The man of faith.
Aside from our Lord Jesus Christ, the name Abraham is probably the most revered name in the Bible. More than Moses. More than Elijah. More than David. More than Paul. Abraham is the father of all who have faith. He is the famous Abraham who obeyed God and left home to go to a foreign land. He is the famous Abraham who obeyed God and was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac. He is the famous Abraham who “believed God” and as a result his faith “was credited to him as righteousness.” He is referred to in 11 NT books: all four Gospel, Acts, Romans, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Hebrews, James and 1 Peter. In the Faith Hall Of Fame, Hebrews 11, Abraham gets 12 out of 40 verses dedicated to him. That’s twice as many as the 6 verses the 2nd place Moses gets. God made a covenant with Abraham, and that covenant is the foundation of God’s relationship with both the nation of Israel and the Church. Abraham is in the line of Noah’s son Shem (chapter 10), the godly son whom Noah blessed in chapter 9.
In coming to chapter 12 we come to the pivotal point in Genesis. We really can say that the first 11 chapters have been leading to this man at this moment. Now from this man and this moment Redemptive History is going to be built. Before Abraham, God proved He is a just God by judging man’s sin through the worldwide Flood. Now through Abraham, we see God is willing to forgive sin, as God’s plans for the coming Redeemer will be the seed of Abraham. We can even note that through the Flood God destroyed all of humanity, but through Abraham God would bless all of humanity (Gen 12:2-3).
Bottom Line: If you don’t know Abraham then as a disciple of Jesus Christ and a student of God’s Word you have to get to know him. We’ll start with 3 things today: 1) God’s Command to Abram, 2) God’s Promise To Abram, and 3) Abram Worshipped God.
(You will hear me refer to him as Abram and Abraham. His name was Abram, then God changed his name to Abraham in chapter 17. I go back and forth).
GOD’S COMMAND TO ABRAM (1)
God called Abram to leave the land he lived in and go to a new land that He would show him. Abraham lived in Ur at first, then we find him in Harran, and finally he arrives in Canaan, the land God called him to (Josh 24:2-3; Neh. 9:7; Acts 7:2-4).
- Right before being stoned to death, Stephen recited to the Jewish leaders he was facing their entire history as a people, beginning with Abraham in Genesis 12. He said in Acts 7:2-4
Notice Stephen says that God called Abraham while he was IN Ur of Chaldea to get up and go to Canaan, and that Abram stopped in Harran. We learned at the end of chapter 10 that Abraham’s original homeland was Ur of the Chaldeans (31). Scholars believe this would have been near what is modern day southern Iraq near the Euphrates River.
From Ur, Abram’s father, Terah, moved them all to a new land called Harran. To get there they would have traveled northwest along the Euphrates River until they reached Harran, which is located in modern day southern Turkey, just north of the border of Syria. It is still called Harran today.
What is interesting is that in chapter 10 we’re told Abram’s father Terah planned to take them all to Canaan, but it appears that he ended up stopping at Harran. This is consistent with the journey Stephen described: called while in Ur to leave and go to Canaan, but, halfway there they stop and stay at Harran. The call was given to Abram, not his father Terah, so perhaps after the death of his child (10:28) Terah was open to leaving Ur and getting out of the land of grief where his son died.
So for whatever reason they all stopped their journey to Canaan and put roots down at Harran. Eventually Abram’s father Terah dies and then God comes to Abram again apparently. This is where we find ourselves in chapter 12, with God telling Abram to get up and go from Harran to Canaan. Notice verses 4 and 5, “set out from Harran” and “they had acquired in Harran.”
APPLICATION: When God calls He calls us to leave something behind to go where He leads. All that Abram was familiar with he was to get up and leave behind. He was cutting himself off from his roots – everything and everyone that he knew. God told Abraham to Go and it says, “Abraham went as the Lord told Him” (v5). Just like God commanded Noah to build an ark and “Noah did all that the LORD commanded him.” (7:5). God called and Moses left shepherding to lead the nation of Israel. God called and David left shepherding to become king of Israel. Jesus called and Paul left his promising career as a Pharisee to go and bring the Gospel to the world as an Apostle. At the call Elisha burned his plow in the field to follow his mentor Elijah, the great prophet. At the call the Apostle Matthew left the tax booth to follow Jesus. James and John left their father and the family business at the call to follow Jesus. The woman caught in adultery left her life of sin at the call to walk in righteousness.
All this is in stark contrast to the rich young ruler who would not leave behind all he had to go and follow Jesus. Or think of all the crowds in John 6 who wouldn’t “go” along with the teachings of Jesus anymore so they “went away” and quit following him.
But there’s more to this. God called Abram out of his idolatry. Turn to Joshua 24:2 with me, “….” Before God called Abraham, Abraham worshiped other gods beyond the river. God was calling Abram not only to leave his home, leave his country, leave his people, but also to leave his idols.
