Summary: Abraham provides us with a portrait of obedience.
This series is not just about characters from the Old Testament. It's about the character God wants to develop in each of us to make who He created us to be. God is far more interested in our character than in our comfort. He isn't going to allow us to stay in our comfort zone and just glide through life. He's going to ask us to step outside of our comfort zone so He can grow our character. He's working in the lives of His children to shape us more and more into the likeness of His Son, Jesus. And an important aspect of Christ-like character is obedience.
One Old Testament person who illustrates obedience is Abraham. Time after time, God called Abraham to obey and step outside his comfort zone. And time after time, Abraham obeyed and stepped outside of his comfort zone and God blessed him as a result. Now, Abraham didn't always get it right. But when he did, God blessed him.
Today, we're going to focus on the beginning of Abraham’s journey with God, when Abraham first stepped out of his comfort zone to obey God in a big way. In Genesis 12:1-4a, where we read of God calling Abraham to leave his homeland to go to the land of promise, we have a beautiful lesson about the requirements and rewards for obeying God.
1. The requirements for obeying God - v. 1
A. A willingness to sacrifice - v. 1a
Even as Abraham willingly sacrificed his country, his people, and his father's household, we must be willing to sacrifice to obey God.
"One can't go with God and stay where they are." - Henry Blackaby
Obedience always requires sacrifice. It will always require the sacrifice of getting out of our comfort zone. Other times, it may require more, like sacrificing something or someone we hold dear. Or we may be required to take the criticism of others. Or we may be required to put our feelings aside, as when God says to forgive those who have hurt us. Sometimes the sacrifice of obedience means giving up possessions or uprooting to physically go somewhere else to do something for the Lord. Obedience always costs. It can cost time; friends; or money. But there's a greater cost.
“It is a great deal easier to do that which God gives us to do, no matter how hard it is, than to face the responsibilities of not doing it.” - Anonymous
When God calls us to obey, whatever the sacrifice, we should keep things in perspective, as missionary, David Livingstone, once put it:
"If a commission by an earthly king is considered an honor, how can a commission by a Heavenly King be considered a sacrifice?" - David Livingstone
We must learn to never refuse God anything. As the old saying goes, "Two words that never go together are "No" and "Lord."
B. A willingness to step out - v. 1b
As Abraham was called to a land he'd never seen, God calls us to a life of faith; which, by definition, means a life we've never known before
“When you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the Levitical priests carrying it, you are to move out from your
positions and follow it. Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. But keep a distance of about two thousand cubits between you and the ark; do not go near it.” Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you.” - Joshua 3:3-5 (NIV)
If the people were to experience God doing amazing things among them, they had obey the call of God and step out by faith in obedience. The same is true for us.
It was growing dark in the old barn. To little Freddie, who was playing there, it looked very shadowy indeed. Freddie, heard someone moving about in the hay overhead. He heard a voice call out to him. It was his grandpa, who was in the loft above. Freddie's grandpa told him to come up the ladder to join him. But Freddie had never been in the loft of the barn before. He was nervous. He walked over to the ladder that led to the hay loft and looked up. "I can't see the top step," he told his grandpa. Grandpa laughed and said, "Believe me, it's there. Just start climbing, and by the time you reach the top, you'll see it." So Freddie started climbing, and sure enough, when he reached the top, he not only say the top step, but he saw his grandpa. And together, in the hay loft, they were able to look out from the barn to the night sky and view the stars!