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Abraham is called

Genesis 12:1-9 Abraham is called


Do you want to read the regarding text of the Bible first?

Genesis 12 : 1 - 9

 

  1. Now the Lord said to Abram, Go out from your country and from your family and from your father's house, into the land to which I will be your guide:
  2. And I will make of you a great nation, blessing you and making your name great; and you will be a blessing:
  3. To them who are good to you will I give the blessing, and on him who does you wrong will I put my curse: and you will become a name of blessing to all the families of the earth.
  4. So Abram went as the Lord had said to him, and Lot went with him: Abram was seventy-five years old when he went away from Haran.
  5. And Abram took Sarai, his wife, and Lot, his brother's son, and all their goods and the servants which they had got in Haran, and they went out to go to the land of Canaan.
  6. And Abram went through the land till he came to Shechem, to the holy tree of Moreh. At that time, the Canaanites were still living in the land.
  7. And the Lord came to Abram, and said, I will give all this land to your seed; then Abram made an altar there to the Lord who had let himself be seen by him.
  8. And moving on from there to the mountain on the east of Beth-el, he put up his tent, having Beth-el on the west and Ai on the east: and there he made an altar and gave worship to the name of the Lord.
  9. And he went on, journeying still to the South.

Last held on October 14, 2001, in Hattem

The calling of Abraham

Abraham, Abraham, leave your country, leave your tribe!

That was quite an experience for the patriarch! That strange voice in his heart. From a God, he did not know. And who said to him: Go out from your family, and your regular life pattern. A voice that ordered him to burn all the ships behind him and plunge into an uncertain adventure. A voice that asked him to entrust himself with all his having and love to only the word of a God, who had not yet made himself trustworthy. What a venture! In this way, it started with Abraham, the father of all the faithful people. And does not the faith still begins like this?

Whether you are raised strictly Christian, weakly Christian, or non-Christian, all of a sudden your name is spoken. By a voice in your heart. It's one that you cannot identify at first, and that penetrates your mind from outside. It's one that confuses you, but you have to listen. And even if you want to follow the voice of your own heart, the other one is so strong that you follow that. And you are beginning to understand it: it is the voice of the Lord. He chooses me to come into my life. No, I didn't earn it. I didn't draw God to me with a pious, pleasing way of life. I did not call God to me by my prayers. He penetrates in my life, by his supremacy and grace, after I did not pave the way for Him and before I realized it well and while I wanted to stop Him.

The Lord said to Abraham: go. You, go, in Hebrew. Have you also been addressed so personally? The Lord can use various means for this. A sermon in the church, maybe this one. Striking words of a teacher at school. What the conversation is about at the Sunday-school. At the clubs of your Christian congregation. At the catechism lessons. By a meditation broadcast on the radio. A striking comment of someone. Then we suddenly hear the voice of the Lord behind the voice of a human person: yes, you!

The Lord sometimes speaks to us through significant events as well. A disease. A death. But He can also do it without exceptional circumstances. They are not that important. The most important thing is that that voice sounds in your and my life. Without reading any of such events, we read: The Lord said to Abraham, Go. It doesn't matter how the Lord did it to Abraham. So also not, how the Lord does it to us. We don't all need to be able to tell some astonishing conversion stories. If only, like Abraham, we have heard that voice.

Did you hear it already? Many voices are approaching us, luring ones that want to influence us, from advertising, exciting music, sex. Did you listen to the calling voice of the Lord between them? And can you no longer keep a deaf ear to that voice? How wonderful that would be.

And what does that voice say to Abraham? Go out from your country, and your family, and your father's house.

