I. Faith is seeing with spiritual eyes; faith is having the same view of something that God has. When we come to faith in Jesus, we come because we have been given God’s view of our sinful nature and His view of Christ’s sufficiency to forgive our sin and remove that nature. Faith is seeing with spiritual eyes the reality of the cross as God sees it. God has given us a view of the truth, a seeing beyond human seeing about the cross and we are saved eternally when we chose to walk in His view. When we walk in His view we exercise faith (moving in His seeing.)
A. Faith is not just belief. We mix these words up all the time, but they are not the same. Belief is an intellectual agreement with something. We may say that we have faith that God knows where our car keys are, but what we really mean is that we believe that He knows all things. Believing is not faith.
B. Faith is not hope or expectation. We may say that we have faith that God will show us where our car keys are; but what we are really saying is that we believe He knows where they are and we hope He will show us. He may or may not, but that does not change the truth that He knows all things.
C. Faith is actually seeing what He is seeing in the spiritual realm. It is not believing in a doctrine or in facts. It is not placing our hope in Him; it is seeing Jesus as God sees Him and then placing our hope in Him because of what we have seen. It is not believing what someone says; it is seeing truth with the eyes of our heart so our minds can affirm true things about Jesus; things we come to believe.
D. Sometimes we believe in wrong things; things untrue. Sometimes we hope in things that though they are possible with God; do not materialize for us. In our relationship with Jesus we certainly believe certain things about Him; and hope for certain things because of Him; but neither of these is faith. We believe and we hope because of the truth that we have seen with the eyes of our heart. Our hope and our belief is born out of our seeing the truth about Jesus as God sees it.
E. Faith is seeing with Spiritual eyes; seeing what God sees and walking in what we see.
F. Just because we have moved out in faith in the area of salvation; seen what God has seen about our sin and Christ’s sufficiency doesn’t mean for sure that we have see other things that God would like to show us in the spiritual realm.
G. You might picture your faith at salvation as a view of God thru a paper towel roll; you look thru the roll and what you see is true; you see exactly what God is seeing in some small area and in that seeing you walk wholeheartedly.
1. But you are still only seeing a small piece of what God sees and wishes to show you.
2. I remember as a new believer being very excited about my salvation in Jesus.
3. It took quite a while before God enlarged my view and showed me something else that was true; He showed me that the Holy Spirit lives in me and was ready to begin showing Christ’s life out from my life.
a) I remember where I was standing when this truth came into view.
b) I had been quite content to be saved and unchanged; saved and quiet among my worldly friends.
c) But one evening I ‘saw’ God’s plan for my life and His power in my life and I knew because of what I had seen that my life would change forever, if I chose to walk in the reality of what I had seen with the eyes of my heart.
d) My seeing of God’s view had expanded; now I was no longer looking thru a paper towel roll at God’s truth; I was looking thru a larger view; a PVC pipe.
e) You might say from being a person of small faith; I had become a person of a little bit bigger faith. All that was left was for me was to walk in the faith or seeing I had been given.
4. Faith is spiritual seeing.
H. We are going to be following Abraham’s (Abram’s) story for the next few weeks and in his story we have the opportunity to watch God expand Abraham’s faith.
1. Abraham’s faith journey is just like ours.
2. We will see the successes, the failures and the growing pains.
3. God asked no more of Abraham than He asks of us. God asked Abraham to see what God saw and walk in the reality of that seeing. That is faith; spiritual seeing.
a) Sometimes Abraham managed beautiful.
b) Sometimes he failed miserably.
c) But I think in Abraham’s story we can really learn about faith and how God wants to expand our view so we see His view of life and so we will move out and walk in what we see.
d) My guess is that God gives us more ‘seeing’ only after we walk in what we are seeing already. That holds true in the life of Abraham.
e) If we have a true view of God thru a paper towel roll; and we don’t walk according to what we see thru that roll. God does not widen our view.
f) Abraham was a man growing in faith; God continued to widen his view throughout his lifetime.
I. The story of Abraham is a very important piece of history that we need to understand as a basis for understanding the rest of Genesis, but the story of Abraham is also a very important lesson about faith that should impact our faith journey as well.
II. The lesson that I hope we will learn in this text is that God’s view is the view we should want. Christians are often heard wishing for, praying for more faith; I think they mean by that that they wish they could have a more encompassing belief or more trust that God will do in their life what they read in the Bible He has done in others. I say, that is not an increase of faith. We increase our faith when we become ready to walk in the truth God has already shown us being anxious to see more truth revealed. We ‘see’ God’s view with the eyes of our heart. His view is according to His plan and purpose IN HIS SON. Our hearts desire should be to see what God sees in any situation in the physical world and in the spiritual world and then walk according to that view; walk with that view determining our steps.
