On The Move
“If miracles are impossible, then the resurrection of Jesus could not have occurred, and we must look for some natural explanation of the events. But if miracles are at least possible, then we can be open to following the evidence without bias.
In other words, whenever we hear of an event that seems contrary to the laws of nature, we naturally raise our guard. But we also shouldn't prejudge the evidence by ruling out the possibility of miracles just because they don't fit our categories. It’s unscientific to decide the outcome of an investigation before examining the facts.
Consider the following true story. Near the end of the eighteenth century the Western world first encountered the duck-billed platypus. The platypus, which is indigenous to Australia, has fur over its entire body, is the size of a rabbit, and has webbed feet. Yet since it lays eggs, it reproduces like a reptile! When the skin of a platypus was first brought to Europe, it was greeted with complete amazement. Was it a mammal or a reptile? The platypus seemed so bizarre that—despite the physical evidence of the skin and the testimony of the witnesses—many Londoners dismissed it as a sham.
Not until a pregnant platypus was shot and brought to London for observers to see with their own eyes did people begin to believe. Until this happened, some of the greatest thinkers refused to accept the existence of the platypus. The initial problem was that it did not fit some people's view of how the world operated. So they rejected it and then reached a verdict even though the weight of the evidence said otherwise.”
Adapted from Josh and Sean McDowell, The Resurrection and You, (Baker Books, 2017) pgs. 24-25.
Most of you know that Judy and I met in college, married after our Junior year, and move to south Florida after we graduated
After living in FL for 3 years, we moved back to OH to the town where Judy grew up and live there for 6 years
We then moved to MO and lived there for 4 years before moving to southern CA where we spent about 3 years
We moved to PA from CA have lived here for almost 12 years
You could say that we were on the move, but we’re so grateful to have settled down here
With moving around so much, it would seem like it would be impossible to establish any lasting relationships
Through God’s grace, we were able to establish some pretty incredible relationships that have stood the test of time
While we may not talk with those individuals on a regular basis, when we do talk with them or get together, it’s like we have never been apart
That’s the incredible grace of God at work
His grace is able to accomplish what seems humanly impossible
How have we all experienced the incredible grace of God doing the impossible?
Perhaps it has been through relationships or the physical world. Maybe it has been spiritual or emotional
In Genesis 11:27-32 we see the introduction to a long section that will highlight the origins or account of Abraham. We’ll see that Abraham’s family, including his father and brothers, were on the move. We’ll also see that what seemed humanly impossible, God was able to accomplish through His grace. My prayer is that when you all leave here today you will understand that . . .
BIG IDEA – God’s grace accomplishes what seems humanly impossible.
GOD (Genesis 11:27-32)
Toledot (v. 27a)
As I mentioned last week, this toledot (the history of/the generations of/the account of/the origins of . . .) is the sixth of ten found in Genesis
This account of Abraham will continue through Genesis 25:11
What we see is the account of Abraham’s father, Terah (teh’-rakh/teh’-rack)
Genealogy (vv. 27b, 29-30)
We were already introduced to Terah’s sons in v. 26
They are mentioned again here, (ab-rawm’/ab-raw-hawm’), Nahor (naw-khore’), and Haran (haw-rawn’)
Haran is the father of Lot (lote)
He is also the father of Milcah (mil-kaw’) and Iscah (yis-kaw’) as we see in the second half of verse 29
Milcah’s name means “queen”
Iscah’s name means “one who looks forth or looks out”
Abram and Nahor both married
We need to address one thing before we talk about Abram and Nahor’s wives
Endogamy is “marriage within a family group” [Mathews, The New American Commentary Volume 1B, Genesis 11:27-50:26, 101]
Waltke points out that there were no laws against this kind incest in patriarchal times [Waltke, Genesis, A Commentary, 200]
This is important as we look at who the wives of Abram and Nahor are
Abram married Sarai (saw-rah’-ee/saw-rye’) which means “princess”
Her father was Terah, Abram’s father, but her mother was not the same woman as Abram’s mother
Genesis 20:11-13, Abraham replied, “I said to myself, ‘There is surely no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.’ Besides, she really is my sister, the daughter of my father though not of my mother; and she became my wife. And when God had me wander from my father’s household, I said to her, ‘This is how you can show your love to me: Everywhere we go, say of me, “He is my brother.”’”
