God’s Faithfulness And Abram’s Call

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Manage episode 265702657 series 1051957
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Genesis 11:10-12:9 These are the generations of Shem. When Shem was 100 years old, he fathered Arpachshad two years after the flood. 11 And Shem lived after he fathered Arpachshad 500 years and had other sons and daughters.

12 When Arpachshad had lived 35 years, he fathered Shelah. 13 And Arpachshad lived after he fathered Shelah 403 years and had other sons and daughters.

14 When Shelah had lived 30 years, he fathered Eber. 15 And Shelah lived after he fathered Eber 403 years and had other sons and daughters.

16 When Eber had lived 34 years, he fathered Peleg. 17 And Eber lived after he fathered Peleg 430 years and had other sons and daughters.

18 When Peleg had lived 30 years, he fathered Reu. 19 And Peleg lived after he fathered Reu 209 years and had other sons and daughters.

20 When Reu had lived 32 years, he fathered Serug. 21 And Reu lived after he fathered Serug 207 years and had other sons and daughters.

22 When Serug had lived 30 years, he fathered Nahor. 23 And Serug lived after he fathered Nahor 200 years and had other sons and daughters.

24 When Nahor had lived 29 years, he fathered Terah. 25 And Nahor lived after he fathered Terah 119 years and had other sons and daughters.

26 When Terah had lived 70 years, he fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran.

27 Now these are the generations of Terah. Terah fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran fathered Lot. 28 Haran died in the presence of his father Terah in the land of his kindred, in Ur of the Chaldeans. 29 And Abram and Nahor took wives. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran the father of Milcah and Iscah. 30 Now Sarai was barren; she had no child.

31 Terah took Abram his son and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife, and they went forth together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan, but when they came to Haran, they settled there. 32 The days of Terah were 205 years, and Terah died in Haran.

12:1 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

4 So Abram went, as the LORD had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. 5 And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan, 6 Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. 7 Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him. 8 From there he moved to the hill country on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. And there he built an altar to the LORD and called upon the name of the LORD. 9 And Abram journeyed on, still going toward the Negeb.

INTRODUCTION

We’re going to consider three different sections of Genesis this morning. Each serves a different immediate purpose, but all three are ultimately in Genesis for the same reason: to help tell the story of God and His faithfulness to rescue His people. To that end we’ll consider the genealogy of Shem (11:10-26), the brief section on the descendants of Abram’s father, Terah (11:27-32), and finally, God’s call on Abram and Abram’s response (12:1-9). In each of these sections I want to invite you to be on the lookout for glimpses of the glory of God and their implications for us today. Let’s pray that we’d see clearly and respond appropriately.

THE GENEALOGY OF SHEM (11:10-26)

In my very first sermon on Genesis I mentioned that Genesis is fairly neatly divided into two parts. Chapters 1-11 make up the first part and chapters 12-the end (50) make up the second. Chapters 1-11 deal with the history of the whole world. Chapters 12-50 deal with the history of one family, Abraham’s. Chapters 1-11 cover around 2000 years of history while the rest of the book cover only around 200 (obviously the pace slows considerably).

The genealogy in chapter 11 serves as a type of hinge between the two parts. That is, the simple point of the genealogy in 11:10-26 is to make the connection between Noah (/Shem) and Abraham crystal clear. In that way (and in a few others), it is similar to the genealogy of chapter 5; the point of which is largely to get us from Adam to Noah.

And yet the Genesis 11 genealogy is different than the one in chapter 5 in one key aspect as well. Genesis 5 focuses on the death that resulted from the sin of Adam (and ___ died) while Genesis 11 focuses on the life (and ___ lived) that resulted from God’s faithfulness to his 3:15 promise. That difference marks the heart of this passage and the rest of Genesis. Thus, you’ll notice a change in tone as well. The tone shifts from primarily curses with subtle blessings, to primarily blessings with more subtle curses. That’s not to say that the rest of Genesis is all peaches and roses; it’s just to say that it focuses more on God’s faithfulness than mankind’s failure.

