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Jun 4 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 2, 2013 – Genesis Chapter 12

Abram Journeyed On

Now the LORD said to Abram,
“Go forth from your country,
And from your relatives,
And from your father’s house,
To the land which I will show you . . . 
Genesis 12:1-2

INTRO: When and where do you exercise your creativity?

Some of us sketch or write poems, others are creative in the kitchen or garden

Dorothy Sayers, famous author of mystery novels, asked, What is the image of God in humans?
– she said arguments could be made to support “rationality . . . self-consciousness . . . free choice”
– but Genesis had not given us detailed information about God before it says we were made in His image

Sayers, “ . . . we find the only single assertion, ‘God created.’ The characteristic common to God and [humans] is apparently that: the desire and the ability to make things.”

Our bodies have certain basic needs, that if not met, they die
– the same is true of our souls – “soul” — that is to say, our essential self
– one of its basic needs is to creatively express itself
• if it doesn’t do this, or if it isn’t allowed to, it atrophies

To know our truest form of creative self-expression, we have to know who we are
– you and I must each know our own soul
• that’s what we’ll consider here – how Abram discovered himself
• to be clear on where this will take us, always in scripture to know God is to discover one’s self

I will highlight key words that indicate the process of Abram’s self-discovery

The first key word is God’s command, “Go”

Abram’s family had migrated from Ur (near Babylon – Iraq)
– their intention was to settle in Canaan (Israel today)
• but they stopped in Haran and put down roots – considerably north-east of Canaan
– from there, God told Abram to get moving again

God wanted more for Abram than he wanted for himself

In one episode of “The Simpsons,” Homer was trying to fix the toaster, when by some mishap of physics he was carried back in time to a prehistoric era. From there, the plot is derived from Ray Bradbury’s short story, “A Sound of Thunder.” In the distant past, Homer stomped on a bug and as a result changed the whole course of history. Returning to the present, Homer discovered how horribly he had messed things up. So he kept returning to the past to try to fix the present, but every time he returned, the world was in a worse state than its previous condition. Finally he returned to the present where he found his family sitting around the dinner table ready to eat and it seemed that the world was again normal. But when it came time to eat, each one around the table opened their mouths and lizard tongues flicked out of their mouths and grabbed their food off their plates. Homer looked at them in surprise and then said, “Close enough”

 The typical family settles for “close enough”
• perfection is impossible, excellent is extremely difficult
○ so close enough works for us
• but, in Abram’s case, it didn’t work for God

Prior to this moment, Abram did not stand out
– he was just another name in a genealogy
• his only distinction was a deficiency — he and Sarai were infertile
– the religion he grew up with was polytheistic (Jos. 24:2)
• perhaps he adopted a ritualistic, impersonal belief system
• the chief concern was to “keep the gods happy”
○ as far as Abram knew, Yahweh was one of the gods — one that chose him
– Abram had the raw material of a “self,” but it was unformed
• he was combination of DNA (genealogy), his home environment, the circumstances of his life, and his own choices he had made
• like everyone else in his family, he had settled into this undeveloped self
• until he received God’s call, it was “close enough” to a real self

Most everyone I know believes they live below their potential

They’re convinced there is more in them than what they live
– in fact, we are faced with two potentials:
• to fully live our true self – creative, whole, with ongoing growth or
• to settle for something less – a diminished self, false self, or a betrayal of our true self
○ maybe we wear the mask of an invented self to please people

God’s word to Abram, was a call to fully become his true self
– when the call comes, it is within our power to say Yes or No
• if I say No, I just go on with my life as it is
– what happens if we say Yes? – that’s what comes next . . .

The next key word is “from”

A short list of what Abram was to leave behind: “your country, your relatives, your father’s house”
– that is, everything that has influenced and defined him until now

Culture plays a major role in forming our identity
– it provides us with a worldview
• what’s important, what gives a person status, etc.
• some cultures encourage self-expression, others discourage it

The the same is true of churches
– some promote our growth and others hinder it
• church is not supposed to have all the answers or force beliefs on us
○ it’s not supposed to take control of our lives, tell us who we are
• church gives witness to God, scripture, and truth
○ it is our own interaction with God in these ways that our souls emerge

Families can also promote or hinder our growth
– most of us have to detach in some way (some more decisively than others)
• we must stop seeing ourselves through their eyes
• we are more than they have ever seen
– some families work hard at keeping its members in line, dependent, compliant
• if we settle for this at the cost of our soul – we become resentful
○ we may do well at disguising our rebellion, but it’s there

The next key word God’s next word is “To”

God never moves us from something into nothing
– we’ll come back to this in a moment

The next key words appear when God spells out what lies ahead –“I will”

Notice that God is vague regarding the geographical destination
– at this moment, he doesn’t consider it to be a critical factor
• what’s important is what God is going to do along the way
“I will show you . . . make you . . . bless you . . . make your name . . . etc.”
– coming right after the story of Babel, it’s like God is giving Abram exactly what they tried to achieve

Of course, bless is also a key word in this section
– as a result of all God will do, Abram be — something or someone
• “you shall be a blessing” and “in you all the families of the earth will be blessed”
• who we are is about being rather than doing
○ we get these confused — when asked, “Who are you?” we tell people what we “do”

The next key word is “took” (v. 5)

Abram took with him the best of what he had received from his family
– he also took his nephew who wanted to join him in this adventure

Abram carried some of his past with him – we all do
– in this sense, the past is still present
– we play those old recordings in our minds — the voices of others linger

But now Abram has a future
– a promise, a dream, a hope, a challenge, a journey
• and this future also becomes a part of his present
• the new voice that plays in his mind
– people without a future are forced to kill time
• to cram it with activities so they do not have to feel their emptiness
– people with a future value their time and work to “redeem” it
Fenelon, “Our friends ask for our time as if it were nothing; and we give it as if it were nothing.” He says we won’t know how precious our time is until “we are no longer able to take advantage of it.”

If we have only a past, our past defines us
– but if we have a future, that can shape in us a new identity — our new name

I don’t have a key word for the last part of chapter (vv. 10-20)

Abram’s journey will take him to unfamiliar places
– some of these environments will be frightening and dangerous
– some stages of the journey will be painful
• there is no was he can avoid these places if he is to continue his journey

We notice that God isn’t going to do everything for Abram
– warn him of everything, protect him from everything, tell him how to handle everything
– if he did, Abram would not discover his true self
• it wouldn’t have a chance to emerge
– he has to learn from experience, from mistakes, and from the consequences of bad decisions
• if he doesn’t get it right the first time, he’ll be given another opportunity
○ only it will be rougher and more direct (ch. 20)
– God doesn’t give him all the answers, wisdom, strength he needs for the journey
• but he does intervene, entering the story when Abram needs him most

CONC: I do have one last key word – built (or “altar,” vv. 7-9)

Abram keeps moving his tent and building altars
– he continues to encounter God in this rhythm of give and take
• respond and initiate, listen and answer, speak and hear, worship and prayer

Here’s our meditation for the week: “Abram journeyed on”
– he never did settle anywhere permanently
– we never do either – we never stop growing

What we discover in the Bible, is that the spiritual life does not begin when we complete some task or pass some test
– the spiritual life is in the journey — the process that occurs as we travel with God
• the abundant life begins when we learn to enjoy being on the journey with God

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