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 with them from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan; and they came to Haran and dwelt there. (Genesis 11:31, N.K.J.V.)
While Abram was living with his family in Mesopotamia (Ur), God said to him, “Get out of your country and from your relatives, and go to a land that I will show you.” Abram wasn’t even specifically told to take his wife Sarai with him, but since God isn’t in the business of breaking up marriages, her accompaniment was surely implied. Abram, however, stopped short of carrying out God’s plan.
It’s not that Abram missed God’s will completely. After all, he did take Sarai and leave Ur. The problem was that Terah (Abram’s father) and Lot (Abram’s nephew) went along on the journey. Why did Abram allow that? One possibility is that Abram enjoyed the comfort level of having his dad and nephew along for the trip. Another possibility — one that I favor as an interpretation of the events — is that Terah was something of a domineering father who wasn’t about to let Abram leave him behind in Ur while he and Sarai went off to build a new life together. As I pointed out in the previous post, the wording of Genesis 11:31 (our text verse for this post) makes Terah, rather than Abram, the driving force behind the big move.
If I am correct in the way I’m reading between the lines, there is a strong warning here that goes out to parents, particularly fathers. Parent, it isn’t your job to run your child’s life. Once your child reaches a certain age, God wants that child to get out on his/her own and become a responsible adult. He wants that child to live the life that He has planned, not the one that you have planned. We parents might not always like or agree with God’s plan for our kids, but we must faithfully turn our children over to Him.
But now let’s get back to our story and find a second instance where Abram stopped short of doing all of the will of God. Not only did he stop short of leaving his entire family behind in Ur and heading off (along with Sarai) on his own, he also stopped short of making it to Canaan, the land where God was taking him. We read about this stoppage in Genesis 11:31, the closing words of which say:
…and they came to Haran and dwelt there.
If you will look at a map, you will see that Abram and his group didn’t take a straight-line path to Canaan. Such a path would have led them through the Arabian desert. Instead, they followed the Euphrates river up around the desert. Haran was about 600 miles from Ur, which means that they traveled quite a ways toward Canaan. But Haran was still short of Canaan.
Interestingly, Haran was also the name of another one of Terah’s sons (Genesis 11:27). That son had died in Ur after having fathered Lot (Genesis 11:28). The fact that the fatherless Lot was not only Abram’s nephew but also Terah’s grandson no doubt played a major factor in him accompanying them when they left Ur. Also, the fact that Terah had given one of his sons the name of this city might suggest that Terah was originally from this city. If this was the case — and it’s certainly not a definite fact — this would help explain why Terah was so quick to settle down in Haran rather than press on toward Canaan.
As for the city of Haran, it was a very prosperous place. It was located on an important trade route between Canaan and Syria, and that prime location brought a great deal of commerce into the city. Still, though, worldly ease is no substitute for God’s will, and every day that Abram spent in Haran was another day spent short of accomplishing God’s will for his life.
The takeaway for us from this part of the story is this: Not only can family relationships cause us to stop short of doing all of God’s will, worldly ease can as well. You see, we can be quick to seek God’s will and do it without reservation when we think His will is going to get us out of an undesirable situation. But what about those times when we are quite comfortable where we are? Ah, then it gets a lot tougher to mind God fully.
To Abram’s credit, he had already left a comfortable life once when he had left Ur and headed out for an unknown land. Now, though, God wanted him to do it again by leaving Haran and continuing the journey to Canaan. So, will Abram leave the prosperity of Haran behind and resume the pursuit of His God-appointed destiny? Tune in next time to find out, as we finish up this three-post series. And until then, don’t you settle for some Ur or some Haran in your life when God has a Canaan as your destination.