A. The book of Hebrews tells us that Abraham had faith. Hebrews defines faith as the assurance of things hoped (expected) for the conviction of things unseen. I call that spiritual seeing leading to a right expectation or hope.
B. The eyes of Abraham’s heart could definitely could grasp God’s view of things from time to time. I believe that Abraham could see that God did have a plan for a Savior and that somehow Abraham would play a part in that plan.
C. Abraham had to see with the eyes of his heart because the promises God made to him simply weren’t visible to the natural eye when they were made.
D. Abraham had to live and walk in God’s reality - letting God deal with the discrepancy between what was seeable in the natural and what was seen in the spiritual.
E. Sometimes Abraham walked by faith; sometimes he walked by sight; Genesis shows us both sides of Abraham; Hebrews records just the one.
F. Today in Genesis 12-13 we are going to begin our sojourn into Abraham’s life; a life of faith, a life that is a lot like ours. We will look at three things:
1. God’s call
2. God’s promise
3. God’s patience
G. We will be talking about faith; seeing things as God sees them. Hopefully learning the lesson that God’s view is the view we should want.
III. Let’s look at God’s call on Abram’s life.
A. God said to Abram;
1. Leave your father’s house
2. Leave your relatives
3. Go forth from your country
B. God’s plan since the garden has been to come out of the first creation which has been corrupted and come back into relationship with Him. Come out of the first and into the second. This is pictured in the call of Abraham as it is in so many other OT stories. He tells Abram to ‘go forth’ out from his comfortable home and He will invited him to come into a land He will show him.
C. The three things that God called Abram to forsake were natural sources of security in the Near East; his nationality, his tribe and his family. He not only had to leave these three things physically, he had to leave them emotionally; disavowing them forever. This was no more his family, no more his land, no more his country. In all likelihood when Abram left, he left his family inheritance (he appears to be firstborn in the list of sons of Terah).
D. It is interesting that this call of God is for Abram to move west.
E. This call came when Abram was still in Ur, in Mesopotamia 600 miles south of Haran. By the time Abram is in Haran he is considerably north, up near the Syria, Turkey border and to enter the land he must come down to the South. FYI, Ab couldn’t have gone straight from Ur to Israel, that trip would have been an impossible trip across the Arabian Desert; man would have naturally traveled north to go east; without an airplane that is.
1. As this story plays out, we would have to say that Abram was slow leaving his father’s house, and slow leaving his country and slow in leaving his relatives.
2. Abram’s father made the first part of the journey with Abram and appears to have slowed him up a good bit. It appears some years passed before Abram left Haran for the land of Canaan. Leaving his father’s house was hard; it took him a while to actually go.
3. Abram’s nephew Lot made the second part of the journey with Abram, but as we will see Lot caused much trouble and heartache along the way. He was after all a relative and Abram was to leave his relatives.
4. Abram may have believed that God wanted him to journey to Canaan alone; but his view ‘saw’ some relatives coming along; the earthly view always finds exceptions to the call of God. God saw His dealings with Abram alone; Abram saw only part of what God saw.
F. When God invites us to come to Him, out of death and into life - a call to dislodge from this dead world and to come into life in His Son; He wants us to come out clean; not holding on to baggage we think will be helpful along the way. He wants us to release the extras, the crutches we think we will need. Sure He will want us to invite relatives in once we are in; but this relationship always begins one on one.
G. It took God years to extract the ‘extra’s’ from Abram - the extras he brought along in disobedience; it took years for Abram’s faith to grow to the point he would sacrifice his son without a ‘better idea’. Abram had to learn that God’s view of things is always the best.
IV. Let’s look at God’s promise to Abram. God makes a more specific covenant with Abraham that we will be looking in a couple weeks, but in this conversation with Abraham, God lays out His basic plan of blessing, and protection and promise. It is like God was saying to Abraham, I have a plan; you have a part in it, it will unravel as you follow and trust me. You have to leave behind your old life and come into a completely new one. God’s plan in Abraham would eventually bring us Jesus, who would be the blessing to all nations. As Christ calls us out of our old life into a new one; the promise is similar; He has a plan for our life, it will unravel as we follow and trust Him. His plan for our life is about bringing forth the increase of His Son in this earth; all the types and shadows of the Testimony (OT) point toward this spiritual reality that He wants us to ‘see’; this one is no exception; God wanted Abram to follow His plan because He was going to bring forth His Son thru him.
A. Following the ‘go forth’, or ‘come out’ to a land I will show you; God promises to make Abram a great nation, a great name, a great blessing to others. God also promises that this isn’t a personal promise but one that will have effects far and wide.
