journey of faith

Have you ever been on a road trip when you got lost taking a wrong turn? I remember back in college after finals I drive home for the holidays. Back then I did not have a GPS or cell phones. I had a few college buds with me along for the ride via Chicago. I drove while the 13-hour trek while the one sitting shotgun navigated with an old Randall McNally map. When we reach Indianapolis we got on the I-465 beltway. It was sometime after midnight, we were getting tired. With the windows cracked, Mountain Dew running through our veins, the music cranked to DC Talk, and sunflower seeds all over the car seats we made our way around the beltway. I do not think any of us were paying attention to the road signs and detours because of the construction on the beltway. We missed our exit. For the next 2-hours we drove around and around the Indy beltway before we realized that we were just going in circles.

I am sure you have been there, right? Sometimes life can be like that too. You seem to be going somewhere and then you find yourself lost, spinning in circles, and delaying the journey. Life is a journey, especially if you are living a life of faith. Abraham is on that journey of faith. His journey of faith might not be that much different than yours.

DIRECTION FROM GOD FOR THE JOURNEY: A Call to Faith [Genesis 12:1-9]

God calls Abram out of a sinful people and nation to go to a place he does not yet know. As Abram goes, God makes a promise to him that He will make him a great nation. At this moment Abram is 75 years old, without an heir because his wife is barren, and attached to his father’s possession. Abram does know how God is going to fulfill His promise, but in faith he goes. When he reaches Canaan [a dead end for a nomad] he sets up an altar of worship for God will give him this land. As Abram and his family settle in the land they face a series of obstacles that from the human perspective seem like major detours.

DETOUR #1: Making up your own story is not part of God’s story [Genesis 12:10-20]

As Abram settles in Canaan, another challenge arises for Abram and his family. There is no food. So Abram, being the man of his house, takes action and heads south to Egypt. Afraid that he will lose his beautiful wife he crafts a story, “Sarah, babe, those Egyptians are going to think you are a smokin’ hot! Surely they will kill me to get you. Let’s pretend you’re my sister.” Lying is never part of God’s plan; truth is always the best option. Truth is part of God’s plan.

Indeed, when Abram and Sarai roll through town, Pharaoh’s prince’s gawk at Sarai—like men whistling at a passing girl next to a construction sight. They ran back to the palace bragging about her beauty to Pharaoh. And what Pharaoh wants, Pharaoh gets. Lucky, for Abram, Pharaoh is feeling particularly nice and spares Abram’s head. Unlucky for Pharaoh, he and his house get stuck with a plague. Knowing something is wrong he calls for Abram, “You have some explaining to do? Everything was groovy around here until you can around. Is there something you want to tell me about this woman? Why did you lie to me?” God had his hand on Abram. He should have been executed for lying to the ruler of Egypt, but God had grace on him through Pharaoh. Abram must have learned a valuable lesson that day: speak the truth and let God deal with the possible obstacles.

DETOUR #2: Sometimes the most obvious choice is not the right choice [Genesis 13]

I am not sure Abram and Sarai did much talking on the way home from Egypt. So Abram worships at the altar [13:4, maybe seeking forgiveness; cf. 12:8] and then goes back to work with Lot among their herds. Both men have large herds. Their herds are so large that their workers were not getting along [over turf, pooper scooper duties, etc.]. As a peacemaker, Abram asks Lot to leave, but gives him first choice of the land. Lot chose the greener grass, eastward [towards Sodom].

I am sure this was a hard decision for Abram. God gives him a nephew—possible heir—but they are forced to separate. Could Lot be the seed God was promising? According to Abram, the choice was not working out as he planned. He sits and sulks about his conflicted family separation, but God is working out His plan. In fact God says to Abram, “Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth [i.e. countless], so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring can be counted. Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.” [13:14-17; cf. 12:7] God has a different choice for Abram’s seed in mind, but He also reaffirms His promise to Abram it will happen,

DETOUR #3: Expect unexpected challenges with unexpected results [Genesis 14]

A great war breaks, Lot’s city is taken captive, and Lot becomes a prisoner of war. Word gets to Abram through an escapee, and he pulls together 318 of his own men who are trained warriors. This gives you an idea of the wealth of Abram that he had his own personal army and defeated those holding onto Lot. Abram was not alone in this battle. He ultimately won this battle by the blessing of God who promised to protect him and curse those who cursed him [cf. 12:3]. Abram then praised by kings [i.e. Melchizedek, more on him next week] who also recognized that it was God who won the day [14:20].

