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God’s Calling - Gen. 12:1-3 - Part 1
Several generations after Noah, the population was back on the rise, but it didn’t take long for its moral condition to decline to the point of where it was before the flood. People lived according to their own rules, and according to archeology finds from that time period, it included all kinds of vices and perversions.
Instead of taking heart to the destruction of mankind and the earth because of these same things in the past, and seeking to know God, their Creator, they once again “exchanged truth for a lie” (Rom. 1:23).
They began coming up with all kinds of mythical beings who dealt with the physical world and they carved idols to represent these imaginary gods, and then did appalling things to appease them. God could have easily turned His back on creation once again. He could have abandoned humanity to it’s own self-destructive ignorance. But God had a plan to redeem the world beginning with one man, and he would make this man a model of saving grace and establish him as the founding father of a new and unique nation.
Over time, as this plan unfolded, this nation would become the means by which all the world might hear of the One True Creator God and have the opportunity to return to Him. God’s redemptive plan began with His choice of a man named Abram. Most of us know him by the name of Abraham, but he was born Abram. God Himself changed his name a a critical point in the story, but for the first 99 of his 175 years, he answered to Abram.
Abram lived around 2000 BC in the highly populated and cultured city known as “Ur of theChaldeans,” also known as Mesopotamia (which is Located in present day Iraq). This is where archeologists and historians call the cradle of civilization because it’s where ancient people first gathered into cities and established societies. Historians say: “Few periods from ancient history are as well documented by artifacts and inscriptions as the time of Abraham.” So we know a lot about his culture, religion, beliefs and every day life.
One of the things I want to highlight about Abram is that he an ordinary member of his society, no different than his neighbors. Up to this point all the people we have covered in Genesis were Believers, not so with Abram. When he was born, he got the name “Abram,” which means “the father is exalted” - and is said that it was most likely a reference to the deity worshiped by his family.
As a little background, the people in ancient Mesopotamia worshiped a pantheon of mythical gods, ruled by a moon god, “Sin,” whom they regarded as “the lord of heaven” and “the divine creator.” And just like most everyone else, Abram worshiped these idols and accepted mythology as truth: Joshua 24:2 - “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.”
Even though he was an idol worshiper, God appeared specifically to Abram and gave him personalized instructions: Gen. 12:1 - “The LORD had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.’”
I want to note 2 things here: God didn’t show up and appear to a group of people and then offer a general invitation to follow Him. And also note that Abram didn’t seek out God for a relationship; God approached him!
We don’t even know if Abram ever heard of the One True Creator God before this point, and by an act of pure grace, God reached down into that idolatrous hole to select Abram out of all people!
So why Abram? He was an idolater! He wasn’t worthy of divine mercy! The Lord chose Abram for reasons known only in heaven. We know for certain that he did nothing to deserve, earn, or merit God’s favor.
Nevertheless, the Lord appeared to this ignorant, sinful, superstitious idol worshiper and told him: Gen. 12:1-3 - “...Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all the people on earth will be blessed through you.”
So God’s call of Abram began with a very clear command! He told him to leave his country, and to receive the promised blessings he had to leave behind everything he relied on for safety and provision - homeland and relatives - and trust that God would honor His commitment.
The author of Hebrews said this about him: Heb. 11:8 - “It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going.”
Let’s stop and think about this for a minute! Let’s put ourselves in his place! You’re about 75 years old with a wife in her 60’s. You’ve lived in the same place your whole life. You have a home in a familiar city with a familiar community that you’ve known since you were born. You worshiped the same pagan gods as most everyone around you, including your family... And suddenly the Lord appears to you in physical manifestation - weather physical or verbally - you cannot deny as authentically supernatural, and He tells you to pack your bags and hit the road for an undisclosed location! Can you imagine the conversations he had with his family, friends and neighbors during this process!?
But I have many friends who have heard a clear calling from God and stepped out immediately in faith, and maybe even some of you in here today have done the same. But how difficult was that?! EVERYTHING in us recoils from making big changes without major planning! Most of us need to see where we’re going before committing to major changes.
God called Abram to obey this call without complete information, but He gave Abram sufficient information to make a reasonable decision. Big promises make big demands on our faith, doesn’t it? They demand a big vision. Given the choice, Abram would probably have settled for 40 acres of prime real estate. He would have been content with enough land for himself and his family to settle on.
But God didn’t ask Abram what he wanted. God never asks us what we want. God is NOT - as some like to think - a person who waits for our permission to act in our lives. He sovereignly chose to give Abram an entire country!
How about you and I? How do we settle for visions that are too small in view of what God has promised? We are part of an army with a great commission. We have received marching orders to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. We are commanded to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God; we are told to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling...
And along with those instructions come divine promises: “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of age...” “It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure...”
These are big promises that demand a big vision of us, but if God is with us, at work in our hearts, what task can be impossible?
Yet all too often, we don’t expect God to do anything dramatic with our lives or the lives of Christians around us. We have grown up used to comfortable mediocrity and find it hard to hope for real change.
We are overwhelmed with fear and unbelief when our sin is revealed, because we don’t think God can really deal with our sin or the sin of those whom we love.
Like Abram, we need to hear the challenge posed by God’s promises: our vision is too small. The one who has begun this good work in us WILL bring it to completion in His own time.
Join us next week as we continue with God’s covenant with Abram and his departure.