Monday, November 24, 2014

ABRAHAM: Lot's Lotto


LOT’S LOTTO

“Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan.” Genesis 13:11a.

Introduction

Have you ever thought about how many decisions you have to make in a lifetime? What colour of socks to put on, what breakfast cereal to eat, which woman to marry. We must make literally millions of decisions over a life-time. How do you know if your decision is a wise one or not? It’s especially hard to make a wise decision in those areas where God cuts you lots of slack. God doesn’t tell which socks to put on, which cereal to eat. However, there are some decisions in life which clearly demand a bit more thought.

There is a major decision confronting Lot in the text before us. So it will do us good to investigate what’s going on here. There was a bit of strife happening between Abram’s herdsmen and Lot’s. So Abram, the father of the faithful, put a proposition to Lot. Genesis 13:9, “Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me, if you take the left, then I will go to the right; or, if you go to the right, then I will go to the left”.

“Okay Lot, my nephew”, says Abram. “Which hand do you want – left or right? It’s your decision.” Lot’s going to have to live with what he chooses. He is going to have to live with the consequences of his decision.

There they are in the Promised Land. The land is still full of false-god-worshipping, child-sacrificing, sodomizing non-Christians. Do you get the picture? So you would think that Lot would seek wisdom as to what to do. It would seem that he was too quick to saddle up the horses and hitch up the wagon train. Think carefully before you make a life decision as you may live to regret it.

Choosing

“Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan.” Why did Lot choose what he chose? Well, first off let’s see if we can figure out how this situation arose. We need to know why Lot had to make his choice. We know that there was a bit of friction between Abram’s men and Lot’s men.  And we’re told back in Genesis 13:6 that the land was not able to support them. Both Abram and Lot had great possessions, we’re told. It’s like when you or I collect that much stuff that we’ve got nowhere to store it. So we need to get a bigger house for all our stuff!

When Dorothy and I were first married we bought a small house. I remember thinking to myself, as I drove the little rental removal van, “We don’t have very much stuff. Everything I possess can be packed into one tiny little van!” When we moved from Brisbane to Hobart, Tasmania we needed a much bigger van! And then when we moved back to Brisbane we needed an even bigger van again! But Abram and Lot have got that much stuff that a huge tract of land is not able to support them.

So what is really going on here what’s at the back of all this? So what if there’s a bit of strife between Abram’s men and Lot’s men. Couldn’t they have just ordered their men to stop fighting or be fired? Couldn’t they have just got rid of some of their stuff so that the land could support them? What was really happening here? Well, sometimes we get so caught up in things that we forget to look at God. What did the LORD say to Abram as recorded in Genesis 12:1? “Get out of your country, from your kindred and from your father’s house to a land I will show you.” Abram bought his kindred with him, didn’t he? He brought his father who died back in Haran.  And he brought his nephew Lot. Kindred! Abram loved his nephew Lot a lot. He loved him enough to risk his own life for him. But how much did Lot love his uncle Abe?

At this time Abram wanted Lot to split. Do we hear Lot make a heart-rending plea to Abram like Ruth to Naomi? “Entreat me not to leave you or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go I will go and wherever you lodge I will lodge your people shall be my people and your God, my God. Where you die I will die and there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts you and me” Ruth 1:16-17. Is this how Lot felt about Abram? Lot and Abram had so much stuff that even the lush green land couldn’t support them. Ruth and Naomi had nothing. They were in a barren land in the middle of a severe famine. Ruth lifted her voice and wept! Did Lot lift up his voice and weep at the thought of being separated from his uncle? “And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of the Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere (before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt as you go towards Zoar.”

Lot saw that the land was like the delta of Egypt, fertile as anything. “I’ll have that,” he said like one of those people on a game show, you know, where all this stuff is paraded before your eyes on a conveyer belt. “Gimme the fridge, the antique clock, the stereo, the TV!” The Price is Right or is it? It all might look pleasant to the eyes, but what about the soul – your soul? The heavy choices you make have to be made with your eternal soul in view, and we’re not talking about those neutral things like fridges and clocks and stereos. We’re talking about the mechanisms behind our decision making. We’re talking about the impulses in your soul which cause you to choose the things you choose.

So then, why did Lot choose what he chose?  What caused him to make the decision he made? Did the devil make him do it? Was he free to choose the left hand or the right? Of course he was. But does sin and sinful nature have any bearing on our decisions?

When we lived in Canada we used to get the odd postcard from Dorothy’s brother who lived in Brisbane. There I was digging through ten feet of snow so that the mail-man could deliver to our house. We’d get these photographs of Dorothy’s brother on the Gold Coast or somewhere, sun, sand, surf, and palm trees! I’d like to say we came to Australia as missionaries or something. But instead I have to say that I just wanted to come in out of the cold!

Was Australia noted for its exemplary ethics and moral behaviour? Was it a land that honoured the living God? Did I really care about these things? As the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was pleasant to the eyes, so the land of the Bronzed Emu and the Red Kangaroo was pleasant to my eyes! We flew south-west into the sunset. Lot journeyed east towards the sunrise. Lot chose what he chose to satisfy his flesh and not his soul. Lot was looking at the temporal and not the spiritual. He was looking after his own “felt needs.”

At the time of Christ Jerusalem was crawling with man called Pharisees. Pharisees were the all-time experts at looking out for number one. Pharisees could take something spiritual, like God’s Moral Law, and use it for their own selfish gain. The Moral Law is the God-given guide on how to love God and your neighbour as yourself. The Pharisees used the Law as a back scratcher with which to pat themselves on the back. The Pharisees were oblivious to the spiritual nature of the Law. Their actions betrayed the deadness of their hearts! They didn’t even keep God’s Law outwardly, so you’ll have to look elsewhere for an example of that.

As Jesus said to the Pharisee Nicodemus, “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” It stands to reason therefore that if one is born again one can see the kingdom of Satan. If you can see the kingdom of God in the world, by way of contrast, you can see the kingdom of Satan. But in order to see the kingdom of God you must look for it. You must seek it and its righteousness. Therefore you have to look deep into things.

Lot just had a superficial look, “Looks good, let’s go!” Abram had his eyes on the kingdom of God. He let Lot do the choosing. He knew that whatever Lot chose would be fine with him. But more than that, Abram knew it would be fine with God. For Abram knows that, “All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” Romans 8:28.

By doing what he did Abram was making his calling and election sure. As the Apostle Peter writes, “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” 2 Peter 1:10-11.

