Abraham: Following In The Footsteps Of Faith (Sermon # 1)
THE CALL TO A LIFE OF FAITH – Genesis 11:27-12:3
Overview : Few men, outside of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself have has such an impact on the history of the world as did the man introduced to us in this passage of scripture. This man is revered by over one-half the world’s population. In our day, Abraham is held in high esteem by Jews, Muslims and Christians. In ancient times the Jews considered Abraham to be almost worthy of their worship. In the Bible, Abraham is presented to us as a great example of a man who lived his life by faith, Heb. 11:8-19. James 2:23 records the fact that Abraham was called the “Friend of God.” This man’s life was a special life and a great portion of the first book of the Bible was devoted to it. Tonight, we are going to begin a study of the life of this man named Abraham. Now, some may ask, “Why take the time to study a man who lived about 4,100 years ago?” My answer to you is that, first, the Bible takes the time to speak about him, so we should take the time to study him. The second is that the life of Abraham teaches us much about the matter of walking with God by faith. That, after all, is the goal of the Lord for all His children. God is calling every one of His children to live a life of faith. This man teaches us how.
THE CALL TO A LIFE OF FAITH
Genesis 11:27-12:3 (NKJV)
27 This is the genealogy of Terah: Terah begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran. Haran begot Lot. 28 And Haran died before his father Terah in his native land, in Ur of the Chaldeans. 29 Then Abram and Nahor took wives: the name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran the father of Milcah and the father of Iscah. 30 But Sarai was barren; she had no child.
31 And Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot, the son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they went out with them from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan; and they came to Haran and dwelt there. 32 So the days of Terah were two hundred and five years, and Terah died in Haran.
Promises to Abram
12 Now the Lord had said to Abram:
“Get out of your country,
From your family
And from your father’s house,
To a land that I will show you.
2 I will make you a great nation;
I will bless you
And make your name great;
And you shall be a blessing.
3 I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
These verses teach us about the early years of Abraham’s life. They show us how the Lord found him, called him and promised to bless him.
On the surface they may seem as though they have little to say to us in our day, however, nothing could be farther from the truth! The early days and call of this man’s life teach us some valuable lessons about God, His ways and about what our response to Him should be.
Since it is true that God has and is calling each of His children to a life of faith, Rom. 14:23; Rom. 1:17, and since we have trouble living that kind of life day by day, we need to hear what the Bible teaches us in these verses about Abraham’s call to faith.
Let’s look in on these events that transpired some 4,100 years ago and see what we can learn tonight about The Call To A Life Of Faith.
I. Gen 11:27-30 ABRAM’S PAST OBSCURITY: THE WRETCHED YEARS
(Ill. There was a time in the distant past when Abraham was a mere nobody. He was just another nameless face in the crowd of humanity. His past was one of obscurity.)
A. The Place Of His Original Home – Ur of the Chaldees was located in what we call Iraq today. It was in the southeast corner of Iraq, some 75 miles north of the Kuwaiti border. Right in the middle of the area where the Gulf War in the Middle East was fought in 1991. It was, at Abraham’s time, located at the place where the Euphrates River emptied into the Persian Gulf. At that time, it was a bustling seaport, where trade was conducted with India and Africa.
History also says that this city was a center of intellectual activity. A large public library has been unearthed that contained thousands of ancient texts written in clay. That region was also well suited for raising flocks and herds. Which may account for the fact that Abraham was, for the whole of his life, involved with sheep and cattle.
B. The Problems Of His Original Home – While the area which spawned Abraham may have been prosperous, it was also perverted. The people of that area were involved in some of the most wretched forms of idolatry known to mankind. That city was an important center for astrology and for the worship of the stars and the moon.
The fact of their wickedness is born out by the testimony of the scriptures themselves, Josh. 24:2. Gen. 31:30-34 relate that while Abraham was able to break free of the idolatry of the land, his relatives were not. There we find that his great-nephew Laban and Jacob’s wives Leah and Rachel.
Many years later, Isaiah reminded the nation of Israel to remember where God brought them from, Isa. 51:1. He called their father Abraham out of the most wretched of conditions, spiritually speaking!
C. The Pain Of His Original Home – As one reads these verses, the wretchedness and hopelessness of Abraham’s years in Ur comes to the surface. For him, it was a time of darkness, Joshua 24:2, death, v. 28, and despair, v. 30. No matter how you look at it, Abraham’s early years were wretched days!
(Note: When you get right down to it, you and I were no different to the early life of Abraham. We might not have served “stone” gods and worshiped the heavenly bodies, but we were all trapped in the same darkness that enveloped the life of Abraham, Eph. 2:1-3! It rejoices my heart to know that we serve a God Who can reach into the blackest heart and turn on the light of His glory and presence. I praise Him that He can take a life that was so hopeless and barren and can turn it into one of the greatest examples of the power of faith and grace that can be found anywhere!
The whole point is this: regardless of where we came from or of what life’s baggage we carry with us now, God is able to come where we are and change us for His glory. He can make new creatures of us for the glory of God, 1 Cor. 5:17! No one is beyond the touch of the Lord! Not even a pagan like Abram (Abraham)!)
