Going Into the Unknown | Genesis 12
Going Into the Unknown | Genesis 12
Scripture: Genesis 12
None of us here can tell for certain what is going to be our tomorrow. We plan, we work, and we execute great projects but man is unsure of tomorrow. All that we can do is take one day at a time and trust God for each day. We do not know our tomorrow but we know God who holds our tomorrow.
We are going to see today how to face our tomorrow trusting in God’s promises.
1The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people, and your father’s household to the land I will show you. 2“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. 3I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse, and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” 4So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. 5He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.
In Genesis 12, we find God calling Abram from a known territory to an unknown territory,
The call of Abram begins with God. God calls Abram for his mission, his purpose and his plan. Abram just had to respond to God. God even today continues to call people for his purpose.
This incident happened somewhere in 2000 BC. Abram was living in the city of north Mesopotamia in a city called Haran. Even today this place is called the city of Haran.
My father worked in a Central Government Job. As a result, he used to have a transfer every 3-5 years. In 1990, we were in Calcutta. I was in 10th standard and I had a great time growing up in that big city. I kind of liked the people there, I loved the city, the trams, the metro, buses, food, culture, the markets, sports, neighbors, church friends, school friends and so on.
All of a sudden, my father came one day and said, “I have got a transfer and we got to move.” I could not take it. It was difficult for the whole family. We had a lot of connections in that city. It was in those days when there was not even a land phone at my home, no internet. Once you leave, you do not get to see them again. It was very difficult to go behind the known and go to the unknown. It is not easy.
The call of Abram is a good picture of a believer. We have all been called by God. We do not know our future but the only certainty that we have is God who has called us. If you are facing an unknown future, I want you to see how you can face it like Abram.
Abram was not a young man now. He was not thinking of career choices, thinking of moving to a better land. The text says that Abram was 75 years of age. From the biblical record, we can trace his wife’s age to 65 years now. This is the time when a couple thinks about retirement, not looking to venture out for a journey, not knowing where they are going to.
Humanly speaking Abram had no reason to leave Haran. If you have been one of his neighbours and see that Abram is packing his belongings and ask him, “Abram where are you going?” I don’t know. Whose idea, is it?” Abram would say God spoke to me. Which God, “God did not reveal who is this God?” It was just faith. Many times, when we start our Christian journey, we too do not know God completely. But it is the conviction in our spirit by God’s spirit about this true God that we decide to follow him. And it is in the journey that we get to know God better.
Genesis 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.
To leave is a universal requirement of discipleship.
Abraham is a type and pattern for our faith. We are called to leave everything and follow God.
The journey actually began when Abram and his father Terah left the Ur of Chaldeans. Genesis 11:31 Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Harran, they settled there.
So, the call and journey began back in the Ur of Chaldeans. Now in Genesis 12, God is telling Abram, “Continue the pilgrimage. Your father has died, now it is time to move on.”
Genesis 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.”
Look at all the repetition and elaboration of the call: Go from your country, your people, your father’s house. This is a literary device used to show us the importance of this event. Later see in Genesis 22:2 Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”
Notice the situational parallels. God is telling Abram on another occasion towards the end of his life. He asks Abraham to go to a place that is not specified yet.
See the repetition: Take your son, your only son, whom you love – Isaac. Take Isaac and go, that would have been enough.
Now, we are able to read this text in the entire context of the scripture, even the NT. God himself paid the price when gave his only begotten son. God used the same vocabulary as in the NT: John 3:16 God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
That is exactly what God calls. Following God does not happen as a one-time event, even at the end of his life in Genesis 22 Abram has to walk by faith and pay a price for discipleship.
God’s Call Does Not Necessarily Give the Full Map Right Up Front
You will have to follow him right up to the way. He will then show you the place, show you the mount where it has to be.
Sometimes God directly speaks to us to move, yet at other times God changes our circumstances and forces a move in our life. Many of you here are following God but you do not know your tomorrow. The circumstances may seem very bleak and things are changing around you. God is telling you to move by faith and he will take care of your tomorrow.
God’s Call in Abram’s Life
a. Leave Your Country
Abram, leave your familiar surroundings.
Haran is located in the southeastern part of modern-day Turkey. There Abram was located living in a world that was extremely delightful. This city has been occupied 1000 years before Abraham all the way to the present world. It was a well-watered place, a place so habitable. They had invented writing by now. Historians say there was a library in Haran with 2000 stone tablets. They had a detailed understanding of astronomy and mathematics. They are the ones who invented the wheels and arch. Pottery began with them. Some 500 years before Abraham the pyramids had been erected in Egypt. Abraham came from a developed world then.