Abram was getting the hang of it, but Lot, it would seem, had a lot more to learn. Take the Pharisees for instance. When the Pharisees looked at the Law of God they saw only tablets of stone. Therefore their hard-hearted actions betrayed what they saw. They weren’t looking at, nor could they see, the Spirit in the writing on the stone. “Looks good! Let’s go!” said the Pharisees, but their souls were like dried walnuts, and they had rocks in their heads, because that is all they saw! They weren’t looking at the kingdom of heaven. They needed the Spirit in their hearts in order to discern things of a spiritual nature, such as the Decalogue.

But just because you’re a Christian doesn’t mean you won’t have the odd rock rattling around in your head. Look at Lot! But it does mean that you CAN make choices with the Kingdom of Heaven in view. However, sometimes we get distracted with the things of the world like Lot, especially those things that are pleasant to the eyes, like the well watered plains of the Jordan, like Tasmania or sunny Queensland! But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.

Beware of getting it the wrong way round, because it will affect all your decision-making, because you make all your choices according to what you see. You’ll always win in the end if you make your choices with the glory of God in mind. Because even your wrong decisions, those decisions that seemed so right at the time, those choices that brought you nothing but hardship, will have come from a pure heart. But know this, that in any resulting hardship your conscience will be clear. Why? Because you made your choice with the glory of God in mind, the Kingdom of Heaven at heart. But if you make your decisions any other way you choose, then you lose. Because as Jesus said when He rebuked Peter, “You are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” Matthew 16:23b.

So then, Lot is behaving a wee bit like a Pharisee might behave. As he gazed at the Jordan Valley he saw only the temporal and not the spiritual. Do we see any indication that Lot put God and his neighbour, even his uncle, first? No. What about Abram? Did Abram put God and his neighbour first? Of course he did. But Lot was putting himself and his own wellbeing first, wasn’t he? The proverbial juicy carrot was dangled before him and he went for it. And in so doing he was playing a game of chance, a game of Lotto!

Losing.

The choice was easy. It was a simple little choice. Choose which hand you want, the right hand or the left? Choose which tree you want, the tree of life, or, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. However, before you do, remember that you’ll be stuck with the consequences of your decision!

Lot played the game of Lotto and he lost. Why did he lose? It’s all to do with the LORD isn’t it? It’s all to do with providence God’s invisible hand. Lot wasn’t making a minor decision here, “Should I put on my blue socks, or, just keep on the one’s I’ve got on?” Lot knew all about God calling Abram. He knew all about God appearing to Abram. He knew all about the famine God sent upon the Promised Land. He knew all about God plaguing Pharaoh’s house on account of Sarai. He knew all about God delivering Abram and Sarai out of the land of Egypt. So why didn’t Lot say to Abraham, “Let’s take this matter before the LORD”? Why didn’t he head toward the altar Abram had built and seek an audience with the LORD? Do you think that perhaps Lot was a spiritually dead man at this point? Well you should note that Genesis 13:8 mentions the strife that was between Abram’s men and Lot’s men. Abram was head and representative of one house, and Lot was the head and representative of the other.  But there is no mention of any strife between Abram and Lot. In fact if you look at the end of Genesis 13:8 you’ll see that Abram says to Lot, “We are brethren.”

Now, it’s quite possible that Abram was saying to Lot, “We are brothers, we are relatives, we are kindred, therefore let us not fight.” This would of course fit with what the LORD said to Abram in Genesis 12:1 “Get out of your country, from your kindred.” And, make no mistake, God is separating Abram from his flesh and blood kindred, i.e., Lot. But let it be known that Abram and Lot are also kindred in spirit. They both serve the same God, i.e., the LORD who called Abram out of Ur of the Chaldeans.

And we won’t get into a debate as to when Lot was converted. Second Peter 2:8 tells us that Lot was “a righteous man.” Therefore it is God’s invisible hand that is sovereignly separating Abram and Lot. He is doing so for a purpose to which neither Abram nor Lot are privy. God is working all things for good and yet Lot is getting to make a choice with which he has to live. So again we see the sovereignty of God in all things, and we see the responsibility of man for his own actions. And clearly Abram had a grasp of these deeper things of God. Abram could just about have written the Proverb which says “The lot is cast into the lap, but it’s every decision is from the LORD” Proverbs 16:33.

“Okay, Lot, if you choose the left hand I’ll get the right. And if you choose the right then I’ll get the left. But whatever one you choose will be fine with me. Why? Well, whether you choose heads or tails I win. God has already taken care of the decision!”

The LORD has already told Abram to separate from his kindred in blood. Therefore Abram is simply being obedient to the revealed will of God. This is why Abram isn’t running around like an Ecumenical trying to keep everyone together at any and all costs! This passage helps us understand why the LORD permits so many different denominations in the church at large. The LORD would eventually split the descendants of Abram into twelve tribes.

Abram and Lot serve the same God, but the LORD would have them split like a cell and multiply – (Abram in particular). The LORD would eventually split Abraham’s descendants into twelve tribes. And since the time of the Reformation we’ve seen the same thing in the Church – cells splitting and multiplying. But if you think that there can be no unity in plurality then you need to look again at the triune God, the God who is multiple Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but one God: Plurality in Unity.

There are many different denominations around today. And there are even denominations who deny that they are a denomination! We have been separated because there is strife among the brethren. It is paradoxical, I know, but all these separations are for the sake of unity, and of course it complicates the issue, when some denominations are sectarian. It’s a complex issue. But, as did Abram and Lot, so all serve one and the same Master, albeit to a greater or lesser extent, as the case may be. Lot was far from perfect in his understanding, and so are some denominations!

Which of the two denominations would you align yourself with: Abram’s or Lot’s? Well, what were the Corinthians like? “I am of Paul, I am of Apollos, I am of Cephas, I am of Christ” 1 Corinthians 3:4. Then Paul asks if Christ is divided? And we have to reply, certainly not! Were Abram and Lot not following the same LORD? If Abram and Lot followed the same LORD and yet were separated by the LORD, what is wrong with having different denominations? The whole idea is that we all should follow Christ! But truth be known, like Abram and Lot, some have their eyes on the LORD more than others. Therefore if you were going to align yourself with either Abram or Lot you’d choose Abram. Why? Because he’s focused on the kingdom of God and not his own felt needs!

