Intro. Psalm 32:8
- Sovereign orchestration 11:10-32
- Divine commission 12:1-3
II Sam. 7:9
- Abram’s reaction 4-9
God, how would You call me to walk by faith in obedience to Your call on my life?
I’m so thankful to God for His faithfulness in our lives in 2018 and for all He has in store in the coming year. As we embark on a new year this week, God calls us to walk by faith in Him every step of the way.
And we will see this morning from His living Word a fresh reminder of how the Lord is absolutely worthy of our total trust as He not only controls all the events of life but also lovingly leads us in the way we should go.
May your heart be greatly refreshed as was David’s by God’s words of assurance: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.” Psalm 32:8
Praise be to the Lord. For He is a powerful God. And He is our personal God who guides our lives.
In our last message in Genesis 11, we explored how what took place at Babel explains how the world was separated by languages.
That was God’s judgment on all who lived in arrogant autonomy from Him. Remember, their goal- to make a name for themselves.
So God descended and shut down the whole thing. He confused their languages and caused them to disperse.
When it looked as if Babel had derailed God’s plan in history, we see the exact opposite. For He used it to accomplish His sovereign plan.
And that comes into focus from what follows Babel. For from the scattered nations, God shows us how He will raise up one special nation to become His channel of blessing to the world.
We will watch how God showcases this for us in a big picture perspective (11:10-32). Then in Genesis 12:1-8, we will zoom in on the divine commission followed by Abram’s reaction.
As front row spectators, we now witness the orchestration, commission and reaction as God chooses a man He will powerfully use.
God wants us to grasp His
- Sovereign orchestration in 11:10-32
This actually piggybacks on the genealogy of chapter 10. Remember, there God details for us the descendants of Noah through his 3 sons- Japheth, Ham, and yet only part of Shem’s line.
Here’s why. Apart from Shem, the names listed in chapter 10 represent the non-elect line.
They represent the Gentile nations.
Yet immediately following the Babel account, at Genesis 11:10 God has Moses pick up the elect line of Shem. And He shows us something spectacular.
This chosen line leads through 10 generations from Noah to one of the most important figures in the Bible- Abram.
That’s the one we best know as Abraham before God in Genesis 17 changed his name. So we will refer to him as “Abram” until we get there.
What makes this Gen. 11 genealogy so significant is this- right here we see the bloodline from Noah that connects Abram, the man of faith and the nation of Israel to the Savior- Jesus Christ!
It’s as if God is saying, “Watch how I orchestrate every detail to bring hope to the world and to your life through a coming Redeemer!”
Now hang on tight as we see the spectacular sovereignty of God showcased in His chosen ones.
First, follow along in Genesis 11:10-17.
This genealogy is tight, with no gaps as it moves toward the promises. It closely parallels Genesis 10:21-25 which we have covered in greater detail.
Genesis 11:10–17 “These are the records of the generations of Shem. Shem was one hundred years old, and became the father of Arpachshad two years after the flood; 11 and Shem lived five hundred years after he became the father of Arpachshad, and he had other sons and daughters.
What’s fascinating is that Noah’s son, Shem, who reaches 600 years of age actually outlives Abraham.
According to the biblical chronology, there are 3 links in the chain of godly lives from creation to Israel becoming a nation. Many of you have played the game called “Post Office.” You have a line of people and whisper a message to the first person in line they then quietly repeat to the person behind them. After you reach the last person you then ask him to share the message you heard. And then you compare that with the original message given to the first person. And they are worlds apart.
But with just three people from Adam to Abram, God caused His truth to be passed down unchanged.
Adam lived to the time of Methuselah, Methuselah lived to the time of Shem, and Shem lived all the way to see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob!
So these godly lives would have faithfully passed down God’s words to the following generations!