In this, Grace, we are reminded that we serve a God of hope and blessing. He means for us all to turn to Him in faith and be rescued from the curse of our sin.

THE DESCENDENTS OF TERAH (11:27-32)

These few verses introduce the next (the 6th of 10) toledot (generations or descendents) section of Genesis (11:27-25:11). That is, while Shem’s genealogy provides the hinge between the two main sections of Genesis, this simple and short recap of the descendents of Terah serves as the introduction to the second section.

Genesis 11:27-32 Now these are the generations of Terah. Terah fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran fathered Lot. 28 Haran died in the presence of his father Terah in the land of his kindred, in Ur of the Chaldeans. 29 And Abram and Nahor took wives. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran the father of Milcah and Iscah. 30 Now Sarai was barren; she had no child.

31 Terah took Abram his son and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife, and they went forth together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan, but when they came to Haran, they settled there. 32 The days of Terah were 205 years, and Terah died in Haran.

The point of this section, once again, is to introduce the key characters, relationships, conditions, and settings—the background—to the stories that follow. There are a few things in particular that we need to keep in mind:

  1. Abram is Terah’s son. That’s important because the remarkableness Abram’s faithfulness is more clearly seen in contrast with his father’s unfaithfulness. As Joshua 24:2 records, Terah (along with many in his family “served other gods.”
  2. Haran, Terah’s son and Lot’s father, died. That’s important because it explains why Lot was with Abram (instead of his father) in the stories to come.
  3. Sarai, Abram’s wife, was barren—she couldn’t have children. This is absolutely critical as it makes the glory of God in the fulfillment of His covenant promises so much more obvious.
  4. Abram received his call from God while still in Ur (Acts 7:2-4). This is important because it explains why Terah, Abram, and Lot left Ur. It also explains how Genesis 12:1 fits chronologically with this section.
  5. Haran was Terah’s ancestral home. This is important because it explains why they stopped there (rather than continuing straight on to Canaan) and why it was fitting for Terah to be laid to rest there.

That’s a lot of important information packed into a few seemingly inconsequential verses. Though it does provide some helpful context and preparation for what we’re about to read, the main point is not literary, but theological. The main point is to remind us once again that all of this is according to God’s great plan of rescue. Grace, we are meant (along with the first readers of Genesis) to marvel at the wisdom, mercy, grace, and power of God to bring about these events for the salvation of the damned.

THE CALL OF ABRAM (12:1-3)

With all of that, we come to the most important passage in Genesis (and in some ways the entire OT): the story of God’s call on Abram and Abram’s faithful response. We’ll look at each in turn, but hear this: these few verses mark the beginning of the Israelites as a people and define the purpose of their existence.

Let’s look again, then, at God’s call on Abram.

1 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

From this I want to draw your attention to four things.

God Unconditionally Chose Abram/Israel

Not a single word is said concerning the reason for God’s call. It’s introduced with six simple words…

1 Now the LORD said to Abram…

While Noah was said to be a righteous man prior to God’s choosing him to be saved through the ark, no such statement is made of Abram. In fact, that seems to be a significant part of the point of Abram’s calling—there was nothing in him that stood out. He came from a pagan home. Everything good that would come to and from him was entirely, and clearly, the result of God’s choice rather than Abram’s merit. Abram’s faith and obedience followed God’s call; they were not the basis of it.

And this, like so much of the physical reality of the OT, is meant to point us to an even greater spiritual reality. That is, as I’ve mentioned before, the historical people, places, and events of the OT are meant in large measure to give us living pictures of the invisible spiritual reality that we all live in through Jesus Christ.

In that way, then, in Abram’s call we find Romans 9:16 personified, “So then it [our salvation] depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” God has chosen to rescue a people for Himself; not because we deserve it, but because He is merciful and gracious. In that we are meant to find humility and gratitude and praise for the name of the Lord most High.

God’s Call on Abram’s Life Was Clear and Unmistakable

We don’t know exactly what form God’s initial call on Abram took, but we do know that it was clear and unmistakable. It was not a subjective impression. Whatever form it took it was received as an undeniable and specific divine commission. Abram didn’t wonder if it was God who spoke, what God had said, what God meant, or what he was to do in response. Each of those things were clear and unmistakable

1 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.

