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Abram's Altar & Altering (Gen. 12:1-20)

BBBI - OT101.2 - Genesis II  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented
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How you deal with sin AFTER God calls you and you begin living for Him matters as much as how GOD dealt with your sin when you got saved!

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Introduction:

Back to Basics
What the foundation is to the house, what the Constitution is to United States law, and what the periodic table of elements is to chemistry, the Book of Genesis is to the Bible. It’s basic. An understanding of the basic truths of Genesis, especially chapters 1–11, will give you the key you need to unlock the rest of Scripture and to live to the glory of God. But you don’t stop with Genesis 1–11; you build on it.
Let’s review some of these basics.
1. God is real and we can trust Him
2. We live in God’s creation
3. We are made in the image of God
4. Obedience is the key to usefulness, joy, and blessing
5. Satan is real, but is a defeated enemy
6. There is such a thing as sin
7. Sex is God’s idea and He knows best how it should be used
8. All humans are made of one blood
9. Israel is God’s chosen people
10. God doesn’t change and is always in control
11. Our relationship to God is based on faith
12. Living for God is the most rewarding life possible
The Christian life isn’t always the easiest life, but it is the most satisfying and rewarding life.
These are just a few of the basics found in Genesis 1–11, and illustrated and explained in the rest of the Bible. When you give your life to Christ and build on these basic truths, you build on a solid foundation that can’t be moved. To ignore these basics is to build on the sand and make a life that won’t survive the storms of life or the final judgment from God. Jesus calls us all back to the basics. Read and ponder Matthew 7:21–27.
Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Basic, “Be” Commentary Series (Colorado Springs, CO: Chariot Victor Pub., 1998), 143–149.
Body: Having considered Primeval History in Genesis 1-11, seen in four major events [namely Creation (Gen. 1-2), Corruption (Gen. 3-6), Condemnation (Gen. 6-9), and Confusion (Gen. 10-11)], Moses now directs our attention to four major people, the first being Abraham (Gen. 12-23).

I. Abram’s Listening Ear (Gen. 12:1-9).

Genesis 12:1–4 KJV 1900
Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran.

A. The Call First Out of Ur (Acts 7:2-3).

Acts 7:2–3 KJV 1900
And he said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran, And said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall shew thee.
Quote -
Hitherto, God had only interposed, as in the flood, and at the confounding of tongues, to arrest the attempts of man against His purposes of mercy. But when God called Abram, He personally and actively interfered, and this time in mercy, not in judgment.
[Alfred Edersheim, Bible History: Old Testament, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1975), 73.]
1. From Ur to Canaan was about a 1,500 mile journey
Illustration - That would be like driving from Denver to Toronto, Ontario, Canada and would take twenty three hours to DRIVE in a CAR. Imagine taking our entire church family there on camels!
2. Ur was a sophisticated, well-designed, wealthy city, providing the best available comforts of its day
3. Abram had to abandon all that was significant to him: his land, his kindred, and his father’s house
Joshua 24:2–3 KJV 1900
And Joshua said unto all the people, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they served other gods. And I took your father Abraham from the other side of the flood, and led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his seed, and gave him Isaac.
4. God never demands personal sacrifice without the compensation of even greater blessings
Galatians 3:8 KJV 1900
And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.
Galatians 3:16 KJV 1900
Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.
Mark 1:16–20 KJV 1900
Now as he walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men. And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him. And when he had gone a little further thence, he saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the ship mending their nets. And straightway he called them: and they left their father Zebedee in the ship with the hired servants, and went after him.
Mark 10:28–30 KJV 1900
Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee. And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.
Application -
God’s calls are not always easy to follow. He stressed the difficulties first of all, telling Abram he would have to leave his home and family and go into a strange land, a land which even at that time had become notorious for its wickedness, the land settled by the descendants of Canaan, the cursed son of Ham. At the same time, God also made to Abram a wonderful promise. He told him He would establish a great nation through him, a nation through which someday all other nations would be blessed.
This promise has justifiably been regarded as one of the first promises of the coming Savior, who would bring salvation to all nations.
God had long ago made it clear that the Savior would be born into the human family (“seed of the woman,” as promised in Genesis 3:15), and now it becomes clear to Abram that it would be accomplished through his own family.
God also promised protection, saying He would bless those that bless Abram and curse those that curse him. This was an unconditional promise, assuming only that Abram would migrate to Canaan as God had told him. Although this promise was made specifically to Abram, it may also have applied in a secondary and broader sense to his descendants, the Jewish nation, which has certainly been blessed and protected in a marvelous way through the centuries.
[Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Record: A Scientific and Devotional Commentary on the Book of Beginnings (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1976), 294–295.]

B. The Call Reiterated While in Haran (Gen. 12:5-9).

Genesis 12:5–6 KJV 1900
And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came. And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land.
1. After Terah (Abram’s father) died, Abram left Haran
Note - Chiasm of the Greater Context:
A Genealogy of Terah (11:27–32)
B Start of Abram’s spiritual odyssey (12:1–9)
C Sarai in foreign palace; ordeal ends in peace and success; Abram and Lot part (12:10–13:18)
D Abram comes to the rescue of Sodom and Lot (14:1–24)
E Covenant with Abram; Annunciation of Ishmael (15:1–16:16)
Eʹ Covenant with Abraham; Annunciation of Isaac (17:1–18:15)
Dʹ Abraham comes to the rescue of Sodom and Lot (18:16–19:38)
Cʹ Sarah in foreign palace; ordeal ends in peace and success; Abraham and Ishmael part (20:1–21:34)
Bʹ Climax of Abraham’s spiritual odyssey (22:1–19)
Aʹ Genealogy of Nahor (22:20–24)
[Rendsburg, The Redaction of Genesis, 28–29. See pp. 29–52 for details.]
Quote - “The life of faith does not consist of one act of obedience in a single journey to some distant scene. It is an experience continually related to the unseen and the eternal. Its symbol is a tent, its secret is an altar.” -Charles R. Erdman
3. Abram pitched a tent (temporary structure) for his own comfort
Illustration - Life among the Bedouin’s
4. Abram built an altar (permanent structure) for worshipping God
Genesis 12:7–9 KJV 1900
And the Lord appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the Lord, who appeared unto him. And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Beth-el, and pitched his tent, having Beth-el on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the Lord, and called upon the name of the Lord. And Abram journeyed, going on still toward the south.

