This week’s reading: Genesis 12:4-9
This week, we are going to repeat some of the reading from last week, just because there is so much we can learn from this amazing first call of Abram. We focused on the powerful blessing from God to Abram, and how God already had His Holy eye on this devoted “Father of Faith” even before Abram did anything. Often this is how God works with us too. He sees our potential before we even know we are His, then God moves in our lives, and hearts, to help us surrender, submit and obey. Let’s dig in a bit deeper into how God knows us, draws us and grows us. We are in Genesis, chapter 12 back to verses 4 through 9. Listen to this miraculous event:
“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.” Gen 12:6-7 NIV
Leap of Faith. Recall how Abram’s Dad, Terah, decided to not continue his journey to the land of the Canaanites? After this, God turned to Abram and spoke to him, telling him, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” (Gen 12:1) As I mentioned last week, the incredible amount of Faith required to leave everything you have known, and are comfortable with, is one of the many reasons this Saint’s Faith is remarkable. At this point, it is possible Abram barely knows God, since his father’s household were idol worshippers. (see Jos 24:2) Yet there was some kind of moving of his heart that caused Abram to listen, trust and obey. It is lovely that the Bible does not feel the need to explain all the details of how God spoke to Abram. Was it an audible voice? Did God merely impress His directions on Abram’s heart? Or how did Abram even know this was God speaking? But we should never question whether God spoke to Abram because, why wouldn’t God speak to him? Which loving parent does not want to communicate with their children? And we are so very imperfect! But God? He is our Immaculate, Holy Father and He desires for us to listen for His voice every day, with every decision we must make. I have a habit of saying “God told me,” and many Christians might get confused about this declaration. But I ask, why would we be surprised that God desires to communicate with His children? The devil sure talks to us all day long, why wouldn’t God oppose that potentially wicked impact with His own godly guidance? I never hear an audible voice, mind you, but God does impress His words onto my heart though. I can “hear” with my spiritual ears what He is telling me…yet, sometimes I will question if it is really God. This is a healthy practice because there are many “voices” that can influence our thoughts and actions. Think our three enemies here. So how do I know for sure if it is God? God would never go against His Holy Word. If what I am sensing is not in the Bible, I drop it, and run to God in prayer. God would never tell me to go scream at someone who has hurt my feelings, for instance. To forgive them? To apologize to them, even if I did not start the argument? These things He has told me on many occasions, and they line up with Scripture…but sadly, these might also be the times I am tempted to block His voice out…but eventually, God knows my heart and I do end up obeying. Another way I know it is Him is, when I finally choose to obey, things work out for the greatest good. That enemy of ours would NEVER tempt us to be good! He would never try to get us to do the righteous thing. He would never move us to love others the way God loves us. You see, it may be simpler than we first think to discern God’s voice from all the rest. The key is to know God’s Word so we can tell if it is Him or not. The way we can differentiate one person’s voice from the next is by listening to them speak. To say it a different way, we hear their words, and recognize their voice. Same with God, my Friends. When we know His Word, we can recognize His voice speaking within our own growing spirit. Then like Abram, hopefully, we choose to trust and obey. Oh the many interesting things God has shown me when I follow that clear plan: listen, trust and obey. Here, Abram begins his journey and I am sure he never regretted that first leap of Faith!
Abram does not go alone. Once again we can only speculate here, because the Bible never tells us why Abram chose to take Lot with him as he set out on his journey. Maybe Abram was still trying to hold on to a small piece of his father’s household? Possibly Abram thought they would be safer with greater numbers? Or perhaps Abram was being a good Uncle and did not feel it was right to leave his deceased brother’s son behind? We don’t know. But we do know that Lot went with Abram and his caravan. You see, sometimes when we begin to follow God, others will want to join us. What we need to do though is pray before we simply allow anyone onto our pilgrimage. We need to make sure we are all on the same page. That they desire to follow God at all costs, like we do. That the other person is not just trying to get something from us, but really wants to give their lives to God too. If God gives us peace about the alliance, then great. But if we are still not sure, or worse we lose any peace we had, then we must lovingly go it alone. I say “lovingly” because it would not be the best situation for anyone involved. So we have to sit the other person down, have a serious but gracious talk with them, and see what God does. Their reaction or response can be a big indicator of whether we should travel this journey together or not. We should never feel pressured to walk with anyone if the Holy Spirit has not given us the green light. Again, here, we are not sure what the backstory about why Lot joins Abram is all about. And while the Bible does call Lot “a righteous man,” (see 2Pe 2:7-8) there are some questionable things about his character that later cause some complications for Abram. But I am getting ahead of our reading now. Abram does decide to bring Lot with them as they begin their nomadic lifestyle, traveling from here to there as the Holy Spirit leads. Abram is 75 years old as he steps out in Faith, trusting God to guide, protect and provide for him and all those that he was now responsible for. Abram had accumulated much wealth while in Haran with his Dad, including a whole staff of servants and many possessions like flocks of many kinds. It really was a caravan that left the old way of life behind as they set out, with Abram at the helm, to find what God had planned. And God was with them all, every step of the way. Again I say, Abram does not go alone.