COURSE DIRECTION FROM GOD: The Seed will come from through Abram [Genesis 15]

Following these three divine detours God sheds some light onto the path for Abram. God tells Abram in a dream that the promised seed would come through his seed. There is just one major problem: Abram has no children and he’s really old. Notice For the first time Abram speaks up, and asks God a question, “What about Eliezer?” God responds and reaffirms His covenant with Abram, “I will not use Eliezer [a non-related heir], but one of your own children.”

Again, with radical faith, Abram believes God [15:6; cf.12:4], and God “counted it to him as righteousness.” Genesis 15:6, becomes central to Paul’s doctrine of justification by faith [Romans 4:3; Galatians 3:6]. Also, James quotes this verse to teach that true faith in God results in good works in life with God [2:23-24]. God’s covenant with Abram was confirmed with a sacrifice and the shedding of blood, which foreshadows the New Covenant confirmed with Jesus’ sacrifice of His own life on the cross and the shedding of His blood.

DETOUR #4: Ignoring the possibility of the impossible [Genesis 16]

Sarah is not mentiond in the promise [cf. 15:1-6]. Abram does not even consider Sarai. Sarah is old and barren, and too old for it to be humanly possible for her to carry a child. They had waited a long time on God to come through with His promises. What options did Abram have? Taking matters into his own hands, he logically concludes that Hagar—one of his servant girls—is a prime candidate to carry his seed. Of course, Sarai spearheaded the faithless idea. So Abram slept with Hagar and she bore him a son [Ishmael, the son of Islam].

Is Abram immoral? Is he doing what he thinks God wants him to do? Impatience on God is never right the option.[1] If you are unsure waiting on God is always the best option. Ironically, Sarai bitterly blamed Abram for the split in their family because he slept with Hagar, and Hagar flees from the Sarai’s fury. Again, God intervenes.

COURSE DIRECTION FROM GOD: God gives a sign and specifics to His covenant [Genesis 17:1-18:21]

God reaffirms who He is and how He will fulfill His promises through Abram. Abram immediately worships [17:3, maybe seeking forgiveness; cf. 12:8; 13:4]. First, God confirms his covenant by giving Abram a new name and give a symbol for the covenant between God and Abraham, circumcision.[2] Second, God confirms his covenant with Abraham through Sarai by giving her a new name and saying the promised seed will be born through her barren womb. In one moment, God’s promise becomes very specific to Abraham and Sarah. And with a miraculous divine intervention God will open Sarah dead womb at 90 years old and give her a son who will be the living Seed of Promise [cf. 21:1-7].

DETOUR #5: Failing to see trials that purify your faith [Genesis 19-21]

In short, God sends His wrath upon Sodom and Gomorrah for their perverse sexual sin, which leaves a salty crater where the cities once stood [Genesis 19]. Lot and his daughter are not much different than the community he lived and farmed [19:30-38]. Again, Abraham lies and gives Sarah away to another man, almost identical to the situation with Pharaoh [20:1-18; cf. 12:10-20]. God in His grace and sovereignty intervenes preventing Sarah from getting pregnant by another man. Then tensions stir between Hagar son, Ishmael, and Sarah’s son, Isaac. Ishmael is the one favored by everyone in the passage, except Sarah; however, God does not favor him in relationship to the covenant promise, but cares and provides for him. These detours are looking more like construction zones where God is at work growing your faith.

FINAL COURSE DIRECTION FROM GOD: God uses sacrifice as the proof of faith [Genesis 21-23]

25 years after the promise and nearly losing his wife twice, God gives Abraham and Sarah a son. He finally has his boy. They name him, Isaac, meaning laughter, which is fitting for a boy born from an old lady. Isaac is the promised seed. However, in a climatic twist God tests Abraham’s quarter century churned faith. God asks Abraham to sacrifice his one and only son.

Up to this point in the narrative, Abraham has seen God fulfill promise after unbelievable promise and made a womb that was dead-dead alive. Echoing his call [12:1-3], he immediately responded in faith. Was he really going to kill his son on the altar? I think so. I think he knew God would raise his son to life because He has already done it through Sarah’s dead womb.

