Paul first draws attention to the fact that, when God called Abram, as he was called then, he obeyed without knowing where he was to go. His reference is to Genesis 12:1-3:
Now the Lord had said to Abram: "Get out of your country, from your family and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."
He had to leave his country, which was essentially Babylon; his family, meaning his ethnic kindred, the Semitic people; and his house, his near relatives. Verse 4 implies that he did not dilly-dally around, waiting for further or more specific directions, but that he responded quickly. It is not said how the Lord appeared to him. Perhaps He appeared to him physically, which would explain his quick departure.
Maybe God prepared him beforehand by revealing His existence to Abram, and this brought about social circumstances that added to Abram's urgency. In other words, God provided proof of His existence, which led to Abram receiving a measure of persecution in reaction to what he was learning. This is not unusual for God to do; He often provides incentive by leading a person through experiences in preparation for a more formal calling later.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Six)
We are involved in an awesome adventure, but we are blind to many particulars that will affect us. What is emphasized from Abraham's life is his trust in God. Trust is the most powerful fruit, the strongest, clearest evidence, of belief. Trust is faith in action, setting a truly converted person apart from one who believes only intellectually. The Christian must live his life by faith.
Lack of trust is a major reason why young people "go bad" in their teen years. They do not really trust their parents. Rather, they trust other teens; they trust what they see in movies extolling the popular culture; they trust what they hear songs saying to their emotions. They trust their own thoughts and their own experiences, but Mom and Dad are low on the influence scale.
Notice, however, what Jesus says of Abraham regarding this principle: "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad" (John 8:56). Abraham saw Christ as the Savior and Author of eternal salvation in his mind's eye and demonstrated his trust in this fact through his conduct. Abraham's proceeding on despite not knowing where he was going demonstrates that he put himself unreservedly in God's hands. He actually performed what he said he believed despite its potential cost. His feet, as it were, gave proof of what was in his heart by where and how he walked.
Jesus teaches this principle in Matthew 16:24-26:
Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?"
Abraham did this to a degree few have even come close to matching. To deny ourselves is to set aside our claims on the day-to-day use of our time and energy in favor of another. Often God's commands seem demanding, even severe, but accepting God's calling has placed the burden of this responsibility squarely on our shoulders.
There can be no doubt that Abraham's neighbors thought he was loopy, even as Noah's neighbors undoubtedly thought he was crazy for building an ark. People of the world cannot truly understand the actions of one who walks by faith because their perspectives on the value of things are usually quite different. If confronted with similar knowledge and circumstances without God's gracious calling and gift of faith, the unconverted will adjust through compromise and self-justification. They will rationalize that under their "special" circumstances, God would surely not expect such things of them. The world of the unconverted is governed by its limited, carnal senses and feelings, not by faith in God's character. They walk by sight.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Seven)
Abraham was drawn by faith to a land that he would afterward receive as an inheritance, the Promised Land, a type of the Kingdom of God. What if he had refused to step out?
What God has recorded of Abraham's life reveals that how he responded illustrates a path, a way of trust that will lead us to our inheritance. It is the "narrow way," the difficult way that leads to life. That way would have existed even if God had not revealed it to him, but Abraham's following that way in faith proved that his heart was one with God's. God expects us to follow the same trustful attitude that motivated Abraham's actions.
Abraham's obedient response suggests that no proud, stiff-necked rebel will be in the Kingdom of God. No one wrapped up in himself will survive this difficult path, only those who by faith are humbly submissive to God's will. In short, God's calling begins severing us from a number of important negative worldly and carnal factors. At the same time, it also attaches our loyalties, our responsibilities, and our purposes in life to God and His Kingdom.
In biblical terminology, we are transferred from death to life; from fleshly minded to spiritually minded; from Israelite or Gentile to Abraham's seed; from uncircumcised to circumcised in heart; and from the world to the Kingdom of God. It is essential that our severing from the old way be as complete and continuous as possible because, despite what happens to our heart in our attachment to God and His way, the world and carnality remain as constant threats, almost like magnets drawing us back toward them.
From this arises our need for faith to wage the Christian fight so that we do not backslide to where and what we were before. We see this in a small way from Abraham's life; his breaking away was not as smooth as it appears on the surface. Genesis 12:1 contains God's original charge: "Now the LORD had said to Abram: 'Get you out of your country, from your family and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you.'"
God was severing Abraham from his country, his kindred, and his father's house. Our severing rarely involves a physical separation from the nations of our birth, but it almost always involves a spiritual division from our natural families. Frequently, this severing causes strained family relations. It appears that it caused Abraham problems as well.
In Luke 14:26-27, Jesus admonishes all who desire baptism to consider well what He says:
If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.
As our calling begins, problems do not generally arise because the uncalled family members hate us outright. Instead, they love us in their carnal fashion, but our desire to obey God upsets their sense of family unity, loyalty, and responsibility. A related factor irritates them: They understand that we are rejecting many, if not virtually all, of the spiritual values they taught us.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Seven)
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Hebrews 11:8: