Alfred Place Baptist Church

Abraham's Faith Strengthened

Genesis 12:4-9 “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 travelled 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 towards 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 towards the Negev”

 

For more than three score years and ten Abram did not know the Lord; he had little idea who God was; he and his family were indistinguishable from all the other worshippers of pagan gods in Ur (which was twin-towned with Haran). Yet, as we say, out of the blue God came to Abram, utterly sovereignly breaking in on his life, calling him to leave everything in Ur and Haran and start to follow him to a land that he would show him. In these verses cited above we learn of Abram’s response, and how God helped to nurture his new faith.

 

1. ON HIS JOURNEY TO CANAAN ABRAM WAS ENCOURAGED TO PUT HIS TRUST IN THE LORD.

 

This trust was evident as Abram immediately responded to the call of God. Here is the great New Testament commentary on his decision; “By 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” (Hebs. 11:8). We are told in Genesis, “So Abram left, as the Lord had told him” (v.4). There is no indication that Abram made any fuss, muttering under his breath, half negotiating with the Lord, in any way reluctantly going at his own time and in his own way, making a little display of coolness and independency. There was nothing like that. Abram went “as the Lord had told him.” He heard the ‘naked voice of God,’ Luther says, and immediately Abram obeyed. How important is that? It’s all important. It was the beginning of a relationship that would last for ever, and it started well. His actions indicated the impression the living, speaking God had made upon him. “I am merely the servant,” he was saying, “Jehovah is my master.” Abram had been made willing to do the will of God.

 

“My gracious Lord I own thy right to every service I could pay

And call it my supreme delight to hear thy dictates and obey”

 

I would say that if we are going to have a happy and useful Christian life with the prospect of doing good in the church and to the world we also have to respond to God’s directives as Abram did, quickly, joyfully and comprehensively.

 

You notice how all embracing was Abram’s response, that he took everything with him, Sarai his beloved wife of course, but also Lot his nephew and I suppose his ward. He also took “all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Hara.” You accumulate a lot of stuff in 75 years especially when you’ve prospered in one of the great cities of the world. What did that action declare? They were not going back; they were never going back. Nothing was put in storage; the kitchen sink or its equivalent was not left behind. Everything they had accumulated during the decades Abram had worked in Ur and Haran was loaded onto carts or on the backs of camels, and “they set out for the land of Canaan.”

 

Good beginnings encourage good endings, and so in a few words we are told, “and they arrived there” (v.5). A five hundred miles journey from Haran, fifteen hundred miles from Ur, and this whole journey is compressed into three words – “they arrived there.” They had walked the distance of Aberystwyth to Moscow “and they arrived there.” The reason for the bon voyage was Abram’s submission to the will of God; “Abram left as the Lord had told him.” God had promised Abram that he would show him the land to which he was taking him. Abram would soon be exploring this land and the Lord would be the wagon master taking him there and the tour guide. So every night of that long journey Abram could sleep as sweetly as a little child because God was taking him to the promised destination. They had no worries of bandits and marauders plundering and raping on the journey, and Abraham’s supreme confidence in the Lord fulfilling his word of promise would have affected the whole party – “What a wonderful God our master is serving!” – and so they arrived in Canaan.

 

Now let us set that in the full Biblical context. When Paul went journeying for his Lord he knew several shipwrecks. There was an occasion when he needed an armed guard of Roman militia to deliver him from the hands of assassins. I am not saying that if you obey God and go on a journey to preach for him that you’ll never have any difficulties on the way. We are not saying that; we don’t believe that if you do the will of God then it is always going to be plain sailing. We are not convinced that if we meet danger in the Christian life the reason is because we haven’t had the second blessing, or haven’t ‘laid everything on the altar,’ or that we are grieving the Spirit. We read Paul’s summary of his travels – and he was filled with the Spirit of God, and had been caught up to the third heaven – this model missionary. He wrote, “three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night
and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have laboured and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked
” (2 Cor. 11:25-27). Yet the Lord delivered him from them all. There’ve been missionaries who’ve had everything taken from them by robbers. There have been preachers who’ve been burned at the stake for serving Christ, but one principle remains inviolable, that through the protection of the Lord we are all immortal until our life’s work is complete

 

