On Sunday our pastor preached on Genesis 12. Verse 1 reads, “The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.'”
(The previous Thursday I taught on the same passage. It appears the Lord was really trying to get something through my thick skull.)
The gist of these verses is God calls Abram to move.
From his family.
To an undisclosed location.
My dad was in the Air Force for 20 years, so I know a thing or two about moving to an unknown land. By the time I was 13, I had lived in 6 states and 3 countries. Every time my parents informed my brother and me that we’d be moving, the same anxiety took up residence in my stomach. I knew from experience that each move offered adventure, excitement, and opportunities that I would never otherwise have been exposed to.
But I also knew that each move meant having to learn how these new people did things in this new land. The learning curve a new kid has to navigate can make for some painfully long and lonely months/years.
No doubt, Abram and his family felt these same emotions in their guts the day God told Abram to leave his country (Genesis 12:1).
Abram was to physically leave his country and his relatives, but, of course, this leaving concept can be applied a lot of other ways.
God calls us to leave churches, friendships, relationships, jobs, schools, sin habits, and the list goes on.
And, often, when He calls us to leave something, He has not yet showed us where we are going. That was the case with Abram. And that can be the case with us.
“Leave this job,” God might say, “and go to the job I will show you.”
“Leave this church, and go to the church I will show you.”
“Leave this friendship, and go to the friendship I will show you.”
So, at the very least, we have someone in the scriptures to whom we can relate when we are being called to leave something behind.
I don’t know about you, but that’s not enough to encourage me. If I am to be uplifted in my circumstances of having to leave something, I need more than just the knowledge that other people have had to leave stuff too. Misery may love company, but miserable company doesn’t offer hope or encouragement.
Lucky for me, God knows I need more than empathy. Insert verses 2 and 3. God says to Abram, “‘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 people on earth will be blessed through you'” (Genesis 12:2-3).
In short, God promises Abram that his leaving will result in great blessing.
And that was enough for Abram. Verse 4 begins, “So Abram left…” He didn’t “pray about it” for a month. He didn’t consult his closest friends for their opinions and interpretations of what God was calling him to do. He didn’t read a few books on the subject to become better informed concerning this calling.
He just left.
Abram believed God would honor His promise, so he obeyed.
That’s pretty bold faith. That’s faith I can admire and desire to emulate when I am called to leave something.
But that’s not enough to convince me to trust God. If I am to step out in faith, I need more than an example of someone who did just that. I need to know that it worked out well for them.
And God knows I need that proof. So He provides it.
As we keep reading in Genesis, we see that God leads Abram to Canaan, and God promises Abram, “‘To your offspring I will give this land'” (Genesis 12:7).
But when Abram and barren Sarai (as opposed to fertile Sarai, who was someone else’s wife) failed to produce children, Abram began to doubt there would be any offspring to whom the land could be given. So, again, God appears to Abram, revealing more of the plan this time, and says, “‘Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation…and in the fourth generation your descendants will come back here [Canaan]'” (Genesis 15:13-16).
And then you know what happens? Everything God said would happen.
The Israelites are enslaved in Egypt. The Exodus goes down. They return to Canaan, the Promised Land. Oh, and they leave Egypt with gold, silver, and clothing.
So, to recap, God tells Abram to leave the comfortable known for the completely unknown, promising blessings for obedience. Abram obeys, by faith, and God keeps His promise, blessing Abram and his offspring with land, numerous descendents, and wealth.
As I soaked up this story last week, it finally hit me, “Hey, this is the proof that obeying God – leaving whatever we’re called to leave – can really work out. God can really be trusted.” And I finally became okay with the concept of leaving.
If God is the one asking us to leave something, it really will be in our best interest to trust Him, even if we don’t know where He is taking us. The story of Abram helps me believe that, even when my feelings and circumstances don’t.
Good stuff! And we also have numerous examples in the believers right around us. This gives us a reason to take the opportunity, or make it, to hear other people’s stories. I remember my wife and I sitting in our apartment with our newborn in an unfamiliar city, getting ready to start seminary, but really wondering if we had done something stupid. But God used some former friends and some new ones to bless us and help us along the way, and of course, made our seminary experience a marvelous one that I would never trade for anything. We learned so much, not just about the Bible, but about trusting God when we had practically nothing.