Welcome back to the beginning! For the past few weeks, we have studied the last chapters of the book of Revelation. This week we are back to Genesis; back to the beginning. Many discount studying the Old Testament, some even discourage it. However, neglecting the “whole counsel” of God’s word will cause you to miss out on the richness and meaning of the New Testament. Jesus said, “Behold I come in the volume of the Book.” Hebrews 10:7. The Old Testament is a schoolmaster; it reveals our need for Christ, our sinful nature, the origins of redemption (sacrifices), and the Holy character of God. The Old Testament reveals the heart of God the Father, who wants to be known by His people, and who desires a relationship with them. It lays the groundwork and predicts the fulfillment of the law by a perfect sacrifice that will allow us to come into the presence of God. It contains pictures, types, and shadows of holy eternal truths. God chose a people and a place in order to communicate with us, and He will honor that for all of human history. The Old Testament showed how those people, and all of us, who are flawed, hard-headed, and self-willed, are loved and forgiven when we trust in God and surrender our lives to Him.
We begin today’s lesson in Genesis Chapter twelve, the Call of Abram, whose name along with his destiny will be changed by the unspeakable grace of God. This marks a change in the biblical narrative and the revealing of God’s plan for mankind. Prior to chapter twelve, we are told of Creation, the Garden of Eden, the global flood, and the rebellion at the Tower of Babel. In other words, the beginning of the universe, the beginning of man’s relationship to God, the beginning of separation from God through sin, the first judgment of sin universally, and the origins of confusion and false religion.
In Chapter twelve, we see the calling out of a single man. He is descended from Seth, Noah’s son, and in his story, we find the beginning of personal salvation. In Abraham, we see a scarlet thread that runs through scripture and that will end with the Messiah. This lesson contains the Abrahamic Covenant, or the promise God makes to Abraham and his descendants. The rest of the Old Testament is a story about a family that God chose to demonstrate His love, His justice, His mercy, His grace, and His faithfulness through. God is still keeping the covenant He made with a man who heard His voice and obeyed His calling. Up until Abraham, we read of the separation of God and man becoming wider and wider. Now, we’ll watch as God begins drawing those who will obey Him back into a personal relationship with Him.
12 Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee:
Notice the instruction and the personalization of this call. Abram is living in the Ur of the Chaldeans with his father, Terah. Terah starts the move toward the land of Canaan but stops at Haran until he dies. He dwells in the land of comfort, which is the meaning of the word Haran. Instead of pressing on to the land of promise. The call is not made to Haran, when God calls Abram to go into a land that He will show him, he follows sight unseen. Abram’s calling is to obedience and not to a specific place or a promised end. He must walk by faith. Many unbelievers resist coming to Christ because they want to know all the details of what they will be required to do, and they want to see signs and miracles before they will believe the Word of God. It doesn’t work that way. God reveals Himself to those who will follow Him. Far from looking for your approval, He has nothing to prove. He calls us to the greatest adventure ever conceived, a lifetime of getting to know Him, and an eternity with Him as His own children.
2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:
God said, “I will,” and as a result of what He initiated, Abraham and his descendants became a blessing to the world. Jesus, taking my sin to the cross, said it is Finished, and as a result of His action and declaration, I have been blessed, forgiven, and redeemed. This verse says I will bless you and make your name great. Abram is not going to do this on his own. God is going to do this for him and through him. God kept and is keeping his promises to Abraham. Everyone has heard of father Abraham, whether they are a Jew, a Muslim, or a Gentile. His physical descendants include those of Isaac, Ishmael, and the children of Keturah, and they populate the earth, and his spiritual descendants include all who have believed in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. “Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.”Gal3-7.
Did God bless Abram? Yes, he was given wealth, so much so that his blessings and the blessings given to Lot, his nephew who traveled with him, actually led to conflict over how to manage them all. When the leaders of Sodom and Gomorrah wanted to pay him a reward after a battle he fought to rescue his nephew, he refused, declaring that God only would receive glory for his blessings. Abraham didn’t want anyone else to be able to claim that they had made him rich.
3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.
Another “I will” in the form of a hedge of protection around Abram and both a promise and a warning to all who lived around him about their actions. Did God keep His word to Abraham? Again, yes. The Old Testament and World History books both are filled with how the Nation of Israel, descended from Abraham’s grandson Jacob, has triumphed and survived the worst this world had to offer. We have to acknowledge that through sin and rebellion, the Jewish people have suffered many things throughout history, but God has always protected the remnant of people who have stayed loyal to Him and has blessed them far beyond measure. Jesus Christ is a direct descendant of Abraham and through Him, the greatest blessings ever bestowed have come. What God promised to Abraham has directly touched the lives of every human being since those words were uttered. God not only blessed Abram, but He also caused others to be blessed by him.
