Bible Focus: Genesis 12-23
By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed and set out for a place that he was going to receive as an inheritance. He went out, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he stayed as a foreigner in the land of promise, living in tents as did Isaac and Jacob, coheirs of the same promise.
By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac. He received the promises and yet he was offering his one and only son, the one to whom it had been said, Your offspring will be traced through Isaac. He considered God to be able even to raise someone from the dead; therefore, he received him back, figuratively speaking.Hebrews 11:8-9,17-19 CSB
When our kids were younger, my wife Emily and I decided to surprise them a couple of times with trips to Disney World. One time, we secretly packed their things the night before, then woke them up early and told them we were flying to Orlando. Another time, we planned a fake vacation, supposedly to see family near Nashville. We drove down and then told them we were flying out of Nashville the next morning. (One of their cousins, who was not in on the secret, was really upset when he found out they were not going to be spending time with him that week.)
Surprise trips can be fun–if you have a place to come back home to. It’s quite a different matter when you leave a place and don’t know exactly what’s in store for you.
In mid-2005, Emily and I were living in New Orleans. I had just finished a master’s degree and was looking for full-time ministry work. It was hurricane season, that period from June-November when everyone who lives along the Gulf of Mexico keeps track of the big storms. On Saturday, August 27, I woke up and connected to the National Hurricane Center’s website, and saw that the track for the next hurricane had been revised to come directly over New Orleans.
The name of that hurricane was Katrina, which turned out to be one of the most tragic weather disasters to hit the United States. We evacuated New Orleans and then couldn’t return home for weeks. Fortunately we were still safe, and our apartment had not flooded; but Emily got laid off, and we knew that my part-time church position couldn’t last. We had to move.
So as soon as we were permitted back, we packed our stuff into a moving truck, hugged our church friends goodbye, and drove to Nashville. Some relatives let us stash our things in a barn and stay in a trailer on their property. Emily and I worked temp jobs and tried to figure out what to do next. At least we still had family nearby to comfort and support us.
But Abraham (originally named Abram) was called by God to leave his home, leave his relatives, and travel to a strange place that he had never seen. God promised Abraham great blessing, honor, and purpose if he did this, but he had to believe those promises by faith. Abraham’s life is a reminder that everyone who dares to follow God’s call must believe in things they have never seen.
One of God’s promises to Abraham was that he would make him into a great nation. However, time went by and Abraham’s wife bore no children. One day, God appeared to Abraham in a vision. Abraham pointed out to God that he was still childless, and therefore all his possessions would pass to a servant born in his household.
God replied that this servant would not be Abraham’s heir. Instead, God would give Abraham his own heir. God led Abraham outside into the night, and told him: “Look at the sky and count the stars, if you are able to count them…Your offspring will be that numerous” (Genesis 15:5 CSB). At that point, Abraham had no proof that offspring would be born to him, but he believed God.
Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.Genesis 15:6 CSB
Abraham’s faith wasn’t fully mature at this point. He would continue struggling with the incredible promises God had made to him. However, he never turned away from God, and eventually Sarah did bear Abraham a son, named Isaac. Years later, God tested Abraham’s faith, by telling him to sacrifice Issac as an offering. Abraham moved to obey God without question. God stopped him at the last second, but Abraham would have gone through with it. By then, Abraham’s faith had grown so strong that he believed God could do anything, even if it meant bringing Isaac back from the dead.
This is why the promise is by faith, so that it may be according to grace, to guarantee it to all the descendants—not only to the one who is of the law but also to the one who is of Abraham’s faith. He is the father of us all…He did not waver in unbelief at God’s promise but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, because he was fully convinced that what God had promised, he was also able to do. Therefore, “it was credited to him for righteousness.” Now “it was credited to him” was not written for Abraham alone, but also for us. It will be credited to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.Romans 4:16, 20-24 CSB
Here’s the good news: when we genuinely respond in faith to God, however imperfectly, God credits us with righteousness that we don’t deserve and could never earn. We become part of the family of Abraham, who believes that God raises from the dead; and we become part of the kingdom of God, which is our home forever.
Featured image by Alexander Purgin on Pixabay