1. Is There a Man in the House? (Genesis 11-18)
Sometime ago I heard about a seminary student who had graduated, and he was an unusual seminary student in that rather few of the people who graduate from seminary really have multiple job opportunities. Most of the time we scratch and scramble. I had to go find my own. I actually had to start a church to get a job. So life was a little bleak there for a while for me. But this student had multiple opportunities and one of them, the one that really, really intrigued him was the one that he discovered a venerable elder that led this particular church. A man, oh, well past seventy, white haired, grandly earned, who had great character in this man's mind and he wanted to go and be there because he knew he didn't know much and he thought this elderly man would be of great help to him. And so he took this church and he went and he got his books all unpacked and he got his office all set up and he got his life all arranged and just as he's gotten everything in place his telephone rings and it's his first phone call and he picks it up and it's this elderly, venerable leader calling, who said to him, "Pastor, I have decided to trust you. I've had a problem for over 45 years. I've never told anybody else about it, but I want to tell you about it." Well, that was quite a shock. He had not expected this from this man and so he sorts out this mostly empty calendar and puts off as long as he can this appointment. When finally he has to agree to a week from today, they would have the appointment and so he spent the whole week concerned and wondering, and trying to think through what his counseling, 2 unit counseling course had taught him about these things. Not much I assure you. And so, there he is sitting in his office at the appointed hour, hoping against hope that the man would not show when KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK! There's the knock on the door and he opens the door and ushers the gentleman into his office and sits him down in the chair and he begins to talk about this and that and the man interrupted him. And the man said, "I came to talk about my problem." You see, this young pastor had been told to put his counselee at ease but his counselee did not want to be put at ease. He wanted to get to the point of reality and so young man swallows hard and says, "OK, tell me your problem." and the response is, "Well, I've had a problem for over 45 years. You see every day my wife and I have had a fight. For over 45 years every day my wife and I have had a fight."
Now that's something of a shock. We all know that the elders in our church never have fights with their wives. And so, you know, that's quite a jolt in and of itself. He doesn't quite know what to do with it and he's sorting his way through it and he says, "Well, what about today? Did you have a fight today?" And the elderly gentleman said, "Of course! I told you every day for 45 years my wife and I have had a fight. Of course we had a fight today." Well, OK, well, uh, hmm, hmmm. "Well, how did it end up?" And the gentleman responded with, "It ended up with my wife crawling to me on her hands and knees." Now that's a bit of a startling twist, an unusual type of situation; and the man still confused and desperately trying to sort his way through the whole situation says to the elderly gentleman, "Well, what did she say?" To which the man responded, "She said, 'Come out from under that bed and fight like a man!' "
Now you just may have figured out that did not exactly happen, but obviously it makes a point. Actually it raises a question and the question is very simple: Is there a man in the house? Is there a man in your house? Is there a man in my house? I think if there's anything that troubles us in our country it is the need for men at home.
The Turkish business man whom I mentioned to you comes from a very distinguished family in that country and is married into a distinguished family from another country and has CNN in his home. I said to him, "Well, from out here, what do you think, what do you see about the United States that hits you?" The first thing he said was, "The United States must resolve its problem with its family structure. The second thing, by the way, is the United States must educate people in its ghettos. And the third thing, by the way, is the United States must resolve the issues relating to health among the poor." Since he sells health insurance in his own country, there may be a connection there. But isn't it interesting that a highly trained, (this man had studied business in Germany, speaks German, he speaks English) that a highly trained, highly cultured man from a strategic family in a country of 60 million says to me, (Istanbul Hilton Hotel, sitting across from one another drinking Coke) "United States of America needs to solve its problem with its family structure."
There are many keys to our problems in our family. There are many ways that we could go about looking at these problems and at these issues and there are many, many, many needs. And though the needs are not one-sided, for the problems are never JUST the man, when we struggle and wrestle with family; yet, on the other hand, there is no doubt from the Biblical perspective that man is primarily responsible for the health and well being of the family. It is man who is directed to love his wife and be a loving leader. It's interesting that every parenting directive given in the Bible is addressed to fathers. It is certainly not that mothers are incidental. The story of Moses and Jacobed, his mother; and the story of Samuel and Hannah, his mother; and the story of Jesus and Mary, His mother, give very clear evidence that mothers are very, very strategic and essential to the health and well-being of the family. If it were not for the courage of those three women we would not have a Messiah. So it is not as if mothers are secondary. It is as if, fathers however, play a particularly primary and strategic role. And husbands have the responsibility of being men. Men not only outside the home but men within the home.