One other thing we learn about Abram’s wife Sarai is that she is barren
We’ve talked all along, through the various genealogies, that God is fulfilling His plan of redemption by choosing certain men and their lines to accomplish His purpose of sending a Savior
Yet, here we read that Sarai, the wife of God’s chosen man, is barren
How will God’s plan, of sending a Savior, be fulfilled through a couple who can’t have children?
God’s grace accomplishes what seems humanly impossible!
We’re obviously getting ahead of the narrative
Because we have the Bible, we know that eventually Abraham and Sarah are able to conceive and have Isaac, through whom the chosen line will continue
A young couple that attended church at Prince Street while my father was the pastor and a couple that Judy and I went to college with, experienced the same scenario
Both couples tried for many years to conceive a child, but were unsuccessful
After wrestling with their grief and disappoint, and leaving it all in the Lord’s hands, both couples embraced adoption and invited a child into their lives
It was a short time after the adoption that both couples conceived and were able to have a biological child, as well
I don’t understand God’s timing or His purposes, but I do know that God’s grace accomplishes what seems humanly impossible
Perhaps every one of us has an example of how we have experienced God’s grace, accomplishing the impossible – take a moment to reflect on a time when you experienced that (physical, emotional, relational, spiritual)
I’m reminded of how God’s grace accomplished what seemed humanly impossible when I was working on my Master’s degree – God supernaturally gave me enough time to spend with my family, prepare messages, minister to individuals, and get some sleep – I was always amazed at how I was able to get everything done on time
#1 - My Next Step Today Is To: Glorify the Lord for accomplishing what seems humanly impossible, by His grace.
Perhaps there are those of us here today who are still waiting to experience God’s grace, accomplishing what seems humanly impossible
As I mentioned last week, some of us may be waiting for God to accomplish the supernatural transformation of a loved one (we’ve been praying for their salvation and continuing to wait)
Perhaps there is a couple here or listening online who has been trying to conceive a child without success (don’t lose heart, don’t doubt God’s grace and His timing for you, don’t marginalize or discount other options that God may be guiding you towards)
There may be some here today who are struggling with anxiety and depression and have lost hope, but be encouraged and don’t doubt that God can and will accomplish what seems humanly impossible (He is there for you and with you in the deepest, darkest valleys)
Maybe some of us are struggling spiritually, financially, educationally, occupationally, etc. (don’t lose heart, hold on, God can and will accomplish what is humanly impossible by His grace and power)
#2 - My Next Step Today Is To: Claim the promise and truth that God’s grace can accomplish what seems humanly impossible.
He is all-powerful, He is all-knowing, He is never late, and He is never early, He is right on time
We’ve learned about Abram’s wife, but we’re also given information about Nahor’s wife
His wife’s name is Milcah, which means “queen”
Nahor married his niece, since she was the daughter of Haran
We’re not given any more information about Milcah in this passage, but in Genesis 22 we learn more about her and Nahor’s children
Genesis 22:20-23, Some time later Abraham was told, “Milcah is also a mother; she has borne sons to your brother Nahor: Uz (oots) the firstborn, Buz (booz) his brother, Kemuel (kem-oo-ale’) (the father of Aram), Kesed (keh’-sed), Hazo (khaz-o’), Pildash (pil-dawsh’), Jidlaph (yid-lawf’) and Bethuel (beth-oo-ale’).” Bethuel became the father of Rebekah. Milcah bore these eight sons to Abraham’s brother Nahor.
