Steven's Sermon Part 1b of 7
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
The first call that Abraham received from God is not expressly recorded in Genesis, however, it is clearly implied in Genesis 15:7: “He also said to him, ‘I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it’” and Nehemiah 9:7; “You are the LORD God, who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and named him Abraham.” The God of glory appeared to Abraham while he was in Mesopotamia. Abraham's childhood home was at Ur of the Chaldees in Mesopotamia, the country between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. The second call is recorded in Genesis 12:19, but it doesn’t say specifically that God appeared to him, only that “The LORD had said to Abram.” He gave Abraham this second call at Haran, or Charran (the same), but Stephen declares that the family had gone from Ur to Charran, because of an earlier call (Acts 7:3, 4). Charran was on the route to Canaan, and Abraham made a stop there of five years, until his father died (Genesis 11:31, 3210).
When he was in Mesopotamia.
God appeared to Abraham "when he was in Mesopotamia", a country that lay between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The Scriptures are silent on this appearance of God to Abraham, which Stephen has mentioned here, and the Jewish writers seem to hint at it, when they say, "thus said the holy blessed God to Abraham, as thou hast enlightened for me Mesopotamia and its companions, come and give light before me in the land of Israel.'' When Abram was in Mesopotamia (Genesis 11:3110), it is said that Abraham dwelt "in Ur of the Chaldees." The word "Mesopotamia" is the name given to the region between the Euphrates and the Tigris rivers. The name is Greek, and the region had other names before the Greek name was given to it. In Genesis 11:3110 and Genesis 15:711, it is called Ur of the Chaldees. Mesopotamia and Chaldea might not exactly coincide; but it is evident that Stephen meant to say that "Ur" was in the country afterward called Mesopotamia. Its precise location is unknown, but one theory says Ur of the Chaldees was situated near to Babel, and among the rivers, (Tigris and Euphrates), which gave the name of Mesopotamia to the country. When Steven says in Acts 7:4 that Abraham came out of Chaldea, it is evident that Mesopotamia contained Chaldea. After Abram left Ur he went Haran, or Charran where he received a second call (the same), but Stephen declares that the family had gone from Ur to Charran, because of an earlier call (Ac 7:3, 4). Charran was on the route to Canaan, and Abraham made a stop there of five years, until his father died (Ge 11:31, 3210).
Before he dwelt in Charan.
Stephen relates Abraham’s journey from Ur of the Chaldees to Haran (or Charan, as it is called here), and then from Haran to Canaan, which amounts to a somewhat roundabout obedience to God’s command. God had commanded Abraham “Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you,” and Stephen makes it clear that this command came to Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia—this was the second time he received this command. The first time he was living in Ur of the Chaldees; and he did not immediately obey. First, he did not immediately “go to a land that I will show you.” Second, he did not leave his relatives, but took with him his father (who died in Haran) and his nephew Lot. Abraham’s partial obedience did not take God’s promise away. Instead, it meant the promise was on “hold” until Abram was ready to do what the Lord said. The promise didn’t “progress” until Abraham left Haran and his father behind and went to the place God wanted him to go. This shows that Abraham had two calls, one in Ur, and the other in Haran. He left Ur at the first call, and came to Haran; he left Haran at the second call, and came into the Promised Land. Abraham will certainly become a giant of faith, even being the father of the believing (Galatians 3:712); yet he does not start there, we will see Abraham as an example of one who grows in faith and obedience.
The word "Charran" is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew "Haran" (Genesis 11:3111). This place and Ur of the Chaldees were both in Mesopotamia, and said by one commentator to be located at 36 degrees 52 minutes north latitude and 39 degrees 5 minutes east longitude. Here is where Terah died (Genesis 11:3210); and Jacob went to live there when he fled from his brother Esau (Genesis 27:4313). It is situated "in a flat and sandy plain, and is inhabited by a few wandering Arabs, who choose to live there for the delicious water which it provides." (Robinson's Calmet). It is called"Charan" in the Septuagint, as it is here; and Herodish says it is where Antoninus was killed; Pliny and Stephanus called it "Carra"; Ptolemy called it "Carroe"; it was famous for the slaughter of M. Crassus, by the Parthians. R. Benjamin provided this account of it: "In two days I came to ancient Haran, and in it were about twenty Jews, and there was as it were a synagogue of Ezra; but in the place where was the house of Abraham our father, there was no building upon it; but the Ishmaelites (or Mahometans) honour that place, and come thither to pray.''
