Embracing the claims of God requires leaving some things behind.
Genesis(93) (Part of the Origins(91) series)
by Stuart Johns(204) on August 15, 2021 (Sunday Morning(291))
Faithfulness(14), Obedience(27), Sacrifice(13)
“In his 1999 novel, Testament, John Grisham tells the story of a billionaire’s inheritance that is left to an illegitimate daughter, Rachel Lane, whom he has never really known. When the law firm tries to find her, they discover that she has become a missionary in the remote jungle villages of Brazil. Rachel has left everything in pursuit of her missionary commitment. One of the suspense lines running through the novel is the question of how firmly her resolve will hold when matchless wealth seeks to draw her back. Her calm resistance leaves the lawyer, Nate O’Riley, baffled. He cannot imagine someone being that unaffected when so much wealth is within her grasp.
This positive picture of a faith resolve finds its polar opposite in the 1998 novel, The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver. Nathan Price is an evangelical Baptist missionary to the Belgian Congo, with his wife and four daughters. Seen through the eyes of the women, Price is a jumble of contradictions. He has pursued his ‘call’ without the endorsement of the mission board of his denomination and without raising any financial or spiritual support. This is his idea of faith. His ‘faith resolve’ is so colored by selfishness, personal foibles, theological shallowness, and cultural superiority and imperialism that he has lost any right to claim God’s leading and has left his family and all those around him confused about his motives. As Nathan Price illustrates, leaving all to serve God can easily be a self-serving delusion. When it is not, as Rachel Lane illustrates, that which is left behind has a way of catching up to us and pressing its claims anew.”
[Walton, The NIV Application Commentary, Genesis, 405]
I mentioned last week that Judy and I moved around a lot throughout our 30 years of marriage
Some of those moves required that we sacrifice living around family (FL, MO, & CA)
It even required that we sacrifice what was familiar and secure
Steps of faith
Some of those moves required steps of faith on our part
The greatest step of faith that we took was being obedient to God’s calling on my life to be a Pastor
I had resisted that call for 13 years before telling the Lord that I would pursue pastoring
The blessings that have resulted have been far beyond what I could have imagined
There are times when I wish I would have been obedient sooner, but the life lessons I learned have been invaluable as I pastor
Every one of us can probably share stories of what we have had to sacrifice in order to be obedient to the Lord
Take time to think about the things that were sacrificed and how the Lord blessed as a result of being obedient
I really connect with Genesis 12:1-9, because it is very close to what I’ve experienced in my own life. Abram had to make some sacrifices, but God promised him some pretty incredible blessings. The author of Genesis wants us to understand from this passage that . . .
BIG IDEA – Embracing the claims of God requires leaving some things behind.
GOD (Genesis 12:1-9)
Call (v. 1a)
When did the Lord call Abram?
If we follow what was just said in Genesis 11:27-32, it would seem like the Lord called Abram after Terah’s death in Haran
Looking at the original Hebrew the past perfect tense is used for “had said” [Waltke, Genesis: A Commentary, 204]
So, this leads us to believe that it happened at an earlier time, but when?
Stephen’s speech to the Sanhedrin, found in the book of Acts is extremely helpful here
Acts 7:2-4, To this he replied: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran. ‘Leave your country and your people,’ God said, ‘and go to the land I will show you.’ “So he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. After the death of his father, God sent him to this land where you are now living.”