The mountains and valleys in Haran are so lush green, well-watered, and well-occupied by people. Haran was the business capital of the world. They had imported goods even from India. Haran was the epitome of an ancient civilization.
Abram was told to leave his country. He was told to go to Canaan. It was like going from a very developed world to a country that had no literate men. It is like God asking us to go from Bangalore city to the Western Ghats. No electricity, no concrete houses, no internet, no mobile or land phones. In Haran the cities had houses. But you see his journey into Canaan: Genesis 12:8 From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent. Abram left his permanent house structure and stayed in tents.
Abram had to move away from the city accommodation and permanent dwelling to the life of that of an outsider and that of a pilgrim. The NT tells us: Hebrews 11:8-10 8By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9By faith he made his home in the Promised Land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
When God called Abram, he left. He just knew God. He lived in the Promised Land like a stranger and waited for the other world which was permanent.
Now listen, some people like to travel from place to place, and country to country. Abram was not like that. He left his country because God told him to go.
Abram not only left his country:
b. Leave Your People
He is being asked to leave his roots. Not just the geography and his settings, but leaving his people. All his natural connections are going to be gone. Sarai means princess. She may have been royalty from a noble family. Remember, Abram is addressed by the Hittites in Genesis 23:6 as Prince. Abram and Sarai were extremely well connected to people and society. They were royalty. They had a lot to gain staying in Haran. This is the kind of cost that God required of Abram. From being upper class to no class; from somebody to a nobody; from familiar territory to uncharted territory.
c. Leave Your Father’s Household
Here is the highest price of discipleship, leaving family. Already Abram and Sarai had some involuntary family separation. Abram already had a loss in the family in Ur, his brother Haran had died and he had added responsibility of his brother’s son, nephew Lot. When they moved on to Haran there was Terah the father of Abram who died. It is usually when there is a death in the family there is more bonding that happens which gives people support. But now after the death of his father Terah, God asked him to move out of all connections.
Listen, God is working here as the great interrupter of a good life. God is the one who knocks us when life seems to be going great and smoothly. Why all that cost to follow God? Why is God asking all this in our life? Is God interrupting us to punish us or is it to protect us? Is it too real to deprive us of physical comfort or is it rather prepare us for eternal comfort, something much better? Are you going through interruptions in life? Remember God is in it.
God Calls So That We May Lose the Grip of Worldly Things.
The one thing that God does through his call is try to make us lose our grip on the things of this world.
God called Abram to protect Abram from the sin of idolatry. In Abram’s case moving out of the country, out of his people, and out of his father’s house would be breaking up the pattern of security and friends and family and country that would have kept him paralyzed in the family’s pattern of idolatry. Joshua 24:2-3 2Joshua said to all the people, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Long ago your ancestors, including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the Euphrates River and worshiped other gods. 3But I took your father Abraham from the land beyond the Euphrates and led him throughout Canaan and gave him many descendants.
The implication is here that God taking Abram out of his people and country is to protect him against the sin of idolatry, forsaking those idols, extricating himself from past temptations and even from his peer group that formed him to life a life in idolatry and away from God. The Bible says: 1 Corinthians 15:33 Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” So, there is that rescue operation from idolatry that could be behind this purpose of leaving.
God in his wisdom touches our circumstances, and brings in a change so that we may lose grip of worldly things and trust in him only.
God Calls Us So That We Man Learn Faith
God said, “Go to the land I will show you.” You leave and go. Go into unknown territory without a map. This is a formula either for disaster or for faith. God calls so that you may walk by faith.
Abram is being called here to prefigure the experience that Israel later would have in Exodus. Abram’s life is a model here. Moses wrote this for his generation, who could possibly connect this to their own experience of going out of Egypt. They left the comfort of Egypt where they had been for 400 years into the wilderness to the Promised Land. Just like Abram make altars when God appeared to him in Bethel and Shechem, the God of Israel is going to make a covenant with them in Mount Sinai. They are to walk by faith to the Promised Land, not by sight.
Deuteronomy 8:2-5 2Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. 3He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. 4Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. 5Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you.
The Reason for God’s Call in Genesis 12: Blessings
2“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. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
Genesis 11:4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise, we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
In verses 2 and 3 there are 6 clauses. First, there are promises to bless Abram personally: I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great.