Now for Abram as for most of us there was a happy trouble-free journey, and one reason was that though 75 years of age he was actually a baby believer, maybe just a few months old in the Lord. When we begin walking with God he watches over us very carefully. A mother will watch over her toddler as he begins to walk, holding his hand, guiding him around obstacles; she won’t watch her teenage son in the same way though she loves him as much as her baby. He is strong enough to deal with the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. The older Christian knows this world opposes all who walk with the Lord and is prepared to stand firm against it, but a toddler isn’t aware of how tough it is to face a world outside the family home where other children can hit you. The first dealings of God with Abram developed in him a growing certainty of just how powerful and caring was his new Master. The Lord could take him without any fears on this long journey to Canaan. God was showing Abram what he does to those who trust and obey him. He is our Sovereign Protector; walls of salvation surround the souls of those he delights to defend. The angels of the Lord camp round about them. I believe that there is an aura of holy intimidation that emanates from the righteous of which they are unaware but which is felt by the world. Men in the office don’t try anything with a holy woman.

 

Let me illustrate this. The famous preacher Rowland Hill employed a convicted thief named Will Crewe as his gardener, believing him to be a reformed man, but soon a number of daring robberies took place in the vicinity, even the church itself was broken into and the silver communion cups stolen. One day Will Crewe was caught in the act of felony and arrested, convicted and ultimately executed. Rowland Hill went to visit him in prison and as they talked he asked, “How was it, William, that you never robbed me, when you had so many opportunities?” “Sir,” said the thief, “do you recollect the juniper-bush on the border against the dining room? I have many times hidden under it at night, intending, which I could so easily have done, to get into the house and plunder it – but sir, I was afraid; something said to me, he is a man of God. It is a house of prayer. If I break in there I shall surely be found out. So I could never pluck up courage to attempt it.

 

Then on another occasion in prison Crewe said to Rowland Hill, “I well knew that old Mr. Rugg was in the habit of carrying a deal of money in his pocket. Times and times have I hid behind the hedge of the lane leading to his house. He has passed within a yard of me when going from the prayer meeting, again and again. I could not, sir . . . I dare not touch so holy a man . . . I was afraid. I always began trembling as soon as he came near me, and I gave up the thought altogether for I knew he was a holy man.”

 

So I am saying that Abram’s first experience of God was his loving protection on this long journey from home in his old age, and this encouraged him to put his trust in the Lord.

 

2. AS ABRAM TRAVELLED AROUND CANAAN HE DISPLAYED HIS TRUST IN THE LORD.

 

What did Abram do when he entered the land? He “traveled though the land” (v.6). Now let us consider Abram seeing Canaan for the first time. How did God encourage Abram’s faith to grow? What met Abram’s eyes?

 

i] The size of the land. It was huge. It was over a hundred times bigger than Ur. The land could have turned out to be the size of Monte Carlo, and so the seed of Abraham correspondingly would have been a cosy little group of people, a hamlet in a valley. That might have suited childless Abraham’s thinking and his still limited appreciation of his family’s future, but when he got to the land he discovered God had given him a country. Canaan was the size of Wales. We are told that the six thousand million population of the world could all be fitted onto the Isle of Wight, but Canaan was not the size of an English county. It was many times larger, the size of the Welsh principality. So you can see how Abraham’s mind was being gently expanded as to what might be the fulfillment of God’s promise. When Abram climbed the summit of a Canaanite mountain he saw plains and mountain ranges stretching out in all directions. How many millions would it take to fill this land, and that would be just at one time, not counting the generations that succeeded them? It was too vast a land for him to explore thoroughly during his lifetime. God was even encouraging him in this enterprise of comprehending the fulness of the land; “Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring for ever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you” (Gen. 13:14-17). The size of the land strengthened his trust in this great God who had called him and taken him there.

 

ii] The growing sense of his ownership of this land as he traveled through the land. You are not landowners or ranchers. There is no farmer in our congregation. None of us own so much as a field; we don’t have the mentality of loving “this land of mine”, walking over our own acres, planting our feet on our own soil, looking at our crops and herds, at the hedges and the ditches thinking “This is my land.” We don’t meet another farmer in the weekly market and pass the time of day with him with our anecdotes . . . “Last week I saw a man walking on the long field. What was he doing on my acres? I thought, ‘Who’s that man? Why is he there? He is trespassing.’ Then I found out it was Gwilym’s new herdsman from Dolgwartheg – next door’s farm – and he had got lost.” That is not our mentality as landless men. If we were Kenyans we would all have a piece of land far away from Nairobi, and that land is our true home. We are just living temporarily in the big city. Abram confidently planted his feet anywhere he chose in Canaan because it was his land, the donation of God, and the land of his seed after him.

