Exploring New Direction (Genesis 12:1-4)
In 2004, as part of his re-election campaign, President George W. Bush came to West Virginia. I wasn’t about to miss an opportunity to take a RJ to see a sitting President of the United States.
After the rally, RJ and I were leaving the packed arena behind a long line of people. I spotted a shortcut—all we needed to do was walk around an ambulance and we’d be back at the car. I started to go around the ambulance when a Secret Service agent with a machine gun said, “Sir, please get on the other side of the ambulance.” I didn’t ask questions, and I didn’t think twice. I immediately did what I was told and got on the right side of the ambulance.
You may never have needed to obey a Secret Service agent, but you’ve surely obeyed many times in your life. Did your parents ever tell you what time to come home after a date, and you knew you’d better be home in time? Did your employer ever give you an assignment that you made sure to complete in a timely manner? Did any of you play sports in high school and follow your coach’s instructions? Have you ever pulled over when you saw blue lights in the rearview mirror? Did any of you serve in the military and obey a commanding officer?
But did you ever obey just a little bit? Did you, in other words, obey part of your instructions and disobey other parts? Abram did. In this morning’s text, God called Abram when he was still in Ur. God told Abram to leave his family and his father’s house, yet Terah, Abram’s father, went with him to Haran. Lot, Abram’s nephew, not only went with Terah and Abram to Haran, but he went with Abram when he left Haran.
Although Abram only obeyed partially, Abraham—as he would later be known—is the father of all who believe: Galatians 3:7-9. How could Paul call Abraham “the man of faith” when he only obeyed partially when God told him to leave Ur. Because his faith grew. When God promised Abraham a son, “No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God” (Rom 4:20).
From God’s call to Abram, you need to learn: “You must grow your faith.”
Scripture (Genesis 12:1-4)
A better translation of the beginning of verse 1 would be: “Now the LORD had said to Abram.” The call of Abram occurred when he was still in Ur of the Chaldeans. That is how Stephen understood it (Acts 7:2). Terah, Abram’s father, was still living when God called him.
God expected a great deal of Abram:
- God called Abram to leave his country: In Abram’s day, land was connected with one’s survival and livelihood.
- God called Abram to leave his kindred: In Abram’s day, one’s family connected the past, present, and future; a family provided a person with a sense of identity.
- God called Abram to leave his father’s house: In Abram’s day, leaving your father’s house meant you were giving up your inheritance, and the inheritance ensured that past generations would be remembered.
God told Abram to leave his family, his security, his identity, and his culture and to go where God would tell him. Abram had no clue where God was sending him: “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” (Heb 11:8).
God expected much of Abram, but notice that God promised Abram much more than he demanded of him.
- God would make of him a great nation: An interesting promise in light of the fact that Abram had no children.
- God would bless Abram and make his name great: There’s irony here, for in the previous chapter at Babel, men had attempted to make a great name for themselves (Gen 11:4). But Abram wouldn’t make his name great—God would.
- God would make Abram a blessing: Abram continues to bless the world, not only through his descendant, our Lord Jesus, but also through his example of faith.
- God would bless those who blessed Abram: Abram was so special to God that anyone who blessed Abram would himself receive a blessing.
- God would curse anyone who dishonored Abram: God would protect Abram on his journey.
- God would bless “all the families of the earth” through Abram: God did so through the Lord Jesus who descended from Abram.
“So Abram went, as the LORD had told him, and Lot went with him.”
When Abram left, he didn’t leave his father’s house behind, but he took his nephew with him. Much heartache occurred because Lot went with Abram:
- There was strife between Lot and Abram’s herdsmen, and uncle and nephew separated from one another.
- Lot was captured in a war, and Abram had to rescue him.
- Lot ended up in Sodom and lost his wife, his sons-in-law, and his property.
- While Lot was hiding after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, his daughters got him drunk and had children by him.
Anything but full obedience to God brings heartache.
While Abram did not fully obey God in this text, we remember his faith. He believed God would give him a son in his old age, and he took that son and attempted to sacrifice him because that’s what God said to do. Abram grew in his faith, and “You must grow your faith.” How can you grow your faith?
God made Abram promises: “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. 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.” The promises of God are sure. Abram could rely on those promises, see those promises fulfilled, and grow in his faith.
Look to God’s promises. God’s promises are sure and true. Solomon at the temple’s dedication: “Blessed be the LORD who has given rest to his people Israel, according to all that he promised. Not one word has failed of all his good promise, which he spoke by Moses his servant” (1 Ki 8:56). You know why every promise of God comes true—God cannot lie: “In hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began” (Tit 1:2).
Where does your faith need to grow? Go to God’s promises and find the assurance of your faith. Are you struggling with temptation? Go to Scripture and read God’s promises to bless you in temptation. Are you struggling with worry? Go to Scripture and read God’s promises to walk with you no matter what may come. Are you struggling with feeling worthy of God’s love? Go to Scripture and read God’s promise to love you all the days of your life and throughout all eternity. Are you struggling with your prayer life? Go to Scripture and read God’s promises to hear and answer every prayer.
Abram produced some obedience in this passage: “So Abram went, as the LORD had told him.” Yes, he took Lot along, but Abram began his journey of faith.
You also need to produce obedience and begin a journey of faith. “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams” (1 Sam 15:22). “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matt 7:24). “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (Jn 14:23).
Grow your faith by obeying the word of the Lord. Where does your faith need to grow? Are you struggling with temptation? Resist temptation and watch your faith grow. Are you struggling with worry? Take your worries to God in prayer and watch your faith grow. Are you struggling with feeling worthy of God’s love? Live in his love, trust his love, claim his forgiveness, and watch your faith grow. Are you struggling with your prayer life? Get on your knees and pray to your Father in heaven and watch your faith grow.
How is your faith this morning? Is your faith ready to take the next step in obedience to God?