Genesis 11:27 begins a new division in the book of Genesis. The book of Genesis can be structured by tracing four great events and four great people. The four great events are laid out in chapters 1-11: Creation, Fall, Flood, and Nations. The four great people complete the book in chapters 12-50: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. The point being: God’s first concern is all the people of the world (Gen 1-11), but the focus of Genesis (and the rest of the Pentateuch) is on God’s choice and care of His chosen people, Israel (Gen 12-50).
This sovereign choice begins with the call of Abram. The book of Genesis covers more than 2,000 years and more than 20 generations; yet, it spends almost a third of its text on the life of this one man (11:27-25:18). What a reminder that God truly cares about people and considers individuals valuable. This passage is going to challenge us to live a life of faith.
At the core of this story is the principle of God’s sovereign choice of an individual. God’s call to Abram was pure
grace. There is no evidence in the text that God chose Abram because he merited favor. On the contrary, God chose Abram from a family steeped in idolatry. He did this so that He might receive all the glory for what became of Abram.
In Genesis 11:30, Moses makes an emphatic remark that Abram’s wife, Sarai, “was barren; she had no child.” Sarai’s infertility tests Abram’s faith and drives the whole story.
God appears to Abram…God tells him what he going to do: Faith steps out (12:1-3). 1 The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.
The famous call of Abram in 12:1 was a command to go away from three things and unto one thing. The three things that God called Abram to forsake were natural sources of security for any ancient, Near Eastern nomad. God lists the three in rapid succession, each succeeding item narrowing the base of personal support and security:
(1) His country (or “land”) was his nationality and was the largest group in which Abram moved.
(2) His people (or “clan”) was smaller than his tribe, but larger than his immediate family. Such groups in ancient tribal societies provide personal identity and security.
(3) His father’s household referred probably to a call to give up his right of inheritance in his extended family.
To abandon his father’s house would certainly involve giving up his economic security. God removed anything that might weigh him down or prove to be unnecessary for a trek through the woods.
The term “go” is literally “go by yourself” and can emphasize loneliness, isolation. Abram needs to find his own place and his own identity by disassociating himself from the familiar and the group.
Put yourself in Abram’s sandals. I’m sure there was a good part of Abraham that would have just liked to stay in Haran or perhaps move back to the home he knew in Ur, where he married his wife and where all the family could be together. The only promise from God was that He would reveal the path to Abram. There was no visible certainty of his future. Abram was to follow the command of the Lord to leave Haran and go to a land he had never seen before. He is to step out in blind faith…a land God would show him.
Would you have gone? Are you willing to obey the voice of the Lord when He goes against all that makes sense and feels? When everything screams in you against it, are you willing to leave your job for the uncertainties of a higher calling? Faith steps out in obedience. Abraham made the choice to trust God and God blessed him exceedingly.
In these three verses, we see the inauguration of God’s covenant with Abraham. This covenant is everlasting (13:15; 17:7-8, 13, 19), unconditional (15:9-12; 17-18), and literal. It involves a land (12:7; 13:14-15, 17; 17:8), a seed (12:2; 13:16; 15:4-5; 15:18; 17:4-6), and a blessing (12:3; 17:2, 6; 18:18).
In these verses, God gave Abram a seven-fold promise. The call had two imperatives, each with subsequent promises. The first imperative was to go (“Go forth from your country…to the land which I will show you”), and the second imperative was to be (“and so you shall be a blessing”). Abraham’s obedience would bring great blessing. Also notice that five times in these verses you will see the phrase, “I will…” Everything is from God Himself.
- “I will make you a great nation” (12:2). This promise is connected to the “seed” promise of 3:15. Since the fall of man, God chose certain lines of human descent to carry forward the promise that He would send a deliverer to crush Satan. That line now flowed through Abram to the Hebrew people (13:16; John 8:37), to the descendants of Ishmael (17:18-20), and eventually to all believers (John 8:39; Rom 4:16; Gal 3:6-7, 29). When God called Abram to separate from his family and his country, He did so with the purpose of producing from Abram a great nation.
As the founder of the Jewish nation, Abram was appointed by God to be a witness to the rest of mankind concerning God (Isa 44:8). Further, that race was to be a storehouse of divine revelation (Rom 3:2) and a channel of blessing to the world (15:8-12). The ultimate objective in God’s choice of Abram was to prepare the world for the coming Messiah and Savior of that world (Isa 53). Do you see how God carefully unfolds His program through individuals? Have you asked Him to reveal His plan for your life?
- “I will bless you” (12:2). The word “bless,” which occurred five times in chapters 1-11, now occurs five times in 12:1-3. God wants to bless his people. In fact, if you remember, this goes right back to creation where God blessed Adam and Eve (1:28) and then, later, that original blessing was repeated in 5:2. God also blessed Noah and restated the mandate in creation, namely, that man rule (9:1-2). God’s plan is to bless the world.
Indeed, the term “blessing” (barak) includes God’s gracious provisions of personal well-being, long life, wealth, peace, abundance of food and crops, children, and personal knowledge of Himself and His ways. Yes, God’s plan is to bless the world. When God blesses someone, He intervenes in their life to do good things. God’s blessing to Abram caused him to prosper in all that he did. He was blessed both temporally (13:14-18; 15:18) and spiritually (15:6; John 8:56).
- “I will make your name great” (12:2). To be given a great name is to have a good reputation and a secure identity. The builders of the Tower of BAbraml tried to make a name for themselves (11:4) and thereby gain power and prestige before the world and in the face of God. On the other hand, Abram’s power and prestige was to come directly from God.