When Lot had a major decision to make he forgot to include the LORD, it would seem.  He saw the things he wanted and he sought after them with gay abandon. How many times have we rushed in because the place just looked so inviting? “Oh it’s the house of my dreams.” So you buy it only to find that termites love the house too! It all looks good on the surface, but lean upon a wall and your hand will go through it. “Oh let’s go to Australia. It’s so sunny there!” Then you learn about the major skin cancer problem! And you’re afraid to let your little kids go out in it. We have to live with the results of a bad decision: For better or for worse in sickness and in health.

I was one of those people who’re converted from time to time just from reading the Bible. As a brand new baby Christian the first choice I had to make was, which church? Which denomination, (or non-denomination as some like to style themselves)? I’ll have you know that it’s a minefield out there. Choose the wrong one and you could be a looser for the rest of your Christian life! You cannot just close your eyes and put your fingers in your ears and hope for the best. If you do that, you are in danger of killing yourself spiritually. How many Christians do you know who are still playing around in the shallow end when they should be deep-sea diving? How many are still on milk when they should be chewing solid food, (on the meat of the Word). How many are still chasing after “signs and wonders” when they should be looking at Christ? As a brand new Christian I even found myself in the Kingdom Hall of the so-called Jehovah’s Witnesses one Sunday. Brand new Christians have not got a clue! I know because I used to be one. What price might I have paid for that choice? God is gracious.

What was the price that Lot would have to pay for his choice? Let’s see, the Apostle Peter refers to Lot living among the depravity and debauchery of Sodomites in Sodom. Peter in 2 Peter 2:8 says of Lot, “For that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds.” As well as having to live with his own tormented soul, Lot would get to see the whole plain he chose destroyed by fire and brimstone pouring out of heaven. Lot would get to see his own wife become a pillar of salt. His own two daughters would think nothing of indecently assaulting him! O Lot, it might look like the Garden of Eden with its four river-heads, but there’s a venomous serpent hanging from EVERY tree in this garden!

Lot don’t treat life as a lottery. Consider what might be the consequences of your action. Life is not a game of chance. It’s not Lot’s Lotto. Life is not, “Yez spin the wheel and yez take yer chances!” No! You seek the will of God for those weightier decisions.

Conclusion

Dear reader, search the Scriptures., for only fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Lot should have sought counsel instead of “Looks good! Let’s go!” Remember the forbidden fruit in the Garden. What looks like a pineapple may actually be a grenade! To sum it all up in a verse of Scripture “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” Proverbs 3:5-6.

Abram let Lot make the choice. He trusted in the LORD to make the right decision. Lot trusted his own understanding and he lost out in the deal. Therefore let us all think carefully before we make a life decision as we may live to regret it.

Friday, November 21, 2014

ABRAHAM: Culture Conflict


CULTURE CONFLICT
“There was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock” Genesis 13:7.

Introduction

You may be familiar with some of the TV programs that came out of the 50s. “Leave It To Beaver” and that kind of thing, the almost too-good-to-be-true family shows. And what about all those TV Westerns from the 50s? The Lone Ranger, Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Clint Eastwood as Rowdy Yates in Rawhide. We’ve all, no doubt, seen or a least have heard of these programs, if not in the original then as syndicated reruns.

The TV stations tend to show them when they’re not concerned about ratings. Anyhow, if you’re familiar with the likes of “Rawhide” or “Wagon Train” you won’t find it too hard to get a rough picture of what’s happening in the text before us. In today’s terms, Abraham is bringing Western Culture, i.e., civilization into a pagan land. Or, if you want to use the imagery of the old TV westerns, what we see before us is the start of “How The West Was Won. This is the beginning of the winning of the West. The wagon trains are coming with families. They’re coming to settle the land. They’re coming to cultivate it, to subdue it. They’re bringing their domesticated livestock. They are opening up a new frontier. They are bringing “culture” into an uncultured place. And why shouldn’t they? It’s a Biblical thing to do.

Abram and his entourage, his “wagon train,” are simply being obedient to the LORD. As we’ve seen already it was the LORD who actually brought Abram to this land. And the LORD always acts according to His own will. And when Abram “up and left” his home in Ur of the Chaldeans he was simply acting according to the will of God.

Galatians 3:8 states clearly that Abram had heard the Gospel. How else could he be saved? Therefore Abram was being obedient to the Gospel of God as it had been revealed at that time. (Yes, of course, we have to bear in mind that Abram didn’t have a copy of the New Testament with him) but as we follow Abram’s life you’ll begin to see Gospel patterns and images more and more.

You’ll begin to see how the beginning connects with the middle and the end. In other words, you’ll begin to see more of the magnitude of the Gospel of God. You’ll see that what God did through Christ at Calvary is still being worked out in the world today. As Paul says to the Romans, “We know that all things work together for good to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28.

Abram has been called out of Ur of the Chaldeans according to the eternal purpose of God. And we see that God is doing a great deal of preliminary work in and through the life of Abram. Since Abraham has been given the title “father of believers” one would expect his children to follow in their father’s footsteps somewhat. So we should expect to see with Abram, albeit in embryonic form, something of what we as the Church, Abraham’s children are expected to do today. We have the same Master. We follow the same LORD who never changes. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever

In the following we meet Abram after his escapade in Egypt. He has returned to the LORD and to the Promised Land with great riches. And he is now, once again, seeking to be fully obedient to the Gospel.

Now, Abram and all his followers, whether wittingly or not, at this point in time, are simply being obedient to the “Cultural Mandate.” So, as they used to say in the old westerns from the 50s, “meanwhile back at the ranch.” We pick up the story of Abraham as he moves into the great frontier. We know that he’s already seen some of this frontier land. And you’ll remember that the LORD had sent a famine on this same land. And Abraham went down into Egypt to escape the drought. But now he is obedient once again to God and His Cultural Mandate, i.e., the Gospel.

So in the following we’re going to look at a couple of things in our text: Culture and Conflict. We’ll look at these in their Biblical and historical context, while at the same time we’ll apply what we learn to ourselves as the Church in the World today.

The general theme of the following is: Christianity is the highest form of culture, but Gospel obedience means conflict!

Culture

First thing we need to do is define what we mean by culture. The word “culture” has been misused and abused almost beyond recognition nowadays. I don’t mean to bore you with detail but this is important. My dictionary defines the word “culture” something like this:

1. The cultivation of plants or animals, esp. to IMPROVE the breed.

2. The development, and refinement of MIND, MORALS, or taste.

3. The condition thus produced; refinement.

4. A specific stage in the development of a civilization.

5. Cultivation of the soil.

Therefore, for something to be “cultured”, that something has to have been developed or refined somewhat. By definition, then, a thing has to be cultivated before it can be called “cultured.” For instance, if you were to come across a bunch of people somewhere who had next to no morals you’d say that they were “uncultured.” You would say that they were “uncivilized.” Therefore, it’s all to do with obedience to God.

