Title: Abram’s Faith is Seen
Text: Gen 12.1-9
Introduction: We have the excavations of Ur by many great scholars who give us some insight to the life of the people who were contemporaries with Abram. What is seen and evident from the discoveries of Sir Leonard Woolley’s excavations is a world void of the knowledge of the True, All-powerful God (Hughes). These artifacts, burial plots, etc. show a world devoid of God and reveal to us the kind of environment and culture Abram lived in. What we find there and what we see here in these chapters in Genesis is a dark world without hope. Mankind was hopelessly lost, except for the distant promise to Shem that blessing would come through his line (cf.: 9.26-27).
In the next few verses, we have the call of Abram. Ch. 11 finished out with the lineage from Terah. He had three sons: Abram, Nahor, and Haran. Haran’s son was lot, but we don’t see Haran anymore, so he must of died and Abram took him in.
This passage is divided into three sections:
1. God’s Call and Promise to Abram (1-3)
2. Abram’s Obedience (4-6)
a. Abram Went
b. Abram Took (and they set out)
c. Abram Passed
3. God Appears to Abram (7-9)
Now, We don’t really know about Abram before these verses. Maybe he was a God fearing person before God appeared to him, but this is what we do know: rd 1-3;
The Call of Abram – 12 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.
Transition: So, we see 1st…
1. God’s Call and Promise to Abram (1-3)
exp.: The struggle Abram must have felt is really laid out well for us in this particular ascending order:
a. From your Country
b. From your Kindred
c. From your Father
exp.: Go to a land that I will show you; he didn’t know where he was going when he left! Hebrews 11.8 – 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. John Calvin says that God’s command was basically: I command you to go forth with closed eyes, and forbid you to inquire where I am about to lead you, until, having renounced your country, you shall have given yourself wholly to me. Abram was called to believe God’s word and to act on that belief without any evidence.
app.: Isn’t this basically the call of the gospel? Mt. 8.22; 9.9; 10.37-38; 16.24; 19.21; When Jesus calls us, he doesn’t offer us a guarantee on our earthly future, or tell us what it will be like. No promises about health or length of days. He does promise us that He’ll be with us and walk with us whatever we go through. He does promise us forgiveness and a peace that abides in spite of our storms. So, what were the promises of God to Abram? 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.
Note: these promises are great, but, not any that Abram will personally experience in their fullest state! Interesting to note also: Umberto Cassuto says the word blessing is used 7 times in the Hebrew (bless, blessing, blessed) implying a formulation of perfection; furthermore, the blessing is totally dependent upon God’s work in Abram’s life (5 x’s I will). All of it is accomplished through God’s work and will.
· The promises are personal –
o A Great Nation: this has to be so hard for Abram, because he’s just not there! He’s 75 years old and doesn’t have any kids. Really? a great nation!
o A Great Name: there is irony here in that this is what the builders of the tower of Babel wanted: rd 11.4; He would receive what most like to give themselves or gain for themselves through serving themselves. This is a gift that comes from God. Note: the idea of a great name implies royalty. We see this in 17.6, 16; 23.6; his heirs would indeed be king (think David; Jesus);
· The promises are global – rd v 3; 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.” Think of Melchizedek and Abimelech who were blessed. Now think of the Canaanites who no longer exist! For those who disdain God’s people, God says, ‘I will curse’.
app.: you’ve got to love the way this builds: Abram is blessed; his name is used as a blessing; those who bless him are bless; finally, all families of the earth will be blessed!
Q.: was this realized by the Israelites? No. It has been realized in Christ: the blessing has gone out to every family; Galatians 3.8-9; So, here is our mandate, our command, our responsibility to take this Gospel out to every nation, every tribe, every tongue, every people group so that they will be a part of Revelation 7.
Transition: next we see…
2. Abram’s Response in Obedience (4-6)
exp.: Q.: how long did Abram stay before he left. Don’t waste your time on things that don’t matter. What does matter here, is that Abram did obey God by responding to His call. Here is this nation that worships the moon and so indifferent to God. And yet, here is a man who heard God’s call in the midst of all that darkness.
Rd 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.
I love these verbs that express his faithfulness and obedience:
· So Abram went
· Abram took
· Abram passed
My commentaries tell me that Abram would have traveled some 800 miles or more. And, he wasn’t traveling alone: rd v 5; his wife, his nephew, possessions, people. Contrary to the way this sounds, these ‘people’ were not slaves. Hughes says that these people were not slaves, as we might naturally suppose. Rabbinic teaching and interpretation gives the idea that Abram made proselytes, therefore implying that Abram had been sharing his story with others and they were convinced to follow, too.
app.: you just have to love this story! Abram lived a life of obedience because he believed what God had said. Others, then, were swayed to follow, too. Hebrews 11.8-10; Abram’s clear vision of what God had promised him led him to live his life detached from this world – in tents, so to speak – a sojourner. Isn’t that the attitude we should have? Looking forward to the promise – living as foreigners here, never really comfortable because this is not our home?
ill.: this has been made so clear to me having toured China. The missionaries talk about a honeymoon phase and then a struggle. At the point of struggle, they have to create a small environment that is ‘home’ and ‘american’ or they won’t make it. They have to become detached from the culture they’re living in and go home to a place that is what they’re used to… We should live like missionaries! Colossians 3.1-4;
Transition: God calls and promises Abram, then Abram responds in obedience, Finally,
3. God Appears to Abram (7-9)
Ø At Shechem: so Abram builds and altar.
exp.: 7a Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” Another promise, short and sweet. 7b So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. Why?
1st. Probably like Noah (8.20), Abram was symbolically offering his life to God.
2nd. the altar was built smack, dab in the middle of this land, the land of the Canaanites, probably declaring in a very bold way that this was God’s land.
exp.: now look at v 8;
Ø At Bethel: 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.
Ø On southward: 9 And Abram journeyed on, still going toward the Negeb.
exp.: this brief outline of Abram’s travels take us from the northern border of the holy land to the southern border. His journey is a statement to his belief and trust in God’s Word: that his name would be great, that his descendants would become a great nation; that God would bless those who bless him. His faith in God became a testimony to those who watched his life and they, too, became followers. But it was more than just a testimony of words, it was a testimony through worship. Indeed, Abram becomes an example for us who believe:
· in His Word
o following where it says go
o worshipping God there, wherever that may be
o and testifying to those who walk with us
o seeing them come to faith in Him, too.
And those are my take-a-ways, too… our faith is an example to others when we believe God at His Word!