In the last three is: You are going to 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.”
The first three are you are going to be blessed, the last three is how God is going to use you when you are blessed. The middle one which I skipped is the pivot or the heart. It is called a blessing sandwich. What a delicious sandwich. First, it is delicious fresh bread, then a layer of mayonnaise and sauce, then there are these chunks of meat, then there is lettuce and finally another piece of bread.
The climax is in the heart, the middle. This is a common literary form in the OT where the punchline is in the heart or middle. It is not the first three or the last three promises. What is the middle one “You will be a blessing.” It is a command. So, the call of Abram is that God is going to make him to be a blessing so that he will bless others.
Blessing In New Testament
The promise of “seed” or descendants given to Abraham in Genesis 12 finds an astonishing revision in the New Testament. First, Jesus himself is the fulfilment of the promised seed.
Galatians 3:16 The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ.
The children of Abraham now include Gentiles who have faith in Jesus. Romans 4:11 And he received circumcision as a sign, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them.
It is the church that is the true Israel; the “chosen race … holy nation.” 1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
The Abrahamic land promises in Genesis 12 follow a similar trajectory in the New Testament.
First, the promise is expanded to embrace the whole earth or world. Although the promise of Genesis 12:1 focuses on Canaan, Paul speaks of a promise that Abraham “would inherit the world,” Romans 4:13 It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith.
A similar extension to the land promise is found in Matthew 5:5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Hare suggests that this talk of inheriting of the earth is another way referring to the kingdom of heaven being established in the world.
But in 1 Peter 1:4 and Colossians 1:12 the apostles speak of a heavenly inheritance. This shift can be also be observed in Jesus’ declaration that his kingdom is “not of this world” (John 18:36); and in references to a “heavenly country” and “heavenly Jerusalem” found in the letter to the Hebrews (Heb 11:8-16; 12:22).
“Earthly prosperity is no longer a mark of God’s blessing. The blessing package of a nation racially descended from Abraham, living in a prosperous land, has been transformed by Jesus into a church from all nations, belonging to a heavenly land with heavenly blessings.” Paul Barker is Regional Coordinator for Asia for Langham Preaching
Now, Abram heard the call and just left. In v4 they have reached the Promised Land. Abram leaves everything for a life of blessing. But now what is in that new land? He leaves Haran and comes to Canaan, Shechem, Bethel and comes to Negev. Canaan refers to the son of Ham. They are the cursed generation of Noah. What kind of land is this? Genesis 12:9 Then Abram set out and continued toward Negev.
Negev is a desert, dry, parched, uneven, useless land. Genesis 12:10 There was a famine in the land. Then famine. There is a famine in the land. Then they move to Egypt and Abram’s wife is taking captive by Pharaoh. If you had been Abram, what would you say and what would you feel? “Lord, I was doing very well in Haran, why did you call me out? Here I am suffering in this land after following you.”
Probably, many of you have followed Christ and all that you are seeing today is barrenness, loss and so on. Hold on friends. God knows what he is doing. He is teaching Abram how to live by faith. To depend on the Lord every step of his life and to love the Lord with all his heart.
Proverbs 3:5-6 5Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
The call is ultimately to bless Abram. See the upcoming chapters. God gave him physical blessings, land, possessions, respect, son, protection. God gave him honor.
What is the whole point of blessings?
It is not to be luxurious or to live in abundance. It is to be used by God for his glory. Remember, the blessing of God must never be confused with the material blessings. Of course, we often see God blessing us materially also, sure enough, but don’t confuse earthly prosperity with eternity blessings. God promises to bless us, it may or may not include prosperity. His blessing is his bond of favor with his people. And when you have God, you have everything you need.
Psalm 73:25-26 25Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. 26My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Brothers and sisters, when Abram was called to a place that God would give him as his inheritance he obeyed and went. Abram went into the unknown trusting God. He did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the Promised Land like a stranger, in a foreign country, he lived in tents. So did Isaac and Jacob. God did not make a mistake. For he was looking for to the city with foundations whose architect and builder is God. He was holding on to a better promise.
Abram is a great example for us today. In Genesis 12, He left the comfort of the then world to follow God and he was justified by faith. Today what is the unknown you are facing? You may not see clearly regarding your future; God is asking you to trust him this morning. You may see all barrenness and difficult terrain; God is telling hold on. I am with you and I am faithful who has called you.