Friday, August 24, 2018

Genesis 12 - The Call of Abram


These articles are the fruit of my preaching through the book of Genesis in 2017-2018. It is refreshing to review each chapter with an eye to the context of the rest of the book and the context of the Bible as a whole. It is my prayer that these articles are helpful to those seeking a better understanding of the book of Genesis. More can be found at www.fbcroxana.com

Abram was introduced in Genesis 11 as the son of Terah who accompanied his father on a move from Ur to Canaan. They never made it to Canaan, but settled in Haran, approximately halfway between Ur and Canaan. Perhaps Abram had heard stories from his ancestors (all of whom he may have met, all the way back to Shem) about the seed promise given to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:15. As the people were multiplying over the face of the earth, separated by the development of borders and languages, finding the expected seed would be like finding a needle in a haystack. Now the focus of the text narrows from a worldwide perspective to one man and his family. As revelation progresses, it will become clear that God is singling this family out in order that through them all the peoples of the earth would come to the knowledge of God and that through them would come the seed who would bring redemption.

1 Now the LORD said to Abram,
“Go forth from your country,
  And from your relatives
  And from your father’s house,
  To the land which I will show you;
2 And I will make you a great nation,
  And I will bless you,
  And make your name great;
  And so you shall be a blessing;
3 And I will bless those who bless you,
  And the one who curses you I will curse.
  And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

God told Abram to leave his country, family, and all he had ever known in order to travel to a different land and sojourn there. He promised Abram that in that land He would make him into a great nation, bless him and make his name great. This is everything that the people at Babel claimed for themselves as they sought to make a name for themselves by building a large tower and empire that was in opposition to God. But God thwarted their efforts. Now, He Himself intended to bless Abram and make his name great by enlarging him through his descendants. He also promised to make Abram a blessing to all the families of the earth, that if they bless him, they would be blessed; but if they curse Abram, God promises to curse them.

4 So Abram went forth as the Lord had spoken to him; and Lot went with him. Now Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. 5 Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his nephew, and all their possessions which they had accumulated, and the persons which they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan; thus they came to the land of Canaan.

Abram obeyed God’s direction and left for Canaan, going out by faith in the promises he had received from God.

6 Abram passed through the land as far as the site of Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. Now the Canaanite was then in the land. 7 The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the LORD who had appeared to him.

God told Abram that the land of Canaan would be the land that He would give to his descendants. In response to the promise of God, Abram worshipped by building an altar.

8 Then he proceeded from there to the mountain 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. 9 Abram journeyed on, continuing toward the Negev.

Abram continued to move through the land, and continued to worship the LORD as he moved his camp from place to place. He did not stop for long, but he continued south toward the Negev.

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.

Just as his descendants would do in a few generations, Abram escaped a famine by going to the land of Egypt. Egypt was able to survive famines, because they were not dependent on rain. They were dependent on the Nile. As long as the Nile flooded to the necessary levels at the right times, Egypt was safe from famines.

So far, Abram has been a man of exemplary faith. He left the safety and security of his home and relatives to obey the word of the LORD. Lest it be thought that Abram himself was the seed of the woman, the Messiah, we are shown his fears. Over the years, God would strengthen Abram’s strength and dependence on Him, but at this time in his walk with the Lord, he takes matters into his own hand.

11 It came about when he came near to Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, “See now, I know that you are a beautiful woman; 12 and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife’; and they will kill me, but they will let you live. 13 Please say that you are my sister so that it may go well with me because of you, and that I may live on account of you.” 14 It came about when Abram came into Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. 15 Pharaoh’s officials saw her and praised her to Pharaoh; and the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. 16 Therefore he treated Abram well for her sake; and gave him sheep and oxen and donkeys and male and female servants and female donkeys and camels.

We can identify both with Abram’s faith and his fears. And we can be encouraged that God strengthens our faith and allays our fears. Let us be confident that God will be faithful to complete his work in us.

That Abram passed Sarai off as his sister is at least a half-truth, for she was his half-sister (Gen 20:12), but his lie brings about near-disaster. Pharaoh takes Sarai as his concubine (not bad for a woman of 65). God still blessed Abram by prospering him in the land of Egypt. But He would not allow the mother of the son of promise (Gen 17:15-27) to be taken away from Abram.

17 But the LORD struck Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife.

Somehow Pharaoh perceived that the great plagues that were happening were on account of Sarai. Scripture also blanks how he put it together that Sarai was Abram’s wife. Perhaps God spoke to Pharaoh in a dream as He did to Abimelech (Gen 20).

18 Then 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 Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him; and they escorted him away, with his wife and all that belonged to him.

So Abram is sent out of the protection of Egypt, but he leaves with more wealth than when he went. Even so, God would bring Abram’s descendants out of Egypt, striking Pharaoh’s house and all of Egypt with great plagues, and they would plunder the Egyptians as they left, so that they increased greatly in wealth. God emphatically demonstrated that He intends to bless Abram and his descendants in all respects.

Conclusion

God had plans for Abram and his family. He would not allow His promises to be thwarted, for what He was/is going to accomplish through Abram and the Jewish people is of ultimate importance. Through the Jews came the words of God, as the prophets received and recorded the word of the LORD. Through them came the Law and the covenants. Through them came the Messiah. One day, all will be fulfilled when Jesus Christ (the seed and Messiah) sits on the throne of David, his father according to the flesh, over the people of Israel in the Promised Land. He will rule over all the world, and His kingdom will be one of peace. Whoever blesses Him will be blessed, but whoever curses Him will be cursed.

Ruling alongside Jesus in that Kingdom will be those who are being called during this age to eternal life through believing in His name. They are saved from sins, and will never be condemned, for Jesus Himself paid the penalty for their sins. At His first coming, Jesus was born of a virgin and lived a righteous life, obeying God in everything. He was obedient also to the point of death on a cross where He was the lamb slain for the sins of the world. Whoever believes in Him will be saved and will be blessed with incomprehensible blessings in this age and in the one to come.

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