APPLICATION to the APPLICATION: Come over from the other side of the river. Turn to Joshua 24:2 with me (READ). Come from across the river. Leave your idols and come worship the true and living God. I think part of, not the only but definitely part of the reason God made Abram leave his homeland is because that homeland was a land of idols. God was removing Abram from the place of idolatry. Quoting God in Isaiah 52 Paul says in 2 Corinthians 6, “Come out from among them and be separate.” God’s call is to get up and leave behind your previous life of sin and go forward into the life of righteousness and faith He calls you to. You cannot stay across the river in your own life in the land of your own idols and worship God. You must choose to leave it all behind for God. Or leave God behind for it all.
APPLICATION: Now the Gospel is a call that you must answer. It is described in other ways as well. You are commanded to believe and must obey that command (2 Thess. 1:8). You are invited to believe and must accept that invitation (Mt 11:28-29; Rev 22:17). But it is also described as a call, a beckoning, a summons. It is a call to leave your sins behind and go to the cross of Jesus Christ. One of my favorite moments in the Gospels is the healing of blind Bartimaeus in Mark 10:49-52. I love the words, “throwing his cloak aside he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus!” That’s how you respond to Jesus calling you.
The point here is that Preaching the Gospel is not merely INFORMING you of the facts of the Gospel so that you can passively, nonchalantly, nod your head in curiosity like those foolish philosophers in Acts 17. No, Preaching the Gospel is informing you of what the Gospel is AND demanding a response. What will you do with this Gospel? It is a call on your life to respond back to what you are hearing by believing. You should feel a demand on you to respond somehow: to believe or to reject. You should feel that a choice must be made: to believe or to reject. If you don’t feel that from a preacher then man you are not being preached to.
GOD’S PROMISES TO ABRAM (2-3, 7)
Now we get to some very biblically famous words. God makes 8 promises to Abram in this passage.
First, God promises in verse 2, “I will make you into a great nation.” Abram was 75 years old, his wife Sarai was 65 years old, and at that point they had no children. In chapter 10:30, we see that ache they shared with so many other people in history: “Now Sarai was childless because she was unable to conceive.” Yet, God comes to Abram and promises He is going to make him into a great nation! Where would this nation come from?
As you read chapter 13, 15, 17 and 22 God elaborates more on these initial promises. And later God promises that many nations will come from Abraham. But here it is singular – it is one nation, a “great nation.”
That nation is the nation of Israel. This becomes crystal clear in chapter 15 verses 13 and 14. Turn over there and read with me.
All throughout their history Israel is identified by their relationship to Abraham. God repeatedly identifies himself to the nation as “I am the God of your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”
God’s first promise was that from Abraham’s body would come a great nation, the nation of Israel.
Second, in verse 2 God promises “I will bless you.” Remember our study several weeks back, that blessing means increase. God was going to increase Abram’s wealth, descendents, fame, power, land, legacy and so on. And that is indeed what God did.
Third, God promised “I will make your name great.” The fame and the reputation of Abraham would grow to cosmic proportions. During his own lifetime for example we see how revered he was. In probably my favorite passage in all of Genesis, chapter 23, Abraham is buying property from the Hittites to bury his dead wife. In the presence of all the great men of the city Abraham asks to purchase some property. In verse 5 and 6 they say, “The Hittites replied to Abraham, “Sir, listen to us. You are a mighty prince among us. Bury your dead in the choicest of tombs. None of us will refuse you his tomb for burying your dead.” Abraham wanted to buy. Out of honor, to a man, they all would give him property. I can’t wait to get there and preach that chapter.
APPLICATION: God makes us great or reduces us to nothing. In Joshua 3:7 God told Joshua, the new leader of Israel, the successor of Moses who would lead the nation into the Promised Land, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of Israel…” In 2 Samuel 7:9 God told King David, “
Fourth, God promises, “You will be a blessing.” Abraham would be a blessing. God would make Abraham the channel through which He would bless others. As a sample lets look at two passages. First is Genesis 22:18….From Abraham would come the seed, or offspring, that would be a blessing to all nations.” Then turn to Galatians 3:7-9……When you ask the question “What is this blessing?” you find it is multifaceted. Galatians 3 and 4 and Romans 4 specifically identify forgiveness of sins, reconciliation to God, righteousness and justification, receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, inheriting the whole world, all as the package referred to as “blessing.” God’s promises to Abraham, through His covenant, would be fulfilled in Christ, the “Seed” of Abraham, whereby the nation of Israel and all nations would be blessed forever.
Fifth, God promises in verse 3 to “bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you.” How people treated Abraham was how God would treat people. If someone or a group of people blessed him, God would bless them. If they cursed Abraham God would curse them. God was on Abraham’s side. This same promise would be given to Abraham’s descendents. Isaac blessed Jacob with the same words in chapter 27, “May those who curse you be cursed and those who bless you be blessed.” Then Jacob had 12 sons who became the 12 tribes of Israel, and in Numbers 24 we see Balaam the prophet bless Israel and say, “May those who bless you be blessed and those who curse you be cursed.”
