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             Hundreds of years after the flood, a baby boy was born in Ur of Babylonia. This boy was destined to become famous. His name was Abram, meaning "honored father." Abram's father was Terah, and Abram's brothers were Nahor and Haran.

            When Abram grew up, he married his half-sister, Sarai. But Sarai was not able to have children. It seemed that Abram would not be able to live up to his name.

            In response to a call from God, Abram and his family left Ur and moved 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) northwest, up the Euphrates River. They settled at a place that they named "Haran" in honor of Abram's brother.

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             God was about to take a huge step in developing his plan to save humanity from sin.      

            At the age of seventy-five, Abram received a call from God. The Lord said to Abram, "Leave your country and your people. Leave your father's family and go to the land that I will show you. I will bless you and I will cause you to become a great nation. I will make your name famous. I will bless people that do good to you, and I will punish people that do bad to you. All people on earth will be blessed because of you."

            God promised Abram that Someone was coming who would bless the world. That Someone would be a descendant of Abram.

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Abram obeyed the Lord. He left Haran and took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, and everything they owned. Abram and his group left Haran and traveled south to the land of Canaan. In the land of Canaan, Abram came to the town of Shechem and stopped at the big trees of Moreh. There, the Lord appeared to Abram and said, "I will give this land to your descendants." So Abram built an altar for worshiping the Lord there. 

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            Later, Abram moved his tents to the big trees of Mamre outside the city of Hebron. There the Lord came to Abram in a vision. God said, "Don't be afraid; I will defend you. And I will give you a great reward."

            But Abram said, "Lord God, there is nothing you can give me that will make me happy. Why? Because I have no son. So my slave Eliezer from Damascus will get all the things I own after I die."

            Then the Lord said to Abram, "That slave will not be the one to get the things you have. You will have a son. And your son will get all the things you have."

            Then God led Abram outside. God said, "Look at the sky. See the many stars. There are so many you can't count them. In the future, your family will be like that."

            Abram believed God, and God accepted Abram's faith. That made Abram right with God. God accepted Abram as though he had never sinned.

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             God said to Abram, "I am the Lord who led you from Ur of Babylonia. I did this so I could give you this land--you will own this land."

            But Abram said, "Lord, my Master, how can I be sure that I will get this land?"

            God said to Abram, "We will make an agreement. Bring me a three-year-old cow, a three-year-old goat, and a three-year-old ram. Also bring me a dove and a young pigeon."

            Abram brought all these things to God. Abram killed these animals and cut each of them into two pieces. Then Abram laid each half across from the other half. Abram did not cut the birds into two pieces. Later, large birds flew down to eat the animals, but Abram chased them away.

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            Later in the day, while the sun was going down, Abram became very sleepy and fell asleep. While he was asleep, a very terrible darkness came. Then the Lord said to Abram, "You should know these things: Your descendants will be foreigners and travel in a land they don't own. They will be slaves there. And they will be treated badly for 400 years. But after 400 years I will punish the nation that is their master. And your people will leave that land. When your people leave, they will take many good things with them."

            After the sun went down, it was very dark. The dead animals still lay on the ground--each animal cut in two pieces. At that time, a column of smoke and fire passed between the halves of the dead animals. This column of smoke and fire represented the

presence of God and was a sign that God had sealed the agreement he had made with Abram.

            So on that day, the Lord made a promise to Abram. The Lord said, "I will give to your descendants the land between the river of Egypt and the great river Euphrates."

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             Abram and Sarai waited and waited for the son that God had promised them, but Sarai was not able to have a child. Finally Sarai said to Abram, "The Lord has not allowed me to have children. Go sleep with my servant Hagar. I will accept the child that is born from her as though it were my own."

            Abram listened to his wife Sarai. Sarai gave her servant Hagar to Abram, and Hagar became pregnant by him. When Hagar saw this, she became very proud and began to feel that she was better than Sarai. Sarai said to Abram, "My servant now hates me, and I blame you for this. I gave her to you and she became pregnant. Then she began to feel that she is better than I am. I want the Lord to judge what is right."

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            Abram could have become upset with Sarai. He could have said, "Don't blame me! Having a child by Hagar was your idea, not mine!" But instead, Abram spoke kindly to Sarai. He said, "Hagar is your servant. You can do anything you want to her."

