søndag 23. februar 2014

Genesis 15 Faithful God

Genesis 15....
This week, we will look at God speaking to this man, Abram, and he’ll be left with a decision and that is whether or not he can trust God.
This is the question for us all.
Beginning in Genesis 15:1. “After this” – and what he’s referring to here is in Chapter 14, Which Dan shared with us last week.
Abram went off and fought a great battle to release his not so intelligent nephew, Lot. And what Lot was doing there I don’t know...
He also met Melchizedek, who was priest and king of Jerusalem.  So after this great battle and meeting this great man, ( download the message)
This is where we pick up the story, where God is again speaking to Abram. And when God speaks it means He has something to say.
(Tiger and canary)
 vs 1 “the word of the Lord came to Abram” –
I want say this about God. God is free to reveal himself and communicate in any way that he determines is most effective, beneficial –  it is his right.
God can speak to us, the Bible says, through creation. Psalms,
through what he has made.
God can speak to us (Romans 2 says) through our conscience.
God can speak to us, obviously, through his Word.
God can speak through an angel.
God can speak through circumstances.
God could speak through a dream. He does that with Joseph at the end of the book of Genesis.
And here, God’s going to reveal himself through a vision.
God will speak in any way that he desires to people that he wants to reach.
Maybe we could ask God to speak to and .....
Surprise Ebenezer in jail in Eretria to meet his needs....
God will surprise Ta ha...
Know anyone else? Shout out their name.....
I personally never had a vision or a dream.
And these things happen today.
I was reading that in some closed countries under different religious rule where Christian missionaries are not allowed to go.
Now there are reports of Muslims coming in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ because they will go to bed and have a dream, and in that dream, they will die and they will stand before the Lord Jesus Christ to give an account for their life.
And they wake up and realize that Jesus is real and they become Christians. Why? Because God know where people are at and He can surprise them knowing....
He gets their attention....
So God breaks through in a vision and here’s what he says. Abram....He . “Don’t be afraid,” 
The shepherds we hear about at Christmas Don’t be afraid!!!!
Mary at the tomb Don’t be afraid....!
 “Abram....Don’t be afraid.” “OK I’ll try not to be...”
But doesn’t the Bible tells us to just fear the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. (1 Sam 12:24) and he does....But its not be scared of the Lord...
C. S. Lewis describes; Numinous" taken from the Latin. It is a fear as to filled with awe, in which you "feel wonder and a certain shrinking" or "a sense of inadequacy to cope with such a visitation". It is a fear that comes forth out of love for the Lord.
I'm full of fear of hurting her. "Filial fear" (the fear of offending someone whom one loves).
But of course get a visitation from God or and angel and there is bound to be a surprise...imagine Mary in the kitchen and suddenly and Angel!!!  Fear Not Mary!!!...You Scared the life out of me!!!
Now, Abram at this point is an old man.... in his 90s.
Starting to become  Anxious about his time left on this earth.
And so, what God is saying here is this: “Abram, pay attention to me. Don’t be afraid of what’s happening in your life and circumstances.
I have a plan for you. If you trust me, everything’s gonna be just fine. There’s nothing to worry about.”
And then he gives two beautiful images about himself.
First, “I am your shield,” and second, “I am your very great reward.”
Two beautiful images...Dan last week told us of the battle he had just fought and won.
Already proved that he is a shield Because Abram with his 318 men went up against this huge war machine.
Abram, you know why you won that war....Because its all about me not you!!!! Because I’m your shield.. I protected you. I defended you. I gave you a victory.”
And this picture of God being our shield is continued through scripture.
Ephesians 6 in the New Testament where it tells us that as God’s people we are in a war. It’s not just against people but against powers, domains, and spirits.
I'm a labourer, teacher mechanic, student...what do we know about the spirit world. Principalities and powers--But He does.
What this means is we, as a little church, are up against a real enemy that’s spiritual.....Jesus believes and encountered a literal Satan.
With real demons. With Real spiritual attacks.  This is a real enemy who really wants to do us harm.
