Over the last nine weeks I’ve been studying Genesis, a vast gold mine of vital information. I’ve concluded that, while God’s in it from front to back, it’s mainly about us and how we ended up where we are. Those who dismiss it are usually folks who’ve never given the Bible much thought or haven’t read it at all. But they’re like a man constructing his dream home without any blueprints. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote, “The Bible is the most practical and up-to-date book in the world and its interest isn’t in some theoretical religion but in the practical business of life and living. It’s a book from God, and it is God who has there revealed Himself, has revealed us to ourselves, and has revealed the cause of our troubles and the only possible cure for all our ills.”
Since this is the last essay in this series on Genesis a summary is in order. First, Genesis confirms there’s a God and He made everything. That includes men, women and the planet we inhabit. One can either accept that or opt to believe the universe and its contents are the result of a fortuitous string of mathematically-impossible accidents and/or coincidences. I watched part of a PBS show recently wherein various brainiacs were opining that, since they’ve yet to detect predictable patterns in matter on the quantum physics level, there is no order. Everything happens by chance. When asked why she exists, one answered with a straight face, “I’m just lucky!” (I guess in her field that’s more respectable than saying, “I don’t know.” Personally, I’d be embarrassed to admit I’d spent decades trying to unlock the secrets of dumb luck.) Since thinking that way is nonsensical to me I’m sticking with the concept that an all-powerful, omniscient God is the master architect of the cosmos and maintaining a close relationship with Him is the key to joy and fulfillment. Second, it teaches Adam & Eve threw a monkey wrench into God’s plan for mankind by deliberately breaking the covenant they’d made with Him. They sinned and, in so doing, they opened the gates for evil to flood in and dominate the earth. And, in case you haven’t noticed, evil and its conniving progenitor, Satan, still rule the roost to this day. Utilizing words a car mechanic might utter while holding a busted U-joint in front of your face, “That right there’s your problem.”
Of course, since God is unfailingly just, punishment naturally followed the first couple’s rebellious act. They got banished from the delightful Garden of Eden and then they and their progeny had to contend with the hardships of surviving in the devil’s realm where diseases, disasters and death lurk around every corner. In the course of well over a millennium the masses became so wicked and vile God drowned everybody except Noah and his tiny flock and started over. You’d think a top-to-bottom redo would straighten humans out but mankind soon went careening off the rails again. Instead of heeding God’s clear instructions to multiply and scatter people bunched together and formed what amounted to a mutual admiration society, complete with a skyscraper bearing their name. This time God’s punishment came in the form of confusing their language so much they had no choice but to cease, desist and disperse. All of this is spelled out in Genesis 1 through 11. No Rosetta Stone needed.
In Genesis 12 a new phase of God’s plan began. The Lord announced in Eden the conflict between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman would be ongoing and it continues to rage today. God had allowed mankind to try things “their way” three times to their detriment. Because doing things “God’s way” was deemed beneath them, God had to intervene and impose severe punishments every time. A different approach was now going to be implemented. God was going to raise up a unique race of His own with a man named Abraham (nee Abram) as the starting point. Satan had so thoroughly polluted and corrupted the world with sin there was no hope for mankind as things stood so God intervened and created a separate nation of human beings altogether. A people through whom His plan to redeem mankind and vanquish the devil would unfold. God’s singling out Abraham is a pivotal event in history, an essential component to fully comprehending the entirety of the Scriptures. Yes, the world’s still a mess. But because of Abraham’s obedience we have an option – an alternative way of living in which we can freely commune with our Heavenly Father and walk in the steps of His magnificent Son who’s the light of the world. We’ve seen with our own eyes where life without God leads – to turmoil, wretchedness and misery. But in Genesis 12 we’re shown there’s a positive, uplifting path we can take. One that leads us to come out of the fallen world and enter into the Promised Land.
