2. The Father of the Faithful
For God, in His wisdom and love, was purposed to choose out one family to whom He might teach the truth about Himself, and the way of life, that so this knowledge might at last be spread abroad through¬out the world; and He had seen that Abram was the fit man for the beginning of this great purpose. So while the sons of Terah dwelt in Harran, Abram heard the voice of God. “Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you.” the Lord said to him, And God promised that from this childless man should spring a great nation, and that through him all the families of the earth should be blessed. It was a strange and wonderful command and promise, yet Abram never questioned, but obeyed at once. And because of this, his faith in God’s promise, God was well pleased with him, and all men since have called him the Father of the Faithful.
So Abram told his wife Sarai —” My Queen “—and his nephew Lot, of the words which God had spoken, and they were well con¬tent to go with him. All was made ready for the journey, and at last the black tents were struck, and the caravan set out on its march. Across the wide Arabian Desert they travelled, till at last they saw the great mountains that men call Anti-Lebanon and Hermon lifting their snowy peaks across the western sky, and between the travellers and the hills lay the ancient city of Damas¬cus, white and beautiful amidst its pergolas of green. There they turned southwards, past the green hills of Galilee, with the blue waters of the lake lying harp-shaped in the midst, and at last they reached a resting-place at Sichem.
It may be that Abram’s heart sank within him as he looked out from his camp; for, fine though the land might be, it was already peopled. The Canaanites were there, fierce men and cruel, who, in the hardness of their hearts, were wont to sacrifice their own flesh and blood, even adolescent girls and little children, to their false gods. Therefore God spoke once again to cheer His servant, prom¬ising him that to his children should be given this land where he dwelt; and in his gratitude Abram built an altar and offered sacrifice to the Lord who had comforted him. Ever, as his flocks needed fresh pasture, he journeyed southwards, till at last he came to some high land in the midst of the country. Great things were to happen there in time to come, so that the name of the place should be called “Bethel, House of God”; but when Abram pitched his camp there, it was still named Luz. There, also, the wanderer raised his altar and prayed to God who was his guide and guard.
Now, after a season, a famine came upon the land, and to save his flocks from death Abram needed to journey far south into the wondrous land of Egypt, where the great river Nile keeps all things fruitful, even though the skies send little rain. And there Abram’s trust in God failed him for a moment, and he fell into grievous error. For when he drew near to Egypt, and thought of the mighty power of its kings and princes, and remembered how beautiful was his wife Sarai, he dreaded lest some great man should slay him, that he might take Sarai to himself. Therefore he said to his wife, “Say that you are my sister, not my wife, that so I may escape this danger.” And Sarai did as her husband bade her.
Now when they had come into the land, all who beheld Sarai marvelled at her beauty, and the fame of it spread far and wide, till some of the princes of the court told even unto Pharaoh himself, the King and Lord of the Two Lands, about this beautiful woman who had come to Egypt. So Pharaoh sent for her, and placed her in his royal harem, meaning to make her his wife; and he gave great gifts to Abram, because of her. Yet, though Abram had spoken falsely, and brought trouble on himself and his wife, God still guarded them. A great sickness came upon Pharaoh and all his household, and the King was afraid, and believed that this trouble was sent because of the woman whom he had taken from Abram. Sending for Abram and questioning him, he learned the truth, and, sternly rebuking God’s servant for his falseness, he ordered him to take his wife and depart.
So Abram went forth out of Egypt, safe indeed, both he and his wife, and rich in Pharaoh’s gifts, but sorely shamed because of the falsehood they had told, for indeed the heathen King had shown himself a truer man than he whom God had chosen.