“This is the account of Terah’s family. Terah was the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran was the father of Lot. But Haran died in Ur of the Chaldeans, the land of his brith, while his father, Terah, was still living. Meanwhile, Abram and Nahor both married.. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife was Milcah…But Sarai was unable to become pregnant and had no children. One day Terah took his son Abram, his daughter in law Sarai, and his grandson Lot, and moved away from Ur of the Chaldeans. He was headed for the land of Canaan, but they stopped at Haran and settled there. Terah lived for 205 years and died while still in Haran” (Genesis 11:27-31, NLT).
Terah and his family, including Abram, departed Ur to begin the long traverse to Canaan. The most direct route would have been due west, but given the fact that Ur and Canaan were separated by hundreds of miles of the Arabian desert, they took the circuitous route around the desert. Traveling to the northwest they followed the Euphrates River toward the northern most part of the desert. There, they would travel southwest toward the promised land.
The northwesterly part of the journey would have spanned some 700 miles. It is estimated that caravans could travel up to 20 miles per day, so we’re talking at least 35 days, probably more. Everything seemed to be going well as far as we’re told. And then it happened. A distraction came along that led Terah and the family off the route. We’re not talking about stopping at a rest area or a Bass Pro Shop. Haran was some 80 miles due north of the apex of their travel plan.
It’s one thing for a person to be leisurely traveling and to have their eye caught by a persuasive billboard to visit this site or that. So what if you pull a few miles off the route to check out a famous person’s birthplace or visit scenic view? We can become temporarily distracted and in most cases it doesn’t create much of a ripple.
But this was more than a distraction, for Terah not only stopped, he settled. We’re not sure why he stopped and settled. The Bible doesn’t give us that detail. The real question is whether you and I have stopped and settled on life’s journey, and if so, why?
We can become distracted by many things. Sometimes we become distracted out of boredom. Other times it’s something shiny that catches our eye. Some times we are distracted by visions of greatness or some misguided expectation that over promises and under delivers. Maybe we’re homesick, and the distraction provides us with something comfortable and familiar. Or perhaps we’re just plain tired of the trip we’ve taken and the distraction becomes a substitute that I like to call, “good enough.” There are as many reasons for us to be distracted from life’s purpose as there are excuses for not fulfilling life’s purpose. The apostle John generalized the distractions of life, calling them, “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16).
The city of Haran was a significant place. It was important to the economy, and was the center of worship for the moon god Zin. Located in what is modern day Turkey, it served as the convergence of several trade highways and waterways. The name Haran means “cross roads,” appropriately so, for it was the cross roads of trade and commerce.
For Terah and those like me who are prone to the distractions that lead to detours, the cross roads is significant. Cross roads cause us to contemplate the decision as to whether we will settle for what is or forge ahead to our God given destiny. Like Terah we can stop, settle, and eventually die having fallen short of our destination. Or, we can make the decision to push ahead and leave all that is good behind.
We can’t control the things that come before us that are distractions, tempting us to stop and settle. But we can control our response in the cross roads, pursuing the unseen in the face of that which is visible and convenient (cf. Hebrews 11:24-29).
Check back next Monday for part three of this series on Out of Ur, The Decision. If you enjoyed today’s post or found it helpful, feel free to share it with a friend!