Fathers' Day: Abraham, Genesis 12:1–9
This talk was given by Paul Wintle on as part of our worship service over the Internet.
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The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
‘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.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.’
So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.
Abram travelled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The Lord appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your offspring I will give this land.’ So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.
From there he went on towards the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord.
Then Abram set out and continued towards the Negev.
Genesis 12:1–9, (NIVUK)
Thank you. Well done for wrestling with those names as well, that’s really good.
Last month, the Prime Minister of the UK, Boris Johnson, explained in his speech that his government was planning a roadmap to exit the lockdown brought by COVID-19. An exit strategy to restart the economy and to restart a new way of life or a familiar way of life where people can resume work, shopping, school, and other familiar things that have been taken away.
For me, perhaps roadmaps can be helpful when we know where we are and where we want to be. I was talking with a friend during the week about their experiences of being part of the Duke of Edinburgh Award experience expedition. How they had to follow the Ordnance Survey maps, plan the route, and get to their destination in time to put up the tent for the night, cook a meal and retire to bed before doing it all in reverse to continue the journey the next day.
During lockdown, the messages that we have been bringing from the Bible have been mainly from the book of Acts: the thoughts, the actions, the speeches of different folks who were doing their best to work out where they were on a roadmap. They were in a transition period between having met Jesus as the Old Testament Messiah and the new Kingdom of God that Jesus had preached about. On this roadmap, they were trying to work out where on earth they were with no clear idea about how they would know that they’d reached their destination. As the new burgeoning church, they experienced a rife of difficulties: stoning, killing, the dispersion of the whole community from their comfortable home in Jerusalem into the rest of the whole known world. Even if it felt like there was no roadmap to exit the difficulty, they seemed to plough on in the hope that God was still with them.
As we looked at how the early church both grew and suffered in those early days, and as our country plans to take some tentative steps into living with coronavirus while seeking some form of new normal, I sense that we must walk by the Spirit. As we read in Galatians 5, a couple of weeks ago, our job as followers of Jesus is to keep in step with the Spirit. In my recent communication, my Minister’s Musings, last week, I wrote that, surprisingly, I didn’t know what the future held, when we might meet together in our church building to worship. I didn’t know how long it would be until we reach that new normal that the world has been talking about. What has struck me in recent weeks is how we have examples of a collection of faithful followers who walked with God even though they didn’t know what to expect. Old Testament characters who didn’t know the way forward, but who nonetheless trusted God; characters who didn’t get the full picture, but knew that God was with them; characters who for one reason or another are included in our Bible. Whilst I would really want to know the bigger picture about how a post-COVID world will look and what it means for our church in this new normal, I still don’t, we don’t. However, perhaps there is something that we can learn through an overview of the life and work of some of these Old Testament characters.
So on this Father’s Day, who better to begin with than Father Abraham? To give us a wider scope of the life of Abraham and where he fitted in into that bigger picture of Genesis and the whole God story, we’ve got an eight-minute video to help us now. After this, I’ll draw together some threads before we close our time together.
Bible Project clip
At this point in the talk, an eight-minute clip about the story of Abraham Genesis 12–50 was played.
Thoughts on Abraham
A few thoughts on Abraham as we close. Abraham was never too old to be challenged or to do something new or difficult or heroic. Even in the times when he made the wrong judgment call, he was not forgotten by God. God’s promises about Abraham being a blessing stood firm and were fulfilled through, not Abraham but, his line. I wonder whether God’s plans are not dependent on our decisions totally. Leaving behind the familiar of a lifetime in one place did not mean forgetting 75 years’ worth of living. Abraham took with him not only his family and his possessions but his experiences, his skills, and an unwavering trust that God knew what he was doing. He did not make this courageous act alone. The full story of Abraham is one of setting out, of journeying, and of staying somewhere for a while before moving on again until the Promised Land was found. Abraham himself never set foot in the promised land of Canaan. His retirement was wrapped up in being on that roadmap and making tracks. Arriving in Canaan was for another generation, for the miraculous children he and his wife Sarah had at an old age and who would be the springboards for the Jewish faith and ultimately for Jesus and for us.
As we think about making tentative steps in a new world, I wonder how this makes us feel: fearful, excited, concerned, relieved, confused, hopeful? As we prayerfully consider a new way forward together: as a nation, as a church, as family, we can only do it one step at a time and we do it knowing that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is still the God who draws us onwards.
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Scripture quotations marked NIVUK on this page and in the audio are from the Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.