GOD’S TWO CALLINGS OF ABRAHAM
Now we will consider how Abraham was called to follow God. In reading Joshua 24, we find that Abraham was born into a family that served idols. Therefore, it is interesting to note that God’s work of recovery began from Abraham. God purposely chose such a person. This shows us that "it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy" (Rom. 9:16). Abraham could never have thought that God would call him. He had nothing to boast of in himself. He was an ordinary man who was no different from anyone else. It was not Abraham who made himself different from others; it was God who made him different. God called him and made him different. Hence, we have to know God’s sovereignty. If God wants to do something, He will do it. Abraham was the same as anyone else. There was no reason for God to choose him, yet God chose him. The first lesson Abraham had to learn was to know that God is the One who initiates everything. God called Abraham twice. Let us consider how God called Abraham the first time, and how he answered God’s calling.
The First Calling in Ur
The first calling was in Mesopotamia, in Ur of Chaldea. Stephen said, "The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran" (Acts 7:2). From this we see that God called Abraham before he left Ur. The very God of glory appeared to Abraham and called him out of his country, his kindred, and his father’s house, unto the land that God would show him. Did Abraham believe? Hebrews 11 tells us that Abraham believed. Indeed, once a man sees God’s glory, there is no way for him not to believe. Abraham was an ordinary man, the same as we. He believed because the God of glory appeared to him. God was the reason and the cause of him becoming a believer. It was God who initiated, and it was God who caused him to believe.
Was Abraham’s faith great from the beginning? No. What did he do after he heard God’s call? "And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his son’s son, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there" (Gen. 11:31). Acts 7:2 says that Abraham heard the call in Mesopotamia. Hebrews 11:8 says that Abraham had also believed. The incident in Genesis 11:31 came after the one in Acts 7:2 and Hebrews 11:8. We should take note of the word here: "And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his son’s son, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees." This was the first expression of Abraham’s faith. He was not much better than we. God told him to leave his country. Did he leave? Yes, he left, but God said that he should also leave his kindred. Did he do this? He only did half of it; Lot still followed him. God said that he should leave his father’s house, but he took his father’s house with him. Abraham’s leaving was not his own decision, but the decision of his father—"And Terah took Abram his son." We do not know why Terah was willing to go. Perhaps Abraham told his father, "God called me. I have to go." Perhaps Terah went along because of his love for his son. We cannot say with certainty that this was the case. But we can say that the one who did not receive the calling became the initiating party, while the one who received the calling became the follower! Perhaps some would say, "Isn’t it better that the whole household was saved?" We admit that it was a good thing for the whole household to be saved. However, Abraham’s calling was not a matter of salvation but a matter of ministry. The calling of Noah to enter the ark was a matter of salvation, but the calling of Abraham to enter Canaan was a matter of ministry. It was a matter of the accomplishment of God’s plan. This is the difference between Abraham and Noah. It was right for Noah to bring his whole family into the ark, but it was wrong for Abraham to bring his father’s house into Canaan. If there are some in our household who are not saved, it is right to bring them to salvation. But if God has called us to be His minister and His vessel, we cannot bring along those who do not have the calling.
Abraham’s beginning was very ordinary. He was called, and he believed. But he did not believe in an exceptional way; he merely believed. He wanted to go along, but he did not fully oblige. He wanted to obey, and he felt uneasy not obeying. He wanted to leave, but he did not leave in a clear way. He was not much different from us. Therefore, none of us should be discouraged, and no one should think that he is through or hopeless. We have to know that our hope rests in God.
What happened after Abraham followed his father and left? They stopped halfway. God wanted him to go to Canaan, but he stopped in Haran and dwelt there. He did not realize that God had to do a thorough work in him before he could become His vessel. He was not clear about God’s commission and ministry for him. He still did not understand why he had to pay such a great price. This is also true of us. Because we do not know God’s mind, we ask, "Why does God treat me this way? Why doesn’t He treat me like He treated Noah? Noah could be together with his whole family, yet I have to leave my father’s house!" We have to remember that a cheap vessel comes with a cheap price, while an expensive vessel comes with an expensive price. God wanted Abraham to be a vessel of honor, so His demands on him were greater than on others. We must never misunderstand God’s way in dealing with us. We do not know how God will use us. All of our experiences are for our future service. We should never say, "Others can do this and that. Why can’t I do the same?" We have to remember that God trains every person in a special way because He wants to use that person in a special way. Our special usefulness comes from our special training. Therefore, we should not be discontent or disobedient. It is most foolish to resist God’s hand or to ask why God does this and that.
God’s work on Abraham shows His intention with Abraham, yet Abraham did not understand. He did not know why God wanted him to leave his country, his kindred, and his father’s house. He only went a short distance from his country. He wanted to leave his kindred, but still brought Lot with him. He wanted to leave his father’s house, but it was too difficult for him, and he ended up taking it along with him. He did not see his ministry and did not know what God was doing. As a result, his days in Haran were wasted days, delayed days, and useless days.
Later his father died. But he was still unwilling to give up his nephew; he brought Lot with him. Terah was only a hindrance to Abraham while he was alive, but Lot became a burden to God’s people even after his death. Because of Lot’s actions, two sons were produced. One was Moab, the father of the Moabites; the other was Ben-ammi, the father of the Ammonites. Both the Moabites and the Ammonites eventually became problems to the Israelites.
(The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Chapter 2, by Watchman Nee)