            So Sarai punished Hagar, and Hagar ran away. The Angel of the Lord found Hagar near a pool of water in the desert. The Lord said, "Hagar, you are Sarai's servant. Why are you here? Where are you going?"

            Hagar said, "I am running away from my mistress, Sarai."

            The Lord said to Hagar, "Sarai is your mistress. Go home to her and obey her." So the Lord sent Hagar back home where she would receive food, clothing, and shelter. Hagar was amazed that God cared about her. She said, "I see that even in this place God sees me and cares for me."

            Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar gave birth to a baby boy, and Abram named his son Ishmael.

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             Thirteen years went by. Abram was ninety-nine when the Lord spoke to him and said, "I am God All-Powerful. Obey me and live the right way. If you do this, I will prepare an agreement between us."

            Abram bowed down before the Lord as a sign of submission.

            God said to Abram, "This is my part of the agreement: I will change your name. Your name will not be Abram. Your name will be Abraham [meaning, `Father of Nations']. I give you this name because you will be the father of many nations."

            Then God said to Abraham, "Now, this is your part of the agreement: Every boy that is born must be circumcised. You will cut off the foreskin of each male to show that you follow the agreement between you and me. When a baby boy is eight days old, you will circumcise him. So every baby boy in your nation will be circumcised."

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             Then God said to Abraham, "I will also give Sarai, your wife, a new name. Her new name will be Sarah [meaning `Princess']. I will bless her. I will give her a son, and you will be the father. She will be the mother of many nations. Kings and nations will come from her."

            Again Abraham bowed his face to the ground to show respect, but he laughed and said to himself, "Will a son be born to a man who is 100 years old? Will Sarah have a child when she is 90 years old?" Abraham said to God, "I hope Ishmael will live to serve you."

            God replied, "I said that Sarah your wife will have a son. You will name him Isaac. I will make my agreement with him."

            After the Lord departed, Abraham gathered the males of his household together and they were all circumcised. Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised as proof of his agreement with God.

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             God's agreement with Abraham is one of the most important events of the Bible. It is a turning point in history. It marks the beginning of God's effort to work through Abraham's family to rescue humanity from the forces of evil.

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            1. God called Abram out of idolatry. When God called Abram out of Ur, the people of Babylonia were worshiping many gods and goddesses. There were gods of the sun, moon, stars, fire, wind, water, and other forces of nature. The city of Ur was a center of worship for the moon-god Nanna and his goddess wife Ningal. The people of Ur made images of their gods and goddesses to make them seem more real. Then they worshiped the images. In the Bible, such images are called "idols," and worshiping them is called "idolatry."

            When God called Abram out of Ur, he called him out of idolatry. God told Abram to leave his father's family and go to another place. It was not easy for Abram to leave his home and his family, or to give up his family's religion. But Abram trusted God and obeyed. Abram left behind the idolatry of Ur and Haran and took with him the knowledge of the true and living God.

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            2. God accepted Abram's faith. God accepted Abram's faith. Abram was a very good man, but he was not perfect. He made mistakes. Abram was a human being with weaknesses much like our own.

            Abram, however, had a simple faith in God. When God asked him to leave his country and his father's family and go to another land, Abram obeyed. When God promised that Abram would have a son in his old age, Abram believed God. When God saw Abram's faith, he accepted Abram as though he were a perfect man.

            Today, God still opens his arms to those who trust and obey him. We all make mistakes. We all do things that are bad. We are all sinners who deserve to be punished. The good news is that God will forgive our mistakes and restore our honor if we will trust him and obey his commands.

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3. God cares about everybody--even slaves. Hagar was only a slave. Legally she had no rights and no possessions of her own. She was Sarai's property.

            In the eyes of God, however, Hagar was a person with value. When Hagar ran away from Sarai, God found her in the desert by a pool of water. God was concerned about Hagar and sent her back home where she would receive the care she needed.

            If God cared for Hagar the slave, he also cares for us. Every human being is precious in his sight.  

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Scripture References: Genesis 11:10 to 17:27; Joshua 24:2-15; Acts 7:1-4; Romans 4:16-25; Hebrews 11:8-12.


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