Genesis 12:1—“Now the LORD had said unto Abraham, get out of your country, and from your kindred, and from your father’s house, unto a land that I will show you.”
The phrase, “Now the LORD had said unto Abraham,” if it is to be noticed, refers to instructions that had been given to the patriarch sometime previously.
Chapter 12 of Genesis is very important, for it records the first steps of this great believer in the path of faith. There were believers before him (a few), but the Scripture speaks of him as the father of all believers who would come after him (Rom. 4:16).
While Abraham obeyed, it seems that family ties, at first, held him back. Though called to Canaan he, nevertheless, tarried at Haran till nature’s tie was snapped by death, and then, with unimpeded step, he made his way to the place to which the God of glory had called him.
All of this is very full of meaning. The flesh is ever a hindrance to the full power of the call of God. We tend to settle for less than that which God intends.
We are slow to learn that everything we need, and I mean everything, is found totally and completely in Christ. While we are quick to say amen to the words I have just dictated, we are slow to actually come to the place of full surrender. Self-will hinders! The flesh hinders! However, we make excuses for all of this, by loading the flesh in self-will with religious phraseology.
THE CALL OF GOD
Whatever it is that God calls us to do, it is always beyond what we would, at first, see or think. Embodied in the call, is not only a work to be done, but, as well, the ingredients for spiritual growth. With the Holy Spirit, it is always growth. And to be frank, the growth must be brought about or the work cannot be done. And here I would dwell, for a little, on the Cross of Christ. There is only one way all of this can be achieved, and that’s by and through the Cross. If we do not understand the Cross, then we cannot really understand the way of God. In fact, if the Cross is removed from Christianity, Christianity then loses its Power (I Cor. 1:18), and for all practical purposes, becomes little more than the religions of the world. While it might have a better ethic, it’s an ethic that really cannot be reached without the Cross.
THE CROSS OF CHRIST
The Cross unfolds God as the sinner’s friend. It reveals Christ in that most wondrous character, as the righteous Justifier of the most ungodly sinner.
Someone once asked me, “Is it who He is, or what He did, that makes the difference?”
Only Christ could do what needed to be done to redeem fallen humanity; however, even though Christ is God and has always been God, on that premise alone, no one was redeemed. God would have to become man and go to the Cross, if man was to be lifted out of his fallen state. So, in the final alternative, even though who He was presents an absolute necessity, in reality, it was what He did, and we speak of the Cross, which guarantees salvation for even the vilest of sinners.
THE INTRODUCTION OF THE CROSS
The power of God, with all its wisdom, glory, holiness, and magnitude, but for the Cross, works against the sinner.
How precious, therefore, is the Cross, in this, its first phase, as the basis of the sinner’s peace, the basis of his worship, and the basis of his eternal relationship with the God who is there so blessedly and so gloriously revealed.
All that He has said, all that He has done, from the very beginning, indicates that the Cross was ever uppermost in His heart. And no wonder! His dear and well-beloved Son was to hang there, between heaven and earth, the object of all the shame and suffering that men and devils could heap upon Him, shedding His life’s blood, all because He loved to do His Father’s will, and, thereby, redeemed the children of His grace.
THE CROSS AND THE WORLD
The same Cross which connects me with God has separated me from the world. A dead man is, evidently, done with the world; and to be sure, every true believer died with Christ as it regards His death, burial, and resurrection (Rom. 6:3-5). Having risen with Christ, we are now connected with God in the power of a new life, even a new nature. Being thus inseparably linked with Christ, we, of necessity, participate in our acceptance with God, and in our rejection by the world. The two things go together.
The former makes us a worshipper and a citizen of heaven, while the latter makes us a witness and a stranger on earth. If the Cross has become between me and my sins, it has just as readily come between me and the world. In the former case, it puts me into the place of peace with God; in the latter, it puts me into the place of hostility with the world.
THE CROSS AND SEPARATION
The believer cannot profess to enjoy the former of our heading, while rejecting the latter. If one’s ear is opened to hear Christ’s voice within the veil, it should be open also to hear His voice outside the camp; if one enters into the atonement, which the Cross has accomplished, one should also realize the rejection that it necessarily involves.
It is our happy privilege not only to be done with our sins, but to be done with the world also. All this is involved in the doctrine of the Cross. That’s why Paul said:
“God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Gal. 6:14). This means that Paul looked upon the world as a thing, which ought to be nailed to the Cross.
The phrase, “Get out of your country, and from your kindred, and from your father’s house,” proclaims the reason that many cannot be used of God. They refuse to separate themselves from certain things in this world and, therefore, unto God.
The following is what the Lord demanded of Abraham and, in effect, demands of us all:
- Get out of your country: The true believer seeks a country simply because that which the world offers can never satisfy and, therefore, simply will not do (Heb. 11:14). The things of this world lose their attraction. Money is a means to an end. The old song that says, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through,” becomes the song of the redeemed. If one lays up treasures here, one’s heart will be here simply because one’s heart is where one’s treasure is.
