The Story of Abraham – Part 1 of 2

The Story of Abraham  – Part 1 of 2
A First Person Sermon
Genesis 12-15
Joe Anady

A. Introduction
1. Hello Emmaus Christian Fellowship, my name is Abraham. It’s a pleasure to be with you this evening to share with you about what God has done in and through me. As I understand it you are in the middle of a series where you are considering your mission as Christians today in light of the mission of God. Your pastor asked me to come and share about God’s faithfulness in my life and the role that it played in this grand plan that has been unfolding since the beginning of time.
2. Of course my story is recorded in Genesis chapters 12 – 22 but instead of simply reading from the text I figured it would be a better use of the time that we have together for me to personally give you an overview of my life. I don’t plan to talk about everything that Genesis 12-22 talks about – you can certainly take the time to read the text for yourself. My goal this evening is to give you an overview of my life, staying true to what the scriptures say, of course, with the hope that you will make application for your lives today, be it in the way of a transformed mind, or transformed behavior – preferably both. Above all else I want you to see that God is faithful to His promises despite our failings.
B. Scene 1 – Abraham in Ur of the Chaldeans
1. I was born in what you would say is 2,000 B.C. My fathers name was Terah and I had two brothers; Nahor and Haran. One thing that is important to keep in mind as you study the Bible and try to make sense of the ages that are given to my father and me at significant moments in our lives is that I was not the oldest of my brothers. It’s true that I am listed first, but that is because the rest of the story focuses on me. Haran was the oldest; he was the one who was born when my father was 70 years old. Nahor was the middle child. I was the youngest – born when my father was 130 years old. My oldest brother, Haran died at a relatively young age.
2. I was born in Ur of the Chaldeans. The city was located in what is today, Iraq. In fact, the city was located about 186 miles southeast of modern day Bagdad. Originally it was situated on a gorgeous bend of the Euphrates river but the river has, obviously, changed its course since the days that I walked this earth 4,000 years ago.
3. What you need to understand is that this place was absolutely incredible. Today it might look like nothing more than a pile of dirt, but in my day the city was splendid. From 2113 – 2095 B.C. a man by the name of Ur-Nammu governed the city and it was under his rule that the city enjoyed great prominence. We enjoyed tremendous peace and prosperity. In fact, as I look back on those early days of my life, there would have been no reason for me to leave. My entire family was there, we were economically secure, we were safe from invaders, and there was political stability. It truly was all that we could have asked for.
4. But then one day the LORD spoke to me. He revealed Himself as Yahweh. Now, you need to understand that I had not known Yahweh before this moment. Joshua was right when he would later say to the people of Israel, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, “Long ago, your fathers lived beyond the Euphrates, Terah, the father of Abraham and of Nahor; and they served other gods.”
5. It’s true, my family served other gods. Looking back on it now, I’m ashamed. We worshiped the creation rather than the Creator. In particular we worshipped the moon god known as Nanna. It seems so foolish to me now! We were idolaters and yet Yahweh was gracious to us.
C. Scene 2 – The call of Abram and his Obedience
1. Though I was not seeking the LORD, He was pursuing me. He interrupted my comfortable, idolatrous life by calling out to me, saying, “Abram, Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
2. I will never forget those words. Though I did not know Yahweh prior to that moment, the words that he spoke were so powerful, so real, so deeply impact-full that they were etched in my memory from that day forward. I will admit that I struggled from time to time with allowing this promise to penetrate deep down into my heart, but the words never left my mind – “Abram, Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
3. Wow. This was an overwhelming experience to say the least. To you it probably doesn’t seem like much, but put yourself in my shoes. The LORD was calling me to leave everything that I had ever known and to trustingly follow Him. This was truly the defining moment of my life.
4. You know, I’m glad for two things regarding the way that the LORD called me. First of all, I’m glad that the LORD did not soften the call so as to make it more palatable to me at first. He made it quite clear that following Him would involve leaving “my country, my kindred, and my father’s house” – everything. These words truly caused me to stop and think. These words caused me to count the cost before moving out – and count the cost I did!
5. I am also glad that He did not give me all of the details concerning what was ahead of me at once. If he had told me with great specificity how difficult the journey was going to be I don’t know if I would, at that time, have had the courage or the faith to leave. This calling was enough for me to process for the time being.
6. The LORD told me to leave all that I knew behind and to go to a land that He would show me. If He had told me that I was going to occupy the land of Canaan from the outset, I’m not sure if I would have left, for I knew that the people who occupied that land were much greater than I. But the LORD has a way of giving us just what we can handle, one piece at a time.
