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1. Understanding God’s Call (Genesis 12:1–9)

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The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” So Abram left, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there. Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him. From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and 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. Then Abram set out and continued toward the Negev. (Genesis 12:1–9)

How can I know God’s call on my life? What is my next step? Who should I marry?

We can learn a great deal about God’s call as we consider Abraham’s call. Abraham is a central figure in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. In the book of Genesis, his life spans twelve chapters. He is called a friend of God three times in the Bible (2 Chron 20:7; Isa 41:8; James 2:23), and he is referred to four times in the New Testament (Romans, Galatians, Hebrews, and James). He is called the father of all those who believe (Gal 3:7), and he is considered the founder of three religions: Judaism, Islam, and Christianity.

God called Abraham many years after the flood in Genesis 6–8. The earth was so sinful that God destroyed it and started over with Noah’s family. However, even Noah’s descendants became sinful. In Genesis 11, his descendants gathered to build the Tower of Babel. They declared, “Let us make a name for ourselves.” Like Adam and Eve, and Satan before them, they became proud and wanted to bring glory to themselves instead of God. They decided to disobey God’s commission of moving throughout the earth and settling it. Instead, they decided to stay in one place and build a tower for their honor. Because of that, God confounded their speech and the people scattered.

Abraham’s call was very special. God called him out of a rebellious world to be a conduit for salvation. He is a pivotal character in redemptive history. As we study him, we will learn a great deal about living a life of faith (cf. Heb 11:8–19). But, specifically in this passage, we learn about God’s call. In this study, we will consider ten characteristics of God’s call on the life of a believer.

Big Question: What are characteristics of God’s call as discerned from the call of Abraham?

God’s Call Is a Call to Obey God’s Revelation

The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. (Genesis 12:1)

Abraham’s call began with God speaking to him. We don’t know exactly how this happened. Maybe, God spoke to him through a fiery bush, through a cloud, a blinding light, or a soft whisper. We don’t know. But we do know that God made his will very clear to Abraham—he was to leave his country, his people, and his father’s household.

Many believers want to know God’s will. What is God’s will for my future? What major should I pursue? Who should I marry? What should I do next?

Everyone should understand a few important things about discerning and following God’s call. In one sense, there is a general call for all believers as revealed through God’s Word. God calls for all of us to make disciples, to daily spend time with him through his Word and prayer, to be involved with and serve a Bible preaching church, and to turn away from sin. These are aspects of God’s general call for all believers.

However, God also has a specific call for every believer—such as seen in God’s call for Abraham to leave his home and family to be a blessing to the world. A specific call deals with things that are not clearly revealed through his Word—such as who to marry, what job to take, and how to serve.

Interpretation Question: How can we discern our specific call or aspects of it?

Here are two things to remember about discerning our specific call:

1. To discern our specific call, we must apply principles found in Scripture.

For example, when a person is trying to figure out what career path to pursue, Scripture says that in the multitude of counselors there is safety (Prov 11:14). A wise person is going to get lots of advice from those who know more than him. Maybe, he will read books about that occupation or talk to people in it. Also, he would need to consider his own talents and desires. Scripture says, “God works in us to will and do of his good pleasure” (Phil 2:12–13). If I am walking with God and obeying his Word, many times my desires are prompted and led by God. He also gives me the ability to do his will. If I lack the aptitude and skills in a certain area or an occupation, maybe that is not God’s call. For example, I know God is not calling me to be a chef—because I don’t have any cooking skills.

Similarly, when choosing a spouse, God gives clear principles in Scripture. One should not marry someone who is not walking with God. Second Corinthians 7:14 says we should not be yoked with unbelievers. For women, Scripture teaches about the type of man they should consider. Ephesians 5:25–27 says that husbands should love their wives as Christ loved the church, washing her with the water of the Word of God. Women should look for a spiritual leader to marry. For men, Solomon’s mom in Proverbs 31 says, “A woman who fears the Lord should be praised” (v. 30). She declares how charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, and therefore, men should make their choice primarily based on a woman’s vibrant faith in the Lord.

In order to discern our specific call, we must apply the wisdom principles in Scripture. David said, “Your Word is a light unto my path and a lamp unto my feet” (Ps 119:105). When we are not using the principles given in Scripture, we walk in the dark.

2. To discern our specific call, we must faithfully fulfill God’s general call.

Again, God has given a general call in Scripture for everyone to obey—like meditating on his Word day and night, sharing the gospel, using our spiritual gifts to serve the church, and turning away from sin. When we are faithful with what God has already revealed, he gives us more. Mark 4:24–25 says,

“Consider carefully what you hear,” he continued. “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.”

Jesus said if we are faithful with what we hear from God (including our general call and specific call), then he gives us more. But those who do not obey, God takes away.

There are many Christians that cannot discern God’s will because they are disobedient to their general call. Instead, they experience a hardening of the heart and an inability to hear and discern God’s voice. Another example of this is in Romans 12:2. It says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

When we are not conforming to the pattern of the world, we will be able to test (Is this of God or not of God?) and approve (This is God!) his pleasing and perfect will. By being faithful to God’s general will, one can discern God’s specific will.

Are you faithfully following God’s revealed will so he can guide you in your calling?

Application Question: What are your thoughts about the necessity of fulfilling God’s general call in order to discern God’s specific call? In what ways have you seen or experienced an inability to discern God’s voice for lack of obeying God’s general will? What aspects of God’s specific call has the Lord already revealed to you?

God’s Call Is a Call of Sovereign Election

The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. (Genesis 12:1)

Interpretation Question: Why did God call Abraham? What made him special?

