God commands Abraham to throw away the security blanket of societal approval and become shipwrecked on the island of God's sovereignty! Are you prepared to take such a plunge?
“SAYING GOODBY TO SECURITY”
I want to begin this morning, before we even begin to study the life of Abraham, as we continue our series through Genesis, in fact the Bible, with a note of caution: we are not going to study the life of Abraham for the purpose of glorification. We aren’t going to make a superstar out of Abraham, we don’t want to do that. In fact, the church, as one man wrote, already has way too many superstars and not enough servants. Too many people with medals and not enough people with battlescars. So, we do not seek to glorify anyone, even Abraham, by studying his life. In fact, I’m convinced after a week of study in the beginning of his life that he would be very, in fact, extremely fidgety, uncomfortable under the spotlight and on the pedestal. We are also not going to study the life of Abraham for the purpose of imitation. We are not going to try to imitate Abraham. In fact, when you imitate a man, you often will imitate his weaknesses and his failures, not his strengths. We are not pursuing Abraham this morning. We are pursuing the God of Abraham. We are not also going to study the life of Abraham for the simple sake of information. We are studying the book of Genesis, and Abraham stands between us and the end of the book, so let’s jump in and learn all that we can about him.
I’m convinced that that’s a danger whenever anybody preaches or we study as a congregation through the books of the Bible through verses expositionally. We may get the idea that it’s an end in itself, that we are to learn all that we can. We are to become, as one man said, smarter sinners. That isn’t the purpose. In fact, I come to this portion in the book of Genesis with a profound sense that God has us right now in Genesis chapter 12. We don’t know all the reasons why, but I’m convinced he has us here at this very moment in Genesis chapter 12. It isn’t a coincidence, God intends it to be life changing.
With that said, let me introduce you to the setting of Abraham. It is in the vicinity of the Persian Gulf. It’s a land called Ur. It’s kind of a grunt. You just ur. We think, when you speculate this country with such a dramatic name as Ur that you can almost see the cavemen with clubs on their shoulders dragging their women about by the hair on their head. But that isn’t the case. Ur was perhaps the most civilized place in the world. Their fleets in merchant ships would float about the Indian Ocean, selling and bringing their wares to other distant places of countryside. This was the place that had developed an intricate legal system. They were involved in gem engraving and metalworking and planting and harvesting. This was no simple place that Abraham was called to leave. This was where it was at four thousand years ago. They were proficient, we’ve discovered, in mathematics. In fact, I mentioned several weeks ago as we were in another place in Genesis that they had discovered formulas, mathematical formulas that they were working on in that day and they still confound to some degree the mathematicians of today. They were proficient in astronomy and weaving. It was the height of cultural civilization.
And in the land of Ur there lived a Semite family. This was a region dominated by the Hamites, descendants of Ham, who were idolatrous and immoral. But right in the middle of this country was a Semite family who had a little boy who would grow up to one day change the course of human history. We know him as Abram, which, before his name was changed, means the father of many. It will be changed to Abraham, which means the father of a multitude or many peoples. But here we know him as Abram. The tragic thing about his home is that the idolatry of Ur had reached with clammy fingers through the door in their home and finally gripped the soul of Abraham’s father Terah. In fact, Joshua chapter 24 tells us as Joshua warned the people before they enter the promised land, “Don’t forget the idolatry, namely don’t forget Abraham’s father, Terah.” His father would be used as a warning. We tend to think that Abraham was raised in a home with spiritual giants as parents, and that wasn’t the case. We know that Abraham’s father was an idolater, and perhaps participating in all the immorality that went along with idolatry.
Before we go any further, it’s worth applying that the call of God can come regardless of one’s roots or past life. So often we get the idea that, if God is going to use somebody, that person is going to be raised in the perfect home environment, that mom and dad are going to be examples of godliness, and that’s the kind of child that grows up to be used by God. That’s the kind of person that one day will be called the friend of God. My friend, your use and your usability in the kingdom of God will come regardless of your family. I do not minimize religious upbringing, God can use that. But perhaps I’m speaking to someone here this morning who has not had that. You didn’t have, like Abraham, an example of faith. Abraham would become the father of the faithful and he never had an example of what faith was all about. That’s his home setting, and I want you to take great encouragement that your family will neither disqualify you for the service of God nor will it qualify you for the service of God.
