Abram’s Altars

Genesis 11 makes the first mention of Abram (Abraham), a man revered in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. His father, Terah, gathered the family and relocated to Haran before expiring at the age of 205. Abram received direction from the Lord to leave his familiar surroundings and his relatives to journey to an undisclosed location.

Abram went forth as the Lord had spoken to him. Obedience and faith walk hand in hand. Hebrews 11, a roster of characters that lived out their faith, says this about Abram:

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. Hebrews 11:8 NIV

Abram entered the land of Canaan and passed as far as Shechem where God appeared to him with a profound message, “Abram, I will give this land to your descendants.” God’s message staggered Abram’s imagination for Sarai (Sarah), his wife, was barren and had no child (Genesis 11:30). Yet God promised descendants and a possession for those descendants.

How does one respond to God? Abram built an altar and worshipped.

Abram continued his journey and moved on to Bethel where he called on the name of the Lord and built another altar.

Circumstances changed. Abram journeyed south as a severe famine overtook the land. Economic downturns, downsizings, and financial setbacks are gut-wrenching, but facing those monsters on an empty stomach amplifies their disruptive powers.

Abram must have heard rumors that food could be found in Egypt so he headed in that direction. Scripture offers no indication that Abram consulted God in this choice. The man pursued a solution which seemed logical. Why bother God with something so obvious?

Abram’s fear overwhelmed him. He worried about beautiful Sarai, afraid the Egyptians might kill him and take her. So he concocted a half-truth story. Abram resorted to lying and deceit for protection rather than building an altar and calling on the name of the Lord.

Sarai was taken into Pharaoh’s house. The king claimed the privilege of taking to his harem a woman whose form and face pleased him. Pharaoh treated Abram well and compensated him in exchange for Sarai. Abram grew richer in material goods, but the hollowness in his soul waxed stronger.

God stepped in and grabbed Pharaoh’s attention. Abram’s deception was aired for all to know. Publicly disgraced, he was asked to leave Egypt. He loaded his caravan and returned to Bethel.

From the Negev he went from place to place until he came to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier and where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the name of the Lord. Genesis 13:3-4 NIV

In that place Abram once again consulted God. Confession and repentance are necessary to restore fellowship with God. But the consequences of the choices made apart from God remain. Abram brought back from Egypt a handmaiden named Hagar to wait on his wife. Hagar would figure prominently into Abram’s story and in the course of history.

How far do I wander before I realize I’m operating with limited wisdom and leaving God out of my planning? I may think I know best and bask in the assurance that my solution is logical, yet what if God has something else planned for me? What blessings will I miss and what consequences will I bring into my life if I refuse to seek Him first?

Turning around, retracing my steps, and returning to the place I parted ways with God is the solution.

Just ask Abram.

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