Daily Distinctives, March 2, 2018 – Where God Guides

Sometimes, as a believer walking my own walk of faith, I have to stop and question how hard-headed I am at times. Like many believers, I have always sensed a peculiar calling on my life and have set out to see this calling fulfilled in my daily walk with the LORD. I think that all too often I let planning, thinking about doing, and questioning the in’s and out’s of it all only to fail to simply comply with what it is that I have been called to do. Other times I let others distract and deter me from what I know for certain I am supposed to be doing. Still, sometimes I walk with reluctance to move forward, petrified by my own uncertainties and thinking to myself, “this is the kind of thing you don’t want to get wrong.” For the longest time, I tarried because I was led to believe that such things required a kind of perfection and a certain affirmation from others who are over me in authority. I know that there are things about me that need to change for sure, but lately, I have seen that as an excuse for idleness. And while I see great value in affirmation and direction, I have realized that in order to be obedient to the LORD and His calling, one must take appropriate actions to move in the direction of the calling. For me, it is like a magnet. I have sensed the forces, though unseen and felt their tug. But I have always stayed just outside of the unrelenting pull. And like a magnet, I know that if the polarities were reversed, that is, if the callings were not present, I would be repelled rather than drawn to a specific thing. Still, I can relate with those who are reluctant because of the ambiguity of it all. Still, faith requires that we move forward in obedience even when there are elements of the unknown which lay ahead. The reality is that none of us knows what will happen in the next moment. We accept by faith that there will be a “next moment,” though it is not promised to one of us. In fact, we are all a heartbeat away from eternity. Whether or not we spend these brief moments of eternity here among the living in obedience to God is a choice we all must make. And so coming to my devotional for today, I feel that I can relate in many ways to Abram.

[Gen 12:1 NKJV] Now the LORD had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you.

Now, we can imply from the passage I alluded to in my previous devotional which comes from Acts 7:2-4 that this was the second time God commanded Abram to leave. The first would have been while he was still in the land of Ur of the Chaldeans. This is what some commentaries suggest. An alternate view could be that this is the first time he is commanded to leave and that as the Bible often does, mentions of something historical are placed outside of their chronology to make a point. It would be akin to telling someone a story and saying, “Well…let me back up a little and give you another detail,” or even adding some future event to the details for clarity sake. And since this bears on the conversation I think it is important to consider both views as the result of both has its own unique implications. If Abram had been told earlier by God to leave, then we can say that his partial obedience was disobedience. But as I meditated on the passage from yesterday one thing kept haunting my thoughts. In verse 31 (Genesis 11:31) it says, “And Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot…” It would seem from this perspective that Abram was going with his father where his father had led. It wasn’t like Abram was doing the leading. And so I truly wonder if he had been called at that point. If so, then the account in the book of Acts is a simple retelling, far removed from the event itself and a testimony given by someone who wasn’t there to witness the events as they unfolded. Now I am not doubting the veracity of the Acts verse, but I would say that like many instances in the Bible we are given information from one perspective only to discover that more details about the event are corroborated in other parts of the Bible giving us a fuller picture.

If that is the case, then Abram was not disobedient to God and his character remains untarnished. Still, I could see where reluctance to take that first step of faith, even for a man who was known for his faithfulness is possible. I have my own life to relate and empathize with such behavior. The danger for me and I think for any believer would be to allow the reluctance of others to be an excuse for our own reluctance. My mother used to tell me, “two wrongs don’t make a right.” And so, if Abram received this call originally from Haram then those who comment to the contrary liable for libel. I am still mulling through this myself and so I don’t have the answer in my mind yet, but I am leaning, as I tend to do, on giving the benefit of the doubt. Still, as we read on about the life of Abram, some of his actions do make me question even this stance.

But the point of this passage is that the LORD commands Abram to get out of his country, away from his family, and from his father’s house, and go to a land that the LORD would show him. And to this point, I would say that God is not telling him to abandon his wife. God will not command something that is counter to his own word. So, if you are married and God calls You then You must go with Your wife in tow. And while 1 Corinthians 7:18-22 make a great argument for this, I don’t think it is the proper context to drive this point. What God has joined together let no man separate (Mark 10:9; Matthew 19:6) is evidence enough.