Build an altar. Abram and company get to their first rest stop in the land of the Canaanites. Then the Bible says, “The Lord appeared to Abram….” Ok, it is one thing to sense the voice of God speaking to you, but to have God appear right before your eyes? Twice in Genesis 12:7 it states that “the Lord appeared to Abram.” This is the first place in the Bible where God seems to manifest in some type of physical form. This is often called “theophany,” which is God manifesting in a tangible way to humans. Or it is also known as “Christophany” where many believe it was a manifestation of the pre-incarnate Christ, foreshadowing His birth into Humanity. So not only does this Saint hear the Lord, but he has the incredible blessing to see Him as well. And this will not be the last time God chooses to have such a personal and powerful encounter with Abram. And no, in case you are wondering, I have never seen Jesus physically before me, but how amazing would that be? We can, however, see glimpses of God in our lives as He allows. Oh the stories I can tell about seeing His hand in so many places and ways along my journey…anyway. Abram sees God and gets another promise from Him. God tells him, “To your offspring I will give this land.” (Gen 12:7) Note there are no conditions here just like with the prior wonderful blessings. (see Gen 12:2-3) God has already decided to do this for Abram and his family. I WILL give them this land, God says. In God’s heart it is a done deal. Now all that was left was for the descendants of Abram to receive the gift. This reminds me of every born again believer. God knows us better than we know ourselves. He already knows who will be His and who will refuse Christ’s offering. (see 2Tim 2:19) The issue is we don’t know…yet…not until God uses the trials of this life to draw us near to Him. This was certainly the beginning of my own journey with God. When my Baby Girl, Rebecca, was diagnosed with brain cancer, for the first time in my life, I began to seek God seriously. I mean I always knew He was real, but He was up in Heaven somewhere, and I was down here living MY life. But when Beckie fell into that first comatose state? Then the medical professionals told me there was nothing else they could do? I thankfully fell into God’s waiting and open arms. This is what I mean when I say God draws us into Himself. The hard things of life exhaust all our own resources. They leave us feeling like we have no hope. They cause us to get desperate enough, to not only seek God casually, but surrender to Him fully. God knows the when and why and how we will either choose to be His, or sadly, the number of times we will refuse and leave this world never receiving His free gift of Salvation. Because He knows us, He also knows what will draw us into letting go of our old life, where we attempted to live apart from Him, and enter into this journey where we continually learn how to live with Him. It is a sweet journey that should lead us to build an altar for our Lord. Just like Abram here is so overwhelmed by the Presence and Goodness of God, he just had to make a physical site where he could worship God, we too are to do likewise. No, we might not have to build a literal altar for God, but we should manifest our gratitude for His Goodness somehow. Perhaps we will choose to go help someone in the Name of Jesus. Or maybe we will help plant churches in other countries for His splendor. Or we could even decide to finally lose that weight we have been carrying for way too long, in order to honor this Temple of the Holy Spirit. (see 1Co 6:19) At this point in my walk with God, this is one of the ways I am choosing to be an altar for God. To be a living sacrifice, as the Bible encourages us, so that I can glorify God with my spirit, soul AND body. You see, God is concerned with all of who we are. Yes, the spirit first, then the soul, but our bodies too. I believe this is one of the countless reasons Jesus became incarnate. To teach us that the body does matter. The verse I referred to before is Romans 12:1 which says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” (Ro 12:1) This is our proper worship: to build our lives in such a way that we become living altars for God. Abram was a living sacrifice as he set out, obeying God’s voice to turn away from his old way of life. As God appears to him, Abram is so overcome, he builds an actual altar where he and others after him, can worship this amazing Creator. We too should allow God to draw us so close that we are overcome by His Love and Grace and become that altar for Him.
