off the mobile home? What can happen when our children are called to get back on the road to where we were going? Our lives are connected, and God's mission takes longer than we could have imagined.
There are still places that look like the end of the line in the story. The places that look like dead-ends - except to God.