The next thing we can discern about God’s call is that it is a call of sovereign election. Why did God call Abraham? Was he more holy than everybody else? Was he more faithful? No. It seems that Abraham worshiped pagan gods just like everybody else. He was from the land of Ur, in Mesopotamia, that was known for worshiping Nanna, the moon god.1 Joshua declared that Abraham’s family members were idolaters. Joshua 24:2–3 says,

Joshua said to all the people, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘Long ago your forefathers, including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the River and worshiped other gods. But I took your father Abraham from the land beyond the River and led him throughout Canaan and gave him many descendants. I gave him Isaac,

Abraham was from a family of idolaters. Some commentators, like F. B. Meyer, believe that Abraham, like Noah before him, was a faithful follower of God.2 However, it seems that Abraham is included with the idolaters, as he was one of Israel’s “forefathers.” His call seems to be more like Paul’s. While Paul was on his way to persecute Christians, Christ appeared to him in a shining light and converted him (Acts 9). Like Paul, God stops Abraham right in the midst of his sin and calls him.

Abraham was an idolater. There was no special reason for God to call him. In fact, as we follow his story, we will watch him fail God many times. He lies about his wife twice and, at one point, marries another woman. He allows his wife, Sarah, to abuse his new, pregnant wife. He fails God in many ways.

What makes him special is God’s election. God chose him from among all the pagans to bestow special grace on him, and this grace was not just to bless Abraham but to bless the entire world through him. The messiah, Jesus Christ, eventually came through his lineage (cf. Matt 1:1–2).

Election is a theme taught throughout Scripture. Because God is King, he can do whatever he wants, but also since man is sinful and in total rebellion towards God, he must elect some to obedience and salvation. Consider what Paul said about man:

there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:11–12)

the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. (Romans 8:7–8)

The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14)

After sin entered the world, nobody seeks God anymore—at least not the God of the Bible. They have all gone their own way. The mind of man is so corrupted that he is hostile to God and cannot submit to his law. Man is so corrupt that the things of God are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them—apart from God’s Spirit.

The question then becomes, “How can man know God or respond to his call?” The answer is election. Man was so negatively affected by sin, God had to elect some to himself so that they might be saved.

This mystery is important not only to understand Abraham’s call, but also Jacob’s, Israel’s, Paul’s, and Christians’ in general. Consider what Paul said about Jacob:

Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God's purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” (Romans 9:11–13)

In the Jewish culture, the eldest received the inheritance. Therefore, Esau should have received his father’s inheritance and blessing. However, God chose Jacob, before he was even born, so that his purpose in election might stand. God said, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” Did God hate Esau? No, this refers to God’s election. God loved Jacob and hated Esau in the sense of who would receive his blessing.

What about the Israelites? Why did God choose Israel to be his nation of priests to the world? Was it because they were more obedient, more spiritual, or more faithful? Absolutely not. Deuteronomy 7:7–8 says,

The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

God chose them based on his sovereign right as King. They were chosen because of election.

What about all Christians—those with genuine saving faith in Christ? Scripture teaches their election as well. Ephesians 1:3–5 says,

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will

Paul tells us that we were chosen before the creation of the world and predestined to be God’s sons. Peter actually calls us “elect” in 1 Peter 1:1: “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God's elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia.” In the early church, elect became a common title for all born again believers.

Certainly, this is a controversial doctrine. Some would say if we were elected before time that means we do nothing for our salvation and are just robots. No, Scripture, at the same time, teaches that we must respond and accept the gospel; however, it also teaches that when we do this, it is only because of God’s grace. Humanity is so enslaved to their sinful nature, it is impossible for us to respond apart from grace (cf. Rom 8:7). That is why we must be elected. Ephesians 2:8–9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Paul taught that the very faith that we demonstrate in our salvation is only a result of grace. We believed in Christ as our Lord and Savior because of grace, and we received this grace because of God’s election. This is a difficult doctrine, but unless we accept it, we will find ourselves confused at much of Scriptures’ teachings.

How can God show up and save a murderer like Paul and call him to be an apostle? It isn’t fair. Wouldn’t everybody become a Christian if Christ actually appeared to them and blinded them to prove it? This may be true, but this is proof of the doctrine we are considering. Paul was saved and called to be an apostle by election. He was elect. And it’s the same with Abraham. God showed up and called an idolater, a liar, and a future polygamist to be the father of those who believe because of election. This is also true for every Christian. Though God may not appear to us in a shining light or a burning bush, our salvation is no less magnificent. It is a work of amazing grace. It is a work of election. Salvation could not happen any other way.

And this also tells us something about God’s call on our lives. God’s call for one person will be different from another’s. One person will be called to be a missionary sent to live in poverty and give his life for the gospel, while another Christian will live prosperously in a wealthy city with no overt persecution. Why are things this way? God chooses one person for this and another person for that. It is his right as Sovereign—his right as King.

Consider Christ’s communication with Peter after telling him about his future death as a martyr:

Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” (John 21:20–22)

Peter was wondering about John, “How would he die?” Christ simply said, “‘If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.’” Because God is King, he does what he wants. He calls one person for this and another for that.

Interpretation Question: Why is it important to understand God’s election when considering one’s call?

1. Understanding election helps us trust God instead of being angry at him when we consider our situation or others’.

We may not fully understand his electing grace and sovereignty, but we must trust that he is good and perfect in all his ways. Only someone who is all-wise and all-good is suitable to be sovereign over all.

2. Understanding election helps us to be humble instead of prideful when God prospers us.

Abraham could look back and remember that he was an idolater that God called and saved by grace. Paul was a murderer—the chief of sinners (1 Tim 1:15, KJV). David was a shepherd—the least in his household and despised by Israel because of his occupation. Election reminds us of God’s grace—it keeps us humble.

3. Understanding election helps us worship God.

Consider Paul’s response to God’s election of Israel in Romans 11:28, 34–36:

As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable… Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.

Are you still worshiping and trusting in our sovereign God? Only one who is all-good, all-wise, and all-powerful is worthy to be sovereign, and that’s our God. May he be glorified forever!

Application Question: What ways do you see election in Abraham’s call? Is the election of Abraham or anybody else fair? Why or why not? In what ways is God’s election an encouragement to you?

God’s Call Is Costly

The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. (Genesis 12:1)

Observation Question: What did God call Abraham to do?

Another aspect of God’s call is that it is costly. Abraham was called to leave his country, his people, and his father’s household. Abraham probably lived in Ur his whole life until then. His friends, family, and contacts were there. His job was there. In order to follow God’s call, he needed to leave everything.

