God continues to reach out to the world and He does so through a chosen servant called Abraham. At this point in our story Abraham is called Abram and it would be later that God changes his name.
God has always been about reaching the world (John 3:16) and now God is launching a nation to reach them. God already punished the earth once when people would not listen and now people are going their own way and God is going to send His messengers to tell them how to get back with God.
Read Genesis 12:1- 20
What does it mean to follow God? It means:
1) Willing to leave everything else behind
He lived in Ur which was known for Moon worship because his Father Terah was moving the family to Canaan but did not finish the journey and settled down in Ur. God called Abraham out of that place which meant he would have to leave behind family, friends and familier surroundings in order to be obedient to God. If you have ever moved you know that there are things you have been hanging onto that you are finally forced to get rid of. They are not things you need they are just things that you have held onto for many years that mainly sit in a closet or in an attic. To follow God there is always a leaving of things that you do not need to follow Him. This is Gods way of helping you get rid of things in your life that you do not need but that were cluttering up your life.
Matthew 4:19-22 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”[a] 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
For the Disciples to drop their nets and to leave what they always knew was a big deal. I think we sometimes read the stories in the Bible and forget that packing up your family or leaving a vocation for the unknown would have added stress to them and their families.
Following God sometimes means dropping the very things we put our security in. We always seem to have a back up plan or something we can go back to if we need to but when you follow God, you have to trust Him fully.
The hardest thing to leave behind is our own way of doing things. After Jesus rose from the dead He found the disciples fishing again.(John 21) They went back to what they knew after they thought Jesus was not who He said He was. When things did not work out like they thought they went back to the nets that they had left to follow Him.
God had to remove Abraham from a land that was full of distractions in order for Abraham to be the messenger that God needed him to be. We all have a tendancy to worship the same idols those around us do because they become common place in our lives. We have to leave behind the ways of the world and focus only on God in order to make sure that we have not become like the world. This is why God calls you out from what you know because then you can see that the ways of the world have entrapped you to things you do not need.
Leadership and Coorperate models are good but we have to be careful that they do not get in the way of us following God. Although our talents and success are good we have to be careful they do not get in the way of us following God. Sometimes the biggest thing we need to leave behind to follow God is our own wisdom.
See also Joshua 24:2-3
2) Trusting in His guidance
To a land that I will show you
Abraham did not know where he was going but he knew who he was following. James 2:23 tells us that Abraham was a friend of God. Abraham and God had to be close in order for Abraham to trust Him the way he did. There is a level of intimacy that they had that is available to all of us but we get the mindset that God is in Heaven and we are to just go on this journey alone.
Christianity is not about checking things off your list for a God who wants things done, it is a relationship that you can develop and you do things together. Abraham was not totally certain how things were going to work out.He did not have a plan that he could roll out to see if he was on schedule. He had a friend that he could trust.
Abrahams Journey was 1500 miles that was not a direct path. The desert prevented direct travel between the two places that God was leading him. Normal travel followed the “Fertile Crescent” the route taken by Abraham from Ur to Haran to Canaan. We get hung up on the destination and if we arrived but the journey is just as important to God as the destination.
You become the person you are by what you go through. The hardships of life will lead you to be someone you could not be if everything was easy. We have all seen a spoiled child who always gets their way when they whine. The parents do the child, themselves and the rest of society no favors when they do not allow that child to learn to wait pateintly or to not get whatever they want. Do not run from the pain that you are experiencing but examine it and see what God is teaching you through it.
Hebrews 11:8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.
Obedience is always a sign of faith because talk means nothing. We have all seen people who talk about what they are going to do but when it comes time to do it they back down. A real sign of faith is carrying out the commands of God. We do not earn our salvation by works (Ephesians 2:8-9) but we do demonstrate what we believe about God by how we act. (James 2)
3) Being a blessing to others
I will bless you and make your name great
Many Christians are stuck on the first promise of God to Abraham. We like the part when God says He will bless us which means happy. But we sometimes forget why God blesses us in the first place.
…So that you will be a blessing.
God’s blessings are meant to be shared not hoarded. In other words the happiness that you can experience through God are to be shared with others.