 

iii] Again Abram had a natural curiosity about the loveliness of the land. God increased his faith as he went all over the land. Abram got to the place God had taken him too, and he explored it not so much like a tourist but rather with all the fascination of a farmer looking at lands he’d just inherited but had never visited before. Abram went to its notable landmarks, for example, the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem (v. 6). That is about 40 miles north of where Jerusalem is. Shechem was an important community. The great tree was probably an oak, in fact this tree is mentioned several other places in the Scripture. Pagans worshipped fertility deities
under such trees. The tall tree seemed to these men to have its top in the sky, and the Canaanites would consider it to be an axis between heaven and earth, but Abram was not afraid of going right up to it with all its pagan associations, and maybe plucking a leaf. What did Abram do there? He expressed his growing trust in the Lord by building an altar in that place and he worshipped God in Shechem (v.7). Nobody stopped him.

 

Then Abram went on to the hills east of Bethel west of Ai (about twelve miles north of where Jerusalem now stands), but then continued walking on toward the Negev, the dry area. He was perambulating all over the land, absorbing everything he saw; “Every square inch of this land belongs to the Lord and he is entrusting it to me and to my seed after me.” He thought, “It’s our land . . . our God given land . . . the inheritance of our children. Jehovah who spoke to me and brought me here safely has now given me this vast land.” Then there was another response to the land.

 

iv] An awareness of it being a Canaanite possessed land. This is the first time the plural word ‘Canaanites’ appears in the Bible (v.6). You are going to meet it in the singular and plural forms on 77 occasions as you turn the pages of Scripture. I want you to notice particularly how the reference to them is phrased; “At that time the Canaanites were in the land” (v.6). “At that time . . .” So these words were written later. Someone is writing this down a long time after Abram walked all over the land. It is of course the hand of Moses, the author of the Pentateuch, writing six hundred years later when this record was made. The Egypt educated Moses had gathered together the materials that detailed the lives of the patriarchs. Do you see what Moses is saying to the children of Israel? “Even then,” he is telling the ones he was leading who were soon going to have to battle with the Canaanites as they entered the promised land, “even at the time of Abram, centuries ago, there were Canaanites in the land.” It was not going to be an easy conquest. The Canaanites were a well-established and ancient enemy. Their roots went down deep, and so the seed of Abram was never to become complacent. “Don’t think that the covenant promise to Abraham that his seed was getting this land meant that its current inhabitants were just going to lie down and wait to be killed or pack up and leave.” The Canaanites wouldn’t go without a mighty struggle.

 

So Abram meets the proto-Canaanites everywhere as he explored the land. There would be bloody warfare between his grandchildren and theirs, but in these early days he didn’t bother them, and they didn’t bother him. Abram was not afraid because he was trusting in the God. He knew that God had directed him to that land. You should understand that this land was apparently the region settled by the descendants of the man whose actual name was Canaan. He was the cursed son of Ham (Gen. 9:25) and so the land of Canaan was no Eden, no paradise. It was an area of entrenched paganism, dominated by the Baals and the worship of the god Molech among many other deities, a place where unspeakable cruelties took place as a matter of course. There were immediate suspicions of strangers who might be thinking of moving in and settling in their land, but see Abram’s faith, how he increasingly walked freely everywhere. The seed of the woman was traveling freely amongst the seed of the serpent and secretly laying claim to this promised kingdom. “When a man’s ways are pleasing to the LORD, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him” (Provs. 16:7). Abram was absolutely safe in all his movements because he’d been sent there by the Lord as a sheep amidst the wolves. You remember that is exactly our position at this moment. Our only protection is always this, that the Lord is our Shepherd, and what a powerful and faithful Shepherd he is. He doesn’t run away when the lion threatens to attack us.