So, we see that Abraham was still in Ur of the Chaldeans when the Lord called him
Abram would have been 50 years old when he received this call from the Lord
We see in verse 4 that Abraham was 75 years old when he was finally able to leave and complete the calling on his life
The Lord commanded Abram to do two things, but He also gave Abram a three-fold promise with the commands
Covenant (vv. 1b-3)
Two commands (v. 1b)
Abram was commanded to leave three specific things, which encompassed who he was – from the broad to narrow/specific
He was to leave his country, Ur of the Chaldeans
This was no simple task
“Babylonian civilization at a time when it was at one of its peaks of cultural and political splendor. . . . Abraham came out of an area which for a long period of time—for four, five, or six hundred years—had had a high level of civilization with writing, with fine cities, with highly developed arts, beautiful gems and carvings and very well-established law codes and legal systems; all of these things were his, plus a highly developed religious system (LaSor, 16-17).” [Gangel & Bramer, Holman Old Testament Commentary, Genesis, 119]
This helps us understand that Abram was making an incredible sacrifice in order to follow the Lord’s command
He was giving up everything that he knew
This was his kinsmen
People he grew up with
For us it would represent extended family, friends, and coworkers
Many people are born, raised, and live their entire lives in the same area
If that’s you, then you understand the significance of what the Lord was asking Abram to leave, to sacrifice
His father’s household
This was his closest family unit, which included his parents, siblings, and their families
Perhaps this would be the most difficult separation of all
How many of us would be willing to leave the familiarity of our “land,” friend-base, and family to be obedient to God’s calling?
Embracing the claims of God requires leaving some things behind.
“He [Abram] must decide whether to abandon his land in favor of the land Yahweh offers. He must decide whether to abandon what family he still has in favor of the family Yahweh promises (against all logic, given Sarai’s infertility). He must decide whether to set aside his blessing, his inheritance, for the inheritance Yahweh describes. The initiative offers much, but its cost is significant. Abram must trust Yahweh to deliver what he has offered in order to give up so much that Abram already has to gain.” [Walton, 392]
We’ll see Abram’s choice when we get to verse 4
PRINCIPLE #1 – To become disciples we must be willing to leave anything we are asked to leave.
Each person/family may be asked to leave different things, because we’re all individuals, we’re all different, we don’t all value the same things
Too often we can become complacent where we are and ineffective as God’s ambassadors of the Gospel
The Lord may require us to leave our “creature comforts” in order to bring us to a place where we can be effective again, where He can use us for His glory
Matthew 10:37-39, “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
I’m reminded of a missionary who struggled with the reality that the place God was calling he and his family to serve, was hostile towards Christians and there was real danger that his family could be persecuted and harmed. This father had to spend time alone with God in the woods surrendering his children to the Lord. He had to be willing to sacrifice his own family in order to be a disciple of Jesus.
Mark 10:29-30, “I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields – and with them persecutions) and in the age to come eternal life.”
This is what my parents did 34 years ago when they left everything they knew in PA and moved to AL to begin church planting (both of my parents were born and raised in south central PA and most of their siblings and their families live here)
Judy and I have experienced the same thing and I’m certain that we were willing to follow the Lord’s leading because of the example of my parents
Jim Elliot wrote in his journal, these words: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
What has God called you to?
Have you been obedient to that calling, or are you still waiting?
Abram waited 25 years
I waited 13 years
“‘Lord, why aren’t You directing me?’ we cry. ‘I already did,’ He answers. ‘Twenty-five years ago, I told you what to do. And I won’t give you more to do until you do what I’ve already told you.’” [Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary, Old Testament, Volume 1: Genesis-Job, 59]
It’s never too late to be obedient
#1 – My Next Step Today Is To: Be obedient to the call God has placed on my life and not wait any longer.
#2 – My Next Step Today Is To: Be willing to leave anything that God is asking me to leave in order to be obedient to His calling.
God’s first command to Abram was to leave and His second command was to go
It had been 25 years since God called Abram to leave Ur, but he hadn’t completed the journey yet, because he’d gotten sidetracked in Haran
God had told Abram, while he was in Ur, to go to the land He would show him
Abram hadn’t forgotten this command
Perhaps he was honoring his father by remaining in Haran until he died
The patriarchal system in the Ancient Near East was very strong
We’re not told if Abram is given any specifics about where to go while he was living in Ur
My guess is that the Lord told him to head west
The Lord would have had to give him some kind of direction, even if He didn’t give him the specific name of the region or land
That information is shared in verse 5
The Lord was not asking Abram to give up anything He was not going to replace in the future [Walton, 399]
As we’ll see in verses 2-3, God promises to take Abram to a new land, provide a family that will become a great nation, and provide care, protection, and an inheritance for him
Three-fold promise and blessing (vv. 2-3)
I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you
“A nation is generally characterized as a political unit with common land, language, and government.” [Mathews, The New American Commentary, Volume 1B, Genesis 11:27-50:26, 112]
The promise then, is to provide a land that Abram will be able to call his country, since he was asked to leave his country
The promise also includes replacing his people – Abram’s offspring will become a great nation
The Lord tells Abram that He will bless him
What will the blessing look like – what will it encompass?
