Genesis 12: God‘s Call to Abraham

The call to a life of walking by faith does not prevent stumbles along the way. Abram's faithfulness is not guaranteed, but God's faithfulness is.
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Chapter Notes

Overview

  • This chapter begins by rehearsing God’s call to Abram, God’s promise to him, and his obedience along with Lot.

  • We also learn of a famine which results in a journey to Egypt and God’s intervention and care of Abram despite his folly.

Commentary

  • v. 1 - Joshua 24 records that Abram was called by God and delivered from idolatry. Thus, there are no grounds for pride. Abram’s experience was all of grace. So it is for all believers. Man does not seek God, God seeks man.

  • v. 1 - Abram becomes a pattern of the Christian life. His example of pilgrimage is not to be literally copied by all believers, but represents what happens the genuine Christian. We are called to separate from the world, and while we live in this world, we are pilgrims with a home elsewhere. 

  • v. 1–3 - Since the Fall, man is living with three realities: no Eden, the effects of the curse, and a lack of positive impact on the world. But God promises Abraham a new land, that he will be blessed despite the curse, and he will impact the world for good. The language of these verses must be viewed in union with Christ. For the sake of Christ, the nation of Israel will be born as God’s means of providentially and practically governing the line that leads to Messiah’s incarnation. Abram without Christ has no great name. And the only way all the nations of the earth are blessed, is not through some material contribution of the natural seed of Abram, but through the preaching of Christ. Thus, the blessings spoken of here, while embodied in the Jewish nation throughout the OT because unto them were committed the oracles of God, it was only insofar as they lived for and served the true and living God. Since these blessings are tied to Christ, they are the outworking of all believers in union with Christ, and are thus reflected in the Church, the Israel of God. This is clear in the second half of Isaiah, where the restoration of Israel and God’s blessing upon the gentile regions depends entirely upon the Servant of Jehovah. In Him is the Israel that blesses the world. In addition, it is in union to Christ that you learn the persecution of being cursed by people. 

  • v. 7–8 - illustrates the Christian life. God coming to His people, and His people coming to Him on the ground of the shed blood. 

  • v. 10 - Abram experiences his first strong test of faith. He moves without direction from God. It made sense to the pragmatist, but the life of faith is not governed by pragmatism. 

  • v. 11–20 - Egypt is increasingly going to typify a world of false religion and carnality that must be separated from. Abram, relatively young in the faith, fails to stand when in Egypt, succumbing to the fear of man. He tells a half truth (Gen. 20:12). He justified it to himself and his wife, but it was sinful, and we learn that there is no way Abraham is the promised Messiah.

  • v. 18 - God mercifully preserves Abram from the folly of his actions. This is a reminder that God is bigger than our sin, and will preserve His aims and His people despite man’s disobedience.

Application

  1. Children, have you responded to God’s call to your life? Adults, have you strayed from a life of earnest devotion to Christ? Are you wandering in Egypt tempting divine discipline? 

  2. Dear aged saint, be encouraged by God’s mercies to a 75-year-old believer. God will still come to you, reveal His will, and make you a blessing to this world.

  3. Abram exhibits a fear of man. The fear of man is a weakness common to most believers. It must be prayed against and fought, for God may not always intervene as He did on this occasion for Abram.

  4. We should note that Sarai’s beauty is remarked upon, even though she was in her 60s. No doubt she was particularly favored (and lived to 127), but there must be something else going on. Perhaps our current concept of beauty which is often tied to youth, is a flawed and shallow perspective. 

  5. Sometimes believers are foolish, and the assessment of the ungodly concerning them should not be dismissed, but taken to heart (v. 18–19). Uncharitable evangelism, harsh parenting, sloppy behavior as an employee. We are not just to turn up at church for worship, but to behave with wisdom in all our words and actions.

  6. Finally, note how one poor decision led to a series of challenges. Trying to avoid a difficult providence (in this case a famine) did not make things easier for Abram. Abram’s success depended on regular fellowship with God. So it is with us. We cannot succeed without divine strength.


“We do not rightly pray to God, unless we are surely persuaded in our hearts, that he is our Father, when we so call him with our lips.” — John Calvin

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Authors
Armen Thomassian