Wherever there is obedience to God there, too, is “culture” or “civilization.” Therefore the “degree” of culture or civilization in any society is directly proportionate to the degree of obedience to God. The Ancient Greeks, for instance, had a great civilization or culture, but only in so far as it measured up to the Law of God, i.e. the 10 Commandments. And we know that all mankind has God’s Law written on their hearts, Romans 2:15. Adultery, in the forms of fornication and homosexuality were apparently rife in ancient Greece. Greece met its downfall, as did ancient Rome after it because of this uncivilized behaviour. It would seem that God puts up with this kind of thing only for so long!

We see our culture, Western Society and Civilization going the same way. The West was won by the Gospel, not the gun, though many of our forefathers were persecuted and even martyred for the Faith. However, Western Society is now becoming less and less civilized as the Gospel is more and more covered over by the settling dust of secular humanistic rhetoric!

There is a dust encrusted Bible in many-an Australian home but the less it is read and obeyed, the more these homes will produce uncivilized offspring! Abraham, himself tended toward uncivilized behaviour by going down into Egypt. And we saw before that Abram tempted Pharaoh also to behave in an uncivilized manner by saying that Sarah was only his sister and not his wife.

To be truly civilized is to have good morals both inwardly and outwardly. To be truly civilized is to show obedience to God, whether wittingly or unwittingly! But now Abram is once again being obedient to God’s Cultural Mandate. His house is multiplying with people. However none of them are from his own loins – yet.

You are familiar with the Cultural Mandate? Here’s a reminder. The Cultural mandate is of course recorded for us in Genesis 1:28, “Then God blessed them [i.e., mankind], and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, over every living thing that moves on the earth.” The command or mandate is given again to Noah and his family after the Flood as they stepped out of the ark. Genesis 9:1-3, “So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth. And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all fish of the sea. They are given into your hand. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs.”

So then, God commands us to multiply in numbers and fill the earth and subdue it to God’s glory. However, the tendency is for us to cluster in great cities and live on top of each other. The first great city like this in the Bible was Babel and you all know the story of the great Tower. God confused the languages then, and scattered mankind all over the earth. Therefore, we see that when man refuses to obey the Cultural Mandate God intervenes.

Directly connected to the Cultural Mandate is the “Great Commission” Where the Cultural Mandate is general the Great Commission is specific or particular. But in the Great Commission, as in the Cultural Mandate, people are to be obedient and are to go forth and multiply.

An almost entirely overlooked aspect of the Great Commission is the fact that the Church is to multiply her numbers through godly offspring! Few Christians, it would seem, see any connection between the Cultural Mandate and the Great Commission. They forget that their children belong to the church every bit as much as they do! But as we obey the Cultural Mandate/Great Commission we are teach others to be obedient too We are to baptize and to teach our children to obey and we are to baptize and to teach the nations to obey.

The Church is to be a light on the hill, the salt of the earth. She is to set the good example, as we shall see in our father Abraham, and as we see most clearly in Jesus Christ. For Jesus says in Matthew 28:19ff., “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, TEACHING THEM TO OBEY ALL THINGS I HAVE COMMANDED YOU...” So we see that it’s the role of the Christian Church not only to be obedient to the LORD ourselves but also to teach the nations to likewise be obedient to Christ and His Gospel commandments.

And before we move into our second and final point let’s summarize: The Cultural Mandate is God’s command to all mankind to obediently go forth and multiply and subdue the earth to the glory of God. The Cultural Mandate is given generally to all mankind whereas the Great Commission is given specifically to the Church. When we look at Abram we see the beginning of the transition from the general to the specific or particular.

Abram’s offspring would become as numerous as the stars in heaven, the sand of the sea. In Abram God is beginning to form a new people who will one day be whole-heartedly obedient to His Cultural Mandate as expressed in the Great Commission. Culture, then, has everything to do with obedience to God – i.e., doing God’s will. Culture, then, has to do with morals – keeping God’s Moral Law, i.e., His Ten Commandments.

 

Conflict

If Christianity is the highest form of culture, then Gospel obedience will mean conflict! It stands to reason then that wherever Christians are obedient to the Gospel there will be conflict. As pictured in the 50s westerns, families who were united to other families with their domesticated livestock were moving into new frontiers. The wagon trains formed circles of defense against attacks from the natives on the land – conflict! Likewise the Church forms a line of gospel defense against pagan attack! When the civilized meet with the uncivilized, when culture meets non-culture, when the Church meets with the world she meets with conflict!

No doubt you’ve heard the expression, “Christian are to be in the world, but not of the world”? Well, we see clearly the Abram was in the world but not of the world. We’re told in genesis 13:7b that “The Canaanites and the Perizzites then dwelt in the land.” These were the epitome of depravity. They were uncultured, uncivilized. They were unchristian! However Abram was different. He was walking in the Spirit not the flesh. He was walking with the true God who had revealed Himself to Abram, the God who had given him revelation.

So Abram, as it were, has ordered his wagons to form a circle In Genesis 13:4b we read, “And there Abram called on the name of the LORD.” This, of course, doesn’t mean that he ran around calling out, “LORD! LORD!” Rather it means that he began to truly worship God in spirit and in truth. Jesus says, “Where two or three are gathered in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:20. And since we are told in Acts 4:12, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Then Christ was present with them by His Spirit in the Promised Land.

The pagans all around followed their perverted religions – “heathen-anity” or “pagananity.” In other words, non-Christians were in the land. But as King David wrote in the Shepherd’s Psalm, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” Heathenism and Paganism, i.e., false religion, the worshipers of false god’s are enemies of Christ. Abram, like the Church today, was in the presence of his enemies.

The natives were in direct violation of at least the first two commandments: 1. You shall have no other gods before Me. 2. You shall not make for yourself any carved image. The natives, the indigenous people, or if you will, the Indians who lived in Canaan followed a false religion and worshipped false gods. And as we shall see some other time, if you will, the Plains Indians, i.e., those Canaanites who lived on the plain of Jordan were the most uncivilized. For on the Plain of Jordan were the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. As it says in Genesis 13:13, “The men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the LORD.” Notice that it says who they were exceeding wicked against – not Abram – not each other. They were exceedingly wicked AGAINST THE LORD.”

