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Sunday, January 17, 2016

Progenitor of a Nation

The ten generations following the flood filled the earth with idolatrous people, including Shem’s descendants, one of whom was Terah, Abraham’s father. Joshua 24:2 fills in the informational gap in Abraham’s background, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘Your fathers, including Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, dwelt on the other side of the River in old times; and they served other gods.” 
God speaks to Abram, this man with idolatrous roots, and makes him an audacious promise, one that Abraham himself cannot, by any effort on his part, fulfill. God promises this barren couple a son through whom He would build a nation and through whom He who would bless all the families of the earth. This promise picks up the thread of redemption begun in Genesis 3:15 where God promises to send One who would redeem man. 
Abram believes God and moves his family to Canaan. There he builds an altar to the Lord. Immediately Abrams’ faith is tested when a famine strikes the land and Abram flees south to Egypt where he defaults to selfishness and self-protection, at great cost to his wife. God intervenes and the couple returns to Canaan immensely wealthy. Immediately he returns to that altar and calls on the name of the Lord. Conflict between his servants and Lot’s servants arises and they separate, with Lot choosing the best for himself (repeating Adam and Eve’s error of making a decision based on what appeals to the eye and appetite). Abram builds another altar to the Lord. You might say that Abram was an “altared-man”! He was altered. Faith in the promises of God does that to a man. He worships God and that brings transformation. 
Lot gets into trouble and Abram rescues him. Abram has testified of faith in God through his obedience to Him, but after meeting Melchizedek he publicly swears his allegiance to the the Lord, “I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth.” Later the Lord brings him into His confidence regarding the future of his descendants during a most unusual encounter with Him (Gen. 15:9-17).
Abram, this progenitor of a great people, teaches a number of truths about God and the one He chooses: 
  • A man’s past or age doesn’t prevent him from knowing God and being usefulness to God.
  • An impossible situation doesn’t prevent God from fulfilling His promises. 
  • All God asks of a man is simple childlike trust. 
He is good. He does good.

Older Post
Faith's Baby Steps
"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" (Genesis 12:4).

Baby steps include plenty of falls. Abraham's first baby steps of faith are no different. 

God appears to Abraham and makes him (and his barren wife) a promise concerning his descendants and a land. Abraham believes God and begins his walk with God by leaving the familiar for the unknown. Great first steps. And then he falters. Instead of clinging to the promises of God ("I will bless you") Abraham reacts to the famine that hits the land and leaves Canaan for Egypt, the "Fertile Crescent." Instead of walking by faith, he walks by sight. Big mistake. Instead of depending upon God for protection while in Egypt (dead men without heirs don't become great nations), he hides behind his wife's skirts ("my life will be spared because of you"). 

When we look at Abraham strictly through the lens of the New Testament we think that he, this patriarch of Israel and example of great faith, had near super human abilities. But Abraham was just a man—without any advantages over us. All he had were the promises of God. 

In Abraham's baby steps of faith we see both the successes and the failures of a man delivered from a culture of idolatry (Joshua 24:2-3) seeking to walk with God with only a few examples of those preceding him (Abel, Seth, Enoch, and Noah). We too have the promises of God and the example of the lives of those who've "lived by faith" before us. What can we learn from Abraham's first steps of faith? 
  • True faith doesn't mean that missteps won't occur—so don't beat yourself up if you fall as you seek to follow the Lord. 
  • True faith means that there will be genuine growth (progress)—so don't excuse laziness or persistent sin.
  • True faith means that we assist others to get up when they falter and carry on following hard after God. Progression, not perfection, defines true faith. 
Nowhere do you see God scolding or condemning Abraham for his mistakes as he learns to walk with God by faith. Yes, he suffers the consequences of going down to Egypt, but he learns to walk with God in the process.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Genesis 11:1-15:21
  • To whom does God promise the land of the Canaanites? 
  • Read Isaiah 46:9-10 and state God's m. o. (His method of operation).
  • Where else in Genesis 1-10 has God made promises regarding His future activity? What does this tell you about God and how He works?
  • How does Abraham respond to God's promises? From whom does he learn to build an altar?
  • Does Abraham need to go to Egypt to have his needs met? Why not?
  • What does Abraham learn about himself and about God while in Egypt?
  • How does wealth affect Abraham and Lot's relationship?
  • What does their resolution tell you about Lot? Abraham?
  • What does Melchizedek recognize about Abraham?
  • What does this encounter with Melchizedek do for Abraham's faith?
  • What does Abraham's refusal of the spoils of battle tell you about Abraham?
  • What does God promise that He will be for Abraham? 
  • What does God's promise prompt Abraham to bring up to the Lord? 
  • What does God do to assure Abraham of His promise?
Turning truth into prayer
Have you allowed the condemnation of past failures to hinder your present walk with the Lord? Ask the Lord to teach you about the "faith-life" through Abraham's life.