Wouldn’t it be great to be called by God to an important task? Wouldn’t it be exciting to know that the God who created the universe, the God over all gods, the Lord of all lords, was speaking to you, directing you, employing you for some great purpose?
That is what happened to Abram. God spoke to him, and Abram heard. He understood he was being called to something really big, something with life-changing potential, not just for Abram, but for everyone. That would be wonderful.
Or would it? You see, God does not call people to comfort or ease. When he calls a person, it always means change and challenge and sacrifice. Too many religious teachers present God as a means to an end: come to God and have the life you’ve always wanted, a self-fulfilling, comfortable, interesting life.
But nowhere in the Bible do we find God calling people by saying, “I have a no-hassle life-plan for self-fulfillment, and it has your name on it. All I ask is that you do me the honor of signing up.” God’s call stretches people. Moses was called to free a nation from tyranny. Gideon was called to fight against impossible odds. The disciples were called to self-denial. The call of Paul was to suffer for the name of Christ. Do you really think our call will be to a cushy job, a comfortable home and a leisurely retirement?
God’s call to Abram was to leave his country, his people and his father’s household. Imagine packing up everything you can carry and moving to another country – say Canada – with no particular destination in mind, without a cell phone, email, or a mailing address. Leaving home, family, friends – you will never see them again; leaving restaurants, mechanics, barbers, grocery stores. To answer God’s call meant that Abram would have to give up his identity (his name would mean nothing where he was going), give up his citizenship, his security and his autonomy.
This verse hits the first note of a theme will repeat throughout this long story: The theme of give, and you will receive; lose and you will find; surrender, and you will conquer. Leave land and I will give you your own land. Leave kin, and I will make you the father of nations. Leave family and I will give you offspring as numerous as the sand on the seashore.
This theme cuts across the modern notion that you can know God without making sacrifices. Perhaps Abram could have said no, could have stayed in Ur or in Haran and been comfortable (at least some for a while). But he would not have known God. You don’t get to know God in your easy chair; you get to know him on the road of obedience.
If that sounds like knowing God is one, long, uncompensated drudgery, I can promise you it is not so. Doing what God calls you to do is not only the fastest way, but also the only way, to live the life you were meant to live, to be the person you want to be. By heeding God’s call, Abram becomes Abraham. He is a new person, God’s person and so, for the first time, his own person.