“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.” Gen.11:31-32
What if Terah hadn’t settled in Haran? What if he’d gone on to Canaan, his original destination when he left Ur? What made him stop in Harran?
Perhaps he stopped and settled there due to old age and physical infirmity. Research implies that. Somehow, during the trek from Ur with his family, Terah let age, physical limitations, fatigue, and perhaps fear of opposition and danger overcome his vision for reaching Canaan. That’s certainly reasonable. We wouldn’t drag our aged parents/grandparents all over the world, let alone to hostile countries, especially if they had limited functionality!
But here’s the reality— it says that “Terah took his son Abram…” and others, and “together they set out from Ur… to Canaan.” Terah took the initiative. Terah had the vision. No one was dragging him anywhere.
Plus, Terah didn’t go it alone. He wisely took his family with him for mutual encouragement, support, and protection.
Then, we see intentionality in the move. They “set out from… to…” Which means they purposely left somewhere comfortable and familiar to go somewhere unknown and likely less comfortable, given the reality of having to start over in another place.
Terah started out well. We don’t know if he heard a specific call from God like Abram (Abraham) did. But we know he had a vision for something better than life in Ur, and it involved the destination of Canaan.
Sadly, he never made it there. He settled in Harran. That’s the word that struck me—“settled”. What makes us settle for less than our intended destination? Usually, it’s a combination of two factors: 1) Seeing the vision through to completion appears too difficult, too overwhelming, perhaps even too dangerous, due to obstacles, opposition, and our own limitations. In our own strength, this is often true. 2) The place, or thing, we settle for seems “good enough”. Why put ourselves out there for ridicule, hardship, pain, perhaps even death, when somewhere or something a lot more manageable and comfortable presents itself as an option? After all, we can accomplish a lot of good, live well, and even enjoy success in the place or thing we settle for. Isn’t that better than “reaching for the sky” and failing?
Not when we’re settling for less than the best. Not when God designed, called, and intends better for us than that.
Settling implies, by definition, giving up on something else. We give up when we reckon according to our own strength and resources, and it’s not enough. Maybe we even consider the strength and resources of other people we hope will help us, but we still fall short.
Until we count God in. That really tips the scales! “With God, we shall do valiantly…” (Ps. 108:13) “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13). “…with God, all things are possible.” (Mat. 19:26) And so on.
Our actions and decisions impact others, especially those we lead. When Terah settled, his whole family settled with him, since he was the patriarch. There they stayed until he died.
Note what happened next (Gen.12:1-5)-- God called Abram, Terah’s son, to move to Canaan, and promised to make him into a great nation, bless him, “and all the peoples of the earth will be blessed through you.” Abram, like his dad, left the familiar and comfortable, and set out with his family for Canaan. But unlike his dad, “…they arrived there.” (v.5). He counted God in, kept going, and arrived!
Which brings us back to our original question—what if Terah had gotten all the way to Canaan and arrived there? We’d be singing, “Father Te-e-rah had many sons…!” Or the 16th President of the U.S. could have been named “Terah Lincoln”. Jewish people would all be known as “children of Terah”. So many possibilities forfeited, so much legacy lost. Which happens when we settle for less.