May God bless the reading of our scripture.
Before we get into the story of Abraham or Abram, I would like to read an excerpt from a paper written by 8 year old Danny Dutton of Chula Vista, California. This was part of a homework assignment where he was supposed to "Explain God." He said "One of God’s main jobs is making people. He makes them to replace the ones that die so there will be enough people to take care of things on earth. He doesn’t make grown-ups, just babies. I think because they are smaller and easier to make. That way, He doesn’t have to take up His valuable time teaching them to talk and walk. He can just leave that to mothers and fathers. God sees everything and hears everything and is everywhere, which keeps Him pretty busy. So you shouldn’t go wasting His time by going over your mom and dad’s head asking him for something they said you couldn’t have. You should always go to Church on Sunday because it makes God happy and if there’s anybody you want to make happy, it’s God. Don’t skip church to do something you think will be more fun like going to the beach. This is wrong! And, besides, the sun doesn’t come out at the beach until noon anyway. If you don’t believe in God - besides being an atheist - you will be very lonely because your parents can’t go everywhere with you, like to camp, but God can. It is good to know He’s around you when you’re scared in the dark or when you can’t swim very good and you get thrown into real deep water by big kids. But you shouldn’t just always think of what God can do for you. I figure God put me here and He can take me back anytime He pleases. And that’s why I believe in God."
There were several other parts of Danny’s paper that I didn’t read to you, but the one thing that came through this boy’s explanation of who God was, was this:
This little boy believed in a personal God. His God makes people and he listens to them. His God is nearby when you’re frightened or lonely. His God cares for you.
There was a Gallup poll done on behalf of Baylor University about the way Americans visualize God.
About half the people interviewed state they saw God as an angry, critical God who was waiting to punish people. Others visualized Him as a distant deity, not really interested in what happened to them. But about 1/4 of Americans thought about God as a benevolent, caring Father who wants a relationship with them. They saw and believed in a God who listened to them, cared about them, was nearby when they were frightened or lonely, much like 8 year old Danny Dutton.
And THAT’S the kind of God the Bible tells us about.
Here in the 12th chapter of Genesis, we read about one of the most dramatic relationships any man has ever had with God.
A little over a fourth of Genesis is dedicated to telling Abraham’s story. And much of the rest of the Old Testament testifies to his importance (it’s always Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob). And the reason Abraham is so important to the people of the Old Testament is because God began His covenant with Israel through him.
Now, this relationship that God had with Abraham was very unique because Abraham wasn’t what you and I would call a “great man”.
He didn’t really deserve all this attention from God.
Abraham didn’t have any followers or disciples.
He didn’t write any books that we know of.
He wasn’t a great teacher or politician or warrior.
He didn’t even technically begin a “religion”.
In fact, the only real claim to fame Abraham really had was that God chose him… and made special promises to him in Genesis 12.
And what were those promises?
I will make you into a great nation.
I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse.
All peoples on earth will be blessed through you."
And - To your offspring I will give this land.
What God was telling Abraham was:
I want a relationship with you.
I want to be there for you.
I want to listen to you.
I want to walk beside you.
I want to be there when life gets lonely and frightening.
And – more than that – God was promising to make Abraham such a great man that he would even affect the lives of his children, his grandchildren - and even the entire world.
To this day, each of the Western Religions - Judaism, Islam and Christianity - all trace their roots to this one man.
So, the first question that came into my mind was this:
Why pick out a fairly obscure man like Abraham to give all these blessings to?
Like I said earlier, he wasn’t a man of great accomplishments.
He wasn’t a man of acclaim and power.
As far as we can tell, he was probably an older, moderately successful herdsman that may have lived with his dad!
Why on earth would God choose THIS man?
There were probably other men – younger, more skilled and influential.
Why choose Abraham?
The only reason that makes any sense is that God saw what was in Abraham’s heart. God knew his potential.
As God later told the prophet Samuel: in 1 Samuel 16:7
God placed inside of each of our hearts a “God shaped” hole that only He could fill. He placed inside of people a hunger that only He could satisfy.
And that emptiness, that hunger, is one of the main reasons that so many people are dissatisfied with the lives they live and the world they live in.
And this passage about Abraham in Genesis 12 is meant to teach us that this dissatisfaction with life - that hunger within us - can only be satisfied when we have a relationship with God.
As God tells us in Isaiah 55:1-3 "Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.
Come to God.
Listen to Him.
Do this and He can give you that which will satisfy and fill your soul. If you do this, He’ll make a covenant with you– He’ll establish a relationship with you.
That’s what happened with Abraham.
There was a hunger within him that only God could fulfill.
There was a need for a relationship that only God could supply.
So, when God approached him, Abraham was ready to make a decision to follow God wherever God wanted to lead him.
When God said to him: "Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you…” Abraham simply packed up and left.
There was no discussion.
There was no argument.
There were no excuses.
When God said go… Abraham simply goes.
Now, contrast that with how another great man in Scripture dealt with a similar offer from God.
In the book of Exodus God appears to Moses in a burning bush. God speaks to him and says: I want you to go down to Egypt and lead my people out of slavery.
How does Moses respond? He makes excuses:
He asks “Who am I to do this?
“What if they don’t listen to me?”
“I can’t talk well enough”
And God answers every question Moses asks, and every objection he raises.
Finally, Moses gives up the pretense and comes right out and says in Exodus 4:13 “O my Lord, please send someone else to do it.
That was how Moses responded to God.
BUT NOT Abraham.
Abraham didn’t argue. He didn’t offer excuses because inside of him - in Abraham’s heart - there was a hunger that only God could satisfy.
And so… when God offered, Abraham jumped at the chance.
Now, God has had close relationships with other people before Abraham came along.