He doesn’t want us to love each other. He wants us to be bitter, angry, unforgiving, mean-spirited, and divided.
Recognize some so called Christians you know?
He doesn’t want us to be devoted to the Lord Jesus he wants us to be lazy.
He doesn’t want Christian marriages last. He doesn’t want the children to be raised in loving Christian homes.
Satan doesn’t like you !!!! So what do we do? 
As one of my friends used to say; get under the spout where the glory runs out....we hang out under the shield.  God is our protector. He’s our defender.
And he says, “Abram, I’m your shield. I know everything about you now ......
It’s like Hebrews 12:2 says. Fix your eyes on me trust me...
Stay under my protective covering.
Hang out with me.. Let’s have this ongoing relationship. Let yourself be mentored, be disciples so you can grow in knowledge of me and tell people of what you know about me... I’ll will fight for you I will protect you.”
Abram had just won a war in Genesis 14. He had all the spoils of victory he could’ve taken for himself, a large fortune, made himself very wealthy. Did he take any of his money?
And God is reminding him that HE is his very great reward.
Job 22:21-27 Read .....Is the Lord you r gold and silver...
Chapter 12.....God said Leave your country....
Chapter13. So Abram left...
But now in 15: He hesitates! he is feeling worried.
This man of faith is struggling...
vs 2. BUT BUT BUT.....
He’s confused, and the question is whether he can trust God!
God takes him outside and looks toward heaven...your descendants will be as many as the stars...
do you know what Abrams doing..?
He is looking back toward a wife who is following him in Zimmer frame...Im really old now....God I think you got it wrong!!!
He is stressed with the largeness of the promise and he says to himself...IMPOSSIBLE...
Luke 18:27          Listen to the words of Jesus...
Amplified Bible (AMP)
27 But He said, What is impossible with men is possible with God.
 But there are times when you read the Word of God, you read the promises of God, “I’ll forgive all your sins. I’ll never leave you. I’ll never forsake you. I will bless you. I will protect you. I will do you good, not harm.
I will work out all things for the good of those who love me and are called according to my purpose.” You read all those promises ...but then you look at your life and you say, “God, I just don’t see it. God,
You like Abraham have left your land...but life at times tough in this freezing land of Norway!!
Ab says you’ll never leave me, but I feel alone.
You say that  you’ll work everything out, but it just seems like it’s not coming together....the language is difficult, I cant find a job at all.
I don’t have all my culture and family or even the food I'm used to .
God, I don’t understand.”
This is the place that Abram finds himself in.
God is right there with him and he is saying BUT BUT!!!
HOLD ON!!! IS He is doubting God to His face?
YES...DOUBT IS NOT unbelief...
But doubt and unbelief are two different things....
Faith is big enough for doubt. Doubt can be positive.
Its what we do with or doubt that matters...Im your shield your reward......therefore we take the Doubt to GOD JUST LIKE ABRAM.
Take the BUTS to Lord I'm struggling, I don’t understand, I don’t see it, I don’t taste it I'm frustrated with all that is going on or not going on. Help me understand it?
Doubt is absolutely part of faith and growth.
Unbelief is when you walk away and say, and we turn our back on God and basically say that God is a lying.
Where does he take his doubt, He takes it to God.
 “O Sovereign Lord,” – what he can see is that it is not all abut him and tired little body Its about Sovereign Lord!!!!
So many people treat God as like a free Amazon.
By pushing the buy now button we can push God into doing it my way in my time.  
Ab has tried that! When he and Sahrah decided to help God out with His promise...
And Hagar (servant) gave Abraham a son: and Abram called his son's name, Ishmael.
For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son is his old age .... And Abraham called him Isaac.
Here’s the problem. Jack Garratt is not Sovereign.
I don’t have a throne, I’m not the king of kings, lord of lords,.
Faith is knowing who the Sovereign Lord.....is.
This is not a guy who’s turned his back on God. This is a man who wants to know God more deeply and fully.
He’s in a hard place, but his heart is in the right place of wanting to push into God so that he might move forward in a right relationship.  The depth he now goes into God is the depth he can go into this great reward of people and land.

