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Gen 12-15: A Pattern for God's Relationship with Man Print E-mail
Monday, 19 December 2005

If you would, take your bulletins out once again.  I want to point out a couple of things as we begin this morning.  If you look on the front you notice the lovely picture of the Bible and the candles with the passage from John 1.  You also see at the bottom the Churchís name and the Church staff.  If you open the bulletin you see our order of service for this morning.  It is similar to most mornings with the appropriate changes of songs, sermon title, and scripture.  Then if you look on the next page you see our announcements (with the added text of Genesis 12:2-3).  On the outer flap you find our prayer requests and information about our meeting times.  On the very back you find the place for sermon notes (which you should be filling in vigorously in the next few moments).  All this makes up our bulletin.  And for the most part, from week to week, it is very similar.  Now the particular information changes, but the pattern remains the same.  We have a cover, an order of service, a page for announcements, and a page for sermon notes.  Although the details will vary from week to week, the overall pattern remains the same.

When you study the Scriptures, you learn early on that certain patterns begin to develop.  Some of these patterns are within certain books by particular authors (as we have seen in the comparison between the Creation account and after the Flood).  Yet, some patterns stretch across authors and books and even across the two testaments.  Granted, the details and circumstances change, but there is still an identifiable pattern.  As we consider Godís relationship with Abram this morning from our text, I think we can identify a pattern for Godís relationship with man.  Again, the details will vary, but the overall pattern seems to run throughout the text of Scripture.  I want to identify this pattern from our text this morning.

Yet, before I do, since our text covers four chapters, let me just give a brief summary of the narrative.  In chapter 12 we see the initial call of Abram to go to the land of Canaan and following the famine the trip to Egypt.  Chapter 13 simply deals with the separation of Lot and Abram.  Lot chooses to go and live in the city of Sodom, while Abram remains in Canaan.  In chapter 14 we are told of a war that breaks out between Kings from the Dead Sea area and Kings from the East.  Eventually the Kings from the East plunder the area of Sodom and take Lot and his possessions.  Abram then makes war with these Kings and rescues Lot.  Afterward he is blessed by the King of Salem, Melchizedek, who was a priest of the Lord.  Chapter 15 simply tells of the covenant that God establishes with Abram.

Letís look now at the pattern for Godís relationship with man identified in these chapters.

First, we see that God calls and man obeys (12:1-9, 14:17-24).

In Genesis 12:1-4 we see Godís call on Abram to leave his land and to journey into Canaan.  I should say at this point that the issue of the land of Canaan plays a significant part in our text this morning and in the entire history of Israel.  God promises Abram that the land of Canaan will be given to His descendents.  God also tells Abram that He will bless him and make his name great.  This is in great contrast to how the Lord dealt with those who were building the Tower.  As we said before, God is going to bless all the nations through the blessing of one nation.  Indeed, God has a plan.  Of course we could ask at this point, Why Abram?  Our answer, as it was with Noah, must be simply Godís sovereign grace.  Godís call to man is a gracious act that no man deserves or earns.  This is a part of the pattern that will continue throughout the pages of Scripture.

Manís response to Godís call is to be obedient.  This is what we see with Abram.  God calls him to go to the land of Canaan and we read in verse 4 that he obeys.  Look at that verse with me.  Although we will see Abraham struggle in his obedience to the Lord, we also continue to see him being obedient.  We see this in his living in the land of Canaan after Lot chooses Sodom, in his rescuing Lot, in his dealings with the King of Sodom in chapter 14, and in his preparing for the covenant sacrifice.  In all of this we see Abramís obedience to the Lord.

As we said, God continues to call men into relationship with him.  He does this generally through the preaching of the gospel and specifically through the work of the Spirit in regeneration.  He also continues to call believers to be obedient to His commands.  Thus, as we look at Abramís obedience to pack up his stuff and move to a foreign land, indeed a difficult task, we must ask, ĎAm I willing to be obedient to the difficult tasks that God is calling me to do?  Am I willing to live ethically at home, work, school, or wherever?  Am I willing to speak the gospel to my coworkers, family members, and neighbors?  Am I willing to be involved in Wednesday night prayer or Sunday night small group studies, or Sunday school?  Am I willing to give up certain activities because I know they could lead to sin?í  I do not know exactly where you are struggling, but I do know that God is calling you to be obedient as a believer.  It is difficult, but we must fight for obedience even as Abraham did.

Second, we see that God protects and provides and man trusts (12:10-20, 13:1-18, 14:1-16).

In all these different stories in the life of Abram, we see God protecting him and providing for him.  In fact, whatever Abram is facing God is there to sustain him.  Letís look at three particular areas.