God answers by providing a sacrifice caught in the thicket. In doing so He fulfills all His promises just as He said. What about the land? The last promise that we do not see fulfilled is the land promise. In an obscure way, Sarah’s small and insignificant burial plot was the only property Abraham own in the Promised Land [Genesis 23]. The land that was promised to his heirs would not arise as a nation until God would call another man, Moses, who would take God’s people to the Promised Land [cf. Exodus & Joshua].

In Hebrews 11:8-12, Abraham went where God asked, even though he did not know how God would work it out, but his faith believed God would work it out. God blessed his faith then and offers it to you now through His Promised Seed—His Son—Jesus Christ. The story that climaxes with Isaac, ultimately climax with Christ:

  • Isaac and Jesus were both sons promised many years before their birth.
  • Isaac and Jesus were both born to women who could not have conceived apart from a miracle.
  • Isaac and Jesus were both firstborn sons.
  • Isaac and Jesus were both loved by their father/Father.
  • Isaac and Jesus both carried wood to their sacrifice.
  • Isaac and Jesus both willingly laid down their lives to their father/Father.
  • Isaac and Jesus both laid down as a burnt offering for sin.
  • Isaac was resurrected figuratively and Jesus was resurrected literally.
  • Isaac was just a man, but Isaac was the God/Man who came to save mankind.

[1] Abram marries Hagar while married to Sarai. The result of this polygamy is truly tragic, as is the case with other instances of adultery and polygamy in Scripture. God’s intention is that each man would have one wife [Genesis 2:18; Matthew 19:4-6]. The first man to take more than one wife was the godless man Lamech [Genesis 4:19-24]. Two women is two too many. Polygamy is wrought with favoritism, fighting, jealousy, and mistreatment [i.e. Genesis 25:28, 27:1-45, 35:22, 38:18-28; 2 Samuel 3:2-5, 13:1-29, 15:1- 18:33; 1 Kings 11:1-4]. In the New Testament church elders serve as the pattern for Christian families are to be one-woman-men [1 Timothy 3:2,12].

[2] It is uncertain why God chose circumcision as the sign of the Abrahamic Covenant. Possibly the seed comes from the male organ and/or Headship is an important concept to God. God used symbols to convey his covenant with mankind [i.e. a rainbow was a sign of covenant between God and Noah; Genesis 9:14]. Throughout the rest of Bible the concepts of covenant and circumcision are built upon to include Christian who are the descendants of Abraham by new birth. Circumcision points to the circumcision that God brings to our hearts through His covenant relationship with us [Deuteronomy 10:16, 30:6; Jeremiah 4:4; Ezekiel 44:7-9; Romans 2:25-29; 4:1-12; Colossians 2:11; Galatians 3:6-8].

the call of Abram

A few years ago Sarah and I began to grow a garden. Gardens do not just grow over night by mere happenstance. You have to till the ground, plant seeds, water, and harvest. It takes work and a lot of initiative. In Genesis 12, God takes the imitative to nurture the seed of humanity; He readies the land and blesses the growth. He does it all through an ordinary man named Abram.

An Unexpected Call: God intersects with man [Genesis 12:1-3]

Can you image the day, Abram is out in the field tending to his herds and he hears a strange voice calling to him. Remember, God had not spoken verbally His covenant with Noah. It is God, again, who initiates a covenant relationship. Like Noah, Abram was a sinner living with sinners, but found favor [grace] in the eyes of God from among all the scatter people on the earth.

What was God calling Abram to do? First, Abram was called to leave the land that he was used to traveling around. Second, he was to leave his family and specifically his father’s house. Third, he was to go to a strange land that is not specifically named. God simply calls Abram to leave his homeland to journey to a new land that God would show him. Do you sense the radical measure of this call and the details left out? Put yourself in Abram’s sandals. How would you respond to such a radical call?

Why was Abram called to do something so radical? God promised to bless Abram’s faith and obedience beyond just him and his tribe. Abram was called by God to become the father of a new nation, become an example of living faith, and become one of the Bibles most mention patriarchs of Gods promise [i.e. over 300 times in the OT & NT].

Here in this short, three verse—text message sized—call, God rehearses some of the major themes of Genesis. First, God promises land [12:1b]. Second, God promises seed [12:2a; cf. 4:25-26; 6:5; 9:20ff; 11:4]. God says later his seed will be like the dust of the earth [13:16; 28:14]. In a real sense God promised Abram he would be a father and through his son a great nation blessed by God would be a blessing to all nations.[1] Third, God promises blessing [12:2b; cf. 22:17; 26:3; 28:3] of His presence, protection and covenant. Fourth, another theme arises that has not been mentioned until now, nation [12:3; 18:18; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14]. God promises to make Abram’s name great,[2] which ironically is the same thing the Babylonians failed to achieve for they pursued it apart from God.