søndag 16. februar 2014

Genesis 14 Amazing Grace

Genesis 14

What is a Christian? Is it someone who goes to church on Sunday, pays their tithe, and is generally a nice person? Or is it someone who causes riots wherever they go, gets thrown into jail. I mean, the apostles fall into the second description! And perhaps we need a few more of those types of Christians, riot-causing-for-the-sake-of-the-gospel-Christians in this country.

But neither of those descriptions are correct. Because what makes a Christian is not what we do, or even what we are – what makes a Christian is God. If his favour rests upon you, you are a Christian, you belong to him, you are His. No matter what.

This was Abram’s experience. He was called by God. His favour rested upon Abram. His promise was given him. Nothing could shake that promise – not even Abram’s own sin! And you too, if you are called by the Lord Jesus – you belong to Him, His favour rests upon you, and nothing can shake His promise “you will always be with me where I am”.

So let’s dive in to this chapter where we see that Abram is undefeatable, those with him are blessed, Abram is Lot’s saviour – and Abram is a mere shadow of the great high priestly King of Jerusalem who is still to come.
1. God keeps his promises
2. A mysterious blessing
3. The Priest-King of God Most High

1. God keeps his promises

8 Then the rebel kings of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Bela (also called Zoar) prepared for battle in the valley of the Dead Sea. 9 They fought against King Kedorlaomer of Elam, King Tidal of Goiim, King Amraphel of Babylonia, and King Arioch of Ellasar—four kings against five. 10 As it happened, the valley of the Dead Sea was filled with tar pits. And as the army of the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some fell into the tar pits, while the rest escaped into the mountains. 11 The victorious invaders then plundered Sodom and Gomorrah and headed for home, taking with them all the spoils of war and the food supplies. 12 They also captured Lot—Abram’s nephew who lived in Sodom—and carried off everything he owned.

Oh Lot. You threw your lot in with the wrong crowd! He cut himself off from Abram, who has now become the centre of God’s blessing on earth – and he faces the consequences. His eye for the “easy life”, seeing the well-watered land, and ignoring the fact that 13:13 the people of this area were extremely wicked and constantly sinned against the LORD. – well, Lot pays the penalty for his decision. War ravages the land, and he is carried off as prisoner.

Now I’ve been conditioned to thinking of Lot as righteous. You know, from the Sodom story a bit later “Oh Lord, if you find 50, 20, 10 righteous men”… But in reading carefully through this story - Lot is never presented as righteous. In fact, his story is the opposite –an unrighteous man, who keeps being rescued by God’s man on the ground: Abram. When I first read this story when I was planning the preaching program, I thought this story was about the fact that bad things happen even to good people – you know, the good man Lot was just living there, minding his own business, when war came and swept up everyone – the good and the bad – kind of like what has happened to some of you in your countries. Or just the general sufferings of life that sweep over us. As Christians we are not immune – after all, we will all one day die! But God has promised that he will be with us through the ups and downs, and Christ will meet us on the other side of death, clothe us in his robes of righteousness, and say “it’s alright, he’s with me”.
If I’d been reading my thoughts into the passage, that’s what I would have preached on – that’s what I’d planned to preach. But this passage is not about that. And my job is to lay GOD’S thoughts before you, not my own (or what I think God ought to be thinking at this point). So, after working on last week’s text I realised my initial ideas in reading this week’s passage was wrong.

The theme here continues from chapter 13 of the promise of God to Abram of land, people, blessing. He is the bearer of God’s promise. God’s promise is centred on him. So when Lot separates from Abram, he separates from the land, he separates from the blessing – and ultimately separates from the people, as he gives rise to the Amonnites and Moabites, a thorn in Israel’s side in the future, and enemies of God.

So the author carefully places this story here, directly after chapter 13, to highlight what happens when you separate from the blessing of God: destruction, slavery, destitution.

Now, by rights, that should have been the end of Lot. But because Lot is Abram’s nephew, he is not forgotten: immediately Abram rises up and gathering 318 men sets off after the enemy army.

Now we need to set the scene a little bit here. This army is an alliance of four kingdoms. It is huge. It has just swept through the whole area, from the east, down the whole side of the Jordan valley, down south near to Egypt, then up to Sodom and Gomorrah – absolutely destroying anything and anyone standing their way. An army of FIVE kings – that of Sodom etc, was soundly beaten– as v10 As it happened, the valley of the Dead Sea was filled with tar pits. And as the army of the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some fell into the tar pits, while the rest escaped into the mountains. Fleeing for their lives, falling into the tar pits. Getting stuck, getting shot by arrows – absolute mayhem and destruction. Kedorlaomer’s army was a victorious war machine.

And here comes Abram with around 300 guys. Not professional soldiers, although they’d had a bit of training. This was no standing army – these were farmers, hunters, tanners, ordinary guys. And off they go in pursuit of this mighty army. Like boys with sticks against tanks.

But there is one more thing they have. They have verse 3 of chapter 12. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt.
Abram carries with him the blessing of God. And my word what a turnaround from the failures of the previous chapter! In bold faith Abram rushes out, secure in the Promise of God to bless him and keep him safe.

