Abraham ranks as one of the most significant figures to appear in Scripture, his faith serving as an important backdrop for the redemption of God’s people throughout the Old and New Testaments. Understanding how he is portrayed in the Bible will help us see more clearly the greatness of our salvation.
Today’s passage marks the first time God issued His call to Abram to leave his pagan ways behind and enter into a covenant relationship with the one, true Lord of all. While the Almighty did not formally seal His covenant with the patriarch when He first issued His call (see Gen. 15; 17), He did declare the blessings that would come if Abram trusted in the covenant promises of God. These blessings included a good land, many descendants, a great name, and the privilege of being the agent through whom “all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (12:1–3).
We should not underestimate the gravity of the decision Abram had to make when God first called him. Abram had to leave everything that he knew, a home where prosperity and sustenance were taken for granted (11:27–32), and go to an unknown land where he would have to trust in the providence of the Lord and not his own plans or family ties (Heb. 11:8). The original Hebrew of Genesis 12:1–3 links the blessings to Abram’s faithful following of God’s call, revealing that Abram could not be doubleminded. The patriarch was to go forth so that he would be blessed. Only if he trusted the covenant Lord to bless him in the new land could he benefit from His promises.
God’s first message to Abram made it clear that He is the one who will accomplish all that He promises to those who trust Him. He promised to make Abram a great nation. He pledged to bless the patriarch and make his name great. God said He would bless those who bless Abram and curse those who curse him (vv. 1–3). Abram did nothing to deserve this; all he had to do was trust the Lord and demonstrate his faith through obedience to the divine summons (15:6; James 2:14–26).
Abram’s response indicates that he lived out the principle Corrie Ten Boom later articulated that we must “never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” He would receive a new name — Abraham — and father the nation whose Messiah would bring blessing to all peoples (Gal. 3:15–29).
Jesus says to us: “Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). The kind of faith that God blesses is the faith that is willing to leave everything behind for the sake of Christ Jesus. This may involve moving away from our comforts like Abraham did, but for most of us it is more likely a faith that leads us to die to ourselves by putting others before our own needs as we endeavor to serve the Lord.