Now continuing in verse 12 we are told that Shem’s son Arpachshad lived thirty-five years, and became the father of Shelah; 13 and Arpachshad lived four hundred and three years after he became the father of Shelah, and he had other sons and daughters. 14 Shelah lived thirty years, and became the father of Eber; 15 and Shelah lived four hundred and three years after he became the father of Eber, and he had other sons and daughters. 16 Eber lived thirty-four years, and became the father of Peleg; 17 and Eber lived four hundred and thirty years after he became the father of Peleg, and he had other sons and daughters.”
Some view these names as fictitious characters. Yet they are 4 generations of real people who lived real lives that span from the Flood to Babel.
Now look at the end of Genesis 10:25 where we are given two key insights about Peleg.
First, “In his days the earth was divided.” You recall, this best points to the earth being separated by languages at Babel.
And second, the very next words in Genesis 10:25 say, “and his (Peleg’s) brother’s name was Joktan.
Now don’t miss this. Joktan and his 13 sons mentioned at the end of chapter 10- none of them are the chosen line. Thus they aren’t the big focus.
Yet, now on the other side of Babel, continuing in Genesis 11:18-26, God has Moses zoom in those in the special, elect line.
It’s as if the best in this family tree is kept for last as the great highlight!
This picks up with Joktan’s brother, Peleg.
Genesis 11:18–26 Peleg lived thirty years, and became the father of Reu; 19 and Peleg lived two hundred and nine years after he became the father of Reu, and he had other sons and daughters.
Here we see a decline in the length of life.
Peleg lived 239 years yet his father lived to be 464, nearly twice as long. Notice now the 5 generations in the chosen line that remain:
20 Reu lived thirty-two years, and became the father of Serug; 21and Reu lived two hundred and seven years after he became the father of Serug, and he had other sons and daughters. 22 Serug lived thirty years, and became the father of Nahor; 23 and Serug lived two hundred years after he became the father of Nahor, and he had other sons and daughters. 24 Nahor lived twenty-nine years, and became the father of Terah.”
Here we see parents are having children much younger. And they are no longer bearing children as did their forefathers when they were hundreds of years old.
Then we read, 25 and Nahor lived one hundred and nineteen years after he became the father of Terah, and he had other sons and daughters. 26 Terah lived seventy years, and became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran.
This man Terah is the patriarch of Abram’s clan. He fathers 3 sons, Abram, Haran and Nahor.
Now don’t be confused. There are two Nahors in in Genesis 11.
The one here in verse 26, Abram’s brother, who is named after their grandfather, Nahor (v. 24).
Families like to name children after relatives even in our day.
On my side of the family, there are 7 men with the same name, John. My dad, my brother, my uncle, two cousins, and two nephews! Talk about confusing!
So, two men with the name Nahor shouldn’t throw us.
Now, it’s right here in Genesis that we first meet Abram.
Verse 27 marks it out as particularly significant in this genealogy saying, “Now these are the records of the generations of Terah. Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran; and Haran became the father of Lot.
With that intro, God then highlights for us special features before calling Abram.
First, verse 28 tells us a cause for sorrow: his brother “Haran died in the presence of his father Terah….”
We don’t know what happened, but when a child dies young, there’s great sorrow that hits the family. It has a sobering and stunning effect on parents and siblings.
So Abram felt the pain of losing a younger brother to death. Not only that, verse 32 reports the death of his father: “The days of Terah were two hundred and five years; and Terah died in Haran.”
If you have had someone close to you die, you feel the great void that is left, especially if you aren’t certain they were right with God.
Well, what does Scripture indicate regarding Terah, Abraham’s dad? What was his spiritual condition?
Verse 28 tells us he was born and died in Ur of the Chaldeans. That was Mesopotamia which may be the site of present day Urdu, southeast of the Euphrates River.
Ur of the Chaldeans was a populated center of culture and religion.
It boasted of luxury, ease, and worship of the moon god which they named “Sin.” Prayers and sacrifices were offered to the moon in hopes of receiving a blessing.
No doubt about it, Terah’s family participated in idol worship.
Joshua confirms this centuries later when warning the Israelites not to return to such idolatry.
