Summary: A sermon about the dangers of backsliding
"Back to Bethel"
Genesis 13:1 And Abram went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the south. 2 And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold. 3 And he went on his journeys from the south even to Bethel, unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Hai; 4 Unto the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first: and there Abram called on the name of the LORD.
Introduction: Have you ever wondered about what happens when a believer rebels or disobeys or gets out of God’s will? What happens when a Christian sins and make no mistake, Christian do sin. Listen to what the Apostle John has to say about this subject in 1 John 1:8 & 10 “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” 10 “If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” Sometimes our backsliding is a descent into a living hell like King David and at others it is a slow long drift away out of God’s will. In any case we must know what the Scripture has to say about repentance, restoration and recommitment for the believer.
To illustrate this unfortunate truth I’ve chosen perhaps the most famous name in the Bible. Abraham is the “father of faith” for his faith is the prototypical faith of the Christian life but even though he possessed great faith and a genuine faith in God, it was not a perfect faith as we shall see in this week’s study. My prayer is that you and I can learn something that will help us in our journey of faith that will help us today and tomorrow. First let’s look at:
I. The Place of Consecration
In chapter 12:
a. His surrender to the will and word of God.
We know that Abraham first heard the call of God while still in Ur and that led by his father Terah he and his family relocated to Haran. It was there after the death of his father that there was a renewed call to move to what would be his home, the land of Canaan.
Hebrews 11:8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.
b. His separation from his home, family and friends many of whom were idolaters that were exerting an unwholesome influence on Abraham.
Genesis 12:1 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:
c. His sacrifice
When Abraham arrives in Bethel he pitches his tent builds an altar, offers sacrifice and performs an act of worship. The last phrase of verse 8 is particularly interesting in its translation. It indicates that Abraham publically invokes the name of Yahweh (Jehovah) Luther translates this “he preached concerning the name of the Lord.” A good translation would read, “to use the name of the Lord in worship.” Remember how important this is for him. His family worshipped idols and even after they left Ur and relocated to Haran there is still evidence that his father and members of his family were still worshipping idols. It is not until his father’s death and the move to Canaan that he invokes the name of Jehovah and worships Him exclusively.
Genesis 12:8 And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the LORD, and called upon the name of the LORD.
The point to this first section is we see the conversion of Abraham, his commitment to separation from idols to God and an active and vibrant faith expressing itself in sacrifice and worship.
II. The Place of Compromise
Something very unusual happens when we get to verses 9-10 that is important. Abraham’s behavior can be characterized in one word. He backslid, or better put, he had what C. H. Spurgeon called “faith’s fainting fits.” In verse 8 Abraham is finally in the place that God wanted him to be in but he does not stay there long for he literally “pulls up his tent stakes” and descends into Egypt. Abraham’s backsliding ways are a teachable moment for all believers. Observe that there was:
a. His testing
One of the misconceptions that people have is that when they place their faith in God that everything will be “smooth sailing” going forward but nothing could be farther from the truth. Remember God’s promises to Abraham in verses 1-3 to make him a great nation, to bless him, to make his name great, to make him a blessing, to bless those that bless him and curse those that curse him? The problem for us is that every promise from God is conditional and we are often required to wait on the Lord’s timing for Him to bless us. It would be many years before some of these promises were realized for Abraham. It is also true that the Lord will test our faith to see if we can be trusted to obey His word and do His will. This testing will temper our faith (make it stronger) if we continue to trust through the trial!