Series on Genesis, II God's Family, D The Purpose of the Family, Text: 11:10-15:21. Title: Forming a Family of Faith.


In our last study we saw the genealogy of the sons of Noah. As we read on in Genesis we see the continued genealogy of Shem and in accordance with the prophecies uttered by Noah, it is the family of Shem from whom the godly line descends. Genesis 11:10 traces the ancestry of Abraham back to Shem. From Shem we get the word semitic and his descendants include all semitic peoples. However our focus is on one man Abraham. Abraham's great great great grandfather was Eber from which we get the word Hebrew. Eber outlived Abraham by 65 years. in fact the father of Noah, Lamech was born before Adam died and Shem the son of Noah was 93 years old before Lamech died, five years before the flood. Shem lived 600 years which means that he too outlived Abraham but he died 29 years before Eber. There are three reasons why I point these statistics out. There is no good reason not to take these genealogies literally, and consequentially we must note that since the lifespans of the ancients gradually declined the force of that decline is immeasurably increased as we realize that these men were actually dying before their fathers and grandfathers. Also it gives us a new view of the continuity of the generations since the whole period is spanned by Adam, Lamech and Shem, three generations. The implications of this for the accuracy of the accounts of early history is very significant. Yet, even though these ancients could within the space of three generations remember Eden and the flood, nevertheless the evidence is that people departed from any true worship of the creator and it was necessary for God to call a man out of idolatry to begin forming a people of true faith. Indeed Joshua 24:2,3 plainly indicates that Abraham, his family, and his people were involved in idolatrous worship while living in Ur, in Mesopotamia. Our text tells the story of God calling Abram at the age of 75 to follow him. A remarkable journey, and yet one which you and I are called to make. A missionary who invested his life in a remote island community was called home. The native chief gave him a plant as a parting gift. He had crossed the island and back on foot to obtain it. The missionary was perplexed because the same plant grew close by, so why travel so far? The chief answered “The journey is part of the gift.” So Abraham was called and obeyed, and Joseph was enslaved in Egypt, and Moses and Joshua led the people into the promised land. Ordinary people called to extraordinary journeys of faith trusting in the promises, just like you. The promise God gives to Abraham includes three things which will be continuing themes both in Abraham's life and in the future unfolding of God's plan. These are the Abraham and the peoples, Abraham and his progeny, and Abraham and the place as recorded in Genesis 12:1-3,  Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

I The Peoples

Consider first Abraham and the peoples. God had said, I will bless those who bless you and curse those that curse you. We begin with Chapter 12 where we read that Abraham left Ur and journeyed to Haran, then further south into the land of promise and finally into the Negev. Encountering famine he is compelled to go to Egypt. Instead of the promised blessing he encounters troubles. He lies about his wife and she is taken into a harem. This event regarding his wife recurs again in his life with Abimilech and again in Isaac's life, and thus belief in God’s promise concerning the peoples is tested again and again. Abraham looks like an anti-hero, and all of the heroes of the Bible are like that. It is not their sterling qualities but the grace of God which brings them through. Abraham also had troubles with the surrounding nations. His nephew Lot had gone to live in Sodom. When Sodom was attacked and looted Abraham set off to rescue Lot and his family. Chapter 13 records the separation of Abraham and Lot, and then in 14 we read of the attacks on Sodom and then Abraham’s valiant rescue of his nephew in 14:13-16, One who had escaped came and reported this to Abram the Hebrew. Now Abram was living near the great trees of Mamre the Amorite, a brother of Eshcol and Aner, all of whom were allied with Abram. When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called out the 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit as far as Dan.  During the night Abram divided his men to attack them and he routed them, pursuing them as far as Hobah, north of Damascus. He recovered all the goods and brought back his relative Lot and his possessions, together with the women and the other people. This widespread marauding confederacy included kings from Mesopotamia, way to the north, and when Abraham defeated and pursued them he chased them to Dan which was eighty miles or so to the east and all the way to Damascus in the north. This was hardly a blessing even though Abraham was victorious. What is very significant is the way in which Abraham refuses the rewards of his success. The defeated king of Sodom is accompanied by Melchisidek, king of Salem, or Jerusalem. Melchisidek whose name means king of righteousness, king of peace, is a priest of Abraham's God. Many people say he was not a real man but Christ appearing, but I think the significance of this is obscured by such an interpretation. The point is that there is faith outside Abraham's family. And then in Genesis 14:18-20, Abraham pays tithes to Melchisidek of his own wealth, refusing the booty of the battle, and thus affirms his faith in God's promise regarding his relationship to other peoples. Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.” Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything. Why did Abraham continue through such difficulties? The answer is that he listened to God. When God tells Israel they should love him above all others, He says, hear o Israel. Paul says faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. We have a difficult time listening. We want people to listen to us, but often we do not listen, especially to God. We need a theology of listening which leads to faith and thereby to action.

II The Progeny

With regard to the promise that Abraham would become a great nation-a promise later couched in the expression that his seed would be as numerous as the stars of heaven or the sand of the seashore, Abraham had no heir. The first candidate is Lot but chap 13 tells of their separation, then God renews his promise to Abraham in 13:14-17, The LORD said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.” The second candidate is Eliezer, his faithful servant who is mentioned in 15:1-5, and there is with the refusal of Eliezer in verse 4 a renewal of the promise, “This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” This too is a recurring theme . The next candidate will be Ishmael the son of Sarah's handmade Hagar and he too will be rejected in favor of the miraculous birth of Isaac to Abraham in his old age. and again the promise will be renewed in Chapter 17. The point is that Abraham lives on in hope trusting the Word of God even though all appearances are that the promise is becoming increasingly impossible to fulfill, but more on this later.

III The Place

God has also promised Abraham the land of Canaan. The first test of this is the strife between Lot's herdsman and Abraham's, mentioned in 13:7. Abraham generously gives Lot his choice and they separate. Notice that after Lot departs God tells Abraham to lift up his eyes because he is giving all the land to Abraham. Then in the conflict with the kings of the north the promise is again put to the test. Please notice that Abraham does not negotiate for a possession of the land. In fact he says only God can make me rich in 14:23. The only property he ever owns here on his own is a burial plot for his wife in chapter 23. In chapter 15 we have the heart of Abraham's faith he was a justified, forgiven sinner because he believed the Word of God as we are told in 15:6, Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness. In response God gives him a fuller revelation and clearer insight into what will transpire. He does so by cutting a covenant with him. The passing of the fire of God's presence through the divided pieces of the sacrifice is recognized by Bible students as a self-maledictory oath.  We read about it in 15:17-21, When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking fire pot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces.  On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates—the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.” This is a way of confirming a covenant which says if I am not true to my word that after your death I will bring your children out of bondage and into this land then may I be accursed. It points forward to the fact that all redemption, even the Exodus from Egypt is based upon God’s sacrifice of himself in the person of Christ on the cross. This is why Abraham's faith is said to justify him, to make him righteous, because it is based on God's promise and that promise is connected to the cross.  God had said to Abraham in 15:1 I am your shield and exceeding great reward, and God was that to Abraham and he should be that to us.


You like Abraham are called to hear and believe the promises. Hebrews 11 says he and others were still living in faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised, but they saw them and welcomed them afar off. What are you to believe and see afar off? Hear Isaiah 25:6-8, On this mountain the Lord almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine— the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. the sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The Lord has spoken.