Now, here’s where there is the greatest amount of conflict between Christianity and the world. The world, as you know, refuses to submit to the Law or will of God. So when Christianity comes along and tells the world that it’s to repent, i.e., to stop breaking God’s Law and believe in the Gospel, there is immediate conflict. All that the world hears is what it calls a bunch of hypocrites telling the world to behave itself. However, the world and Christians themselves must learn that it’s not people who are telling the world to behave. It’s God!

It’s God who’s telling them to repent or they’ll end up destroyed like Sodom and Gomorrah! And the type of behaviour that God is demanding is not an outward obedience to His Ten Commandments, but rather an inward obedience to His Gospel. God wants you to have a heart for Him and for His Law. And an inward obedience to His Gospel always expresses itself as an outward (albeit and imperfect) obedience to His Ten Commandments.

Abram, as we see, had the Gospel in his heart. He was obedient to God. With Abram came true religion, the true worship of God. As he called out to God he was bringing civilization into the uncivilized land of Canaan. He was bringing culture into the midst of the uncultured! There he was between Bethel and Ai, the church on the hill shining in the darkness. He was at the place where he had built an altar. He had erected a structure different to all the rest in that pagan land (we looked at that above). And so it is wherever Christians go, whether it be into the work place, or whether it be into darkest Africa or the Amazon Jungle, or whether it be into the place where the Indians of America lived, or the outback of this great land of Australia, wherever Christians go, they take with them true religion, i.e., culture, civilization, Christianity.

God wants the knowledge of Himself to cover the earth as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:9). Habakkuk 2:14 says, “For the earth will be filled with knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” The Church then, is to hitch up the wagons and go West young man! She’s to keep on spreading! And as the Church tries to spread the knowledge of God she meets with conflict. Conflict with the pagan nations is guaranteed. Conflicting world-views will do that but, there will also be conflict among the members of the Church. We see this principle at work in our text: Genesis 13:7 “There was strife between the herdsmen of       Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock.” Conflict among the people of God!

It’s the same old story, isn’t it? When your local Church gets too big it’s time to plant another! The LORD doesn’t want us to unite together and build another Tower of Babel! So, as my old boss used to say to us when he caught us all in a huddle talking: “Spread out in a bunch!” I think he meant that the whole bunch of us was to break up and go elsewhere else and do something. Well, that’s what the Great Commission is about, isn’t it?

Don’t take over a whole city-block and build a mega-church! Get going out there and Christianize the whole world by influencing it with the Gospel! Go West young man and seek other pastures! “The Lord’s my Shepherd I’ll not want, He makes me down to lie. In pastures green He leadeth me, the quiet waters by.”

I remember at college looking into the history of the Presbyterian Church in Scotland. I was hoping they weren’t going to ask me how many times the Church had split over the years. The list, it seemed, went on and on and on – split after split after split! No doubt many of these splits were anything but amicable! No doubt there was a great deal of conflict between Christians. And no doubt during these times of conflict much deadwood would have been removed from the Church. But, be that as it may, every church group worshipped the same LORD! They might have all had their differences, but they were all one and the same – Christians! Sure some were apostate. Some were Christian in name only. As Paul says to the Romans, “For they are not all Israel who are of Israel” Romans 9:6b. But the LORD would have us multiply throughout the whole earth. He would have us reproduce the way the cells of our body reproduce.

The cells spread by splitting and splitting but they are all part of the same body. We see the same principle at work when the LORD split Israel into twelve tribes. We see a principle for the need to divide in Genesis 13:6 “Now the land was not able to support them, that they may dwell together, for their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together.” So Abram decided that it would be better for him and Lot to separate. And in Genesis 139 Abram said to Lot, “Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me.” Did Abram not love Lot? Of course he did (as we’ll see in up ahead).

In Genesis 13:11, as in the old westerns, we see Lot ride off into the sunset. Actually he rode off into the sunrise, but you get the picture! Genesis 13:11, “Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan, and Lot journeyed east. And they separated from each other.” So then, as we begin to hitch up the wagons and get ready to ride off into the sunset ourselves, let me remind you of this: We, the Church, have moved into hostile territory. We are surrounded by painted savages on every side. It’s looking bad for us at the moment – conflict without and conflict within! Sex outside of marriage, violence, drugs are all promoted and glorified in the TV programs of today and is in turn applied (i.e., acted out) in society. The TV shows of the 50s which promoted family-life, integrity are mocked as unrealistic!

Well, what are we to do? - we’re living among an uncivilized people! Well, we obey the Gospel, don’t we? For as the Apostle Peter in 1 Peter 4:17b asks the rhetorical question: “What will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?”  The Church once again, needs to remind herself of the Cultural Mandate! She needs to once again look at the words of the Saviour! The words of Jesus in the Great Commission Matthew 28:18ff: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all things I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen.”

The Canaanites and the Perizzites might still be in the land. But we have a faithful Saviour, One who is still with us! We are more than conquerors! (We’ll see this principle at work in Abram up ahead!)

The message of the Gospel is a life-changing message! The Gospel not only prepares us for heaven. It also brings culture to non-culture! For Christianity is the highest form of culture, but Gospel obedience means conflict – even culture conflict!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Families


Bumper-stickers seem to have given way to 'Family-stickers', whereby decals representing mum, dad and children (including cats and even Daleks!) are pasted to vehicle rear windows. But what constitutes a family? In the philosophy of our own Post-Modernist age family, like everything else, is whatever you want it to be! However, the consistent Christian would begin their definition of family with God, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Therefore, how does the following sound? As three Persons form the 'family' of God so (at least) three persons constitute a human family. Married couples talk about ‘starting a family.’ When pregnant a woman is spoken of as being ‘in the family way.’ These sayings give credence to the definition of a family as consisting of at least three persons, i.e., a husband, a wife and ensuing child/children.

Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus were a family in blood as well as legally. Though God (not Joseph) is Jesus’ real Father, Jesus was formed of the substance of Mary, i.e., He was of her bloodline. Joseph was the legal father of Jesus. Thus, the Biblical definition of 'family' has both blood and legal connotations. The uniqueness of Jesus is that He belongs to the family of God and to the family of humanity. He is the Son of God and He is the Son of Man at the same time forever. As the Son of God He is in covenant with God forever and as the Son of Man He is in covenant with humanity, i.e., His Bride which is His Church.

