Genesis 12 – 28 Sep 2014
Our last meditation of Genesis was on chap 11 concerning the tower of Babel.
Today, God willing, we shall meditate on the life of Abraham in Gen 12.
A total of 15 chpts in Genesis were given to tell us about Abraham.
He was also mentioned over 70 times in the new testament.
What is so special about Abraham?
Why was he given so much “air time” in the bible?
Well, the bible tells us that Abraham is the “father of those who have faith”.
And the Bible also tells us that “…without faith, it is impossible to please God…” – Heb 11v6
And “…whoever approaches God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him.”
Therefore, all who have faith in God through Jesus Christ have Abraham as their spiritual ancestor.
All who have faith like Abraham will enjoy the same spiritual blessings that he experienced.
Hence, it is important that we understand how Abraham had faith that pleased God.
So this morning, I want to share with you 2 things concerning Abraham in Gen 12.
1) Abraham was called
2) Abraham’s faith was challenged
And if this is the experience of Abraham, it would be the same for those who have faith in Jesus Christ.
So let us learn precious lessons from these 2 things about Abraham in Gen 12.
And may God strengthen us as we strive to walk in faith here on earth.
1) Abraham was called
Abraham was born 11 generations after Noah.
Hence, by the time of Abraham, the earth was once again populated as before.
In Acts 7v2, Stephen told the Jews that “..God..appeared to Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia”.
Mesopotamia was a pagan country.
And Josh 24v2 tells us that Abraham was living in idolatry.
But God called Abraham out of spiritual darkness by His word.
God said to Abraham in Gen 12:1 “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you.”
Do you think it was easy for Abraham to do that?
Abraham had to give up whatever he had.
His friends, his land & all that he was so used to in Mesopotamia.
And he was to go to a land he had never been to.
There were no planes to fly him there.
There were no maps that showed him where the promised land was.
He could not tell if the land was good to dwell in.
He did not know if the value of the land will appreciate over time.
So he had to believe that God meant great blessings for him with this call.
Hence, I want to tell you that it was certainly not easy for Abraham to obey God’s call.
Perhaps it may be the same for some of you.
Perhaps you fear what your parents or friends may say if you respond to God’s call.
Perhaps you are concerned about what you have to give up.
But know this well – God was pleased when Abraham did not consider it a loss to respond to His call.
And that was the kind of faith that pleased God.
Jesus said in Mark 8:34 “..whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself & take up his cross & follow Me.”
Abraham knew that he was responding to the Sovereign Creator & sustainer of the universe.
He knew that there was a cross to bear.
But he had faith that the Sovereign God who called him will also take care of him.
Jesus gave us this assurance in Luk 18:29-30…
“…no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time and in the age to come eternal life.”
Yes, there is a cross for Christians to bear when we respond to God’s call.
But God promised His protection & provision for his people as well.
I met a Christian brother in KunMing who sells solar powered LED street lamps.
When he became a Christian, he decided that he will not be involved in any dishonest business.
It was not easy for him to support his family.
But this was the cross he had to bear.
One day, his wife had a freak car accident.
Instead of arguing with the other driver who hit her, his wife told her that she was a Christian.
It turned out that the other driver was a government official from the province.
And this government official asked her for a quotation of her solar-powered LED street lamps.
Long story short, she secured a contract that sustained their family business for the last 10 years.
Mysterious providence; but it shows us that Jesus cares for those who bear His cross.
When you respond to God’s call, you are responding to the Sovereign God of the universe.
He will never short-change you.
He will never leave you nor forsake you.
So if God is calling you into His Kingdom today, hesitate no further.
Respond to His call just like Abraham did.
For this is the type of faith that pleases Him.
Now, how did God call Abraham?
Acts 7v2 says that God appeared to him.
Wow! A divine visitation by God the Creator Himself.
But are we to expect that God will call us in the same manner today?
I need you to understand that paper & telephones did not exist in the days of Abraham.
And so, God spoke to people in those days through visions & dreams and through angels & prophets.
Sometimes, God may even appear directly to His chosen ones like Moses, Jacob & even the Apostle Paul.
Of course God is sovereign & can speak to anyone in any way He chooses to do so.
But the Bible tells us in Heb 1 that “..in these last days, God speaks to us by his Son.”
His Son is the Word – John 1v1 .
His Son is the manifestation of the Father – John 1v8.
And His Son is spoken about in every part of the Bible.
When you read the Bible & the Holy Spirit opens your eyes to His word, He speaks to you.
God called Abraham by His word.
In the same way, He calls us by His word today.
Are you listening to Him?
Many years ago, a visitor to Shalom Church said this to me:
“Unless God appears to me, I will not believe”.
Although it sounded arrogant, this man was genuinely seeking the truth.
But he probably didn’t understand the implication of what he was asking.
I don’t know about you, but if an angel appeared to me I will probably “freak out”.
And if an angel appeared to me, there are 2 possible reasons:
1) either I am tasked for a difficult mission like Moses.
2) or I am being judged (like King Belshazzar in Dan 5)
Either way, I don’t think I will like it if an angel appeared to me.
So it may be for our good that we don’t encounter such supernatural experiences like those in Bible times.