Think what this would have meant for the people of Israel at the time this was written. As they stood on the outskirts of the Promised Land, looking at the mighty city of Jericho, worried about all the powerful tribes and people-groups living there – mighty armies. Don’t lose heart – you may be small, but God is strong. You are one nation vs many – but Abram was one man vs four kingdoms.
You might be like boys with sticks against tanks - but God keeps his promises. Your God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He keeps his promises.

14 [Abram] pursued Kedorlaomer’s army until he caught up with them at Dan. 15 There he divided his men and attacked during the night. Kedorlaomer’s army fled, but Abram chased them as far as Hobah, north of Damascus. 16 Abram recovered all the goods that had been taken, and he brought back his nephew Lot with his possessions and all the women and other captives.

A great victory. God keeps his promises.

What promises does he keep for us? Should we pick up the sword and rush out and attack… Sweden? Well our Man of Promise is Jesus. Our land is Heaven. Our people is the church (not the buildings, not denominations, but the body of Christ, true Christians all over the world, throughout time and history – our brothers and sisters, saved by grace). And the blessing of the Holy Spirit, and the gospel of grace.

When we speak the gospel, people get saved, people grow. Trust his word. We don’t need anything else. The gospel may seem like a stick against the tanks of people’s beliefs – but it is the power of GOD for salvation for all who believe.
Keep telling people about the gospel of grace: our Lord Jesus, who gave up his divine majesty in order to take our place, and deal with our sin once for all, so that we can be free, and know him forever. We can know almighty God, and live as his beloved children.

It is a message that has changed the world, is changing the world, will change the world. It is the most powerful message in the history of mankind. Because it is God’s message, a message of miraculous rescue. Trust his promises. Because God keeps his promises.

2. A mysterious blessing

So, Abram comes back victorious, meets the king of Sodom, and the strange figure of Melchizedek (who we’ll talk about in a moment). Sodom tries to give Abram his riches – like Satan, offering Abram what he already has been given by God – Abram refuses, and instead gives a tithe to Melchizedek symbolising “all I have comes from God. My riches are provided by him. All I have belongs to Him.” But he does, in verse 24, ask that his allies be blessed 24 I will accept only what my young warriors have already eaten, and I request that you give a fair share of the goods to my allies—Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre.

This picks up the theme that those who are connected to Abram are blessed. Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre receive the spoils of war (and a great victory). Lot is rescued from slavery.
And those who are against Abram, are cursed. Kedorlaomer faces Abram in war and suffers a huge defeat. Last week we saw Pharaoh suffer God’s anger because of the way he treated Sarai, Abram’s wife. It is the fulfilment of what God promised Abram in 12:3 I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt.

In one sense, how they treat Abram is how they treat God. I (God) will bless those who bless you (Abram) and curse those who treat you (Abram) with contempt. Not I (God) will bless those who bless me (God). Or I will bless you (Abram) when you do the right thing. No. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. It seems to me that the way that people treat Abram, God sees that as the way they treat Him. Weird, isn’t it?

Or is it?

Israel – those who fought against Israel were destroyed or punished. Those who sought shelter in Israel, like Rahab, like Ruth, were blessed.

Abram is God’s representative on earth. How people treat him is how they treat God. Israel was God’s people: how people treated them was how they treated God.

Why? Because it foreshadows Jesus. Jesus is God’s perfect representative on earth. As he says to Philip “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father” (John 14:9). Or in Col 1:15 Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.

Abram and Israel were playing the role of Jesus in this great act of God to reveal to us his glory, reveal to us who He is and how great He is. Their role was to tell us about Jesus. “All of scripture is about me” Jesus said. If we are with Jesus, we are blessed - against Jesus and we are cursed; just like Abram.

The way we treat Jesus, is the way we treat God. They are the same. There is no way to know God outside of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, the Son of God. Because to try to do that – to ignore Jesus – is to treat him with contempt. And those who treat him with contempt will be, as 12:3 says “cursed”.

There’s another little indication of this in verse 3 of chapter 12: when God says All the families on earth will be blessed through you – the wording is actually “in you” all families will be blessed. Through Abram the blessing flows. In him the blessing is found. Because his descendant is Jesus. And to be in Christ, in Jesus, is to be blessed.

And that brings it to us. Because we are in Christ. We are all the families of the earth (many nations) blessed. And his favour rests upon us, like it rested upon Abram.