So who is this Abraham? Because God referred to him as “my friend” (Isaiah 41:8) we know he was a remarkably righteous man who stood out from the crowd in an age when righteousness was a rare commodity. It’s safe to say he was one of the noblest, most upstanding men to ever trod terra firma. An extraordinarily brave man who had the guts to answer God’s call. What we have in common with Abraham is God calls each one of us to be His friend. Plus as believers we carry Abraham’s seed. “Just as Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness, so then, understand that those who believe are the sons of Abraham” (Galatians 3:6-7) and“…If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29). When we surrendered our lives to Jesus we effectively did the same thing Abraham did. He stepped out in faith and so did we. He came out of this wicked world and entered into God’s domain no differently than when we got saved. Take away all our gadgets, our modern modes of transportation, our superfluous luxuries and conveniences and we’ll find things haven’t changed much since Abraham’s era in that we have the same needs and urges our ancestors had. People still require food and water. People still make love and make war. People still covet what they don’t have. Some people thank the Lord for blessing them with the gift of life while others shout at the sky, “God, if you’re there at all, why don’t you prove it by doing something to make my life easier?” Face it; the basic aspects of life haven’t really changed from what Abraham contended with on a day-to-day basis thousands of years ago. He’d grown up in a world that was as secular and dog-eat-dog as it gets yet he was a “friend of God.” Thus he sits atop the Old Testament’s “best role model” list. So how do we imitate one of the most admired believers of all time? We examine his life, that’s how.
“Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go out from your country, your relatives, and your father’s household to the land that I will show you. Then I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will make your name great, so that you will exemplify divine blessing. I will bless those who bless you, but the one who treats you lightly I must curse, and all the families of the earth will bless one another by your name. So Abram left, just as the LORD had told him to do…” (Genesis 12:1-4). All we know of Abraham’s past is found in the last part of chapter 11 where it says he’d been living in Haran (a region in ancient Turkey) for about 75 years. He’d been surrounded by sex-crazed pagans and their wacked-out superstitions his whole life. There was no “One God” religion of note. No churches. No evangelists. No Scriptures printed on scrolls to read and learn from. Only a whisper was left of the quickly-fading tradition about a wonderful, loving Creator who’d not only constructed man out of dust but then formed him in His own image. Yet when God spoke to Abraham he recognized this wasn’t some tribe’s stone idol addressing him but the very same God who’d spoken to Noah. We’re not given details about the encounter but I surmise Abraham was so blown away by God’s presence no photo ID was necessary. As revealed in the Bible, God calls His people out. Suddenly or gradually, He makes Himself known to every individual. Whether they respond or not is up to them. If you’re a follower of Christ then you know the Lord beckoned you. The method God employs to make His call heard depends on the personality of the one He calls. To those who have everything He might instill an overwhelming sense of disillusionment with their wealth/possessions that causes them to seek a spiritual relationship with God. For others the call might come via circumstances. A terrible accident. A debilitating illness. A spirit-draining heartache or betrayal. An out-of-the-blue job layoff. A loved one’s passing. I could go on but you get the gist. A calamity will interrupt a man or woman’s comfortable routine and God will use that disruption to make them stop and take notice of Him. It’s reasonable God did that when He called out Abraham. We don’t know.
“Hold on,” you might say, “I’m a Christian but I’ve never heard God speak to me audibly.” That’s because He communicates to believers nowadays mainly through His Holy Word. Brought up in church, I heard the Scriptures preached throughout my youth but all those inspiring verses went in one ear and out the other in a nanosecond. It wasn’t until many decades later that I reluctantly opened the Bible at random and asked God to speak to me. While it took a while for the deep meaning contained in the verse I read (1 Corinthians 1:18) to sink into my uppity consciousness, I firmly believe God spoke directly to me that morning because that passage eventually changed my whole attitude towards Christ. What God was calling me (and you) to do is the same as what He called Abraham to do. God told him to leave behind all that made him feel content and secure and go where God wanted him to go. The specifics may be different depending on the person but God’s call is the same – come out and enter in.
