Hebrews 11:8-10 Genesis 12:1-7
People like plants tend to put down roots, at least in previous generations, and especially here in the northeast. For example, in South Bowdoin, there’s a cemetery where at least 5 generations of my family are buried. Several of my cousins still live within sight of the cemetery and where the old homestead was before it burned in the 60’s.
Even in our present culture, people who are basically content do much the same. They don’t move far from home; some kids have a hard time even leaving the house for years and years and years… We get comfortable where we are and don’t even want to think about leaving – familiar neighborhood, set routines, circle of friends, are all significant parts of our lives. To consider having to learn a new routine, fit into a new neighborhood, establish new friendships is too painful to even consider.
Abraham, I’m sure, understood that well. He was about the business of life – living at the southeastern tip of the Fertile Crescent with a number of his immediate relatives in the place he had called home for 70 years. Terah, Abraham’s father, along with others of the family who had settled in southeastern Iraq, approx. 150 miles from Baghdad, were described by God to Joshua as idol-worshipers (Josh. 24:2). It was from there that God took Abraham (Josh. 24:3) and led hm to Canaan.
God called, he went out – “Abraham obeyed when he was called”
God commanded, he did as he was told (Gen. 12:1, 4)
According to Josh. 24:2-3 God took Abraham out of idolatry, out of the land beyond the River, and led him through Canaan. The inspired writer used the same language to describe God’s taking of Enoch in Gen. 5:24
Here we have the two sides of God’s dealing with men: from human perspective God calls, man responds; from divine perspective, God irresistibly directs the course of man’s affairs. Abraham’s view – his departure was unplanned; God had ordained that Abraham would be next in the line from Adam to Christ. To that end a move to Canaan was required for God’s plan to be implemented.
In the middle of his life, at age 70, God required Abraham to leave permanent home and many relatives behind. He packed his stuff, gathered his servants, and with wife Sarah began a 500 mile journey simply because God told him to do so.
land of promise v.9
land I (God) will show you (Gen. 12:1)
Imagine trying to convince your family and servants to pack up all earthly belongings, then set out on a journey to relocate. When they ask, “Where are we moving to?” your answer is “I dunno; God will show me.”
Now, consider how much faith would be required if God had told Abraham, “Go to your homepage, click on the link I put there; it will bring up a Google map with directions for you.” Seriously, little faith would have been required of Abraham if God had revealed his destination during their initial conversation.
Instead, God required Abraham to have faith in Him, in His revealing what Abraham needed to know when he needed to know it. Abraham had to have sufficient confidence in God that he could inspire confidence in his family and servants.
It is also important to remember what God meant when he promised the land to Abraham’s seed, or offspring. In John 8:39 Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for claiming to be the offspring of Abraham – “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham.” Paul states it very explicitly as well in Gal. 3:29, “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” NIV
unimaginable – see Gen. 16:1-2
father of a great nation (Gen. 12:2)
the source of blessing for the world (Gen. 12:3) through Isaac and Jacob (Heb. 12:9)
How could this be? Sarah was barren, yet God promised Abraham would be a father. Not only that, he would have lots of offspring – a great (large) nation. Abraham couldn’t pick and choose which part of God’s promise he wanted to believe; either he had faith in God or he didn’t.
Just as with the promise of a destination, God required Abraham to have faith in His ability to provide Abraham and Sarah with a son, impossible though that might seem. Of great significance to us is the fact that the Seed promised to Abraham and by whom all families of the earth would be blessed is none other than Jesus himself (Gal. 3:16).
Abraham heard the Gospel message (Gal. 3:8), the good news that the “seed of the woman” would be his descendant; the one who would crush the serpent, who would reconcile fallen man to a holy God. Likewise, those who hear that same good news and believe it will inherit the promises made to Abraham.
an eternal inheritance v.10
“he lost sight of earth that he might keep heaven in view” Clarke
Abraham’s confidence in the future did not lie in his stock holdings, his investment in gold and silver, his own ability to build and make an empire. Nor did he see the land promise as the significant part of what God had said to him. Of far greater importance to Abraham was God’s promise of an everlasting possession guaranteed by an everlasting covenant. See Gen. 17:1-14
a city with foundations
Abraham viewed Canaan as a temporary residence; his tent was his permanent “non-resident” dwelling – that is, Abraham had no plans for an earthly home more permanent than a tent. He was intent on investing in his eternal future. Abraham considered Canaan as the down-payment on the real inheritance, heaven. He valued the spiritual promises of God as of far greater worth and importance than temporal promises. He understood the earthly promises were merely encouragements to seeking after the eternal spiritual things promised.
unstoppable” – God himself
We’re told Abraham looked for a specific city – not heaven on earth, Communist utopia, cosmic oneness, Nirvana, or any of the other commonly held concepts of heaven. Abraham’s ultimate goal was the city designed and built by God, not man.
“self-made man” (Gen. 13:2) yet looked beyond self
Abraham did not rely on his own genius to create a retirement plan that was out of this world. At times in his dealings with others he relied on his own abilities – his liaison with Hagar, telling Abimelech that Sarah was his sister – and each time he got into serious trouble. Yet God credits Abraham with true faith, confidence in Someone outside himself, Someone who is a worthy object of faith. In fact, we are told in Gen 15:6, “And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”
his eye was on the city (the reward), his faith was in God (the Rewarder)
Abraham made a hugely important distinction between a goal and the object of his faith, not confusing the two. Only God is unstoppable; only God has the resources necessary to bring his children safely home. God has graciously given us promises and goals for which to strive that encourage us to faithfulness. But confidence in the goal is never what gets us to it; we must keep our eyes on mile posts and eventually the finish line but our faith must be firmly fixed on God.
How tied are we to our comfort zones? Do we see new places or opportunities of service as stepping stones to Heaven? Are we consumed with the consumer mindset that is occupied with earthly things? or are we investing our time and treasure in eternity?
Do we have strong enough confidence in God and his promises that we can inspire the same confidence in others? That is an essential ingredient in our part in effective evangelism.
Do we have enough faith in God that we can pack up and leave, going to the place he will show us, confident that is where we will find the greatest blessing? That is an essential ingredient in our part of receiving God’s blessing.
Abraham had that sort of faith, not perfectly and not without interruption; but he had it nonetheless and it was credited to him for righteousness; may the same be true of us.