First, God protects us from ourselves and provides grace.  In 12:10-20, we read of Abram taking his wife to Egypt because of the famine, an action which is not in keeping with Godís call to go to the land of Canaan.  Abram has his wife lie to the people of Egypt and she ends up in the Pharaohís harem.  So, does God just end the story of Abram there?  No, in His grace, God protects Abram by sending great plagues on the house of the Pharaoh and having him dismiss Sarai and Abram.  Thus, God protects Abram even from his own mistakes.  Does God do this to teach Abram that sin is alright?  No, He does this out of His grace so that Abram will learn the importance of being obedient to Godís commands.  In the same way, when we sin and God forgives us, He does not want us to simply conclude that sin is no big deal.  No, He wants us to learn that it is more blessed to be obedient than to be disobedient.  Paul concludes that we are not to continue in our sins so that grace can abound, but rather to realize that we are dead to sin and alive to Christ (see Romans 6).  Godís grace is meant to lead us to repentance and obedience, not to more sin.  So, God protects us from ourselves and provides grace that we might trust Him more and avoid disobedience in the future.

Second, God protects us from friends and family.  In chapter 13, we read of the struggle that develops between Abram and Lot.  The text tells us that their servants were fighting and that the land was not big enough to support them both.  Even though Abram gives Lot the choice, Lot chooses foolishly and moves to Sodom.  God blesses Abramís obedience and promises again to give him the land of Canaan.  Our struggle with friends and family can be real, but we must labor to be obedient to God and to trust that He will meet all our needs.

Third, God protects us from and provides for us when we face enemies.  As we said earlier, the Dead Sea Kings and the Kings from the East go to war with each other.  When the Kings from the East defeat the Dead Sea Kings they plunder Sodom and capture Lot.  Yet, the Lord gives Abram victory over these powerful Kings with not very many men.  Thus, we see again Godís protection and provision for Abram, even against fierce enemies.

From all this, we must ask ourselves, ĎDo we trust God or do we move out on our own?í  Abram thought that he was safer to live off the bread in Egypt rather than remaining in Canaan where God had called him to go.  As Satan tempted Eve, we are often tempted to believe that a better life is found in disobedience to God rather than obedience.  Think about marriage.  God calls us to remain faithful to one another as a true picture of the gospel.  But when things get hard and the famine comes, we begin to listen to the world that says, ĎYou could be happier if you would just get a divorce.í  Yes, the call of God on our lives is difficult, but He has promised to protect us and provide for us, so we should trust Him.  We will never go wrong in entrusting ourselves to such a faithful Creator (see 1 Peter 4:19).

Third, we see that God covenants and man believes (15:1-21, 12:1-9, 14:17-24).

In chapter 15, God establishes His covenant with Abram.  Look at verse 18.  The sense of the whole chapter is the fact that it is God coming to Abram to establish the covenant.  It is Godís work towards Abram and His descendants.  We see in this that God promises to be faithful to the covenant.  In fact, look at verse 17.  The smoking pot and the flaming torch represent God in this verse.  Abram had cut the animals into pieces and placed them across from each other.  As the smoking pot and the flaming torch passed through the pieces, it was the Lord saying to Abram: ĎIf I break this covenant, let me be treated as these animals.í  Needless to say, God is making it clear to Abram that He is committed and faithful to keep his covenants with man.

In fact, the rest of Scripture shows us just how faithful God is to keeping this covenant.  As verses 12-16 prophesy, Abramís descendents will spend over 400 years in Egypt, but God will rescue them from their slavery.  Over and over again we will see Godís faithfulness to His covenant with Abram.  Look at Luke 1:54-55.  As Mary is praising God for sending Christ she points out that God is keeping His covenant with Abram.  Thus, we can say that at least one of the reasons that God sent His son was to be faithful to His covenant with Abraham.  What an amazing truth?  God is a faithful, committed covenant keeper.

Why is this such good news to us?  Because God has covenanted with us to send His Son to gather the Church to himself on the last day.  The pattern that we see throughout Scripture is that God is faithful to His covenants with man.  Thus, we can take great hope that Christ will indeed return for His Bride.  God has never broken a covenant and He never will.

How then is man to respond?  Look at how Abram responds in 15:6.  Our response is to believe in the Lord.  Paul picks up on this in Romans 4, the passage we read to begin our service.  The Lord promises to Abram that He will give the land of Canaan to his descendants and bless the nations through him.  Abram believes this promise and the Lord counted such belief as righteousness.  In this way, Paul calls Abram the father of all who would believe.  We are not saved by works, just as Abraham was not saved by works.  Rather, we are saved by faith in the finished work of Christ.  Through faith in Christ, we join ourselves with the descendants of Abraham and become heirs according to promise.

Of course, the challenge then this morning is to believe as Abraham believed.  It is through our faith that we are able to trust God and to obey him in all circumstances.  To be frank, our struggle is lack of faith.  No matter where we are or what we are facing, the temptation is always to not believe.  Yet, the life of Abraham should challenge us.  Yes, he struggles, we will see more of his struggles next week, but he does believe.  Do you believe this morning?  If you are hear and have not placed your faith in Christ, do you believe that you cannot save yourself and that your only hope is to repent of your sins and believe in Christ?  Christ said: No man can come to the Father but by me.  Do you believe him?  Or are you a believer in Christ but are struggling with trusting and obeying in all circumstances?  Whatever the area of obedience, do you believe that it is more blessed to actually be obedient than to be disobedient?  The pattern is the same today as it was with Abram.  God calls, God protects and provides, God covenants.  Man is to obey, man is to trust, man is to believe.  So then, cast off your doubt and believe in the faithful, covenant keeping God.  Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 21 February 2006 )

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