- The Setting – 11:27-32
- The Call – 12:1-3
- The Response – 12:4-9
There are several themes that run consistently through the Scriptures from beginning to end. One is God’s glory. You cannot read the account of creation in Genesis 1 and not be impressed with the power and majesty of God in creating everything out of nothing. The same is true when you get to the end of the Bible in Revelation. The glory of God is everywhere as spontaneous worship breaks out all over heaven and earth praising God and evermore proclaiming Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God of Hosts, Heaven and earth are full of His glory. Glory be to you oh Lord most high.
Another theme that is emphasized throughout Scripture is God’s creating and calling a particular people for himself. Again we see it in the garden where God creates Adam and Eve for specific and special relationship with Him. God gives them a calling that includes creating other people for God and filling the earth with God’s glory and worshiping God alone and submitting in perfect obedience unto God alone. This theme is clearly developed throughout Scripture. God creates and calls to himself a peculiar people who will be God’s chosen ones beginning with Israel and further developed as the Church.
A third theme developed again from the garden to glory is that of God’s plan of redemption for His people. In the garden God’s people, God’s church if you will, chose disobedience and sin instead of perfect relationship and submission to God. But God showed that He would not lose His people. Through the seed of the woman God would redeem His people. He would purchase back or restore them to their original place of honor as God’s chosen ones. Again this theme is seen over and over throughout the Old Testament but all pointing to the final and perfect act of redemption in God’s sending His one and only Son to become a man, to humble himself in obedience to God, even to the point of dying on the cross for our sins in order to redeem, to buy us back, to restore us, to satisfy the wrath of God and justify for God a chosen people.
These three themes are clearly seen in God’s special calling of and relationship with Abraham. In eleven chapters of Genesis we have moved at blistering speed through 19 generations since the creation of the world. We have slowed down on a couple of occasions again so that we might catch glimpses of God’s glory again and God’s creating and calling a people to himself and God’s plan of redemption for that people. But the opening eleven chapters of Genesis are admittedly quick, flying through generations. The next fourteen chapters are dedicated to one generation, and not just one generation but one man and his life and calling before God; Abraham. In Isaiah 41.8 God refers to Abraham as His friend. In the New Testament Abraham is called the father of all who have faith in Jesus Christ for their salvation. In Abraham’s life we have pictures and examples the even New Testament writers draw on of God’s justification of sinners, that act of God’s free grace by which He pardons sinners of all their sins, and accepts us as righteous in His sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone. This first shows itself explicitly, although we have certainly seen it implicitly in God’s mercy shown to Adam and Eve and to Noah and His family, but it is seen explicitly in God’s relationship with and calling of Abraham. In Genesis fifteen we will see Abraham believed the LORD, and the LORD counted that belief that faith as righteousness. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Today we look at Abraham’s specific and special call to follow the LORD.
The Setting – 11.27-30
Verse 28 – Haran died in Ur – this is mainly to let you know why Lot, Abraham’s nephew travels with him.
Verse 28 – Ur of the Chaldeans – In Joshua 24.2 The LORD reminds Israel and us of their humble beginnings. “Long ago, your fathers lived beyond the Euphrates, Terah, the father of Abraham and of Nahor; and they served other gods.” Abraham worshiped other gods before God called him. Even as Joshua brings it out in Joshua 24, so we must recognize with Israel that God was not drawn to or attracted to Abraham by anything other than God’s grace.
Verse 30 – Sarai was barren; she had no child – Abraham has no future. Any hopes of posterity have faded with every passing year. The writer repeats himself so that you do not miss it.
How the Journey Began – vv. 28-32
Terah, Abram, Lot, and Sarai had set out for Canaan but had stopped in Haran (no relation to Haran the son). This is where Terah died at the age of 205. Normally this is where we would move on to the generations of Abram. But the writer has already told us, there are none. Abraham-whom we would expect to be one of if not the central generation recording of Genesis never receives a “These are the generations of Abraham” heading. Part of that I believe is because so much of the account of Abraham’s life (nine of the fourteen chapters) his position as described in verse 30 doesn’t change.
The Call – 12.1-3
- Go from your country – security
- Go from your kindred – comfort
- Go from your father’s house – familarity
- Go to the land that I will show you – unknown
Verse 1 returns to explain why Abram and his immediate family had left Ur. As John Calvin put it, “They had not been impelled by levity, as rash and fickle men are wont to be; nor had they been drawn to other regions by disgust with their own country, as morose persons frequently are; nor were they fugitives on account of crime; nor were they led away by any foolish hope, or by allurements, as many hurried hither and thither by their own desires; but Abram had been divinely commanded to go forth, and had not moved a foot but as he was guided by the word of God.”