3 And said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall shew thee.
And said unto him.
This was said to Abraham while he was still living in his childhood home in Ur of the Chaldees. He did not leave in obedience to God’s command, since when he left he did not get away from his kindred; because his kindred went along with him, or rather he went with them from Mesopotamia to Haran. We are not told how long it was after this was said until he actually went. Moses simply says that God had commanded him to go.
Get thee out of thy country.
Leave Ur of the Chaldees, where he was born.
And from thy kindred.
Thy kindred means his relatives, or family that lived in the same place. He did leave most of them behind, but "Terah" went with him as far as Haran. Once again, he doesn’t entirely comply with God’s command.
And come into the land which I shall show thee.
His destination was unknown; the place was to be shown him. This is represented in the New Testament as an example of strong faith (Hebrews 11:8-914). It was an act of "simple confidence" in God. And to leave his country and home, not knowing where he was going, and once there to be a stranger in the land, required strong confidence in God. It is a simple illustration of what a man may have to do at the command of God. For example, the gospel requires him to commit himself entirely to God; to yield body and soul to Him and His care; to be ready at His command to forsake father, and mother, and friends, and houses, and lands, for the sake of the Lord Jesus (Luke 14:3315; Matthew 19:2716, Matthew 19:2917). The trials and troubles which Abraham might have face may be easily envisioned. He was going at a time when the world was dangerous and barbarous, into a land of strangers. He was without the protection of weapons or armed men, and was practically alone. He did not even know the nature or location or condition of the land, or the character of its inhabitants. This may be seen as being similar to how the saints are called out of the world, from their former way of life, and from among their old companions and friends, to follow Christ to wherever he desires to lead them; and who at last will bring them safely to “that land that is fairer than day,” which God has prepared for those who love His Son.
He had no title to it; no claim to urge him on his way; and he went depending on the simple promise of God that he would give it to him. He went, therefore, trusting simply in the promise of God. Thus, his conduct illustrates precisely what we are to do all of our life, and on to the eternity before us: We are to trust simply in the promises of God, and do what he says. This is faith. In Abraham’s case, it was as simple and clear as any operation of mind that has ever occurred in any instance. Faith in the Scriptures is no more mysterious than any other mental operation. If Abraham could have foreseen all that was to result from his going into that land, it would have been a sufficient reason to induce him to go there. But God saw it; and Abraham was required to act just as if he had seen it too, as well as all the reasons why he was called. Upon the strength of God's promises, Abraham was called to act. This was faith. It did not require him to act where there was "no reason" for him to do so, but to act where he did not see the reason. That’s how it is in all cases of faith. If man could see all that God sees, he would recognize the reasons for acting as God requires. But the reasons for things are often hidden or obscured, and man is required to act on the belief that God has good reasons for why he should do a certain thing. To act under the impression that whatever God says is truth and proper is faith; as simple and intelligible as any other act or operation of the mind (Mark 16:1618).
4 Then came he out of the land of the Chaldaeans, and dwelt in Charran: and from thence, when his father was dead, he removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell.
Then came he out of the land of the Chaldeans.
The land of the Chaldeans is the same as Mesopotamia, since it was a country within Mesopotamia. Babylon, the head of the Chaldean nation, was also there in the other part of Mesopotamia; and Assyria was called Babylonia. It was out of Ur, in the land of the Chaldeans, that Abraham came, upon receiving his first call.
As strange as the command which was given him might seem, he, with all submission, readily obeyed it.