1. Abram is commanded in verse 2 to be a blessing - that is an imperative.
2. God promises to bless those who in tern bless Abram.
3. And to curse those who curse him. This can be translated that those take this promise lightly or to those who disregard this promise will have cause to regret their decision.
B. Most promises of God have a natural or physical fulfillment that points toward the spiritual fulfillment which is what is really in ‘God’s view’.
1. In the natural; God will prosper Abram and give him many descendants; a great nation; a great name and coming out from him will be One who will bless all the nations of the earth.
2. In the physical, natural world God is referring to the many descendants that would come from Abram; with a view toward Israel and the One who would eventually bring the blessing, Jesus Christ.
3. Jesus literally fulfilled this promise.
4. Abram had some ‘spiritual understanding’ of this promise beyond his day.
5. Remember what Jesus said in John 8:56, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.”
V. Now let’s talk about God’s patience as we look at the rest of the text.
A. Abram, Sarai, Lot and all their possessions which they had accumulated, and persons they had acquired in Haran set out for Canaan.
1. Abraham seems a bit attached to ‘stuff’, most of which God will have to extract from him. I am telling you this story parallels our own in so many ways.
2. I see God removing ‘stuff’ from Abram at all the altar spots.
a) At Shechem we see the first altar. The Hebrew word for altar implies place of sacrifice.
b) Burnt offerings were dedication offerings; the offerer laid his hands on the animal to be sacrificed and basically said to God, this animal is the “stand in” for me - I desire to be completely yours.
c) This altar at Shechem was a picture of Abram’s rededication; a picture of the removal or sacrifice of something that God had asked Ab to give up.
d) I wonder if this first alar wasn’t the place where Abram began to realize that this was indeed a different land a different life. He was, our test says in the midst of Canaanites.
e) Second Altar is between Bethel and Ai at the place where God said again that this land was going to Abram’s descendants. Maybe the real sacrifice at that altar was his rights and possessions to inheritance back home - maybe this man without family of his own was beginning to ‘see’ family.
3. These three cities are really important in Israel’s history; Shechem, Bethel, Ail they will come up again and again.
4. Moving on South, Abram reaches the Negev; the southern notably dryer part of Canaan.
5. And there is a famine.
B. Abraham heads to Egypt, not a far journey. There must have been reports of food and water there. Egypt was a land not dependent upon rain for crops, they were dependent on the Nile flooding. The Nile runs from the heart of Africa, from I think 5 contributing rivers; from snow run off to jungle rains.
1. Egypt often has plenty when Canaan does not - not that Egypt doesn’t have famine, certainly did in Joseph’s day.
2. But very often we see the idea of Egypt being a lure out into the world or material things and away from the land of promise.
3. We are not told that Abram consulted God in his decision either to go into Egypt or in his decision to tell a partial truth about his wife to protect his own life.
4. On the other hand we don’t find anywhere that God condemns or speaks negatively about this move - men do, but God does not.
5. God just seems to use Abram’s decision as opportunities to stretch his faith; showing Abram a greater view of Himself.
C. I think this story of Egypt is an amazing picture of God’s provision for a man who appears to think his well-being is totally dependent on his own devices. Sound familiar?
1. Did Abraham miss experiencing God’s amazing provision for him in Canaan, by leaving and not trusting God? We can only guess what miracles of provision might have awaited Abram if he had hunkered down in Canaan and waiting for God to provide. Surely God would not have let him die of starvation before He fulfilled His promises.
2. God could have and would have provided for Ab if he had stayed put, but it is a story that won’t be told because Ab had something else in mind. He ‘saw’ his provision in Egypt. He didn’t appear to ‘see it’ in God. His view of God didn’t appear to be one of physical provision.
a) It seems that we are justified in thinking that Abraham was not moving in faith at this point.
b) But the bigger thing for us to notice is that God continued with His work of bringing about the plan He had in mind.
c) God waited Abram out until he was in a fix that he couldn’t get out of.
d) Then God did something that could only be attributed to Him; a plague.
3. God did not abandon Abraham in Egypt; God continued to provide the protection Ab needed; He continued to give Abram an ever wider view of Himself.
D. I am forever amazed at the patience and goodness of God. I guess that God knows us better than we know ourselves. We think our little view of Him is actually all there is and He is always trying to pull us into a larger view.
1. When Abraham looked back on this side trip to Egypt; I am sure the lesson wasn’t wasted on him.
2. Abram could have stayed in Canaan and watched God provide; or he could have sojourned into Egypt and kept Sarai by his side, refusing to lie about their relationship. Would God have protected them then? What miracle would He have used? We an only guess because Abram took matters into his own hands.
3. Could God have protected Sarai from Pharaoh if she had remained with Abraham as Abram’s wife in Egypt? Of course He could, but we will never know that story because in Ab’s view he had to protect himself.