Is God being mean here in calling Abram away from kith and kin, and then not even telling him exactly where he is going? Or is God giving a more accurate assessment to Abram and to us of what it truly means to follow God. Jesus warned about those who would start a building project without counting the cost would end up with a half finished structure which far from being a testimony to their wisdom would stand as a monument to their folly. He warned against those who hear the word of God and follow immediately and hardily but when the persecutions and trials of the world came they withered away. God says count the cost. If someone told you that following Christ meant that your acne would clear up and your teeth would straighten and brighten and every business decision you made would return ten fold and every job you hold would be exciting and challenging and easy all at the same time and you would always get the respect you deserve from your boss and your coworkers and your wife and your husband and your children… I’m sorry, they lied. Jesus promises you, you are going to have trouble in this world. But take heart for I have overcome the world. Do not get me wrong, there is blessing there is great blessing in following Christ in trusting in God alone for your salvation, but that blessing is not simply that all your idols will be prettier and more manageable. That blessing is that God is with you. God has adopted you. God accepts and loves you. What else is there?
Verse 2 – the blessing Depending on how you count it, there are anywhere from 4 to 7 promises of what God is going to do:
I will make of you a great nation – contrast with Babel.
I will bless you
I will make your name great – again Babel
So that you will be a blessing
I will bless those who bless you
He who curses you I will curse – promise to unite Himself to Abram. Your enemies will be my enemies, your friends my friends.
In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
The blessings go from personal–make you a great nation, bless you, make your name great–to immediate surroundings–you will be a blessing, bless your friends, curse your enemy–to universal–in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.
And Abram-husband of barren Sarai-would have heard these promises and for the first time in years, had hope. Faith does not stand alone but in the hope of what is promised. God does not command what he pleases arbitrarily, but his commands are accompanied always by his promise of blessing. Perhaps not as poorly defined as we would have that blessing to be, but always there is blessing. Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Abram was no fool. He heard the promise and believed that Yahweh alone was a God of His word and so his faith produced obedience.
The Response – vv. 4-9
So Abram went. Abram, his wife, Lot who was apparently entrusted to Abram after the death of Haran, and all that they had acquired in Haran–apparently they stayed in Haran long enough to grow rather successful and wealthy. But Abram left it all and traveled 400 miles to Canaan. 400 miles covered in one verse, verse 5. The product of faith is obedience. Always. When we are not obedient to God’s word there is something we are not believing.
Abram gets about halfway into the land – to Shechem – and we are told two things here 1, that Abram was 75 years old when he left Haran and 2, the Canaanites were in the land. The Cannanites the cursed descendants of Ham. Evidence of their existence was the Oak of Moreh. This was most likely a shrine or place of pagan worship. And here The LORD appeared to Abram saying “to your offspring” or “to your seed I will give this land.”
Perhaps in hearing this promise repeated again we might be tempted to begin to be a bit skeptical. Where is this seed? Abram is old, his wife is barren and there is no seed. Promises offer little help to the flesh, but to the one who hears by faith a promise is everything. The one whose faith is in God alone and not even in the good things from God’s hand, when God makes a promise the those who live by faith in that God rest assured and know that God’s promises are as good as done. His word is yea and amen. Will Abram always be comforted by God’s promises? No, for he is after all a man sinful from birth. Proving once again that not even Abram’s faithful response to God’s promise is the basis of God’s promise but God’s promises are based upon God’s grace alone. But here he believes and responds with the only appropriate response, he builds an altar offers a sacrifice and worships his God. One theme that follows Abram through his wanderings is that of building altars to the LORD and calling on his name in prayer and praise. Abram wandered from Shechem to Bethel and built another altar to the LORD. He then wandered again from Bethel to the South or the Negeb and again in the end of chapter 13 we will see, he builds an altar to the LORD and calls on His name. Again as Calvin puts it, Abram “endeavored, as much as in him lay, to dedicate to God every part of the land to which he had access and perfumed it with the odor of his faith.”
The glory of God shines out of the calling of Abram from beginning to end, Abram – a moon worshiping Chaldean – is chosen by God to be the father of a chosen people – a great nation with a great name. Through Abram all the peoples of the earth will be blessed. For from Abram will come the Seed of Abram, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Like Abram He would be a stranger in his own land. Unlike Abram He would never doubt God’s promises. He came unto his own but his own did not receive him, but to as many as receive him to those who believe He gives the power to be called children of God.
Those of you who have received that power who by faith are called children of God, not because of anything wonderful in you but because God called you while you were dead in your sin Christ died for your sin. I am not going to allegorize away the call of Abram. I don’t want you to figure out what your “country” is. I would ask you are you walking by faith? Are you trusting in God’s promises or in what your own hands can do and mind can figure out. Are you trusting God’s promises about your relaitonships? Are you trutsting God’s promises about your future? Are you resting in the joy of knowing Jesus Christ? Does your faith show itself in outward worship of your Savior? Would people be surprised to find out that you have a deep abiding hope that no earthly circumstances can shake? Does your faith show itself through obedience to God’s Word.
Those of you who have not responded to God’s call. Would you. God is calling you to renounce your secret and shameful ways. To repent, to receive the work of Christ as your Savior and Redeemer and trust and rest in him alone for your salvation. I cannot promise that it won’t be hard, I cannot promise that you’ll get everything you want right now. But I can promise you that God’s promise of blessing is real. That God will wash you and save you and begin to change you and you will not be alone, but you will be brought into that chosen people redeemed by God for God’s glory, and that’s a pretty good thing.