And this morning we are going to look at a man, a man who is well known to us; his name is well known to us. He had two names. His first name was Abram; later God changed it to Abraham. We're going to look at this man Abram and we're going to look at him from two perspectives. We will start with this this morning and Lord willing finish it next Sunday I believe.
We will look at Abram the man and today I want to show you this man. I want to show you a man who is a twentieth century man. I want to show you a man who in every sense of the word proved himself to be a man. In fact he's extraordinary; he is unbelievable in the nature of his character and his being. He is tremendous; he is a most unusual man among men. Very few men in all of history who could match this man. He's a wonderful man to have everywhere, but at home. I begin with Abram the man and I find a man who is spiritually responsive. I invite you to turn with me to Genesis, Chapter 11. If you want to read on this whole sequence, you can read and you can read throughout the week from Genesis 11, starting with verse 27 through Chapter 18. You could read further, we could go further but this is the unit that I want to cover, because you see there's a problem with being a man. And the problem with being a man is that the demands are so great on us; the task is so overwhelming; the stress and tension and pressure in our lives is so much that it's beyond us. It's beyond us to be able to give our energy, our strength, and our health to accomplish the things that we need to do with our lives, to make a investment of our lives, to provide for our families, to be the relaters, and the leaders that we are called to be. This is an overwhelming task, especially when we have to come home because we have a very confused view of what it means to come home. We think home is a place where we come to rest. The fact of the matter is, home is a place where we come to lead.
And so being a man is a very demanding thing, extremely demanding. And I want to say this because I'm also going to be telling you that even though I believe in marriage, struggle, and breakdown, I've never yet seen a marriage fall apart in which there were two innocent parties. Never seen it. Yet at the same time I've never seen a marriage where a man could not have saved it. There are exceptions to that, of course, I'm sure. But for the most part, for the most part, if men would learn to listen. There are those situations where a woman is determined. I mean, I think of an exception that I have had a times had to deal with, a woman who says "I am a lesbian." Now that's pretty difficult to deal with, but much of the situation, men, if we become sensitive can make a real difference.
But I want to begin with Abraham the man in Genesis 11 and I want to point out a man to you who is spiritually responsive, spiritually responsive. Verse 26, Genesis has a pattern of telling us about what's going on and they'll call it "the generations of". It's the family line it's what is really being talked about. And you have in verse 27 the records of the generations of Terah. Terah became the father of Abram; that's why he's mentioned. Abram, Nahor, and Haran and Haran became the father of Lot, and in those few simple words the table is set. We've been introduced to Abram; we're going to learn something about his personal background; and we're introduced to his nephew Lot. We have but one more person to meet and we shall meet her in a moment or two. "And Haran died in the presence" verse 28, "of his father Terah." I can never read those words without feeling a great sense of pathos, a great sense of hurt. I imagine in my mind a man, perhaps in his 30's, perhaps in his 40's; I don't know how old he is. But I imagine in my mind a man who is become ill, mysteriously so, unable to figure out what is going on but his energy is dissipating. His father is called, perhaps they all lived together as a clan; probably so and his father is brought into the room and sits there and watches. And maybe Abram also sat there and watched; but clearly his father watched his son breathe and struggle. Would take hold of his hand and tell him how he loved him, and would reach out to him and try to comfort him and talk to the primitive medical people and say, "What can you do for my son?" And they try this and they try that and nothing is happening and there is the little boy Lot, who is not allowed in perhaps or maybe comes in for one last word. And there in the presence of his father, he died. Painful! And how much this must have hurt the oldest brother, to watch his father go through that suffering and that grief and how the oldest brother now realized Lot became his responsibility. And all of this happened in the land of his birth, Ur of the Chaldees.
Now what do we know about Ur of the Chaldees. Very little. Excuse me, very much! Maybe we don't know very much but archaeologists know a great deal. It's interesting that Ur of the Chaldees was the "Big Apple" of its day. It was the New York, it was the biggest city, it was the most metropolitan place. Two thousand years before Egypt rose to ascendancy, the Sumerian culture was coming into being. The Chaldeans were becoming a powerful people on the face of the earth. They were at that point in time, the Sumerians, were not a very assertive people. They were a creative people; they were not a militaristic people as much as other ancient peoples. But they were people of power and influence through intellect, through the arts, through creativity, and through their religion, because they worshiped the moon god. From Ur of the Chaldees came the Code of Hammurabi which is a legal code that underlies a great deal of western legal thought. So it was a culture that made great contributions to us.