4. When God had miraculously moved Pharaoh’s heart to return Sarai; it was Pharaoh who actually scolded Abam regarding his choice to lie; I wonder if Ab could hear the voice of God behind the words of Pharaoh?
5. This story certainly makes me wonder how many times I have taken matters into my own hands and missed watching God do something amazing; not to mention growing my faith in the process.
E. Later Abraham had to deal with all the ‘extra’ things that he brought out of Egypt - livestock that was too plentiful and caused problems, silver and gold that was at one point snatched by a raiding party, and of course slaves; one named Hagar. I wonder if Abram counted this move to Egypt wise or not in retrospect. God simply doesn’t make a comment on the wisdom of Abraham choices, God simply and steadily moves His plan forward; allows Abram to widen his view of God as time moved on. God is demonstrating His view as the superior view.
VI. As Chapter 13 opens, we see God at work again, having waited out Abrams refusal to leave family, we now see the ‘fam’ leaving Abram.
A. Abram returns to the same altar he had made before and calls on the name of the Lord. I wonder if this isn’t where Abram realized that God was going to use circumstance to remove Lot from his household.
B. Altars are places of sacrifice; is this where Abram finally agreed with God that Lot needed to go?
C. This land that God promised Abram in verse 7, this land that supposedly would support a great nation evidently was not big enough to support Abram and his stuff and Lot and his stuff.
1. It was the ‘strife’ of verse 7 that I think caused the separation.
2. A strife that God would not allow displayed before the people of the land.
3. Lot had to go.
4. I would guess as the offer of the land was made to Lot; Abram was ‘seeing’ that God would provide whichever way he went.
a) Abram is acting as a man of greater faith now.
b) He appears to be trusting God for provision.
c) He seems assured that he will survive just fine no matter what direction Lot determines to go.
5. Lot went ‘east’ to the valley of the Jordan, well watered everywhere, like the garden of the Lord (Garden of Eden).
a) Lot moved toward Sodom. Now that area of Israel is dry as a bone today; no vegetation at all, but before God judged it, it was lush like Eden.
b) The people of that land had a reputation already known to Abram and Lot.
c) I will show you some pictures of this area today when we get to the story of S and G.
d) When Lot leaves, God has Abram where he wanted him in the beginning; having come away from his country, his relatives and his father’s house.
6. NOTICE as soon as Lot moved on, God said to Abram, “Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward, and southward and eastward, and westward. For all the land which YOU see, I will give you.”
a) Abram just moved in obedience and released Lot who should not have come along and when he did; God enlarged His view.
b) God wanted to be sure Abram ‘saw’ what God saw as far as the land was concerned; He wanted Abram to walk that land, the length and the breadth of it. You can only walk in what you see; God was now showing Abram the land that would be his inheritance.
c) God enlarged Abram’s view; letting him see the physical land to possess it by knowing it.
7. Note to self - when you give up that which you shouldn’t have been holding on to in the first place; be ready for God to tell you to ‘look up’ and see a wider view of what He is doing in your life.
8. Of course we have an altar here - an altar of sacrifice where Abraham burns an animal who represents himself, saying as all burnt offerings do - this animal is me, I am ready to be completely yours. Burnt offerings are always a ‘sweet’ fragrance to the Lord. Check…..
VII. God put a specific call on Abram’s life; He made specific promises and He was patient with Abram thru the tough learning times as he developed an increased view of God’s heart, as he increased his faith and began to walk in it.
A. I want to remind you of one thing about Abram.
B. Abram was a fallen man. Abram wasn’t righteous or full of faith until God called Him.
C. His claim to fame came as a result of how he responded to God.
D. He became a great man of faith; he learned to see with spiritual eyes what God was showing him and he learned to walk in what he was seeing.
E. But Abram didn’t come with any special qualifications.
F. God is very specific later in Israel’s history to remind them that they were not chosen because of anything they brought to the table.
G. Abram was a fallen man; possibly a worshiper of other gods.
H. Hebrew 11 is a chapter that tells us the great things that our God did with not so great people. It isn’t a chapter about great people.
I. It is a chapter about sinful fallen men and women like you and me who God calls to himself; who God calls to come out of one life into another.
1. We come with NO qualifications; nothing to recommend us.
2. Abram came with NO qualifications; nothing to recommend him.
3. God could have chosen anyone because the good result was HIS doing.
4. Abram’s faith journey is just like ours; ups and downs but progressively toward a better ‘seeing’ of what God ‘sees’.
5. Abram eventually learns to stop managing events and walk the land that God puts before him.
6. God had to show him the land and he had to walk it; no wonder he is called a man of faith.