Glory Out of Failure Meditations: 2. It starts with Abram
Gen 12:2,3,10 (ERV) I will build a great nation from you. I will bless you and make your name famous….. I will use you to bless all the people on earth…. During this time there was not enough food in the land, so Abram went down to Egypt to live.
Where we are: We are looking at the basics, the fundamentals, the realities of the Christian life, things that should be familiar, things that should be foundational in our lives but which sometimes get forgotten, the basics that remind us that each of us who calls our self a Christian, a child of God, comes from a place of anonymity, a place of failure and are taken by God and made someone with a significant identity and full of His glory. That is what these studies are about.
Abram: Prior to Abram, prior to chapter 12 of Genesis the picture is not very personal and these lessons aren’t very clear, but when we come to Abram (which means ‘exalted father’) whose name was later changed to Abraham (which means ‘father of many’) when he was ninety-nine years old (Gen 17:4-6), this all changes. This is a very personal and detailed story. I hesitate to use the word ‘story’ because that can imply something made up and so perhaps the word ‘account’ would be better in that that simply describes what happened in history, and history this surely is. Everything about this account of this man is significant. Let’s start noting some of these things.
A Family Man: His father, Terah, is named as are his two younger brothers Nahor and Haran and his nephew, Lot, son of Haran. (Gen 11:17) They live in Ur, a city of Mesopotamia, that we refer to as ‘the cradle of civilisation’, and the location of the Garden of Eden (see Gen 2:14). Like many families it has its tragedies. Haran, the youngest son, dies. Sarai, Abram’s wife, is barren (Gen 11:30). There must be, as there always is in such situation, heartache. And yet, somehow there is hope. Somehow God has communicated with this pagan and given him the hope that He will make him into a great nation, (Gen 12:1) and a nation starts with one child. Somehow this hope is linked with making a fresh start in another land that God says He will show him, (Gen 12:1) and so he goes.
And So? There is the essence of the story, the foundation from which all else follows. The story is about family and land, the former being the thing that must be driving Abram, the latter appearing the environment on which the former relies. So he goes, there is a land to be found and presumably to be taken. It is all very unknown but he goes. This, we think initially, is what makes him the notable man of faith that he is, heralded in the gallery of faith in Heb 11:8 that we so often turn to.
God Revealed: But this isn’t only Abram’s story, this is God’s. This story reveals God. He is first of all there – something we can take for granted. Second, He is a communicator and, third, He has a plan and that plan is worked out through a childless couple, and so eventually we will see that He is a God who changes the course of nature so a childless woman and a childless couple, both way beyond child-conceiving age, have a child. Later on Abraham will know that this God can be called ‘The Lord Will Provide’ (Gen 21:14). Now so often we anchor our thoughts about the God who will provide in the account about Abraham going to sacrifice Isaac, but actually everything about the story about Abram-Abraham is about God providing. God provides hope and a vision and then much, much more which we will see in the next study.
You and Me: But these fundamentals that we have just been observing are equally true of us. I will assume you are a believer. Recollect how that happened. Somewhere in your history, you either started having questions or believers started imposing themselves in your awareness, maybe even sharing the good news about Jesus with you. This was God reaching out to you by His Spirit. Eventually came conviction: you were to ‘leave the land’ of your old life which you came to see was desperately wanting. You bowed the knee, you prayed and handed the reins of your life over to God, believing in what He said about Jesus dying for you. You ‘died’ to that old life, as Paul says in Rom 6 and were given a new ‘land’ to live in, He “rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son.” (Col 1:13)
Observe the Characteristics: Note the nature of all this. You lived in a land of darkness, of unbelief, of godless self-centredness. Nothing you had was really of any merit and yet God called you and, amazingly, you heard and responded. Note – He initiated it. When you eventually surrendered to Him, He provided forgiveness and atonement, and a place in His family – you were adopted. You came with just a sense of failure and inadequacy, recognizing your need. God provided everything. He is a provider. So why do we think we have to twist His arm to bless us? “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Mt 7:11) Have you ever seen your life like this? Have you ever realized it is all about God providing and you receiving? When we do, it brings a whole new sense of relaxation. We’ll see some more of this as we continue the story of Abram in the next study.