Abram was to leave his country and family and go to a new land that God would direct him to. The only question Abram had was whether or not he would obey.

And so it is for you and me. God has put everything He requires of us in His Word. It is clear and sufficient. When we mean to discern the will of God for our lives, the one question we are to ask in prayer and of our brothers and sisters in Christ, is this: what has God already said about this in His word? We need not wait for subjective impressions or some inner sense. God may bring them, but so can the father of lies. God is still real and present and personal. His Holy Spirit is in us, working continually on our behalf. But God has chosen to reveal His will to us in His Word.

Not Every Detail of God’s Call Was Immediately Revealed

If our hope and trust were fully in God, being told by God to leave our home, land, friends, and most of our family and possessions would be simple and joyful. But since we are all still fighting to place our hope and trust fully in God, even some of God’s smallest requirements, much less one as gigantic as this, can seem overwhelming. Now imagine being commanded to do all of that, without even being told where you’d finally end up. Such was God’s charge to Abram.

1 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.

Hebrews 11:8 says that “And he went out, not knowing where he was going…”.

As Abram was forced to do, so are we every day—we must join Abram in asking ourselves whether we mean to live by human sight and wisdom or by faith in God’s promised grace. Everything around us—unfortunately, even in the Church sometimes—pleads with us to live by our physical sight and earthly wisdom. But God’s will and commands (as Abram is about to find out in spectacular ways) often don’t fit very well with the ways of man. God’s promises are often counterintuitive and seemingly impossible. Chief among all of them is the promise of salvation for mankind through faith in the shed blood of Jesus on a cross. It’s folly to the world, but it’s the power of God for those who believe. And so, as we see in Abram, we must live by faith and not by sight—even when we don’t get every detail upfront…I’m not sure I’ve ever seen this more than when it comes to orphan care and missions and I love that our church has a great emphasis on both.

God Would Bless Abram and the World through Him

Finally, if Abram were to accept God’s call and respond to it in faithful obedience, God promised to bless Abram and the world through him in truly spectacular ways.

2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

There are three categories of explicitly stated blessings that God promises to Abram should he obey.

  1. Abram would be made into a great nation. That means just what it sounds like—If Abram were to walk in faithful obedience to God, God would make Abram’s family fruitful to the point that they would become a rich and powerful people.
  2. Abram’s name would be made great. This too is just what it sounds like—If Abram were to walk in faithful obedience, God would cause Abram’s (Abraham) name to be known on all the earth. People would hear the name Abram and be impressed; even his enemies would know they needed to show respect.
  3. God would bless Abram to be a blessing. The first two blessings were always meant to lead to a third. God meant the entire world—“all the families of the earth”—to be blessed by Abram’s blessing. This is perhaps the most significant of the three. Abram and his family were not to keep God’s blessings for themselves. They were to be a light to the world. They were to share their blessings that all would know the greater name of the LORD whenever they heard the great name of Abram.

What’s more, the text says, the world would receive that blessing by treating Abram honorably. But they would miss out on the blessing and instead take on curse if they treated Abram dishonorably. In essence, as long as Abram lived as God called him to, the entire world had a choice to be blessed or cursed based on their response to Abram and Abram’s God.

This is more than most of us would even thing to ask of God. This is more than most of us could even think of. It certainly was more than Abram thought or asked. But that’s the kind of God we serve…He takes those guilty of treason against Him and sets them in high places. His mercy and grace are extravagant. Grace, remember this: for those whose hope is in Jesus, God only gives good gifts. In fact, every gift of God is far, far greater than we could possibly imagine. They all have roots deeper and heights higher than we will know in this life. Even the gifts that come in prickly packages are more spectacular than any alternative desire we might have.

So, Christian, would you please thank God for His great gifts, ask God to help you appreciate them (for that is all you have in Jesus), and then plead with God to fill you with great joy as you turn those gifts into gifts.

