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Introducing Abraham

The story is quite straightforward really. God wanted to give humanity a chance after they'd blown it when Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden tree. He had a plan and, to carry out this plan, He needed one people out of all the nations who would be His people. But where would he find this people? He had to start somewhere so He chose one man, Abraham. Perhaps he was the latest of a large list, the others having failed in the selection process? We don't know, the Bible doesn't tell us, but it does tell us how Abraham found himself in that privileged position.

Abraham (then called Abram) was chosen by God while he was living in Ur of the Chaldees, his homeland, around 4000 years ago. Ur is one of the oldest recorded cities and its ruins are still visible today, though you'll need to travel to the edge of the al-Hajar Desert in Iraq to see it. It was also a cult centre for the worship of the moon God, called (rather appropriately) Sin.

A Jewish legend speaks of Abram's father, Terah, as an idol-maker and that, even when he was still young, Abram realised that idol worship was nothing but foolishness. To make his point, one day, when Abram was asked to mind the shop, he took a hammer and smashed all the idols - except for the largest. His father came home aghast. "What happened?" he shouted. "It was amazing, Dad," replied Abram. "The idols all got into a fight and the biggest idol won!" This witty observation must surely have been pleasing to God, who later spoke to him when he was living in Haran, with his father and extended family.

The LORD had said to Abram, "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; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." (Genesis 12:1-3)

The fact that Abram did what he was asked and moved to the area of Canaan, marked him down as a man willing to listen to the voice of God. Canaan was the western end of a region that stretched from the Persian Gulf in the east to the Mediterranean in the west. This region is now called the Fertile Crescent, because it was shaped like a crescent and consisted of land that is well-watered and easily cultivated. The inhabitants of Canaan at this time were, believe it or not, known as Canaanites, an agricultural people who shared a culture and religion with many of the other tribes and nations that surrounded them.

Questions posed here are; who exactly is this great nation and how will all peoples on earth received these promised blessings? To Abram it was quite simple, it was a promise that went beyond all logic and common sense. After all, how were he and his barren wife, both in their 70s, going to produce a 'great nation' if they hadn't even produced their first child yet? As for blessing 'all the peoples on earth', that must have made them chuckle!

We continue with this story next week ...

Steve Maltz
May 2013

(This is an abridged extract from Steve's book Outcast Nation)

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