II. Gen 11:31-32; 12:1 ABRAM’S PARTIAL OBEDIENCE: THE WASTED YEARS
A. 12:1 The Call To Depart – We are not told how the call came to Abraham, (Notice the word “had”), but we are told that God spoke to this man in his darkness and called him into the light to follow a new path. Abram was called to leave behind everything he loved and everything that had shaped his life up to that point. He was ordered to leave his Region, his Religion and his Relatives behind. For this man, it would be a difficult task. He was issued a call to Follow, to Faith and to a new Future. He was to leave his home, not knowing where he was going, or when he would arrive. He was to leave all such matters in the hand of the Lord!
(Note: The call of Abram raises some questions that the Bible does not answer. First, why did the Lord pick this one man, out of all the men of the earth? Why didn’t God choose some of the other inhabitants of the world, or of Ur to call to this new adventure called faith?
The answer to those questions is: I don’t know! I would ask this question: “Why does God call anyone?” Why did He call you and not your neighbor? Why did He call you and not you co-worker? The answer to those questions dwell within the cloud of God’s sovereign will and the answer is not for us to know, Rom. 9:18-23!)
(Note: Regardless of why God calls who He does, those who have been called by Him should rejoice in the fact that they are saved and secure in the blood of the Lamb! Thank God for the day the clear call to follow the Lord came to my heart! I bless His name for the day He turned the light on in my soul and showed me the way to Himself! Therefore, I will rejoice in what He has done for me, Luke 10:20.)
(Note: When the call of God does come to a life, it is a call for that person to sever (cut off) all ties with the past life. His call is a call to a new life with new priorities and a new Lord. His call is for total commitment, Matt. 16:24. His call is for the believer to leave the old life behind and to begin a new life of faith, where every moment is lived in utter dependence upon the Lord alone for every need. That is the nature of the divine call! God’s call is for you to follow without your being concerned about the destination. His call is for you to leave the details to Him. His call is for surrender to His call, regardless of what it costs, where it leads or how much it hurts. His call is still follow me!)
B. 11:31 The Compromise In Devotion – The nature of Abram’s call was for him to leave. Note the word “thee” in 12:1. Yet, when they left Ur, notice that it was “they” who went, 11:31. It seems that Abram compromised by not separating from his family as he had been ordered. He failed to fully submit to the Lord’s call!
(Note: Some may argue that he just wanted to take his family with him as he began his journey for the Lord. That is noble, but it should be noted that there is no indication that they were saved at all. There is no hint that they ever placed their faith in the Lord as did Abram. The only ones who were saved, it would see, were Abram, Sarai and Lot. The rest were still pagans, trapped in the darkness of their sins.)
(Note: The Bible says that they came Haran and dwelled there. If you look at a map, you will find that Haran is north and east of the promised land. This was not where God called Abram to be! He has not gone all the way for the Lord. He has failed to separate from his family and he has failed to arrive at the place he has been called to. Always remember that partial obedience is simple disobedience! Until you have done all God says to do, you haven’t done what God said to do!
What has the Lord told you to do that you haven’t done? Have you come short in the obedience department? I know first hand that not all of God’s commands are easy to obey. Some are difficult, some are frightening and some are costly, but all to be obeyed without question by the child of God who wishes to walk by faith and be found pleasing to the Lord, 1 Sam. 15:22.)
(Note: Notice that Abraham did not leave Haran and fully follow the Lord’s command until the death of his father Terah. The name Terah means “A Station or delay.” It has the idea of a stopping place, a rest area or a roadblock. Evidently, Terah was a roadblock between Abram and his doing the will of God. When Terah was removed from the scene, Abram was ready to move on in the things of God.
Terah is a type of the flesh and other things that hinder our progress in the things of God. You see, until those things are taken care of and “reckoned dead”, Rom. 6:11, there will be little or no progress in your life for the glory of the Lord.
What is your Terah this evening? Oh, if you aren’t exactly where the Lord wants you to be, you have a Terah. Oh yes! You have a roadblock between you and your doing what the Lord has told you to do. You know what has to happen when there is a Terah in your life or mine? There must be a death! That thing that serves as a station or a delay in your life or mine must go! What’s holding you back this evening?)
(Note: We all need to be careful that we do not stand in the way of others doing the Will of God. If you aren’t careful, you just might find yourself being a “Terah” to someone in your life. Don’t let your lack of faith prevent someone else from following God fully in FAITH!)
C. 11:32 The Cost Of Delay – Abram’s delay in this matter of obedience was costly to him. While he lingered in Haran, precious years past him by. Those were years that could have been spent enjoying the best God had to offer. Instead, those years were spent watching the father he loved waste away. Those years were spent being grieved by the sins of a family still in the grip of idolatry.
(Note: The work of God is too precious and time is too short for us to hesitate in carrying out the orders we receive from Heaven. Why should we settle for second best while the wasted years pile up in our lives? Everyday brings us one day closer to the grave, let us determine in our hearts that we will make every moment count for the glory of the Lord, Rom. 13:11-14; Eph. 5:16.)
