March 08, 2020

Rev. Bernt P. Tweit



Epistle Lesson; Romans 4:1-5

                          Romans 4:13-17

Gospel Lesson; John 4:5-26                          

Sermon Text; Genesis 12:1-8


The portion of God's Word we focus on is taken from Genesis chapter twelve, looking at the first eight verses.


Now the Lord said to Abram, “Get out of your country and away from your relatives and from your father's house and go to the land I will show you.  I will make you a great nation.  I will bless you and make your name great.   You will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse anyone who dishonors you.  All of the families of the earth will be blessed in you.”

So Abram went, as the Lord had told him.  Lot went with him.  Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.  Abram took Sarai his wife, Lot his brother's son, and all the possessions they had accumulated and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to travel to the land of Canaan.  Eventually they arrived in the land of Canaan.  Abram passed through the land until he came to the Oak of Moreh at the place called Schechem.  The Canaanites were in the land at that time.

The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “I will give this land to your descendants.”  Abram built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.

He moved on from there to the hill country east of Bethel and pitched his tent there, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east.  There he  built an altar to the Lord and proclaimed the name of the Lord.


These are your words, Heavenly Father.  Lead us in the way of truth.  Your Word is truth.



Have you ever been traveling someplace, and either on your phone, or in your car, you have plugged in the address in to the GPS?  You were following your GPS, and got to the destination you had plugged in to your GPS.  But, after you arrived you thought to yourself, “Is this the quickest route I could have taken?  Did my GPS take me on the scenic route?  Did I just go through some detour of some sort?  I ended up where I wanted to go, but this would not have been the way I would have taken.

I wonder if Abraham felt that way?  God was getting ready to lead Abraham to where He wanted Him to go.  But it may not necessarily have been the direction, or the way Abraham had intended.

Consider what the Bible tells us about Abraham's life.  I am going to go to Stephen's words from The New Testament.  (Stephen was the first martyr of the Christian faith.)  Here is what Stephen told a bunch of Jewish people who were in the Sanhedrin.  He said this about Abraham. 

“God 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 Abraham 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 and that is the Land of Canaan.”
So, I am sharing with you a map of Abraham's journeys. 


It would seem that it would make the most sense to just go straight from Ur to Canaan.  But, we see the direction God took Abraham.  First of all, He brought him up to Haran, which is in the top middle of the map, before bringing him down to Canaan.  This is sometimes referred to as The Fertile Crescent.  It would have been desert that Abraham would have passed through, otherwise.  But here is this maybe scenic route, or detour that God is bringing Abraham on, to bring him to where He wants him to be.

Maybe something we just don't quite consider, or think about, with Abraham.  But, we are going to pause, and talk about it for a little bit.  Abraham was only ten generations removed from Noah, and the flood.  He was only three hundred years removed from Noah, and the flood.  Abraham was only five generations removed from The Tower of Babel.  God had told the people to “Spread out, take my name, and share my name with other people”. 

But, at the Tower of Babel people said, “Let's gather together.  Let's build a tower, and let's make OUR name great.”

Abraham was only five generations removed from the people of The Tower of Babel.  These are not my words, but these are Joshua's words.  This is what Joshua said about Abraham.  He was talking to the people at Shechem, which is the same city that is mentioned in our text here for today.  Joshua said,

“Long ago Abraham lived beyond the river and worshiped other gods.”
Now, oftentimes that may be a phrase we just don't quite consider.  At one time in his life, Abraham was an unbeliever.  Abraham didn't know the name of the true God of Israel.  That was foreign to him, because he was worshiping false gods.  God comes to him in our text for today, and calls him to come to faith.

Here is where I am glad scripture also does this.  Scripture does not hide the sins of God's people, even the greatest patriarchs, even people like Abraham. 

Shortly after this, scripture tells us Abraham lied, not once, but he lied twice.  He lied that his wife was his sister.  He spoke that lie so it would be advantageous to himself. 

Well, I share those couple of things, because God's Word says the same thing about us, as well.  God's Word says there is a time in each and every one of our lives when we were unbelievers.  God has called us out of our unbelief, and God has called us to faith to believe in Jesus, as our Savior.  And yet, just like Abraham, we continue to sin.  Here is what scripture says that just naturally comes out of our hearts.  It says,

“Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, and slander.”

We might sit here, and say, “I am just like Abraham.  We are no better than Abraham.” 

And yet, just as God called Abraham out of unbelief, and out of his sin, God has also called us out of unbelief, and God has called us out of our sin, as well.

What God has done for Abraham, God has done for us.

And so, I want to share with you a cluster of promises God had given to Abraham.  It is the first paragraph of our text.  I want to share each of these blessings, each of these promises God gave to Abraham.  I am going to take them one at a time.

God said to Abraham,

        -“I will make you a great nation.”

If you were going to build a team, around whom would you build your team?  I think we would say we would take a young person, (right?), who is full of energy. 

Who did God build His team around?  He built His team around an old guy!  Abraham was 75 years old, when God told him, “I want you to be the father of my nation.” 

Oh, by the way, his wife was an old woman.  Scripture tells us she was 65 years old.  She had gone through menopause, so she could not have children.  And yet, God made a promise,

“I will make you a great nation.” 