Called on the Name of the Lord. Abram and his group move on to their next spot and, once again, he builds an altar to the Lord. From a commentary, I learned that building these altars was not only for him and others to be able to worship God, but it also symbolized Abram taking possession of the land for God and dedicating it to Him. (see this link Benson Commentary) So to take what I said above one step further, not only are we worshipping God as we become living altars for His glory, but we are consecrating ourselves to Him. We are revealing that we are His beloved, holy children as we choose to follow His lead and live our lives His way. Trusting Him, His Way, His Plan and His Timing. Trust. This is so vital for every believer. It is by Grace through Faith that we receive the gift of Salvation, but it is also this Faith, trusting God no matter what, that is the way we should be living each day thereafter. (see Eph 2:8 & Gal 3:1-6) You see, God has already given us all we will ever need in this life, and the one to come. But if we do not trust Him, we will continue to live that old, unfulfilling, selfish and sinful lifestyle. God is not honored when we call ourselves Christians, but live like the rest of the world. There must be something different about us, not only IN us. Like Abram, we must step out of that old life and leave it behind. Worshipping anything or anyone, including ourselves, is who we used to be. Now we belong to God and should always, and only, worship Him. The more we grow in His Grace and Mercy, the more we will trust Him, which will lead us to worship Him. Then the more we will call on His Name. This is so much more than praying to God. Calling on His Name shows the intimacy of our relationship. It brings to mind publicly proclaiming that we belong to Him and desire to live for Him. It speaks about how our heart, that is our spirit, is surrendered to Him. How our soul is submitted to Him. And how we desire that our body, through our actions, reveal we are obedient to Him. Calling on the Name of the Lord means we are all His— spirit, soul and body— and not ashamed to proclaim it. Names are important, and if you have sincerely received Salvation, then God has changed your Name. We are now called Christians, that is, we are called BY His Name, Christ, the moment we sincerely call ON His Name. The first time this phrase is used in the Bible is back in Genesis chapter 4 when referring to Seth and his family. Scripture says, “…At that time people began to call on the name of the Lord.” (Gen 4:26) Seth is distinguished from his brother Cain and his descendants who began focusing their lives on this world instead, by raising livestock, making musical instruments, as well as creating tools out of bronze and iron. (see Gen 4:20-22) Calling on the Name of the Lord speaks about how Seth’s heart was soft towards the leading of God and how God could move him to live a life that reflected God’s own Character, and thus, giving Him glory. Cain on the other hand, was already living for his own worldly pleasures. While it is not wrong to enjoy this life we have been given here before we get to go to Heaven, when our focus is MMI instead of our Creator? It only leads to a futile, dissatisfying, unhappy life. This is not who we were created to be. Again, we were designed to call ON the Name of the Lord, so we could be called BY the Name of the Lord. In other words, we are to be given a New Name that indicates we belong to God. In the days of the Bible, a name was not some random label given to a human. It talked about their character. It defined them in many ways. When we call on the Name of the Lord, we are proclaiming all His Greatness, all His Majesty, all His Genius, Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-control. (see Gal 5:22-23) We are uniting with His immaculate Nature, seeking and desiring to imitate it as well…and we will want the whole world to know it. Abram is worshipping God. Abram is also praying for guidance, protection and provision. But Abram is doing so much more than all of that as he calls on the Name of the Lord. He is crying out to God to be more and more like God.
Abram continues on his way. Once we receive Salvation and become His. Once we begin to be living altars for His glory. And once we begin to call on the Name of the Lord so He will continue to transform us into His likeness, then we simply live our lives seeking ways to display this New Identity we have been given. We listen for God’s voice to guide our steps. We look for glimpses of His Presence in all things, all around us. And we search for ways to imitate Him in whatever happens to us. So when someone offends us, we connect with God and choose to forgive that person, instead of harboring any ill feelings towards them. Just like Jesus forgave us. When we become aware of any need, we find ways to fill that need. Just like Jesus filled our greatest need for Salvation. When we feel anxious, we choose to trust God’s Plan. Just like Jesus did up on that Cross. When we think, speak or act, we look for ways to reflect our New Name which is defined by God’s Immaculate Character. In other words, we become more and more like Him, acting more and more in the way Jesus does. We will love God with all we’ve got and love others, as ourselves. Then hopefully, this lost and hurting world will see something New in us, that they want for themselves too. They will see Jesus right before their eyes. It becomes our great honor and privilege to introduce them to Him. This is what I desire for my life: to become more and more like Jesus and bring others to Him as often, and as fully, as possible. And I do this as I call ON the Name of the Lord and live BY the Name of the Lord. Want that too? Then won’t you join me?
Until we meet again, keep lifting your eyes to God, He’s closer than you think.
<>< Peace, Diane