So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came.
Interestingly, Abram took Lot with him. Maybe he felt that Lot was an adopted son of sorts since Abram is caring and providing for his deceased brother’s child. Whatever the reason, he took Lot, Sarai, and his household and left Haran to go into Canaan. Commentaries indicate that this was an act of disbelief and disobedience. He certainly would not have had some of the troubles that he encountered if he had left Lot behind. II Peter 2: 7-8 calls Lot a just man and even mentions that God delivered him because of his aversion to the sinfulness of Sodom. In other words, God acknowledged that he lived a life of faith. In any case, Abram believed God, and he looked for a city “whose builder and maker was God.” Nothing is recorded about a hesitation on the part of Abram, just that God spoke, and Abram obeyed. It should be said of all of us.
7 And the Lord appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the Lord, who appeared unto him.
There’s no record of how long the time period was between when God told Abram to go, and the time he heard from God again. It may have been a lengthy and challenging silence. Many say they would like to hear from God. Have you obeyed those things that you know He has already spoken? We have the Bible, it is God’s word for us, and He expects us to read and obey it. It is doubtful that you will be given divine leading if you are not willing to obey the truth that you’ve already received. God appeared…there was something visual that Abraham encountered. My imagination runs wild here, forgive me, but we know that God in His glory is so holy that we cannot look upon Him and live in our human bodies. So, how did God appear to Abram? Did he look like Jesus, I wonder?
God reaffirms His promise, and Abram builds an altar in that place. The law has not yet been given by God to Moses, there are no rules and laws for how sacrifices, gifts, and thanks should be made. However, Abram knows how to build an altar, he does make a sacrifice. This may be the same as what was shown to Adam and Eve when God slew an animal to provide them with clothes. It may be the same as the offering Abel made for the Lord. We do know that the early patriarchs did offer sacrifices. Building an altar shows respect and reverence and an acknowledgment that everything we have comes from God and that we should be thankful.
15 After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.
What did Abram have to fear? The people of this land were not going to just give up the land and give it to Abram. In fact, it would be far beyond his lifetime before the land would actually belong to his descendants. The promises of God happen on God’s timetable and not our own. Abram needed reassurance. He needed to be reminded that God is in control and that the responsibility for bringing these promises about belonged to God and not to him, his job was to trust in God’s protection and believe His word. God, understanding his frailties, reminds him that He alone is the Shield against Abram’s enemies. God is an exceeding great reward. Abram never owned a square inch of the promised land, except the tomb in which he was buried, but God himself was his reward. His relationship with God was the real promise, the rest was what spills over and out of a full cup. He rewards those that “diligently seek Him.” Sometimes we need to be reminded that Christ himself is enough, more than the riches of Heaven, knowing him is our “exceeding great reward.”
2 And Abram said, Lord God, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus?3 And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir.
Abram, like us, began to think about what he had heard God say. He is trying to figure out how it can even be possible. He is old. Sarai is old. Did he misunderstand God? Then, as we do, he reaches for his own solutions. Will any boy do? Can it be the son of someone in his household? Abraham is insufficient, and he knows it, that’s actually the point. Until we acknowledge the fact that we are hopeless without God, we will remain in our sin. It is God who will make a way. Nothing is too hard for God. He is in control, and He knows what He is doing.
4 And, behold, the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir.5 And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.
God answers with, no - your child will come from you. But yet again, later on, we will find that Abram tried to think for God on how this could happen. In this childless state, God shows him the stars and tells Abram that his children shall be as the number in heaven. It is no wonder Abram can’t believe it. But if he could only see them now! It won’t be through what you can produce naturally that God will bring His greatest blessing into your life, it will be through the perfect sacrifice made by his only begotten Son, Jesus, that you will be able to have eternal life and enter into the promises of God.
6 And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness.7 And he said unto him, I am the Lord that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it.
Abram is thinking, who am I? I am not able to do what God is asking me to do. God is saying Abraham, I am God, and I am able to “do exceedingly, abundantly, far more than you are able to ask or think.” Abram didn’t understand, he couldn’t predict, but he could believe. That really was all that God was asking him to do in the first place. And just to sum it up all nice and neatly, God reminds Him that it was Him that had brought him safely to this new land and that He also would fulfill His word. Do you believe God?
Thank you for studying with us! God bless!