The Bible’s account of Abraham begins in Genesis chapter 12. However, before entering that text, we need to get our bearings. God has scattered the people from the Tower of Babel (chapter 11). As these clans and tribes spread out, they carry with them the paganism that finds its roots in their now famous building project. Oh, there are some exceptions (Job, Melchizedek to name a few), but by and large the nations are losing sight of the one true God.
Five generations pass, life spans shorten, and spiritual darkness is everywhere. But see, that is one of the amazing things about God. You and I (and all of our relatives both near and far) are fickle, unreliable, and prone to forget the One who gave us life. But God never breaks a promise, and His line will never fail. And so the promise made in Genesis 3:15 echoes through the centuries as God slowly works in human history to bring about His redemptive plan.
And as the curtain rises in Genesis 12, that redemptive plan zooms in on one man. But something is not right. We don’t find some oasis of redemptive truth, some bastion of Yahweh worship. Instead we go to Ur of the Chaldeans, into a pagan land full of pagan people. And God’s light shines on one particular man.
What does God want? What’s the requirement? Faithful obedience to the forsaking of all others.
God calls people to leave all and receive His blessing (1-3).
God gives Abram a very clear command. “Go.” But that command is loaded with significance, not because of where God is calling Abram, but because of what God is calling Abram to leave behind. “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” Leave everything you know, everything you hold dear, everything that is precious to you, count it as nothing. Abandon allegiance to family, friends, religious systems and culture, and go to a place that I will (eventually) reveal to you.
It amazes me that the call of God in the life of a person can be so simple, and yet be so all-encompassing at the same time. Why doesn’t God tell Abram where he is going? There could be any number of reasons, but one that is of vital importance to us is that God wants Abram’s focus on Him and not on the future. Think about the amount of faith required to step out at this call! And yet there is a huge parallel to the call God places on the life of every man, woman and child who professes faith in Christ.
Matthew 10:37-38 reads “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” The Christian life is so similar. Christ doesn’t lay out the immediate future. He doesn’t promise a life of ease or comfort. He leaves the future vague, and looks at us and asks a very simple question: “Will you trust me?” No back up plans, no second thoughts, no promises, guarantees, or roadmaps. Just the promise of the Creator of the universe that he will never leave us or forsake us, and that His plan for our life is perfectly designed to bring us into conformity to the image of His Son.
That is faith. That is the faith I want, I crave, I yearn for. And so I cry out to God “help my unbelief!” I can’t generate the faith-response of Abram from within myself—it must be granted from above, because within myself I find nothing but weakness and frailty. And yet there exists a sure hand, a sustaining arm, a grip that will never let me go—and faith places me squarely inside of it.
It is that faith that moves us into the sphere of God’s blessing.
After His command, God lists three things that He is going to do. First, He will make Abram into a great nation. This is great, except for the fact that Abram and his wife are childless and from a human perspective cannot have children. Second, God promises to bless Abram. What does it look like when the Maker of all things decides to place His blessing on a human being? We’ll see as we go. Third, God is going to make Abram’s name great. What a thought! The very thing that mankind attempted to gain for himself at the Tower of Babel will be given to the man who forsakes everything else (including himself), and places his trust completely in God.
God’s first command to Abram is actually followed by a second, “you will be a blessing.” Most translations somewhat obscure the force of this, but God’s speech to Abram can be broken down into two commands with three things God will do as a result of each:
- and I will make you a nation
- I will bless you
- I will make your name great
- Be a blessing
- and I will bless those who bless you
- curse those who dishonor you
- bless all the families of the earth through you
Faith, blessing, and the New Testament Christian
All of these get fleshed out in the life of Abram, but let’s stop here for a second and think about the ramifications for New Testament Christians. God calls us to forsake all us for the sake of His name. This requires total faith in His character and promises. It is at that point of obedience that we can expect to experience the blessings of God. For those who walk with Christ, the obedience that faith produces is vital for experiencing the full blessing of God.
Those blessings are different than they were for Abraham—different promises and different context, but the same God. So, a simple challenge: do you possess a faith in Christ that absolutely mandates the letting go of all other things? That includes job, family, sports, relationships, and anything else that would threaten to become an idol of the heart. This doesn’t mean we neglect these things, but rather that they never take the place of God in our lives. And then, does your faith produce obedience to the word of the Lord?
Oh, lots of people claim the name of Christ. But do you walk in a fellowship with Him that produces obedience to His word, and allows you to experience His blessing on your life? That is where Abram went, and it is where I want to live on a daily basis.
Brian Dempsey is the Lead Pastor of Washington Baptist Church in Dillsboro, IN. Brian has degrees from Northland Baptist Bible College (BA), Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary (MDiv) and is currently a student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (DMin).