When twentieth century evangelist and author G. Campbell Morgan was a young man he visited two elderly ladies each week to read the Bible to them. When he read Matthew 28:20, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age.” He said, “Isn’t that a wonderful promise?” One of the ladies quickly replied, “Young man, that is not a promise. It is a fact!”
All of God’s promises are fact. That is how reliable God is! It would be against His character to break His promises.
Today, consider God’s promise, as found in the life of the patriarchs and traced through sections of the Old Testament, and ultimately fulfilled in our Lord Jesus Christ. In it we discover some wonderful things about God and the faith that He instilled in the man we know as Abraham.
God calls Abram in the midst of judgment.
It should not be lost in our reading that God’s call upon Abram occurs right after the incident of the Tower of Babel. Here is where man reaches the height of his arrogance and tries to accomplish God. This is found in
Genesis 11:4 “Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.’”
Their use of technology (for their time), their quest to be mighty and their determination to live without God, marginalized the One who made them and created them for fellowship with Him. And so the Lord confused their language and caused them to scatter over the whole earth. It is where we get the term “babal,” which is based on the Hebrew term which means “to confuse.” As a result of their rebellion, God judges man and scatters them. The inability to communicate and socialize is a huge curse upon the land.
But it is out of this situation that God seeks to reverse the situation caused at the Garden of Eden and the banishment of our first parents. In the aftermath of judgment, God calls Abram to leave his comfortable and familiar surroundings and go to a land that has yet to be revealed. Talk about an adventure! The promise is found in verses one through three:
Genesis 12:1–3 says: “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.”
Genesis is the book of beginnings. It gives the account of how God made the heavens and the earth. It gives the significance of man, made in God’s image and the unique people of Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and finally Joseph.
God promises to bless Abram, make His name great and make (out of his posterity) a great nation. God, reaches down and essentially rescues Abram in the midst of judgment. And so Abram obeyed God and started his trek. He responds in faith.
And that is what the calling of God is- to trust Him. We are told in
Hebrews 11:6: “And without faith it is impossible to please him… .” The calling of God upon your life is first and foremost, to trust Him.
Abram’s call came with adversity and responsibility.
Genesis 12:4 states: “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.”
Noteworthy are the following points:
First off, Abraham was the son of Terah. Terah dies. Losing a parent is a significant adversity.
Second, Sarai became Abram’s wife, but she was barren (11:30). In that time and culture, one’s success, even one’s survival, was dependent upon having children.
Thirdly, Abram and his extended family traveled from Ur of the Chaldeans into the land of Canaan. This trek was anywhere from 400 to 1500 miles in length. A person could average 30-40 miles per day. This was a commitment that placed demands physically upon everyone involved. And they were to go into a land where they knew no one. That was dangerous! It would require faith!
This would occur when Abram was 75 years old. Abram could have said: “It’s time to call it a wrap. My life is in its twilight years. I’m too tired for this!” But he did not.
What’s more is that the promise to be formed into a great nation would undoubtedly require children, but Sarai was in her sixties and barren. How could a great nation come from one who cannot have children!? Nevertheless, God said:
“I will make you a great nation. I will bless you and make your name great.” so that you will be a blessing.”
Our own Dr. Drake Williams, in his book Making Sense of the Bible, points out that God’s promise to Abram is three-fold: land, seed and blessing. Drake states:
“At the time that God called him, Abraham has neither land nor children. It seems impossible from a human perspective that Abraham would ever have a child- he was seventy-five years old and his wife was in her late sixties. Nevertheless, God promises Abraham that he will, indeed, have land, children, and a blessing.” (Williams, Making Sense of the Bible, 32).
In 12:7: “The Lord appeared to Abram.” God’s appearing is often associated with the giving of promises.
What is also noteworthy is that the land to which they are going is filled with the Canaanites. This a broad term, including many different types of people. They were wicked in the eyes of the Lord, performing all types of sexual sin and human sacrifice in their worship practices, even sacrificing their children to appease their false gods. And God would judge them for their sin.
God called Abram to live exclusively for Him in a very challenging spiritual environment. Abram’s calling was nothing small. The Lord drew Abram out of that which was warm and comfortable, to go into a section of the world and live for Him.
The result of Abram’s call was worship.
Genesis 12:7 tells us: “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.”
Abram built an altar at Shechem, by the oak of Moreh, between Bethel and Ai. This was a practice repeated by each of the patriarchs, as we see their devotion to God develop throughout the pages of Genesis.
In future chapters, God will prove Himself faithful by showing Abram the land he and his posterity would possess (Genesis 13:14). He would rescue Lot from an awful situation that would cost him his own wife (Genesis 14). God would remind Abram of his promise with a sign of this covenant (circumcision) and impart to him righteousness in Genesis 15:6: “And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.”
Abram’s call is significant because he did not know God before all of this. He was a pagan, raised in a home where their was no recognition of God. You and I would never have come to faith in God unless He revealed Himself to us.
This challenges us because you and I are married to the familiar, the comfortable and that which is habit. God has to break through all of that to get our attention.
Abram’s calling also reminds us that life is not about us. It is about being a blessing to others: serving God and serving others. We are blessed to be a blessing.
You might ask: “So what? What difference does this make?” First, observe that God’s call to Abram was to trust him. We are reminded that every time God calls a person, it requires faith. Hebrews tells us: “Without faith, it is impossible to please God.” Many times, Jesus is recorded as saying: “Your faith has made you well.” Faith is “The assurance of things hoped for; the conviction of things not seen.” Faith requires action: and that action is trust in God no matter what.
Secondly, we see that faith requires us to do thinks that are uncomfortable at times. The Lord does not save us to live a plush life. Rather, it is uncomfortable to “deny yourself, take up your cross and follow,” Jesus.
Thirdly, Abram’s response is worship. He built an altar to the Lord. Do we have an altar to the Lord in our lives? Are we visiting the altar of the Lord to worship Him weekly? Daily? Remember that Jesus said: “Apart from Me, you can do nothing.” John 15:5.
And so Abram needed a redirection of His comfort: not in things or places, but in God Himself. It was the Puritan George Gifford who said: “This is a singular comfort, that all things come to pass not according to wicked men’s counsels, but according to what God determines.” Great peace comes from knowing that God rules over all circumstances. Therefore, we can trust Him.