Marriage is a covenant. O. Palmer Robertson says ‘A covenant is a bond in blood sovereignly administered.’ Ordinarily the marriage covenant is sealed by the husband and the wife on their wedding night. You will see the idea of the ‘bond in blood’ in the following curious verse which speaks of parents who have given their daughter’s hand in marriage to a man who is questioning their daughter’s virginity, ‘Now he has charged her with shameful conduct, saying, “‘I found your daughter was not a virgin,’ and yet these are the evidences of my daughter’s virginity.” And they shall spread the cloth before the elders of the city.’ Deuteronomy 22:17.

Adam and Eve produced a family. ‘Adam had sons and daughters.’ Genesis 5:4b. All humans belong to Adam’s family through blood but also legally. ‘Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.’ Romans 5:18-19. God as Judge declared humanity guilty and facing condemnation because Adam (as mankind’s representative) broke the covenant. We are born into a covenant-breaking family (humanity). God legally condemns us. However, because Christ has shed His (covenant) blood for His bride (the Church) God is able legally to declare us as righteous (i.e., justified). Justification is a legal transaction in God’s court. God causes those justified to be born again, i.e., born into the family of God, which means you have been legally adopted by God and belong to Him. Like Adam’s family, so God’s family has both blood and legal aspects. Christ’s blood is the blood on the cloth, which is the blood of His bride’s virginity. Of which family are you? God’s or Adam’s?     

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Remembrance Day


Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae was the author of that famous poem “In Flanders’ Fields.” It would seem that as a person he had some qualities well-worth emulating.

First off: “The family were Scottish Presbyterians and John McCrae was a man of high principles and strong spiritual values. He has been described as warm and sensitive with a remarkable compassion for both people and animals … John McCrae attended Sunday morning services regularly at St. Paul's Presbyterian Church in MontrĂ©al.”

Secondly: A century ago on 4th August, 1914 war was declared on Germany – 100 years ago this year! Like many brave Australians, the Canadian John McRae deployed to the battlefields in Europe. Just before he departed he wrote to a friend: ‘It is a terrible state of affairs, and I am going because I think every bachelor, especially if he has experience of war, ought to go. I am really rather afraid, but more afraid to stay at home with my conscience.’ (Prescott. In Flanders Fields: The Story of John McCrae, p. 77)”

“The day before he wrote his famous poem, one of McCrae's closest friends was killed in the fighting and buried in a makeshift grave with a simple wooden cross. Wild poppies were already beginning to bloom between the crosses marking the many graves. Unable to help his friend or any of the others who had died, John McCrae gave them a voice through his poem.” http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/history/first-world-war/mccrae

Lieutenant Colonel John McRae would have been very familiar with Psalm 23, the well-known Shepherd’s Psalm.

First, a brief word on accents. As a Scots-Canadian where would have McCrae placed the accent in the following, “The Lord is my shepherd”? Perhaps he might have said, “THE LORD is my shepherd.” Or maybe “The Lord IS my shepherd.” Or “The Lord is MY shepherd”? Or was it “The Lord is my SHEPHERD”? We see then that accenting certain words may help us to better express ourselves!

Second: When McCrae wrote the words, “In Flanders’ Fields the poppies blow between the crosses row on row” he could have had the words of Psalm 23 in mind, “He makes me to lie down in green pastures.” Think about it: Graves in Flanders’ Fields, soldiers lying down in green pastures. Picture it: Red poppies in green fields, Flanders’ Fields. Rest in Peace!

Third: in his second stanza he wrote, “We are the dead … Loved and were loved, and now we lie in Flanders’ Fields.” There’s that picture again, soldiers lying down in green pastures. As McRae looked out over these fields he must have thought of those comforting words of the Shepherd’s Psalm, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”

And fourth and finally: Where he says at the beginning of the third stanza, “Take up our quarrel with the foe” he could have had the following words of Psalm 23 in mind, “
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”

Enemies. Foes. War. Conflict. Quarrel. Death. None of us likes these things, but what are we to do in the face of evil? Lieutenant Colonel McCrae summed it up for most if not all of us where he wrote, “I am really rather afraid, but more afraid to stay at home with my conscience.” Even so, he could say with comfort and confidence, Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”

Why? Because the LORD was his shepherd! How about you? Can you say “The Lord is my shepherd”? And where, as an Aussie, would you place the accent?

Let us remember the fallen, those who lie in Flanders’ Fields as well as those who died in the other wars since then. They fought for the type of peace, justice and freedom we enjoy here in Australia.

(Above image from Internet)

Sunday, November 2, 2014

ABRAHAM: THE WANDERER RETURNS


THE WANDERER RETURNS
“Then Abram went up from Egypt, he and his wife and all that he had, and Lot with him, to the South. Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold. And he went on his journey from the South as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, to the place of the altar which he had made there at first. And there Abram called on the name of the Lord.Genesis 13:1-4
Introduction

Abram already has undergone a real test of faith. God had led Abram to a land which He had promised to give it to Abram’s descendants. But it turned out that there was a severe famine in the Promised Land. What was Abram supposed to do? Instead of trusting in the LORD to provide, Abram planned a holiday in Egypt to get away from it all! We looked at some “snap-shots” of Abram and Sarai’s vacation in Egypt! We looked at Abram’s holiday plan. We looked at the place where he stayed. And like all the well laid plans of mice and men there was a plague on Abram’s holiday. Or rather the plagues were on those with whom Abram and Sarai were staying!

In the following we pick up the story where we left off. Pharaoh, the owner of the “Holiday Resort” was only too happy to see the backs of Abram and Sarai. He was so anxious to see them leave that he “waved their tab” – as they say in Canada. Abram and Sarai had made a killing in Egypt, and Pharaoh had sent them home, letting them keep all their “Casino” winnings.

Now we pick up the “holiday party” as they journey home. They are heading back to the place where they were before they went, which was between Bethel and Ai. They were struggling home with bags full of silver and gold. With the holiday behind them they were keen to get back home and get back into the routine. In the following we’ll have a look at three areas, viz., the Trip, the Trinkets and the Trust. The general gist of what we’ll be looking at is as follows: “If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself” (2 Timothy 2:13).

The Trip

“Then Abram went up from Egypt, he and his wife and all that he had, and Lot with him, to the South” Genesis 13:1. Abram had gone down to Egypt now he’s ascending the hill to the Promised Land. So the “trip” we’re talking about is the trip home and not so much the trip to Egypt. Like the Israelites ascending the steps of the Temple, Abram was returning to the place of worship. Whether he was singing like Moses and Miriam after being delivered out of the hand of Pharaoh we can only guess. But as they made their trip back home they had much to praise God about.

