Genesis 12:1-8 The Call of Abram Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. Abram took his wife Sarai and his brother’s son Lot, and all the possessions that they had gathered, and the persons whom they had acquired in Haran; and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan. When they had come to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak*of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the Lord appeared to Abram, and said, ‘To your offspring*I will give this land.’ So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. From there he moved on to the hill country on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the Lord and invoked the name of the Lord. And Abram journeyed on by stages towards the Negeb. ****************************************
A little background on Abraham: Nine generations after Noah, a man named Terah is born. Terah is pretty wealthy; he’s got the big estate (reminds me of the TV series 'Dallas,' with lots of land, lots of employees and of course, lots of slaves. Tereh (like Jock Ewing) also has three sons- Haran, Nahor and Abram. (We won't speculate as to which one was J.R.- no worries)
"Jock's" first son, Haran, has a couple of kids; a boy, Lot, and a girl, Milcah- but unfortunately Haran dies early- The second son Nahor, grows up and marries Haran’s daughter Milcah... (sounding more like a TV soap all the time...) The third son and our protagonist, Abram, marries Sarai- they also do their part in providing for Haran's offspring by taking in Lot. (Who wouldn't take in their teenage nephew to try to give him stability, teach him responsibility and every now and then, shake some sense into him?)
Abram's father made a nice life for his family and Abram is set to inherit a nice estate, especially in that Abram, Sarai, Lot, & Jock/Terah all lived together. They move around a bit, Jock dies, the kids take over the company and build it up bigger than it was before.
So Abe is now 75 years old- and he’s walking out near his antique car collection, admiring the new Rolls Royce he just got for a song from some dealer in Plano, but he stops dead in his tracks when he hears (or thinks he hears) a voice- “Abram! Go! Leave your country and get out of your father’s house and your homeland and take your family and all your stuff and go to a land that I will show you.”
Now I believe Abe had to have been an ambitious type; always wanting a little bit more than he already had. He had seen Tereh's fortune grow when he had moved from his homeland. Perhaps Abe saw this as a new opportunity for him to gain power and wealth... it could be a new start for he and Sarai... maybe he could evenget rid of his deadbeat nephew, if Lot decided not to come along. So Abe jumps at the chance that this voice may not be a figment of his imagination. If he can get something out of it- he is going for it!
That’s sometimes the way it happens when we’re called to do something isn’t it? While it may be nice to say, "I’m being called to do something for God," our initial call from God is often followed quickly by the thought that there may be something in it for us. Maybe people might look at us with more respect, or we might be might be gaining position, or power in the church, or maybe be loved more because of what we do. I'll leave that for you to think about.
And God names some things that will happen if Abe follows- God lays out a sevenfold blessing- and it looks like this: "Follow me to the land that I will show you… (1)“I will make you into a great nation,” (2) “I will bless you,” (3) “I will make your name great,” (4) “you will be a blessing,” or possibly “you will be seen as blessed,” (5) “I will bless those who bless you,” (6) “the one who curses you I will curse,” and (7) “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
What's with all this "blessing?" Something really cool-the Hebrew word for bless is berak- it means to bless or to kneel.. Blessing, in Hebrew, is to bring a gift to another while kneeling out of respect; to do or give something of value to another... So not only will Abram be given something of value (a blessing) he will also, while showing and living and kneeling in respect to God, give to all the people of the earth, a gift. Isn’t that beautiful? (Of course there is that little part in there about Abe being famous- in any case, that’s enough for the guy who has spent the bulk of his life collecting things-
So Abe has shifts his gaze from the antique Rolls Royce to the sporty red Corvette that he bought during his midlife crisis... And he runs inside to his wife, Sari- who is sitting on the couch watching Oprah eating some Milano cookies out of a can and says- "Sar, we’re outta here!" "Where?" she asks. “I’m not really sure," he grins, "but it’s gonna be great!” Sari tells him to move away from the front of the screen, and talk to her when a commercial comes on. Eventually however, she starts packing.
The moving trucks are loaded up and Abe ushers his lovely bride to the open door of the Corvette and once she’s inside, he shuts the door with a smile. As he trots around to his side, he's so happy he's whistling California Here I Come, but his smile is short lived. Abe looks up and spots Lot coming out of the house with his backpack on one arm and his iPhone in his hand, and a frosted pop tart balanced his mouth…"Great" Abe grimaces, "he decided to come after all- I guess we're taking the Escalade..."
