Understanding His story helps us to understand that His-Story is our Story!
Since the first sin of man was committed in the Garden, self-will has been the desire of every member of the human race. Rebellion became man’s standard response to authority. Even rebellion against God! Adam, Eve, Cain, Lamech and all of the people of Noah’s day did what pleased themselves. They refused to follow God and God puts an end to this great rebellion using Noah, water and a boat. Surely mankind would learn their lesson? But they did not. After the flood, the people said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” (Genesis 11:4)
Rebellion! The problem was not that they were building a city. It was not even that they were building a tower. The problem was that they were directly violating the command of God. “God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it;’” (Genesis 1:28 and 9:1) The tower was the result of man lifting himself up to “be like God” (Genesis 3:5). To, “make us famous and keep us from being scattered all over the world.” (Genesis 11:4 NLT)
This was open rebellion against God. They desired to stay in one place and attract everyone else to the same place. Driven by a desire for prosperity, protection and power they refused to go out into the world because of their own self importance! As a result, God divides man into nations. This is man's second open rebellion against God. But this time he does not destroy them with a flood. Instead he sends confusion and divides them into nations.
Ten generations after Noah and the great flood, Abraham (his birth name is Abram) appears on the scene. He is first mentioned in Genesis 11:29. Abraham’s father's name was Terah, and he had two brothers, Nahor and Haran. Haran dies as a relatively young man in the presence of his father in the land of their birth which is called Ur. (Today that land is called Iraq.)
The events at the end of Genesis 11 probably happen after the events listed in Chapter 12 concerning the calling of Abraham by God. It says, “Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife; and they went out together from Ur of the Chaldeans in order to enter the land of Canaan;” (11:31a). It seems likely that Terah was taking his family to Canaan because of the call of Abraham but we do not know that for sure. Terah was a maker of idols in Ur. An idol worshiper. (See: Joshua 24:2.) But, it may be that Terah was converted and came to believe in and worshiped Yahweh because of Abraham’s call? In order to get to Canaan from Ur, you had to go north along the Tigris or Euphrates Rivers into what today is Turkey. Then you would turn West and then South through Lebanon. To go straight there, would mean crossing a vast desert. In the middle of the trip is a place called Haran. It may be that Terah became ill and unable to travel. “...and they went as far as Haran, and settled there. The days of Terah were two hundred and five years; and Terah died in Haran.” (11:31b-32)
The place, Haran, and the name of Abraham's brother, Haran, are not the same name. Although spelled the same in English, they are spelled differently in Hebrew. The word for Haran, the place, means dry or parched. The name of Abraham's brother, Haran, actually means one who climbs mountains or mountaineer.
Two open rebellions against God! One stopped with death from a flood and one stopped with division and confusion! And out of these rebellious chaotic times, God speaks to a man named Abram, through whom He would bless all the nations of the Earth! A man that does not really know who God is… yet.
At the conclusion of this lesson, student will realize that fear is a hindrance to a child of God and must be replaced with trust (faith) in the Lord. Each student should know and understand that God can and will use each of us for his purpose and plan and he will not allow things to happen to us that thwart that plan!
Through faith, fear can be overcome because God is faithful and fulfills His promises.
Because of the Grace of God, the Lord promises the blessing of a Messiah to be born through the line of Abraham.
God provided the ultimate replacement for the sacrifice that should be required for our sin through Jesus Christ, the sacrificial lamb.
It would be impossible to overstate the importance of Genesis 11 and 12. The rebellion of man and God’s direct intervention at the Tower of Babel could have meant the total destruction of man, but instead God announces the introduction of a chosen people and one who, through them, would come to bring redemption to the world. “Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.’” (Genesis 12:1-3) These chapters contain the path God will take with man and the unbreakable promise that all of mankind can claim and benefit from for eternity! The promise of a Savior for all mankind!