Now, with that said, let’s go to Genesis chapter 12 and begin with the first few verses, and that’s all we’ll have time for this morning. Let’s take a look at the command in Genesis chapter 12. It’s three-fold. If you have notes given in that packet, it might be helpful to follow along. The first command is basically leave your society, leave your society. Now the Lord said to Abraham, “Go forth or leave your country.” This was an idolatrous country, as I’ve mentioned led by the descendants of Ham, and there was a warning here perhaps even to the New Testament believer. A warning that is alliterated by Solomon in the writings of Proverbs to be cautious and to be careful of the societal boundaries. It may mean leaving, and I think even the New Testament believer is given the challenge that, although we are in this society, we are not part of it. Let me repeat what I’ve said before that the more like your society you become the less that you will impact it for the cause of Jesus Christ. We do not know, but immorality and idolatry had encircled the home of Abraham and perhaps it was even knocking at the heart of Abraham and God said, “If I can use you, you’ve got to leave.” Now Christ is the supreme example, who was a friend of sinners, but his purpose in being their friend was to bring them to Christ. Let me warn you, especially young people, the nature of ungodly friendships for the sake of friendship. Solomon writes in Proverbs that your friends sharpen your countenance. That’s why he tells his son depart from evil. Remove your foot from the evil one. David writes in Psalms, “Don’t stand in the way of sinners.” We are here to win the world to Christ, not be a friend to it. Perhaps that was implied in the first of this three-fold command to leave your society.
The second is leave your stability. Would you look at the next phrase. Not only go forth from your country but leave your relatives as well. This is the circle of friends. In fact, the archaic word here could be translated leave your tribe, leave your clan. Leave all that life has encircled you with. Leave the stability of home and friends and that circle of people that you know. Leave in effect your pattern of life. Break out of it. I’m going to send you some place totally new and different. Break out of the norm. That was probably one of the most difficult things for Abraham. We as well would say, well you know I’ve got my friends and I’ve got my church and I’ve got my life and I’ve got my pattern and I’ve got my way of living and all of that, and we are so predictable, and that’s seen in the way you and I drive home the very same way from work every day. When we get home, we sit in the same chair. When we sit down at the dining table, we sit at the same chair. Have you ever tried sitting somewhere else? It’s weird. It’s like you’re in somebody else’s home. Try sitting in another chair tomorrow for breakfast. I’ll tell you what will happen, your kinds will come downstairs, and they’ll look at you, and they’ll look again, and they’ll walk over and say, “Dad, are you still awake? You sick? Mom, dad’s lost his marbles.” I know what they will say. They’ll say, “Dad’s sitting in my chair.” We’ve taught them well, haven’t we? I think God is telling Abraham to leave all the old patterns, leave the familiar, leave stability, the clan, the tribe, and go.
He also says to leave your security. You notice he says leave not only your country, but your relatives and go from your father’s house. Now in the Middle East you father’s house gave you a special identity. This was the place of your inheritance. This was your birthright, this was your security. In fact, in that day, if you married a woman, you didn’t leave dad, you just simply built another addition to his place, and you all moved in. The more sons, the more wives, the more additions. Until finally you had this thing spreading over several acres. That was how they lived. It was totally foreign to think of leaving your father’s house. That’s exactly what God had asked Abraham to do, leave your security, with the implication, ladies and gentlemen, and I want you to notice, in fact, you ought to jot into your notes, there is the implication here that he will never be back. He may never come back.
A little boy was his grandfather’s constant companion; and they would often go on short trips together, to the grocery store, sometimes to the lake to fish, just wherever the grandfather needed to go. The boy tagged along, and they were delightful companions. Finally one day the grandfather said, “Let’s go for a ride.” The boy said, “Where are we going?” The grandfather left without him. When he got back, the little boy looked crestfallen and said, “Grandfather, why did you leave me behind?” The grandfather looked at him and said, “Because you asked where we were going. If you really wanted to go with me, it wouldn’t have mattered where we were going.” You see I think that’s in the heart of the man or woman of faith. God says, “Go.” God says, “Do.” God says, “Be.” We say “Okay, Lord, where’s the security package? What are the benefits? Where are you taking me? How long will I be there?” And God kind of moves on to the next person.
