Essay / Theology

What God Called Abraham (Lesson 2: Genesis 12)

graceevfree advent banner

Father Abraham had many sons, eventually.

But for most of his life all he had was his wife Sarah, and his loyal servant Eleazar, and a word of mouth promise from God.

For the Lord said to Abram, “Go out, away from the familiarity of your country, and far away from the network of your kindred, and out of the protection and security of your father’s house, to the land that I have not even shown you yet, but will show you later. And 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.”

So by faith Abraham obeyed, and he went out without even knowing where he was going. God said “go somewhere,” and Abraham said “OK” and headed somewhere. He lived in a tent but looked forward to a city. He waited for a baby, the down-payment on a great nation. He waited– until he and Sarah were past the age of childbearing, and then he waited some more. Talk about a pregnant pause. He waited until he was as good as dead, all those years remembering the promise and repeating under his breath, “Abba, Father, you can do anything.”

Adam and Eve had everything, and threw it all away by rejecting God’s word. Abraham had nothing but the word, and ended up with everything, eventually.

You have to remember that Abraham lived in a real shipwreck of a world. Everybody could tell it must have been a nice place once, but according to the family stories, great-great-great-great-great-great Grandpa Adam had a gambling problem and bet the farm on a bad idea. By the time Abraham’s generation got there, the party was over, bills were piling up, and there were nothing but empties and trash littered everywhere.

Actually, it wasn’t so much a shipwreck as a train wreck: Adam had driven the engine off a cliff and all the other train cars, one after another, were following him down.   And in all that general mess of noise and confusion where nothing made sense, your parents worshiped idols, and you couldn’t trust anybody anymore, the word of the Lord came to Abraham, and Abraham and Sarah did the opposite of Adam and Eve: they believed it. They held onto it with tenacity and trust. With shabby equipment and in a general mess of imprecision about directions, they set out on a new venture, a whole new beginning.

God had told Adam and Eve about a blessing and a curse and a seed, and eventually he explained it all to Abraham: The blessing is that you will be a blessing to the world, the curse is that I will curse those that curse you, and the seed is the promised child and an inheritance as great as the stars of heaven and as innumerable as the grains of sand by the seashore. Once Abraham got going, God filled in some of the details along the way. Step by step this pilgrim made progress, and things got clearer, eventually.

If you’ve read the Bible, there’s no keeping you in suspense: for Abraham there was a happy ending, eventually. God gave his word and kept it. Finding nothing greater to swear by, God swore by himself. Scripture preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, and Abraham rejoiced to see the day of Christ.  God called Abraham out of Ur. God called Abraham his friend, called him the one who believed, called him a rock that he hewed his chosen people out of. God called himself by the name, “the God of Abraham.” Many will come from the east and the west to recline at table with Abraham; the faithful at their deaths are carried by angels to the bosom of Abraham; and Father Abraham was a blessing to all the nations of the earth, eventually.

But in the meantime, the times were mean. When Abraham died, the only real estate he owned in the promised land was a gravesite. He lived by faith and died still seeking. But the vindication of Abraham was inevitable, because God had picked his man, put the plan into motion, and given his word. And in the heart of Father Abraham, that word found a home.

 For my church‘s 2014 Christmas concert service, I wrote a set of 9 readings to accompany the night of songs: a Lessons and Carols service. I’m posting the lessons here at Scriptorium Daily from now until Christmas day. Banner design by Josh Kenfield

Share this essay [social_share/]