The greatest promise ever made to man is stated in just 4 Hebrew words. Translated “And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” The word translated earth, “'adamah” does not mean the round globe of planet Earth as we would think of it today. It literally means, “dirt”! The ground! The dust! A good way to think of this is, all the people of the dust will be blessed! That is us! Although I have never heard it taught from this particular passage before, I believe that this ties into Adam and Eve being created in the image of God and then being changed somehow after they sin. The promise given to Abraham is a promise to return man back to the image that he was created in, all the way back in the garden when from the dust, Adam was fashioned by the hand of God. God breathed life into man and that life was turned to death by sin. It is a promise of redemption! We are a people of the dust and in this fallen creation we are not what God intended. But God would not leave us in the dirt. He has sent one through whom all people could become the image of God. Through faith in Jesus Christ we are “...those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;” (Romans 8:29). God knew that He would send a Savior, His One and Only Son, even before Adam and Eve sinned. God knew everything that would happen and everyone that would be born. God knew who would receive His Son and who would reject Him. God not only created us anyway, but He makes us into His very own image driven by His love that is expressed in 2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” God does not want anyone to perish! He wants all to be saved but he offers the gift of salvation and a gift is not forced upon anyone or it would not be a gift. People must choose to take the gift.
The scriptures also say, “Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly.” (1 Corinthians 15:49) and we, “are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)
Abraham is promised a son. He is promised nations (plural). He is promised land as far as the eye can see. And that is an eternal promise! “I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God." (Genesis 17:8) He is promised protection and blessing! He is promised that God will be his God and that God will bring him to the place where God wants him to be! But, the greatest promise of all is the promise of a Savior!
2. The Greatest Promise ever Ignored!
The promise of a Messiah through Abraham carries the more immediate promise with it. The promise of his son. Abraham had no children because Sarah was barren. So the promise of a son was yet to be fulfilled for Abraham during most of his life. But instead of comfort and courage being drawn from the promises of God for a future and a hope, Abraham is full of fear!
He is afraid! He shows a huge lack of faith! This man who has spoken with God has one giant fear consuming him! The fear of dying! You might say he is scared to death of dying! Terah, his father dies in Haran and after this we see Abraham struggle with his own mortality for many years to come. No doubt, his father's death had a profound effect on him.
The first time we see this is when he arrives in the land of Canaan. The Lord has brought him to this land and spoke to him and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” (12:7) Descendants? He has no children yet! But the fact is, there is a famine in the land that is very severe and food is running short. Abraham continues to work his way South through the land of Canaan and God confirms every step of the way that Abraham is where God wants him to be. Yet without the command of God, Abraham leaves Canaan and goes to Egypt. Why did Abraham go to Egypt? I believe it was out of fear. Fear of dying in a famine. Fear based in a lack of faith in God who had promised him a future that was not yet fulfilled. Fear of dying drove him to Egypt, where he could now buy food as a very wealthy man. And then, a new fear sets in... the same old new fear.
Abraham fears that the Pharaoh will see his beautiful wife, Sarah, and will kill him for his wife. Again he is afraid of dying and as a result becomes a liar. A sin that he will repeat at other times in his life. When Abraham comes back up to Canaan, he and Lot have problems. They both have become so rich that their servants are fighting over the resources. Abraham tells Lot that they must separate. Although Abraham was his uncle, he was probably more like a surrogate father to Lot. Why would he send him away? Again one possibility would be fear of dying. In those days it was very common for someone in the family to kill the patriarch of the family in order to gain the riches associated with that patriarch. Lot, now without the guidance of a father figure in his life, heads to Sodom and gets into very big trouble.
Several kings banded together and took Sodom along with many other cities. Lot, his family and all his possessions were captured. Abraham puts an army together And rescues Lot along with his family and possessions. In the process, he inadvertently restored the King of Sodom to his throne. The King of Sodom suggests that Abraham take the riches captured in the battle and keep them for himself. Abraham refuses to keep any of the spoils that were rightfully his. Why? Again, I believe it was the fear of dying. “Abram said to the king of Sodom, ‘I have sworn to the Lord God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth, that I will not take a thread or a sandal thong or anything that is yours, for fear you would say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’” (Genesis 14:22-23) Some might think that it is because he did not want the King of Sodom to be able to brag? That is not the problem. Some might think it's because Abraham was already so godly and full of faith, at this time in his life, that he wanted God alone to provide for him? But we can see from Abraham's lack of faith in his recent trip to Egypt and his coming decision to have a child with Hagar that that is not true. He feared that the King of Sodom would look at Abraham's vast wealth and change his mind and decide that he would take it for himself and in the process would kill Abraham. He was scared to death of dying. In chapter 20, he again tells only a half truth about his wife being his sister and causes great problems for King Abimelech and his people. Again, he is afraid they will kill him!
The question is, if God was going to give Abraham a son through whom the Messiah would come and that son had not even been conceived yet, why wouldn't Abraham believe that God would protect him and keep him alive at least until that son was born? Abraham was given the greatest promise ever made and Abraham ignored it...