- Separate from your kindred: Now you belong to Christ. You are bought with a price, and a great price at that, and even though you continue to love your family, even love them deeply, Christ, and what He wants and desires, takes precedent over your family and anyone else for that matter. Regrettably, many aren’t willing to do that.
- From your father’s house: This refers to whatever future close loved ones have planned for you. As stated, you now belong to Christ. Anything and everything that might be detrimental in your father’s house must be laid aside. In effect, you leave everything and do so for the sake of Christ. Now, as stated, many will not do that. And, as a result, God simply cannot use them. Or else, they quit altogether, which tragically is the course it seems, for many.
- Unto a land that I will show you: This refers to the fact that Abraham had no choice in the matter. He was to receive his orders from the Lord, and go where those orders led him. In many ways, living for God is similar to the military. While personally, I’ve never served in the military, still from what I see, there isn’t a lot of difference, or at least it shouldn’t be a lot of difference, in the Army of this nation and the Army of our Lord.
A GREAT NATION
“And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing” (Gen. 12:2).
The phrase, “And I will make of you a great nation,” pertains to Israel and all of its people, and for all time. The nation of which God was speaking did not exist at this time. And besides that, Sarah was barren.
And yet, this nation would be totally unlike any nation the world had ever known. Some 400 years later, a wayward prophet would say by the Spirit of God, “For from the top of the rocks I see him, and from the hills I behold him: lo, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations” (Num. 23:9). This means that Israel would be totally unlike any other nation that had ever existed.
The wayward prophet then said:
“He shall pour the water out of his buckets, and his seed shall be in many waters, and his king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted” (Num. 24:7).
In fact, in Old Testament times, Israel was the only nation in the world that was monotheistic, meaning she worshipped one God, Jehovah. All the other nations were polytheistic, meaning they worshipped many gods, in essence demon spirits. So, Israel was the only light in the world of her day.
Under David and Solomon, Israel became the most powerful nation on earth and, as well, the richest; however, the true riches were in their relationship with God. They would give the world the Word of God, which has blessed the world immeasurably. And even greater than that, they served as the womb of the Messiah, so to speak, even though they did not know Him when He actually came.
Due to crucifying their Messiah and the world’s Saviour, at their request, the Lord took His hand of blessing away from them. Consequently, in A.D. 70, they, in effect, ceased to be a nation, totally destroyed by the Roman Tenth Legion under Titus.
As strangers, they have wandered the world for about 1,900 years, when once again establishing themselves in their ancient homeland, and once again becoming a nation. And yet, they have some dark days ahead, in fact, darker than anything they have seen in the past. Jesus said so (Mat. 24:21). It will take that for them to finally accept Christ, the One they have rejected. This they will do (Zech. 13:1, 6). Israel will then be restored, never to lose her way again (Rom. 11:26-27).
The phrase, “And I will bless you, and make your name great,” claims the favor of God. According to Scripture, to bless means “to increase.” Abraham would be blessed, and so would Israel.
The words, I will bless, indicate relations very close between Jehovah and Abraham, whereby the friends and enemies of the one, become so equally to the other.
The phrase, “And you shall be a blessing,” concerns itself with the greatest blessing of all. It is the glory of Abraham’s faith. God would give this man the meaning of salvation, which is justification by faith. This blessing, the great patriarch would pass on to the entirety of the world.
Of course, the greatest blessing of all, and by far, is that Israel, as we have stated, would serve as the womb of the Messiah, the Saviour of mankind, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, the One who is all in all. Regrettably and sadly, Israel did not know her Redeemer when He came and, in fact, crucified Him, which was the most dastardly deed ever carried out by wicked hearts. But thank God, and not too very long into the future, they are going to accept the One whom they rejected. It will be at the second coming, and to be sure, He most definitely is coming back.
THE BLESSING AND THE CURSE
“And I will bless them who bless you, and curse him who curses you: and in you shall all the families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 12:3).
The phrase, “And I will bless them who bless you, and curse him who curses you,” holds true not only for Israel, but, as well, for spiritual Israel, i.e., the church; i.e., those who are truly born again. Let’s look first at Israel.
At least part of the reason that America has experienced such blessings is because of our protection of Israel. This promise given to Abraham by God nearly 4,000 years ago holds true even unto this hour and, in fact, will ever hold true.
It holds true for Israel; and it holds true for the church as well, and I speak of the true church. All those who bless the work of God can expect blessings from the Lord, and it doesn’t really matter who they are.
