Key transition as we move from chap. 11 to chap. 12. God has been dealing with all the nations – cf. the Table of Nations in chap. 10; but now God will focus on one person = Abram whom he will rename Abraham – from whom will come the nation of Israel and the Messiah. Israel is God’s focus until you get to the emergence of the church on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2. We are currently living in the Church Age, but from Romans 9-11 and other prophetic scriptures, we don’t believe that God is finished with His program for the nation of Israel. The Gentiles have been grafted in Paul writes but that does not mean the end for Israel: (11:24-27)
If [you Gentiles] were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree [= physical nation of Israel], how much more will these who are the natural branches [= physical nation of Israel] be grafted into their own olive tree?
For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery – so that you will not be wise in your own estimation – that a partial hardening has happened to Israel [some Jews are saved during the Church Age] until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in [dealing here with distinctions between Gentiles and Jews]; and so all Israel [physical nation at some point in prophetic future] will be saved; just as it is written,
“The Deliverer will come from Zion; He will remove ungodliness from Jacob [has not happened yet]. This is My covenant with them [speaking of the New Covenant of Jer. 31]when I take away their sins.”
Introduced here to the Covenant God made with Abraham; more details in chap. 15 and 17.
But Abraham also significant as a personal model for each of us in our spiritual journey – that we would live a dependent journey – a life of faith.
Abraham a model for us as a Man of Faith:
Hebrews 11:1, 6 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe (1): that He is and (2): that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
Hebrews 11:8 By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.
Romans 4:9b For we say, “Faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness.”
Because Abraham believed God he was declared righteous.
Romans 4:11b That he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be reckoned to them.
Romans 4:16 For this reason it is by faith, that it might be in accordance with grace, in order that the promise may be certain to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.
Galatians 3:9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.
Matthew 8:10-11 Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled, and said to those who were following, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. (Jesus was referring to a Gentile who believed God.) And I say to you, that many shall come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven;”
Borgman: Faith does not calculate on the basis of what it can see but on the basis of the character of God; Are you walking by faith or by sight?
I. (:1-3) THE DIVINE CALL — THE DIVINE CALL PROMISES BLESSING TO ABRAHAM WITH GLOBAL IMPLICATIONS
A. (:1) Divine Call — Every Journey has a Departure Point and a Destination Point
1. Journey Departure — From
“Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your country,
And from your relatives And from your father’s house,’”
Call to Move Out
This call comes out of the blue to a moon worshiper
Reiteration of call when family was in Ur
Not based on any merits on Abraham’s part
Prepared for at end of chap. 11
Call to Separation
Parunak: “Get thee out” — He is commanded to stand apart, to “come out and be separate,” 2 Cor 6:17; Isa 52:11; Heb 13:10-14. God’s saints are the separated ones. To follow him is to be different, distinct.
Steven Cole: So I interpret the Lord’s command to Abram to leave his relatives to mean that he must obey the Lord in spite of what his relatives may do. If they could be persuaded to accompany him, that was fine. But if they would not go, Abram must go without them. It is similar to the Lord’s teaching that when it comes down to a choice between family and Christ, we must follow Christ (Luke 14:26). In Abram’s case, Lot was persuaded to accompany him. The rest stayed behind. But the important thing is, Abram heard and obeyed the Lord. “By faith Abraham … obeyed” (Heb. 11:8).
2. Journey Destination — To
“To the land which I will show you;”
15:18 spells out the dimensions – Israel has never held this
Abraham not told many details about his future; has to trust in the character of God
Call was unconditional; but enjoyment of the blessings was tied to his faithful obedience; but his obedience was prompted and initiated and enabled by the grace of God
How many believers are missing out on God’s blessing because they fail to walk by faith and trust the Lord? There is the ultimate blessing of eternal union with the Lord; but there are many blessings God wants us to enjoy in this present life
B. (:2) Promised Blessing
1. Great Nation
“And I will make you a great nation,”
A political unit as opposed to just a family unit
17:6 – kings will come thru your lineage
Hughes: Abram’s offspring would be a goy among the goyim – a powerful political entity with a land and language and government.
2. Recipient of Divine Favor
“And I will bless you,”
Very general phrase; God is in the business of blessing
Delights to give good gifts to His children
We should desire the favor of God above all else
Pleasing God is our motivation to refrain from sin and pursue holiness
3. Great Legacy
“And make your name great;”
Isn’t this what the builders of the Tower of Babel sought?? Cannot come by self effort or by way of the flesh, but only by the sovereign grace of God
Steven Cole: That has certainly been fulfilled, in that Jews, Christians, and Moslems all look to Abraham as the father of their faith. His name is known worldwide to millions of people 4,000 years after he lived.
Parunak: We see here the OT equivalent of our Lord’s command, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you,” Matt 6:33; and Mark 10:28,29.
4. Reproducer (Channel) of Divine Favor to Others
“And so you shall be a blessing;”
We are not called to hoard God’s blessings
We are to be a channel of blessing to others;
This little light of mine; I’m going to let it shine
C. (:3) Global Implications
1. Extended Blessing
“And I will bless those who bless you”
We can see how this has worked itself out throughout history
2. Extended Cursing
“And the one who curses you I will curse.”
