Sermon on Genesis 12:1-8
Text: The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. 2 “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
4 So Abram went, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. 5 He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.
6 Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. 7 The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him.
8 From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD.
There are certain people that, when you mention their name, you think of a particular quality about them. For example, when you hear the name “Abraham Lincoln,” you think of honesty. He was even known as “Honest Abe.” This morning, we have another figure that has a quality synonymous with his name. That figure is Abraham, or as he is known in our text for this morning, Abram. Throughout his life, his faith is highlighted again and again. Yet, what is faith? Is faith a hope in something? No, faith is based on something that you can count on, that you can trust. As we study this portion of God’s Word, and note the faith of Abram, we, also, have the opportunity to talk about our faith. We see that faith is not based on some sort of blind trust. FAITH RELIES ON THE WORD OF GOD. 1. Faith Believes The Word. 2. Faith Acts On The Word. Faith Spreads The Word.
Abram was living in the city of Harran, which is in modern day eastern Turkey. He had been there since his father’s family moved from Ur, which was in modern day Iraq, by the Persian Gulf. While he was there, the Lord came to him and said, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.” (Verse 1) The Lord was asking a great deal of Abram, each one progressively more challenging. He was to leave his country where he had established himself. He was to leave his people, the people that he had come to know in Harran. He was to leave his father’s household. He was to leave behind all of his family and go to a place that God would show him. It would take a great faith in God and his Word to leave all of these behind and go to an unknown land selected by God.
After God gave him these instructions, he also promised to bless Abram. He said, “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; 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; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Trusting that God would keep these promises would take a great amount of faith. For example, God told Abram, “I will make you into a great nation.” The reason that it took faith to believe this promise of God was the fact that Abram was already 75 years old. In addition, his wife, Sarai, was 65 years old and barren. Humanly speaking, it looked as though there was no way that this promise could ever come true. Another promise of God was that he would bless Abram. Would it make sense to leave some place where you are established and successful to pack up and leave the familiar for the unknown? God said, “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse.” God promised that he would be with Abram and protect him. How would you know how people would react to you? God said that he would be with Abram. The greatest promise that God made to Abram was, “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” God told Abram that he would be an ancestor of the promised Messiah. Again, at face value, this would be a hard promise to believe. After all, as we mentioned earlier, he did not have any children. How could the Savior be born from his line, if he didn’t have any? In addition, why Abram? Out of all the people in the world, why was Abram chosen? Yet, in spite of all of these outward difficulties, Abram believed that God would fulfill them. He was a perfect example of how faith is described in Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
This, also, gives us an opportunity to think about all of the promises that God has made to us. For example, we might think of God’s promises to provide for us and protect us. These promises are easy to remember and trust when everything is going well for us. However, what about those times when things aren’t going so well? There may be those times when there is so much month left and not nearly enough paycheck. There are those times when we find ourselves in danger. What about when the doctor’s report doesn’t come back the way that we hoped it would? Humanly speaking, it would appear that there is no hope. Yet, God makes all of these promises to us and we know that we can count on them.
The greatest promise that God makes to us may also be hard to believe, at times. That promise is that Jesus has paid for all of our sins. The reason that this may be hard to believe is that we know how many times we have sinned against him. We know the times that we have pursued our own ways, rather than God’s ways. We know the times when we have doubted that God would make good on his promises. As we take an honest look at our lives, it may be hard to believe that God could forgive us. However, he has promised that Jesus has come to the earth to be our Savior. He did everything necessary to rescue us from an eternity in hell. It started with his perfect life, including the fact that he always trusted every one of his Father’s promises. The divine rescue mission continued when Jesus went to the cross to pay for our sins. There he was punished so that you and I would never be. He showed that he had accomplished everything when he rose from the grave on Easter morning. You and I are forgiven. As the psalmist reminds us in Psalm 103:12, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Because of this, we know that we have heaven waiting for us. The Holy Spirit creates a faith in our hearts that believes what he tells us in his Word.
Look at how Abram reacted to the promises that God gave him. “So Abram went, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.” (Verses 4&5) He acted on what God told him. He packed up everything and moved lock, stock, and barrel to Canaan. He did not hold anything back. Because he trusted in what God had told him, he acted immediately. Commenting on this, we read in Hebrews 11:8, “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” Note especially those two words, “by faith.” What God said moved him to action.
The same is true for us, as well. Go back to the fact that God has declared us forgiven. God has told us that this is true. Trust in what God tells us moves us to action. First of all, this fact comforts me when my conscience accuses me. There is that one particular sin that keeps coming back to my memory time and again. We may catch ourselves thinking that there is no way that we can ever be forgiven. Memory of this sin keeps coming back and tormenting me. To this, God comes to us and again reminds us that he has forgiven that sin. There is no reason to keep bringing that sin up again and again. God tells us that he has forgiven us. It is time for us to forgive ourselves. Faith in God’s Word allows us to do this.
Faith in God’s Word also moves us to action. It changes us. We now go from a life of serving ourselves to a life of serving him out of thanksgiving for what he has done for us. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:14&15, “Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” Because I believe that God has forgiven me, I now look at everything differently. Instead of seeing God’s laws as something I have to do, I see them as opportunities to show my love for him. Each day I get to wake up and think to myself, “How do I get to show my love for God today?” The faith that God creates in our hearts moves us to act on what he tells us in his Word.
Going back to Abram, we read, “Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The LORD appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your offspring I will give this land.’ So he built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him. From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD.” (Verses 6-8) When Abram got to the land of Canaan, God repeated the promise that he made in Harran, “To your offspring I will give this land.” Even though Abram had no offspring and there were people living in the land that God promised him, Abram believed the promise that God made. We note an action that was a part of Abram’s life. Twice in our text, it says that Abram built an altar to the Lord. This was part of his worship life. It also notes that Abram called on the name of the Lord. This was more than just praying to him. Included in this act of worship was telling the inhabitants of the land about the Lord and the promises that were made to him. He believed what was told to him and he shared that with the people he came into contact with.
What a wonderful example for us to follow! When we are reminded of what God has done for us and what he has promised to us, we find ourselves echoing the words of the apostles, “We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:20) When the world observes Christians joyfully going to their altars regularly, they know that Christians are different and that they treasure their relationship with the God of grace. The vehicles parked in front of the church bear witness. When Christians build and maintain their places of worship, the world can see how important the Savior is to them. In addition, there are other places where we can build our altars and call on the name of the Lord. We build our altars in our homes as we teach and encourage one another in Christian living. We build our altars in our workplaces as we live our Christianity. We have opportunities to build altars when we are with our friends, as we reflect the love that God has shown to us. When we receive good news, we cannot wait to tell someone else. How much more so the best news of all, that Jesus has come to save them and heaven waits for us? Faith shares the wonderful promises that God makes to us in his Word.
This morning, we have had the privilege to study faith. People talk a great deal about faith. They will tell you, “Have faith.” Other times, people say they have faith that God will do this or that. Usually, that means they hope that something will happen. It may or may not, but they keep hoping. In reality, you cannot have faith divorced from the Word of God. Faith trusts what God says there. Faith finds what it is to do in God’s Word. Faith and the Word are inseparable. This is a reminder for us of the importance of being in God’s Word and learning it and making it a part of our lives. Without the Word, faith is just a hope. With the Word, faith is built on something rock solid. God continues to strengthen our faith as we dig deeper into his Word. Faith relies on the Word of God. It believes what is said there. It acts on what is found there. It sees something that is so valuable that it must be shared. We praise God for the faith of Abram. We pray that God would continue to increase our faith. Amen.
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