Now I had a problem when preparing this: how far do I apply this point? It’s risky, you see, because of the danger of triumphalism – God on our side, etc. Can lead to arrogance (like in Israel where they thought that they could do whatever they wanted because God was on their side. Like a pet dog).
But, there is also great comfort in this. We don’t have to fight our battles – the battle is the Lord’s. We don’t have to take revenge – God will deal with that. He takes it personally. Attacks on his children – he takes personally. Those who bless us will be blessed. Those who treat us with contempt will be cursed. This isn’t “ha-haaa. You will be judged by God you HEATHEN!!” But the conflicted and vengeful heart being quieted knowing that God, in his perfection, will deal with people rightly. Some will be completely turned – like Saul who became Paul, the great apostle.
Isn’t it comforting? We are under his protection. We belong to him. Those who bless us will be blessed; those who oppose us are not opposing us but ultimately God himself! And we can leave it in God’s hands.

It is a mysterious blessing. Which finds its fulfilment in Christ. And we too are blessed, knowing that his favour rests upon us – and that is, by his mercy, unshakeable.

So don’t be afraid for he is with you. He is with us.

You know, when my son Kaleb and I are together he is totally unafraid. “I’m with Dad. I’m safe. His favour rests upon me.” Kaleb knows I will protect him. If people treat him badly, I will stick up for him. He knows that if things get out of his control, he can simply hand over to me, and I will sort it out. Kaleb is happy with his Dad.

Our Heavenly Father is with us. What a mysterious, glorious blessing!

Let’s end by fixing our eyes on Jesus.

3. The Priest-King of God Most High

18 And Melchizedek, the king of Salem and a priest of God Most High, brought Abram some bread and wine. 19 Melchizedek blessed Abram with this blessing: “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. 20 And blessed be God Most High, who has defeated your enemies for you.” Then Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth of all the goods he had recovered.

This fellow Melchizedek is a weird one isn’t he? Totally unannounced, he arrives on the scene, blesses Abram, receives a tithe from him, is described as a king and a priest of God Most High...and is never seen again. He simply appears, does his thing, and vanishes, almost like an angel, some eternal creature. In Hebrews chapter 7 the writer there picks up on this: in v 2-4 he says The name Melchizedek means “king of justice,” and king of Salem means “king of peace.” 3 There is no record of his father or mother or any of his ancestors—no beginning or end to his life. He remains a priest forever, resembling the Son of God. 4 Consider then how great this Melchizedek was. Even Abraham, the great patriarch of Israel, recognized this by giving him a tenth of what he had taken in battle.

See, this book (Genesis) was written during the time of the priests. Only those from the tribe of Levi could be priests or even serve in the Temple (Jesus was of the tribe of Judah). But here we see that there is another type of priest. A priest who is also a king. A priest without beginning or end. A priest who is greater than Abraham.

In Psalm 110 Melchizedek is referred to again – only the second time in the Old Testament. Psalm 110 begins A psalm of David. 1 The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit in the place of honour at my right hand until I humble your enemies, making them a footstool under your feet. And in verse 4 The LORD has taken an oath and will not break his vow: “You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.”

The Lord (Yahweh) says to King David’s Lord – but that’s God. So God says to God You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek. Jesus is that type of priest. Not a Levitical priest (from the tribe of Levi) serving in the Temple – but greater than the priest of Israel, greater than the Temple.

And more than that: this Psalm was sung to the king sitting on the throne of Jerusalem. Melchizedek was the King of Salem, later called Jerusalem. David’s throne, in Jerusalem, is the throne of Melchizedek, the great priest-king. And David’s great-great-great-etc grandson is: Jesus. Jesus, the King of Jerusalem, the priest of the Most High God, the king of justice and the king of peace, displaying his justice and peace as he hangs on the cross to satisfy the demands of justice in order to offer peace to all who come to him.

Melchizedek points directly to the Lord Jesus: the King who is our great high priest, greater than Abram, the one who can bring us before God.

In Christ, God keeps his promises.

In Christ, we have this mysterious blessing: God’s favour rests upon us.

In Christ, we have this great High Priest, this Everlasting King, greater than Abraham: the king of justice and peace. Like Abram, let us come to our King, and acknowledge that we belong to him.

søndag 9. februar 2014

Genesis 12:8-13:18 Abram’s unrighteousness and God’s mercy

Genesis 12:8-13:18

If you are a Christian you’ve probably experienced this: a moment of great deep spiritual experience – a time when you feel so close to God. He is with you and you are his. Maybe it was some great act of service. Or a moment where your changed character shone through – you acted holy! Or just an amazing experience at church or out in nature or just in your bedroom reading the Bible. Whatever it is – you’ve had this fantastic experience – only to be followed by some massive sin. And you think: can God really still love me? I’ve just had this amazing experience and then I go and do THAT or say THAT or think THAT and trash it all. I’ve really messed it up this time.
Ever had that experience?