God is commanding Abram to get on with his calling. There comes a time in most every mans life that he leaves the nest and goes out into the big world. This does not mean that he is severing ties with family, but that he is beginning his life. It is a natural progression from childhood to adulthood for a man to move on and lead his own life, independent from his mother and father. The believer has the joy of being under a new umbrella of authority as he or she sets out in independence. In this case, Abram received a direct calling from the LORD, and obedience or disobedience will dictate his next move.

[Gen 12:2 NKJV] I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing.

Here we have the promise of obedience as God tells Abram His plan. He is saying in essence, “Look, I am calling you out of your comfort zone so that I can bless you and do a mighty work in and through you so that you will be a blessing to others.” I am certain that the underlying inference is that in doing so God would receive the glory and honor that is due to Him. What I find equally interesting about this passage is that God says that He will make Abram’s name great. And of course, moving on we will see, LORD willing, how Abram’s name is amplified from being simply “father” to “father of many.” But what I think I love most about this passage is that you see the love, hope and promise that God lavishes on those when they are obedient to the calling that He places upon them.

[Gen 12:3 NKJV] I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

This is where it would benefit others to keep the company of Abram. If God promises to bless those who bless him, it would only make sense that those who knew of this promise would bless Abram and as a result receive the promise of God’s blessing in their own lives. We have a unique perspective on this from our point in history. We have the ability to be a blessing God’s people, to the Jewish nation in particular. But we see the negative side of this verse too, as God says he will curse those who curse Abram. We need only look at our own recent history to see how the nations who have supported Israel have been blessed, and those who have either oppressed or ignored Israel have been cursed as a result. God’s promise to Abram seems to be very much a permanent promise as it relates to the ongoing history of Israel and her people. But in this promise, we find the greatest of promises as God says that in Abram all the families of the earth shall be blessed. This is a prophetic statement of course, but it is the promise of the Messiah, Jesus, who we know will bless all the families of the earth making a way for eternal salvation to those who believe.

[Gen 12:4 NKJV] So Abram departed as the LORD had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram [was] seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.

Now, here in this verse, I can’t tell for sure, but some commentaries suggest that Abram was partially obedient or disobedient here as well. God commanded that Abram go out from his family, but here we see that Lot, his nephew, went with him. Of course, as we read forward we see that Lot becomes a real pain to Abraham. But I can’t fully agree that Abram was even partially disobedient here. Abram did what the LORD commanded, he departed as the LORD had spoken to him. This implies that he complied. The fact that Lot went with him is irrelevant. Abram left his family proper behind. That is, he left the land of his family which, in an age where long-distance communication was obsolete, meant that he was essentially severing ties with his family. If anything, I would say it was a practical move on Abrams part, as during this time, traveling in the safety of multitudes would be far superior to going alone. Still, some would argue that where God guides He provides. But who is to say that this was not God’s provision?

[Gen 12:5 NKJV] Then Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people whom they had acquired in Haran, and they departed to go to the land of Canaan. So they came to the land of Canaan.

So, not only does Abram have Lot in tow, but we see that he brings his wife Sarai, all of their possessions and the servants and people he acquired at the blessing of God’s hand while in Haran. It would seem to me that the LORD was intent on blessing Abram, and gave him plenty of supplies and people for the journey. I do believe that where God guides, He provides. Still, we have to understand that what God provides us with to perform the task at hand is sufficient for us. We make the mistake of trying to add to what God has supplied as if God’s provision was not sufficient. I am reminded of the account of the Israelites in the wilderness during the exodus from Egypt. God provides manna from heaven and tells them not to gather more than what they need for the day. When we try to add to what God has graciously provided for us, we are essentially saying, I don’t trust You, LORD, that You have given me what I need. What I have seen in my own life is that when I do this, the “extra” becomes rotten.

[Gen 12:6 NKJV] Abram passed through the land to the place of Shechem, as far as the terebinth tree of Moreh. And the Canaanites [were] then in the land.

I kind of chuckle when I read this verse because it reminds me of getting directions from someone here in Texas. Back in the day, before GPS on everyone’s cell phones, you would have to, on occasion, stop into some little country store for directions. The person giving directions might say something like, “Well, I reckon the best way to get there would be to go on up to the Win-Dixie and take a right, continue on the gravel road for about a stone’s throw, and take that sharp left there at the junction where the old oak tree is, and keep heading West for about five minutes as the crow flies until you come upon old Mr. Jenkins farm, can’t miss it, he’s the one with the big red trailer house, double-wide, coot, coot, coot, that Mr. Jenkin’s….” Yes, my mind goes there. Apparently, this terebinth tree of Moreh must have been a major landmark back then.