7. As if all of this were not enough the LORD also told me that He was going to make me a great nation.
8. Now, there is one very significant person that I have not introduced to you as of yet, but she is indeed very significant – Her name is Sara, she was my wife. Actually, at this point in the story her name was Sarai and mine was Abram, but you know us better as Sara and Abraham. That’s another story for another time. For now you should know that Sarah and I had been trying to have a child for years, and it was becoming evident to us that she was barren. This was a heartache that remained with us for most of our married life.
9. Now, could you imagine the LORD appearing to you saying that He would make you a great nation when you and your wife were, up to that point, unable to have even a single child? This was almost too much for us to believe. It was good news for sure! But it stretched our faith to say the least.
10. Not only did God promise to make me into a great nation, but He also said that He would bless me and make my name great, so that I would be a blessing.
11. Truthfully, it was at this moment that my anxious heart began to be set at ease. The calling of God was overwhelming in so many ways, but to hear the LORD say, “I will bless you” made the difference for me. I knew in that moment that no matter what the future would bring, it would be covered by the blessing of the LORD. In that moment I began to think, “I can do this.” Though I had only known Yahweh for a short time my heart was so drawn to Him that I started to see having His blessing as so much more appealing than all that Ur of the Chaldeans had to offer. The blessing of God is what I truly desired.
12. When God told me that He was going to make my name great, I almost laughed. I mean, we were a relatively prosperous family, but we were not great. I knew of great men – Kings whose reputations preceded them even to the ends of the earth – and to think that God was going to make me great like this was mind boggling. I didn’t have a clue as to how it was going to happen.
13. God also said that He was going to do all of this so that I would be a blessing. This portion of the promise was indeed very impact-full on my life from that day forward. As soon as pride would begin to well up within me causing my head to swell, thinking that this was all about me and “my blessing, and my great name”, I would remember those words – “so-that-you-will-be-a-blessing.” From the moment I was first called by God it was made clear to me that the ultimate purpose of this calling was to bless others. I realized in that moment that I was to be some sort of conduit of blessing. All of the good that the LORD determined to pour out on me was to, somehow, be ultimately distributed to others. This truth changed me deeply. It effected the way that I looked at my purpose in this world.
14. The LORD also promised that He would bless those who bless me and curse those who curse me. I heard God saying to me in that moment that He would be with me forever. Just as Kings make treaties with one another and share common friendships and common enemies, so to God would, in a way, befriend those who befriended me and oppose those who opposed me. It was good to know that I would not be going alone.
15. But perhaps the most astonishing and mysterious portion of this promise was saved for the very end. The LORD said that in me all of the families of the earth would be blessed. The earth is a big place, as you know. There are lots people on this planet; lots of families. It was with that utterance that I began to realize that all of this was so much bigger than just me and my progeny. The LORD had a grand scheme, a plan that was somehow going to extend, not only to my offspring, but also to all of the peoples of the earth.
16. Now please understand that in that moment I was almost completely in the dark concerning how these promises would ultimately work out. I gained a little bit more clarity concerning the plan of God as I walked with Him for the remainder of my days, but not much.
17. I must tell you that observing the plan of God unfolding before my eyes as I have been observing from heaven these last 4,000 years has been the most incredible experience. Words fail me. The mission of God, the history of redemption, the plan of salvation, when observed from heaven and considered from that point of view is the most most mind-boggling of experiences.
18. To think that the simple phrase, “In you all of the families of the earth will be blessed” would play out to mean that I would have a son – that he would have a son – and that after I was dead and gone my family would go into Egypt and become slaves for 430 years and be rescued from their bondage by Moses and become a great nation – that my decendents would occupy the land promised to me – that Kings would come from me, and that ultimately, through my lineage, the Messiah would come – Jesus Christ the Son of God. Now, 4,000 years later, I can truly see that in me all of the families of the earth have indeed been blessed. In fact here you are today in the United States of America, all of you with diverse ethnic backgrounds, and yet you are my offspring through faith in Jesus Christ who came in my lineage. The apostle Paul was right when he said, “Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘All the nations will be blessed in you.’ So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.”
19. What an incredible story! God orchestrated all of this so that He could take on human form in the person of Jesus Christ, live in perfect obedience to the law, die in our place so that through faith in Him we all might have eternal life. I looked forward to Him in faith, you look back – but in Him we are one.