3. From the Greatest Promise to the Greatest Faith…
Abraham begins with faith in God! He was commanded to “Go forth from your country... To the land which I will show you...” and God makes seven promises to Abraham!
All he has to do is believe God and go from his land! And he does!
After Terah dies at Haran, Abraham seems to fear dying in spite of God’s promise to give him a son (make nations from his descendants) even though he did not have any children yet. Surely God would protect him at least until he had children?
God did protect him and bless him and he gave him sons. After the birth of Isaac, Abraham’s faith grows and becomes very strong. There are several examples of the great faith that grew inside of Abraham, but the greatest example is when God tests him by commanding him to offer Isaac as a burnt offering. And Abraham is faithful! He shows what may be the greatest faith of any man other than Jesus Himself in his willingness in the offering of his only son! (He sent Ishmael away and did not know if he was alive or dead.)
Application: The greatest promise ever fulfilled! Tell people about Christ!
On the way up to the place where he would offer his son, there is a conversation between Abraham and Isaac. “Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son, and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, ‘My father!’ And he said, ‘Here I am, my son.’ And he said, ‘Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?’ Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.’ So the two of them walked on together.” (22:6-8)
This has to be one of the most touching exchanges in the Bible? The son (Isaac) realizing they have the things which will consume the sacrifice (fire and wood), but he does not see what will be sacrificed and consumed by the fire? He asked his father about it and Abraham replies, son (hebrew - ben), God (Elohim) will provide (Ra'ah) a lamb (seh) for the burnt sacrifice (‘olah).
How could he do this? Offer his only son! He did it by his love for God through his faith in God! Through Abraham’s life, we can see how true faith grows out of love! Abraham loved God now more than ever. Abraham loved Him even more than his own son, and because of that he could trust him even with his own son. The fear was gone. 1 John 4:18-19 says, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us.” He got to know God better and when that happened he loved God more! When he loved God more, the fear went away and faith took its place! Do you want to have a faith like Abraham? Love God more!
Elohim (pronounced el-o-heem) is the name used when speaking of God as Almighty. It is a word that is plural, but when referring to God it also is singular. God is the Trinity. He is one and He is three! The word for lamb is seh. It is the word for one lamb or it came be used as “one of the flock”. The word for sacrifice is ‘olah’ and it is a homonym. It also means ascent, staircase or ladder. (Remember that when you read about Jacob’s ladder.) What a beautiful picture of the coming Son of God. Abraham is telling his son, God will provide a way out my son! Something must be offered up to God. That's how burnt offerings worked. The smoke of the sacrifice would rise up to the Lord and the Lord would be appeased and His wrath would be quenched. As the smoke of a burnt sacrifice rose up and was pleasing unto God, so would Jesus Christ be lifted up and in the process, cover the sins of man that He bore in Himself on the cross!
After God provides the sacrifice in the place of His son, he names the place (in Hebrew) YHWH-Yireh (when translated into latin it is “Jehovah Jireh”). “And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah Jireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen.” (22:14 KJV) Jehovah Jireh (YHWH-Yireh) means “the Lord Who sees will Provide”! That is the name Abraham give to the place of the sacrifice where he would have offered his son to God, but the Almighty Elohim is also the God who sees and would provide a way of out of death by giving his own lamb and a sacrifice to be lifted up! That place is Mt. Morriah. Jerusalem is there. Jesus was crucified there. It is the place where the God Who sees, provided the Way for you and I to ascend to God and so shall we ever be with the Lord! That is amazing!
Faith! In spite of all his failures, faith is what Abraham becomes known for. It is his faith that is counted as righteousness, not his actions. Not his works! Faith is why he is able to give up what was most important to him in the flesh because he believed the God Who sees would provide.
God speaks to Abraham and gives him the promise that one would come that would all the nations of the earth will be blessed through him.
God acts through patience and grace by blessing Abraham even after he has allowed fear to distract him from God’s purpose - proving that God will never be distracted from His own purpose!
God reveals a picture of the coming of His one and only, beloved son who would be sacrificed for mankind sins through the offering and then rescue of Isaac from the altar.
Why do you think Abraham seems to have so much fear after his father dies?
Have you ever faced anything that requires the kind of faith Abraham had when he was commanded to sacrifice his son?
How are families today similar to Abraham’s family and what should be different?
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