Like any of us on the trip back home from an exciting holiday Abram would have been running everything that happened through his mind. He would be thinking, “I did a lot of stupid things! In fact, the whole idea was stupid! I should have stayed where I was, famine or no famine! Why did I have to run off to Egypt? Why did I put my wife’s honor in jeopardy? Why didn’t I just trust in the LORD to provide and be done with it?”

And isn’t that the way of it for us today? Whenever a Christian backslides he may spend the rest of his life casting it up to himself. He’s never short of help in casting it up his backsliding to himself. The devil and his demons are only too glad to help you do penance for the rest of your life! The “Accuser of the Brethren” is only too happy to hand you a cudgel with which to beat yourself black and blue for your failings. But not the LORD, not our LORD. When we are faithless He remains faithful. Who do you think it is who is leading Abram back to the place he was before? The Good Shepherd, the LORD rescued Abram from his folly. The LORD delivered him.

Do you read here that the LORD starting calling Abram names, casting things up to him?  Did the LORD say to Abram, “You stupid idiot! Why didn’t you listen to Me?” No, that’s not the LORD who’s accusing you of your past backsliding. It was Pharaoh and his house who were plagued by God, not Abram and his house.

Oh yeah, it’s wrong to backslide. What Abram did was wrong, but the LORD went down into Egypt to rescue Abram from his backsliding, not to destroy him. Abram had turned his back on his sin and he was back on the wagon. After this brief interlude he was wanting to get back to the LORD. So you do likewise. Turn your back on your backsliding and seek the LORD. He’s not going to clobber you. He’s going to bless you. However, this is not to say that there will be no consequences for your past indiscretions. The repentant drunkard might have done irreparable damage to his liver. The repentant promiscuous homosexual might yet develop AIDS after rejecting that lifestyle.

One of the slaves Abram picked up in Egypt was a woman by the name of Hagar. Hagar and her descendants were to become the bane of Israel’s life. The cattle Abram picked up from Egypt were about to cause friction between he and his nephew Lot. If you belong to the LORD and you wander away from Him He will bring you back. But chances are that you won’t be rescued unscathed. However, put it behind you and get on with serving the LORD. For if you are truly repentant then the LORD has fully forgiven you.

To those who truly belong to the LORD, as does Abram, “There is therefore now no condemnation” Romans 8:1. The LORD has His everlasting arms around even the most “Kamikaze” of Christians. The LORD won’t allow you to jump out of the frying pan and into the fire. He has you by the scruff of your neck with a love that will not let you go. The Psalmist says, “My eyes are ever toward the LORD, for He shall pluck my feet out of the net” Psalm 25:15. Whether the LORD’s got you by the scruff of the neck or by the ankles the point is that He’s got you. Always remember that it’s the “fatted calf” our Father wants to kill when the wanderer returns and not the wanderer.

Abram may have deserted the LORD by going down to Egypt, but the LORD hadn’t deserted Abram. So then Abram and his family were making the trip home to where they had been before.

The Trinkets

The LORD didn’t meet Abram like a Customs Officer at the border of the Promised Land and ask “Anything to declare?” We’re told in Genesis 13:2 that “Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold.” Abram got to take all his winnings, all his holiday trinkets with him into the Promised Land.

Now, then, what does this picture say to those who say, “You can’t take your riches with you when you die”? Here’s God letting Abram into the Promised Land with all his earthly belongings. Abram was a very rich man! The LORD says elsewhere, “How HARD it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! For it easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” Luke 18:24-25. Yet the Customs Officers didn’t confiscate everything Abram had. He got to keep everything he had won at Pharaoh’s Casino. Jesus says it is HARD for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God but not impossible! He says, “The things that are impossible with men are possible with God” Luke 18:27.

Why is it that our picture of a missionary is some white bloke sitting in a mud hut overseas? If I was to ask to be sent to Beverley Hills why would no one take me seriously? Poor people may be more open to a Saviour but don’t the rich need a Saviour too? Is it more “righteous” to be poor and less “righteous” to be rich? Both the rich man Abram and the poor man Lazarus died and went to heaven! Whether you’re rich or poor is neither here nor there. The kingdom of God is not about food or drink. It’s got nothing to do with how rich or how poor you are. And yet we have this mind-set that sees poverty almost as a sign of righteousness or piety. Jesus stopped the rich young ruler at the border of the kingdom of heaven. He wouldn’t let him into His kingdom, the Promised Land with all his riches, Why not? It wasn’t because the LORD had anything against riches. It was because the rich young ruler had put his trust in all his riches, in trinkets! However, for some reason nowadays Christians in general seem to be ashamed of riches! But think of the work that could be done if the church was full of rich Christians. Think of the work the church could do if we had one millionaire in the congregation who tithed! It’s the love of money that is the root of all evil not money itself!

I was a member of a congregation that donated a small sum to a financially struggling congregation out west in a small town somewhere. Well, it turned out that one of the members of that congregation upon realizing the church’s financial struggle followed our example and anonymously donated $10,000! The church I was attending had in this set a good example for others to follow. And, praise be to God that there are still some around today who follow a GOOD example.

The Church is supposed to be the light on the hill with words and with deeds. The Roman Church is the richest in the world yet her people are some of the poorest! There’s nothing wrong in having a nice church building to worship in, even a beautiful one! One has only to look at the temple Solomon built. Its designer was God! But to bleed your people dry to build and maintain beautiful cathedrals while your people go hungry spiritually and physically is criminal. But it’s just as criminal to hold back whatever wealth you have from the work of the LORD. For everything we own belongs to the LORD. It is given us by the LORD. It is His! The LORD can just as easily take all our trinkets, all our riches back again.

Listen to what the LORD says in the first chapter of Haggai, i.e., Haggai 1:7ff, “Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Consider your ways! Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified,’ says the LORD. You looked for much, but indeed it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? says the LORD of hosts. ‘Because of My house that is in ruins, while every one of you runs to his own house. Therefore the heavens above you withhold the dew, and the earth withholds its fruit. For I called for a drought on the land and the mountains, on the grain and the new wine and the oil, on whatever the ground brings forth, on men and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands.”

So the moral of the tale is this: Use whatever wealth you have for the building of the LORD’s Church throughout the earth. We’re not necessarily talking about buildings. We all know that Christians can worship anywhere. But let me just pause here and pose a question: When you drive through center of any western city, when you look at the sky-line, are you able to pick out church buildings from the others? Are you able to tell the difference between a church building and a bank building, for instance? The church is the one with the steeple, the arched windows, isn’t it? Well, I put it to you that as the church become more and more like the world, so do our buildings! And how many church buildings have you driven by only to find that it’s been converted into a theatre or something? The world wants to change our church buildings into theatres. A theatre is a place of entertainment! At the theatre you’re entertained by people acting as if they are something when they’re not! You could be excused nowadays for thinking you were walking into a church when you were actually walking into an entertainment theatre!