Abraham must emigrate. Many Dutch people have migrated. To Australia or New Zealand, Canada, or the United States. A decisive event. They must leave all behind to face an uncertain future. Their little country, which did not offer everything they wanted, but was still dear to them. Their family. They didn't have the same contact with all uncles and aunts, cousins, and nieces, but imagine that they would never see them again. And their family. Father and mother, brothers, and sisters. Saying goodbye to them gave the most grief. One saw the tears and hugs on the dock. However, it was their choice. But regarding Abraham, the Lord chose for him. And the risks are many. Those who formerly left the safe protection of their tribal groups could no longer be sure of their lives. Immediately the dangers came to them: hunger and thirst, wild animals, peoples that saw them as intruders, and tried to kill them. They also felt that they had lost the protection of their family god. He stayed behind with the tribe and didn't go with them. God asks a lot from Abraham, everything. He must tear off all bonds that give security, trust, love. The Lord understands this very well, does not ignore it, but mentions it in particular, the circles around Abraham, which as they become smaller, are also closer and more intimate: your country, your tribe, your family. And yet Abraham has to break with it. Because only then can he get to know the new God. Only in this way can the Lord use him in his service and for his blessing. Because only then can he get to know his new God. Only in this way can the Lord use him at his service and make him a blessing for all the families of the earth. Only in this way the Lord can start something new, raise all men from the fall in sins. Only in this way can Abraham also break free from the wrong power of men and idols to surrender himself to the Lord with confidence. Get out. Does the Lord's voice sound like that to us? He's not commanding us to pack up our things and to emigrate but to get out of all kinds of associations that keep us under the spell of sin and idolatry. To break with everything that offers us the wrong security and false confidence. To let go of everything that stands in the way of our life with God, the adventure with God, the great future with God. God is calling to Abraham: go out. And it's still so, also in the new covenant of the Lord Jesus.

The word "church" in Greek means: "the community, that is called away" because she is called out of this dark world to the light of Jesus. That's, in all cases, quite an emigration, spiritually spoken. It's a complete conversion. It's leaving behind everything that belongs to the world that has strayed from God. And that's a lot. Also, a lot to which we are attached. Tearing yourself away from all that, hurts, but we have to. We must pull our roots from this sinful earth to walk with the Lord.

What a blessing to hear the call, just like the disciples nearby the lake: leave all nets and ships behind and follow me. Straight away. Unconditionally. Then you will not get on an easy path. It's a way of self-denial and carrying the cross following the Lord Jesus. But it's the only road that does not end but has a future.

Young readers, you may be in the age that you sometimes think of breaking out of your parental home, standing on your own two feet, looking for a future for yourself. That's normal. That's a natural way. But how nice it would be if it were also the 'supernatural' way, which means the spiritual for you. Then don't you only follow the voice of your desire, but also the voice of the Lord. And you want to follow and serve him from now on.

And go to the land that I'll show you, says the Lord to Abraham. I'll show you in the future. So Abraham doesn't get anything concrete. There will be no comprehensive itinerary with a road map and directions from heaven. He must go away in blind faith that the Lord will make His promises real, bring him into the good land and let him know that at that time too. Abraham, go away, on spec, in Dutch 'op de bonnefooi.' That is from the French language: bonne foi, and means: in good faith, in good trust. Trust me, your God, even if you've nothing but my word alone. Take the unknown road, believing that I will go with you and show you the way.

That's faith. One trusts God's Word. The Lord gives us no other guarantee than what He gives to us in His word. I'll show you. I'll be with you. I'll help you. I'll save you. I'll take you to the promised land. How strongly our questions and uncertainties obstruct this trust. We would like to see the realization of God's promises in advance. And yet, again, believing is always taking the risk, as Abraham did. Whatever the future may bring, the hand of the Lord guides me. So I bravely turn my eyes to the unknown land. Teach me to follow without questioning, Father, because what you're doing is good. Blessed is he who dares to believe, even when the eye doesn't see. Is this how we go further on our journey with God? On spec?

But although they are only promises, God does not speak without these. And his commandments are always linked to these promises. Go out, and I'll make of you a great nation, and I'll bless you and make your name great, and you shall be a blessing. What the Lord does, brothers and sisters, is never small, but always great. I will make of you a great people and make your name great. Did not also Mary sing it? 'For great things has done to me, He who is mighty?' We often think so small of the Lord. We dare not attribute great miracles to him. We doubt his power, especially in the face of adversity. But yet, the Lord does great things. We saw it in the Lord Jesus, in his miraculous birth from Mary, his death for the forgiveness of sins, his resurrection, his ascension. We never can overestimate the Lord. And we always are underestimating Him, in disbelief and doubt.

And so He promises to Abraham: I will make of you a great nation. And we must see that promise in the light of what we can read in the previous chapter, in the family tree of Shem: Now Sarai was barren, she had no children. And we know how Abraham's faith and patience later have been tested at this very point. The Lord not only can do something significant but also something impossible.

