hello, hello, is there anybody out there

February 9, 2017

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HELLO, HELLO, is there anybody out there?


Genesis 11:1-32

11:1 Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. 2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there. 3 Then they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. 4 And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”

5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. 6 And the Lord said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. 7 Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city. 9 Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.

10 This is the genealogy of Shem: Shem was one hundred years old, and begot Arphaxad two years after the flood. 11 After he begot Arphaxad, Shem lived five hundred years, and begot sons and daughters.

12 Arphaxad lived thirty-five years, and begot Salah. 13 After he begot Salah, Arphaxad lived four hundred and three years, and begot sons and daughters.

14 Salah lived thirty years, and begot Eber. 15 After he begot Eber, Salah lived four hundred and three years, and begot sons and daughters.

16 Eber lived thirty-four years, and begot Peleg. 17 After he begot Peleg, Eber lived four hundred and thirty years, and begot sons and daughters.

18 Peleg lived thirty years, and begot Reu. 19 After he begot Reu, Peleg lived two hundred and nine years, and begot sons and daughters.

20 Reu lived thirty-two years, and begot Serug. 21 After he begot Serug, Reu lived two hundred and seven years, and begot sons and daughters.

22 Serug lived thirty years, and begot Nahor. 23 After he begot Nahor, Serug lived two hundred years, and begot sons and daughters.

24 Nahor lived twenty-nine years, and begot Terah. 25 After he begot Terah, Nahor lived one hundred and nineteen years, and begot sons and daughters.

26 Now Terah lived seventy years, and begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran.

27 This is the genealogy of Terah: Terah begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran. Haran begot Lot. 28 And Haran died before his father Terah in his native land, in Ur of the Chaldeans. 29 Then Abram and Nahor took wives: the name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran the father of Milcah and the father of Iscah. 30 But Sarai was barren; she had no child.

31 And Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot, the son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they went out with them from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan; and they came to Haran and dwelt there. 32 So the days of Terah were two hundred and five years, and Terah died in Haran.

—Genesis 11:1-32

We have now arrived at the conclusion of primeval history and the beginning of patriarchal history. Abram, a man revered by no less than three of the world’s major religions—Judaism, Islam, and Christianity—now steps into the limelight. As is customary in Genesis there is a detailed, but incomplete, genealogy showing the thread of God’s working toward the resolution of His plan for mankind. Abram’s wife, Sarai, his father, Terah, and his nephew Lot are all introduced and will figure in the story. The crucial statement is that all these people, “went out with them from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan” (Gen. 11:31). Why they left and what they left need to be understood.

The Call

The reason for this move is given simply as, “Now the Lord had said to Abram: ‘Get out from your country'” (Gen. 12:1). It is not clear how the call came to Terah and Abram, or at what specific point in time they were told the details of God’s requirements. But we know they were called and we know they went! As the details of the call become more clear we note that God called Abram, the son, rather than Terah, the father. God determined that His purposes would be fulfilled through Sarai who was barren rather than Milcah who was not. Those who struggle with God’s calling of certain people to do certain things should remember that ultimately everything is dependent on God’s sovereign initiative. He chose creation over chaos. He decided to make men, not machines. It was His decision to establish a system of divine-human partnership rather than divine dictatorship. Sometimes we feel that we can understand His choice, while other times it is not so obvious. Terah may have been passed over because he apparently did not have his son’s persistence in that he never arrived in Canaan, choosing rather to spend sixty years in Haran until his death. Milcah certainly would not have had the problems Sarai experienced in having a son, but neither would God’s power have been displayed so dramatically as it was in the birth of Isaac.

Ur was a well-developed city with approximately 250,000 inhabitants when Abram lived there. Their houses, which were built around pleasant courtyards, had two or three stories. Educationally the people were well advanced—they understood mathematics to the extent that they could calculate square and cube roots and figure out geometric problems. Unlike many modern students they could do all this without calculators! The famous ziggurat was a monolithic structure which incorporated much of the amazing architectural sophistication of the better known, but much later, Parthenon in Athens; and the thousands of clay tablets which have been unearthed give fascinating details of the well-developed cultural, business, and legal aspects of life in Ur. We know that Terah, Abram’s father, “served other Gods” (Josh. 24:2), and the moon God, Nanna, for whom the ziggurat was built, was the main deity. The new moon was believed to be the crescent-shaped boat in which Nanna sailed through the heavens. Royal tombs in the city have shown that it was customary for large numbers of courtiers to be buried with their king along with all manner of musical instruments and jewelry which were designed to enhance life in the hereafter. The people had religion, but it was far removed from that which Yahweh would reveal to His chosen vessel, Abram.

The Choice

The call of God invariably leaves the recipient with the necessity of choice. Abram’s choice was between Ur and its refinements and Canaan with its much more primitive culture. It was a choice between an invisible God and one who graciously appeared on a monthly basis in splendid procession through the heavens, and it was a choice between the familiar and that which was unknown.

But behind these factors were two fundamental choices: To obey or to disobey; to trust or to distrust.

The Conclusion

In matters of faith and obedience nothing has changed since Abram’s day. God still uses people. He still calls individuals. He still expects reverential trust and filial obedience. And He still unfolds His plans for His people in ways which leave them “lost in wonder, love, and praise.”




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