Great divide here between covenant and dispensational theology – is God through dealing with the physical nation of Israel; has the church replaced Israel in His plans; or does His program still included blessing the nation of Israel? Impacts your foreign policy!
3. Global Blessing
“And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Parunak: “Families of the earth” is more accurately, “families of the ground,” an unusual phrase, no doubt selected to recall the curse on the ground in 3:17. In Abram, the original curse will be replaced with blessing. “Be blessed” answers the multiple judgments that God has poured out, at Eden, to Cain, in the flood, and at Babel. In spite of this history, blessing is available.
The ultimate blessing comes through the Messiah, the seed of Abram – the promised seed of the woman back in Gen. 3
4 aspects of the Abrahamic Covenant:
– A land
– A nation
– A personal blessing
– A global blessing
II. (:4-9) THE DEPENDENT JOURNEY – WE WALK BY FAITH, EMBRACING GOD’S PROMISES WITH OUR FOCUS ON WORSHIP
7 Characteristics of True Faith:
A. (:4-5) True Faith Moves Out in Obedience to the Lord’s Calling
1. (:4) Obey Quickly
“So Abram went forth as the LORD had spoken to him; and Lot went with him.
Now Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.”
Conversion of a pagan, idol worshiper
Faith lays hold of the promise of God and acts in obedience
Doing what God says simply because He commands it
Why did Lot go? Was this a good thing or a bad thing?
Advanced age should never be an excuse to avoid walking by faith – look at Abraham Thomas – starting ministry in Mumbai
Creates additional obstacles
2. (:5) Obey Completely
“And Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his nephew, and all their possessions which they had accumulated, and the persons which they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan; thus they came to the land of Canaan.”
Hughes: the 800-mile route would have taken them near some of the great urban centers of the day. Abram likely raveled over to Carchemish and down to Aleppo and through Damascus to Canaan. . . text likely refers to making proselytes
So obedient in faith was Abram that he was called the “friend of God” (2 Chron. 20:7; Isa. 41:8; James 2:23).
Cf. how Jesus Christ defined a “friend” in John 15:14 “You are my friends if you do what I command you.”
B. (:6-7a) True Faith Embraces God’s Promises Despite Enemy Opposition
1. (:6) Boldness
“And Abram passed through the land as far as the site of Shechem,
to the oak of Moreh.
Now the Canaanite was then in the land.”
Geographical center of the land
Hughes: Moreh means “teacher, oracle giver” – The great tree of Moreh was the place where the Canaanites assembled to hear the oracles that soothsayers received from the rustling of the leaves. So there, in the very heart of the land promised to Abram, idolatry was alive and well.
2. (:7a) Encouragement
“And the LORD appeared to Abram and said,
‘To your descendants I will give this land.’”
Great Theophany – short statement – but its impact stayed with Abram his entire life
C. (:7b) True Faith Worships (in Response to Divine Revelation)
“So he built an altar there to the LORD who had appeared to him.”
Also built an altar in Bethel (12:8), Hebron (13:18) and Mount Moriah (22:9)
D. (:8a) True Faith Manifests a Pilgrim Mentality
“Then he proceeded from there to the mountain on the east of Bethel,
and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east;”
Like planting the flag
Later the border between the northern and southern kingdoms
Steven Cole: A pilgrim is a person on a journey. He is not a settled resident. He’s just passing through, on his way to a better place. God did not promise to give the land to Abram, but to his descendants. As John Calvin points out (Calvin’s Commentaries [Baker], 1:353), this means that the land was not his ultimate aim, but rather, heaven. Abram was looking for that city whose architect and builder is God (Heb. 11:10). He had to trust that God would make good on His word even though Abram would not live to see it.
E. (:8b) True Faith Worships (in Testimony to God’s Faithfulness)
“and there he built an altar to the LORD”
F. (:8c) True Faith Calls Upon the Lord in Worship and Witness
“and called upon the name of the LORD.”
Borgman: Called upon the name of the Lord – Luther in his translation: “and Abram preached the name of the Lord” – his character
Cf. Noah as a preacher of righteousness to the pagans around him
Depending on God to fulfill His promises
Parunak: this phrase combines worship and witness. He is open about his faith, bearing witness to the Canaanites around him.
Steven Cole: As far as we know, the Canaanites for the most part, ignored Abram and continued in their wicked ways. In His great mercy, God spared those wicked people for 700 more years until Joshua’s day. But Abram the worshiper had borne witness to them. God will use those who live as pilgrims and worshipers in the midst of a pagan land to bear witness for Him. Some will be saved; some will mock or ignore the message. But God will use the witness of His pilgrims at the day of judgment to vindicate His justice.
G. (:9) True Faith Continues to Follow the Lord’s Direction
“And Abram journeyed on, continuing toward the Negev.”
Hughes: The brief itinerary of Abram has taken him from the northern to the southern border of the land. He not only saw what had been promised to his offspring – he had walked through it and lived ad worshiped in it. Symbolically he has taken possession of it.
Parunak: Why does he travel if the Lord has already indicated that he has arrived? The answer is found in. the instruction in 13:17. Walking through the land is a way of claiming it, of taking possession of it, of asserting one’s right to be there. By moving through it he is acting as though it were his; contrast the opposition that Moses and Israel received from Edom (Num 20:14-21), Moab (Judg 11:17), and the Amorites (Num 21:21-23).