It can be difficult to leave things behind and start out on a new venture of faith. We all like comfort. We appreciate security. I recall the difficulty of leaving the beautiful house we built literally with our own hands in New Jersey in order to answer a call to move to Maryland in 1994. I could look out the window and see the school I went to as a child. Our four little kids had never known any other place. My elderly parents were less than a mile away. Lots of security! But I could still call them on the phone at any time, and it was only a three-hour journey to visit them. I could build another house, and there were lots of new people to meet.
A fellow named Abram was called by God about 4,000 years ago to leave everything and go to some unknown place that God said He would eventually show him. Just pack up Abram and do it! He was to leave his country and all the material successes he had accumulated. The command also was to leave his father’s house – surely meaning to disconnect from some security there. Yet that also meant to put behind idols and man-made deities, as Joshua much later spoke …
And Joshua said to all the people, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, “From ancient times your fathers lived beyond the River, namely, Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, and they served other gods”’ (Joshua 24:2)
Abraham responded in faith (though not initially, as the original call came when in Ur, not when in Haran – see Acts 7:2). But Abraham is ultimately commended for the faith he exhibited to get up at age 75 and follow God’s directive …
Hebrews 11:8-9 – By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.
But our point today and in this portion of our study is to look at what God was doing. There is nothing apparently special about Abram that commended him uniquely to God to be selected for this task. Perhaps there were some personality traits that would enhance his obedience, but even those abilities we would have to also see as the gift of God. Like Paul on the road to Damascus, it was the initiation of God that is the foundation of all the blessing to follow.
Here again we see the grace of God in the Old Testament and His heart to reach out to all of the world.
God chose to work specifically through one man and his family to bring about God’s great plan of redemption of mankind. And at the time of Abram’s calling, God made a covenant with him that involved promises that were personal, national, and universal…
Genesis 12:1-3 – The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
This is what we call The Abrahamic Covenant. And it was more than just a blessing on one man and his family, and more than the choosing of one nation. The biggest component was the final, universal promise for all the peoples on the earth. Of course this blessing would be the coming of Christ as the redeemer, and it is worked out over time through the selection of the tribe of Judah and the lineage of David.
God kept a focus on this throughout the Old Testament scriptures. If it was up to the Jewish nation to recall or consider how they were a blessing in any way to the rest of the world, it would have been forgotten. And this leads to a next point that demonstrates the forever heart of God for the world.
The nation of Israel was to live essentially as a missionary nation of priests (intermediaries) between God and the rest of the world. God had chosen Israel as His special people through whom to work, but they were to be His instruments of blessing to the rest of the world … not to just hold onto their faith for merely themselves …
Exodus 19:1-8 – On the first day of the third month after the Israelites left Egypt—on that very day—they came to the Desert of Sinai. 2 After they set out from Rephidim, they entered the Desert of Sinai, and Israel camped there in the desert in front of the mountain.
3 Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: 4 ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, 6 you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”
7 So Moses went back and summoned the elders of the people and set before them all the words the Lord had commanded him to speak. 8 The people all responded together, “We will do everything the Lord has said.” So Moses brought their answer back to the Lord.
Israel was to be a missionary nation. As they trusted in the Lord, and as other nations saw that there was no God like Jehovah, other peoples might desire to come and to know and follow the one true God. But Israel never really did much of anything of this sort. They clung to their God without testifying, and actually they were more likely to adopt heathen practices of idols and high places than they were to be missionary peoples.
So we don’t want to be like that. We want to be like Abraham and step out in faith. We should want to be willing to cross tracks and divides of all sorts – to be united with other diverse people who share our common faith, and to reach out near and far to the varied peoples of this world that they might come to know the one true God. This is God’s heart and passion, and we should adopt it as well.
Here is a picture Amy Hunt drew in church on Sunday. She takes notes weekly by listening and sketching the big idea in an artistic way – showing here the heart of God for the world.
In another note, this today is the 1,000th devotional post since we began doing these writings in 2013. You’ve read all of them, right? Remember that you can always search this page by Scripture reference or title and see what Chris and/or I wrote about it. We’ve commented on about one-half of all Bible passages in these posts.