Today we begin a 3 week series entitled Journey looking at 2 stories of journey found in the Bible. Today we talk about the journey of Terah, and in 2 weeks we’ll be looking at the journey of the Apostle Paul. Next week we’ll be talking about the journey of a person within our own community. Next week we’ll be talking about the journey of Lindsay and she’ll be sharing her journey, what God laid on her heart while in Mexico this past summer, and how those things on her heart impact our community.
So today we are talking about a guy that many of us have never heard of before, and if we have read the 6 verses that I will read in a minute, we promptly forget about him. In fact if he is known at all, it isn’t because of anything he ever did. He is in fact overshadowed by his descendant. If we know him at all it is because he is the father of Abram (or later on in Genesis…Abraham). His name is Terah and the account of his journey is found in Genesis 11:27-32.
Genesis 11:27-32 says, “This is the account of Terah’s family line. Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran. And Haran became the father of Lot. While his father Terah was still alive, Haran died in Ur of the Chaldeans, in the land of his birth. Abram and Nahor both married. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife was Milkah; she was the daughter of Haran, the father of both Milkah and Iskah. Now Sarai was childless because she was not able to conceive. Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Harran, they settled there. Terah lived 205 years, and he died in Harran.”
So what might we learn about our journey of following Jesus in the 21st century from a man, who when mentioned in Joshua 24 is a worshipper of other Gods? What can we learn about our journey from his physical journey from out of the Ur of the Chaldeans and towards Canaan, but eventually settling in Haran? What might we learn about being sent out as missionaries to our schools, neighborhoods, work, and our city from the Father of our Father Abraham? That is what we are going to talk about, unpack together, and dialogue around for the next few minutes.
So when the curtain comes up on the story we have just read we find Terah, whose name can either mean delay or wanderer, and his sons, Abram (most likely the youngest but listed first due to importance), Nahor, and Haran. They are living in the Ur of the Chaldeans, which is in present day southern Iraq. Haran has a son, Lot, who we read about later in Genesis 13 and 19.
The next scene following the listing of Terah’s family tree is where we witness these heartbreaking lines, “While his father Terah was still alive, Haran died in Ur of the Chaldeans, in the land of his birth.” Now when we read these words we realize their meaning that Haran died before his father. One of the worst things in all of life happened to Terah, his son died before he died. Normally the parents are the ones who are supposed to die first. You aren’t supposed to out live your kids. But if that wasn’t bad enough, some translations like the English Standard Version (ESV) actually read like this, “Haran died in the presence of his father Terah in the land of his kindred, in Ur of the Chaldeans.” So it is quite possible that not only did Haran die time wise before his father, he actually died before, or in the presence of his father. That Terah actually watched his son die. Whether it was from disease, sickness, or an accident we don’t know. But that is something that no one should ever have to witness. I can’t imagine the pain, the grief, the loss that Terah went through following the loss of his son Haran. The death of Haran, then colors everything else in Terah’s life, everything else in his journey.
Following some additional verses regarding family tree issues, like his remaining sons getting married, we come to our next scene found in verse 31. Verse 31 reads like this, “Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Harran, they settled there.” This is where Terah gets up, takes his family, and heads out on a journey from his homeland to Canaan. We aren’t told what prompted Terah to take his family and migrate from the Ur of the Chaldeans to Canaan. But that they “settled there” parallels verse 2 earlier in chapter 11 where people settled in Babel. While the first migration at the beginning of this chapter ended in dispersal, this migration would eventually lead to Abram’s call to be a nation that is blessed to be a blessing, and by definition that calling to be a blessing goes through time all the way through the OT, through the NT, into the life of the early church, and all through the life of the church, down to you and I today sitting here in 2013.
There are many speculations on why Terah took his family, left the Ur of the Chaldeans and headed for Canaan. We are, as I said before, never told why he packs it in in Ur and heads for Canaan. But here are a few possibilities. It could be that they left in obedience to the call of God, which we read more of in Genesis 12. Or in other words, some believe the prime motive to this change of abode (if you will) was the call of Abraham directly following this passage. It could be that the death of Haran loosened Terah’s attachment to his homeland. Maybe he began to view Ur as unlucky. After all his son died before and in his presence, and his daughter was childless and unable to conceive. And so maybe he thought that a change of scenery would change his luck. Maybe Terah was designed to fulfill the one meaning of his name and wander. Maybe he was the kind of guy who normally didn’t settle down but always kept looking at the horizon, kept dreaming, kept longing for more. But whatever the reason the fact remains, Terah got up, took his family and headed off to Canaan. It was the design of Terah himself to settle in Canaan. And so he set out from a place of hurt to a place of hope.
