[ Read Genesis Chapter 12 ]

Worth Leaving Everything Behind For. God is worthy. To use language from the Book of Revelation: He is worthy, “to receive glory and honor and power; for [He] created all things, and by [His] will they exist and were created” (Rev. 4:11). But He is also worth leaving everything behind for – something Abraham would wholeheartedly agree with. Granted, I’m sure Abraham could have given a lot of reasons why that was so when he was 175 years old, but at the age of 75, after apparently having received a similar call in Mesopotamia (Acts 7:2), Abraham, while in Haran, yielded to God’s call and took some of the largest of steps of faith that he would ever take. God commanded him saying, “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you” (Gen. 12:1). He did not know where he was going (Heb. 11:8b) but he went. He left behind land and kindred to follow the God who not only was calling him out of Ur of Chaldeans, but away from the idolatry of his fathers (Josh. 24:2). Only God could make such a demand on a person’s life, a claim to an allegiance greater than even the most precious relationships. And as one of the many witnesses that the Father and the Son are one, Jesus has the same expectation of all of His disciples: “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Mt. 10:37). By faith Abraham went (Heb. 11:8a) and by faith so must all of Jesus’ disciples.

Sovereign Savior. As Genesis 12 opens there is no sign that Abraham was seeking after God. Rather, he was sought. Sought in idol-littered Mesopotamia (Acts 7:2); sought in idol-littered Haran (Gen. 11:31; 12:1); he was one upon whom God chose to have mercy and compassion (Rom. 9:15-16). He was the object of divine grace. A lesson Joshua’s generation was implicitly reminded of when they heard the LORD’s words: “I took your father Abraham from the other side of the river?” (Josh. 24:3 emphasis added). This sovereign Savior is a seeking Shepherd. In both the Old and New Testament alike we have examples of this: Yahweh appeared to Moses in the burning bush; He called to Samuel when he was but a boy; Jesus told His disciples, “You did not choose Me but I chose you”; Jesus appeared to Paul on the Damascus road; and the list of found coins and no-longer-lost sheep could go on much further still. It’s by grace that Abraham or anyone else is taken by God (Josh. 24:3) and brought to Himself and to His Son (Jn. 6:44, 64-65).

Surprisingly Gracious. God told Abraham, “…in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (vs.3c). We must not miss the Gospel that the Scripture was preaching here! Paul personified the Scripture saying that it foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith and preached the Gospel to Abraham beforehand saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed (Gal. 3:8)! So through this one man, Abraham, God was going to bless people from every tribe, kindred, and tongue; namely, and most greatly, through the Messiah that would come through his lineage, but also through his life as it’s displayed in the text of Scripture – all the ups, downs, and in-betweens. Let’s take note of this particularly in light of its contextual backdrop. What was the world most recently doing? Building a tower that typified rebellion against God; and not too long before that – engaging in unrepentant wickedness that warranted a worldwide flood. Yet, God is steadfast in His plan to crush the head of the serpent (Gen. 3:15) and bless the nations through Abraham and his seed? In one sense grace is always surprising because it is never deserved; yet, there is a sense in which narrative contexts can sometimes help augment how surprising grace is when its directed towards creatures (i.e. mankind) whose behaviors continually appear to disqualify themselves from receiving it. But then again, that’s what makes grace…grace.

Blessing-Maker. We are much more familiar with thinking of God as the one who gives blessings as opposed to makes blessings, but He does the latter too. Abraham is ‘exhibit A.’ God told him, “…I will bless you… you shall be a blessing” (Gen. 12:2) and “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (vs.3c). Having considered the predominant way(s) in which that happened in previous point, now we’ll simply consider the principal reality: God is in the business of taking individuals and turning them into conduits of blessing. He lifts His servants out of miry pits so that many see and hear the new song their singing and put their trust in Him (Ps. 40:1-3). He makes zealots into servants (cf. Lk. 6:15), fishermen into fishers of men (Lk. 5:10), and all that are called out of darkness into new life in Christ are gifted with spiritual gifts that they are to employ to be a blessing to others in the body of Christ (1 Pet. 4:10).

Problem Solver. Before Abram’s story begins in chapter 12 we receive a brief genealogical introduction to him in chapter 11. But instead of reading about Abraham’s posterity, which did not exist at that time, we first read of his problem: “Sarai was barren; she had no child” (Gen. 11:30). So, then, as the reader you understand the difficulty behind the LORD’s promise to Abram in chapter 12: “To your descendants I will give this land” (Gen. 12:7). So there was the problem of human barrenness but there was also the problem of human opposition – “and the Canaanites were then in the land” (vs.6). Welcome to the place where God so often begins His greatest works – against the backdrop of human unlikelihood and, at times, human impossibility. He is the God of all flesh for whom nothing is too difficult (Jer. 32:27). His people, then, ought to take courage in light of such truth; after all, if God has provided a way for the greatest human impossibility to be overcome, namely the forgiveness of sins though the cross of Jesus Christ, how much more then should we have confidence that God will grant help and solutions to problems that are much less dire than that one?

User of Frail Vessels. In many ways Abraham is ‘a giant of the faith.’ “By faith” he obeyed when he was called and went out to a land he didn’t know (Heb. 11:8). “By faith” he dwelt in the land of promise, dwelling in tents, waiting for a city whose builder and maker is God (vs.9-10). And while Abraham often exhibited great faith, he also, at times, exhibited great weakness. Those hints are found in more ways than one in this chapter. God told him to leave his kindred (Gen. 12:1), but he took, “Lot his brother’s son” (vs.5) with him. God told him to go to the land that He would show him (vs.1), but not too long after arriving in Canaan (vs.5) we see him travel down to Egypt (vs.10). Most clearly, however, Abraham, thinking that the Egyptians would kill him (vs.12), an event that would have negated the promise that God made to him, put his wife Sarah in harm’s way and almost into Pharaoh’s arms, rather than trusting that the God who made exceedingly great and precious promises to him would curse those who cursed him and preserve his life so as to deliver on those promises. And, by the time we come to the close of the chapter, the ‘father of the faithful’ is on the receiving end of an ethical rebuke from Pharaoh (vs.18-19). Even Abraham, a man of great faith, had reason to pray, ‘Lord, I believe help my unbelief.’ Therefore we shouldn’t feel discouraged or disqualified when he have to do the same. God, after all, is one who uses frail vessels for great purposes.

Rescuer. As alluded to in the previous point, after Abraham went down to Egypt he made a big mistake. He might have been protecting the promise by protecting himself, but in doing so he failed to protect his wife. And the situation could’ve gotten bad. Abraham knew what was coming. It’s amazing to see how Abraham’s prediction (vs.11-13) came to pass in explicit detail (vs.14-16). He knew Sarah was beautiful and he knew the Egyptians would take notice. But even though his prediction was right his behavior was wrong. He put Sarah in harm’s way but Yahweh came to her rescue. The text says: “But the Lord plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife” (vs.17). We’re not told what these plagues were but they were enough to change Pharaoh’s plans. And this isn’t the last time Yahweh would have to step in to rescue her. And, as the rest of the Abraham narrative would show – it wasn’t a case of ‘one strike and you’re out.’ Abraham, the father of the faithful (cf. Rom. 4:16; Gal. 3:7), needed a Father who was gracious when he was faithless – one who could rescue both he and his wife from the consequences of his weak faith.