It is sufficient for us to know that God speaks to us by His word.
Has God providentially arranged for someone to bring His word to you?
Is He speaking to you through His word preached & taught in this Church?
Is He speaking to you by various people He placed in your life?
Perhaps some of you were called when you were younger.
But you did not recognise the call of God at that time.
Just like the prophet Samuel.
He did not realize that God called him when he was a child serving in the tabernacle in 1 Sam 3:7.
It was Eli who helped him recognize & respond to God’s call.
Perhaps the Church leaders neglected in helping you recognise the call of God when you were younger.
And you are now not sure what state you are in – whether or not you are a Christian?
You understand many things about the Christian faith.
But you are not sure whether you should be seeking baptism or Church membership.
If this is your situation, please speak to me (or to our Pastor) so that we can help you recognize the call of God.
Abraham responded to God’s call without doubt or hesitation.
This is the kind of faith that pleases God.
I urge you to respond likewise.
2) The second thing that we see about Abraham in Gen 12 is that his faith was challenged
When Abraham left Mesopotamia, he did not go into Canaan immediately.
For some reason we are not told, he spent many years in Haran.
It was only after the death of his father Terah that he moved to Canaan – v4.
And after Abraham arrived in Canaan, God appeared to him again –v7.
God assured him that this was the land that Abraham would be given.
And there, Abraham erected an altar to worship God.
Many of you Christians will be able to identify with such an experience.
God called you into His kingdom.
And He encouraged & assured you with His word.
And you grew in the faith as you walked with God each day.
And wherever He placed you, you sought to worship Him as your God.
But not very long thereafter, your faith gets challenged.
In Gen 12v10, there was a famine in Canaan.
Instead of seeking help from God, Abraham decided to seek help in Egypt on his own instead.
Egypt, as we know, is a pagan country.
Can they provide more help to Abraham than God?
As Christians, don’t we do the same very often when we face material difficulties?
Instead of turning first to God in prayer, we seek the advice of our friends.
We ask them for career advice.
We ask them for educational advice.
We ask them for financial & investment advice.
We even ask them for advice concerning our children.
And very often we listen to these advices without much prayer & wrestling with God.
Look at what happened to Abraham when he went to Egypt without consulting God.
In v13, out of the fear of man, he told his wife Sarah to tell a lie.
Yes, Sarah was his wife.
But Sarah was also related to him like a sister.
So Abraham felt that it was not a complete lie to tell Pharoah that Sarah was his sister.
But we know it was wrong because God judged.
And God used Pharoah – a pagan man, to rebuke Abraham for his sin!
Has this happened to you before?
Out of the fear of man, we tell lies thinking it is for our good.
And we justify the lies with our circumstances.
Has God ever used unbelievers to rebuke you for your sins?
It is a shame that such things can happen even to Christians!
But this is the reality of our faith being challenged – just like Abraham’s.
And these things serve to remind us that we are totally dependent on the grace of God to sustain us.
Abraham was challenged in his faith & he fell into sin.
The consequences could have been very severe.
Pharaoh could have killed Abraham out of his anger.
But the invisible hand of God preserved Abraham in spite of his iniquity.
Why did God have such favour on Abraham in spite of his sin?
Why did God pronounce such judgement on Pharoah even though he did what he did innocently?
This is the mystery of election & God’s favour.
Let the word of God answer these questions in Rom 9:v15-16 & v20.
“..I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, & I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.”
“So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.”
“..O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it “Why have you made me like this?”
If we understand the doctrine of election correctly, it should cause us to only respond in humility & gratefulness.
Let me remind you that the only reason why grace can be shown to God’s chosen people is because their sins have been paid for by Jesus Christ.
God willing, we shall see this clearer in the next few chapters of Genesis.
Let us understand that true Christians are those who have repented of their sinful lifestyle.
But no Christian will escape difficulties & sins in his life on earth.
We will be tried by life’s circumstances – just like Abraham.
We may even fall into grievous sins – just like Abraham.
But one thing is sure.
There will be progress in the spiritual life of every true Christian.
This is because it is God who preserves – just like He did for Abraham.
And this is the sign of the genuineness of our faith.
This foolish act in Egypt helped Abraham realize that God mercifully preserved him.
And in Gen 13, Abraham went back to Canaan.
He sought the Lord at the altar where He appeared to him.
Abraham became humble in how he conducted himself.
And it changed how he made choices in life.
Dear believers, have the challenges to your faith done the same for you?
“Have you been grieved by various trials”?
“that the genuineness of your faith…though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honour & glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ”
“whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible & full of glory,” – 1 Pet 1v6-8.
Abraham’s faith was challenged.
He fell into a grievous sin.
God forgave him in Jesus Christ.
God preserved him in His mercy.
It caused Abraham to respond in thankfulness & humility.
It gave Abraham progress in his spiritual walk.
Dear believers, do not be discouraged when you face grievous trials.
Just like God used this incident to help Abraham progress in sanctification, God will do the same for you.
This is His appointed way to help you progress & grow in your faith.
This is His appointed way for you to long for your life in eternal glory.
Be encouraged in your faith.
To God be all glory. Amen.