Abram Answers the Call: a faith that grows on [Genesis 12:4-9]

You don’t see a long deliberation in between the call of God and the answer of Abram. You do not see him lying in his bed at night thinking about his conversation with God, or talking with his wife over dinner, or asking God some clarifying questions like, “Where did you say I was going?” The amazing fact is: Abraham believes God and goes [12:4]. No questions. No hesitations. He goes, in spite of leaving everything he knew behind and not knowing specifically how God was going to do all that He promised. It is as if he says to God, “Alright, God, I’ve got nothing else to lose.” At 75 ears old, a guy who at his age should be enjoying retirement and grandchildren takes his wife, their household, and his Nephew Lot to an unknown land.

This is the first step of faith in Abram’s life. It is a step that will affect not only him but also all of mankind. God will use Abram’s mustard seed sized faith. Have you ever been where Abram is in your life?  You decide to trust God, doing things His way, even in the face of the impossible. Abram starts off his journey with faith. No excuses, like “I forgot to lock the front door honey?” No turning back to feed the goats and camels, he takes them all with them.

As Abram goes, he comes to a land where people are living; a brick wall for a nomad. What does Abram do? Does he decide to go back home deciding this must be a dead end and not a part of God’s plan? No. Abram reacts by trusting God. He owns his faith and praises God on this blind journey of faith. His faith in the One True God is coming alive. For the first time Abram is offering praise to a God who speaks and is loyal to those trust in Him. He dedicates the land to God [cf. Leviticus 20:22-24; Psalm 72:8, 17-19]. By worshiping Abram is saying, “There is no other god, but You!”[3]

From this point forward, the lens of Genesis focuses in on the descendants of Abram as God’s covenant people raised up to be blessed nation and a be blessing to all other nations and people who follow. If you contrast Abram with Babylon, both the story, which preceded his call and the city that was the location he was called from [Genesis 11]. The Babylonians sought to be a great nation, blessed people, and great in name, but they pursued this apart from faith and apart from God. So, God called one of them, Abram, out from the land and into covenant with Himself and promised to give to Abram all that the Babylonians had strived for by His gracious provision. Therefore, God is demonstrating that our hope is not in the efforts of sinners who save and bless themselves, but only in entering into covenant relationship with God by faith.

What lessons about faith do we learn from Abram? How does his faith point us to Jesus?

First, your obedience to God is always connected to your faith in God. If you trust God you will obey God. The more you obey God the greater your faith will grow. Though Abram’s faith is incredible it is not complete. Only Jesus’ faith and obedience were complete.

Second, any time you obey God expect opposition through seeming dead ends, speed bumps, or foggy roads ahead. Faith helps you press on when the road ahead is hard or uncertain. The disciple’s obedience led to persecution [Matthew 5:3, 5, 10]. Jesus obedience led to a suffering cross.

Third, God calls ordinary people to carry out His extraordinary plans. Abram was a sinner, but God’s grace was upon him. The covenant promises carried out by Abram’s faith point to the New Covenant in Christ.

Finally, the seed of Abram that will bless all nations points to Jesus, the promised seed, who will redeem the sinfulness of mankind [Matthew 1:1; 24:14; Romans 4:13]. Those who obey and have faith in Him will live with him in the Promised Land in the Eternal Kingdom [Hebrews 11:10; Revelation 22:1-4].


[1] This promised seed is singular, which points to Jesus [cf. Genesis 3:15; Matthew 1:1, 1:17; Galatians 3:16].

[2] Abram was also told he would that his descendants would receive the Promised Land if he in faith go from the land God called him to. Reaching the Promised Land was not fulfilled in Genesis because Genesis ends with Joseph requesting his bones to be taken from Egypt to the Promised Land in the day that God’s people finally entered that place. Also, Exodus ends with the expectation that one day the Promised Land will be entered [Exodus 40:34-38], which is not realized until after the death of Moses [cf. Joshua 1-4].

[3] Abram responds by worshiping God in faith by building an altar other times in Genesis [12:7, 8, 13:18, 22:9].