II. Abram’s Lying Tongue (Gen. 12:10-20).

Genesis 12:10–20 KJV 1900
And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land. And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter into Egypt, that he said unto Sarai his wife, Behold now, I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon: Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive. Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee. And it came to pass, that, when Abram was come into Egypt, the Egyptians beheld the woman that she was very fair. The princes also of Pharaoh saw her, and commended her before Pharaoh: and the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. And he entreated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep, and oxen, and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and camels. And the Lord plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram’s wife. And Pharaoh called Abram, and said, What is this that thou hast done unto me? why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife? Why saidst thou, She is my sister? so I might have taken her to me to wife: now therefore behold thy wife, take her, and go thy way. And Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him: and they sent him away, and his wife, and all that he had.

A. Famine in Canaan prompts Abram to look for relief in Egypt

Note - this is the first of 3 major famines in this patriarchal period:
Genesis 12:10 KJV 1900
And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land.
Genesis 26:1 KJV 1900
And there was a famine in the land, beside the first famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went unto Abimelech king of the Philistines unto Gerar.
Genesis 41:56 KJV 1900
And the famine was over all the face of the earth: And Joseph opened all the storehouses, and sold unto the Egyptians; and the famine waxed sore in the land of Egypt.

B. God Apparently Allows Abram’s Flight into Egypt

Note - Apparently, God did not prohibit this journey as He did later for Isaac
Genesis 26:1–2 KJV 1900
And there was a famine in the land, beside the first famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went unto Abimelech king of the Philistines unto Gerar. And the Lord appeared unto him, and said, Go not down into Egypt; dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of:
1. “…went down into Egypt...” = Interpretively referencing TOPOGRAPHY, yet the English has a subtle innuendo that could apply spiritually
2. During the famine of Jacob’s time, Egypt will become a refuge for the entire family
Note - consider also the fulfillment of Jesus concerning prophecy:
Matthew 2:13–15 KJV 1900
And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.
3. But does Abram neglect to seek God’s guidance on this journey?
4. Is Abram trusting in Egypt for his help instead of God?
Isaiah 31:1 KJV 1900
Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; And stay on horses, And trust in chariots, because they are many; And in horsemen, because they are very strong; But they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, Neither seek the Lord!
God had told him to go to Canaan, where He would bless him, but now it seemed that Canaan was no longer able to support him. On the other hand, the land of Egypt was prosperous; so he finally made the decision (evidently without calling on God for guidance) to move to Egypt. Although the Bible doesn’t say so, it is possible that this decision was reached in part because of the complaining of his wife and nephew, who had never been accustomed to hardship and whose faith was not yet as strong as that of Abram. In any case, they all headed “down into Egypt to sojourn there.”
[Morris, 297.]
5. Abram’s LIE in Egypt and his later trouble with Hagar the Egyptian may point to his waywardness here

C. Abram & Sarai’s Falsification of Pertinent Information

Note - Abram and Sarai agree to say that she is his sister, instead of his wife
1. Sarai, about age 65, is a “fair [beautiful] woman” (and she’s only about half the age she will be at her death - 127!)
2. While she was his half-sister, their statement is only HALF-true; that means it was a LIE!
The Rationale:
Quote - “Sarai, when we get down there, they’ll see you, they’ll want you, they’ll kill me, and they’ll take you...” -Evangelist Paul Schwanke

D. The Fruit of Their Disobedience

1. It brought grief to God!
2. It weakened Abram’s own faith
3. He became a poor testimony to his nephew Lot
4. He caused the Pharaoh to be afflicted
5. He picked up Hagar the Egyptian
6. He influenced his unborn son, Isaac, negatively as a BAD EXAMPLE
Application -
They who had testified to others about God’s power and faithfulness, who had followed God’s call into a strange land and had enjoyed His protection for many years, now had lost their testimony.
The Egyptians had at first been greatly impressed by them and might well have been won to faith in God through them. Instead, their fearfulness and compromise had caused the house of Pharaoh to suffer greatly, and the Egyptians had finally come to despise them. Even Abram’s own servants must have been disgusted.
They should never have gone into Egypt in the first place. The Lord surely could have supplied their needs in Canaan, even in time of famine. But once in Egypt, they should have been careful to maintain a good testimony at all costs. God could have protected them there, too, without such a degrading compromise. After all, He did protect them and provide for them, even in spite of their compromise.
It is easy, of course, for us to be critical of Abram as we read these things. But it is very doubtful, if we had been in his shoes, that we would have chosen differently. We also engage in similar expediencies, and we rationalize them, as he did. We also need to learn the same lesson he learned and often we have to learn it in the same way, by being rebuked by the very unbelievers we would like to win to Christ. “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:12, 13).
[Morris, 300–301.]

Conclusion:

How you deal with sin AFTER God calls you and you begin living for Him matters as much as how GOD dealt with your sin when you got saved!
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