They switch cars, Lot jumps in the backseat, and puts on his headphones... Abe turns on Sinatra, smiles at his wife, and they drive off toward the horizon- ready to start a new life- to do and go wherever God calls them. First stop- Canaan- "I always heard Canaan was a beautiful place Sar- and God said that this is the place we'll call home- it’s going to be ours. All that land! All that..." But as they drive up, Abe checks the coordinates on the GPS- this can’t be right- there are people in Canaan already!
Abe drops off a now smirking Sari and smart mouthed Lot at Starbucks and goes off by himself to think. He remembers that there is a place just outside of the town of Shecham, where it’s been said that people sometimes hear from their Gods. When he finds it, he sits under an oak tree called Moreh- (Moreh means teacher)- and I imagine he sulks a bit, “What’s going on God? I thought this was supposed to be my land? Did I hear from you or not?”
Take a breath... isn't this so true for us? We hear from God, we think we hear clearly as to what we are supposed to do, but after stepping out in faith, something doesn't feel right... things don't feel comfortable... everything is called into question- "Did I really hear from God? Did I hear the right thing?"
And thankfully, God appears- God says “Yes, Abe, this is the right place. But this is a step by step process. This (Canaan) is the land I am going to give your children. I wanted you to see what I'm promising.” And a flush of emotion fills our old friend and he falls to his knees and bows low. He did hear from God. It wasn’t something that he wanted so badly he just pulled it out of the air. He was on track, and as an affirmation of God showing up, Abram builds an altar.
Abe will repeat this pattern over and over through his journey… he'll get so far, or realize he's made a mistake, or sometimes not even realize he made a mess- and we'll see him, (and his descendents after him), stop, take a breath, go back and seek God again... or God sometimes just shows up at the right time... but as an affirmation of God showing up, Abram builds an altar. Somehow I find great comfort in that. Because truly, that’s how my walk goes with God. I feel like I’m hearing from God on something, telling me to do something, or calling me somewhere... and I get so excited that I can just about jump out of my skin. And I sweep everybody around me into the drama.
But I can get so far, and then I realize that I’m feeling a bit lost- shaky- and I question… "did I hear right? Is this really what God was calling me to? Because I wasn’t expecting to feel like this- I was under the impression that if God called me to do something than everything would be easy- things would click into place, and that God would lay it specifics for me, and I would always have that euphoric feeling of the presence of the Almighty filling me and guiding my every step. But now I’m feeling insecure- and I need some reassurance." And it's during those times that I need to go back to the something as solid as an oak tree- back to the teacher. Back to the one who called me in the first place...
Because call isn't always comfortable. And when God calls us to something, God doesn't promise it will be easy... usually it involves getting stretched and pulled out of our comfort zone and most of the time, well past where we thought we were capable of going. And we don't like feeling discomfort- we don't like feeling scared, or nervous or insecure... and our instinct for security will urges us to go back and stay with what's safe. But by going back to the place of "what we know" stops us from going with God to the place of "could be." To the land of promise...
And, while God doesn't promise us it will be easy, God does promise to be with us... so when we are feeling insecure and shaky and questioning whether we aren’t on the right path, we just need to stop- breathe- and let God show up. And as no small aside... we can freak out or question God any time, without fear- without condemnation- God isn’t going to look at you and tell you your’e an idiot for not understanding.
But how do we find those places of assurance? Abram made physical markers, altars, at the places where he heard from God. So for us this is simply is a space that we have made for God in our lives. We don’t need to put up something physical, although it helps to have a prayer space in your home or even at your workplace- a place where you can go- that is set apart for communicating with God. But what I'm suggesting is to create a space in our lives, in our own schedule, amidst the business of our day, to spend time with the Creator. Because, if you are like me, you need reassurance and direction, every single day.
God was about to do remarkable things through Abram- who would later be called Abraham. And Abram didn't do much more than respond- and that’s all God is waiting for you to do today- to answer the call to "Go!" You may not know where, and you may not know how you will get there, you may not have the red Corvette to drive off in... but try following... one step at a time...