However, this is not only true of Abraham’s call but ours as well. Jesus said,

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? (Luke 9:23–25)

If anyone is going to follow Christ, he must deny himself and take up his cross. When Christ called to the rich man to follow him, he told him to sell everything (Matt 19). Riches would hinder his full devotion to the Lord, and therefore, he needed to let them go. The cost of God’s call includes denying the pleasures of sin and denying our will in order to submit to his. All these were included in Abraham’s call.

Some cannot discern and follow God’s call because they are not willing to sacrifice. They are not willing to give up career goals or leave family, home, and country. They are not willing to suffer and be uncomfortable. Some simply will not forsake sin. If we are going to follow Christ, we must deny ourselves and take up our cross.

God called the rich man to let go of his riches. He called the disciples to leave their careers. He called Abraham to leave his land, home, and family. What is God calling you to sacrifice in order to fulfill his call?

Application Question: In what ways have you had to sacrifice to follow God’s call? Are there any specific ways he is calling you to sacrifice now?

God’s Call Is a Call to Faith and Dependence

The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. (Genesis 12:1)

Interpretation Question: In what ways was God calling Abraham to faith and dependence upon him?

Another aspect of Abraham’s call was that it included faith and dependence. God told him to leave everything and didn’t even tell him where to go. He just says, “Go to the land I will show you.” Can you imagine telling family and friends, “I’m leaving town.” They would say, “Where are you going?” You would respond, “I don’t know. I am just following God.” This wouldn’t make any sense. People would think you were mad. We can assume that is what people thought about Abraham. He was leaving for a land that God would show him.

Not only was this a life of faith because Abraham did not initially know the destination (cf. Gen 11:31), but also because he left much of his resources in Ur. By leaving his people and his father’s household, he left his security. The members of a household fought for one another in the case of raiders or war. Also, he left his job, house, culture, and many other securities. God was calling Abraham to a life of faith—a life of depending upon him.

Eventually, after Abraham left his country, God revealed where he was going. In Genesis 11:31, we see Abraham, with Terah and Lot, leaving for “Canaan.” This is true for us as well. Many times as we follow what God has revealed, he reveals the next step to us. This is the life of faith.

Our life of faith begins at salvation. God calls us to give up our striving for salvation through good works and to trust solely in Christ’s finished work. We still do good works, but as a result of salvation—not for salvation. Also, as Christians following God’s call, the Lord continually teaches us our insufficiency and his sufficiency. Essentially, he teaches us how to depend on him and live the life of faith.

Jesus said this in Matthew 18:1–4: He picked up a child (literally a small child, like an infant) and said, “Unless you become like this child you will not enter the kingdom of heaven, and he who becomes like this little child is greatest in the kingdom” (paraphrase). Christ taught that dependence (faith) was the door to salvation, and, at the same time, the pathway to maturity after salvation. The greatest in the kingdom is like a little child—totally dependent on God.

Many times God develops dependence by bringing us into trials that reveal our weakness. We start to realize that we are not strong enough or smart enough. We don’t have the right family background, education, or enough money. And yet, despite all these deficiencies, his grace is enough. God called Abraham to a life of faith, and God calls us to the same.

This, in fact, is one of the reasons why many won’t heed God’s call. “Rich Man, sell all your riches and depend on me alone!” This is very difficult. God sometimes calls a person to go to seminary and leave a good paying job. He calls another to leave the stability of family and country for missions. God will call you to serve in a ministry—many times, one you feel ill equipped for. God will constantly call you to depend on him and trust him more. In these times, he says that his grace is sufficient for you because his power is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor 12:6)—he is enough. The call of God is a call to faith. He says, “I will supply.”

There will be worries, fears, and obstacles to deter you from following God’s call. And for this reason, many don’t fulfill their calling. Israel didn’t enter the promised land because they feared “giants”. They knew that in their power, they were not capable of taking the land. They weren’t willing to put all their faith in God; therefore, they missed out. Sadly, this is true for most of us. God’s call is a call of faith—a call to do something impossible apart from God’s power to build his kingdom and glorify his name.

Are you willing to trust him? Are you willing to step out in faith to serve in a ministry or start a ministry—to do something for his glory and for others’ benefit? That is God’s call on your life—to depend on him and allow him to work through you. Are you ready?

Application Question: In what ways has God called you to step out of your comfort zone and learn to live by faith? How have you experienced his grace when stepping out in faith?

God’s Call Is a Call to Separation from the World and Sin

The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. (Genesis 12:1)

Probably, part of the reason that Abraham needed to leave his country, family, and household was because of temptations associated with them. Ur, though a prosperous city, was full of idolatry and Abraham’s family worshiped idols. We even see that when Isaac, Abraham’s son, sent Jacob to find a wife from Abraham’s family, they still worshiped idols. In fact, Rachel, Jacob’s wife, brought some back to Canaan (cf. Gen 31:30–34). No, doubt God called Abraham to leave his family and country to separate him from those temptations.

This is our call as well. If we are going to follow Christ, we must turn away from sin and all temptations to sin. First Thessalonians 5:22 says, “Abstain from all appearance of evil.” It can also be translated “flee” (Aramaic Bible in Plain English).3 In following God, Abraham needed to flee all appearance of evil and that included the pervasive sin in his family and country. Many Christians cannot fully follow Christ because they still want to hold onto sin and sinful relationships. Like the rich man, they want to keep their idols with them as they follow Christ. However, the Lord will not allow it. We can only have one master and that is God (Matt 6:24).

In fact, Christ calls us to daily get rid of sin. If our eye offends us, we should pluck it out. If our hand offends us, we should cut it off (Matt 5:29–30). We must do everything possible to be free from sin. Sometimes, we even need to leave certain surroundings because the temptations are too strong. That is what God called Abraham to do.

