Rev. Katherine Todd
Genesis 17:1-8, 15-22
Genesis 17:1-8, 15-22
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.” Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you, and to your offspring after you, the land where you are now an alien, all the land of Canaan, for a perpetual holding; and I will be their God.”…
God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said to himself, “Can a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Can Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” And Abraham said to God, “O that Ishmael might live in your sight!” God said, “No, but your wife Sarah shall bear you a son, and you shall name him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. As for Ishmael, I have heard you; I will bless him and make him fruitful and exceedingly numerous; he shall be the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this season next year.” And when he had finished talking with him, God went up from Abraham.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own insight.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths
This is perhaps the hardest, and the easiest, teaching of God to follow and carry out. God is telling us to simply acknowledge God, in all our ways, and to trust. That’s our job. All the other stuff, all the hard stuff, is GOD’s job. What God asks of us is really not that hard. Children do this, in their own way, everyday! God is not asking us to do what we cannot do. God is asking us only to do what we can do…acknowledge God and trust.
So, why is this SO HARD!?!
I think it goes back to that garden and the fruit tree…and the serpent’s luring words: “God knows when you eat this your eyes will be opened and you will become like God, able to tell good and evil.”
Just like Adam and Eve long ago, we too want to be like God!
We too want to be God!!
We want to play God with our own lives – to control it, to control others, to predict the future, to determine good and evil, to order our days, to get what we want, to shape our lives as we think best!
We don’t want to have a God, we want to be God!
And this is the root of our sin.
Abraham’s story is a curious story. Many of us have heard it as children, and it may feel warm and familiar, but have we really sat with it, as adults?
Abraham’s Daddy sets out for the land of Canaan, but when he gets to Haran, he settles there. No explanation is given. We don’t know why he was aiming for Canaan in the first place or why he ends up settling in Haran, but this is how it goes.
Now, Abraham’s name back then was Abram, and the next we hear is that God speaks to Abram telling him to take his family & go to the land God will show him. God tells Abram that he’ll make of him a great nation, in whom all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
God doesn’t say where.
God just says go.
God is asking Abram to trust his spiritual ears – that Abram can and is indeed hearing God speak to him – and to trust the character of God, that if God says it will be good for him, then indeed it will be good for him.
…And the very next thing we read is, “So Abram went, as the Lord told him.”
It is a miraculous affair really.
How many people have you met, in your lifetime, who have simply gone somewhere –without anything lined up on the other end – simply because God told them to go and told them it would be good?
Have you done this in your life?
Abraham trusted God.
Now, here, we already see the rubber hit the road:
It is easy to say we trust God, but how can we see that trust in our actions?
Where is that trust reflected in our daily living?
Do our lives tell a story of anxiety and worry for the future?
Are our actions driven by fear?
Do we feel trapped in situations?
Do we complain about our lives but talk ourselves out of every idea for change?
I imagine most of us aren’t so different from Abraham. God has planted dreams and visions in our hearts. God has placed desires.
…Now, you may have to really dig deep to remember,…but do you remember being so on-fire about an idea? …so stirred up for a cause? …so passionate about something??
Do you remember being filled with a vision for your future?
Have you heard God say that your life meant something?
…that it matters?
…that it’s important?
God operates this way. Remember Joseph? God gave Joseph a dream – in which all the stars bowed down to him.
But do you remember? When Joseph told his brothers the dream, they were plain pissed off! They had a very “uppity” brother, it seemed to them! They would put him in his place…the bottom of a hole, …and then a slave to the highest bidder!
And so we are afraid – “what will others think! I must have a big head! Who am I to ever do anything important?!”
How many times have we cowered in shame and self-deprecation… rather than believe the call of God on our lives?
say we believe it.
Say in the core of who we are, we believe what God has said to us…
Do we tuck it away in a safe place where no one can discover it?..hurt it…ridicule it???
Do we then safely wait and secretly hope the dream will somehow fall into our laps?
Do we follow and do what the Lord has planted and placed in our hearts to do?
Or do we let it fade and die into numb forgetfulness?…hidden, safe, dead.
Let’s say, we not only believe what God’s said to us, but we follow!
Then what happens?
