The flood, to Noah and his sons and their wives, was clear evidence of the invisible “Presence of God” and invisible “Power of God,” whose Spirit does not trifle with man’s ill behavior. For, God was the “One” who blessed man with goodness. And God punishes man for being evil (Genesis 6:3). That concept of God, doing both: “to bless and to curse” would become the norm for the people who believed in Yahweh Elohim, the God of the Jews, and also their cousins, the Christians and the Muslims (Deuteronomy 27-28). Jesus, Himself, began His “Sermon on the Mount” with blessings (Matthew 5:1-12). Noah still built an altar where his spirit reached out to God’s Spirit (Genesis 8:22). The next man who reached out to God was Abram. He also built an altar to God. Abram had some kind of a relationship with God based on what God could do for Abram (Genesis 12:8-9). Noah’s hope was that his oldest son Shem would be the one who would allow God communicate with him. However, Noah’s curse on his grandson Canaan, became the blessing for mankind. So, when Abraham came to Canaan, he found himself surrounded by people who were the descendants of the man Noah had cursed. The Canaanites were aware of the Creator God, in additions to their families and their local gods. For our benefit, the writer of Genesis provided us with the crucial reports how Noah partnered with God, and so did Abram when he saved Lot and his friends from their enemies, who had taken them captive. Abram did love his neighbors by protecting them.
Noah was the first tiller of the soil. He planted a vineyard; and he drank of the wine, and became drunk, and lay uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it upon both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father; their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father’s nakedness. When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, he said, “Cursed be Canaan; a slave of slaves shall be to his brothers.” He also said, “Blessed by the LORD my God be Shem; and let Canaan be his slave. God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem; and let Canaan be his slave” (Genesis 9:20-27).
After Abram returned from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings which were with him (who had taken Lot and other kings to be captives), the king of Sodom went to meet him (Abram) at the valley Shaveh (that is, King’s Valley). And Mel-chizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, maker of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!”
And Abram gave him a tenth of everything. And the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the persons, but take the goods for yourself.” But Abram said to the king of Somem, “I have sworn to the LORD God Most High, maker of heaven and earth, that I would not take a thread or a sandal-thong or anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’ I will take nothing but what the young men have eaten, and the share of the men who went with me; let Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre take their share.”
After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” But Abram said, “O LORD, GOD, what wilt thou give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “Behold, thou hast given me no offspring, and a slave born in my house will be my heir.” And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, “This man shall not be your heir; your own son shall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” And he believed the LORD; and he reckoned it to him as righteousness (Genesis 14-17-15:6).
Before Abraham Man’s Concept of God’s Involvement in the World began to Change
Noah believed and he predicted that Shem, his oldest son, would become the godly line and prosper in the world. Abram was a descendant of Shem and because of Christ more than half of the world’s populations has Yahweh’s blessings. But, for Shem’s offspring to succeed, required servants. Noah believed that his second son Ham and his descendants would become the servants. Ham was the unfortunate son who stumbled on his drunken naked father, and the father cursed Ham’s son Canaan to become the slave to Shem. Yet, Ham’s son Cush fathered Nimrod whom God had endowed with great skills to hunt and to build cities, nations, and even the tower of Babel. Heroism, material wealth, and reputation became the trademarks of God’s blessings and involvement in man. Canaan’s children did built a land filled with milk and honey, which Abraham’s seed would one day possess. It was in Canaan where Abraham met Melchizedek, a priest of God Most High. The Hebrew writers were not anxious to acknowledge the idea that the Canaanites influenced Abraham’s belief of one superior God. Nevertheless, Abram bowed to Melchizedek and out of gratitude Abram gave him a tent. Abram also found that the Canaanites and the Egyptians were God fearing people. Ham’s descendants prepared the way for Abrams’ seed, in Canaan and in Egypt. These people were aware of a “Being” who was more powerful than their own gods. In the third generation from Abraham, Pharaoh recognized the Spirit of God in Abraham’s great grandson Joseph (Genesis 41:38).
After Noah, God Chose Abrahan to Build a Nation with God in Charge
Abram came from a polytheistic people who worshipped idols. Terah, Abram’s father, was first to dream about Canaan, a land of milk and honey. Terah’s son Abram heard God in a dream; and therefore, he made the journey to Canaan. Abram was surprisingly well received with his peaceful attitude, his man power, and for his wealth. The Canaanites soon recognized that Abram was not to be regarded as a hostile, but as a friend. The Canaanite kings appreciated Abram even more when he freed his nephew Lot and several of their kings who were carried off as captives by invaders. Also, Abram’s herds provided substance for the natives. Then, only Lot showed interest in a city, but not Abram. Abram’s interest mainly was for more land for his herds, and he believed that God could give it to him. And God did show Abram a vision when his offspring would have a chance to inhabit the area from Egypt to the Euphrates. However, God had other plans for Abram. Yet, Abraham’s descendants were not ready and not strong enough to manage and survive in Canaan. Abram had to learn that God was just not there to hand out favors without some valuable service which Abram could render, and God could accept. Interpreters have done great harm to believer when they declared that “faith without deeds” was sufficient to please God. It was not Abram’s faith that made him righteous, but it was what Abram did that pleased God; namely, Abram obeyed God. Obedience made Abram do what was right (Genesis 15:6; James 2:14-26). Then, it also would take time for Abram to learn how to trust God.
