The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go 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 peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”
So Abram left, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.
Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.
From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord. Then Abram set out and continued toward the Negev.
Abram the man from Ur of the Chaldeans. The man whom God singles out to signify a new chapter in His dealings with mankind.
On what basis does God choose Abram?
Its really hard to find any particular reasons. He was the son of Terah, a desert wanderer. He had a barren wife and hence, no children. He was a stranger in a strange land. Abram had nothing going for him, but God called him out to be the father of the Jewish nation, a small tribe which God chose to be the bearers of His message: who were made responsible and accountable for both God’s law and God’s grace in this world. Through them came Moses, David and the prophets. Into their community was born the Christ with the message of salvation for the whole world.
But when God called Abram, he had nothing going for him. And when God calls you, it will not be dependent on your success nor abilities. God can use and will use anyone – He may well be calling you today! We are only to respond in faith, trusting God.
The account of the life of Abram is more than just an historical narrative. It is an outstanding example of faith in God. Jesus speaks of his faith. Stephen reviews the life of Abram extensively in defence of his own faith before the Sanhedrin.
The writer to the Hebrews tells us that Abram, “was looking forward to a city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God”.
Abram was an Aramean and descendant of Shem who lived around 2000BC. He belonged to a rootless, unsettled and semi-nomadic tribe who wandered among the more settled people in search of food and water for their flocks. This tribe were known as the “Habiru” hence they are called Hebrews. In Genesis 14:13, Abram is called “Abram the Hebrew.
With his father Terah, and all his family, Abram was called by God, to leave Ur and to move about 500 kms westwards and to settle in Haran. Later God calls him to move further into Canaan and he establishes bases and places of worship at Shechem, Bethel (the place of God) and Mamre.
After a life of frequent encounters with and challenges from God, both Abraham (as he is later called) and his wife Sarah are buried in the cave of Machpelah (present day Hebron). Although God had promised him land “from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates”, the only land he ever owned was the cave at Machpelah where he, his wife and his offspring were buried.
And yet, he is acclaimed as the true man of faith. He saw the promises of God as not being limited to time or space but having an eternal significance. And while this promise never materialised in his own lifetime he never had doubt that it was God’s word and that it would ultimately come to pass. And, as the writer to the Hebrews suggests … the promise is of a city and a place that is even beyond this life. It is the new heaven and the new earth. The new Jerusalem.
What does “faith” mean to you?
So often “faith” is a stumbling block for us. We “believe” so far, but then we have doubts because we don’t see any proof or justification about what we have believed.
The writer to the Hebrews however, in Hebrews 11:1, defines faith as “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see”.
Faith must take us beyond the realm of this present reality. If I only believe what I know to be real then it is not faith at all but a calculation of probabilities.
Faith must take me into the unknown, where I am convinced of the words, character and integrity of the Promise-maker and am totally prepared to let Him lead me through the dark places where I cannot even see where to place my feet, let alone the light at the end of the tunnel.
Faith is trusting the unseen God, who is everywhere to be seen; hearing Him in the deafening silence, and following Him along unknown paths to the destination which has been clearly presented to us.
This faith cannot be worked up, or bought. We cannot train ourselves to believe. It is a matter of choice alone. I must make a decision to believe and to follow. I must yield to the Creator’s purpose. And if you haven’t yet made that decision, or need a renewed confidence in the God of infinite grace, then make the choice today to trust Him with all your heart and mind and body.
When God entered into a relationship with Abram He was taking another step to bring mankind back into relationship with Himself. And how often have we not already seen this in the reading of the Scriptures so far – the Flood, the Tower of Babel. And we will see God’s continuing work until the promised end of time.
The significant new step that God took with Abram was that He entered into a covenant with him. A covenant is a metaphysical kind of contract in which each party commits everything they have to the other without reservation and without condition. It also has no time limit. Kings entered into limited covenants with each other, tribal leaders did also. David and Jonathan entered into a covenant. Marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman.
God’s covenant with Abram had no conditions. In fact, when the covenant was entered into, God put Abram to sleep so that he couldn’t dilute the covenant through the contribution of his human weakness.
The process of the Covenant in Genesis 15:9-21
One of the steps of covenant making is the incorporation of the covenanting partners names into each other. It is at this point that Abram’s name becomes Abr-ah-am as he incorporates the “ah” from Y-ah-weh. And God from this point on is called “the God of Abraham”.
God’s blessing in the covenant is sevenfold :
He says in Genesis 12:2,3
1. I will make you a great nation
2. I will bless you
3. I will make your name great
4. You will be a blessing
5. I will bless those who bless you
6. Whoever curses you I will curse
- All peoples on earth will be blessed by you.
It is, in slightly different words, a repeat of God’s original blessing on Adam, where God says, in Genesis 1:28-30
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.
The covenant is significant because we still live under that covenant today – indeed God has not changed His mind from the very beginning of time. He has taken different steps and different approaches to an often negligent, often rebellious people but ultimately His desire is to make us His people and to bless us.
We are called to be a people of faith as Abraham was a man of faith. A man who heard God’s call and responded. He was not special nor was he necessarily a particularly good choice, but God called and Abraham responded. And he believed throughout his life, even though there was very little physical evidence to support his faith.
Do you think that God has made covenant with you in any way?
Indeed, the very fact that you have life, is a sign of His covenant with you. But there is more, He has made covenant with you in Jesus Christ. And still further He might have made covenant with you in a particular way.
I believe that God made covenant with me in our marriage. He has blessed us together and He has given us children. And I believe that I have a responsibility to this family to draw them into this faith which I have; by my life, my love, my integrity and my provision.
I also believe that God made covenant with me in my ordination. He has called me into a life of faith and leadership in which I am daily challenged to be in His Presence and to know His guidance. He has appointed me a shepherd of His flock and I will be accountable to Him at the last. I am a servant under orders, which is the original meaning of ordination.
Indeed God has made covenant with you, and He has a promise of salvation and a blessing of hope for you – grasp it by faith and put your whole trust in God.
Faith is a growing experience. We also are called to grow in our faith – to look and see God at work, to learn to trust and to know Jesus as our Saviour. And just as the Abrahamic covenant has continued through the generations so we are called to ensure that our own faith and hope will continue in our children and our children’s children.