THE FAITHFUL OBEDIENCE OF ABRAM (12:4-9)

Well, as you can see, there’s a lot on the table. How would Abram respond? Would he obey or disobey? Would he run (like Jonah) or would he embrace God’s call? Our answer comes immediately.

4 So Abram went, as the LORD had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. 5 And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan, 6 Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land.

Hebrews words it this way…

Hebrews 11:8-10 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land…10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.

Grace, Abram obeyed God. I love to see God’s people obey; especially when there is something at stake. It’s an encouragement to my soul when you all tell stories of acts of costly obedience. The text helps us to see several costly things about Abram’s obedience that make it even more impressive.

  1. He obeyed immediately, doing exactly as God told him to do. God said “go” and “so Abram went, as the LORD had told him.” There is no hint of questioning or delay. There is no indication of hesitation or grumbling. And there’s no suggestion of partial or incomplete obedience. Abram obeyed God now.
  2. Abram was older when he obeyed. Note the average life-span of mankind was rapidly dropping toward what we experience today (11:10-26). Thus, the fact that Abram was seventy-five when he left means that he was advanced in years (he did live to be 175). This only adds to the admirability of Abram’s obedience. Older people of Grace, you are not off the hook for doing hard things!
  3. Abram’s obedience led him to a hostile, pagan place. The “oak of Moreh” was likely a place of false teaching and idol worship. On top of that, the text’s subtle reference to the Canaanite presence would have rung in the ears of the Israelites who first received Genesis. The presence of the Canaanites meant the presence of trouble. This will become clearer soon, but we already know enough to have our warning lights going off.

Again, all of these things combined help us to appreciate Abram’s simple obedience in an even greater way.

As a reward and to provide further clarification God spoke once again to Abram. Don’t miss the fact, though, that God not only spoke to Abram here, he “appeared” to him as well. What a blessing this must have been.

7 Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.”

God was kind to confirm that Abram was indeed walking in obedience and that He was pleased with him. He was granted the opportunity to see the inheritance of his family. Abram, once again responded in faith; and in his faith, worship.

So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him. 8 From there he moved to the hill country on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. And there he built an altar to the LORD and called upon the name of the LORD. 9 And Abram journeyed on, still going toward the Negeb.

Like Noah, Abram’s response to the kindness and blessing of God was worship. Grace, we are made to worship. We are made to see and savor the grace of God. We are made to taste and see the goodness of God. We are made to recognize and reflect the glory of God. We are made to worship. God promised to make a great name for Abram, but Abram responded by making a great name for God. Thank God with me for this simple, yet obviously right picture of the life of faith-filled worship; and join me in fighting to live entirely in that by faith.

CONCLUSION

Grace, in conclusion, I want to point out one simple thing: Abram’s obedience proved the legitimacy of his faith. The lesson for us in this is that true faith always results in obedience. I’ve said this before and I’ll certainly say it again, as Christians we must learn to ask two questions and not just one.

Typically, the only question we ask is some form of “How can I be saved?”. That’s a great question. We should continue to ask it. And we should continue to insist on the answer: “By grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.” May we never move past that.

And yet, once again, may we never stop there, for the bible won’t let us. We must ask another question, “How do I know that I truly have faith?”. How do I know my faith is real and different from the belief in God that even the demons have? The answer, every time, is growth in joyful obedience. We are not saved by our obedience, but increasingly glad-hearted obedience always marks our salvation. How do you know if your credit card worked at the gas pump? It gives you a receipt. How do you know if your freezer is working properly? It makes ice. How do you know if your faith in Jesus is the kind that saves? Your life will be increasingly marked by joyful obedience to God’s commands. Joyful obedience is a gift of God in Jesus Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit, but it is also a necessary mark of saving faith. Where you find increasing obedience, then, rejoice. Where you don’t, repent and believe and be saved; turn to Jesus today and He will receive you and make you like Him.

Grace, let us look to this passage and learn what simple, God-honoring faith looks like and how God rewards those who have it. Let us recognize that we know now what Abram couldn’t have known then: the true object of our faith is the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us place all our hope in Him and rejoice in the saving and transforming and blessing work that certainly follows.

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