Abraham: Road Trip (9am)

Abraham: Road Trip (9am)

Theme: Abraham: Road Trip
Bible Reading: Genesis 12:1-10
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain
ONLINE – Sunday 7 June, 2020
Live from a farm at Matong in the Riverina


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A question to start with … Best Road Trip you have been on?  (ie. Travelling in a car, bike, camel etc)  Who was in the car with you?  What made the road trip the best … the people you were with or the destination that you went?

While you are typing in your answers in the comment section … I’ll just reflect a little on the road trip that we just heard in our bible reading today.   This story is extraordinary.  Sometimes we here it so many times that it loses it impact. 

Let’s just ponder what took place.  God comes to Abram and says, “Leave your country, your people, your father’s household and go to the Land I will show you.”  Note: God does not say where … he says go, and I will show you the way to go on the way.  And how does Abraham respond? In verse 4 we read, “So Abraham left, as the Lord told him.”

Can you see the extraordinary thing here?  God told Abraham to leave everything and go … and Abraham did.  If I was Abraham, I wouldn’t be so willing.  I would want to know all the details so I could weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of leaving my home, my friends, my business and heading off into the sunset.

But God does not give the details.  He tells Abraham to go … and he will show him where later.  And Abraham went.   Now that is faith.  Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith is being certain of the things we can’t see.  In verse 8 we read, “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”.  Faith … Abraham went when God said go, and trusted God to fill in the details. 

Last Sunday in our Pentecost services we touched on the story of the tower of Babel … which is only in the chapter just before our passage today.  And we said that God had encouraged the people to go … to spread across the world to explore, to learn and to experience all that God had entailed for them.  (And in the same way that Jesus in the lead up to Pentecost gave the same command … Go … share my message and love.  God into all the world. 

And in Genesis 12 we have an example of someone doing this.  God says to Abraham … go.  Don’t stay pinned down in your life that doesn’t change.  Go.  Go and I will guide you on the way. 

Just checking in your answers for your best road trip?

I can see a number of comments saying that it was the companions that made a road trip awesome and some saying that it was the destination.

Abraham had his family as the companions … but he had no idea of the destination.  He was just told to go.  And Abraham seemed to be ok with that … luckily, because the plan seemed to keep changing.  Did you notice that?

Abraham travels to Shechem and sets up camp.  Then he gets moved to the hills of Bethel, where he sets up camp.  Then he gets moved again to Negev … but there was a famine there, so he ends up in Egypt for a while.

Abraham could have easily got discouraged when things did not seem to work out and the plan seemed to keep changing.

Abraham could have thought, “If this is my land, why do I have to keep moving.  If this land is so great, why is there a famine!”  But he didn’t.  He trusted God to work out the details, and kept trusting God even when the plan seemed to keep changing.

What about us.  Last week I encouraged us all to keep going in this uncertain times we find ourselves in – to not bunker down and refuse to move but to embrace the changes when they come and look for the opportunities to explore and learn and grow within them.  It has always been part of God’s purposes for humankind for us to explore and change and keep growing in our selves and in our faith.

But Abraham’s story possibly resonates with us.  It is hard stepping out when we don’t have clarity.  It is easy to get discouraged when things don’t immediately fall into place?  Sure, we hear the call of scripture to keep trusting, and not give up … but sometimes we struggle and doubt.

So … how did Abraham keep going in all this uncertainty that he kept encountering in his journey’s?  Abraham held on to the promises of God.   You can’t talk about Abraham without also talking about the promises.  Between chapter 12 and 17 of Genesis, God makes six amazing promises to Abraham and Sarah.  God promising things like:

  • I will be your God and you and your descendants will be my people
  • Through you all the world will be blessed
  • You will be the father of a great nation – your descendants will number as many as the stars in the sky

That is a lot … and I should know because out here in the rural areas you can really see the stars!  (Photos from last night)

That is a lot of descendants… especially considering that Abraham and Sarah were now too old to have children.  But God was insistent in the promise that Abraham and Sarah would have a son.

