Almost Father of the NationBy Nathan Mates
Anyone who's been around church for a while has heard of Abraham, the father of the Israelites. He was called by God in Genesis: "The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." [Genesis 12:1-3] Abram was living near Ur of the Chaldeans, and this land the Lord would show him was Canaan, where modern day Israel is located.
Through Abram (later called Abraham), Isaac was born, then Jacob, and then the 12 sons of Jacob were the founders of the 12 tribes of Israel. In addition to the above promise, God also promised in Genesis 15:9-21 the land that Abraham would enter, and in Genesis 17 that Abraham would be the head of a great household. Abraham was certainly one of the major figures of Genesis, starting a family tree that grew into the nation of Israel-- indeed, all Christians trace back spiritual heritage to him. All of this is not a bad thing to happen to someone. But, if Abraham was counted as the father of the nation of Israel, why not Adam instead, where everything traces back to him? Or why not Noah, another point at which all of humanity was concentrated into one bloodline.
Consider Abraham's father, who could definitely be considered to be in the running for 'father of the nation'. Abraham's father was Terah, and the Bible has something interesting to say about him: he was supposed to go to Canaan also. "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 Haran, they settled there. Terah lived 205 years, and he died in Haran." [Genesis 11:31-32]
Terah was headed for the 'right place': Canaan. But, God had other plans for him, and his family stayed in the wrong place for many years. Why was this? Joshua, the leader of the Israelites after Moses said this: "Joshua said to all the people, "This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'Long ago your forefathers, including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the River and worshiped other gods. But I took your father Abraham from the land beyond the River and led him throughout Canaan and gave him many descendants." [Joshua 24:2-3]
Terah's worship of idols pulled him out of the running for great blessings and future remembrance. [To prove that, did you know what his name was before this writing?] Also, there were other cool things that God could do with Abram that he couldn't do with Terah: when called to go to Canaan, Abram's wife, Sarai, was barren. Terah had grandchildren (Lot) when he was on the way to Canaan. Thus, it's more of a miracle when the family without children have descendants in the millions. Terah had three children (Abram, Nahor and Haran (not the city)); Abram had only one. The call to sacrifice a son is far more meaningful and painful when it's a one and only son (Isaac, as a precursor to Jesus's sacrifice), as opposed to losing one of three sons.
Abraham was a worthy figure to start a nation-- his faith in God and God's promises was credited to him as righteousness. [Genesis 15:6] His father, Terah, was not. Whatever choices Terah made to turn him to the path of idolatry and sin lost him his chance to make it big in the history of this world. It appears that Terah could have been the father of the nation of Israel had he been right with God-- he knew (roughly) where to go, and God could have done things through him. But, he failed to worship God. While God's plans can't be thwarted, are you going to go along with them, and have great things done through you, or would you rather fight God and have those great things done through others?