More than a 'place in the country'

Howard Culbertson
Thursday, September 6, 2012
The Lord said to Abram,
'Leave your land,
your relatives,
and your father’s home.
Go to the land that I will show you.’ . . .
“At that time the Lord made a promise to Abrahm.  He said, ‘I will give this land to your descendants’” (Genesis 12:1; 15:18a, God’s Word Translation).
 
More than a hundred years ago, my home state of Oklahoma held two free “land runs.” At the sound of a cannon shot on those two occasions, thousands of people poured onto land not yet privately owned. There, they could claim 160-acre homesteads if they agreed to farm them for at least five years.
 
The call and promise in Genesis 12 and 15 was not the proclamation of a one-man “land run.” Abraham was not being offered the opportunity to “stake a claim” on land which someone thought needed developing.

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God had a strategic reason for asking Abraham to relocate to Canaan, although sometimes that reason may be misunderstood. For instance, I have heard people speculate that Abraham and Sarah needed to get away from life in the city because cities can be bad places where evil influences abound. That reasoning doesn’t convince me. God was not simply giving Abraham and his family “a place in the country.”
 
As Abraham’s descendants multiplied, God commissioned them to be His message bearers. Because of Abraham’s move to Canaan, his descendants lived on a main thoroughfare of biblical times. Doesn’t that reflect God’s passion that all people come to know that He alone is worthy to be worshiped?
 
The area at the eastern end of the Mediterranean which was parceled out to the 12 tribes of Israel was a land bridge for the ancient world. Travel to and from three continents -- Africa, Asia and Europe -- went through that relatively narrow strip of land beteen the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.
 
As empires rose and fell, this area remained a key traffic artery of the world. Trading caravans, for example, going to Egypt from Persia or even India went through the area where God settled the people He would call at Sinai to be “a kingdom of priests” (Exodus 19:6). Through Isaiah, God said His people would be “a light to the Gentiles” (Isaiah 42:6; 49:6). Abraham’s move positioned his descendants so they had opportunity to serve as light to members of many other people groups. The potential was there for them to blossom as a “kingdom of priests.”
 
People involved in real estate say that the three most important things about property are: Location, location and location. Location was good reason for Abraham’s family to put down roots in what we now call “the Holy Land.” Moving Abraham and Sarah near a major transportation route of the ancient world fit well for God’s announced desire that the Good News of salvation be known by the whole world (Isaiah 49:6; Acts 13:47).