The nation of Israel is God’s chosen nation, not because they are the largest nation, the most faithful nation. But because of His choice. Due to their unbelief they are hardened until the time comes for their repentance. Then God is going to give them a heart of flesh, they will believe, and as a nation they will be restored. They will be first among all nations in the Kingdom of Jesus. Their name will be a blessing in the mouths of all people and not a curse. They will be honored and not despised. All the nations will know that Israel is God’s choice when He reigns from Jerusalem, from His temple in Jerusalem and His presence is in their midst. This is what Romans 11 means when the full riches of God’s blessings on the whole world and on the Gentiles will come when Israel is restored
Sixth, God promises in verse 3 “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” This is Messianic. The NT explains God’s promises and covenant with Abraham in this way: that the Messiah would be THE Seed of Abraham. Turn to Galatians 3:16 and follow along. Abraham had many seeds you can see from reading Genesis: the nation of Israel was one kind of seed, many nations was another of his seeds, all people who have faith in God whether Jew or Gentile are Abraham’s seed. But there is ONE ULTIMATE Seed – THE Seed, which is Jesus Christ. Now, anyone who puts their faith in the Seed, Jesus Christ, becomes part of Abraham’s seed also. This expands your understanding of the NT phrase “in Christ.” If you believe in Christ, then you are “in Christ,” and based on your union with Christ, who is the seed of Abraham, you also now are the seed of Abraham. Galatians 3:29 sums it up: “If you belong to Christ you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
The blessing of all people relates to salvation, the giving of the Holy Spirit, eternal life, status as a child of God and a member of the Kingdom of God that is coming. These blessings are promised to Abraham and through Abraham to all who have faith like Abraham.
Seventh, God promises to give the land of Canaan to Abraham and his descendants. Verse 7, “To your offspring I will give this land.” God will give it to Abraham and his offspring and they will possess it forever. In 13:15 it says, “All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever.” Chapter 17:8, “The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendents after you; and I will be their God.”
God is not speaking about Gentile believers down through the ages living in that land. He is not speaking typologically about the land where the land is symbolic of some spiritual land to come. He is talking about the physical land Abraham was standing in, and the physical descendents of Abraham, the Jews. This is why God made Abraham go to the land and walk through all of it. It was that specific land. Specifically God said, “the land you see right now, where you are now residing, that you are walking all throughout, the land of Canaan, is the land I will give you and your descendents forever.” The Jewish people, the “great nation” promised to Abraham, his physical descendants through Isaac and Jacob, were the people God gave that land to. It is theirs and will be theirs for eternity.
Someone might say, “But they rejected Christ, they don’t have any right to the land.” God already answered that in the New Covenant, which is for Israel “first.” He said HE WILL restore them, HE WILL resurrect them, HE WILL change their hearts, HE WILL give them His Spirit, HE WILL cause them to follow His commands, HE WILL cleanse them and purify them, and then THEY WILL be His people and HE WILL be their God and HE WILL dwell with them.
Someone might say, “But they reject God so God has rejected them!” But God has already answered that foolish notion too. He said specifically, explicitly, in no ambiguous language, with crystal clarity, that HE WILL do these things NOT BECUASE of Israel’s righteousness. Because they have none. THey have profaned His name. He will do it because of His grace and His compassion on them, because of His sovereign election of them. The people who bring these objections up often times are the very people who believe in God’s sovereignty and scoff at the idea that people have anything to do with their own salvation and that it is ALL OF GOD. Except they don’t believe that when it comes to Israel even when God has said that is exactly what He will do. Its ALL of God when it comes to Israel. They will have done nothing to arouse God’s favor. It will be entirely God, entirely by His grace, and entirely by His sovereign election of them.
ABRAHAM’S WORSHIP OF GOD (8)
Here’s what I love. Abraham worships God. He builds an altar and called on the name of the Lord. God called him, the he calls on God. Its a phrase that means to worship and trust in. Abraham’s leaving his homeland to go to Canaan was his first act of worship. Now, because he believes everything God told him his first action is to worship God. Notice that the promise of the land wasn’t given to Abraham until Abraham got there. Once he was there, seeing it with his own eyes, God said, “All this is yours. I’m giving it to you and all your offspring after you.”
APPLICATION: Worship only comes from faith. If you don’t believe God’s words and you aren’t trusting in God then whatever you’re doing isn’t worship, no matter how much it looks like it outwardly. God knows the heart. Let us not be those who “worship with our lips while our hearts are far from him.”
APPLICATION: The more you obey the more God gives you. The more he shows you and the more he blesses you. Abraham believed God and that is why he went to the land. Abraham believed God and that is why he built an altar to call on the Lord. The more you obey GOd the more understanding you will have, the more spiritual blessing you will have. That doesn’t mean everything will go as you want it to go. But you will have greater peace while that child is wayward if you obey then you would otherwise have if you did not obey. You will have greater joy while you face financial difficulties if you obey than you would if you didn’t obey. You will have greater wisdom in your outlook on life and this world and knowing God if you obey. God doesn’t promise our children will become what we want them to be, or that we’ll always have financial ease. But he does promise peace and joy and faith and wisdom and security no matter what is going on. And that requires obedience to Him.