And as far as his redemptive acts concern, it's always something impossible, something that cannot come from us human beings, something that's contrary to our rules and laws, to our possibilities and expectations. It's always a wonderful new creation out of our infertility. He alone does miracles, miracles of salvation.

And the greatest miracle is that He cares for a people, that are His chosen people, that He gives all His loyalty and love and will keep saving forever, and that people will acknowledge and serve Him. They are the people of his covenant, of the old and the new covenant. They are the people from Israel and the gentiles, yet both children of Abraham, the father of all believers. And it'll be a great people, a crowd that no one can number, from everywhere. 'Count the stars in the night, so great your offspring will be.' A rich promise. And the Lord starts small. Here He begins with only one man, whom He is calling out of the immense mass of paganism to go with Him. But it will end great. Wonderful to belong to it as believing Christians.

"And I'll make your name great." We must also see this promise in light of what we read in the previous chapter. The builders of the tower of Babel said to one another: "Let us make a name. Whoever wants to make a name for himself, and strives for his honour and power, will be smitten down and scattered. But whoever with simplicity and self-denial follows the voice of God, his name one will mention with reverence. In heaven. In the book of life. But God indicates to some of His children that they will also have a great name on earth. And Abraham certainly is one of them. Although you also must add that Abraham's name has become a great one, thanks to the name of that One of his offspring, that unites heaven and earth, the name of Jesus.

"And I will bless you," God says to Abraham. He even uses the word "blessing" five times in a row, emphasizing. What is that? The blessing of the Lord? Is that the same as success, prosperity, wealth? No. It can be visible in those circumstances. Abraham's becoming the prosperous owner of a large herd is a sign that God's blessing is upon him. But you can be poor and still be blessed by the Lord. And you can be rich and mighty, and yet be cursed by God. If you may receive God's blessing, then all the good powers of the Lord will flow to you. His love, comfort, peace, mercy. His encouragement and wise counsel. And that's making you spiritually happy, joyful, hopeful. Then you are enriched by God in your heart. Even if you have setbacks, your life cannot be better. How wonderful it's whenever at the end of every worship service, God's blessing may be given and received. And then the Lord says the Lord to us something like this: "I'll be on your side. Be sure of that. My hands are blessing upon your head, my strong hands, tender hands, warm hands.

But we don't receive such promises only for ourselves, only to take advantage of it by ourselves. We are blessed to be a blessing to others. God also says to Abraham: and you will be a blessing. Or: be a blessing. Do we radiate around us the light and warmth that we received from above? Can others say of us: What that man or woman, that boy or girl did for me, really came as a blessing from above, so good, surprising, sincere, without showing? We are saved to save, loved to love, blessed to bless.

"I will bless those who bless you and those who curse you I will curse." If Abraham walks the way of faith, his entire existence will be the sign of God's saving intervention in this world and the fate of men depend on how they view him and his life's way. If they consider him happy, God will bless them. If they ignore Abraham or act against him, they will be ignored and opposed by God. And so it's still, also with us, Christians. If we are faithful followers of the Saviour, then "to God we are a fragrance of Christ", Paul writes, "for these a scent of life to life, to others a scent of death to death." God is backing His people on earth completely. Whoever is for that people, God is for him. Whoever is against that people, God is against him. That is a great honour, and also great comfort and protection.

"And in you, all the families of the earth will be blessed." Every generation. Always. On earth. Everywhere. God's blessing is continuously spreading, from Abraham and those who praise and follow Abraham, to the total humanity. That is the missionary perspective of this story in the Bible.

And that's especially the case with the one great Son of Abraham, the Lord Jesus Christ. With Him, who is the true 'founder and perfecter of our faith (Hebr. 12:2). Our true guide. Who went to the finish and completion of the faith. He who has gone the way that his heavenly Father showed him, full of obedience and trust, even throughout the deepest depths. And He really was made into a great nation, got and gets his children and subjects everywhere. He got a great name, above any name. And He's the all-determining factor. God is for those who believe in Him. God is against those who reject Him. By Him, the whole world may experience God's blessing. All the lines, also in this scripture, can be drawn to the Lord Jesus. The incarnated gift of God for you and me. And how important it's that we choose Him. Did you yet make that choice? Or are you still turning around it in doubt? It is one of the two: either a blessing or a curse. There is nothing in between. And then it's again one of two. Either be blessed or be cursed. There also is nothing in between. Choose now who you will serve, as Abraham did.