Mathews tells us that it includes two things: descendants and material possessions [Mathews, 113]
In a broad sense, Abram will be cared for and protected by the Lord [Walton, 399]
Since, the Lord had already promised Abram numerous offspring (great nation), it is probable that the blessing mentioned here is material wealth
“Wealth was measured by numerous and robust livestock, precious metals, such as gold and silver, and human labor, slave and alien.” [Mathews 113]
This holds true when we see what Abram takes with him when he leaves Haran (that’s coming in verse 5)
Keil & Delitzsch include spiritual prosperity in this blessing also [Keil & Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, Volume 1, The Pentateuch, 123], which will be evident throughout the rest of the Abrahamic narrative in Genesis
The Lord not only promises Abram land and family, but also a great name
I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing
The Lord was promising to elevate Abram to a position of honor and glory [Keil & Delitzsch, 123]
He was also promising to show the nations the incredible character that Abram had [Waltke, 205]
As a result of Abram’s character and faith, he would be a blessing to others – he would have great influence for many generations
Just think about how he is referenced throughout the rest of Scripture, both Old and New Testaments – the God of Abraham – that phrase is repeated continually
This second blessing means that Abram would protect and care for those connected to him, who were in good standing with him
God didn’t bless Abram so he would hold on to that blessing for himself
God blessed Abram so he could be a blessing bearer that would bless others
There is one final part to the Lord’s three-fold promise and blessing
I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you
How individuals treated Abram would be how the Lord would treat them
If they blessed Abram, the Lord would bless them
If they cursed Abram, the Lord would curse them
I wonder if this promise is not upheld by the Lord today as it pertains to Israel as a nation
Abram and his descendants would be a conduit through which the Lord would bless all the people of the earth
We have experienced this blessing, because Jesus came through the line of Abraham and as followers of Jesus Christ we have received a blessing from Abraham and his faith
God is revealed through Abram’s family (Law, Prophets, Scriptures, Jesus) [Walton, 402]
How has the Lord blessed you with family and material wealth?
Take a moment to think about the blessings the Lord has given you (family and possessions)
When is the last time you’ve thanked Him for those blessings?
Prayer Prompt: “Lord, thank You for blessing me with . . .”
Have you used the Lord’s blessing in your life to be a blessing to others?
Who have you protected and cared for as a result of being blessed by the Lord?
When is the last time you’ve protected or cared for someone?
Prayer Prompt: “Father, please forgive me for not using Your blessing to protect and care for . . .”
Are you grateful for the blessing of salvation through Jesus Christ as a result of Abraham’s faithfulness?
Have you thanked the Lord for that blessing?
Prayer Prompt: “Savior, thank You for saving me from . . .”
Have you shared that blessing with others?
Prayer Prompt: “God, help me to share the blessing of Your salvation with . . .”
We’ve looked at Abram’s call and the covenant that the Lord promised him, but what was his response?
Commitment (vv. 4-9)
Abram’s travelers and treasures (vv. 4-5)
He left, as the Lord told him
[show map, Haran to Canaan]
Abram obeyed when he did not know: [Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Old Testament, Genesis-Deuteronomy, 68]
Where – 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. (Hebrews 11:8)
How – By faith Abraham, even though he was past age – and Sarah herself was barren – was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore. (Hebrews 11:11-12)
When – Hebrews 11:13-16
Why – Hebrews 11:17-19
PRINCIPLE #2 – Obey God even when I don’t understand why He asks what He does
What incredible faith Abram had, as he left Haran
“Faith is not believing in spite of evidence; it is obeying in spite of consequence.” [G.A. Studdert Kennedy cited by Wiersbe, 71]
What step of faith do you need to take in order to be obedient to God’s calling in your life?
