Summary: God wants us to follow Abram’s example of living by faith, holding loosely to the things of this world, the things that appear to give comfort and security and to act on what God promises even when our external circumstances appear to indicate that it’s n
If you’ve been here for the last couple of sermons in this series you may remember that one of the things we noted in the account of Adam & Eve was that they were called to live by faith in God’s word alone. All they were given to go on was what God had told them about not eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The choice they had was whether or not they’d listen to God’s word and obey it. They had to decide whether to trust God to look after them even if they couldn’t know everything there was to know about there situation. You may remember that I commented that this is what living by faith is all about. You might say that faith means living by God’s word even when God appears to be absent from the garden. Learning to trust even when you don’t see or fully understand. Keeping away from the tree even though we can find all sorts of reasons for doing otherwise. Well, it may not surprise you to discover that this is a theme that runs right through the bible. In fact it’s basic to God’s revelation of himself. In all his dealings with us, he expects us to hear his word and obey it.
Well, we find another aspect of this in today’s passage from Gen 12 where we read about the call of Abram. God speaks to Abram and expects him to respond in obedience. And what he asks him to do isn’t easy.
Look at how the chapter begins: ’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."’ Now Abram had left his original home of Ur some years before with his Father Terah and their extended family. They’d originally set out to travel to Canaan, but they’d been diverted on the way. They’d got to a place called Haran and had decided to settle down there. And now God was telling Abram to again pull up his roots and move on. But this time his extended family wasn’t going with him. This time to leave meant leaving everything that was familiar, everything that provided support and to go into the unknown alone. Not that Abram was too young to look after himself mind you, he was 75 years old after all, but this would have been the first time he’d had to take final responsibility for his immediate family. So God was telling him to do something very difficult.
But God doesn’t tell us to do something difficult and then leave us on our own. No, along with the command to go comes a promise: a fivefold promise in fact: I will make of you a great nation; I will bless you; I will make your name great; I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. He promises Abram all those things that we all long for from time to time: well-being, security, prosperity, prominence. Abram’s future is in God’s hand if only Abram will trust him and go with him.
What would you do? Would you leave the security and comfort of your home and just go? Would you leave all the support of family and friends that you value so highly? This is a question that faces lots of Christians as they consider missionary service, or full time ministry. Are you prepared to give up your current lifestyle to go wherever God leads? But to properly understand what was involved for Abram we need be aware of a couple of things. First of all, at the end of the previous chapter we’ve been told that Sarai was barren; she had no children. So what does that do to God’s promise to make him into a great nation? How could he trust God if the first part of the promise seems so unlikely? Secondly, God didn’t actually tell him where he was going to take him. He simply said "go to the land that I will show you." Now I don’t know about you, but when I go on a trip, the first thing I do is search on Google for everything I can find out about the place I’m going: what’s the climate like; are the people friendly or do they resent foreigners; do they speak English at all; what’s security like; what’s the health situation; is the water safe to drink; are there ATMs so I can get cash out of my account? And then I decide whether or not I should go. But here, Abram isn’t given any information. He’s just told to pack up and move out. And of course even when he gets to the land and God tells him that he’s giving all this land to him and his offspring, we need to remember that this wasn’t a case of Terra Nullius. (no unoccupied land) The land was well and truly occupied. Nor was it like the first European settlers coming to Australia. Canaan was populated with a series of small prosperous City States. With people who were doing well. Who were commercially and militarily strong.