So Terah headed off towards Canaan. The route from the Ur of the Chaldeans went directly through the town of Haran, which was about halfway between Ur and Canaan. Haran was apparently a settlement that had been established by Terah’s son Haran, or to which at least his name had become attached. The family was originally from there before they move to Ur of the Chaldeans. In the Hebrew language, the language that the OT was written in, the place name Haran begins with a different consonant than the personal name Haran. But no doubt that coming to the town that bore the name of his dead son caused Terah to relive the pain of losing his son. All those emotions and pain that he tried to push down, I am sure resurfaced. I truly believe that his pain and loss derailed his journey. Terah had to pass through a place that reminded him of his greatest relational pain. To get to the land of hope, he had to again go through hurt.
The next scene we see is that when they arrive in Haran, they settle there and that is where Terah died never ending his journey in Canaan. He had a dream to make it to Canaan but the dream died with him in Haran. Instead of moving forward in his journey, he “dwelt” in Haran. The word dwelt indicates that they remained there for an extended period. It was no mere overnight stop by a group of pilgrimage at a hotel. Now there is a lot of speculation on why Terah’s journey to Canaan was derailed. Many believe that it had to do with his health. Maybe it was failing health that made them stop and dwell in Haran. Maybe it was that he came down with a disease and could physically go no farther. Or maybe his journey just got stuck. Maybe he just thought that he didn’t deserve to hope, to have a better life. Maybe he thought, this is all there is and I should stop dreaming and just settle. Terah is the picture of a man who caught a sense of something more, of something new but stopped along the way and settled and never reached it. His journey never made it to Canaan, the land of hope.
The last scene that we see is the sad ending of the story in verse 32, “Terah lived 205 years, and he died in Harran.” His journey derailed. His journey stuck. His journey, I am sure, didn’t end up the way that he had hoped it would when he set out from Ur of the Chaldeans years before. He settled for less. His losses began to define him. His relational wounds overcame him and stagnated his journey. His pain derailed the journey to the land of hope.
How many of us mirror in our lives what happened to Terah? Maybe we began this faith journey with hope, excitement, and passion, but now we are stagnant, bitter, disillusioned with people and the church, and we are stuck. Maybe we have some significant relational wounds. Maybe we have witnessed the physical death of someone and it has shaken us or maybe we have witnessed the relational death of some relationships that at one time were strong and those relationships were helping us to continue the journey. And now we feel like settling for less. Maybe God put a vision, a dream, a goal in our life and we dream, planned, and took steps toward those things but now it seems like we are stuck. That our dreams are dead or dying. That we have lost hope or we are in the midst of losing it. Maybe you are feeling stuck in your journey and you don’t know how to get it unstuck.
We are going to spend some time now talking about our journeys and how they might mirror the journey of Terah’s. We are going to share honestly about where we are on the journey. Where we are “dwelling” or feeling stuck? And what things have sidetracked or derailed us? And maybe what relational wounds we have had to deal with that have caused us to “dwell” where we currently are. I’m praying that we can be open, honest, and full of grace as we dialogue about some real issues today around our journeys.
Discussion Questions: 1. What are your thoughts, comments, insights, questions, push back, etc… when it comes to Genesis 11:27-32 and the message? 2. What are some of the visions, dreams and goals that you have for your life? Where are you with them in the midst of your journey? How can our community help you continue to move forward in your journey towards those visions and dreams? 3. Where are you currently dwelling in your journey? Are you “dwelling”, feeling stuck, or are you moving forward in your journey? If you are dwelling and feeling stuck, what do you need to start moving and to get unstuck? How can Veritas help? If you are moving forward, what has helped you continue the journey? 4. What is God saying to you and what are you going to do about it? What is God saying to us and what are we going to do about it?