He gathers them together and cautions them in Joshua 24:2 with these words: “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘From ancient times your fathers lived beyond the River, namely, Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, and they served other gods.”
So you see, Abram grew up in a home devoted to idolatry. He may have even along with his dad Terah worshipped the moon god.
When it was time to marry, verse 28 reports that Abram and his brother Nahor, “took wives for themselves. And we are told “the name of Abram’s wife was Sarai.”
That’s a beautiful name that means “princess. But Sarai also parallels the name Sharatu, who was the wife of the moon god.
And the name of Nahor’s wife, Milcah, was likely derived from Malkatu the daughter of the moon god.
So there were lots of connections to idolatry, all part of what Abram grew up with in pagan Ur.
But there’s another big problem. Not just sorrow of death and satanic idolatry. There was deep sadness.
Out of the blue, verse 30 makes not a birth announcement but a barren announcement: “And Sarai was barren; she had no child.”
Friends, not being able to have a child- that’s a big deal to parents. And it’s a big deal to God.
Now, this is the first case of infertility in the Bible.
And more will follow with Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Rachel, and Elkanah and Hannah.
Listen, barrenness is no accident. It’s not a fluke of nature.
Infertility is God’s gracious means of testing one’s faith. It’s one way God can cause His children to be more prayerful and dependent on Him for whatever He deems best. And we will see that blossom in Abram’s and Sarai’s sad situation.
Well, the day comes when Terah and his family make a big move. They leave Ur.
Verse 31 gives us as a trailer previews so we can anticipate what’s coming: “Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife; and they went out together from Ur of the Chaldeans in order to enter the land of Canaan; and they went as far as Haran, and settled there.”
They head out from Ur to Canaan. By going northwest to avoid the Arabian dessert, that would be a huge journey of over 1,000 miles!
Well, there’s a problem. They get bogged down about 600 miles up the road in the town of Haran (which may have been named after Abram’s brother).
We don’t know why they settled down in Haran which was a significant trading town in the northern region of Mesopotamia.
It may have been Abram’s aged Terah did not want to press on. And he may have liked the fact that the moon god was also worshipped there in Haran.
All this background God gives us segues into His call on Abram’s life. And it’s here we see the
- Divine Commission 12:1-3
Look at the command from God to Abram in Genesis 12:1. Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you;
Abram didn’t have God’s written Word yet, so God speaks to him directly.
O.T. scholar Bruce Waltke notes, ““The same word that summoned the cosmos into existence now summons Abraham to bring a nation into existence.”
He’s right, for both creation and redemption begin with God speaking!
God’s imperative includes 3 specific requirements placed on Abram:
Leave the country that is familiar to you.
Leave your relatives whom you love.
And leave your father’s house. These are close family ties and ways.
In other words, God is saying, “Abram, you must forsake all to follow Me.
That sounds like what Christ tells those who would come after Him.
Matthew 16:24 Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”
In other words, leave behind your old ways, your old life and follow Christ.
Now that’s the call of the gospel that must go out from us as faithful messengers of God, “Forsake your old way of life and follow Christ.”
It’s not having Christ submit to your plans but you submitting to His lead in your life.
Now, Abram knows he must leave His land, relatives and home. But where’s he going?
God says, “To the land which I will show you.”
Now this is really something. God gives Abram no specifics of the destination, not even the direction!
He purposefully chooses not to give Abram a map or an itinerary!
Why? Because God would supply all that on a “need to know basis.”
The idea is “You just follow me, one step at a time, and I will lead you!”
Christian, that’s the way we should live the Christian life.
Fellowship with the Lord in His Word and prayer, follow Him each day, and He will steer your life where He wants you to go.
Solomon puts it so memorably for us in Proverbs 3:5–6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”
And here I see a room full of people that can vouch for that.
You have trusted the Lord not yourself for many years, even decades. And He has directed you along His chosen path! He has never let you down!
Now you can be certain, God’s commands never lack His accompanied blessings.
Just look at the magnificent promises God makes to Abram.
There are actually 7 of them. The first, in verse 2: “And I will make you a great nation.”