Your wife says to you, “Hon, let’s take a walk.” You say, “Where are we going?” Because you know the game is starting in ten minutes. The kick-off is about to happen. The thing is, your wife knows too. So does God.
Well, leave your society, leave your stability, leave your security. Leave it all behind. One of the difficult things, ladies and gentlemen, that I think I need to warn us about is not only as individuals but as a church is we can fall into a pattern that is so predictable. We know exactly what’s going to happen in our little conform lives that we never dare risk anything for God. Never stepping out in faith, we want to see it all in front of us. As a result, our usability for the kingdom of God is so hindered.
Let me read you what one man wrote that sparked my thinking. The pastor of University Presbyterian Church, by the name of Bruce Arson, writes these words. And I warn us all of these words as a church. He writes this perceptively, “I’ve observed a number of Christian organizations who have gone through the metamorphosis from pioneer organism to rigid and predictable organization. The work is begun by one person with a dream who risks all on that dream. As the dream takes shape, other people attach themselves to the original dreamer. Before long, a movement starts. Before long, an organized machine develops with departments and charts and budgets and detailed job descriptions.” The next move from machine, and the one that by God’s grace we will avoid, is what he calls from machine to monument, where procedures are set in concrete, policies are unchangeable, direction is unchallenged. The monument, he writes, is a tomb. In the process, we have moved from high risk to safety and certainty. In the framework of machine or monument, nobody risks anything. In fact, we need all of our resources just to keep the machine moving. That is the potential of a church, not only individuals. It’s seen, or illustrated well, in Giblet and Sultan’s operetta that I have seen several times. It’s the Pirates of Penance, and the hero’s name is Frederick, if you have ever seen this. Frederick decides to capture those nasty little pirates. So he enlists the help of the police force. These policemen are typical “Keystone Cops.” It’s a fascinating thing to watch as the women gather in the square as the policemen declare their desire to catch the pirates. The women begin to sing, “Go on to glory, go on to glory.” In fact, they even say, “Go, yea heroes, go on to glory.” The Keystone Cops begin dancing around the stage with their arms folded singing, “We go, we go.” And they never went. Finally, the general interrupts them and points out, “You’re not going anywhere.” They respond to him, “We go, we go.” The women are singing, “Go, yea heroes, go on to glory.”
I am convinced, ladies and gentlemen, that it is possible for a church to sing “Onward Christian Soldiers” and never take a step forward, singing with real glory. I think the reason is because we, as one man wrote, are so busy feathering our nests we have no desire to fly. We have such predictable, comfortable lives. Who’s interested in going to the Promised Land? Uncertainty and risks. Who’s willing to live by faith?
We must consistently ask ourselves, “Who am I serving? Who am I loving? Who am I telling about Jesus Christ? Who am I praying for? Who am I giving to? Are the sandals or the soles on our spiritual shoes showing signs of wear, or is there dust gathering there?” We have become entombed in safety and certainty.
I would invite you over to our house sometime just before our boys’ bedtime. We have two boys that are not quite three. Just after we discovered that their blankets are still in the washing machine, you know the ones they carry around during the day and sleep with during naptime and at nighttime. Keaton has a white one, and Seth has a green one. I’m not sure if green was the original color, but it’s green now. You should be there when I give them the announcement. They’re tucked into bed. They say, “Where’s my blanket?” I make the announcement, “Boys, your mother forgot your blanket, it’s still in the washing machine.” Boy, you’ve never seen a panic attack. Oh, such weeping and wailing, knashing of teeth. “We can’t do without our blankets.” We’ve got to rush down there and throw those things in the dryer and turn them on and hope they dry quick. They’ll never go to sleep. Why? It’s their symbol of security. You gotta have it to sleep. It’s their crutch.
I find God in Genesis chapter 12 commanding Abraham to throw away the security blanket of society, stability, security, and become a wanderer, a vagrant, a pioneer, a pilgrim, to become as Spurgeon once wrote, “Shipwrecked on the island of God’s sovereignty.” That’s where we want to live. Responding to God’s call means finding our security in God alone. Do we really want that?