Abram’s Partnership with God Rested on Mere Faith
Abram, literally, bargained with God. Both, God and Abram, had to convince each other. According to James, they were like friends to each other (James 2:23b). They began a time consuming relationship that would impact humanity into eternity.
God had conditions and so did Abram. It was God who began the dialogue with Abram by offering him to make him into a big nation in a land of plenty. Abram’s nation would become the envy of the world. Abram obeyed, arrived in Canaan, he built an altar, and he acknowledge his faith in the Lord God:
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from you country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who curses you I will curse; and by you all the families of the earth will bless themselves.”
So Abram went, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions which they had gathered, and the persons that they had gotten in Hara; and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan. When they had come to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the LORD appeared to Abram, and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him. Thence he removed to the mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD. And Abram journeyed on, still going toward Negeb (Genesis 12:1-9).
Canaan was yet to be Prepared for Abram
The land of Canaan must have been more than a surprise for Abram. It could not even feed his huge herds. Therefore, to save his animals, he had to go to Egypt. In Egypt, Abram nearly lost his wife to Pharaoh; and therefore, he was cordially evicted. Back in Canaan, Abram had to save Lot and the friendly kings who became hostages to their enemies. Melchizedek, priest of the Most High God, blessed Abram and his High God for being their deliverer. Abram had to bring stability to Canaan so the country could grow up and prosper, long before Abram’s seed could settle. It all appeared hopeless because he had no children of his own. Abram dared to blame God for not giving him an heir. And God had to reassure Abram with another convincing vision.
After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” But Abram said, “O LORD GOD, what wilt thou give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “Behold, thou hast given me no offspring; and a slave born in my house will be my heir.” And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, “This man shall not be your heir; your own son shall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” And he believed the LORD; and he reckoned it to him as righteousness.
And he said to him, “I am the LORD who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess.” But he said, O LORD God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a she-goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” And he brought him all these, cut them in two, and laid each half over against the other; but he did not cut the bird in two. And when birds of prey came down upon the carcasses, Abram drove them away.
As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram; and lo, a dread and great darkness fell upon him. Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know of a surety that your descendants will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs, and will be slaves there, and they will be oppressed for four hundred years; but I will bring judgment on the nation which they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for yourself, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. And they shall come back here in the fourth generation; for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”
When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, the land of Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites” (Genesis 15:1-21).
Abram was a Wealthy Nomad King
For a long time, I was led to believe that Abram, who became Abraham, had a small family and a small herd of animals. Abram had a wife called Sarai, a faithful servant Eliezer, and a nephew Lot. When I began to dig a little more into Abram’s background, a different picture appeared. Abram lived at a time when the world had yet to recover, caused by the confusion and scattering of the people, which was caused by the failure to complete the tower, which would have become a super kingdom (Genesis 11:1-9). Abram’s family had great wealth consisting of herds; and also the people who served them. Ur, in Chaldea, became too small for the huge herds and Terah. So, Abram’s father moved to Haran. Haran too could not sustain their herds, so Abraham felt called to go to Canaan with Lot and his herd (Genesis 11:27-12:9). Canaan could not sustain Abram’s and Lot’s herds, and a famine drove them to Egypt where they became even richer.
The Abram, who appeared in Canaan, had at least a thousand people live off his herds. He had 318 trained fighting men, who rescued Lot, and they also defeated ten kings or more who had plagued the land. Before that encounter, Abram was in Egypt, lied about his wife being only his sister. When Pharaoh added her to his circle of women, an infliction troubled Pharaoh’s house. And Pharaoh immediately realized that Abram’s God was punishing him. The Egyptians, like the Canaanites, were descendants of Noah’s delinquent son Ham. And they believed in the God Most High. So they did not dare to touch Abram, instead they rewarded him with more wealth and animals; and they also begged him to leave their land. Abram already was very rich and Pharaoh made him even wealthy.
Now Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold. And he journeyed on from the Negeb as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel, to the place where he had made an altar at the first; and there Abram called on the name of the LORD. And Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents, so that the land could not support both of them dwelling together; for their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together, and there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s cattle and the herdsmen of Lot’s cattle. At that time the Canaanites and the Perizzites dwelt in the land (Genesis 13:2-7).
Now there was a famine in Canaan. So Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the lad. When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to Sarai his wife, “I know that you are a woman beautiful to behold; and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife’; then they will kill me, but they will let you live. Say you are my sister, that is may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared on your account.” When Abram entered Egypt the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. And when the princes of Pharaoh saw her, they praised he to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. And for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, he-asses, menservants, maidservants, she-asses, and camels.
But the LORD afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. So Pharaoh called Abram, and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife, take her, and be gone.” And Pharaoh gave men order concerning him; and they set him on the way, with his wife and all that he had (Genesis 12:10-20)
Abraham’s Faith was a Faith in the Making that has yet to be Fulfilled
There is no other person in the Bible whose faith endured without evidence, in a promise that has yet to be fulfilled. Abram would become Abraham! However, Abraham never saw what God had started with his obedience. Most human beings see some evidence in what they do with their faith, but Abram, apart from an heir, put his faith in God’s promise even at the cost of his son Isaac. How would Jesus define Abraham’s faith? Could it be said of him? “Greater love has no man than one who will give up his son in trust to God” (John 15:13).