The Story - Chapter 2 – God Builds a Nation
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Here are two stories that share one common theme. Here’s Story #1! A Newport, Tennessee judge[i] has ruled that a seven-month-old baby boy must have his name changed from Messiah to Martin. Did you catch that? The kid’s name is Messiah! The boy’s parents couldn’t decide on what his last name should be and when the Magistrate heard his first name was Messiah she said it also had to be changed. Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew said, "The word Messiah is a title and it's a title that has only been earned by one person and that person is Jesus Christ. [The name Messiah] could put him at odds with a lot of people…." But that hasn't stopped other parents from naming their child Messiah. According to the Social Security Administration's annual list of popular baby names, "Messiah" was No. 4 among fastest-rising baby names in 2012.[ii] Who knew? I didn’t know that! And talk about high expectations! “Messiah, can you save…
Here’s Story #2. God made Adam and Eve but they did not share His vision for their present or their future. God wanted them to be His people and share his values. But in one act of disobedience that said no - so God escorted them out of the garden. Generation after generation of people did not share God’s vision of I will be your God, you be my people. Let’s walk together! That is until Noah! So God rescues Noah and seven others. Do you happen to recall the names of Noah’s three sons? Genesis 6:10 tells us they are Shem, Ham and Japheth! Would you happen to know one descendant of Shem? A man named Abram who would later be renamed Abraham. God decides to build a nation that would be his chosen people. This holy nation would share His values and accomplish His purposes. You build a nation one person at a time. So God chooses two people - an old man and an infertile woman. What’s the common theme of both stories? That’s not what I would have done! I’m not naming my kid Messiah! What were these parents thinking? If you name your kid Messiah, won’t he end up with a Messiah complex? And what was God thinking? If you want to build a nation of people from scratch wouldn’t it make sense to use a young buck and a fertile Myrtle? Wouldn’t you want her to be barefoot and pregnant all the time? Poppin’ out kids left and right! What in the world is God thinking using 75 year old Abram and 65 year old Sarai? Have you ever said or thought? What is God thinking? Here’s what God said in Isaiah 55: 8-9 (on the screen). Say this with me – God’s ways are not my ways! Abraham is yet another example of God’s ways are not my ways!
Turn in your Bible to Genesis 12:1! Do you need a Bible? Please locate your handout. Your Connect card is on page 3. I also want to introduce this new resource. Inside your handout you will find this weekly Take Home Page. This page allows you to take notes, be challenged to take next steps and provides practical suggestions on how to apply this message with your kids. (“Filled” video)
Let’s read Genesis 12:1. Your country (MAP) Follow up with Hebrews 11:8 on the screen. God calls Abram to leave the familiar and go to the unfamiliar. Find verse 2. What we have here is a covenant. A biblical covenant is a promise. Some covenants are conditional, meaning man has to cooperate. Other covenants are unconditional, meaning that God takes full responsibility to fulfill the promise. There are eight covenants in the Bible - Eden, Adam, Noah, Abraham, Mosaic, Land, Davidic & the New Covenant. This covenant not only applies to Abraham, but to the entire Jewish nation and ultimately the world.[iii] Read 2-4a.
4 So Abram went, as the LORD had told him… Abram received God’s call. God spoke to him. Abram, this is what I need you to do. I’ve been led at this moment to ask you a question. It’s the same question I could not get out of my head this past week. So how strong is your faith in God?
Abram received a call that changed his life. The Dom Tiberi family received a call this week that changed their lives.
The Columbus Dispatch reported, “The daughter of WBNS-TV sports anchor Dom Tiberi was killed on Tuesday night after her car struck a tractor-trailer on I-270 in Hilliard.”[iv] Maria Tiberi was 21. That makes me so sad. No one wants that call, but who is going to help you when you receive that call? Say this with me. God’s ways are not our ways.
Go back to verse 4. and Lot went with him. Who is Lot? Go to Genesis 11:27. Go to Genesis 12:1. Leave means leave. I can reason the justification in Abram’s mind. The boy’s father is dead. He’s my brother’s son, my nephew. I have to take care of him. In the short term that makes sense, but in the long term Lot becomes a detour, a pain – a serious complication. Do you want to simplify your life – do what God says! Do you want to complicate your life – ignore what God says!
Moses gives us birthday mile markers. We find one in verse 4. Here Abram is 75. God promises that he will build a nation through him and Sarai. Here’s what I would think, “Ok, God let’s get to this nation building project underway. You know I’m 75. I’m not a spring chicken. Times a wasting away. Sarai is not getting any younger either.” So what does God do? He waits. Who hear honestly enjoys waiting? Raise your hand if you consider yourself a patient person? Who do you think has more patience – men or women? Sarai is 65 and barren. 10 years pass by. Go to Genesis 16:1. (Read 1-4) Tell me now. Was that God’s way to build a nation or Sarai’s way? Oh do Hagar and Ishmael every create complications in Abram’s life. Ishmael will become the father of the Arab nation and the foundation of Islam. Go now to Genesis 16:16.
This all began at 75. He’s now 86. 11 years come and go and still Abram has no tangible evidence that God’s going to build a family let alone a nation. We get another mile marker in 17:1. 1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old… 13 more years pass by. 24 years altogether since God said – I will bless you. I will make your name great! Keep reading in verse 1. (1-6a.) The promise is not just for Abraham. Go to verse 15. (15-16) The big day comes. Go to Genesis 21:1. (Read 1-3, 6-7) How is that possible? Because God’s ways are not our ways.
I can’t help but think about that little boy whose parents named him Messiah. Messiah after all is a title. So is Christ, so is Lord. Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus the Christ. Jesus the Messiah. Messiah means “anointed one.” What was Jesus anointed to do? To die? Tell me. What do Noah, Abraham, Moses and David all have in common? They are men of faith, but there’s more. They are flawed. Noah got drunk and exposed himself. Abraham lied. Moses murdered a man and buried him in the sand. David committed adultery and murder. Even though God used these men, none were perfect and neither are we.
A woman was applying for a job in a Florida lemon grove. The foreman asked her, “Do you any actual experience in picking lemons?" And she said, "I've been divorced three times."[v] We’ve all picked lemons. We’ve all made mistakes! Are we just stuck?
Turn to Genesis 22:1. (Read 1-2) The region of Moriah is also known as Mount Zion.[vi] It’s the eventual location of Jerusalem and just outside of Jerusalem God’s son would be sacrificed for the sins of the whole world. Go back to verse 2. Read it this way. 2 Then God said, “Take my son, my only son, whom I love—Jesus—and go to the region of Jerusalem. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a cross I will show you.”
What’s the whole point here? Abraham believed God. He believed that God would keep his promise. Do you? Do you believe that Jesus died to pay for all your sins? Have you put your faith in what he did? It’s now time for communion. Ushers, if you would please go and prepare. God tested Abraham. I want you to sacrifice your son. The difference is this. God spared Isaac. He didn’t spare Jesus and why is that? It’s because God’s ways are not our ways. (Pray for communion)
Now what are we supposed to get from this? From Abraham God built a nation and from that nation came Jesus. What’s God going to have you do in faith? Let’s pray. He might want you to build something? He might want you to wait? He might want you to go? But this we can be sure – he wants you to trust him just like Abraham did! That’s what it means to walk by faith! Will you put your trust in Jesus Christ today? Will you come pray this – “God, I know your ways are not my ways. May I trust you!”
[iii] Howard Silverman, The Covenants
[v] Good, Clean Funnies.com / Lemons
[vi] Michael C. Armour, The Newcomer’s Guide to the Bible, 50