Everyone, and our mother, may think we gone off the deep end. Noah’s neighbors likely had the Department of Social Services on the line, ready to intervene. Abram’s family was likely grumbling and complaining, worried about where they’d find water, or grass for the animals, or safety in foreign lands. Had Abram shared God’s promises to him with others, I imagine it would have made for much late-night banter, …especially in light of his childlessness and what-not… “A Father of many nations!? And at the age of 99!” How do you think Joseph’s master or later his prison-mates would have responded if he shared his dream with them? Perhaps they’d have thought him arrogant, or audacious, or crazy, or naïve.
We don’t respond well to folks who “hear God talk to them.”
We’re comfortable enough believing that people heard God’s voice in the stories of the Bible, but if anyone we know hears God’s voice, we pick it apart…
“Was that reeaaally God’s voice?”
“What if you were just hearing what you wanted to hear?”
“Perhaps you’re deceiving yourself.”
Just believing God’s word to us is daunting. Now following it – hanging our very lives on it – in public…now that’s a very different thing. That takes a whole new level of courage, resolve, and trust. …simply because of the opposition we will face,… often from our loved ones…and sometimes also from ourselves:
“Was that really God’s voice?”
“Did I imagine that?”
“What if I’m wrong?”
Now as Abram is on the road, following God’s call, we begin to see Abram wrestling with the details of what God’s promise means and what it looks like to follow and to get there.
Abram has it in his head that his wife is so beautiful that folks will kill him, in order to take her.
We don’t know how true this may be…but we do read that at least 2 different kings think she’s so beautiful, they take her into their homes to make her their wives. This all plays out because Abram makes Sarai swear to say she’s his sister – hoping that those who might otherwise covet his wife and kill him to get her, will rather consider him an ally in getting her hand for marriage. It’s not a brilliant plan; I don’t think Abram really wants to share his wife with these others, but frankly, he’s scared to death. He’s terrified that if they don’t lie about her being his wife, folks will kill him to get her!
…and he may be right.
So they lie.
Was this what God wanted? Was this necessary?
God had promised Abram that he would make of him a great nation. Clearly a dead Abram couldn’t make a great nation. One could then reason that Abram didn’t need to lie – that he could be honest and God would protect him.
…But one could also reason, that it was by Abram’s lying that God protected him….
We just don’t know!
And in our lives,…we just don’t know.
I’ve had a far easier time in my life, trust God – that He is good and loves me. What I find far harder to trust is myself!
I may make a mistake, as I try to follow God!
What if I lie, like Abram did, when God wanted me to tell the truth?
What if I sleep with my servant, in order to have the child God has promised me – when God wanted me to have that child with my wife?
Part of trusting God, involves trusting that God is big enough for all our mistakes.
Notice the scripture:
Trust in the Lord, with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge God,
And God will direct your paths.
It doesn’t say, “In all your ways, get it right, and God will direct your paths.”
It says, “In all your ways, acknowledge God, and God will direct your paths.”
God wants us to trust
with childlike faith
and to not hang our hat, at the end of the day, on what we can see and predict and understand.
God wants us to follow
hand in hand
and trust God to handle everything that comes our way,
including US! – our mistakes, our misunderstandings, our everything.
Abraham did not always “get it right.” For a man of great faith, he also was rational and strategic. He knew how to stay alive as a foreigner in a foreign land, with a beautiful, coveted wife. He knew how to negotiate with kings and win the favor of strangers. Abraham reasoned that his aging, childless wife, might not be the one through whom God planned to make a great nation…..perhaps his slave would do – she could bear him a son!
Abraham didn’t know when to do what, but when God spoke, he believed God, and followed.
He had a heart that trust in the Lord.
And that is all God asks.
Our God is a God who wants to bless us! Our God wants us to enjoy our days and our lot!
And God knows that we cannot enjoy when we are fearful,
God knows that we cannot enjoy life, when we are reaching outside of ourselves and our abilities, trying to play God with our own lives and the lives of others.
God knows that our blessing and joy will only be complete when we
Acknowledge that God is God and we are not,
And trust God to do what only God can.
God is God, and we are not.
What God asks is that we trust, like a child
Leaning on God, like a child
Acknowledging God, in everything we do…
And God will be faithful to make our paths straight, to lead us into the promised land, to fulfill the word God has spoken over us in God’s own time, to realize the vision God has planted in our hearts.
God is God, and we are not.
We are God’s children!
May we put our hand in God’s
and in-JoY this beauuutiful ride,
the life Christ has given us!