Interestingly, one of the things we notice with Abraham is that he did not fully obey God. He did not leave everything God commanded. He brought his father, Terah, with him and his nephew, Lot (cf. Gen 11:31). Because Terah was the family patriarch, no doubt, Abraham felt a responsibility to tell him about God’s call. In Genesis 11, the narrator tells us that when the family left Ur, Terah was actually leading the family. It says:

Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Haran, they settled there. Terah lived 205 years, and he died in Haran. (Genesis 11:31–32)

Abraham and Terah initially started traveling towards Canaan but then stopped in Haran. Scholars believe they stayed there for around fifteen years.4 Why did they stop? We can’t be sure, but we do know that Haran was a major center of worship for the Moon God—as Ur was.5 Maybe, Abraham could not get his father, Terah, to leave this famous center of idolatry, and therefore, he himself stayed there as well.

Sometimes, we can gain insight from Hebrew names. “Terah” means “delay” and “Haran” means “parched” or “dry.”6 Because Abraham sinned against God by bringing his father, it led to a delay in fulfilling God’s call. And, bringing Lot, as we will see later, led to conflict, eventual separation, and almost cost Abraham his life.

As we follow Christ, everything brought from the world will cause us delay and pain. Also, when we don’t follow Christ wholeheartedly, it ultimately leads to dryness in our spiritual lives. While Abraham was in Haran, no doubt, he experienced “Haran”—dryness in his relationship with God. We don’t see God speak to Abraham again until his father dies, and then, Abraham continues his journey to Canaan (cf. Gen 12:1–4).

This is true for many Christians. They have areas of disobedience in their lives keeping them from fulfilling God’s call and experiencing intimacy with him. They can’t hear his voice, discern his direction, or receive his comfort. Their spiritual life is dry. In general, we only experience God when faithfully walking with him and obeying him. In 2 Corinthians 6:17–18, Paul says:

“Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”

We can’t experience the Father’s intimacy or fulfill his call when partnering with the world and practicing sin. How often does this happen because Christians will not separate from the world in the music they listen to, the books they read, the movies they watch, and the relationships they foster? God’s call is a call to separation from the world and sin.

What is holding you back? What is causing spiritual delay in your life? Christ said that the way to life is a narrow road—you can’t take everything with you—and few find this road. However, the path to destruction is broad and many are on it (Matt 7:13–14). In order to fulfill God’s call, we must leave the world and sin behind. Will you leave it?

Application Question: Are there any ways God is calling you to leave behind the world and sin to fulfill your call? In what ways have you experienced “delay” and “dryness” in your life because of disobedience or partial obedience?

God’s Call Is Persistent

The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. (Genesis 12:1)

Interpretation Question: How can we reconcile God’s call in Genesis 12:1 and what Stephen says about this call in Acts 7:2–4? Are these the same call?

Another aspect about God’s call to Abraham is its persistence. This was probably the second-time God called Abraham.7 Stephen tells us that God originally called Abraham while he was in Ur. Acts 7:2–4 says,

To this he replied: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran. ‘Leave your country and your people,’ God said, ‘and go to the land I will show you.’ “So he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. After the death of his father, God sent him to this land where you are now living.

God called him while he was in Mesopotamia; however, Genesis 12:1–4 shows God calling Abraham in Haran after his father’s death. Genesis 12:4 says, “So Abram left, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran.” In obedience to the second call, Abraham left Haran.

God’s first call to Abraham led to partial obedience. He brought his father, Terah, and nephew, Lot, and when they got to Haran, they stayed there around fifteen years.

One of the wonderful things about God is that he is persistent. Many times when he first calls people, they are not ready to fully obey. However, his grace continues after them, working in them to will and do of his good pleasure (Phil 2:12–13).

We get another picture of this persistent call in the story of Jonah. In Jonah chapter 1, God calls Jonah to go to Nineveh. Jonah rebels and boards a ship going in the opposite direction. While sailing, God brought a great storm that forced his shipmates to throw Jonah into the sea in hope that God would spare them. In God’s mercy, he prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah to spare his life. Jonah’s disobedience led to God’s discipline, but even God’s discipline was full of mercy. After a few days, this great fish vomited Jonah up onto dry land. In Jonah 3:1, Jonah experienced God’s second call, it says: “Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time.”

Jonah 3:1 may be one of the sweetest verses in the Bible. When we fail God and choose to go our own way, God’s grace doesn’t forsake us but continues after us. Often, God is not only the God of second chances, but of third, fourth, and fifth chances as well.

With that said, this is not cheap grace. Disobedience is costly. Time is lost. We, and sometimes those around us, must face consequences. Jonah’s disobedience almost cost the people in the ship with him their lives. However, Jonah’s disobedience did not change God’s call on his life. God is persistent—his grace continues to seek after us.

To some extent, this was my own experience as well. I felt God’s call to preach at nine years old. However, I essentially told God, “No. Not yet.” I remember telling God that one day I would do whatever he wanted, but at the moment, I was just a kid and not ready yet. It was ten years later when God’s grace came to me again. I was nineteen, about to start my sophomore year in college. Through some difficult trials in my life, God softened my heart and prepared me to say, “Yes.” Whatever God’s will for my life was; I was ready to follow. At that point, I could say like Christ, “Not my will, but your will be done.”

With that said, even though God’s grace is persistent, if we turn God down, his grace may move to another. Saul was anointed King of Israel, but when he turned from God, God’s grace went and found another—David. Similarly, with Israel, it was God’s plan to bring them into the promised land, but after a great rebellion, God promised that generation would never enter the land. They died in the wilderness, and instead, God gave the land to their children.

Let this remind us that God’s grace will not persist forever. He will always forgive, as we confess and repent of our sins (1 John 1:9), but sometimes, we must settle for second best. After Israel’s rebellion, they wandered in the wilderness until they died. Sometimes our rebellion forfeits God’s original plan for our lives. It is possible to be disqualified. Paul said, “No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” (1 Cor 9:27).

How are you responding to God’s persistent grace? Scripture says it is God’s kindness that draws men to repentance (Rom 2:4). Let his persistent grace bring you to repentance, so that you can fulfill God’s call on your life. But, also let us be warned, “Today is the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6:2). We are not guaranteed tomorrow, and his grace may not persist in the same manner as today. Let us faithfully respond to God’s persistent and loving grace for this is our reasonable act of worship (Rom 12:1).