20. I agree with the apostle Paul when, considering the story of redemption, even from his limited perspective, he exclaimed, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”
A. Scene 3 – The Journey with Terah to Haran
1. Well, needless to say, the LORD’s calling was effective. In fact, some of my extended family was also effected by this calling. It was actually my father, Terah, who led us out of Ur along with my nephew, Lot, whose father had passed away, and, of course my wife, Sara. It was good to have family with us on this journey.
2. Remember that the LORD had not told us where we were specifically going, and so we journeyed to the north and to the west about 650 miles as the crow flies and settled in a place called Haran which is about 20 miles to the southeast of what today is Edessa, Turkey.
3. I’m not sure why we settled there exactly. Perhaps it was because the name of the city sounded a lot like my brother’s name who had passed away; perhaps it was because they worshiped the moon god in a similar way to the people of Ur (they called him Sin instead of Nanna). Whatever it was, I decided to honor my father and to remain with him until the LORD made it clear that it was time to move on.
4. After some time my father died. He lived to the age of 205. We grieved deeply over the loss of my father, but it was clear that it was time for us to leave that city; to continue in obedience to the LORD’s call.
5. With our hearts heavy, and yet full of faith, Sara, Lot and I, along with the people we had acquired in Haran, began to sojourn to the south and to the east about 350 miles until we came into the land of Canaan, located in what is today called Israel, and to the oaks of Moreh, or Shechem, located about 40 miles to the north of what would later be Jerusalem. It was a long journey. It was frightening at times. And to be honest there were moments when when we thought to ourselves, “what in the world are we doing?”
6. But it was there that the LORD spoke to me again revealing something new to me. He simply said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” It was good to hear from the LORD again and to have some clarity from Him, but believing the promise still required faith. As I looked around I saw a beautiful land. To the west, the waters flowed down to the Mediterranean Sea; to the east, they flowed to the Jordan river. The land was rich and fertile and pleasant. I’ll admit that I wanted the promises of God to be fulfilled immediately but as I looked around I saw the Canaanites. They were a people much stronger than I. I knew that the LORD would have to do much more before His promises would be fully realized, and yet I trusted Him, that He would indeed fulfill His promise to me.
7. From there we moved to the east of Bethel, which was about 11 miles to the north of, what is today, Jerusalem and I built an alter to the LORD there and I worshiped Him, calling upon His name.
8. From there we continued on down towards the Negeb, down into the dry dessert regions to the south of Jerusalem and to the west of the Dead Sea.
I. Scene 4 – The Journey to Egypt, the Fall, and the Plunder
1. Times were difficult in the Negeb. It was very dry and there was a famine in the land. This season of life stood in stark contrast to the mountain top experience I just had in Shechem and even to the relative prosperity that I had experienced in Haran and Ur. I went from hearing the promises of God and worshiping God in lush places, to dryness.
2. The famine was so bad that we needed to do something drastic and so we decided to take our clan into Egypt. This was a risky move. We did not know how we would be received. Would they kill us and take our possessions? Would they force us into slavery? We simply did not know. But the only other option was to remain in the desert and starve to death, and so we set out west toward Egypt.
3. Now, I need to tell you about something I did that I am not so proud of. It’s true, I am known for my faith, but you must understand that I also made some really big mistakes in my life, and at the root of those mistakes was a heart that was unwilling to trust God fully in some areas.
4. As we journeyed toward Egypt I began to flounder a bit. My mind started to go places that it really should not have gone. I looked at my wife and as I considered her beauty I could not help but think that when the Egyptians saw her they would surely kill me and take her for themselves. I mean what would stop them from doing so? They certainly had the upper hand! And so I asked Sarah to tell the Egyptians that she was my sister. My reasoning was that, even if they took her, at least our lives would be spared. I believed that God could protect her even if she was taken into Pharaoh’s house – and protect her He did! But the problem with the whole situation was that, although I was still trusting in God and although my intentions were good ultimately, I will admit, I took matters into my own hands, I doubted God, and I selfishly put my own wife at risk. I acted according to my own wisdom. My faith wavered in that moment, and instead of trusting purely in the promises of God, I allowed my trust in the LORD to be polluted with a trust in myself.
5. Looking back I know that God would have protected us as husband and wife there in Egypt. If He had the power to do all that He done for us up to that point, certainly protecting us in Egypt was nothing for Him – I see that clearly now.
6. The irony is that He still protected us despite my sin. Sara was taken from me by the Egyptians. I wish could explain to you the sorrow that I felt inside when that happened, but the LORD protected Sara while she was in Pharaoh’s house – no one laid a hand on her. I was treated very well because of Sara. Pharaoh gave me sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male servants, female servants, female donkeys, and camels. My wealth had been increasing from the moment we had left Ur, but now I was a very wealthy man! God even afflicted Pharaoh’s house with great plagues because of Sara.
