Summary: In the face of change, go and be a blessing.
When I say the word “Viking”, what comes to mind? For me, the word conjures up medieval people of the sea, who terrorized the poor land lubbers on the coasts of Europe and other places. However, the Vikings didn’t see themselves that way. They thought of themselves as farmers and ranchers, among whom owning cattle was a status symbol.
A thousand years ago, a group of Vikings led by Erik the Red set sail from Norway for a big Arctic island known today as Greenland. At the time, it was uninhabitable, but the Norse colonies in Greenland were able to thrive, reaching a population of 5,000 people. They lasted for 450 years, and then they vanished.
Their precious cattle had grazed the fertile but thin soil of Greenland into oblivion. The wind and water carried away the topsoil, and the Norse people starved to death. This happened despite the fact that they were sitting on top of the richest food source in the world – an ocean teaming with fish. In fact, all archeological evidence suggests that the Norse would rather starve than eat fish.
When archeologists looked through the ruins of the Western Settlement on Greenland, they found all kinds of animal bones, but no fish bones. They found the bones of newborn calves, meaning that the Norse, in that final winter, had given up on the future. They found toe bones from cows, suggesting that the Norse ate their cattle down to the hoofs, and they found the bones of dogs covered with knife marks, indicating that, in the end, they had to eat their pets. Strangely absent were the fish bones. Right up until they starved to death, the Norse refused to change their diet. (Tim Suttle, Shrink, Zondervan, 2014, pp. 87-90, 93-94; www.PreachingToday.com)
It’s like what Virginia Satir, a therapist, once said: “Most people prefer the certainty of misery to the misery of uncertainty” (www.PreachingToday.com). People just don’t like change, unless you’re a wet baby; and even then, you cry about it.
Yet our society today is changing at a rapid rate. What was unthinkable just a few years ago is quickly becoming the cultural norm. I mean who would have thought that a major retail outfit like Target would allow men in women’s bathrooms. Whether we like it or not, change is here in a big way.
So what do we do about it? Do we hide in our churches and Christian ghettos, hoping the change doesn’t affect us too badly, or is there a better way to handle the change? What does God want us to when our world is changing so much? Well, if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Genesis 12, Genesis 12, where we see what God told Abraham to do in the face of some big changes coming in his life.
Genesis 12:1-3 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And 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.” (ESV)
Now, this is commonly called the Abrahamic Covenant. It is God's promise to Abraham of land, seed, and blessing, which forms the foundation for the rest of the Old Testament. It's a very important promise, but I want to focus on the two imperatives contained in this promise.
There are two commands that activated the promise and changed the entire course of human history. They are two commands, which helped Abraham face a world of change, and I believe will help us face the changes ahead of us today.
The first command is found in verse 1, where God tells Abraham, "Go from your country." When your world is changing, don’t retreat and hide. NO!
Move ahead! Leave the known. Leave the familiar for the unknown and the unfamiliar.
That's exactly what God told Abraham to do (vs.1). Go from your country – leave its wealth and affluence. Go from your kindred – leave the people you know and love. Go from your father's house – leave even your own family! “Go away from all of this,” God said, “to the land that I will show you”. God calls Abraham to leave the known; leave the familiar, and advance towards the unknown and the unfamiliar.
Genesis 12:4-9 So Abram went, as the LORD had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him. From there he moved to the hill country on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. And there he built an altar to the LORD and called upon the name of the LORD. And Abram journeyed on, still going toward the Negeb. (ESV)