Friday, June 20, 2014

Friday, June 20th

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is 2 Kings 25; Psalm 119:33-40; Romans 6
Today's scripture focus is Genesis 12

Genesis 12

English Standard Version (ESV)

The Call of Abram

12 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan,Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. From there he moved to the hill country 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. And Abram journeyed on, still going toward the Negeb.

Abram and Sarai in Egypt

10 Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land.11 When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to Sarai his wife, “I know that you are a woman beautiful in appearance, 12 and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me, but they will let you live. 13 Say you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared for your sake.” 14 When Abram entered Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. 15 And when the princes of Pharaoh saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken into Pharaoh's house. 16 And for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male servants, female servants, female donkeys, and camels.
17 But the Lord afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram's wife. 18 So Pharaoh called Abram and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? 19 Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife; take her, and go.” 20 And Pharaoh gave men orders concerning him, and they sent him away with his wife and all that he had.

Accompanying Bob Deffinbaugh sermon: The Call of Abram and When Faith Fails
Accompanying Ray Pritchard sermons: The Incredible Adventure Begins and Famine in the Promised Land

Abraham is indeed one of the great figures in the Bible.  Pritchard points out some amazing things about this man...
1. He is revered by the followers of three world religions: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.
2. He is the founder of the nation of Israel.
3. He is mentioned by name 308 times in the Old and New Testaments.
4. He is the preeminent man of faith in the Bible.
5. He is a man whose life changed the course of world history.
Consider one further point. Abraham is the most important person in the Old Testament, while Jesus Christ is the most important person in the New Testament. And how does the New Testament begin? Listen to the first verse of the first chapter of Matthew’s gospel: “A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham.” When Matthew wants to impress upon us the significance of who Jesus Christ really is, he links him with the greatest king—David—and with the founder of Israel—Abraham.

But he didn't start out that way.  Like all the heroes of the Bible, Abraham was a flawed hero.  Which is good news for flawed people like us.

Other portions of scripture flesh out Abraham's story for us.  God first called Abraham when he lived in Ur as a wealthy businessman in a wealthy city (Acts 7:2-4).  His father was a pagan and they worshiped other gods.  Abraham (Abram at the time) was not looking for God, but God found him.  When God called him to leave his land, his family, and his father's house, and go to a land God would show him - he didn't obey right away.  In fact, it seems to be Terah's decision to move from Ur to Haran (Genesis 11:31), and it took until Terah's death for Abam to leave Haran (Genesis 11:32).

Deffinbaugh: Abram did go to Canaan, just as Moses went to Egypt, but not without considerable pressure from God.

We should not find this discouraging, but consistent with our own reluctance to put our future on the line in active, aggressive, unquestioning faith. Abraham was a man of great faith—after years of testing by God. But at the point of Abram’s call, he was a man whose faith was meager; real, but meager. And if we are honest with ourselves, that is just about where most of us are. In our best moments, our faith is vibrant and vital, but in the moments of testing, it is weak and wanting.

God made some big promises to Abram here - bigger than Abram ever knew.  God promised him land, God promised to make him the father of a great nation, God promised to bless him, and God promised that the whole world would be blessed through Abram - through the birth of Jesus Christ, a son of Abraham.  Abram had no idea how these promises would play out - but we do.  We know far more about the call of Abram than he ever did.  And yet he believed God.  And acted on that belief - with a little nudging.

Isn't that encouraging?  We don't need to know all the details of the plan.  We need to know the Planner.  We need to believe in God and act on that belief.  When we do so, we demonstrate that we are the spiritual children of Abraham.

Faith also leads to worship, as we see in our passage when Abram worships God in Canaan.

God called Abram to leave Ur for the Promised Land.
God calls all of us to leave our life of sin and trust Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, and follow Him as He leads us to the Promised Land.

After that first call, He calls us to believe His Word and act on it.  Our faith may be weak, but that's ok because He is strong.  We may not know where we're going, but that's ok because He does, and He will lead us in the way we should go.  We may be afraid, but that's ok because He is with us.

Believe. Act. Worship.