This completes the genealogical part of this passage, but now we see that some of them are on the move
Going (v. 31)
Those on the journey
Abram and Sarai
Locations on the journey
Ur of the Chaldeans
Scholars are split on the location of Ur of the Chaldeans
Some believe it is in northern Mesopotamia, close to Haran
Others believe it was in southern Mesopotamia along the Euphrates River
Take a moment and look at the maps in the back of your Bible today (perhaps the first map is The World of the Patriarchs and they usually have Ur in southern Mesopotamia as the potential starting place of Abraham’s journey to the Promised Land)
It would be 220 miles southeast of Baghdad in the southern part of modern Iraq
They were on their way to Canaan
We don’t know why Terah was going there, but next week we’ll see the call of Abraham to leave Haran and continue to Canaan
It would be “located on the bank of the Balikh River, 550 miles northwest of Ur and close to the present-day Syrian-Turkish border.” [Waltke, 201]
It would have taken them about two months to make the trip from Ur to Haran if they traveled ten miles per day [Goldingay, Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Pentateuch, Genesis, 205]
The place Haran should not be confused with Terah’s son’s name Haran
They are two different Hebrew words
Personal name – Haran (haw-rawn’) [הָרָן]
Place name – Haran (kaw-rawn’) [חָרָן]
They never made it to Canaan, because they settled in Haran
There is one important note about two of these locations that we need to look at
Both Ur and Haran were centers of pagan idolatry
The people of those cities worshiped the moon god
We know that Abraham’s family participated in this kind of idol worship
Joshua 24:2-3a, Joshua said to all the people, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Long ago your forefathers, including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the River and worshiped other gods. But I took your father Abraham from the land beyond the River and led him throughout Canaan and gave him many descendants.”
In the Ancient Near East and even into the 1st Century it was commonplace for the family members in a household to follow the religious beliefs and practices of the father
So, it would have been tradition for Abram to continue to worship the moon god even after traveling to Canaan, but something incredible happened
God’s grace accomplishes what seems humanly impossible.
When God calls Abram, as we’ll see next week, He calls him out of idolatry and pagan worship
He sets him apart and chooses him to be the line through which the Savior of the world will come
God is all-powerful and is able to accomplish what seems humanly impossible
He transforms Abram from a pagan to a patriarch, whose faith is highlighted by the writer of Hebrews
God is still transforming pagans to patriarchs today – we may think that a certain family member, friend, or coworker is too far gone, but nothing is impossible for God
Born sinners (Romans 3:23) [Ten Commandments]
Loved by God (John 3:16)
Saved by Christ (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)
Heading to the “Promised Land” (Ephesians 2:8-9, For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.)
#3 – My Next Step Today Is To: Claim God’s gift of salvation by grace through faith.
God’s grace is amazing and transforms anyone who turns to Him with their whole heart
We also know that God is sovereign
PRINCIPLE #1 – God’s sovereignty brings hope.
This introduction to the narrative about Abraham can appear pretty grim
Terah is caught up in pagan worship
As we’ll see in a moment, Terah loses a son
His other son is married to a woman who is infertile
All of this seems pretty hopeless, but God is sovereign and His sovereignty brings hope
Perhaps our current situation seems just as hopeless, but be encouraged, God is sovereign and in control
We can claim the hope that comes from God, for ourselves
I encourage anyone who is feeling hopeless to turn to God and find hope
In verses 28 and 32 we see that two of the characters of this narrative are gone
Gone (vv. 28, 32)
He dies in the place of his birth, Ur of the Chaldeans
He dies before his father, Terah
He lives to 205 years’ old
He died in Haran
Do you need to glorify God for accomplishing the impossible?
Do you need to claim the promise and truth that God can and will accomplish what is humanly impossible in your situation?
Are you ready to claim God’s gift of salvation by grace through faith?
Do you need to find hope in God through your hopeless situation?
We can model glorifying God and claiming His promises so that others will see our faith in a God who accomplishes what seems humanly impossible.
How many of us would consider planting a garden during the winter months? I’m not talking about starting plants in a greenhouse. I’m talking about planting plants in the frozen ground. Most of us wouldn’t do that, because we would say it is impossible. Tim Meyers didn’t allow the impossible to stop him.
“Tim Meyers is a farmer in Alaska, where the soil is rich, but frozen. Conventional wisdom says that farming where the ground never fully thaws is impossible—or at least impractical. But through savvy practices and hard work, Tim has become a permafrost farmer, growing organic food on his 17 acres of land, proving that even the most barren frozen land can be fruitful.”
Source: Euganie Freichs, “Permafrost Farming: It’s Possible!” Modern Farmer (1-7-14)