CALLED THE SECOND TIME AT HARAN AFTER HIS FATHER’S DEATH
Christians are used to exalting Abraham. He is considered as being very high. But Abraham was not that high; he was as low as we are. When God came to Abraham, he lacked the boldness to take action. His father finally acted, taking the family to Haran where they dwelt until the father died (11:32). Then God appeared to Abraham and called him again (11:32—12:3; Acts 7:4b). Abraham’s delay in answering God’s calling caused two deaths, the death of his brother at Ur and the death of his father at Haran. Abraham took two steps, and each step was caused by the death of a close relative.
In His second calling God added another item, telling Abraham not only to come out of his country and his kindred but also out of his father’s house (12:1). This means that he was only allowed to bring his wife with him, not any member of his father’s house. God’s calling was more severe the second time than it was the first time. If you look into the meaning of all the names, you will see that, apart from the name Abram, which means an exalted father, the only other name with a positive meaning is Sarai, which means my princess. The exalted father was the husband, and the princess was the wife. At Haran God called only these two. But again Abraham dragged his feet through the mud, for he took his nephew Lot with him.
In the second calling God was not only more severe, but He also gave Abraham the promise of the gospel as an incentive to encourage him to answer His calling (12:2-3). He received a more severe calling but with a great incentive.
OBEYING GOD’S CALLING IN A DRAGGING WAY
This time Abraham obeyed God’s calling, but he did not do so in a clean-cut way. He was still dragging along. We know this because he did not only take his wife Sarai with him but also his nephew Lot (12:4). Lot was a member of his father’s family. Did not Abraham hear when God told him to get out of his father’s house? Why then did he bring with him a member of his father’s house? I believe that I can tell you the reason. At that time Abraham was quite old. He was seventy-five years of age. Although he was seventy-five years old, he still did not have a son of his own. For such a long journey he surely needed a young man to help him. That was his excuse. Abraham might have said, “God called me, but should I leave my nephew? Should I not love him?” Humanly speaking, everyone would say that Abraham was right in bringing Lot.
What is the meaning of the name Lot? It means a veil, a wrapping. Your dear relatives, whom you love so much and whom you would take with you in answering God’s calling, are always veils to you. Look at your situation. Many of us have answered God’s calling in a way of taking a veil along with us. Lot did not help Abraham at all. Rather, he caused trouble. When we come to Genesis 13, we shall see that Lot caused a great deal of trouble to Abraham and that eventually he had to leave Abraham. If you examine your own situation you will see that probably it was exactly the same as Abraham’s.
In the gospel preaching today people are mostly told that if they believe in the Lord Jesus, they will be saved from hell and will go to heaven one day. This is true, but it is shallow. From God’s point of view, to be saved is to be called. God is not concerned about hell but about your country, your kindred, and your father’s house. God is concerned about your environment, surroundings, and background. To be saved means to be called out of your background, to be called out of your present surroundings, environment, and situation. To be saved is not merely a matter of having your sins forgiven, of being rescued from hell, and of being qualified to go to heaven. To be saved means to be called out of your background and environment.
To be saved is also to take a journey, to walk along the way, and to run the race. Pilgrim’s Progress, a very famous book written by John Bunyan, stresses the one point that salvation is a journey. To be saved is to be called and to be on a journey. People talk much about justification by faith, using Abraham as the example. But before Abraham was justified, he took a journey. His justification transpired in Genesis 15:6. Before Genesis 15, however, we have at least three chapters telling us that this justified one was on a journey.
I hope that all the young people will see this. The place where the young people are today is worse than Chaldea. But praise the Lord, your Ur is brighter and has more light. Today God’s calling to the young people is clearer and stronger than it was to Abraham. Young people, you must get out of the land, out of the people, and away from your relatives. To be saved is to be on a journey to reach God’s purpose. God came in to call Abraham with a purpose. If you are called by God according to His purpose, your salvation is guaranteed by that calling. You do not need to be concerned about your salvation. If you take care of God’s purpose, He will certainly take care of your salvation.
To be saved is to be called to fulfill God’s purpose. When God came in to call Abraham, it was not for the purpose that Abraham be saved from hell or filled with joy; it was for the purpose of fulfilling God’s plan. God called Abraham for the fulfillment of His purpose. We all must hear this calling.
God has a plan and a purpose. He has a good land that we may enter into. Abraham went into the good land of Canaan (12:4-5). Our good land today is Christ, the church, and the kingdom. Consider the case of Saul of Tarsus who boldly persecuted the church. In the eyes of God, while Saul was persecuting the church, he was living in “Chaldea.” On the road to Damascus, the Lord appeared to him, shined upon him, and called him, and Saul’s Chaldea became “Ur,” the place of light. The Lord did not call him in order to save him from hell to heaven, or even to justify him. Although these are included in the Lord’s calling, the Lord called him out of a Judaistic Chaldea. The Lord called Saul out of that religion in order that he might enter into Christ, God’s new covenant economy, the church, and the kingdom. And Paul did get into Christ, into the New Testament economy, into the church, and into God’s kingdom.
If we answer God’s calling, taking care of His purpose that we enter into Christ, the New Testament economy, the church, and the kingdom, He will not allow us to go to hell. Do not be concerned about hell, and do not consider that much about heaven. We have something better than heaven. Is not Christ better than heaven? Is not God’s economy, the dispensation of the Triune God into man, much better than heaven? Is not the church better than heaven? Heaven is going to be shaken. Hebrews 12:26 says that God is going to shake not only the earth but also heaven. Only God Himself is unshakable. We have received an unshakable kingdom, which is Christ with the church. Do not appreciate heaven so much. In the last two chapters of the Bible we see that the New Jerusalem will descend out of heaven. God is going to leave heaven and dwell in the New Jerusalem, which is the consummation of the church, for eternity.
We all must see that to be saved means to be called to fulfill God’s purpose. To be saved is to be delivered out of many negative situations so that we may come into God’s goal. Many Christians have been saved, but they have never come into God’s goal. God’s goal firstly is Christ. We are in Christ. We are in the enjoyment of Christ. This is God’s good land. Secondly, God’s goal is the church. Years ago I did not realize that, in a sense, the church is also the good land of Canaan. Furthermore, God’s New Testament economy, the kingdom, and the Sabbath rest, are all the good land to us today. Are you in the good land of Canaan? If you are, it means that you are in Christ, in the riches and the enjoyment of Christ. It also means that you are in God’s new covenant dispensation and in the church life. Many of us were saved for many years before we crossed the river. We were neither in God’s economy nor in the church. Moreover, we were not in God’s kingdom. Some of us had the concept that the kingdom had been suspended and that the millennial kingdom would come in the future, but we never entered into the reality of the kingdom life today.
Although according to what is portrayed in Genesis 12 Abraham was dragging along, Hebrews 11:8 tells us that he obeyed God’s calling by faith and went out without knowing where he was going. In His calling, God told him definitely what he had to leave, but God did not tell him clearly where he had to go. Abraham obeyed God’s calling and went out by faith. This was great. On the one hand, he was dragging along; on the other hand, he took a great step by faith. His not knowing where to go caused him to trust in God and to look unto the Lord all the time. We may say that the living God was a road map to him for his traveling.
(Abraham—Called by God, Chapter 4, by Witness Lee)