Application Question: In what ways have you experienced God’s persistent grace? Do you agree that sometimes because of rebellion, God’s call moves to others, and we have to settle for second best?

God’s Call Includes Great Promises for Those Who Obey

“I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:2–3)

In addition, God’s call comes with many great promises. When God calls us or moves in our lives, many times he doesn’t give us reasons or calm the waves of our curiosity. He may not answer questions like, “Why?” or “What for?” Sometimes he doesn’t even tell us “Where?” or “How?” but he always gives us promises.

In Scripture, God gives conditional and unconditional promises. “I will never leave you nor forsake you” is an unconditional promise. “Give and it shall be given unto you” is a conditional promise. With Abraham, God seems to give a conditional promise that later becomes unconditional (cf. Gen 15). God says to him “Leave … I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you.” All of Abraham’s promises were based on his obedience to God.

As we consider these promises, they have specific applications to our call and walk of faith.

Observation Question: What promises did God give Abraham?

1. God promised to give Abraham a land.

“Go to the land I will show you”

This promise is later expanded. In Genesis 12:7, God says, “‘To your offspring I will give this land.’” God promised to give his offspring the land of Canaan.

However, it must be known that God’s promise of a land was not just earthly—it was also heavenly. The writer of Hebrews says:

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. (Hebrews 11:8–10)

Abraham never received the land while living in it. He always lived as a foreigner in tents. However, his true hope was in a heavenly city—of which Canaan was a type.

This should be true for us as well. Yes, God has a call for us on the earth including a territory or ministry for us to spread his name and fame. It may be to a group of people, a city, or a nation, and as we are obedient, God opens the door to that ministry and blesses it. However, our primary call is heavenly. We must never let our earthly call—or successes or disappointments that come with it—dim the great call that we have in heaven. It must be our primary pursuit and endeavor (cf. Matt 6:20).

Application Question: Has God shown you a land or a ministry he wants you to focus on? How has God called you to be faithful in this area?

2. God promised to make Abraham a great nation.

“I will make you into a great nation”

At the time Abraham received this promise, he was childless. His original name Abram meant “exalted father” while his later name, Abraham, meant “father of a multitude.”8

In that culture, it was shameful to not have any children. You can imagine the snickers that came every time Abram introduced himself: “What’s your name?” “My name is Abram.” “Really, how many kids do you have?” “None.” “Oh?” Abraham and his wife bore great shame and burden because of this reality. Obviously, it was always their hope to raise children.

Here, God promises to remove that shame and not only give them a child but to bring a great nation from him. This nation would be the nation of Israel. It was to Israel that God gave his covenant and his laws. He dwelt among them in the tabernacle and later the temple. It was through this nation that the messiah would come and bless the entire world. The nation of Israel is truly a great nation because of the spiritual lineage that came through them.

In addition, Scripture teaches that the church also came through Abraham. Again, Galatians 3:7 says that we are “children of Abraham” because of our belief. He is the father of all who believe in God. It is through him and his lineage that God chose to bring redemption.

In a sense this promise is true about us and our callings as well. God’s desire is for us to have children—specifically spiritual children. In 1 John 2:12–14, John writes to fathers, sons, and children. Each believer is in one of these stages, but God’s will is for all of us to become fathers and mothers. This means that we are giving birth—leading people to Christ and discipling them. God’s call for us is also to raise up a nation of people who love and follow him.

Are you willing to allow God to raise spiritual children through you? Most miss out on this part of their call by staying in spiritual immaturity.

Application Question: Why is it important for people in the church to mature into spiritual parenthood? What happens when believers never mature (cf. 1 Cor 3:1–3)?

3. God promised to bless him.

“and I will bless you”

The word “bless” is a rich word. It can be translated “happy.” God’s blessing brings joy in the life of a person—no matter the circumstances. Blessing has to do with approval. When a man wants to marry a woman, he gets her father’s “blessing”—meaning his approval. Abraham would be approved by God for his obedience. But, it also has the connotation of favor. God was going to place his favor on Abraham’s life, as we see throughout his story. God prospers him with wealth; he gives him a baby when he and his wife were past childbearing age. The greatest blessing was obviously God’s presence. God would speak with Abraham and visit his house (Gen 18). Scripture calls Abraham God’s friend (James 2:23).

This is true for us as well. Faithful obedience brings God’s blessing on our lives. In fact, we see a similar promise in Psalm 1:1–3. God blesses the man who stays away from the path of the wicked (even as Abraham left his idolatrous home and country) and who delights in God’s law—therefore, meditating on it day and night. God promises to prosper everything he does.

Abraham was a man who obeyed God and received his blessing. Will you obey God and receive his blessings as well? Many forfeit God’s blessing by living in compromise and disobedience.

Application Question: What types of blessings have you received as a result of obedience to God? How have you experienced his discipline for not being obedient?

4. God promised to make his name great.

“I will make your name great”

This must stand out in the context. Genesis chapter 11 tells the story of how people sought to make their own name great. They cried out and said, “‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth’” (Gen 11:4). With the tower of Babel, people tried to make a name for themselves, and God shattered their ambitions by confusing their languages.

However, in Abraham’s case, God says, “I will make your name great.” While Abraham lived in the land, he became very wealthy and was treated as a “great prince” by the Canaanites (cf. Gen 23:6). And, his name is still revered today. Abraham is exalted in the three great religions. He is revered by Jews, Muslims, and Christians. His name is truly great.

In fact, the very first temptation of man was to be like God—to have his glory. Adam and Eve ate of the Tree of Knowledge to be like God, and God disciplined them. However, Abraham was not seeking his own glory, and God promised to exalt him.

This principle is still at work today. The world avidly pursues greatness. Each person pursues a name for him or herself through education, wealth, strength, or popularity. Similarly, each religion teaches people to try to save themselves through good works. However, God opposes the proud and exalts the humble (James 4:6). He rejects those who come to him based on their works, but accepts those who come to him like children—not trusting in their own works but trusting in the work of Jesus (cf. Matt 18:2–3; Rom 4:5).