As well, if a nation or a people oppose Israel, or the work of God presently, God has said that He will personally curse that nation or people. And please understand, if God curses anything, which means to hinder that nation or person, to be sure, trouble will be their continued lot. Of all the problems which presently beset our nation at this particular time, the worst of all is that it seems like the Obama Administration is giving Israel precious little help. Although little understood or recognized by most of the general public, to be sure, it is recognized by God, and if continued, will cut off the flow of blessings to this nation. To be sure, God meant what He said, and said what He meant, when He said, “I will bless them who bless you, and curse him who curses you.” If we forget this, we do so at our peril.
ALL THE FAMILIES OF THE EARTH
The phrase, “In you shall all families of the earth be blessed,” concerns a blessing of unprecedented proportions.
It speaks of Israel giving the world the Word of God, and more particularly bringing the Messiah into the world. Through Christ, every family in the world who desires blessing from God can have that blessing. While the word blessing covers a wide territory, the greatest blessing of all, would be, and is, justification by faith, which is made possible to every believing soul as it regards the price paid of the Lord Jesus Christ at the Cross of Calvary.
A PERSONAL BLESSING
First of all, I want to say how much I thank God that my family got in on this blessing, this promise given to Abraham so long, long ago.
In fact, every time I read this third verse of Genesis, Chapter 12, I think of the time this blessing came to our house.
I was born on March 15, 1935 into a home that did not know God. In fact, until my dad was 25 years old, he had never been inside of a Church, not one single time. He had never heard a gospel song and had never even seen a Bible, much read one. My mother’s experience was very similar. They tried to be good moral people, but without God, such is a fruitless task.
And then two women—a mother and her daughter—came to our little town to build a church. The year was 1939. The lady and her daughter were the mother and sister of Lester Sumrall.
A small church was built. In fact, my uncle, who was a millionaire, in whose home I was born, loaned the money to build the church.
My entire family was saved in that church. And, as a result, I accepted Christ when I was 8 years old. I was baptized with the Holy Spirit a few weeks later. I do not know all the reasons that this great gospel of Jesus Christ was brought to our town, and ultimately to our family. But, by the grace of God, this blessing came to us; consequently, I feel as Paul said so long ago when he said, “I am debtor” (Rom. 1:14). I must do everything within my power to help take this glorious gospel to others. As I had the privilege to hear, they must have the privilege to hear as well!
“So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran” (Gen. 12:4).
So Abraham starts for the better land. This was his first surrender; there were seven in all:
Each painful surrender was followed by increased spiritual wealth.
- He surrenders here his native land (Gen. 12:1).
- He surrenders his family (Gen. 12:1).
- He then surrenders the plain of Jordan (Gen. 13:9-11).
- He then surrenders the riches of Sodom (Gen. 14:21-23).
- He surrenders self (Gen. 17:4-8).
- He then surrenders Ishmael (Gen. 21:9-21).
- And lastly, he surrenders Isaac (Gen. 22:9-14).
The Holy Spirit, through Moses, calls attention to the fact that Abraham was 75 years old when he departed out of Haran.
Why does He note this?
From the time that God revealed Himself to Abraham to the time that he obeyed the command might have been several years. Maybe there was a struggle there of which we aren’t aware. We know that he did not leave Haran until his father, Terah, died. That seems to be the lot of many Christians. They go halfway; in other words, while they obey partially, they never quite obey totally. They make it to Haran, but they never quite make it all the way to Canaan, or else they arrive late.
“And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the Land of Canaan; and into the Land of Canaan they came” (Gen. 12:5).
From Haran to Canaan was approximately 350 miles. Abraham had 318 trained men with him (Gen. 14:14), meaning that they were trained to fight as soldiers. They were totally loyal to Abraham, actually born in his household. In fact, there may have been as many as 1,000 people in this entourage.
Also, Abraham was extremely rich in silver and gold as well as flocks and herds. In other words, he was a mighty man, and quite possibly, one of the richest men in the East and, thereby, the world. And yet, as far as the comfort of Ur was concerned, he willingly left it all. In the leaving, he did not cease to be rich, and he did not cease to be mighty, but he gained the greatest riches of all—the knowledge of Jehovah.
“And Abram passed through the land into the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land” (Gen. 12:6).
At long last, Abraham now finds himself in the Promised Land. Thus it is presently. The Holy Spirit says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.” The sinner believes and he is saved. Into the Land of Canaan he comes—the Promised Land. This is the first step in the life of faith.
But what an unexpected experience for Abraham! He finds the hateful, impure, and hostile Canaanite in God’s land. This was faith’s first trial; his heart would be tempted to question the fact that this was God’s land, for how could the Canaanite be in God’s land?
So, in the present day the young believer expects, after conversion, to find nothing in his nature hostile to Christ, but is distressed and perplexed very soon to painfully learn that, alas, the Canaanite is in the land, and he is now commencing a lifelong battle with what the New Testament refers to as “the flesh.”