Each one is asked to come out of sin and enter into holiness; to repent of our evil behaviors/thoughts and strive to “…be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). We’re asked to see this fallen world and its hollow razzmatazz for the charade it really is and turn our backs on it; to disown our conceited pride and selfishness and embrace our need for salvation. When we do that our eyes open to the truth. We awaken from the spell Satan has cast over us and at last we see the fundamental cause of our nagging discontent is our refusal to rely on God. Humbled, we then confess our sins and acknowledge we deserve no mercy. We admit that despite being told Jesus suffered and died to atone for our ugly transgressions we continued to do as we pleased, blatantly disregarding God’s graciousness. When that moment of clarity arrives we can do nothing but cry out to the Father for forgiveness and compassion and thank Him profusely for calling us. The divine voice we hear is as real as the voice Abraham heard and, as He did with Abraham, God enters into a covenant with us wherein He promises to make our name great. Now, don’t get confused about what God meant when He told Abraham, “…I will make your name great.” A non-believer tries to achieve greatness on his/her own. A Christian knows greatness only comes through becoming washed in the blood of Christ. Lloyd-Jones wrote, “It’s all a question of whether we’re trying to make ourselves great or whether we realize that God alone can give us greatness through adopting us into His family.” Come out and enter in.
What God showed Abraham most likely can’t be expressed in words. We know God promised him a future family tree in which his seed would not only flourish but eventually connect to the divine Messiah, the Deliverer who’d annihilate the serpent and his seed. Jesus told the Pharisees, “Your father Abraham was overjoyed to see my day, and he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56). What we see in the Old Testament is the history of the outworking of God’s plan as it was revealed to His faithful servant Abraham. In Genesis 22 God instructed Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac and, in an incredible display of trust, he was willing to do what God asked. God stopped him in the nick of time and then, indirectly, He showed Abraham He’d provide the ultimate sacrifice for all the sins of mankind in the person of His own beloved Son. All of this “greatness” was bestowed upon Abraham not because of his own greatness but due to his unwavering belief in the greatness of God. He offered Abraham another, better kind of life to lead. God offers the same to His adopted children. Not a life where we have to depend on our fallible selves but an unseen life based on God’s goodness. A life that’ll fill us with an inner peace stemming from knowing our sins are not only forgiven but erased and we can now go forward, confident in the promise our eternity will be spent serving our gracious Lord in paradise.
God calls all of us. Some of us answer. At that point the important question is what we’ll do about being called. Will we have the courage and faith to come out of the world we know and enter into a world we can’t even see? That’s what Abraham did. He trusted it was none other than God Almighty speaking to him and he obeyed. He had no proof, no tangible evidence to plop down before those who thought he’d surely lost his marbles but he had God’s promise and that was enough for him. Along with his wife Sarah and their extended family, Abraham packed up his stuff and set out with only God for his compass. Hebrews 11:8 says he “…went out without understanding where he was going.” Hard to fathom as it may be, that’s what God asks of us, too. He says, “Trust in Me. Believe in Me. Have faith in Me.” Jesus not only taught, “…Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself” (Matthew 6:34) but that’s how He lived His life on earth. By faith. His core aim and purpose, as was Abraham’s, was to obey His Heavenly Father – come what may. There’s an old saying that Abraham didn’t know where he was headed, he just knew whom he was headed there with.
This doesn’t mean we should get in our car, hit the gas and literally let “Jesus take the wheel.” We’d end up flying off a bridge or worse. What the story of Abraham does tell us is not to put roots down in this world because this ain’t home. Hebrews 11:9 states that for the rest of his days Abraham lived as “…a foreigner.” That’s what our mindset should be. We’re to participate in this world as Christ’s ambassadors but we’re never to think we belong to it. Because of our belief in Jesus we’ve already come out of the world and entered into the kingdom of God. Hebrews 11:9 tells us Abraham “…was looking forward to the city with firm foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” We should do the same for, while time can sometimes feel like it’s moving at a snail’s pace, our life here is brief. However, our soul will live forever. We often refer to and admire the “faith of Job” but it was Abraham who, more than most, demonstrated what pure, authentic faith really looks like. His trust in the Lord was so strong he was willing to sacrifice his son because “God had told him, ‘Through Isaac descendants will carry on your name,’ and he reasoned that God could even raise him from the dead…” (Hebrews 11:18-19). For Abraham disobedience wasn’t an option and it shouldn’t be an option for us. God asked a lot of Abraham. God expects a lot from us. But God also proved He’ll never ask us to endure what He wasn’t willing to endure Himself. We’d all do well to emulate Abraham.