He rejects those who fight to gain the world, and he gives the world and all its riches to the meek (Matt 5:5)—those who will not fight for their rights. Those who come to him in faith like Abraham, God calls “co-heirs with Christ” (Rom 8:17). The world and the heavens will be theirs. Yes, in a sense their names are truly great because their names will be forever associated with God, and God will exalt them. They will be married to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords throughout eternity (cf. Rev 19).

Are you trying to make your name great? If you are seeking to exalt yourself, you shall be humbled. But if you humble yourself and seek the Lord, you will be exalted.

David said to God, “I will make you a house,” but God responded, “No, I will make you a house and I will give you a name like the greatest men on the earth” (1 Chr 17). Those who humble themselves and pursue God’s will and not their own, God exalts. First Peter 5:6 says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” Certainly, this is what we saw in Christ. He humbled himself to the lowest of the low in order to serve God and others, and God gave him a name above every name (Phil 2:5–11).

If we humble ourselves by obeying God, he promises to exalt us, not only on the earth but throughout eternity (cf. James 4:6). Are you willing to humble yourself and seek his will instead of your own?

Application Question: Why is it so hard to seek God’s glory over our own? Why is it natural for man to seek his own glory, apart from God?

5. God promised to make him a blessing.

“…and you will be a blessing”

It must be noted that God blessed Abraham not primarily for his enjoyment but so he could be a blessing to many. Abraham blessed those in Canaan. Early on, he wins a battle against the kings of the east who formerly oppressed the kings of Canaan, and then, Melchizedek, the king of Salem, blesses him for it (Gen 14). Abraham blessed the Canaanites. But, ultimately, he blessed them by being a witness of the living God.

Psalm 1:3 describes the man who is blessed by God as a tree that produces fruit in season. A tree does not bear fruit for itself. We never see apple trees eat their own fruit. God made trees to bless others.

In the same way, God prospers the obedient. He blesses them so that they can bless others. During their trials, he strengthens and delivers them so they can strengthen and help deliver others. In 2 Corinthians 1:4, Paul says he “comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”

In addition, God often blesses the obedient financially so they can be channels of his blessing. He pours out financial blessings into their lives so that they can be poured into the kingdom of God. Second Corinthians 9:10 says this about those who are obedient givers: “Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.” Similarly, Psalm 37:25–26 says, “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be blessed.”

God blesses the obedient so they can be generous and lend freely. They widely distribute not only financial seed but spiritual seed in order to bless people. Are you willing to obey God and receive his blessings, so you can bless others?

Application Question: How have you experienced God using you more when you faithfully obey him? How have you experienced times of a loss of God’s blessing and usefulness because of unfaithfulness?

6. God promises to bless those who bless Abraham and curse those who curse him.

“I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse”

God also promises to bless those who bless Abraham and curse those who curse him. We see this several times in Abraham’s narrative. When he goes down to Egypt, Pharaoh takes Sarah as his wife, and God curses Pharaoh’s household with sickness. Afterward, Pharaoh gives Abraham his wife back along with great wealth (Gen 12). Similarly, when Abimelech takes Sarah as a wife, God cursed him (Gen 20). Then Abraham’s wife was returned along with wealth once again. God always protected Abraham (cf. Gen 15:1). He blessed those who blessed him and cursed those who cursed him. It also seems that this promise was passed on to Israel—Abraham’s children (cf. Num 24:9b).

With that said, we see this general promise reiterated throughout Scripture to those who faithfully obey God. Jesus said people should be careful of how they treat his little ones—those who believe in him. If we offend them, it would be better for a millstone to be put around their neck and for them to be tossed into the sea (Mark 9:42). He also said in Matthew 18:10 to not look down on them for their angels always see the face of God. Their guardian angels are always ready to move at God’s command on behalf of them. Similarly, Romans 12:19 says to believers, “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” In considering God’s blessings, Scripture says that even a bottle of water given to one of his people will be rewarded (Matt 10:42).

As we follow God’s call, he promises to bless those who bless us and curse those who curse us.

Application Question: How should God’s promise to bless or curse those who hurt his children affect how we treat other believers? How should it affect how we look at ourselves?

7. God promised that all the people of the earth would be blessed through him.

“and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

This is the most precious promise given to Abraham, and it is a key verse in redemptive history. God promised to bless all the people of the earth through Abraham. How would God do this? The primary way was by sending the messiah, Jesus Christ, through Abraham’s lineage. The messiah would be both divine and human. He would die for the sins of the world and rise from the dead on the third day. Jesus Christ is a blessing to all the peoples of the earth. This is true because he is the only way to salvation. There is no other way for people to have eternal life except through him. Christ said this, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the father but through me” (John 14:6).

Certainly, this should be true about us in one sense as well. God’s call for us is to share the messiah with others. This is done directly through the gospel and indirectly by living the gospel.

First Peter 2:12 says, “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” The reason pagans will glorify God on the day of the Lord is because they came to know Christ through us. This is part of God’s call on every believer’s life.

As we consider the seven promises given to Abraham, we must remember that God also gave us many great promises. By one person’s count, the Bible contains over 3,000 promises. Second Peter 1:3–4 says,

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

God gave us great and precious promises through which we can participate in the divine nature and escape the world’s corruption. Essentially, this means that the promises in Scripture are given to make us holy and deliver us from sin.

Sadly, many Christians do not drink deeply from these promises. While Abraham was in Canaan being tempted to be like those around him, he had to remember the great promises God gave him. It would help him to faithfully follow God and be the person God called him to be. In the same way, God gave us many great and precious promises which apply to our calling as well. We should memorize them, quote them, and cling to them, especially when tempted or in trial.

Application Question: What are some of these great promises God has given to help guide us in our callings?

Consider these promises:

Proverbs 3:6 says, “in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” God promises to give direction to the person who puts him first and seeks to glorify him in everything.

Matthew 5:6 says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” God promises that if we truly hunger for righteousness—to know the Word of God, to see souls saved, to get rid of sin in our lives and become more holy—he will give it to us. The question really is, “Do we really hunger for righteousness?”

Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” God promises that if we seek first the kingdom and his righteousness that he will always meet our needs. Many people seek their needs first and, therefore, find themselves impoverished and in lack.

Second Corinthians 9:6–8 says,

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

God promises that he will abundantly bless the giver. He will never lack and will have grace for every good work. Are you allowing yourself to be a channel of God’s blessing?

In considering our call, God may not tell us where, who, or how. But he does give us promises to help along the way, and many of these promises are conditional—coming after our obedience. God’s call is full of promises for those who obey. Are you obeying?

Application Question: What are your favorite promises in the Bible and how do they help you to fulfill God’s call?

God’s Call Is a Call to Pilgrimage

Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him. From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and 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. Then Abram set out and continued toward the Negev. (Genesis 12:6–9)

Interpretation Question: Throughout Abraham’s narrative we commonly see him and his family in tents. What can we learn about God’s call through this?

Another aspect of God’s calling on Abraham’s life and also on ours is a calling to pilgrimage. We see this in Abraham’s life as he goes to the promised land and lives in tents. In fact, the only land that Abraham owned while in the land was his wife’s grave site (Gen 23). Even though he became wealthy, he lived and dwelled in tents as a foreigner in the land. Hebrews 11:9–10 says this about Abraham:

By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

This is true for us today. We are pilgrims. This does not mean that we are wanderers. A pilgrim is not a wanderer. A pilgrim is person on a journey seeking a land. America was settled by pilgrims who left their home country seeking a land where they could have religious freedom. In the same way, Christians are pilgrims in the world today. The world is not our home, and like Abraham, we should not settle down in it.

We see this pilgrim analogy used throughout Scripture. Consider how Peter used it in his epistle: “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” (1 Pet 2:11, KJV). In 1 Peter, these Christians were forced to leave their homes and land because of Roman persecution. It was clear to them that earth was not their home and that they were called to live for another land—a heavenly one.

Application Question: What are some applications we can take from the fact that like Abraham, we are called to be pilgrims on this earth?

1. As pilgrims on this earth, we should not store up treasures on this earth but instead store them up in heaven.

Christ said this in Matthew 6:19–21:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Christ said that we should not store up treasures on this earth but, instead, store them up in heaven. When I go to a hotel, I don’t spend a lot of time trying to make the place very home-like. I don’t buy new curtains, covers, or a stereo system. Why? Because my stay at the hotel is temporary. Christ uses similar logic. He says that the treasures of this earth will be destroyed by moth and rust—they are temporary. Our life is but a breath here. We must spend our lives focused on the eternal. Therefore, as Christians, our lives and belongings should look very different from the world because we are not storing up our treasures on this earth. We are simply preparing and waiting for our eternal home. We are pilgrims. Abraham lived this way, even though he was wealthy, because heaven was his ultimate home.

2. As pilgrims on this earth, we will never feel completely comfortable.

If we are truly pilgrims and this is not our home, then we will never completely feel comfortable here. How can we feel comfortable with the temporary if we were made for the eternal? How can we feel comfortable in a sin infested society if we were made to live and dwell in righteousness? How can we feel comfortable in a loveless society, when we were made to dwell in perfect love?

As pilgrims, we will constantly feel dissatisfaction with life and the world as it is. Paul the apostle described it this way in Romans 8:22–23:

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

We, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, grown inwardly. This is not a groaning that the world can have, it is only a groaning that true Christians have. We groan for the redemption of our bodies. We long to be free of sin and to be satisfied with righteousness (cf. Rom 7:14–25). This is a groaning that is particular to pilgrims. In this world, we will never be completely comfortable; it is not our home. Second Corinthians 5:2 says, “Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling.”

Similarly, C. S. Lewis said, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world” (Mere Christianity). Personally, I often find a dissatisfaction in my heart with life and the things around me. I commonly attribute this to the natural groaning in all believers. As believers, we groan for our heavenly dwelling—we are but pilgrims here.

3. As pilgrims on this earth, we will be considered strange and sometimes persecuted.

First Peter 4:4 says, “They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you.” The world will find you strange because you don’t have the same values, the same belief system, or enjoy the same things. Sometimes, this will even lead to persecution. We should not be surprised if the world hates us, for the world hated Christ first (John 15:18). They persecuted and killed our Lord and Savior. We should not be surprised if this happens to us as well. This is not uncommon for pilgrims.

God’s call is a call to a pilgrim life. It is life of simplicity, a life of being uncomfortable, and a life of being considered strange by others. We should not be surprised by this, but embrace it, as a part of God’s calling.

Application Question: In what other ways can we apply the reality of being pilgrims on the earth? How have you experienced this pilgrim reality or sought to live it out as a discipline?

God’s Call Is a Call to Bold Worship

Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him. From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and 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. Then Abram set out and continued toward the Negev. (Genesis 12:6–9)

Interpretation Question: Throughout Abraham’s narrative we commonly see him build altars. What can we learn about God’s call through this?

Another aspect of our call is bold worship. Throughout Abraham’s life, we commonly see him build altars. When Abraham gets to Shechem in the land of Canaan, the Lord appears to him, and he builds an altar to God (v. 7). After moving, he then builds another altar in the hills between Bethel and Ai (v. 8). The altar symbolized his worship. When Abraham began to follow God, he became a worshiper.

But not only was Abraham a worshiper, he was a bold worshiper. When it says, “Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh,” the narrator is trying to get our attention. He calls it “the great tree of Moreh.” The title “Moreh” means “teaching.” This was the “the great tree of Teaching.”9 Most likely, this was a Canaanite shrine where people gathered to worship some deity and also listen to the deity’s teachers. Chuck Swindoll adds:

Historical records indicate that “the Canaanites had shrines in groves of oak trees, and Moreh may have been one of their cult centers.” [7] Worshipers of fertility gods believed that large trees were evidence of the reproductive power associated with the area; they thought one could become more fertile by worshiping there.10

This must stand out to us. Abraham builds an altar to God right by one of the great shrines of the Canaanite people. He was not a timid, quiet worshiper. He was a bold worshiper. No doubt, the Canaanites said, “Who is this Abraham guy and who is his God?”