One interesting note from Deffinbaugh's sermon.  He mentioned that Cassuto thought the places mentioned her to be specific and noteworthy.  Shechem, Bethel, and the Negev are mentioned here.  Later, Jacob is at Shechem and Bethel.  When Israel is led by Joshua into Canaan, they capture these same cities.  Cassuto concludes that Abram’s journey unknowingly outlined the territory which would belong to Israel, and that the places he stopped symbolically forecast the future conquest of the land.137 In an additional comment, Cassuto adds the fact that these places were also religious centers of Canaanite worship.138 In effect, Abram’s actions of building altars and proclaiming the name of the Lord prophesied the coming time when true religious worship would overcome the pagan religion of the Canaanites.

Abram was a flawed hero, and we don't go far before we witness a failure of faith.

It seems that often trials or testing follow times of blessing.  This is often a test from God to determine if we are following Him because of His blessings and our circumstances, or because our hearts are fixed on the Lord.

There are so many lessons to learn from the last half of our passage.

God never promises the end without also providing the means.  Abram believed God would give him land, a seed, and a blessing - but he didn't trust God for the means to get there.  He thought he had to help God out a little along the way.  This is never the case!  God always provides the means - but it doesn't mean it will be an easy path.

Our faith fails when we believe our God to be too small. Abram didn't believe that God was greater than Pharaoh, or greater than the famine.  The way to increase our faith is to increase in our knowledge of God and deepen our relationship with Him.   Abram didn't have a Bible to help him with this, but we do.  We need to use it!

God never puts us in a situation where we must sin.  Abram though lying was his only option.  He likely hadn't considered Pharaoh wanting Sarai for himself.  He likely thought one of the other Egyptians would be interested in this eligible maiden and he could delay any engagements until the famine was over and they could leave, all while keeping Sarai under his roof and protection.  It likely seemed like a small white lie and surely ok under the circumstances.  But we serve a God who is able to deliver His people no matter what the circumstances without resorting to sin.

There are no short cuts to godliness.  Abram went to Egypt in order to bypass the test of famine, not realizing that God's tests are designed to develop and increase our faith, not destroy it.  Abram sidestepped the famine and got Pharaoh instead, and then God led him right back to where he got off the path.  We can't sidestep God's plan for our lives. We may be able to delay them, but always at a cost to ourselves or those we love.  God's purposes are never thwarted by man.

Sin has short term rewards but long term pain.  Abram gained wealth from his time in Egypt but.... everything Abraham gained in Egypt cost him later. Because of their great wealth, Abraham and Lot had to separate when they got back to Canaan. The wealth he gained caused Lot to desire the riches of Sodom. Among the servants was a young girl named Hagar who would be the source of much heartache and pain.

When our faith fails, God's faithfulness doesn't.  God protected Sarai, prospered Abram, and brought them back to the Promised Land where they were supposed to be.

There is a great deal of difference between doubt (faithlessness) and denial (rejection). Abram did not reject God; he simply failed to believe that God was able or willing to act in his behalf. No doubt Abram thought that God only “helped those who helped themselves.”

My understanding is that a true Christian cannot and will not ever renounce Jesus Christ as their Savior. But we will find times where our faith succumbs to doubt. Trials, tests or adversity may momentarily overwhelm our faith and cause us to doubt, and thus to act in violation to God’s revealed will. Such, I believe, was the case with Abram.

I do not mean for us to take this matter of failure lightly. When men do not purposefully act in accord with the revealed will of God, His purposes are not thwarted. God providentially acts to ensure the fulfillment of His purposes. While we may find ourselves precisely where God wanted us all along (providentially), we will never look back on our sin and unbelief with a smile on our face. Disobedience is never a delight to the Christian. Those long, lonely nights in the house of Abram were not worth the dowry of Pharaoh. Failure is always painful, but it never thwarts God’s purposes for his children.

May God use this truth to keep us from careless Christianity, as well as to comfort us when we do experience a failure of our faith.

Monday's scripture focus: Genesis 13
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: 1 Chronicles 1-2
Sunday's passage: 1 Chronicles 3-4
Monday's passage: 1 Chronicles 5-6, Psalm 119:41-48, Romans 7

1 comment:

Miriam said...

I have a tendency at times to be very hard on myself when I feel like I`ve messed things up or failed in some way. I`m so glad for the stories in the Bible that show us that all the so-called heroes of faith messed things up and failed at times as well. Not to make excuses or say it`s because I`m only human, but because it reminds me that God can use every person, regardless of what shape they are in.