“The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you.” – Genesis 12:1 (NLT)
Who starts out on a journey when they don’t know where they’re going? Having a destination in mind helps to plan the journey. What route will you take? Will you drive or fly? How long will it take to get there? How much will you need to pay for gas and food along the way? Where you are going pretty much dictates the travel plan. But Abram – later called Abraham – didn’t have any of these details when God told him to leave his country and his family to go to a land yet to be revealed. All he had was a word from God.
So why did Abraham go when he didn’t know yet where he was going? Hebrews 11 tells us Abraham went because of his faith in God, but there are other things revealed in the surrounding scriptures of Genesis 12 that may have also had some influence on the choice he made.
When God told Abraham to go, he also said something else. He followed the command to go with, “I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.” God never really wants us to go blindly. He paints a picture of our future for us through a promise so we can know the going will be worth it. He wants us to trust him and to believe he is good, but he also knows the limitations of our human mind. He works with our uncertainty through encouraging us and giving us a glimpse at the good things that will come from our stepping out and trusting him.
Abraham may have also been influenced by a desire to accomplish more than his father did. The desire to push harder and go farther than our family has previously gone can give us the push we need to step out with God, even when we don’t know all of the details. Genesis 11:31 tells us one day Abraham’s father, Terah, took his family and moved away from the land they were living in. It says, “He was headed for the land of Canaan, but they stopped at Haran and settled there.” Years later, when God told Abraham to leave his country and his family, Abraham had to make a choice about whether he would stick with his family – their ways, their patterns, their expectations, their limitations – or, instead, take a chance with God. His father was a man that intentioned to push through to Canaan, but settled short of that goal. Would Abraham do as his father did, or would he push through all the way to the land that God would name along the way? The desire to give our posterity more than we had ourselves is a defining marker of our being members of the family of God. He always desires to give his kids more and so it's natural that we should have that same drive in us.
Abraham may have also had a sense that he couldn’t stay where he was. Sometimes we don’t know where we’re supposed to be, but we know we can’t stay where we are. A sense of discontent about our current circumstances can compel us forward and strengthen our boldness and our ability to trust God. Thankfully, we have the Holy Spirit who helps us to know whether a change is in order. Because of his presence we can know it’s “time to go,” and he can guide us to where we need to be even when we don’t have all the details on the final destination.
No matter why Abraham decided to go, the important thing is that he went. By going he was able to procure the promises of God. His action – his going – made a future possible that impacted not only his own life, but the lives of all of us who came after him and called on the name of Jesus. Galatians 3:7-9 says we who put our faith in Christ are children of Abraham and heirs to the same promises he received. I’m glad he went when God told him to, even when he didn’t know where he was going. His faith, and his faithfulness, encourage me to step out with God even when I’m not sure where I’ll ultimately wind up. Like Abraham, I’ve come to know that anywhere God takes me will be an amazing place.