 

There was a Gloucestershire farmer who had been converted under Rowland Hill. He had been a fighter and a rioter, but what a change had taken place in his life. He told Rowland Hill, “When I used to go to all kinds of fairs and revels and horse races I was never happy. As I was coming home through the woods at night, the rustling of a leaf would frighten me. Terrified by I know not what, fleeing when no man pursued, I galloped home as fast as my horse would carry me. Now, if I go to visit a poor dying man, or if I have been enjoying the word of life, I come home in a calm and peaceful frame of mind. I find that the Lord is with me, and as I walk my horse gently along I look up and see the bright stars above my head, and am happy in the assurance that God who made them all is mine in Christ. O what a mercy.” Greater is he that is in us than he that is in the world. Abraham’s experience amidst the Canaanites was like David’s when he said of God in Psalm 23 that the Lord spreads a lavish table before him, with his cup full to overflowing, in the presence of his enemies.

 

v] It was a land Abram was claiming for the Lord. Where Abram went he set up altars to the Lord, and he called on Jehovah’s name. He did it in Shechem (v.7) when Shechem was an ancient city at the very heart of Canaan. Abram defiantly erected an altar to the Lord there. Again he did it near Bethel (v.8). What was he doing? Several things. Abram was a builder, but not like the builders of the tower of Babel (which we read of in the previous chapter). He was building an altar where he worshiped the Lord who was daily caring for him. An altar was far better than a tower. Abram’s altars did reach heaven; heaven came down to those places. There God met with man and man met with God. Reconciliation was effected by an altar and a sacrifice. It always is. There is something in the very nature of God that requires the shedding of blood for the estranging power of sin to be overcome. Jacob would later come to this place known as Bethel – the ‘house of God’, and he would see in a dream a stairway to heaven ascending from Bethel with angels ascending and descending, “And he was afraid, and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”

 

The altars were an earnest of the whole land one day being the Lord’s. Let me show you how God honoured Abram’s faith. Almost a thousand years later the descendants of Abram were living in the land. They had been led into it and had conquered it under Joshua. He made his final speech to them just before he died, and where did he make it? Under the great oak tree still standing there in Moreh. See that incident in the light of the lone Abram going there all those centuries earlier with its buzz of paganism but in that place setting up his little altar to the Lord. What a difference by the time of Joshua; “On that day Joshua made a covenant for the people, and there at Shechem he drew up for them decrees and laws. And Joshua recorded these things in the Book of the Law of God. Then he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak near the holy place of the LORD. ‘See!’ he said to all the people. ‘This stone will be a witness against us. It has heard all the words the LORD has said to us. It will be a witness against you if you are untrue to your God.’ Then Joshua sent the people away, each to his own inheritance” (Josh. 24:25-28). The great oak stood next to the holy place of the Lord. Another large stone was set up under the branches of the tree and it was the Lord’s stone. Jehovahism was triumphing over paganism

 

One believer, Abram had left his mark on this land. The place was diff
erent after he had been there. Herdsmen and children walked by that place; wandering tradesmen noticed that an altar had been erected and it was not an altar that they knew like the ones set up to Molech and Nanna, and the Baals of the Canaanites. There was also a stone set up under the old tree. Somewhere roaming in the land was a people who were worshipping a new God. Abraham did not leave the land which he was passing through untouched, and that is our calling as ambassadors of the God who made this world. We have all come across the unwise zeal of a new Christian who paints ‘Jesus Saves’ on the side of a railway bridge or who tapes a tract up inside a telephone box, or pines one up on every notice board in the university or town library. We are not so keen on graffiti or doing things without permission in the town library, but we understand and admire that first love for the Lord. We would rather see the altar in the University by an announcement of a meeting of Christians who are going to call on the name of the Lord and study his word. Or we see it in a Gideon Bible in a drawer in your hotel room. Or on your street an altar has been erected to the Lord as each Sunday off you go to church. Most of all we see it in the services held in the local church each Sunday and everyone welcomed to them. That is the way we are claiming our town for the Lord. When we die it will be said of us, “This woman, or this man made a difference; her/his life advanced Christ’s Kingdom.”

