Friend of God, first of the Patriarchs, the Father of All true believers. We understand little of Judaism and even less of Christianity if we do not recognise that Abram is the most significant individual in God’s purposes in the whole of the Old Testament. The call of Abram is probably the most significant event in the Old Testament And Abram also gives us the greatest example of personal faith.
THE CALL OF GOD
Genesis 12:1 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.
Abram heard God’s call
In the midst of a pagan society of moon-worshippers, Abram had learned the recognise the voice of Almighty God. Many times we may hear the voice of God but not recognise it, or prefer to ignore what God is saying to us because it sounds too demanding. Abram heard God’s call and didn’t pretend that he hadn’t.
Called to leave behind – service God will always involve sacrifice and surrender.
Leave behind his country – Abram had to abandon so much of his wealth, his success and his reputation, his land, his security for the future in the comfortable rich land of the Chaldees.
Leave behind his people – instead of being surrounded by family friends and his own kind of people, Abram was called to live as a foreigner, an exile amongst strangers.
Leave behind his father’s household – Abram’s father Terah still had 60 years to live so Abram was also giving up his family inheritance.
Obeying God always involves sacrifice. Think of all Peter and Andrew, James and John gave up to follow Jesus, leaving behind everything they had ever known. Or think of the Rich Young Ruler, who at least had the integrity to turn back when he wasn’t prepared to pay the price. If we are not conscious of things and even people we have had to leave behind because we are following Jesus, then we may not be following Him that closely.
Called to Go
Hebrews 11:8 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.
God often calls his people to step out in faith, trusting in Him for help and guidance, to attempt great things for god and expect great things from God, without knowing what the future will hold.
We can always see more clearly the things God is calling us to give up than the things He promises we weill receive. We must always exchange the substance for the shadow, the known for the unknown. We must always give up the bird in the hand for the hope of the two in the bush, give up the material in the hope of gaining the eternal and the spiritual. If we are aiming at heaven, we will always need to leave behind lesser goals for an unknown future. And don’t forget, Abram was 75 years old when God called him. None of us is to old or too settled in our ways for God to call us to leave things behind, and go and move on with Him.
THE PROMISE OF BLESSING
Genesis 12:2 “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.
3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
There were five separate occasions when God promised Abram his blessings, distant abstract blessings which would be Abram’s reward for give up the concrete blessings of security and pleasure in his comfortable life at Haran.
Blessings for Abram – some blessings would be inward and personal, in a unique relationship with God. Other blessings would be outward and public, prosperity and success.
Abram would become a great nation – an amazing promise for a man who as yet had no children.
Abram would have a great name. When Abram allowed God to control his life, then God’s blessing would be so evident that everybody around would recognise it.
And Abram would be a blessing to others – what a privilege, and what an ambition, to be a channel of God’s love and power that other people are blessed.
Abram would be protected – God blessing those who blessed him and cursing those who cursed him.
Blessings for the whole world – “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
Abram couldn’t possibly even guess how others would be blessed through him. It would be 2000 years before the Messiah would be born as Abram’s descendent, the Son of God who would be that blessing to all the nations.
Yet Abram was still prepared to sacrifice his own security and comfort, not so much for the blessings on himself and on the family which he would never live to see, but for the possibilities of blessings for others. The faith and obedience of that one man was to be the pivot for the whole of human history. Abram gave up everything to become a solitary wanderer, for the hope that one day there might be a people of God. And untold blessings have come down even to you and to me through that life of self-sacrifice!
How ready are we to obey God, not so that WE will be blessed, but so that through our sacrifices OTHERS will be blessed. Some people are so selfish that they want the blessings all for themselves – or they aren’t interested in serving God at all. Abram wasn’t like that!
THE OBEDIENCE OF FAITH
“So Abram left, as the Lord had told him”! (Hebrews 11:8)
Faith and obedience – are just two sides of the the same coin. Faith means relying on a person and trusting their words. Faith in God doesn’t just mean claiming His promises – it must also mean obedience to His commands. Taking God at His word means taking God at ALL His words – the commands as well as the promises. Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey!
Abram is God’s example to us of the obedience of faith. In years to come God may call any one of us, or the whole church, to step out in faith, into uncertainty, with only His promise of blessing to sustain us. Are WE prepared to be the pilgrim people of God?
The pilgrim life
Genesis 12:4 So Abram left, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran. 5 He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.
Abram left (v4) set out (v5) travelled through (v6) went on (v7) and continued (v9). He gave up the security and comfort of Haran for a life on the move. Despite misunderstanding and ridicule and mocking from the people he left behind – Abram set out. He wasn’t alone of course. Maybe hundreds were travelling with him on that expedition into the unknown. And it was ABRAM’s faith and ABRAM’s vision that had to sustain them all! If God were to call US into that kind of pilgrim life, giving up our comforts to follow Him one step at a time into an uncertain future, would we be prepared to obey?
The promise of the Land
Genesis 12:6 Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. 7 The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him.
Obedience led to a fresh vision from God. Abram acted on the light he had received, and so he received more light. At last God points out specifically the land he had previously promised generally. But that Land would be for Abram’s descendents, not for Abram himself. The Canaanites were in the land and for his lifetime Abram would have to live there as a foreigner, an alien and a stranger. Obedience had led him into the lion’s den, yet God’s promise was there, “I will give you this land”. Even where people do not acknowledge Him, in Canaan or in North Springfield, God is still Almighty and God Almighty still reigns. God is still Lord. And with the eye of faith, impossible as it is seems, Abram receives God’s promise. But his life still consists of
Tents and Altars.
Genesis 12:8 From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD. 9 Then Abram set out and continued toward the Negev.
We find Abram pitching his tent in the Promised Land, recognising that his home there in Canaan would be temporary until God’s plans were fulfilled. But wherever he camped he also built an altar to God – the altars which act as a testimony not only of worship but also of self-denial and sacrifice and surrender. The tent was temporary – always moving on. The altars were permanent – built for eternity.
Hebrews 11: 8 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
And so Abram pressed on to that city with foundations, built by God. If only Christians would adopt the same priorities as Abram, putting all our energies into things of eternity instead of the things of this world, recognising how temporary the things of this world actually are.
Like Abram we are called to be strangers in the world.
Hebrews 11:13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through.
My treasures are laid up, somewhere beyond the blue,
The Saviour beckons me from heaven’s open door,
And I can’t feel at home in this world any more.
We say we believe in heaven. But until the world around sees Christians laying up our treasures in heaven instead of on earth, I am not sure many people are going to believe us.
Abram still has at least 10 trials of faith and obedience to come. But he has passed the first hurdle. God called and Abram obeyed. Whatever God may call us to in the future, may He give US the grace to respond with faith and obedience.