Well, you’re not alone – Abram had exactly that experience in today’s story. The heights of being called by God, given an everlasting promise – followed by the lows of immediately disbelieving that promise, lying about your wife to protect your own skin, and then almost giving away the land God had promised you. Oops.

Today we’re going to follow two stories that teach us about Abram, about Lot – an ultimately a lot about God. Abram is unrighteous, Lot is a fool – and God will judge the wicked and God will save his people.

First, the journey to Egypt, which I have called:

1. Faithless Abram, faithful God

V10-13 At that time a severe famine struck the land of Canaan, forcing Abram to go down to Egypt, where he lived as a foreigner. 11 As he was approaching the border of Egypt, Abram said to his wife, Sarai, “Look, you are a very beautiful woman. 12 When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife. Let’s kill him; then we can have her!’ 13 So please tell them you are my sister. Then they will spare my life and treat me well because of their interest in you.”

Last week we looked at the great promise God gave to Abram, this promise which will dominate the Bible until the coming of Jesus who fulfils this promise. God promised Abram 3 things: have a look at v1-3 of chapter 12. V1: 1 go to the land that I will show you. He is promised LAND, the land of Canaan; v2 I will make you into a great nation. PEOPLE, that from Abram would come a great nation; and v3 3 I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you. BLESSING, he would be protected by God, and ultimately the whole world would be blessed through his descendant (Jesus, if you weren’t here last week!).

So why was Abram so afraid?! He’s terrified, so terrified he makes a plan to lie to protect himself. And, what a hero, doesn’t seem to care too much about his wife – what could happen to her if she’s passed off as his sister and therefore able to be married! What would have happened to her if God had not intervened, sending plagues on the house of Pharaoh? Our “hero” Abram didn’t seem to care – as long as he was safe!

It’s worth pointing out just at this moment that we must never, never fall into the trap of believing that God chooses people because they are “better” than other people. The holy heroes of old are often very, very unholy people. They are ordinary – Abram’s response to danger is perfectly human isn’t it? Do whatever you can to protect yourself.

He seems to have forgotten God’s promise to him, doesn’t he? It is ironic: “the man of faith” acting without faith, acting as if God’s Promise doesn’t exist.

We might be being a bit harsh with Abram, though. He doesn’t know God like we do. In his culture, like many cultures today, gods belonged to different nations or different areas. Remember how the story started: Abram being forced away from “God’s” land, and into the land of Egypt. v10 At that time a severe famine struck the land of Canaan, forcing Abram to go down to Egypt, where he lived as a foreigner.
He probably thought that he was now out of God’s zone, and so had to fend for himself.
How wrong he was! Despite Abram’s faithlessness, God is faithful to his promise to bless and protect Abram.
17 But the LORD sent terrible plagues upon Pharaoh and his household because of Sarai, Abram’s wife…20 Pharaoh ordered some of his men to escort them, and he sent Abram out of the country, along with his wife and all his possessions.

This rescue showed Abram very clearly that God, his God Yahweh, is not limited by geography. He is not limited by the power of other gods – like the great gods of Egypt, the sun-god Ra and the god Osiris. His power is supreme, His word is law.

Our God is the God of the whole universe. All of time and space is his to command. How terrible for those who face his judgement! How blessed are those on whom his favour rests!

In this story, Abram nearly wrecked the Promise God gave him, didn’t he? He let his wife be taken by Pharaoh. He acted faithlessly. He sinned against Pharaoh – Pharaoh and his household suffered because of Abram’s lies. And Abram had sinned against God.

But God is faithful. His mercy is everlasting. No matter what Abram does, God will bless him. Why? Because God has said he will do this.

What about you? How often do you think “I failed. I’ve sinned. I’m far away from God. I don’t deserve his blessing”? Often, if you’re anything like me. And this is the point: we DON’T deserve God’s blessing. We never have. But he has CHOSEN to shower us with his blessing, to commit himself to us, to bless us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms – to show his great mercy and compassion. We are his trophies of grace – and nothing – not even you – not even your sin – not even your wilful, decided, “I’m going to do this trrrrbt to you God” sin, not even that can change who we are in God’s sight. He has seen all we will do, and has forgiven us, bearing our burden of sin on the cross.