Ur was a spiritual center. The moon god dominated. Religion was not a matter of personal preference. It was very interesting again to go through a museum in Istanbul and to see some of the clay pots, not clay pots but clay shards, the little cuneiform, small pieces of clay not much bigger than a 3X5 card and to see all this cuneiform handwriting, the writing of the ancient world and to read the translations. And there are always the sales of this and the purchase of that. They are the sales of homes and the purchase of property and the deals that were made and the arrangements that were made. Always done in the name of the god somehow. And always done with the temple being the primary point of focus because the priests of that day were the bankers of that day. The one thing you don't want to do if you want to mess up your business, you don't want to try to be in a place where if you need to make a loan you're crosswise with your banker. Isn't that right? And to worship a strange god would put you in a very awkward place.
So it was a cultural center, a spiritual center, a financial center and you wanted to be a part of the establishment. But something happened to this man Abram. The Bible doesn't tell us exactly what happened. The closest we get is the description that Stephen gives in Acts 7:2 in which he says, "The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham." Somehow, sovereignly, God chose to appear to this man, this man whom he is going to call His friend; this man with great frailty, this man with great struggles, this man with great great confusion, this man with very limited faith, yet very great faith, yet very confused faith. This man, this real man whose faith is so much like the faith that so many of us as men have God appeared to him and said to him, "I want you to leave your family. I want you to go to a place that I will tell you. I want you to take everything that you have. I want you to leave everybody behind including Lot and I want you to trust me." Now all of that is described for us in Genesis 12:1-3.
Interesting thing is that Abram was a spiritually responsive man. Hebrews 11 gives us an account of how Abram responded. I won't turn to it but in Hebrews 11:8-9 we read that Abram listened to God and the language that's used there is very graphic. It's as if while God is speaking, Abraham is packing his bags. He was just instantly responsive. This was a man of great faith. This was a man that many of you wives would love to have, that same kind of faith in your husbands. You wish your husbands had that kind of faith, the kind of faith that would trust God. You've cried for that at times in your life. Well, this is the kind of man that Abram was.
Now the interesting thing is that Ur of the Chaldees was the center of the ancient world in its day. They even had running water in Ur of the Chaldees. Isn't that fascinating? And yet Sarai, not yet Sarah, but Sarai left Ur of the Chaldees to go with her husband. Now what made that woman make that decision? Genesis 11, verse 30, "And Sarai was barren; she had no child." God had made a promise to Abram, "That I will bless you; I will multiply your seed; I will make nation out of you." And Sarai was barren; she had no child.
You know on a few occasions in my life I've met with couples who were unable to have children and I have met with women who have had miscarriages, many miscarriages. The pain, the hurt, the grief, the struggle. Oh, by the way, do you know what the name Abram meant? Exalted father. Every time she said his name she was reminded of her inability to have children. It was a horrible pain for her and when God's promise came along that promise is what, I am convinced, is what motivated her. And this whole promise, Lot and Sarai, become the thrust, the theme, the table is now set. You have a nephew, and you have a wife, and you have a husband. And the wife was unable to have a child. And the nephew becomes the surrogate child, the surrogate son. Yet God had said leave that nephew behind with your other brother and cut off all back, all contact of this nature with your family. Not so much contact but leave them because God was planning a new beginning. And Abram was spiritually responsive though he couldn't do everything God wanted him to do. He is so much like so many of us as men. We're spiritually responsive, we pray, we want to, we struggle, but we can't do everything God wants us to do. There is a decision on the job we cannot make; there's just too much at stake. There's a contract we have to sign; there's just too much at stake. There's something we cannot take the stand on; there's just too much at stake.
Abram was a man who made great decisions, but just not quite enough. Yet he's spiritually responsive. Beyond that the man is financially responsible. In Chapter 12 he arrives at the land God where God had promised him, and we read in Chapter 12, verse 10 there was a famine in the land. There was a famine in the land. "So Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there for the famine was severe in the land."
Now when we get to know Abram better we're going to discover he had a great wealth. He was a very wealthy man. Wealth in those days was not measured in CD's or stocks or mutual funds or Swiss bank accounts; it was measured in BAAA and MOOO: sheep, goats, oxen – that's how you measured wealth. And a man's wealth was both very portable, very visible, and very liable to loss; because a famine would mean loss, loss, loss. And so this man Abram said, "I've got to be financially responsible." and so he went down to Egypt and though, though – he's just like so many of us you know, we will make, we will make financial decisions at a higher level of priority that we make spiritual decisions, won't we? And there are times when we feel constrained to choose because financially so much is at stake that we cannot, cannot, cannot make the spiritual decision because we have the family to support; we have needs to meet; we have a wife who is dependent on us; we have a child who is dependent on us; or we have others who are dependent on us.
