When Did Abraham Build His Faith?
Posted by July 16, 2019on
Abraham is considered one of the Bible’s most faithful people. But when did he develop his strong faith in God?
The Jews trace their nation’s history and faith back to him. He is often called “the father of the faithful.” God promised to multiply his descendants and make them a great nation. He is considered one of the most faithful men in the Bible.
Of course, this man is Abraham—originally called Abram.
But where did his great faith come from? When we read his story as recorded by Moses in the book of Genesis, we could think that Abram’s interaction with God began in Genesis 12 when God, seemingly out of nowhere, commanded him to “get out of your country” (Genesis 12:1). Was this where Abraham’s story of faith began, or did it begin earlier?
Before Genesis 12:1
When Abram is first introduced, we read that he was the son of Terah. He dwelt in Ur of the Chaldeans, which is located in the area called Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq). He would later leave Ur and travel north with his father, wife and nephew to the city of Haran (Genesis 11:31).
From Stephen, we learn that God was already working with Abram prior to his journey to Haran: “The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, and said to him, ‘Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you’” (Acts 7:2-3).
So God was already working with Abram while he was still in Mesopotamia. We just don’t know how long God was working with Abram before he left Ur. But we can surmise it was a sufficient amount of time for Abram to build the faith he needed to uproot his life and move to an unknown country.
A test of faith
Why would God have Abram move away from his relatives and his former country? Are there lessons here for us?
We know that God was working with Abram, but there is no mention of God working with all the other members of his family. We do know that not all of them were faithful to God. God revealed through Joshua that Abram’s father, Terah, had served other gods (Joshua 24:2). It is likely that Abram’s relatives who stayed in Ur continued to be idol worshippers.
God had called Abram out of a family and city that had no faith in the true God, partly to find out where Abram’s heart truly was. We are not given a reason why Abram moved to Haran before going to Canaan, but perhaps God knew he needed more time to grow in faith to take that major step toward the unknown.
It is recorded that Terah and Abram came to Haran and dwelt there. They were established in the city. They would have had homes and a means of income. After Terah’s death, Abram would have likely inherited his father’s property and business. It seems that he could have made a nice, comfortable life for himself there and eventually died there.
Yet, despite all of this, Abram did as God instructed. He stepped out and moved in faith—but not on faith that came to him right there on the spot. He stepped out on faith that he had been developing over a number of years, since he had lived in Ur.
Developing the faith of Abraham
How can we develop the faith of Abraham? A key is given in Hebrews 11:
“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:13-16).
Abraham wasn’t a spiritual giant when God first called him, just as we weren’t when God called us. What made him stand out was that he kept his focus on what was ahead, on God’s Kingdom. He didn’t let anything distract him from that future—and from obeying God.
We also have not received the promises yet, but we know that they’re true and that God’s Kingdom is coming. Let’s not lose sight of the promises, and use the time we have to develop and strengthen our faith—as Abraham did before Genesis 12.
To learn more, read our article “The Faith of Abraham.”