Well, you’ll notice following this three-fold command that there is a seven-fold promise. I’ve given you three basic categories in your notes to help keep these in mind. The first is the blessing of prominence. Would you look at verse 2: “And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will make your name great so shall you be a blessing.” Would you notice he says, “I will make your name great.” That’s contrasted with chapter 11 verse 4 that we studied earlier. You remember, look at verse 4, “‘Come,’ they said, these idolaters, ‘Let’s build for us a city and a tower whose top will reach the heavens and let us make a name for ourselves.’” You notice here God is basically telling them, “I will provide the prominence, I will exalt your name. I will make of you many peoples. I will do that, not you. Let another man praise you, not your own lips,” Solomon wrote. Jesus, of course these being his words, declared that he would make the name of Abraham great. There is the blessing of prominence.
Secondly, there is the blessing of protection. The first part of verse 3 says, “I will bless those who bless you. And the one who curses you, I will curse.” There is the fundamental truth: those who rise up against Israel soon find their demise, whether it is Babylon or Rome or Germany or the Palestinian Liberation Organization. I would agree with expositors like Barnhouse or Boyce that any nation who rises up against Israel, this could be interpreted. In fact, the reason for America’s blessing, they say, is that we have been a friend to Israel. I believe it is true. In fact, even today I watch with close scrutiny the relationship between America and Israel.
There is also, thirdly, the blessing of a promise. It says in the last part of verse 3: “And in you all the families, (not just the Jews, not just the Semites, but all the families of the earth) shall be blest.” This is the promise of a Redeemer. Take your Bibles and turn to Galatians, please. Galatians chapter 3 and I will read a couple of verses that make this so clear. Galatians chapter 3, follow along as I begin in verse 8: “And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith” (note this) preached the Gospel, the good news. It’s hard to see it in Genesis, but here he delineates it. Preach the Gospel beforehand to Abraham, and the gospel was in these words: “All the nations shall be blest in you. So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.” Look at verse 28 and 29 of the same chapter: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor freeman, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs, according to the promise. There was the promise given to Abraham, the ?, the evangelistic thrust of this Abrahamic Covenant that by your obedience, Abraham, I will bring from your seed that one that will bless the whole world, speaking of Jesus Christ himself.
Now I want you to read the first part of verse 4, how did Abraham respond? “So Abraham went forth as the Lord had spoken to him.” As I studied this passage, a lot of different words came to my mind that characterize the life of Abraham, obedience, faith, willingness to risk, to change, but the one word that seemed to strike me the most was the word submission. In fact, I think we can find from these few verses two principles related to submission. Let me give them to you. We’ll call this a definition.
First of all submission is believing without comprehending. Abraham, I want to make you a father of nations. Did he comprehend that promise? No. Abraham, I am going to take you west, southwest, to a new land. Did he comprehend where it was? No. But he submitted to the call. Submission is believing without comprehending. They’ve discovered a letter written from an exiled Egyptian to his Pharaoh living at the time of Abraham. This is a man who had been sent away from Egypt in exile. The Pharaoh sent him to the unknown land of Palestine. This has been discovered--the letter this man wrote back to his Pharaoh. I quote from David Hocking who read this letter, or a copy of it. The man writes his Pharaoh this spiteful letter, “Here where you have exiled me are figs and grapes, where there is more wine than water. Honey and oil are plentiful, all kinds of fruit hang upon the trees. Barley and wheat grow in the fields, and herds of cattle of all types graze here.” And he kind of laughs, “Ha, ha, you’ve exiled me here, and this is an oasis.” I can’t help but think of Abraham leaving Ur the place of fantastic civilization. It was by its own right a fertile region. He’s heading through the Arabian desert, probably scratching his head thinking, God, where are you taking me? He doesn’t know that just beyond the desert is a place like this. Abraham submitted without comprehending. The point is that God knew.
Secondly, submission is obeying without understanding. It is believing without comprehending. It is obeying without understanding. Hebrews chapter 11 verse 8, would you turn there. You’ve got to see this. If you’ve been with us in our series, Hebrew 11, you’ve already studied this passage, but you’ve got to see it again. Hebrews 11:8 reads, “By faith, Abraham, when he was called (that happened in Genesis chapter 12 verses 1-3) obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance. (Now note these words, you ought to underline them in your text.) And he went out not knowing where he was going.” Just try taking a vacation with a family without a roadmap. I’ve got this thing all mapped out. In this call of God, was this element of submission without understanding. God didn’t give him a detailed roadmap saying, “Abraham, here’s what’s going to happen there, and this is what is going to happen to you here.” He just said, “Go.” Though he didn’t understand it, he went. God hasn’t given any of us a detailed roadmap. We don’t know what’s around the bend. His will for us may mean a loss of a job, the loss of a loved one by death or divorce. It may mean financial loss, pain, sickness. It may mean wealth. It may mean standing alone. The key with Abraham is that you have the confidence in your soul that you are traveling with God, and that he knows that He’s sovereign. More than anything else, rather than have an answer, you’d rather have Him as your companion. And so you go with God.
