Genesis 11:27–12:3: The Call of Abram
We cannot overstate the depraved, ruined condition of God’s creation at the end of Genesis 11. The construction project to build a tower in the plains of Shinar may not seem terribly wicked to us, but Yahweh recognized it for what it was: outright rebellion against his reign and rule (Gen. 11:6). At Babel, humanity sank so far into sin, rebellion, and wickedness that they attempted to raise themselves up to heaven to confront God there. They believed that if they could only build a tall enough tower, they could challenge God. This was more than simply transgressing God’s boundaries, as Adam and Eve did in the garden of Eden. At Babel, men and women created in the image of God sought to overthrow God altogether. As the fruit of their evil, Yahweh confused their language and scattered them across the face of the earth (Gen. 11:7–9).
How could the story of human history possibly overcome such a setback? God was justified to confuse their language and scatter them abroad, but he would also be justified to destroy the human race altogether. Does God intend to start over, or perhaps to abandon his work in creation forever? While Yahweh will no longer relate to the whole world in a general way, he will not forsake the world altogether. Rather, Yahweh chooses to raise up one man, Abram, through whom he will bless all the families of the earth. As we will see, Yahweh does not instruct Abram to build a taller worldly tower. Instead, Yahweh tells Abram simply to believe his heavenly word.
Now, as we have seen in the first eleven chapters of the book of Genesis, there will be much to do to unwind the tangled cords of sin that have gripped God’s creation. If we were in charge of planning this work of redemption, we would probably send Abram with blueprints for how to build a better, taller tower in the world. Whether that tower consisted of bricks and mortar, a program for social reform, or a path to personal enlightenment, we expect to see Abram teaching worldly solutions to solve the world’s problems. For this reason, Yahweh’s actual plan for redeeming the world will seem counter-intuitive and paradoxical to our minds: In order to bless the world, God calls his people out of the world.
1. What is in your past? What does your family history look like? What kind of upbringing, education, and experiences make up who you are to this day? What parts of your past are good? How might God call you to die to those things? What parts of your past are not so good? How does God’s demonstrate his glory in calling you out of those things?
2. What parts of your life do you cling most closely to in life? What is the hardest to hold loosely, with an open hand, as you seek to obey God? As you wrestle with what it means for us to be a pilgrim people in this world, what good things might you need to sacrifice as you follow God’s call on your life?
3. How has God blessed you? Try to list out as many blessings as you can. How thankful are you for those blessings? Do you find yourself taking them for granted, believing that you own them or deserve them in a way that you do not? Why has God chosen to bless you, while passing over others? Meditate and reflect on Romans 2:4.
4. What fruit does God seek from blessing you? In other words, what are those blessings for? Think back through the list of blessings you brainstormed in the last question. How might God seek to use those blessings for the sake of your family, your neighbors, your church, and the wider world? What practical step can you take today to use God’s blessings in your life for the blessing of other people?