If there’s one thing to learn from today’s passage it is this: that God is faithful even in the face of unfaithfulness. Just like with the people of Israel in the desert, and time and time again in the land – and just like with us. We are faithless, weak – he is faithful, strong. God keeps his promises. We may stumble and fall, but he will carry us safely to the Heavenly city. Why? Not because of us, but because in his great mercy he has called us his children. Like Abram, we are often not the best, or the most moral, or the cleverest or the nicest – we do not deserve God’s mercy. But we have it, by his grace! Isn’t that amazing?

There’s one more thing I want us to notice before we go on to the next story. Did you notice that Pharaoh faced God’s anger, even though he had acted “righteously”?
Our own righteousness counts for nothing – what counts is knowing God. You see, Pharaoh’s righteousness (acting right) was nothing more than cultural – he did what was culturally acceptable. There was no love for God, no fear of the Lord, in his actions. Here in Norway many are righteous with the righteousness of our culture. We have a lovely country, blessed with lovely people, righteous people. But there is no love for the Lord, no fear of God. And that righteousness counts for nothing, because they do not know God.

We are saved not because of our righteousness – but because of his. Our righteousness cannot save us – only Christ can.

If you are in Christ, then be at peace, brother – God is powerful to save, and faithful even when we are faithless.

If you are not in Christ – that is, you do not know Jesus personally – then your righteousness is like the righteousness of Pharoah. A thin cloak which will be blown away by the winds of God’s judgement. Turn to Christ while there is still time. Ask him for mercy, and he may hear your cry.

Because as we see in the next story, God will judge the wicked, and save those who seek refuge in him.

2. Two faithless choices

On the face of it, it’s a simple little story about two guys with too much stuff treading on each other’s toes. 5 Lot, who was travelling with Abram, had also become very wealthy with flocks of sheep and goats, herds of cattle, and many tents. 6 But the land could not support both Abram and Lot with all their flocks and herds living so close together. 7 So disputes broke out between the herdsmen of Abram and Lot.

It’s too crowded for both of them! So when the older guy (Abram) says to the younger guy (Lot) “take whatever land you wish, and I’ll move to the land you don’t want” – we think, hey, problem solved.
But hang on a minute – what was the first part of God’s promise to Abram? Land. Where are they? In the land of Canaan. They are in the land of the promise. Look at v4 This was the same place where Abram had built the altar, and there he worshiped the LORD again. And in v7 we’re reminded again where we are At that time Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land.

Now, Lot. Lot knew which land had been given to Abram, which land was the land of God’s promise: the land of Canaan. But Lot it says in v10 Lot took a long look at the fertile plains of the Jordan Valley in the direction of Zoar. The whole area was well watered everywhere, like the garden of the LORD or the beautiful land of Egypt.
Lot had an eye for the easy life – and did not think spiritually about the consequences.

He was not looking with spiritual eyes at the land. He was not seeing the land through the eyes of faith, seeing what God had promised. He saw only ease and comfort. But look at v13 But the people of this area were extremely wicked and constantly sinned against the LORD.

Lot has thrown his lot in (ha-ha) with the wrong crowd. As Psalm 1 says Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers.
Lot joins in with the sinners, and suffers the consequences later as Sodom is destroyed and he and his daughters flee for their lives.

But there’s more: the story of Lot separating from Abram, travelling eastward, and settling in the plains, in the city of Sodom is deliberately written to echo the story of the people after Noah separating, travelling eastward, and settling in the plain of Shinar, where they set out to build the tower of Babel, the city of Babylon.

The author, probably Moses, wants us to understand that Babylon and Sodom have the same destiny: destruction. The close parallels of the destruction of the “city in the east” drives home the point that God’s judgment of the wicked is certain and imminent (can come suddenly, at any moment.) Rebellion against God is short lived and has only one outcome. The easy life is not such a good life after all.

So Lot’s choice was faithless. But there’s another faithless choice in this story. And it’s found in vv8-9 Finally Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not allow this conflict to come between us or our herdsmen. After all, we are close relatives! 9 The whole countryside is open to you. Take your choice of any section of the land you want, and we will separate. If you want the land to the left, then I’ll take the land on the right. If you prefer the land on the right, then I’ll go to the left.”