 

vi] It was a land to be obtained by conquest. God made Abram increasingly aware of the fight ahead. What was Abram doing in his journeyings?  He was unconsciously tracing out the route of the conquest of the land by his seed, and he was marking out this territory as the Lord’s possession. Animals distinctively mark out territories that are theirs, and woe betide other animals that trespass there. A gang on the streets of a big city has its patch – a postal codes area, and it claims those streets and parks as its own; it marks them out with its graffiti. Nations have boundaries and if you enter them you have to possess visas and entry permits because this place is not yours. This land of Canaan was being marked out by Abram as henceforth belonging to the Lord and those to whom he would give it. This again showed his growing trust in the Lord. The altars were declarations of a change of ownership. This land did not belong to the tree god of Moreh but to the God who made the trees. There was new management and it was announcing that it was coming in to control this place. “Leave your false gods and turn to the true and living Lord. The Jehovahists are coming and we’re staying here.” That was what Abram’s presence declared, and he sent his servants to gather large rocks which then were carefully erected and built up into an altar. A lamb without blemish could have been taken and sacrificed, and then, all of them together – Sarai, Lot and the servants – worshipped God, the Lord who’d met with Abram in Ur and sent him on this pilgrimage, the one who’d given them a safe journey and continued to keep them even with Canaanites all around them. They prayed, and maybe they sang an early hymn of praise, and perhaps they ate the sacrificial lamb together in a kind of ordinance of worship. It was certainly very simple, as true worship is.

 

There is a cameo picture of a real worshipping community at the end of Zechariah chapter thirteen; we read, “They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God’” (Zech. 13:9), but then that identical description of the people of God is taken up in the New Testament. There is the threefold definition of the Christian church at the beginning of the first letter to the Corinthians. Who are these Christians who spreading through Greece and the Roman empire? They are, [i] those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus; [ii] called to be saints; and [iii] all those who in every place call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul had seen the gospel spreading from Jerusalem out and out to Greece and to Corinth. Even Rome itself had a congregation of worshipping people. These Christians were [i] people who had been sanctified, set apart to love and serve Jesus Christ; [ii] they were called to be holy people, saints; [iii] they were a worshipping community, calling on the name of the Lord Jesus. Paul in his mind’s eye could see the future even as Abraham, walking over this land, could see by faith what God was promising in a transformation of these valleys, farms, villages and towns. One day they would be full of worshippers of Jehovah. However, for Paul it was a greater cosmic vision; the whole world would one day be filled with worshipping believers everywhere, the earth in its northern and southern hemispheres would have assemblies of Christians everywhere, people calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Abraham’s vision was fulfilled; its purpose was complete, and Paul’s vision is being fulfilled now. It has been happening all over the world this very day. Once you become a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ you’ll gather in his name with other Christians. No matter where you are you will be drawn to him and you’ll worship him.

 

vii] It was this land where God first appeared to Abram and his seed. What a strengthening of Abram’s faith. One day this land would be the place where the Word who was God would be made flesh. It was not in lands in the frozen north, nor right in the south in China or Mexico, that the incarnate Lord appeared but it was in Israel where Africa and Asia and Europe all touch. In this land men would see the Lord’s glory as of the only-begotten of the Father full of grace and truth. Do you see the growing faith of Abraham? He had experienced weeks of God protecting him and meeting all his needs, but then something far more breath-taking took place, as he was traveling about the land, “The Lord appeared to Abram” (v.7). God had not appeared to mankind since he came to judge the serpent and the woman and the man. Certainly he had spoken with Cain, and he had spoken with Noah, and earlier even with Abram. Men have heard the voice of God while the Lord himself has been off stage, incognito. No longer! Now he reveals himself to Abram. The God who had been estranged by man’s sin now again draws near to man in mercy. Somehow, we’re not told how, clearer and closer than any voice from heaven, the Lord appears to Abram. The Lord was actually there with him, alongside him, before him, above him, around him – the Lord who had said, “Let there be light” and there was light. The Lord who had commanded him to leave Ur now met with Abram again in Canaan. It was a confirmation that this was the place God had taken them to. The Lord strengthened Abram’s faith by revealing himself to him.

 

viii] This was a land for Abram’s offspring. The Lord who appeared to Abram made the promise transparently clear, “To your offspring I will give this land” (v.7). At first it had been a pure command, “Go to the land that I will show you,” but now childless Abram is told unmistakably that God is giving this land to his offspring. At 75 years of age there could scarcely be a more thrilling promise. Abram was not concerned about possessions in this world; he wouldn’t be in the world much longer to enjoy any of them, but that his own children should have such a land as he had seen – what a thrill to the old patriarch. Here are two great promises in one; old Abram will have offspring – even though so far he has not fathered a single child for 75 years. Then to be told that his sons and daughters were going to increase so greatly that they would fill this mighty l
and. What glory! Little wonder Abram and his little group of family and retainers were not intimidated being the only people in all the land who confessed that Jehovah was the only Lord. They didn’t mind being out of step if the living God were for them.