Imagine the wonder of being considered as is given in the text three times throughout the Bible: being called, being considered the friend of God. In fact, God will even refer to himself as, hey, I’m the God of Abraham, what an honor. The friend of God. I think of what Jesus Christ wrote in John chapter 15 verse 13, “Greater love has no man than this that one (referring to himself) would lay down his life for his friends.” If you’ve never trusted Jesus Christ, the delightful thing is knowing that, when you come to the cross and you give Him your sin and you give Him yourself, you give Him your life, Jesus Christ becomes your friend. You become a friend of God. Believer, whenever you live this kind of life willing to risk, willing to change, willing to serve, to love, to pray, to give, God says of you, “You are my friend.” Submission is obeying what you believe God wants you to do to advance His cause.
I close with this story. Sam Kamaleson, who is the vice president of a mission organization, told the story of a seventy year old lady who came to Christ. This lady came up to this her new pastor one day and said, “I believe God has called me into the ministry. What should I do? He said exactly what I would have said, “Well, maybe you ought to pray about it.” Boy, what classic advice. Didn’t have a clue, but at least he wasn’t wrong. Go home and pray. She did. She went home and began to pray. It seemed that God was impressing her heart to do one particular thing. She went down to the drugstore, she bought a batch of 3 by 5 cards and wrote on those cards theses words: “Are you homesick? Come to my home for tea at 4:00.” She lived in Melbourne. Then she took that stack of 3 by 5 cards and went all around the University of Melbourne putting them on posterboards, placing them in places where people would see them, at the cafeteria, leaving them everywhere. Are you homesick? Come to my home at 4:00 for tea. So she prepared tea at 4:00. Days went by, nobody came, but she continued to prepare tea. Finally on the fifteenth day an Indonesian student showed up at her door homesick and as eager to talk as she was to listen. So she served him tea and listened. He got back to campus and told all his friends, “Hey, you won’t believe it. I met a lady that’s just like my grandmother.” Soon many were coming. God gave that lady a ministry for ten years. When she died, there were no less than 70 pallbearers, Indonesians, Malaysians, Indians, Pakistanis, international students who had come to her home and found Jesus Christ. She’d served them tea and shared the Gospel. Here’s a lady who had heard and obeyed the call of God. You say, boy, I wish God would give me a call. I wish He’d impress my heart. Are you praying? Are you wanting? Are you desiring? Are you asking, Lord, I by faith want to make a difference in this world for your kingdom. Make it clear where. My friend, are you a friend of God? He is your friend, who will accept you. Believer, are you a man or a woman or a young person of faith willing to leave it all behind for the sake of being the companion of God? Let’s pray.
With your head bowed and your eyes closed, I just want to give you a moment alone with the Lord. I’m convinced that, whenever the word is preached, somehow, some way, even though the words are never said, God’s spirit because truth is presented has an avenue where He can probe your heart. He can pull back the facade and penetrate with His truth and area in your life that is an obstacle to becoming a person of faith, a person submitting to the word of God without comprehending, without understanding for the simple sake of submitting to God. I don’t know what that obstacle may be for the believer perhaps it’s following the Lord in baptism. Perhaps it’s sharing Christ with the next door neighbor. Perhaps it’s standing up to an employer who has asked you to lie. Are you willing to risk for the sake of submission and obedience? If you are here this morning and you are an unbeliever, we have counselors who want to sit and take the word and show you, and, while we sing in just a moment, would you slip out of your chair. Perhaps you’re a believer who needs to pray with someone, that’s available too. Perhaps you need to make a decision such as joining this church fellowship or following the Lord in believers’ baptism. I invite you to meet me here at the front as we sing. Would you stand with me please with your heads bowed and your eyes closed. I will step in front here to greet anyone who would like to make a decision for Christ. Let’s sing “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus.”