7. I’m not sure how Pharaoh put all of the pieces together but he eventually figured out what was going on. He called me into his house and said to to me, “What is this that you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘she is my sister’, so that I took her for my wife?” He was angry – and I was afraid and ashamed. There I stood, the chosen of the LORD, being rebuked for my moral failings by godless, idolatrous, Pharaoh. He was right to rebuke me. And then, to my surprise, he sent me away with all of my possessions including the gifts that he had given me for my “sister”. I went out of Egypt with a great plunder – a very wealthy man. Pharaoh could have killed me but the fear of the LORD was upon him.
8. Do you want to hear something incredible? I actually repeated this same mistake again later in my life but the next time is was with Abimelech the King of Gerar. You can read all about that in Genesis 20, but really it was almost a repeat of what had happened in Egypt. Sara agreed to say that she was my sister (she was really my sister by the way, the daughter of my father though not the daughter of my mother – that wasn’t a problem back in my day before the law was given like it is a problem for you today). Anyway, she said she was my sister, was taken into the King’s house and God struck the wives of the King with barrenness and confronted King Abimelech in a dream saying “Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman you have taken, for she is a man’s wife”, after which Abimelech confronted me and sent us away with many gifts. There’s more to the story than that, but that should suffice for now. It was not my brightest moment.
9. You know, some people think it’s strange that Moses, when he was writing Genesis, decided to tell these stories about me. He could have left out the bad parts I guess, but to be honest, I’m really glad that the Holy Spirit moved him to include these stories.
10. Keep in mind that the people to whom Moses was originally writing had been redeemed from Egypt not long before Moses wrote these words about me in Genesis 12-22. The had come out of Egypt with great plunder just as I had hundreds of years before. They had seen God do incredible things before their eyes and yet they were struggling in their faith when it came time to enter into the land that had been promised, originally to me, and also to them. They were left to wander for 40 years in the desert, in the Negeb, if you will. I think that these stories about me, my success and failures played a huge part in giving that next generation, Joshua’s generation, the courage they needed to finally enter in and possess the land of Canaan. These episodes that were a result of a lapse in faith on my part served, ultimately, to illustrate how God is sovereign even over the heathen nations, and how God will indeed bless those who bless me and curse those who curse me. These were stories that the people of Israel needed to hear. They needed to know that God would be faithful to them no matter what. They needed to be reminded that God’s faithfulness is built upon the rock solid foundation of His promises, and not upon faithfulness of man. It’s amazing how the LORD can use even our shortcomings to bring about good and to strengthen future generations.
11. Now, from Egypt we went back toward the Negeb with our many possessions and from there we went back up towards Bethel, to the north of modern day Jerusalem, to the place where I had originally built the alter and worshiped the LORD.
A. Scene 5 – Abram and Lot Separate
1. Our possessions were great. So great, in fact, that it forced Lot and me to separate. The land simply could not support all of our livestock and strife was building between his servants and mine. The last thing I wanted was for there to be tension between my nephew and me, so I told him to pick which way he wanted to go and that I would go in the other direction. I gave him first choice of the land. He looked around and saw that the Jordan Valley was green with water everywhere and so he decided that he would head east. I could see why the Jordan Valley was appealing to him. I was concerned about the wickedness of the people who lived there, however. Nevertheless, Lot headed East and I headed West and settled in the land of Canaan.
2. The LORD appeared to me again after Lot had departed, saying, “Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted. Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.”
3. The LORD had a way of confirming His promises to me throughout my life just when I needed it. To think that God’s promises still stood true even after my failings! To think that my offspring would be like the dust of the earth in number. I knew a thing or two about dust after wandering in the Negeb and I understood anew and afresh that God would multiply me greatly. But still, I had no child.
A. Scene 6 – Abram Rescues Lot
1. Sarah and I, along with our clan sojourned up to the oaks of Mamre which were near Hebron about 25 miles south, southwest of where Jerusalem is today, and we settled there. We thought about Lot often. He was very dear to us; we had spent so much time together.
2. One day we received word from an ally of ours that Lot and his family had been taken captive by the Kings of Ellasar, Elam, and Goiim. Basically, Lot was caught up in a messy situation. These Kings attacked the Kings of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Bela and because Lot was living amongst the people of Sodom, he and his family were also taken captive.
3. I knew that the people of Sodom were wicked people and perhaps deserved the judgement, but Lot was a righteous man; he was our family! I had no choice but to go after them and to bring them back.