 

Abraham himself wouldn’t rule this land. He was not to become the king of Canaan; the promise was clear, that his seed would have it. He and Sarai, advanced in years, would, by the mighty power of God, one day conceive. A son was to be born to them. What vast offspring would come from that line. “From one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the sea-shore” (Hebs. 11:12). Not Abram, but his descendants will have this land. They could be singing to one another one day words to this effect, “This land is your land; this land is my land . . . This land was made for you and me, by the grace of God.” But during all Abram’s years the land was not like that. It had to be won by conquest. During Abram’s life it was like an area of common land, walked over by the nations, and claimed by the Canaanites, but all along in his heart Abram knew, “This is the Lord’s land given to my seed,” though Abram himself was never to know it as his own kingdom. Abram and his family lived in tents all these years. “This is not yet our land, but one day it will be.”

 

I am reminded of the work endured by any pioneer missionary, for example, William Carey in India or William Chalmers Burns in China. They entered those vast lands as the first missionaries, exploring and learning. They established certain places where they and their little communities called on the name of the Lord and where he spoke to them. They claimed those lands for Christ, but it was their descendants after some hundreds of years to whom the land would come as a place where everywhere God was worshipped. Today there are millions of Christians in China, while Burns had fought for a toehold. That has also been my calling, and my hope is that generations yet unborn in Wales will enter into my labours. The land came to the seed of Abram only as one that had to be fought for bravely, every square inch of it, every new altar erected, every spot established where people called on his name. The books of Exodus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges and Samuel are all about the long conquest of this land, and you must be made aware, men and women, that that is our calling, and the calling of the Christians of this generation. I have nothing else to promise you in the future but the holy war. There is an inheritance that God has promised us of a new heavens and new earth. It is to be ours; it must be ours; the meek shall inherit the earth, but the meek will not get it without conquest.

 

So, you can understand that when the Lord appeared to him in Canaan that Abram’s immediate response was to erect the first altar in that land. It was, we are told, an altar “to the Lord who had appeared to him” (v.7). When Paul was in Athens he saw temples and altars on every street corner. There was even one erected “to the unknown god.” They had no doubt that God existed, but they did not know of his grace and great salvation until a missionary preacher like Paul went there and revealed him to them. Abraham knew the Lord because the Lord had spoken to him and revealed himself to his heart and soul.

 

What was Abram doing? He was making his home in the promised land and he was doing it by trusting in the Lord. The great New Testament commentary on all that’s written here is in Hebrews chapter eleven; “By 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. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Hebs. 11:9&10).

 

All of us today are on a pilgrimage. In recent months you may have been getting restless with the threats, intimidations and false promises that paganism has been offering you in your particular Ur of the Chaldeans. We may be in the first stages of starting out. We may be on the early steps of hearing the voice of the Lord speaking to us and we are finding this life of trusting in the Lord a truly wonderful and blessed life. You are coming to know the Lord, and that is the key to your destiny. What he says you will do. Where he sends you will go. Never fear, only trust and obey. There will be hardships ahead, and of course your faith will be tested. There will be falls and you will learn that your trust in God needs to grow, and it can only grow through testing, but this is the way. Walk in it. This is the path that leads to life. Don’t leave it. Keep walking with God. It may be a very lonely Christian walk. You may be the only girl in the school who knows the Lord, or you are the only member of your family who is a Christian. Keep going!

 

James Montgomery Boice points out that back in Ur of the Chaldees, Abram had a brother whose name was Nahor and over the course of his life he built a city, and what did he name it? He called it after himself, Nahor. Everyone in Ur would have judged that Nahor had done well in life. Of those precocious sons of Terah, Abram and Nahor, everyone would have heard of Nahor and his fine architectural and urban achievements, but Abram? All they knew of him was that he got religious and went off to the other side of the world. He spent his life living in tents and he died a forgotten man. That is the judgment of the world; Nahor a success and Abram a failure, but today what a great reverse; in the sight of heaven what bifurcation of the destinies of these two brothers, as different as heaven is from hell. No one has heard of Nahor today, but if we should have then that is only because he is related to Abram. We are being exhorted not to build for a few years in this world in order to perpetrate our names but to build for eternity.

 

22nd March 2009   GEOFF THOMAS