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The call of Abram

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Acts 7:1–5 ESV
1 And the high priest said, “Are these things so?” 2 And Stephen said: “Brothers and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, 3 and said to him, ‘Go out from your land and from your kindred and go into the land that I will show you.’ 4 Then he went out from the land of the Chaldeans and lived in Haran. And after his father died, God removed him from there into this land in which you are now living. 5 Yet he gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot’s length, but promised to give it to him as a possession and to his offspring after him, though he had no child.
Acts 7:
Prayer
Introduction
We are continuing our study of the Pentateuch this morning – those first five books of the Bible. We have spent some time in the first 11 chapters of Genesis and have seen how things began and got to be the way they are. The foundations of our understanding of who we are, why we are here, who God is, and other important questions are found in those first 11 chapters. Genesis has a kinda natural divide in focus between chapters 11 and 12. It goes from focusing on general history to focusing on the history of one family in particular: Abraham’s. Most of you probably know the children’s bible song about Father Abraham who had many sons. Many sons had father Abraham. I am one of them and so are you, so let’s just praise the Lord!
Scripture
Our passage this morning is . If you are able, please stand for the reading of God’s Word. We do this to show appreciation to God for His Word, and in recognition that these are among the most important words we could hope to hear today. says,
Genesis 11:31–12:9 ESV
31 Terah took Abram his son and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife, and they went forth together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan, but when they came to Haran, they settled there. 32 The days of Terah were 205 years, and Terah died in Haran. 1 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. 2 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. 3 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.” 4 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. 5 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, 6 Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. 7 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. 8 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. 9 And Abram journeyed on, still going toward the Negeb.
“Terah took Abram his son and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife, and they went forth together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan, but when they came to Haran, they settled there. The days of Terah were 205 years, and Terah died in Haran. 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.”
Thank you, you may be seated.
Sermon
There are few events which utterly change the world. Sometimes they are big, obvious events which seem to shake the very foundations of society. At other times, they are small, seemingly insignificant things which seem to have a historical snowball effect. The call of Abram is quiet, seemingly unimportant, hardly more than a historical whisper, yet it would prove to be one of the most important events in all of human history. That may seem like a bit of an overstatement, but if you stop and think about it, Abraham might be the most important person in history other that Jesus Christ. Three of the major world religions are rooted in Abraham – Judaism, Christianity (of course) and Islam. In 2005, it was estimated that 3.6 billion people are followers of an Abrahamic religion – that’s over 50% of the population. All that to say, Abram or Abraham is a very important character.
Every good story has a setting, and Abrams starts not in the promised land, but far off to the north east of what would one day become Israel. We are introduced to Abram and his family living in Ur of the Chaldeans. Uprooting the entire family and moving from Ur to some unknown land far to the west would be no easy task. By all accounts, Abram, his father Terah, and the rest of the family are not nomads, but instead seem to be city dwellers, enjoying the culture that a city brings. Further, it seems that the family is polytheistic – that is to say that they worship many Gods – most specifically a moon god. tells us as much.
Joshua 24:2 ESV
2 And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Long ago, your fathers lived beyond the Euphrates, Terah, the father of Abraham and of Nahor; and they served other gods.
So, the whole family sets out from Ur towards the land of Canaan and arrive in another city called Haran. This city is much like Ur, and even has a nice, big temple to the moon god, Sin there. It would have been a comfortable place for the whole family – familiar. Moving is hard, even more so in the ancient world, so the whole family settles there. The same language for settling there is used in the Tower of Babel account – suggesting that their settling at Haran was not quite what was supposed to be happening.
Naturally, one might want to know why this family is moving towards Canaan. What is in this new land, and why go to the trouble to pack up everything and everyone, leave all that is familiar and move to the other end of the known world. The simple answer to that question is that God called Abram from his homeland to a land that God would show him. Apparently, this call occurred prior to the family leaving Ur. That is what tell us.
Acts 7:2–3 ESV
2 And Stephen said: “Brothers and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, 3 and said to him, ‘Go out from your land and from your kindred and go into the land that I will show you.’
God calls Abram, and the whole family as a group starts heading for this new land, but ends up settling in Haran.
More important than the timeline of where Abram was living when he received this call from God is the fact that he received a call from God. Genesis 12:1:3 is the first time God has spoken since the judgment of Babel. In fact, if we think back to the first 11 chapters of Genesis, we will notice that most of God’s interaction with man has been in judgment. Even where God shows mercy, it has been in the midst of judgment. There is this overarching cycle of sin, death, and judgment, yes there has been mercy, but mostly in not giving the full punishment that is deserved. Up to this point, the human story and humanities relationship with God is dark. That is exactly what we should expect, since we have rebelled against our holy God. The story of Genesis should continue in that cycle of sin, death and judgment.
That is why this call of Abram is so important. It breaks the narrative. It shatters the mold. God is not dealing with man in the way man deserves. God is being gracious. The call of Abram after those first 11 chapters of sin and negativity is intended to stand out. To make us go, wait, God spoke to Abram, and without a hint of judgment? This call is something truly special, and lays the groundwork for the rest of Scripture – God is holy, God is just, God is angry over sin, but God is also gracious.
So, Abram obeys this call of God. Apparently, he tells his family, as they all start to move with him from Ur, but they stop in Haran. Now Abram has to make a decision will he remain in Haran – comfortable, or will he make the final break. Will he leave everything he knows – his false worship, his homeland, his metropolitan lifestyle, his family? Will Abram reject everything he knows to obey this call of God.
