Faith Moved Him to Action!
HALFWAY between the Persian Gulf and the city of Baghdad there is an unsightly pile of mud bricks. It is but a lonely sentinel keeping watch over a vast stretch of sterile desert. Pummeled by dust storms and baked by a hostile sun, the brooding ruins sit in austere silence that is broken only by the occasional howl of a nocturnal creature. This is all that remains of the once mighty city of Ur.
But go back four millenniums. There, on what was then the eastern bank of the Euphrates River, Ur is a thriving city! Gleaming whitewashed houses and shops line its winding streets. Merchants and patrons haggle over prices in the bazaars. Workers labor day and night spinning milk-white thread from billowy bundles of wool. Slaves tramp down creaking ships’ ramps, bowing under the weight of imported treasures.
All this bustle takes place in the shadow of a towering ziggurat that dominates the city’s landscape. Worshipers come to this sanctuary to render homage to a deity they believe has brought prosperity to Ur—the moon-god Nanna, or Sin.
To one man, though, the odor of sacrifices offered atop this massive pyramid is an unholy stench. His name is Abram (later Abraham). At one time, his father, Terah, may have shared in this idolatry. (Compare Joshua 24:2, 14, 15.) But now Abram has come to know the true God, Jehovah. How? Apparently through association with Shem, aged survivor of the Noachian Flood.
Abram soon shows that his faith in Jehovah is not passive. By some means, God now ‘appears’ to Abram. (Acts 7:2-4) Jehovah commands: “Go your way out of your country and from your relatives and from the house of your father to the country that I shall show you; and I shall make a great nation out of you and I shall bless you and I will make your name great; and prove yourself a blessing. And I will bless those who bless you, and him that calls down evil upon you I shall curse, and all the families of the ground will certainly bless themselves by means of you.”—Genesis 12:1-3.
Responding to the Call
Leave prosperous Ur of the Chaldeans? Why, some homes in Ur are lovely two-story brick buildings surrounding a central patio and contain up to 14 rooms! No wonder French historian Henri Gaubert thought of Abram only as a nomad and found it hard to believe that he could have deserted a “house at Ur with its rooms furnished with beds and cushions, his comfortable dwelling, cool in summer and warm in winter, his well-stocked cellar, his fountain of cool fresh water.” Abandon all of this to take up life as a nomad? Incredible!
And what about Abram’s family members—some to be left behind? In the Middle East, such ties are so strong that banishment from one’s family is tantamount to a death sentence. How can Abram be expected to leave all of this behind for mere promises? Indeed, how will God make this man—yet childless—“a great nation”? Where is this promised land?
However, Abram is a man of faith and has an “assured expectation of things hoped for.” (Hebrews 11:1) He knows from past events—such as the global Deluge—that God’s word always comes true. Abram is not disturbed because he does not know exactly how, when, or where those divine promises will be fulfilled. To him, neither a lovely home, a secure livelihood, nor even family ties are as valuable as Jehovah’s friendship. For Abram, then, there can be only one decision: Obey God and leave Ur!
Does your faith likewise move you to action? Often we are encouraged to expand our participation in the preaching work. Some do so by becoming full-time Kingdom proclaimers. But do some Christians hold back because they secretly doubt God’s promise to provide for those who seek the Kingdom first? (Matthew 6:33) Abram’s faith moved him to action. He staked his future on God’s promises!
From Ur to Haran
Abram is not alone when he leaves. Like many of Jehovah’s Witnesses today, he doubtless shares God’s truths with his family members. So it is not surprising that Abram’s wife Sarai and an orphaned nephew named Lot are likewise moved to obey God’s call.* Why, even Abram’s father, Terah—thought by some to have been an idol-maker—also leaves!—Genesis 11:31.
Finally, Abram’s family and flocks are outside Ur’s walls. The signal for departure is given, and the caravan settles into an orderly procession. Following a road along the east side of the Euphrates River, they travel under a raging sun, likely walking and riding to the sound of tinkling bells tied around their camels’ necks.
Northwestward they move, following the curve of the Euphrates. After many, many days they have covered 600 miles [960 km]. The weary travelers are thrilled to see the beehive-shaped huts surrounding the city of Haran. It is a major stopping point for caravans.—Genesis 11:31.
Across the Euphrates
Abram settles down at Haran, evidently out of consideration for aged Terah. But with Jehovah’s blessing, Abram becomes quite wealthy. (Compare Ecclesiastes 5:19.) How often today God similarly provides for the material needs of those who ‘leave homes, brothers or sisters’ for the sake of the Kingdom!—Mark 10:29, 30.
In Haran, Abram also ‘acquires souls’—a body of servants. (Genesis 12:5) The Jerusalem Targum and the Chaldee Paraphrase say that he proselytized, or ‘subdued them unto the law.’ (Compare Genesis 18:19.) Yes, his faith moves him to preach to others, as Jehovah’s Witnesses do today.
“The days of Terah came to be two hundred and five years. Then Terah died in Haran.” (Genesis 11:32) Abram is grieved by his father’s passing. But when the mourning period is past, he again makes plans for departure. “Abram was seventy-five years old when he went out from Haran.”—Genesis 12:4.
“So Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot the son of his brother and all the goods that they had accumulated and the souls whom they had acquired in Haran, and they got on their way out to go to the land of Canaan.” (Genesis 12:5) After traveling 55 miles [89 km] west from Haran, Abram likely stops at a spot on the Euphrates across from the ancient trade center of Carchemish. Here caravans commonly cross.
The date? Nisan 14, 1943 B.C.E. On that same date 430 years later, Abram’s descendants will be delivered from Egyptian bondage. (Exodus 12:40, 41) And on that very day nearly two millenniums thereafter, his Seed, Jesus Christ, will make a “covenant . . . for a kingdom,” under which “all the families of the ground” will bless themselves!—Luke 22:1, 28, 29.
With an act of faith—Abram’s crossing the Euphrates—God’s promises to him begin to take effect. Abram can envision “the city having real foundations,” a righteous government over mankind. Yes, with but a few clues, Abram has begun to perceive the outlines of God’s purpose to redeem dying humankind. The flame of prophecy has lit a blaze of hope in his mind!—Hebrews 11:10.
Jehovah’s Witnesses today have a greater basis for faith than did Abram. Mounting evidence proves that “the city,” or heavenly Kingdom, that Abram awaited is now a reality! But does faith in it move you to preach zealously, to follow God-given direction, to pursue spiritual goals rather than material comforts? Hopefully it does, for such was the nature of Abram’s faith. His faith moved him to action!
Abram’s brother Nahor stayed behind, perhaps to finish caring for some business or personal matters. But later Nahor’s offspring also left Ur and worshiped Jehovah in Haran.—Genesis 11:31; 24:1-4, 10, 31; 27:43; 29:4.
[Map/Pictures on page 26]
(For fully formatted text, see publication)
Based on a map copyrighted by Pictorial Archive (Near Eastern History) Est. and Survey of Israel
The Euphrates near Ur
The Euphrates near Carchemish