Imagine your husband coming home from his job one day to announce that you and your household would be moving to a land far away. In answer to your questions, you find out that only unknown people live there, it is in the middle of nowhere and you will be permanently living in tents. No friends, no shops, nothing but a lot of wilderness. This was Sarai’s situation (v. 1).
And there didn’t seem to be a lot of discussion. After a “Your-God-said what?” Sarai would be expected to say, “Yes, dear,” and begin to pack their many possessions. There may have been a moving sale.
In answer to her servants’ questions, she would have replied almost nothing, for she didn’t have answers. All she knew was that her husband had spoken, and that his God had directed them to this far-away land. It didn’t make sense, but they were going. It’s likely that valued possessions were either sold or given away. All of the things she kept would have to be packed on camels. We can only imagine how difficult it must have been, and yet Sarai responded in faith.
How would you have felt if your husband asked you to do such a thing? It certainly wasn’t easy, especially considering the mode of transportation that was available – hundreds of miles on camelback.
Let’s look at Hebrews 11:8-10. What does this passage say about their move? What does this mean? “By faith, Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country.” How would they even know when they got there? What did it mean that he lived like a stranger (alien) in a foreign country?
How does Abram’s clear disobedience figure into the situation? Genesis 12:1 says, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household.” So why do you suppose they took Lot and Terah with them? Giving Abram the benefit of the doubt, we assume he felt responsible for his aging father and young nephew.
It is so easy to rationalize around God’s revealed will. We think we know better, so we obey part way, thinking, “That’s enough, God will understand.” I Samuel 15:7-9 tells us of King Saul’s partial obedience (which is disobedience).
We need to fully obey. Abram should not have taken his relatives with them. Terah slowed them down and Lot proved to be a real challenge when he chose the land of Sodom (Genesis 13:5-13) and eventually moved into that wicked city (Genesis 19:1-3).
After traveling about 400 miles, they stopped in Haran (Genesis 11:31), likely because Terah couldn’t travel any further. It is significant that only after Terah’s death (Genesis 11:32) did God again speak (Genesis 12) to Abram, renewing His call on their lives.They were to go on to the land promised to them (located in Canaan), not remain in Haran. They continued their trip another 1100 miles, travelling a total of 1500 miles. That’s quite a trip! God would guide them and be with them as they lived as “strangers in a foreign country.” They were strangers because they believed in the one true God, not the pagan idols of their neighbors.
There isn’t any record that Sarai knew God personally. She probably knew about Him, but she probably didn’t know Him. She had been brought up in the pagan city of Ur where the true God was not recognized or worshiped. In fact, the people of Ur worshiped the moon goddess, Nana. Terah, the father of both Abram and Sarai (different mothers, making this socially acceptable: Genesis 20:12) “worshiped other gods” (Joshua 24:2). Somehow, God had revealed Himself to Abram, but up to this point the text is silent about how He revealed Himself to Sarai. Women of that day didn’t have nearly the same status or importance they enjoy today. Considered property, they were expected to obey their husbands, no matter how strange the instructions seemed.
Perhaps you have had this experience. You may have scratched your head and said, “Your God said what?” No, you didn’t have to travel on a camel, but maybe you were asked to leave everyone you knew to go to a strange and new city, perhaps even a new country. I remember moving to a new church in a new city where my husband had been called to pastor. I had just given birth to our first child, and a week later we moved across the state: new city, new church, new friends and away from supportive family. We were on our own! Like Sarai, we learned to depend on God. Twelve years later, God called us to move across the country, some 2000 miles from family and friends! And then 13 years later, God called us into missions in worldwide ministry when we would visit approximately 30 countries extending member care to our missionaries. Somewhat like Sarai and Abram, God was calling us to lands where we were “strangers in foreign countries.”