The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household 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 went, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. He 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.
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.
It’s important to remember that in addition to the Old Testament events being true and literal (see previous post How Does Jesus View the Old Testament), these accounts are also illustrations of New Testament principles. Referring to the Old Testament scriptures Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:6 that these things occurred as examples for us. With that in mind let’s have a look at five ways that Abram’s story in Genesis 12:1-9 has application for you and for me today.
Five Things You’ll Experience in Your Life with Christ
1) Continual strength from instruction
Genesis 12:6 says that Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. The name Shechem means shoulder — the shoulder was a symbol of strength in the Jewish culture, similar to what the bicep symbolizes in our culture today (The shoulder makes more sense if you think about it, if you want something to move put your shoulder into it). The name Moreh means instruction.
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth God’s word tells us in 2 Timothy 2:15. This makes perfect sense if you think it through. God’s ways are higher than our ways, better than our ways, and different than our ways. It’s not natural for us to understand the ways of the God who is so big that the scripture says He measures the universe with the span between His thumb and His little finger. (Isaiah 40:12) A God as big, as powerful, and as amazing as ours requires that we study His ways to learn them.
It’s essential that you and I recognize God’s Bible for what it is, a supernatural book that has a supernatural effect on our lives as we study His word. As we learn God’s ways in His scriptures we’re strengthened by Him.
2) Constant Conflict
At that time the Canaanites were in the land. (v.6) We’ll see throughout much of the Old Testament that the enemy of the Jewish people, the Canaanites, were allowed to live alongside the Israelites for centuries, which resulted in constant conflict in the lives of the Jews. We experience constant conflict today in that the Lord allows our flesh to live alongside His Spirit in our lives. We too experience a life of conflict between our Spirit and our flesh. Jealousy, envy, lust, intemperance, a short temper, sharp words, selfishness, greed — what I desire to do in God’s Spirit I sometimes find so very difficult to do, and what I don’t desire to do in my flesh, I sometimes find myself doing. Paul said in Romans 7: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25)
This side of heaven, you’ll always have your flesh with you. But thank God for Christ who strengthens your Spirit and in whom you can do all things. (1 Corinthians 4:13) You shall overcome! (1 John 5:1-6)
3) Continual Cleansing
Twice in chapter 12 we see Abram build an alter. (v.7-8) When we build an altar to the Lord, or in your life and my life, when we go to the altar, that’s when we’re altered. That’s when I’m changed into the man God desires me to become. That’s when you’re changed. That’s when you’re cleansed. That’s where you’re renewed!
For you young father of a family, it’s interesting to see here the beginning of a pattern in Abram/Abraham’s life. Pretty much wherever Abraham had a tent, God had an altar. That’s a great model for you and for me to set up and keep up the worship of God in our family, wherever we may be and in whatever circumstances we may find ourselves.
4) Continual Choice
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. (v.8) The name Bethel means house of God. The name Ai means house of ruin, heap, or dump. Abram had choices before him as we all do, every day. The house of God on the West, and the house of ruin on the East.
In Acts 7:2-3 Stephen tells us that God originally commanded Abram to leave his original home of Ur 25 years before Abram set out from Harran. In Ur Abram had a very comfortable life. He was rich materially. He was likely well respected for his wealth, his position in his father’s household, and his beautiful wife Sarah. He likely was comfortable in the habit of worshiping the moon god as did his father Terah and most of the rest of the culture there in Ur. (Joshua 24:2) Yet comfortable as he was, Abram chose to obey God’s command to travel to a yet to be identified location.
So often I see this issue of comfort in peoples’ lives today. A person in a comfortable situation who knows in his or her heart what God would have him do and yet he resists. I have a close friend, a Christian young man, who was very comfortable with his girlfriend of several years. During the second year of their relationship this poor girl began to struggle. Her personality began to change. She became angry, depressed, and self destructive. The young man began to recognize that this wasn’t the person that God desired for him to marry, but, he was comfortable in the relationship. He’d already been with her for two years. There were expectations on him to continue the relationship. Expectations not only from his girlfriend but from their mutual friends and from her family as well.
“Besides, I feel sorry for her,” he confided. “Wouldn’t God have me remain in this relationship to help her? Surely God wouldn’t have me abandon her in her time of need, would He?”
After much prayer the young man ultimately decided to leave the relationship. He felt that, awkward and difficult though it may be, God would have him end it. In the years to come this poor young woman continued to struggle.
My young friend is now very happily married to a different young woman, a bright and beautiful young woman who loves Christ. Today, with the advantage of 20-20 hindsight, he fully recognizes the wisdom of his decision to follow what God had in mind for him.
What are you comfortable with? Like my friend the young man are you comfortable in a relationship that God would have you leave? Are you comfortable with being unemployed? Are you comfortable with your dependency on alcohol? Are you comfortable with your dependency on prescription drugs?
Are you comfortable with sleeping in on Sundays rather than leaving your home and spending time with God over at His house?
Perhaps you’ve been in your comfort zone now for a number of years. Take heart: By Stephens account in Acts 7 Abram failed to respond to God’s calling for 25 years. But God in His grace patiently stuck with Abram through every one of those 25 years of procrastination. Our God is the God of second chances.
5) Continual Blessings
People tend to want to stay in their current, familiar, comfortable situation, even if it’s destructive or less than God’s best. Abram was comfortable with his life in Ur yet he chose to do what he knew God would have him do. Let’s see what the result was.
“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you;” God said in verse 2 of Genesis 12. Abram was blessed with the gift of bearing abundant fruit. He who was without a child, who’s wife had been barren for decades, was promised the gift of bearing abundant fruit.
“I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.” (v.2) Abram was blessed with a great name as well as the privilege of being a blessing to others.
“I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;” (v.3) Abram was blessed with the security of God’s protection.
“and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (v.3) This last part of verse three speaks of the greatest blessing of all — through Abraham the Messiah, Jesus Christ, would come, imparting the blessing of salvation to all peoples on earth. (Matthew ch.1, Luke ch.3)
Abram’s choice to act on what he knew God wanted him to do resulted in the blessing of primacy in that it would be from Abraham that the Savior of the world would come (v.3); the blessing of identity in that he was given a great name (v.2); and the blessing of security in that God promised to protect him (v.3).
Interestingly, in the previous chapter of Genesis the builders of the Tower of Babel attempted to attain the same blessings, but not through acting on what God wanted them to do, but rather through the energy of their own flesh. They said in Genesis 11:4 “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens (primacy), so that we may make a name for ourselves (identity); otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth (security).”
Every day you and I face the same choice. To travel the path of those in Genesis chapter 11, or to follow the example of Abram in chapter 12. It didn’t work out very well for those who attempted the tower of Babel. But if you follow Abram’s example and leave your comfort zone, awkward and difficult though it may be, and act on what you know God would have you to do, you too will experience God’s blessings.
Choose God’s way.
You’ll never regret it.
In case you’re interested, there’s a map of Abram’s travel route from Ur to the promised land available on BibleStudy.org.
This post was inspired by Ray Stedman’s excellent teaching: The Beginning of Faith