There are many points at which the Abraham’s story resonate strongly with the New Testament and might resemble, resonate with or challenge your own story.
Would you recognise a call from God?
“It is extremely important that I get as much clarity as I can about my own desires, fears or unacknowledged agendas, in order to work out whether the ‘urge’ I feel is simple self-seeking” (page 5).
A call may not be a ‘bolt from the blue’ but a discernment in the context of a confused mess of our own plans and those of God for us. Some of the urge or push towards a new direction is from God, but some of it also belongs to us. We may find that we are already somewhere along the way to the place where God is calling us, or perhaps we have started to run in the opposite direction – like Jonah. It doesn’t matter too much if it later proves to be the wrong direction. The momentum that you build will enable you to catch the next gust and recalibrate (9).
The process of discernment and response to God’s call is not an easy one. “God speaks to us through the circumstances of our lives and through our own cares and passions. We see God’s will in actions, events and coincidences that could be explained just as effectively in perfectly ordinary everyday terms. It takes some careful attention, and a dash of confidence in ourselves and in God, to see it” (8).
You are likely to see the gifts you have received along the way of each of your ‘diversions’ and how these gifts are now woven into the fabric of your emotional vocation (9).
We first hear about Abraham and his family at the end of Genesis chapter 11. It is Abraham’s father, Terah, who has taken the family from ‘Ur of the Chaldeans’ to Haram, where they settle. It is after Terah’s death that Abraham receives God’s call. Canaan becomes the destination that God has chosen for Abraham and Abraham becomes the person chosen by God for Canaan. We don’t know anything about Abraham that could explain why God chose him. The first thing we notice is his obedience– a faithful response to a God whom he has only just met (10).
Nothing is said about how the presence of the Canaanites and God’s gift of the land are likely to impact on one another. The stories about Abraham in Genesis paint a very different picture of the relationship between ‘locals’ and ‘foreigners’ (generally much more peaceful) than that found elsewhere in the Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the Bible).
Abraham travels as far as Egypt, whose relatively efficient bureaucratic planning for times of drought, plentiful water supplies and verdant soils, was often a fallback option for those unable to feed themselves adequately in Canaan (11).
Abraham becomes worried that as Sarah is still a beautiful woman, his life might be in danger, so he asks her to refer to him as her brother. Note that he doesn’t seem to be concerned that this tactic might place Sarah in danger instead of himself (12).
 What are we to make of Abraham and why might God have chosen him to be the father of his chosen nation Israel?(12)
Today members of all three ‘faiths of the book’, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, look to Abraham as a common ancestor - through Isaac for the Jews and Christians and though Ishmael for Muslims (13).
Most Genesis scholars believe that our text for this week (Genesis 11 & 12) was edited during the period of the Persian occupation of Judah (from the late 6thto the late 4thcentury BC) so as to depict Abraham as having travelled from Babylon (Ur) just as the exiles had (14). The returners, who wanted to claim Abraham as their ancestor, added the tradition that Abraham had originally come from Babylon to Canaan just as they had (15).
 What expectations do you bring with you to lent and easter? How have your previous experiences helped to shape these expectations?
 What ‘new’ things did you learn about Abraham in this chapter? What questions di they raise for you?
 In the past, how have you gone about discerning God’s acll and God’s will for you? Do you have stories or tips to share?