And so he went down and amazingly enough he made several thousand out of a bear market. He redeemed a bear market and turned it into a bull market and made tremendous wealth, tremendous wealth, advanced his wealth tremendously. He, what's so fascinating about Abram is that of course through his wife's capacities he ends up getting in good with Pharaoh but still he was a man who could make those kinds of connections. We're talking about an unusual man. He was an unusual man. He ended up in the presence of kings; he did it a couple of times. He was a very unusual man and a very powerful man and a very financially responsible man. Furthermore we get to Genesis 13 we discover that he was a very personally generous man. Once they had to leave Egypt and they did have to leave Egypt in Genesis 13, we discover that now they had so much that the land to which they had come was not able to support them, the land of Canaan as it was called in those days, modern day Israel. That land was not able to support Abram and his nephew Lot when they put all of their resources together. Just was not enough grazing space for them to stay together. So what began to happen was the hired hands, Abram's hired hands, and Lot's hired hands began to have conflict with one another and Abram was a man of peace. He did not want conflict; he did not want this tension and he did not want to win. It was not important to him to win. At least it was not important for him to win over his nephew. So rather than go for the jugular and rather than go after being a winner, he gathers Lot together with him. Verse 7 tells us of Genesis 13, "There was strife between the herdsmen of Abram's livestock and the herdsmen of Lot's livestock and the Canaanites and the Perizzites were dwelling in the land." And this was a difficult situation because if that strife got to be too great, they had so much wealth that if those Canaanites and Perizzites saw a way to take advantage of it. Just like anybody else does, if anybody sees a weakness in your position in your business you know what's going to happen, don't you?
And so Abram says to Lot, verse 8, " 'Please let there be no strife between you and me and our herdsmen for we are brothers. The whole land is before you. Separate from me. If you want to go to the left, I will go to the right. If you want to go to the right, I will go to the left.' Lot lifted up his eyes and saw all the valley of Jordan that was well watered everywhere (before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah). It was like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt as you go up to Zoar, (apparently a very fertile place). So Lot chose for himself the valley of the Jordon and Lot journeyed eastward and they separated from each other." This is a man who was personally generous who does not seek for himself.
Spiritually responsive, financially responsible, personally generous–one last trait of this man that we'll see this morning, he was a man who was physically protective. Genesis 14 at verse 14, Genesis 14. Now the setting is this: Lot moved to Sodom and Gomorrah. Sodom and Gomorrah had become under the control of other kings who were stronger than their own government and this king exacted taxes from them. People in Sodom and Gomorrah said, "We're not going to pay these taxes." So the kings all got together and they came down and they said, "You are going to pay these taxes." They came in; they sacked Sodom and Gomorrah; they took a number of the prominent citizens–that meant Lot with all of his wealth, and they took them away as tribute for themselves. They were going to take them for themselves.
Well, in Genesis 14, verse 14, Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive. Look at, look at this; look at Genesis 14:14. This is amazing. "He led out his trained men born in his house, three hundred and eighteen." Now let's talk about this guy. Do you know anybody with a 318 private man army? Born in his house? I mean, no wonder he made such an impact. No wonder he made such an impression. He had immense loyalty. If these men were born in his house, he'd not been in the land of Canaan long enough for them to have been born and matured. They came with him from Ur of the Chaldees. They came with him. He generated unbelievable loyalty. He could build a team that was fantastic. He had tremendous personal charisma, impact, power! He had more than appearance; he delivered! He was an unusual man! And he went out and in some rear guard action he delivered his nephew.
So now we see the man. What a man! Spiritually responsive, financially responsible, personally generous, physically protective – what more would you want to have around the house? Well, I want to tell you – a lot more. Because Abram is not at all unlike many twentieth century men. Wonderfully successful, wildly successful outside of the house but when we come home it's another story. We've seen Abram the man. Lord willing, next week I want to look at Abram, the missing man. And I want to show you that he led partially; I want to show you that he obeyed partially; I want to show you that he believed partially. And I want to show you that his wife had the same struggles that modern American women have with their men, once we come around the house.
Father we ask You this morning that You'll help us as we think through these issues and as we consider our family needs within this society. Lord we know that just a handful of us in this room can in no manner turn our nation around but we know that the handful of us in this room can touch with handfuls in other rooms across our country, can begin a process. And I pray for us as men, I pray for us as men, that we will grow in our faith; that we will grow in our courage; that we will grow in our trust; that we will grow in our commitment; and that we will become not only leaders of our families but changers of our nation. For Your glory and in Your name. Amen.