Are you a blessing or a curse to others? Are you more concerned with being blessed or being a blessing?
Deuteronomy 6:10-12 And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, 11 and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, 12 then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
To your family I will give this land, so he built and altar
Bethel means house of God. This altar was built in the sight of a pagan culture. (There were philistines in the land) Abraham was making a declaration that only God would be his God and Abraham was putting his faith in Him.
Do those around you know that your life belongs to God? Have you boldly declared your alligence to Him?
In Genesis 15 we see God and Abraham sealing the promise by cutting an animal in half and then God proceeded to walk between them. This was a symbol that if I break my word that I would be like the dead animal. God is the only one who walked through the animals because God knew He was the only one who was faithful to keep the promise.
Abraham built a reminder into his life by building an altar to God. Everytime someone would pass by that altar it would be a reminder of the promise of God for them to have that land (The Promise Land). Notice how all of the world History is ties to this coveted land that God promised to Abraham thousands of years ago.
How do you remember the promises of God? Do you build reminders into your life? Psalm 105 is all about the promises and fulfillment of God. We need to slow down enough to remember Gods promises and also the things He has already fulfilled if you don’t then your heart will deceive you into giving up.
Jeremiah 17:7-10 Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. 8 He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” 9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? 10 “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind,[b]
It is by placing your faith in God that you will be able to endure the hardship of the dry seasons of life. We all experience those times when we wonder if God has forgotten us so it is good to remember how God has already come through and the promises that He has made to us in His word.
4) You may face hardship
There was a famine in the land
To get to God’s blessings is where you will find your biggest battles. Famines were common in this region and Egypt is where people went for food. The story of Joseph will show another occasion in which the famine got so bad people had to flock to Egypt in order to survive. You can be in Gods will and yet things may not go your way. It is a false teaching when people say that bad things are happening to you because you either have sin in your life or because you thought negative thoughts.
Jesus told us we would have problems in this world (John 16:33) not because of our lack of faith or because of our negative thinking but because people are self centered and not walking in the ways of God.
Faith is easy when everything is going your way it is when things go wrong that your faith shows itself for what it really is. And please do not believe the lie that God will not give you more than you can handle because that is not true. James 1 tells us that God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can handle but that has nothing to do with the trials of life.
Abraham was scared for his own life when he entered Egypt and so he told a half-truth to protect himself. Deception is the way of the world but not the way of God. He had no concern about Sarah only himself. Selfishness always seems to hurt the family first and others second. Selfishness has put many families in harms way.
Some argue that he was never supposed to go into Egypt. Whether it was right to go into Egypt or not is debatable but there was a famine and so to provide for his family he went there for a time. According to Dr Norman Geisler, Adultery was forbidden in Egypt so Abrahams action proved even more futile because of his fear.
Abraham had a chance to be a blessing to Pharaoh but instead he was a curse. God rebuked Pharaoh for something Abraham did. (Plagues) Abraham had his first opportunity to be Gods messenger in a foreign land but his fear made it so they did not recieve the message of Gods love.
5) Trusting Him to get you back on the right path
What is this that you have done to me?
God protected Sarah when her husband wouldn’t. Pharaoh had Abraham escorted out of the city because they wanted him gone so desperately. Abraham did things the way the world would have done them because he was not trusting that God would take care of him.
Jerry Bridges uses the phrase “Conduct unbecoming an officer ” to describe any Christian who is not acting the way they are supposed to act. We all have a tendancy to not trust God in the situations and by doing so we push people away from God instead of toward Him.
How we act when faced with difficult circumstances can determine if we are a blessing or a curse. Hebrews 12:6 says that God disciplines those He loves and God used Pharoah to rebuke Abraham for how he treated his own wife and how he brought curses on the people of Egypt. If you are a child of God, God will get you back on track even if it takes a foreign King to kick you out of the city.
Where are you with Following God?
What have you not taken a step of faith to do because you were not sure YOU could do it?
Are the days dark for you? Now you have to trust His guidance more than ever.
Are you unsure about His love or care for you? Now you have to lean on His promises.
Has He blessed you greatly? Now you need to be a blessing to others.
Have you wondered off course? Now is the time for you to get back to where you need to be.