To read this sermon from The Rev. Dr. David A. Marcus, Jr. click on “Continue reading” below.
The stories in Genesis often show a God of compassion and a God of judgment. When thinking of Sunday school lessons for children that focus upon Abraham he is often presented as person that had it all together. We are often left to wonder how a single person could be so blessed? Stories told in Sunday school seemed to suggest that Abraham stepped from one mountaintop experience to another. He seemed to have little trouble obeying God, even if it meant the possibility of sacrificing his son. Too often people pay little attention to his faithfulness in accepting God’s call. The trouble about learning a few basic facts is that we tend to hold on to the basics and overlook the details. There is a tendency to focus upon the highlights and experiences in the lives of great people and miss other lessons that need to be learned. Many important lessons in life are learned through those valleys and not just the climb up to the mountaintop. Those mountaintop experiences must be observed in the context of their entire lives.
Abraham was a person fighting his own frustrations in life. God grabs a hold of his life and completely redirects it, sending him to a strange land to fulfill impossible promises. During his journey Abraham faces war, barrenness, exploitation and death. Abraham’s life and the direction he chose upon answering God’s call became less of a mountaintop experience and more of an adventure and I imagine difficult journey in faith. In this journey of faith Abraham is also gifted with wealth, family and a famous legacy. This morning we will explore this adventure in faith. Through this adventure we are comforted and reminded of the God who remembers His promises, and in His remembering, blesses us. We are reminded through Abraham’s life of our promise that God blesses each of us.
Throughout Scripture we observe how God chose the most unlikely of people to accomplish His promises. Abraham was certainly no exception as he accepts his calling at ripe young age of 75! His wife, Sarah, was sixty-five and they had no children. They had a comfortable home in Haran with servants, sheep, goats, cattle, possessions and property. Abraham’s life was very comfortable. Yet God called him and encouraged him to leave his homeland and create a new life. Abraham and Sarah were planning to live out their childless days in the comforts of Haran, but God instructed and called them to live the remaining days of their life as pilgrims, wandering and trying to establish a new community in an unfamiliar land. Can we imagine what it would feel like to be 75 years old and asked to move some distant place? Not only would we have to endure those trials and tribulations of moving, but also God asks us to give up our pleasant retirement to oversee the responsibility of starting a new community. At an age when most people would be or are already settled down, Abraham was beginning a new, unfamiliar adventure.
Why? The answer, to this question is that Abraham trusted in God’s call. Chapter 12 of Genesis officially starts Abraham’s epic story. He receives a blessing directly from God. To outsiders, Abraham perhaps looked like an aimless wanderer. Yet to God and Abraham he was beginning the journey of promise, catching a glimpse of the promises God was to fulfill. Could we handle such an adventure today? An adventure where God takes everything away from us? God took away his land, his people, his household, his identity, and his religion. All Abraham had to go on was the promise that the Lord would make this seventy-five year old man and his sixty five year old wife with no children into a great nation, with descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky. In answering this call, we learn that the rest of Abraham’s life was a calling to be blessed.
It’s interesting the shape that blessing took in his life. The book of Hebrews says:
“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was to go. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heir with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” Hebrews 11:8-10
God promised that he would make Abraham’s name great and that he would lead a great nation. Abraham could not have known, nor could he have seen, how large the promise of God was, how great His blessing would be by answering this call. Like so many other figures in the Old Testament, Abraham never saw anything of this that God promised. He never saw himself become a great nation. He never saw his name become great. He never saw all people of the earth blessed through him. Abraham simply believed God and answered the call. He trusted the promise of God, and our lives in return have been blessed. The Old Testament is a history of God’s Promises. In it we hear how God has worked in, with, and under human history to plan our salvation. We learn how God worked through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – to establish his covenant and to create a community that would eventually bring us our Messiah into the world. Of all of God’s promises the greatest is answered through our gospel lesson from John:
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. (John 3:16)
All other promises in the Scriptures – the promises to Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to Israel, to David – serve this one core and central Promise, the promise of salvation through Jesus Christ. Throughout the book of Genesis, we see how God took a backwoods nation called “Israel,” and how He shaped and molded it over the long centuries, which later would conceive and deliver His Promise, our Savior Jesus Christ. Everything that happened in the Old Testament, prepared the way for Jesus to one day be born in Bethlehem, baptized in the Jordan River, crucified on the cross of Calvary, and raised from the tomb. Abraham is known as the founder of the Hebrew people, the father of the faithful. Throughout biblical history Abraham is known for his obedience, great faith and simple trust in the promises of God.
As we speak of obedience, Arabian horses go through rigorous training in the deserts of the Middle East. The trainers require absolute obedience from the horses, and test them to see if they are completely trained. The final test is almost beyond the endurance of any living thing. The trainers force their horses to do without water for many days. Then he turns them loose and of course they start running toward the water, but just as they get to the edge, ready to plunge in and drink, the trainer blows his whistle. The horses who have been completely trained and who have learned perfect obedience, stop. They turn around and come pacing back to the trainer. They stand there quivering, wanting water, but they wait in perfect obedience. When the trainer is sure that he has their obedience he gives them a signal to go back to drink. Now while we may think this type of obedience and training is severe I am told that when a person is on the trackless desert of Arabia and their life is entrusted to a horse, they had better have a trained obedient horse.
In a similar way we must accept God’s training as shared in Scripture and each of us are called to be obedient to God. God’s call to Abraham and to us is a call of obedience. This calling of obedience is to participate in God’s ongoing act of redemption in the world we are called to share God’s promises with others. God called Abraham a specific person, at a particular time and place, to embark upon a journey of faith and trust. Through this experience we learn that God has something much greater in mind than showering his favor on one person or nation. God blesses us all through the life and death of Jesus.
If life were compared to a movie, God would be the director and each of us would be an actor or actress playing out parts great and small. It is our responsibility to learn our script and perform our role to be best of our abilities. When we tire of our roles and responsibilities, it helps to remember God has planted us in a certain place and told us to be good at whatever we do, whether it is as a spouse, friend or member of Christ Moravian Church. Christ expects us to be faithful.
God always fulfills his promises, sometimes in ways we don’t understand. Yet God’s timeline makes sense to God and we like Abraham must learn to trust in God. Together, let us take Abraham’s view and remember that God is always at work, that we are important to God and that God will not allow us to wander aimlessly in life. Through our faithfulness in God we should strive to be a blessing to others!
The Rev. Dr. David A. Marcus, Jr.
March 12, 2017