Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. (Genesis 12:1-3, K.J.V.)
Did you know that a clock that is just five minutes off is more dangerous than a clock that is five hours off? If a clock is five hours off, anyone can see that it is obviously wrong and ignore it. But if a clock is just five minutes off, it can fool anybody. That kind of a clock can cause you to be late for work. It can cause you to miss a flight or an appointment. Well, along the same lines, one of the most dangerous alternatives to the will of God is the one that is off by just five minutes. It is often no more than you stopping short of doing ALL that God wants you to do.
The Bible character “Abraham” is legendary around the world, but he actually began his life as “Abram.” He and his family lived in Ur of the Chaldeans, the Chaldeans being people who lived in the country that would become historically known as Babylon. As a matter of fact, Ur was in the same general area as Genesis chapter 11’s infamous city of Babel.
Reaching far back into human history, that entire region was a popular place for people to settle. What made it so appealing was the fact that two great rivers (the Tigris and the Euphrates) flowed through there. As evidence of this, Acts 7:2 says that Abram lived in Mesopotamia. The name “Mesopotamia” means “between the two rivers.” Today we know that land as Iraq, and the Tigris and the Euphrates both empty into what is now called the Persian Gulf.
The Ur of Abram’s day was a wealthy and populous city. That was the good news. The bad news was that it was also a center of idol worship. Does it surprise you to learn that Abram and his family were a family of idolaters? Joshua 24:2 says:
And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘Your fathers, including Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, dwelt on the other side of the river (the Euphrates) in old times; and they served other gods. (N.K.J.V.)
What seems strange about this family’s idolatry is the fact that the genealogy of Genesis chapter 11 starts at Noah’s son Shem and ends at Abram. In other words, Abram could trace not only his genetic lineage but also his spiritual lineage back to Noah and Noah’s godly son Shem. How then did the servitude of other gods get into the lives of Shem’s descendants, people such as Abram’s family? The best explanation I can offer is that somewhere along the line the members of that family fell in love with the ways of those who worshiped false gods. It probably began with a family member before Abram’s father Terah, but that Joshua 24:2 verse does explicitly state that Terah served other gods.
Okay, so why I am I mentioning all of this? I’m mentioning it because it’s important for us to understand Abram’s background. When we understand his background, we can better understand why God asked him to do what He asked him to do. And what was that? God asked him to leave his family behind in Ur and travel to a land that God would show him. You see, on the surface, such a command might seem harsh in light of family love. The command makes more sense, though, when we take into account the idolatry of Abram’s family. Obviously, God wanted Abram to break his ties with idolatry, and that meant breaking his ties with his family. As Acts 7:2-3 says concerning Stephen
And he said, “Brethren and fathers, listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, and said to him, ‘Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you.’ (N.K.J.V.)
Unfortunately, however, Abram stopped short of fully obeying God’s command. In regards to the Biblical account, the problem crops up in Genesis 11:31. As you read that verse, see if you can spot the mistake Abram made:
And Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot, the son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they went out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan… (N.K.J.V.)
The problem was that Abram took his dad (Terah) and his nephew (Lot) along with him when he and his wife (Sarai) pulled up stakes from Ur to head out for the land (Canaan) that God would show him. Remember what God specifically told Abram: “Get out of your country, from your family, and from your father’s house.” But when it came time for the big move, Abram took Terah and Lot along with him. Even worse, the way Genesis 11:31 is worded, Terah, not Abram, was the ramrod behind the whole operation. The verse doesn’t say that Abram took his dad, his nephew, and his wife. Instead, it says that Terah took his son, his grandson, and his daughter-in-law! Do you see the difference? As for no mention being made of Terah’s wife, evidently he was a widower.
In closing, let me say that there is nothing automatically wrong with being tight with the members of your family. There isn’t even anything wrong with living in close proximity to them. But there is plenty wrong when you put your relationship with them ahead of your relationship with God, and there is plenty wrong when you take what you know to be the will of God and filter it through their opinions. Can it be difficult to go against your family, especially when it comes to life-altering decisions? Definitely. But if the alternative is missing God’s will, even by just five minutes, it’s much better to cross your family than cross Him.