Devotional & Reflection

Week 2, Jan 2002

Genesis 12:1-9: When Leaving By Faith Is Living By Faith
By Pang Hee Hung, Director & Trainer, Ezra Resources

Gen 12:1The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. v2 "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.

Last week we learnt how God thwarted the plans of the people who tried to build a tower in Babylon to make a name for themselves. This week, there is an ironical contrast. God will make Abram's name great. When people try to make their name great apart from God, the result is disastrous. When we surrender to God, He blesses us - and in the case of Abraham, God makes his name great.

In this passage, God calls Abraham out of his country and blesses him as Abraham obeys God (Gen 12:4). This is God's gift of salvation in the midst of judgment of the builders of Tower at Babel. There is a pattern of God's grace in the midst of sin and judgment. When Adam and Eve sinned, a seed is promised (Gen 3:15). When Cain committed fratricide, a mark was placed on Cain to protect him (Gen 4:15). When the Flood came because of humankind's inclination to sin, God delivered Noah's family from destruction. In this passage, God calls Abram out of his country after the Babel judgment.

It is natural to seek greener pastures. We are blessed for instance because our forefathers were bold enough to make the move to where we are now. However, we must not weigh and discuss such issues on a humanistic, logical way. As believers, we do what God tells us to do. God can tell us to stay or to leave. Our responsibility is to trust and obey. We are to be like Abram - "So Abram left, as the LORD had told him" (Gen 12:4).

The call to obey can come in the form of leaving the country - whether as a migrant or as a missionary - or in the form of leaving places (e.g. workplaces, neighborhood) or people. Some are called out for reasons that may be clear e.g. unethical work practices or unequally yoked relationships. And others, for reasons that God reveals only later. At times God reveals more only when we take the step of faith. For instance, God showed the land to Abram first (Gen 12:1). After Abram took the step of faith, God said to Abram "To your offspring I will give this land" (Gen 12:7).

Another point to note is that when we obey God, it need not necessarily mean misery. Some expect misery if they were to do God's will. On the contrary, Abram was blessed. However, some mistake that doing God's will always bring material blessings like Abram. The apostle, Paul, for instance was not materially endowed but learnt to be content whether well fed or hungry (Php 4:12) (See also Gordon Fee, The Disease of the Health & Wealth Gospels, Regent College Reprint). Others make the corollary mistake - that all who are richly blessed are highly favored by God and live within God's will. The book of Amos warns us against this mistaken theology. Israel was enjoying a "period of unprecedented prosperity ... material and military success," yet God gave the people a severe lashing for their "abuse of wealth, power, and privilege" (Dillard & Longman III, An Introduction To The Old Testament, p. 375). Whatever the blessings - material or otherwise - we obey God because we love Him without any ulterior motive.

1. What / Who are we called to surrender and leave?
2. How do our faith and obedience barometers read?
3. What is holding us back from obeying what God commands?

Tools For Reflection:
As we read a passage, observe ironies, contrasts and similarities.
Notice the irony of "We may make a name for ourselves" (Gen 11:4) versus "I will make your name great" (Gen 12:2).
How is the call of Abram (Gen 12:1-7) similar to that of Noah (Gen 8:15-20)?