So the world wants to change our churches into entertainment centers! And I’m sure you are aware that many churches are quite happy about this. If they’re not happy then why is there so much puppets, mime and drama in the churches nowadays? And by the same token, why is it that some congregations go to great lengths nowadays to build buildings that look more like pan-cake houses than churches? We were in an old Methodist Church building in Brisbane City which is now a pan-cake house! Inside they now hand you a menu instead of a hymn book and a Bible! There were photos on the walls from its glory days when it was packed with people feeding on something more substantial than flap-jacks!

The Christian Church today has adopted a strange philosophy, the belief that the church must become like the world in order to attract the world. But you as a Christian should stick out like a sore thumb. Therefore the building you worship in should stick out like a sore thumb. What’s wrong with a majestic steeple pointing heavenward? However, nowadays you’re never sure whether you’re going to get served pancake or the Word of God! But more often than not you’ll be served something other than God’s Word. Don’t be deceived: some of the churches in this town are really pan-cake houses! The world and the things of the world have infiltrated the churches. And the churches reflect the world and the things of the world. And now instead of building church buildings we build multipurpose buildings. Apparently it increases the resale value of the building for the future.

The Church today needs to learn anew what the LORD was teaching Abraham And here it is: All the riches of the world, all their buildings and all their cities belong to God. And if it pleases God to give us silver and gold then He gives us them. If it pleases God to give us a whole cities then He gives us whole cities. If it pleases God to give us the whole earth then he gives us the whole earth. But you and I won’t see a brass razoo of it unless we trust in the LORD. Unless we trust in the LORD with all our heart, soul, strength, might, and mind the little you have will be taken from you and given to those who do trust the LORD. That’s what the LORD is teaching Abram, i.e., to trust in Him and Him alone, and not to trust in the world or the things of the world, the things of Egypt.

Like Abram, we need to take our eyes of the things of the world and trust in the things of God.

The Trust

If this were a game of monopoly Abram is no longer in jail. However, he’s back at the beginning collecting more than 200. He landed on Chance and bankrupted himself. He had to pay the owner of the Promised Land everything he had in a famine. He went down to Egypt to try to bale himself out of his debt. But actually Egypt turned out to be the jail, i.e., the place where people go when they cannot pay their debts. But Abraham had a Community Chest card up his sleeve. He had a “Get Out Of Jail Free Card”, didn’t he? So here we are seeing him use that card. “Abram called on the name of the LORD.”

Abraham went back to that little sanctuary he had built. He returned from his spin around the Monopoly Board and landed on Church Street. Did all the buildings look the same on Church Street? Let’s see, there are the Amorites with their Baals and Ashteroths. There they are over here cutting themselves and calling on Baal. There’s another lot over there throwing their children into the fiery belly of their god Moloch. All these establishments of the Canaanites dotted the skyline of the Promised Land. BUT THAT WHICH ABRAM HAD BUILT WAS DIFFERENT! Abram had built an altar there, an altar to the LORD who had appeared to him. Right there smack-dab right in the center of pagansville he had built a church building, building different to all the rest. He had built an altar, not to an unknown God, but the LORD who had appeared to him, the LORD who had promised to bless him, the LORD who had promised to make him a great nation, the LORD who had promised to bless those who blessed Abram and curse him who cursed him. So, when it says that Abram called on the name of the LORD, it means that Abram began to worship God once more.

The prodigal has returned, this prodigal has much more than smelly clothes on his back. This is the wild rover has come home with gold in great store! The wanderer returns! Think about it, Abram had already lost whatever he had in a famine the LORD sent. But now he’s returning with gold in great store and a heart that is ready and willing to use his riches to the glory of God! He knew that everything he had belonged to the LORD. Like Paul he had learned that “in whatever state, to be content; [to] know how to be abased, and... how to live in prosperity... [Like Paul Abram] learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need” Philippians 4:11-12.

Abram could say along with Job, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” Job 1:21. The LORD took Abram’s riches away in a famine. But now he has blessed him with even greater riches. Like Job whom God blessed him with more at the end than he ever had at the beginning Job 42:12. In fact Abram is the richest man there is apart from Christ! For Paul to the Romans in 4:13 tells us that Abram is the heir of the whole world!

So, who says you don’t get to take your riches with you? Abraham and all the meek along with him shall inherit the earth Matthew 5:5. Therefore, all the silver and gold and livestock that Abram had when he left Egypt is just a small token of what’s in store for him. In fact, Abram coming out of Egypt, the world with all his riches as he entered the Promised Land is a great biblical motif. It is a picture of the wonderful provision of God for His people. He brings us up out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage and He bestows great blessings upon us.

When we set our hearts to worship Him in spirit and in truth He sets His heart to bless us. It is the LORD who brought Abram up out of the land of Egypt out of the house of bondage. It is the LORD who brings us out of that land of bondage too. It was the LORD who brought Israel out of captivity in Egypt, the LORD who says to Israel in Deut. 6:10ff., “And it shall be, when the LORD your God brings you into the land of which He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give you large and beautiful cities which you did not build, houses full of good things, which you did not fill, hewn-out wells which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant – when you have eaten and are full – then beware, lest you         forget the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage” Deuteronomy 6:10-12.

The LORD had given His Church all the great cities of the Western Civilization. They were ours and all the steeples on every skyline were testimony to this fact. However, the Western skyline is rapidly changing. It’s beginning to look more and more like Egypt! Instead of steeples we see Moslem onions, domes dot the horizon! The Church has forgotten the LORD who brought them out of Egypt. It’s time we made the trip back to that place we were before. It’s time we gathered our trinkets together in our swag and headed back to the Promised Land. It’s time we began to trust in God, to really call on the name of the LORD. It’s time for the wanderer, all the wanderers to return and call on the name of the LORD!

If you’re still stuck down in Egypt, if you have been faithless, then follow father Abraham up the hill back to the Promised Land. You might have been faithless up till now but God hasn’t. The Lord is faithful and he will forgive the wanderer. Even if you’ve been the WILDEST wild-rover return to the LORD. If you belong to Him He will not deny you because He cannot and will not deny Himself.
Come, come back to Abraham’s family altar and once more call on the name of the LORD. Make the trip. Bring your trinkets. BUT trust in the LORD!