Because 'Abraham went, as the Lord had spoken to him.' We don't read that Abraham first asked all kinds of questions. And that he went grumbling or under protest. That he postpones the decision for a while, no, Abraham is obedient, strictly, and right away.

What do we do? Praying this before we begin the journey? 'Lord, please first fill in my questionnaire here, because I want to know a bit more about you in advance.' 'Lord, first give me precise directions because I want to know what I will experience.' 'Lord, please see the list of my wishes because I want to take some luggage on my trip of faith, that makes it more agreeable". Of course, that's not belief. Belief is, 'Lord, I'm already going. Obedient to your Word.' Like a children's song in Dutch: Abraham, Abraham, leaves his country, leaves his tribe. With a word, he will risk it. Without asking anything else, he gets up and sets off on the road that God shows him. Do we have this kind of faith as Abraham had? Complete obedience and complete trust? Because God counts that faith as righteousness. 'Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.' (Rom. 4:3) That faith saved Abraham. Only through that faith can we be saved.

After this decisive call of God and this decisive answer of Abraham, we follow the patriarch a little further on his way. He travels with his wife Sarah and his cousin Lot. And also with all their property, their slaves, and maidservants. We never choose strictly for ourselves. We also take other men and women, beloved by us and connected to us, with us on the path of faith. It's marvellous when the influence we have on them also is God's influence on them. If, especially as husbands and fathers, we may be an Abraham for our wife, our children, grandchildren. It was God's voice to Abraham and Abraham's answer, but there was a whole procession going on to the promised land. Who do we take with us?

Because 'Abraham went, as the Lord had spoken to him.' We don't read that Abraham first asked all kinds of questions. And that he went grumbling or under protest. That he postpones the decision for a while. Abraham is obedient, strictly, and right away.

What do we do? Praying this before we begin the journey? 'Lord, please first fill in this my questionnaire, because I want to know a bit more about you in advance.' 'Lord, first give me precise directions because I want to know what I will experience.' 'Lord, please see the list of my wishes because I want to take some luggage on my trip of faith, that makes it agreeable". Of course, that's not belief. Belief is, 'Lord, I'm already going. Obedient to your Word.' Like a children's song in Dutch: Abraham, Abraham, leaves his country, leaves his tribe. With a word, he will risk it. Without asking anything else, he gets up and sets off on the road that God shows him. Do we have this kind of faith as Abraham had? Complete obedience and complete trust? God counts that faith as righteousness. 'Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.' (Rom. 4:3) That faith saved Abraham. Only through that faith can we be saved.

After this decisive call of God and this decisive answer of Abraham, we follow the patriarch a little further on his way. He travels with his wife Sarah and his cousin Lot. And also with all their property, their slaves, and maidservants. We never choose strictly for ourselves. We also take other men and women, beloved by us and connected to us, with us on the path of faith. It's marvellous when the influence we have on them also is God's influence on them. If, especially as husbands and fathers, we may be an Abraham for our wife, our children, grandchildren. It was God's voice to Abraham and Abraham's answer, but there was a whole procession going on to the promised land. Who do we take with us?

Abraham also took his servants and his cattle with him. Believing is not: living as a hermit. It's walking with God during your work for your livelihood, during your daily activities. Very down to earth, with ordinary human windfalls and setbacks, but with the blessing of the Lord. And that gives hope and perspective. Then you will achieve your goal. 'And they came into the land of Canaan. And Abraham passed through the land. First to Shechem, to the terebinth Moré. Later he pitched his tents between Bethel and Ai. And then he goes into the southern land, the Negeb desert.' He still is an itinerant stranger. God's promises are not yet really fulfilled. Significant is the observation that the Canaanites were in the land then. Paganism still prevails. As till now is the reality. Pagan idols also are worshipped in the places mentioned. But the Lord appears to Abraham and repeats the promise: I will give this land to your descendants. And Abraham thanked the Lord that had appeared to him. And he confessed the name of the Lord by building an altar to the Lord, everywhere he settled down for a while. And there he called on the name of the Lord. It is all just a small and feeble beginning, but the beginning of something great, the beginning of the utter fulfilment of all God's promises. Soon you will be singing joyfully as the land of blessings unfolds. Those who believe like Abraham will overcome all sorrow. Travel to that land and dream of it: Canaan. Are you travelling together with us? Are you dreaming together with us?

Amen.



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