There was Adam and Eve. God gave them a wonderful place. He cared for them, and listened to them, and walked with them in the Garden.
Then there was Enoch. He walked closely with God for 300 years…
And, of course, there was Noah whom God entrusted with building the Ark.
But if you took all the verses in Genesis that were dedicated to those people – to Adam & Eve and Enoch and Noah - and put them all together… you wouldn’t have ½ the amount of attention spent on them as was spent on Abraham.
Why would that be?
I believe God spent so much time telling us about Abraham because He wanted to showcase something with THIS man. With Abraham, God was beginning to do something new. He was making a covenant (a contract of sorts) with this man. A covenant that was to be the foundation of everything else God intended to do… including His ultimate sending of Jesus to pay the price for our sins.
God was beginning a religion – right here in Gen. 12 – with Abraham as the cornerstone.
Now, many of the world’s religions have often begun with great teachers: Mohammed, Buddha, Confucius etc.
But those are religions that were based on the teachings of mere mortals.
When God began His religion He didn’t center it on some great body of doctrine or on a great teacher. Abraham was never noted for being a prophet or a preacher or teacher. Abraham’s only claim to fame was that he walked with God.
And you see that’s what God wanted us to understand.
His “religion” (that He was starting with Abraham) was a religion based upon a “relationship”. And if we look close at this relationship that God established with Abraham we can better understand what God wants to do with us.
SO, what does God want us to see in this story of Abraham?
1st – He wants us to see what kind of relationship He wants with us. He wants to bless us.
You and I are valuable to Him.
We have value - not because we’re accomplished, or because we are rich or successful - but because we are made in His image.
How many people have a refrigerator in their house? And how many of those refrigerators are covered with pictures of their kids, or grandkids or other people that they love.
Those pictures are there because those people are valuable to you and you love them.
Now, imagine – if you will – a gigantic refrigerator sitting up there in heaven. And if you’re a Christian – your picture is on that refrigerator someplace. Your picture is there BECAUSE you are valuable to God.
He loves you. You are made in His image.
And because He loves you, He wants to bless you.
In fact, God is so serious about blessing you that He gets a little upset when others don’t bless you.
God tells Abraham “I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse” Genesis 12:3
Pastor Jeff Strite talks about a time when he was in Bible College, and somebody tried to tell him that this promise was only for Abraham. He said “He tried to convince me that only Abraham had been promised that those who blessed him would be blessed and those who would curse him would be cursed. Jeff said “that offended me because I was certain that this promise was for me, just as it had been for him. So I set out to prove that I was right”. And he says “he did”
He said in Matthew 10:42 Jesus said: “… if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward."
In other words: God promises to bless those who bless you.
Then in 2 Thessalonians 1:6 Paul tells the Christians in Thessalonica: “God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you.”
What’s he saying? God will curse those who curse you. Pastor Jeff says “these verses proved that the promise was not just for Abraham but for all believers”.
Now I find great comfort in that. I am pleased that God is that focused on my needs. He cares so much for you and I that He will reward people who watch out for us… and He will deal firmly with people that hurt us.
God wants us blessed.
In fact, Romans 8:32 goes so far as to say “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”
But it doesn’t stop there.
Just as God told Abraham that all the peoples of the earth would be blessed thru him - so also, God intends everyone you meet to be blessed thru you.
God wants to bless your children, your grandchildren, your friends, your siblings, your co-workers, your neighbors…
They all should be affected by the relationship you have with God to the point where everything you DO should make them think about God.
Jesus said: “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works… and do what?”
“Glorify your Father in Heaven”!
And if - by your love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, etc (by the fruit that God’s Spirit develops in your life) - if by this fruit, these folks begin looking to God it will ultimately lead to their wanting God for their Father as well.
GOD WANTS TO BLESS YOU. And He wants to bless others thru you.
The 2nd thing God wanted us to see in this relationship with Abraham was this: He wants a response from us.
It’s not enough for us to merely “have eternity in our hearts” and WANT God in our lives.
It’s not enough for us to see the blessings God offers and WANT those blessings for our lives.
Before Abraham could lay hold of those blessings, he had to make a decision. God told him: The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. Genesis 12:1
THEN He told him about the blessings.
Make a choice Abram!
I can give you your heart’s desire - but you’ve got to make a choice.
You’ve got to make up your mind to leave who you’ve been.
You’ve got to leave where you’ve been.
You’ve got to leave how you’ve lived.
You’ve got to make up your mind to go where I want you to go.
To live where I want you to live
To live how I want you to live.
But you’ve got to leave something behind.
It’s said that at the golden gate bridge toll booth that occasionally people get to the toll booth and they don’t have any money to pay their toll.
They can’t turn around and they can’t go ahead.
There are cars lined up behind them and they’ve got to make a choice.
The toll booth operators there have a policy:
If you don’t have any money, you can still cross the bridge - as long as you leave something behind that has a value which exceeds the price of the toll.
Drivers have left such items as a can of motor oil, a frying pan, a set of silverware, a new book, cassettes and CDs, Wedding bands. One elderly gentleman left his dentures and returned the next day to redeem them. The owner of a diamond watch valued at $7000 left it for the toll but never returned to claim it.
In order to get to the other side, they had to leave something behind.
And God tells us the same thing is true of salvation.
In order to get to the other side, we’ve got to leave EVERYTHING of all our old life behind.
Are you willing to leave something behind? Are you willing to leave that old way of living to get to the other side? Are you willing to listen to what God is telling you to do? Are you willing to answer God when he tries to lead you? Think of how blessed and how wonderful your life is already or will be if you follow the path that God has chosen for you.
As Jesus said: “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?
‒ Pastor Pam