- “You shall be a blessing” (12:2). The Hebrew text says, “Be a blessing,” not “you shall be a blessing.” This was a command rather than a prediction. However as Abram blessed others he would become a blessing. God chose the family of Abram through which He would channel His blessings to the nations of the world, thereby drawing all nations to Himself (cf. Gen 10). We never experience God’s best for us until we are used to touch the life of someone else. Who can you bless today?
- “I will bless those who bless you” (12:3). Now God moves from personal blessing to global blessings. Those who honor Abram and his God will be blessed.
- “The one who curses you I will curse” (12:3). Unfortunately, not everyone in the world wants God’s blessing, or the way He has chosen to carry it out. There will be people who will curse or level insults and accusations against Abram and in so doing bring a curse from God on their heads. They will be cut off from the hope of blessing.
- “And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (12:3). This is the great messianic promise fulfilled in Abram’s descendant, Christ (John 8:56-58; Gal 3:16).
Faith experiences obstacles. Genesis 12:4-6 (NIV) 4 So Abram left, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran.
5 He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.
6 Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land.
Abram demonstrated phenomenal faith in light of God’s call and was thoroughly blessed for it. So it is with us as well when we trust in Christ. But that does not mean everything in our lives will run smoothly. Quite the opposite actually. Did Abram know he was headed to Canaan (12:5)? Apparently not. Hebrews 11:8 states that “he went out, not knowing where he was going.”
Moses goes on to inform us that “Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.” Though he lived to 175 years old, Abram was no spring chicken when he decided to follow the Lord to Canaan. Age is no hindrance to faith and taking bold steps for the Lord. It’s never too late. Despite Abram’s age, responsibilities, and various commitments, he stepped forward in a venture of faith, in obedience to God. Fortunately, this principle remains true today.
In 11:30, the text had gone out of its way to point out that Sarai was barren, that she didn’t even have a single child. Then, in 12:2, God says He’s going to make a great nation out of Abram. Well, it’s obvious that it won’t be through Sarai—she’s barren. So it must be through someone else. But here in 12:5 we learn that there isn’t a “someone else.” We are told that Abram took his wife Sarai. In spite of the obvious tensions, Abram must have believed God’s promise.
Sometimes we forget what childlessness meant in the ancient Near East. It involved shame, social ridicule, and implied that the woman/couple were not in the favor of the gods. Why then should they trust the Lord when He makes “promises about a nation; they don’t even have a single child.
Sometimes, some of our greatest struggles believing God and His good promises center in one way or another around our kids. So it was with Abram and Sarai. Certainly they made mistakes along the way, but overall they trusted the God who loves to do the impossible. What are you trusting God for that only He can do? In order for faith to grow it must see beyond the obstacles and pain to the God of our circumstances.
Faith is not just believing God for great things and responding to His promises, it also involves a commitment to live as He desires in light of the circumstances He permits in our lives. Faith builds character; so also Abram. He knew that God had called him to go to this new land, even though he didn’t know where he was going. His faith gave him the courage and determination to live for God in a pagan land.
By faith he overcame the struggles and trials of leaving family, the barrenness of his wife, and the hostilities of living in a foreign land. By faith he gained an exemplary character and did not succumb to the unbelievers around him…His life matched his words, so to speak.
Hebrews 11:8-12 (NIV) 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.
9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.
10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
11 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.
12 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.
God can be trusted (Gen 15)
We know that God is trustworthy, he does not lie. However, God wanted us to understand this…He does something remarkable: He obligates Himself: Genesis 15:17-18 (NIV) 17 When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces.
18 On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates–
Whenever make agreement, business, sale, lease, etc. You make a contract. If not, may cause problems later on. Sense of assurance that will be true to agreement…if not, can do something about it.
God has made a contract with us…not because he cannot be trusted. God is true, and does not lie. He did it to assure us who struggle in our faith.
God is Able to do all things (Genesis 17:15-21 (NIV) 15 God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah.
16 I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”
17 Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?”
18 And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”
19 Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.
20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation.
21 But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.”
Abraham is ready to be a great, great-grand parent. Abraham laughs. Why? 90 & 100 year-olds don’t go around having children! Did he rush home and eagerly tell Sarah?
Genesis 18:9-15 (NIV) 9 “Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him. “There, in the tent,” he said.
10 Then the LORD said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.” Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him.
11 Abraham and Sarah were already old and well advanced in years, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing.
12 So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?”
13 Then the LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’
14 Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.”
15 Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.” But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.”
Obviously Abraham did nothing. Otherwise, she would have said, “so that’s what’s gotten into him lately.”
Nothing is impossible for God, even if we struggle to believe
God desires faithful obedience
Genesis 22:1-10 (NIV) 1 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied.
2 Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”
3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about.
4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance.
5 He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”
6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together,
7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.
9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.
10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.
God is faithful, and expects us to be faithful as well. Notice the drama: And they walked . . .and they walked…had to be most difficult thing for him…first he had to send Ishmael away, now this! But God was testing his loyalty and faithfulness: Genesis 22:11-15 (NIV) 11 But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied.
12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”
13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.
14 So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.”
15 The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time
Abraham passed! Genesis 22:16-19 (NIV) 16 and said, “I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son,
17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies,
18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”
19 Then Abraham returned to his servants, and they set off together for Beersheba. And Abraham stayed in Beersheba.
God swore by Himself to bless him…Faith is not about mental agreement, but faithfulness. Sometimes God calls you to do things that not make sense. May be very, very difficult…But God will bless your faithfulness.
This is an example of what faith is all about. You believe in God? Question should be: Are you faithful and obedient?