With God, nothing is impossible!  By the time the census came, when the Children of Israel were going to enter into The Promised Land, that census, according to the Book of Numbers tells us, Abraham's family numbered two million people.  He went from having no children to being the father of a great nation, more than two million.  When God makes a promise, He keeps His promise.

Consider also what God said.       

        -“I will bless you...”

Here, think in terms of Abraham being successful or prosperous.  Now, don't take my words, but take scripture's words.  When Abraham told his servants to go north, and find a wife for his son, Isaac, these are the words of his servant, and what he said about Abraham's wealth.  The servant said,

“The LORD has blessed Abraham abundantly.  Abraham has become wealthy.  He has given him sheep and cattle, silver and gold, men servants and maid servants, and camels and donkeys.” 

This promise came true.  The LORD blessed Abraham.

God said,

        -I will... “make your name great.”

Now, just think of our names for a moment.  Aside from our immediate family, and three generations, a hundred years from now, people won't know our name, maybe except for your immediate family.  Abraham lived two thousand years before Jesus.  We are living two thousand years after Jesus.  So, that means Abraham lived four thousand years ago.  And here we sit today, and when we say the name Abraham, we know exactly who we are talking about.  God kept His promise.  I will make your name great.

        -“You will be a blessing.” 

It is a promise, but we might also say it is a command.  You, a blessing.  Everybody Abraham interacted with, were blessed.  His nephew, Lot, was blessed.  Abraham entertained strangers, and everybody who came in contact with him, were blessed. 
(I will take these next two together.) 

        -“I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse anyone who dishonors you. 

Oftentimes we don't think about this, either, but Abraham was a prophet.  Abraham simply took what God had shared with him, and he shared it with other people.  The people who listened to the message of Abraham were blessed.  Whereas the people who rejected the message of Abraham were cursed.  That was simply in keeping with scripture says,

“Whoever believes will be saved,

but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

The last of the cluster of promises God gives is this one.

        -“All of the families of the earth will be blessed in you.”

(I am going to hang on to that one for just a little bit.  I will come back and talk about that one in just a moment, here.)

Again, go back to what I said.  Abraham lived two thousand years before Jesus.  Here is what Jesus said about Abraham. 

“Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day. 

He saw it and was glad.”

Abraham didn't see Jesus with his physical eyes, but he did see Jesus through the eyes of faith.  He saw Jesus through the eyes of faith.  How did that make him feel?  It made him feel glad.

This morning, consider the promises God has given to Abraham.  -Just as God chose Abraham, God has chosen you. 

-Just as God chose to bring Abraham to faith, so also God has chosen to bring you to faith. 

Abraham was saved by faith in a Person.  He was saved by faith in one Person.  Today we can say the same thing.  We are saved by faith in a Person.  We are saved by faith in one Person. 

-The way God saved Abraham is the same way God saves people like us, sinners like us, today. 

It is through Jesus. 

Jesus said,

“I am the way, and the truth, and the light. 

No one comes to the Father, except through me.”

So, you might be thinking to yourself today, “Where is Jesus in our text?  He doesn't seem to be present, because this was written all the way back in Abraham's day.”

Well, Jesus is there.  It is in that seventh promise.  It is really clear in that seventh promise where God says,

“All the families of the earth will be blessed in you.” 

Guys, here is where we take our great comfort.  Jesus was a descendant of Abraham.  Here we can sit, four thousand years after Abraham, two thousand years after Jesus, and this promise is applied to you. 

“All of the families of the earth will be blessed in you.”

You may be holding on to the hand of one of your family members.  Maybe your arm is around one of your family members.  We can take great comfort in this promise.  All of the families of the earth will be blessed through you.

So, how do we respond?  What was Abraham's response to God calling him out of unbelief and calling him to faith?  Our text for today says Abraham did this not just one time but he did it two times.  He built an altar to the Lord.  Again, not once but he did it twice.  Our text was even telling us where Abraham did this.  He did this in the presence of the Canaanites who were living in the land.  And so, as Abraham built an altar, it was a witness to the people he was around, that he was worshiping the true God, while they were worshiping false gods.  His building an altar was a witness.

Well, I want you to know this.  You probably didn't think about this, when you got in to your car to come to worship, but when you left your house in your car to come to church, you were a witness to the people in the community where you live.  You were a witness that you were coming together to worship the true God.  I look out over your heads, and I can see the parking lots on both sides.  I look out over your heads, and I can see your cars.  Your cars are a witness.  Your cars are a witness to the people of this community that we are gathering together. 

And, our response of faith to what God has done for us is to respond by gathering together in front of God's altar, and worshiping Him, who has called us out of unbelief, called us out of our sin.  Our response is to thank Him for calling us out of darkness in to His wonderful light.

Abraham believed God's promises.  Again, don't take my words, but take scripture's words.  In Hebrews, chapter eleven, 'The Great Heroes of Faith Chapter', it 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.”

We have an advantage today over Abraham, because we know where we are going.  Again, the Lord has called us out of darkness in to His wonderful light.  We can say today,

“Our citizenship is in Heaven.” 

We eagerly await a Savior from there.  Our Lord Jesus Christ, who lived for us, who died for us, and rose for us so that we can have everlasting life in Heaven.  So, like Abraham, let us believe in the promises of God.