We know the story. He does. He leaves Haran and goes on to the land of Canaan. This is important. Abram needed to leave. He needed to separate from the wicked, false worship of Ur, Haran and of his family. God will reveal Himself in far greater ways in this new land. “The land I will show you” indicates that God is not done speaking to Abram. In fact, once Abram arrives in the land of Canaan, near Shechem, God does speak to him again – promising the land to his descendants.
Little by little, God graciously speaks to Abram, revealing His plan and giving opportunities for Abram to exercise his faith and to obey God.
One of the things that fascinates me about this call, is that it is not merely a call, but a promise. Did you notice that? God calls Abram to leave, but with a series of promises of what God is going to do. Generally, promise to Abram falls under three categories: Land, Seed, and Blessing.
First, we see that God is going to give Abram’s offspring a land. Abram has left his home and is wandering around this promised land, but he never does own it – his descendants will. The only piece of property Abram ever actually has as his own is the grave he buys for his wife.
But there is more to it that that. This promise of a land of blessing is meant to hint that God – through Abram – is undoing the curse. Just as God has prepared a garden in which man was meant to worship, so again God will be preparing a land where people will worship. Naturally, that points to the physical land, but it also points to a greater truth in that God is going to totally, completely one day undo the effects of the curse and there will be a new heaven and new earth – a truly promised land.
And that new heaven and new earth will be populated by the offspring of Abram. Again, there is a physical reality for Abram in that his offspring will have the physical land. And even that is surprising because we have already been told in that Sarai is barren. So God is making all this big promises, and Abram is faithfully trusting God.
This “Seed” promise also points back to Eden – the promised seed who would crush the head of the serpent. It points back to Eden, it has a real promise in the physical world of Abram – that his children will become a nation and have the land, and it points forward to the greater reality that all those who are children of Abraham by faith will inherit a new, restored, perfect land where we will worship God eternally – we call that heaven.
Finally, there is blessing. God tells Abram that He will bless Abram, and that Abram will be a blessing – in fact that all the nations of the earth will be blessed in Abram. Once again, I want us to see that this points back to Eden – where once there was curse, God will bring blessing through Abram and his offspring. It has a literal fulfillment for the nation of Israel – this was very clear if we think about the height of Israel politically under Solomon – people from all over the world would come to hear the wisdom of Solomon – ultimately God’s wisdom. It was also through the nation of Israel that the one true God could be known, so Israel was to be a blessing to her neighbors. And yet again, deeper, final aspect to this promise, that through Abram – and ultimately through his Seed, Jesus Christ, people from all nations will be blessed. That is what we see in which says,
Revelation 5:9–10 ESV
9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”
“And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”
Do we see how this threefold promise of Land, Seed, and Blessing to Abram becomes something of a framework throughout not only Genesis or the Pentateuch, but also throughout all of Scripture. As I said earlier, the call of Abram is significant.
So what do we do with all this information – besides use it in the future to help us better understand what is going on in Genesis and the whole Bible.
Frankly, there are a number of areas of application. We can look to the grace and mercy of God in this passage and be moved to worship Him. Recognizing that we are radically undeserving of grace. We should be amazed by that.
We should also look at Abram as an example. If we know the story of Abram, he was not perfect and he messed up along the way, but Scripture often uses Abram/Abraham as an example of faith and obedience. So, where Abram is a good example of that, we should do likewise. In fact, that’s basically what Jesus is getting at in which says,
John 8:39 ESV
39 They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did,
“They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did”
Which begs the question, what were the works that Abram did? Simply put, Abram trusted God. We will unpack that more next week, but it’s an important point for us today also. Abram trusted in the faithfulness of God, and that faith was followed by works – obedience to leave everything he knew and follow God.
So then, we become children of Abraham, inheritors of the promises, by trusting in Christ. Recognizing that true faith is followed by faithful works. God is faithful and gracious, so we should trust and worship Him.
Conclusion
In a moment we are going to sing a final song. We call this the “song of response” because we believe that any time a person hears the word of God, they respond – either in worship or in rebellion. It is my prayer that you will respond in worship. Repenting of sin, trusting in Christ. During the song, I will be on the front row worshipping with you, if you need to talk to someone or need someone to pray with you, I’d be delighted to do that, feel free to come talk to me. I will also stick around after the service if you’d like to talk then or if you have any questions. I have just a few more comments before we transition into our tie of response.
If you’re here and you are not trusting in Christ, you aren’t obediently following God’s commands, and you aren’t worshipping God for His faithfulness and grace – if that’s you, I do hope that you realize that the promises to Abram are only yours through faith in Christ. Christ is the fulfillment of all the promises, and you have no part in them apart from Him. If you don’t know what all that means, that’s okay. Again, I’d be more than happy to talk to you after the service and answer any questions you might have. But I do hope that you will follow the example of Abram and trust and obey God’s call.
Believers – children of Abraham – we are already recipients of grace and blessing in Christ while we look forward to the consummation of all things. While we are faithfully waiting on all things to be restored, let us follow the example of Abram. Let us make a clean break from the idolatry in our lives and strike out anew in faith – trusting, and obediently worshipping God, in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Let’s pray, then respond to God’s call in faithful, obedient worship.
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