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Bible study

Genesis 11:31 – Unfinished

Genesis 11:31 – Terah took Abram his son and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife, and they went forth together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan, but when they came to Haran, they settled there.

What is this text saying?

Abraham (formerly Abram) is known to be the father of the Israelite people, having been called by God to leave the land of his fathers and go to Canaan, the land of promise, and become a great nation.  But this text indicates Abram was not the first to receive this call.  Abram’s father Terah had set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to Canaan years earlier but never completed the journey.  Verse 32 tells us that Terah died in Haran.

Why is it important?

The example of Terah and Abram highlights the fact that God’s anointing and blessings are conditional on our obedience.  Terah could have been the father of promise that Abram/Abraham became, but something caused him to stop short of the goal God had set before him.  Other examples of this principle include:

  • Saul:  God was prepared to establish his kingdom over Israel in perpetuity, but because of his disobedience his whole family was wiped out and replaced with the line of King David (1 Samuel 13:13-14).
  • The first generation of Israel freed during the Exodus:  This generation could have possessed the promised land, but because of their faithlessness they died out in the wilderness and their children went on to conquer and possess what had been promised to them (Numbers 14:26-35; 26:63-65).

How can I apply this?

Recognize that when God promises something to you, when or if you receive it will depend on your obedience to His instruction.  Deuteronomy 28:2 makes the amazing promise that “all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you,” but adds this condition: “if you obey the voice of the LORD your God”.  The reason for this should be clear.  Following God is filled with challenges; challenges that cannot be overcome without reliance on Him.  And to rely on God one must be able to obey His instructions.

Also know that God will accomplish His purposes one way or another.  Abram was willing to do what Terah did not (as David was willing to do what Saul did not).  Do you want to be an instrument of God’s will or an obstacle to His will?  This is a choice—in truth, THE choice—we each must make.

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