Abram knew which land God had given him, and yet at this moment if Lot had said “I’ll have Canaan” he had promised to walk away! The Promise is in jeopardy (danger!). What if Lot chooses Canaan?! From Lot came the Ammonites and the Moabites! At this moment Abram is about to hand the Promised Land over to the same people who throughout Israel’s history were a thorn in their side and an obstacle to the fulfilment of the promise of the land being Israel’s. Even the author Moses had significant problems with the Ammonites and Moabites (like in Num 22–25 with Balak and Balaam and his donkey). Thanks to Abram the promise seems to teeter on the whim of the father of the Moabites, Lot.

But such stupidity from Abram is no obstacle for God. Lot chooses to go east, Abram remains in the land. God’s promise is secure.

But why? Why is Abram blessed and secure, and Lot ends up in a heap of trouble? The narrative drives us to ask this question. And the answer is clear. Like Noah before, it is because of God. Because God’s promise was for Abram. Because in his mercy he had called Abram. There was nothing special about Abram except for this: God, for no reason except his own, called Abram.

Likewise, you and I are not special. We are not precious like a snowflake. We are not better than others, cleverer, more given to holiness, more righteous. There is nothing special about us - except this: God, for no reason except his own, called me, called you.
That is mercy, extreme mercy!

Lot was a fool, and chose to live the easy life in a wicked city. Abram was a fool, who did not value the promises of God.
But, as certain as God’s judgement on the wicked, is God’s salvation of those whom he loves. Lot, because of his connection to Abram, is spared by God from the judgement on Sodom (chapter 19). Abram, despite his foolishness, is still to be blessed by God. 14 After Lot had gone, the LORD said to Abram, “Look as far as you can see in every direction—north and south, east and west. 15 I am giving all this land, as far as you can see, to you and your descendants as a permanent possession. 16 And I will give you so many descendants that, like the dust of the earth, they cannot be counted! 17 Go and walk through the land in every direction, for I am giving it to you.”

God reminds Abram again of his promise to him, and Abram walks through his land down from Bethel to Hebron, the land he almost gave away. In a sense he receives the land again, his land by faith, seeing with eyes of faith the promised land. Abram cannot lose this promise, not even through his own foolishness. The word of the Lord is secure, and not even our sin, our folly, can shake God’s grip.

But how can we be so sure that we can draw comfort from God’s dealings with Abram. Why will he deal with us in the same way? How do we know God will be faithful?

Well, didn’t the Egypt story strike you as very familiar – very Exodus-like? And the separation of Lot to the city in the east repeats the story of Babel, and foreshadows the rise and fall of Babylon. These stories are deliberately structured to remind us that as God was in the past, so he is now, and so he will be.
Abram flight to Egypt and subsequent rescue is deliberately written to foreshadow the Exodus of the people of Israel from Egypt: forced to flee to Egypt because of a famine; blessed by God, increasing in number; Pharaoh poses a threat; God rescues through mighty plagues; and Pharaoh says “Take your people and go!”.

Moses wants us to see that the past is not just the past: it tells us about the character of God, the way he deals with his people. We know God by how he has dealt with his people. What he has done with Abram, he will do for his people today and tomorrow.

As Paul says in 1 Co 10:11 (NLT) These things (these stories in the Old Testament) happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age.

I’d like to end by reminding us of the fulfilment of the Abrahamic Convenat – the Promise given to Abram. Because these words are our promise, given to us by Jesus on the night he was betrayed. Jn 14:1–4 “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. 2 There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? 3 When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.”
You will always be with me where I am
. His promises are secure. God’s word can be trusted. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away says Jesus (Luke 21:33) He is the only fixed point in all of eternity. He is our anchor point, our refuge in the storm, our shelter, our fortress. Even our sin cannot take away Jesus’ promise ; just like with Abram. He sinned. He was not righteous. He was forgiven, he was blessed. His sin did not shake the Promise. Our sin does not shake Jesus’ promise.

So let us learn from Abram and Lot. Let us learn what a glorious God we serve. Let us learn to see with eyes of faith instead of choosing the easy path of comfort and wickedness. Oh Lord, open our eyes to the need of Notodden to hear your gospel. Burden us with our friends and neighbours, our work colleagues and classmates at school – they need to hear your voice, hear your gospel through our lips. Speak O Lord, to save. Will you bless Notodden as you promised Abram so many thousands of years ago: that through his descendant Jesus, your eternal Son, we would be blessed to see many turn to Christ in repentance and joy.

Thank you that you are the rescuing God – as you have done in the past, so will you do in the future. Save us we pray Sovereign Lord, and exalt your name. Glory to God in the highest!