#3 – My Next Step Today Is To: Take the step of faith, to be obedient to God’s calling on my life, in spite of the consequences.
There were others who followed Abram in his step of faith
His wife, Sarai
His nephew Lot and probably his family
The people he and Lot had acquired in Haran (slaves and aliens)
All the possessions they had accumulated
This would probably had included livestock and precious metals (gold and silver)
We’re told that they arrived in Canaan (that was the name of the land that God had promised to give to Abram)
Abram’s trek (vv. 6-9)
We see that Abram is traveling throughout the land
He doesn’t set up permanent dwellings at this point, because the Canaanites were still living there
He does stop at two locations for a period of time
[show map of Canaan]
He visits the great tree of Moreh in Shechem
It would have been a place where teachers would have taught their students
It was a familiar and recognizable place
It may have also been used for idol worship
Hills between Bethel (bayth-ale’) and Ai (ah-ee’/eye/a-yah’)
Do you remember what the astronauts did when they landed on the moon? (they placed an American Flag there – they marked the moon)
Abram was leaving the mark of the Lord on the land promised to him
While staying at Shechem, he was visited by the Lord
If you remember in verse 1, the Lord spoke to Abram while he was in Ur
Now He appears to Abram in Canaan and reaffirms his covenant with him concerning the land (Abram’s offspring will live there)
Abram builds an altar at Shechem to remember his encounter with and covenant reminder from the Lord
While staying in the hills between Bethel and Ai, Abram again builds an altar and calls on the name of the Lord
Abram is expressing his loyalty and commitment to the Lord who has called him and made a covenant with him
Finally, we see Abram leaving the hill country and heading toward the Negev (neh’-gheb/neh’-ghev)
Abram arrived in the land that the Lord had promised him, over 25 years ago, but he doesn’t remain in the land, but that narrative is for next week
Are you ready to be obedient to the call God has placed on your life?
Are you ready to leave anything that God calls you to leave in order to be obedient?
Are you ready to take the step of faith to be obedient to God’s call on your life?
As a body of believers, we can support one another, through prayer, wisdom, and giving, as individuals obediently follow God’s calling for their lives.
“The movie Pearl Harbor tells of the events leading up to and immediately following the Japanese attack on the U.S. on December 7, 1941. The film follows the fictional lives of two fighter pilots, Raph and Danny, who have been inseparable friends since childhood and are stationed at the same base in Hawaii.
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Raph (Ben Affleck) and Danny (Josh Hartnett) are called into Colonel Jimmy Doolittle's office. They have succeeded in downing seven Japanese planes.
Doolittle (Alec Baldwin) stands behind his desk and addresses the cocky pilots somberly.
‘You've both been awarded the silver star. You're just about the only pilots with combat experience. I need you for a mission I've been ordered to put together.’
Raph and Danny look nervously pleased. Doolittle looks them over carefully.
‘Do you know what 'top secret' is?’ he asks.
Raph responds with a wry smile. ‘Yes, sir! It's the kind of mission when you get medals, but they send them to your relatives.’
Ignoring the remark, Doolittle continues, ‘Top secret means you train for something never done before in aviation history—and you go without knowing where you're going. You do it on that basis or not at all.’
Honored to be asked, yet unsure of what they are committing to, both men agree to go.
In many ways, God recruits us to follow him in the same way that Doolittle recruited these pilots for this mission. God trains us in ways unique to us to fulfill unique purposes, and we know little or nothing about where we are going. We go on that basis, or we don't go at all.”
[The mission, called Doolittle's Raid, was to attack Japan by air. It was successful and affected the course of the war. In the movie, the two pilots live through the attack, but both are forced to crash-land their planes in China. At this point, Danny is ambushed and killed by Japanese soldiers who have invaded that part of China. Raph survives.]
Elapsed time: Measured from the beginning of the opening credit, this scene begins at 2:19:35 and last approximately 45 seconds.
Content: Pearl Harbor is rated PG-13 for profanity, violence, and sexuality.
Source: Pearl Harbor (Touchstone, 2001), rated PG-13, written by Randall Wallace, directed by Michael Bay.