4. I assembled 318 of my trained men and we went after the Kings and the LORD gave them into our hands. I rescued Lot and his family along with the people of Sodom, and many possessions. It was a great victory for us.
5. To think that not long ago I was just a man in the land of Ur and now I was leading a small army and defeating Kings!
A. Scene 7 – Abram Blessed by Melchizedek
1. On the way back from battle the King of Salem approached me. His name was Melchizedek. He was a king but he was also a priest of the Most High God. He refreshed us with bread and wine and he blessed me, saying “Blessed be Abram, by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!”
2. I knew that this man was a great man. He served as an intermediary between the God Most High and those who trusted in Him. It was good to know that I wasn’t the only one on the planet worshiping Yahweh! It was also good to be blessed by someone that I could see and touch. Receiving the blessing from Melchizedek was yet another confirmation that God was indeed doing a work in and through me.
3. I don’t think it is any coincidence that this blessing came after I rescued righteous Lot out of the wickedness of the world. It seems that my actions were a foreshadowing of what Christ would ultimately do.
4. I gave Melchizedek a tenth of everything as an act of worship before the Lord.
5. I also gave the King of Sodom all that belonged to him, people and possessions, so that he could not say “I have made Abram rich.” I wanted everyone to know that my prosperity was the result of the blessing of the God Most High alone.
A. Scene 8 – God’s Covenant with Abram – 15:1-21
1. After this the LORD spoke to me again, but this time in a vision. Now this encounter was far more vivid and relational than any of the other encounters that I had with the LORD in the past.
2. He approached me in the vision and said, “Fear not Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.”
3. I thought about those words and responded, “O Lord God, what will you give me for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?”
4. Now, you have to understand that, through all of this, the burden of remaining childless was very great. How could God possibly fulfill His promise to me if I did not have a child? And so I said to the LORD, “Behold, you have given me no offspring and a member of my household will be my heir.”
5. The LORD responded to me with great clarity saying, “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.”
6. The LORD then took me outside in the deep of the night. It was cold and moonless and the starts were shining brightly and God said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” And so I looked up and I began to gaze at the stars. I was mesmerized by their beauty. The sky was thick with stars to the degree that it seemed as if whole sky were filled. And then the LORD said to me, “So shall your offspring be.”
7. I believed the LORD. It was through that faith that I was declared righteous before God. It had always been that way, and still is that way today. We are declared righteous before God through faith.
8. The LORD then said to me, “I am the LORD who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.” I responded to him saying, “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” I needed something more from Him. A guarantee, of sorts.
9. It was then that the LORD did something incredible. In the vision He said to me, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” And so I brought him all of those animals, cut them in half, and laid each half over against the other. But I did not cut the birds in half. And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, I drove them away.
10. In the vision, as the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell over me; dreadful and great darkness fell upon me. Then the Lord said to me, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions (we know now that He spoke of the Exodus). As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”
11. And when the sun had gone down and it was dark I saw a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch pass between these pieces.
12. The story sounds strange to you, I’m sure, but I knew exactly what this meant. Kings in my day would make covenants with one another in this way. They would divide animals and walk between the pieces together as a way of saying to one another and to those who observed, “let what has happened to these animals happen to me if I break this promise.” And yet, it was God who walked between the pieces alone. His light broke fourth in the moment that I was consumed with great darkness and dread, and He walked between the pieces alone, promising to do what He said He would do.
13. On that day the Lord made a covenant with me, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.”
14. I said in the beginning that when the LORD first called me in Ur that much of the detail concerning the plan of God was hidden from me. Now, the LORD had told me with great certainty that my offspring would possess this land after sojourning and being in bondage for about 400 years. They would be brought out of that country in much the same way that I came out of Egypt, with great plunder. Evidently the time for all of this had not yet come – God still needed to do a work amongst the Amorites. He promised me that I would die in peace at an old age. My faith was certainty bolstered because of the covenant that God made me.
B. Conclusion
1. Well, there is a lot more that could be said, but it will have to wait for next time.
2. I am tempted, in conclusion, to make application for you based upon my life. We know that the scriptures, not only record history for us, but that they also drive us to consider the way that we think about God and the world around us and the way that we live based upon what is in out hearts. Instead of making application for you, I encourage you to think now on what you have just heard. As the music team comes up to lead us in a closing song, prayerfully make application to your own life.
3. Let’s pray. God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth, we praise you. We thank you for your steadfast love, the faithfulness that you have shown to your people. Help us, LORD, to live faithfully before you. Amen.

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