As much as they tried to step out and have faith – both Sarah and Abraham were having some doubts about these promises.  Not about God’s faithfulness or commitment to the promise … just facing reality.

In relation to the promise of a child, Sarah in Genesis 18:12 says, “I love the intention of the promise, but let’s face it.  I am worn out and Abraham is old.  I feel like this ain’t going to be possible because we are just not capable of this”

Abraham in Genesis 15 is talking to God and wondering about the fact that the promised land already has people in it.  Abraham was worried that he would not be able to follow through with the intention of God’s promise.  

In Genesis 15:8, Abraham asks God,  “How can I know that when I step out in your purposes, it will all work out?”  God says, “bring me a heifer, goat, ram, dove and pigeon”.

Bring me some animals.  I am on a farm … do we have some animals here? 

As Neena is getting me some animals, let me explain what God is suggesting.  In the early civilisations there was this idea that if you wish to make a binding contract between two people,  you would create this path of animals to walk through.  (eg Jeremiah 34:18-19).  Yes, sometimes the animals were split in half … but you didn’t need to. 

The idea is that the two people walked this path together they would have to keep their agreement, keep their promises unless one party broke the agreement.  If one party broke the agreement it would free the other party from keeping their side of the promises.

Abraham knew what God was asking for … God was asking Abraham to set up symbolic path between the animals in relation to the promises between God and Abraham.  So Abraham set up the path of animals … and possibly wondered how God was going to turn up to walk down this path with Abraham.

Then in verse 12 we read that night came and Abraham fell into a deep sleep … and in a dream or Vision God appeared.  Then reading from verse 17, when the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the line of animals. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram…

Did you just notice what happened there?  The deal is that both Abraham and God were supposed to walk down together … but in the vision, only the firepot symbolising God walked the covenant path.  Why?

Think about it.  If both God and Abraham walked through the animals, then if Abraham failed God … God could walk away from this promises.  But God knew that Abraham and his descendants and ultimately us as well, would not always keep our promises with God … so he wanted to show grace by saying … I will always keep my promises no matter what.  I alone will walk through the animals. 

In this symbolic way, God was saying that even if Abraham … or us … muck it up, he was not walking away.  The covenant, God’s promises to us was solely dependant on God’s faithfulness and mercy, on God’s ability to keep the promise.

Do you get this message.  The whole reason I am trying to use animals in a sermon is that this illustration will be memorable and that you will always remember this point!

When God promises to love us forever (Romans 5:6-8) it is not conditional on whether we love God back or not.  That promise is totally dependant on God’s love.

When God promises to forgive us (1 John 1:9) … God doesn’t say, it depends on what you have done.  No, forgiveness is only dependant on God’s faithfulness and justice … that is why we can believe the promise that we will be forgiven.

God’s promise to care for us … or to never forget us … or to listen to us when we pray … or to be with us forever … all these promises are not dependant on us or our ability to keep the covenant.  God as the good shepherd was the only one to walk the covenant path between the animals … so all these promises rely on God’s faithful, on God’s commitment, on God’s ability to keep his promises.  And God keeps his promises.    (See Joshua 21:45).  D.L. Moody confidently stated, “God never made a promise that was too good to be true.”  

God in our reading from Genesis 12 told Abraham to go … go and explore and grow and engage with all the fullness of life that God was offering.  God didn’t give Abraham the big picture before his set off … but he did promise to be with Abraham.

And as you can read for the next 13 chapters … from Genesis 12 through to chapter 25, Abraham’s journey was full of surprises, miracles, difficulties, good decisions, poor decisions, great moments, and tough moments.  But in it all, Abraham and Sarah continued to journey with God.  There were times when Abraham mucked things up, but remember – the covenant was not dependant on Abraham but on God. 

God has been calling us to – in the midst of the uncertain times we are living in – not to long for the same, same but to embrace the opportunities that are before us.  To step out, to explore, to go and grow with God’s help.  And as we do that, may we – like Abraham and Sarah – be encouraged by the promises of God, and how God does indeed follow through with his promises.  Amen.