Look to the Rock
He was Abram then, back in Genesis 12. He was 75 years old, living in the predictable patterns of his fathers, only six or seven generations after the flood. But everything changed with God's call. And the lessons left by his life speak volumes for the Church today. But they begin a chapter earlier, with the tower of Babel.
A Tale of Two Towers--
After the flood, the people of the earth migrated east.
In fear of being dispersed, they decided to build a city with a tower that reached into the heavens. Nothing inherently wrong with that. Except that their goal was to make a name for themselves. The tower was an altar to their own glory.
Made in the image of the Almighty Creator, humanity was designed to be effective and ambitious. In God's estimation, nothing that we seek to do will be impossible (Genesis 11:6b).
But our effectiveness is best realized as we unite in Him, not outside Him.
This pull towards grand purpose is even more prevalent in our media-obsessed culture today. Even in the Church, we are often caught up in frantic attempts to publicize our giftings, to gain visibility, to pursue great feats...all for God's glory, we tell ourselves. But how often is the fruit tarnished? Competition, vanity, frustration, and jealousy emerge as we strain the cell towers pursuing platforms for our own names, while fuming that others are doing a more impressive job.
But anxiety-driven fame is not our portion.
Instead of striving in a panic to make a name for ourselves, we were designed to seek God’s direction. To wake up each day with anticipation, a childlike faith that asks, "What’s up next, God?" To make every resource, every gift an altar.
Like Abram did.
In Genesis 12, Abram's father Terah had already brought his family halfway to Canaan, but they'd stopped in Haran, where Terah died. Abram was old at this point, and probably didn't expect to be called by a God he didn't know to go to a place he didn't know.
Sometimes, we are called into territory beyond where our ancestors have ventured. Are we willing to answer those uncomfortable calls into the unknown?
God's call to Abram was weighty and astonishing. The land of Canaan would belong to his descendents forever and all the Earth's families would be blessed through him (12:1-3)! Can't you picture Abram's eyes widening, his heartbeat picking up speed as he imagined it? In faith, Abram took his family and obeyed God, moving to Canaan without a clear idea of where exactly to settle or how things would work out with the locals.
How often are we handed things by God that we don't know how to steward yet?
Abram didn't fully understand the inheritance he'd been given. What should we do with that? Build an altar and call upon the Name of the Lord (Genesis 12:8).
Abram did this until a famine came.
Abram went down to Egypt to escape the famine, but there is no record that he consulted God. He took advantage of a popular fallback of the day while allowing his fears to lead him. Instead of moving forward confident of God's protection, he spun a detailed, fear-based scenario that actually came to pass once he reached Egypt.
Without God's instruction, Abram was reduced to lying, scheming, and manipulating--calling his wife Sarai his sister in order to spare his own life, allowing the Pharaoh to assume she was available! God still protected them, sending plagues upon Pharaoh and rescuing Abram and Sarai from Egypt.
But what tangled webs we create when we allow our fears to lead us instead of seeking our faithful Shepherd?
We fall prey to this trap many times, losing focus because we've allowed our fears to cloud the path ahead. The voice of doubt may come, but we don't have to listen. We can call to our faithful guide and He will direct us.
Off track for a season, Abram returned to the land of Promise and again built an altar to God, reaffirming his submission (Genesis 13:4). At this point, we can learn something from his nephew Lot.
With too much wealth between them, Abram and Lot decided to separate, and Lot's moving decision was very similar to Eve's choice of fruit back in the garden. With no record that he sought the Lord, the Bible says Lot saw that the land around Sodom was well-watered, like Egypt, the place they had just come from (13:10). Lot chose for himself, based on what he was used to and what seemed good to him. And wicked, perverted Sodom proved to be a wealth of trouble.
Don't let last season dictate your next one. Don't let your eyes dictate where you're going.
In contrast, Abram stayed in Canaan, anchoring himself in the promises God had given him. He still didn't know how they would be fulfilled. His wife Sarai was barren, with no children. The land was still populated with pagans. But Abram built an altar to the Lord and continued to seek Him.
Abram's trust and faith, evidenced by consistent obedience were counted to him as righteousness and he was known as a friend of God.
He is our spiritual father. His faith is our inheritance in Christ.
This is part of what it means to look to the rock from which you were hewn and to the quarry from which you were dug (Isaiah 51:1-2). As we pursue righteousness, we are told to look at the example of Abram, who was one man when God called him. As we approach the Scriptures with a desire to learn, the Spirit will breathe on them and illuminate our way forward.
Take Abram's example and build "altars" to the Lord out of everything you've been given and want to see multiplied, everything you don't have yet, everything you don't understand.
And trust that His plan is so much bigger than you could imagine.
There is a tower that reaches to the heavens...but its designer and builder is God (Hebrews 11:10).
This excited Abraham. And it's our inheritance too!