Still, we see that they make it to the land that God commanded them to go. It is here that we see the mention of the Canaanites. The Canaanites, you will recall from previous studies were a wicked and idolatrous people who descended from Noah, and Noah’s son Ham. Canaan, as mentioned in earlier studies was cursed because of his father’s sin against Noah. They are described in the Bible to be very fierce and hard to defeat, and because of their numbers alone, they were a force to be reckoned with. But as strong as they might have been, it is no consequence to the LORD who holds all the power in His hands, who promises this land to Abram.

[Gen 12:7 NKJV] Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” And there he built an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him.

I love this verse because the LORD appears to Abram. I would say that this was a Christophany as opposed to a vision or a dream. In my mind’s eye, I picture God with His arm around Abram pointing out over the horizon and telling Abram, “You see all of this? I am going to give this to your descendants.” Talk about a retirement plan. God Himself promised this land to Abram. And we will see that this came to pass. From Abram’s, loins would come two major people groups, the Israelites, and the Arabs. Today both occupy the land that God promised he would give to Abrams descendants. And so, Abram builds an altar to the LORD there where the LORD met with him. Now, I find this interesting because I am curious about altars. I know that altars were constructed for the purpose of sacrifice and as memorials for certain events. But what relevance do they have for us as believers today? Would it be appropriate for us to leave a cross (which was the altar that Christ was sacrificed on) at the places where we encounter God in our own lives? Just a thought.

[Gen 12:8 NKJV] And he moved from there to the mountain east of Bethel, and he pitched his tent [with] Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; there he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD.

As I read this verse I was reminded of how temporary things are. Abram comes to this place, which is no doubt a beautiful sight to behold, but he doesn’t build a house. It says he pitched a tent. This would imply that he did not intend to settle there. I think Abram got the point from his stay in Haran, that idleness leads to idolatry. Now, I am not saying that you will become an idolator if you live in one place for too long, that would be silly. But, I think Abram was sensitive to the LORD and knew that his journey was not yet finished. And that is exactly what we see in the next verse.

[Gen 12:9 NKJV] So Abram journeyed, going on still toward the South.

Apparently, God did not tell him to stop. I think that is something we can all appreciate. As a believer, I get the idea that much of what the LORD commands us to do is in the present imperative. That is, we are to keep on doing what He is asking us to do. There will be plenty of time to rest when we get to heaven right?

[Gen 12:10 NKJV] Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to dwell there, for the famine [was] severe in the land.

As I read this I think of how I might have reacted had I found myself in these “circumstances.”  I think about what my wife would be saying. I think of how my kids would react. If there were some series of circumstances that caused us to have to move. Would we complain about our circumstances, or would we just go with a smile on our faces trusting that God has it all in His hands? We always have to keep in mind that it is God who directs our paths, it ours to walk in them.

Prayer: LORD, thank You for this time today in Your WORD. It serves to remind me that my role in our relationship is to be obedient. Forgive me when I delay in my obedience for whatever reason. Help me to trust always that You are in control and that Your timing is always the perfect timing. Help me to align my will to Yours so that I can walk according to Your timetable and not prolong seasons of my life where I experience unnecessary trials. For those trials that You have prepared for me that I might be strengthened in my faith and conformed to Your image, let me see them for what they are so that I can learn to hear Your voice in the midst of the storms. Not that I am praying for trials LORD, but when they come, I pray that I able to navigate through them and learn what I need to without lingering in them due to my own pride or ignorance. LORD, I love that You love me so much and that You are moving in me daily. Please forgive me for my sin LORD. Wash me again today with Your Spirit. Help me to be the man of God You are calling me to be. Direct my paths and make them clear to me so that I can walk in Your way without a single doubt. Father, I pray the same for my pastor today. Direct and guide him even in the simple things, help him sift through the minutia and find every nugget of truth You have for him so that he can efficiently perform the work that You have called him to. Finally, I pray that You would bless my family today LORD. Keep them safe, let them be an inspiration to others as they point to You as the source of their strength. I ask these things in the name of Jesus. –Amen.

 

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