(Note: God was so patient in His dealings with Abram! He gave him time to get things squared away in his life. But, it is far better for us to hear His voice and respond in immediate action for the glory of God! That is what Jesus did, John 5:19-20, and that is what the Lord wants from you and me too! Have you been putting something off that God has told you to do? If so, the time for delay has past! Get busy carrying out the Will of God. Delay is dangerous and it is costly.)
III. 12:1-3 ABRAM’S PRECIOUS OPPORTUNITIES: THE WONDER YEARS
(Ill. At the age of 75, this man named Abram finally makes his break with the old life. He leaves out from Haran on the great adventure of faith. These verses tell us that after all the wretched years in defilement and the all wasted years in delay, that God reserved some wonderful years of delight for this old servant of God. Notice the qualities of these wonder years.
A. 12:1 To Walk In God’s Presence – This man Abram has been called out of the gross darkness of sin to walk in the presence of the Lord. This verse implies that God intends to lead Abram in the way he should go. God Himself will direct this man’s pathway.
Note: There is nothing in this world more precious than walking with God by faith! The faith walk puts you in a place of dependence upon the Lord and He will not let you down, Heb. 13:5. Those who lean solidly upon the Lord need never fear that He will leave them or desert them. They need never fear that God will fail them as they lean their weight upon Him!, Psa. 37:19.)
B. 12:1-3a To Watch God’s Providence – God makes some grand promises to Abram in these verses. Look at all the things God promises to give this great man:
A New Home
A Great Name
Abram Will Be A Blessing
God Will Protect Him From His Enemies
God Will Bless His Friends
All The World Will Blessed Through Abram’s Faith
– Abram doesn’t know yet how God will work it all out, but he knows that God will do it. His faith has grown to the place where he is willing to trust God and just leave the details to the providence of the Lord. He is willing to live by faith day by day as the Lord works out His plan and purpose in his life! By the way, everything God promised to give to Abram, He did give him! He kept His promises to the letter. Also notice that some of these things are still being worked out today and that God will faithfully continue to work out His promises to Abram until all are fulfilled!
(Note: That is where He wants to bring us to as well. He wants us to come to the place where we can simply take Him at His Word and be satisfied in our hearts that He will do what He has promised to do.
Regardless of what the devil, the flesh and the world tell us, we can trust God. Everyone of His promises is true! You can depend on Him to take care of you if you will live your life by faith, Rom. 4:21. He will look after those who lean on Him!
Have you reached the place where you can rest in the arms of divine providence and know that the Lord will take care of you? That is where we all need to be! Remember, no matter how life looks, God is doing what He does for you for your own good, Rom. 8:28.)
C. 12:3b To Wonder At God’s Purposes – As Abram began this journey of faith he must have questioned how God could take an old idolater and make him a blessing to all the families of the earth. When he died a hundred years later at the age of 175 he still did not have the answer to that question. But, this man Abram died in faith. That faith was counted fro righteousness, Gen. 15:6 and when he died, he went to a place called paradise.
Well, he waited there some 2,100 years. Then one day a man appeared in paradise. This man said that His name was Jesus and that He had just died on a cross for the sins of everyone in paradise and for the sins of all who would believe on Him, 1 Pet. 3:18-19; Eph. 4:8-10.
When Jesus appeared in that place that day, Abraham realized that the last piece had been placed in the puzzle. This man, Jesus, Who descended from Abraham through His mother Mary was the One that would make Abraham a blessing to all the families of the earth. Amen!
When Abram left Haran, he did so with all his hopes hidden in his heart. He held all the unseen things of the future in the hands of faith. He trusted God to take care of it and the Lord fulfilled every promise, just as He had said that He would!
(Note: As we live this life of faith in this world, there will be times when we cannot see the way. There will be days when we too will wonder how God could ever do anything with the likes of us! There will be times when we will have to walk by faith and not sight. Of course, some people just can’t do that! If they can’t see how it should be done, they won’t do it! If they can’t explain it, then they avoid it. Those folks never grow! The people God uses greatly are those who will walk obediently wherever the path of God leads them. Whether they understand it or not, whether they like it or not, whether they know what will happen or not. Those are the people who get to see the Lord part the seas. They see the multitudes fed. They get to walk on the water. They walk unharmed through the fiery furnaces and lion dens of life. They live life by faith and they get to see the Lord do the impossible over and over again. Amen!)
There is an old Chinese saying that goes, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” It took Abram a while, but he made that first step. When he did, he saw God do things that amazed him until the day he died.
I wonder, have you made that first step of faith? Have you made the step of faith for salvation? Have you made the step of faith to total surrender? Have you made the step of faith that will take you beyond the hum drum, ordinary run of the mill life into that other worldly realm where God operates and uses people like us for His glory?
You and I will never be all we can be for Him until we cut our ties with this world and cast ourselves on Him by faith! God help each one of us to do just that tonight!