This divine promise to Abram here is staggering.
He’s pledging to bring about through Abram a powerful nation. It would be great numerically and great in significance. And don’t forget. Abram has no children. And Sarai is barren!
Second, God assures Abram, “I will bless you.”
Now you need to realize how big a focus God is putting here on his promised blessing on Abram.
That term “bless/blessing” occur 5x in Genesis 1-11. Yet, now we see it 5x before us in just 2 verses (v. 2-3)!
“Bless” (barak)- the idea is God pouring out His favor on Abram, enriching him with His loving presence and provision.
Beloved of God, here’s what’s at the heart of a blessed life- a soul-enthralling friendship with God!
That by the way is what God blesses us with as His children- the deepest and sweetest satisfaction of our souls in Christ!
Third, God promises to make Abram’s name great.
This pictures God making Abram a man of great reputation. For a person’s name in the Old and New Testament spoke of his character.
God uses similar words when He vouches to King David, “I will make you a great name, like the names of the great men who are on the earth.” II Sam. 7:9
How important is a good name, a godly reputation in the eyes of others?
Solomon answers, “A good name is to be more desired than great wealth, favor is better than silver and gold.” Prov. 22:1
That’s what awaited Abram for obedience to God’s call.
Fourth, God tells Abram he would not only bless him but make him a blessing.
In other words, God’s favor would overflow from this man’s life on to the lives of others.
Fellow believers would see Abram coming and want to be near him as his life exuded the goodness of God.
The 5th and 6th promises from God to Abram for obedience, Genesis 12:3, “And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse.
Wow, God’s saying the way people treated Abram was the way He, God, would treat them.
Well you can imagine as that word got out people would think twice about how they would deal with Abram!
For here God binds Himself to protecting Abram in a hostile world.
7th, the Lord assures Abram, “And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
Wow, that’s a whole lot bigger than Abram’s life, family or descendants.
God’s marvelous design here makes Abram His chosen conduit of blessing to the whole world.
Yes, Abraham would become a blessing bearer to all future generations and all future peoples.
Here’s how that works. No one can enjoy the blessings of God apart from the blessings given through Abram by faith.
And that blessing finds its expression through the One who will emerge in the line of Abraham, Jesus Christ.
As the Apostle Peter preached in Acts 3, he reminds listening Jews of God’s great promise given to their forefather Abram here in Genesis 12:3.
Acts 3:25–26 “It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ 26 “For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.”
And the Apostle Paul, in writing to the Galatians, shows that that blessing to Abram for the nations is the gospel!
Galatians 3:8 “The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.”
Yes, salvation would go out to the world through Abraham’s line, and that message is of Jesus Christ!
That’s why when God has Matthew record the first gospel which is all about hope for this world, to whom does his opening sentence link Jesus?
Matthew 1:1 “The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”
For it is through Jesus Christ, in the line of Abraham and David that the blessing of the gospel goes to the nations.
The Sovereign orchestration lead to Abram. The Divine commission called Abram.
And that prepares us for
- Abram’s Reaction v. 4-9
Imagine after Abram hears God’s call he announces to Sarai-
“God has just giving me a command with amazing promises. We are going to go on a long trip, never to return. Let’s start packing, say our goodbyes because God is leading us out of here.
And Sarai with incredulity must have been thinking, “But, Honey, where are we going?”
And all Abram could say would be , “I have no idea, Dear”, but God promised He would show me.”
Well, our text tells us how it played out. Verse 4 reports:
“So Abram went forth as the Lord had spoken to him; and Lot went with him. Now Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.”
Since Lot’s father Haran had died, Uncle Abram takes Lot with him.
Now Abram’s no young buck. He’s ten years beyond the age of today’s retirement!
That’s when Abram sets out on his faith-filled venture. But he doesn’t just take Lot.
Verse 5 specifies he also “took Sarai his wife and Lot his nephew, and all their possessions which they had accumulated, and the persons which they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan; thus they came to the land of Canaan.”