Abraham was a bold worshiper, and this must be true of us as well. The call of God is a call to worship. Jesus said, “Whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven” (Matt 10:33, KJV). We cannot worship God in secret. Like Abraham, we must proclaim him and worship him everywhere we go.

This is the very reason God created man in the first place. We were created to worship God and enjoy him forever. This purpose was corrupted during the Fall, but in salvation, man is restored to this great call. First Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

God chose us out of the world to declare his praises. In fact, something that distinguishes the world is the fact that they do not worship God—at least not the true God. They worship themselves, others, or other things, but they do not worship God (cf. Rom 1:21–23). Abraham was in a world full of idols and idolaters; however, as part of his call, he boldly worshiped the true and living God. This should be our daily practice as well.

We can build our altars wherever we go. We can worship at work, school, dinner, recreation, and leisure. Everything we do should be worship. Paul said, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31).

Everything can be worship as we offer it to the Lord in prayer, as we work at it with all our heart, and as we seek to honor the Lord through it. Like Abraham, we should build altars everywhere, so others can see. He worshiped in the plain among the pagans, and he worshiped in the hills by himself.

Sadly, many Christians only worship at church or at home. We should make every place that we step a place of worship, as Abraham did. Jesus said, “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matt 5:16).

Application Question: How can we daily practice a lifestyle of worship? In what ways is God calling you to implement more worship into your daily routine?

God’s Call Leads to Blessing on Our Children

The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him. (Genesis 12:7)

Even though Abraham left his home and much of his family in Ur, while following God’s call, it would bring God’s blessing upon his children. God appeared to Abraham when he got to Canaan and said that he would give the land to his offspring—his children.

Similarly, the greatest thing we can do for our families and our children is to obey God’s call. Yes, obeying God’s call means, at times, being uncomfortable. It means living a life of faith, but God is a rewarder of those who pursue him by faith. Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

God rewards those who earnestly seek him. Some of the greatest rewards that God gives are to our children and our children’s children. Abraham never received the land in his lifetime, but his children did. Exodus 20:5–6 says,

You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

God blesses to a thousand generations those who love him and keep his commandments. Because Abraham loved and obeyed God, God’s displayed his love to Isaac, then to Jacob, then to Jacob’s children. Similarly, God’s favor on David’s life followed his son, Solomon.

The decisions we make today do not just affect us, but they also affect our children and our children’s children. This is true with God’s blessing but also with God’s punishment. Again, Exodus 20:5 says, “I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.” This doesn’t mean that God punishes us for our fathers’ sins; however, it does mean that their sins affect us. When Israel rebelled against God in the promised land—leading to forty years of wandering in the wilderness—their children had to stay in the wilderness, as well. They were affected by the consequences of their fathers’ sin, and many of these children eventually struggled with the same rebellion in their father’s hearts.

It is no surprise to see that as Abraham lied about his wife being his sister twice (Gen 12 and 20), this same sin was later found in his child as well. Isaac lied about his wife to Abimelech (Gen 26). Similarly, Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, was a compulsive liar. After this, Jacob’s children sold his son, Joseph, into slavery, and lied to Jacob about it for years.

Our sins commonly follow our children and, therefore, bring the same punishment from God that we received. This is why we see alcoholism, drug use, homosexuality, children out of wedlock, and witchcraft found generation after generation. The sins of the fathers’ visit the children to the third and fourth generation.

However, let us consider this. Whereas, our rebellion has effects to the third and fourth generation, our faithfulness to God has effects for a thousand generations. The rewards for obedience are greater than the punishment for sin. Let this motivate us to be faithful and obedient to God’s call; the lives of our children and our children’s children depend on it.

Application Question: In what ways have you seen or experienced generational blessing or generational cursing in your own family or others?

Conclusion

What are characteristics of God’s call on Abraham’s life and, therefore, our lives as well?

  1. God’s Call Is a Call to Obey God’s Revelation
  2. God’s Call Is a Call of Sovereign Election
  3. God’s Call Is Costly
  4. God’s Call Is a Call to Faith
  5. God’s Call Is a Call to Separation from the World and Sin
  6. God’s Call Is Persistent
  7. God’s Call Includes Great Promises for Those Who Obey
  8. God’s Call Is a Call to Pilgrimage
  9. God’s Call Is a Call to Bold Worship
  10. God’s Call Leads to Blessing on Our Children

Copyright © 2017 Gregory Brown

The primary Scriptures used are New International Version (1984) unless otherwise noted. Other versions include English Standard Version, New Living Translation, New American Standard Bible, and King James Version.

Holy Bible, New International Version ®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NASB) are taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, and 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Scripture quotations marked (KJV) are from the King James Version of the Bible.

All emphases in Scripture quotations have been added.


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2 Meyer, F.B.  (20

13-05-08). Abraham: The Obedience of Faith (Kindle Locations 123–124). CLC Publications. Kindle Edition.

3 http://biblehub.com/1_thessalonians/5-22.htm accessed 9/12/14.

4 Getz, Gene (1996-01-15). Men of Character: Abraham: Holding Fast to the Will of God (Kindle Locations 410–413). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

5 Kidner, D. (1967). Genesis: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 1, p. 120). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

6 Guzik, David (2012-12-08). Genesis (Kindle Locations 2192–2195). Enduring Word Media. Kindle Edition.

7 Guzik, David (2012-12-08). Genesis (Kindle Locations 2203–2205). Enduring Word Media. Kindle Edition.

8 Getz, Gene (1996-01-15). Men of Character: Abraham: Holding Fast to the Will of God (Kindle Locations 179–181). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

9 Swindoll, Charles R. (2014-07-16). Abraham: One Nomad's Amazing Journey of Faith (Kindle Locations 390–393). Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

10 Swindoll, Charles R. (2014-07-16). Abraham: One Nomad's Amazing Journey of Faith (Kindle Locations 390–393). Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

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