Now we dare not read into this what’s not there and fault Abram for his time in Haran. Because his dad Terah had something to do with the delay.
There’s a fascinating recounting of this situation by Stephen to the unbelieving Jews. We find it in Acts 7:2–4. “And he (Stephen) said, “Hear me, brethren and fathers! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, 3 and said to him, ‘Leave your country and your relatives, and come into the land that I will show you.’ 4 “Then he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. From there, after his father died, God had him move to this country in which you are now living.”
That tells us that God waited until after Abram’s idolatrous father died before having Abram complete his journey to Canaan.
Here’s what’s clear. God sets before us Abram as a model of obedience to His will.
God said “Go forth, and Abram went forth!”
He literally stepped out in obedience. And that obedience was fueled by faith.
Hebrews 11:8 testifies to that saying, “By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.”
How could he do that? Because he knew the promises of God. And he anchored his faith in those promises.
Friends, that’s the walk to which God calls you.
You know what God has told you in His Word, you trust it, and you obey it.
That’s what ought to motivate you in sharing the gospel boldly, giving sacrificially, praying fervently, living purely and serving in the church fervently.
God has called you to that. So trust His Word, walk in obedience, and know His blessing.
It’s a life of trusting and obeying what God has said.
One night at a D. L. Moody evangelistic meeting in Massachusetts, a young man stood up to testify about his confidence of salvation.
He summarized his new life in Christ including his heart’s desire: “I’m going to trust, and I’m going to obey.”.
John Sammis quickly transformed those words into the hymn still sung today: “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”
Christian, trusting and obeying characterizes the life to which God has called us.
We place our faith in what God has said and choose the path of obedience.
Yes we must resolve in the Spirit’s power to trust God and obey Him even when He leads us through a difficult patch.
Look at the challenges Abram runs into as He obeys God’s call. Verse 6: “Abram passed through the land as far as the site of Shechem, to the oak of Moreh.”
Shechem represents the center of Israel about 30 miles north of Jerusalem.
There in that town was a significant oak tree. Some pagan, Moreh, likely named it after himself and may have used it as a sanctuary to connect with his gods.
Second obstacle, Moses notes, “Now the Canaanite was then in the land.” These were the godless descendants of Ham, cursed by God who become enemies to God’s people.
When you find yourself facing challenges and disappointments as you seek to obey God, it’s then you need reassurance that you’re not alone.
And that’s what God does for Abram (verse 7): “The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord who had appeared to him.”
When Abram may have been thinking, “I didn’t expect such trials in following the Lord, God personally affirms His presence and promise to him.
God may have chosen to appear in a theophany, as the angel of the Lord taking the appearance of a man. Whatever the form, it was so overwhelming to Abram that he builds an altar and worships God!
In so doing, he plants his flag of faith in the heart of Canaan, the land of promise.
He doesn’t languish in doubt or fear, but presses on in faith. For Abram is confident God was going with Him and before Him.
We are told “Then he proceeded from there to the mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord. V. 9 “And Abram journeyed on, continuing toward the Negev” (which is the arid land to the SW of the Dead Sea).
Now watch the spiritual refreshment that flows from this.
Years later, Abram’s grandson Jacob would go this area north of Jerusalem where Abram had met with God and built an altar.
And it’s Jacob who actually named that place Beth-el, meaning house of God.
Here’s why. Jacob woke up from the dream in which God revealed Himself. And Jacob exclaims, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God.” Gen. 28:16-17.
It was there God taught Jacob the lesson He had taught Abram- to trust and obey Him. There he realized the powerful presence of God that was with Him and would lead him.
So it is, God calls you, Christian, to walk by obedient faith.
That means, when the obstacles line your path, refuse to doubt, worry, complain or try to take matters into your own hands.
Instead bask in the deep- down confidence that the living God personally loves you and leads you.
Therefore, as you face the days that lay ahead, know God’s precious promises, stand by faith on those promises and step out in obedience to God.
As you do, you will see God open the windows of heaven and pour out His great blessings on your life!