In our Genesis study, we’ve spent the last two weeks talking about A God Who Creates and A God Who Makes Promises. Today we want to build on that by looking at the extraordinary power of trusting in God. Today we’ll focus on the story of Abraham in Genesis 12.
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”Genesis 12:1-4
So Abram went, as the Lord had told him…
Abram — later known as Abraham — was 75 years old when this happened. Abraham and his people were originally from a place called Ur; they later settled in a land known as Haran. But God comes to Abraham and tells him to leave the security of his family and this familiar place to set out for a land unknown to him. In asking him to leave Haran, God is asking Abraham to leave the land where his father was buried.
Put yourself in Abraham’s place just for a moment. What questions would you have if you heard what he heard?
- Where are we going?
- How long will it take to get there?
- How will I make a living when I get there?
- What language do they speak there?
- Most importantly: What am I supposed to tell my wife? Do they have a Target and a Starbucks there? (Questions my wife would be asking?!?)
Abraham surely had his own version of questions such as these. But none of his questions are voiced here in the text. Instead, the question that undergirds the whole episode doesn’t even come from Abraham, but rather from God. By calling him in this unique way, God seems to be posing one simple but essential question for Abraham — and it’s the same question God puts to us as well.
Essentially, God is asking Abraham to trust Him. “I know you have questions, but here’s my question: Do you trust me? Because I’m going to be right there with you on this journey.”
And this is how Abraham responded:
So Abram went, as the Lord had told him…Genesis 12:4
Because of this, Abraham is known as “the father of faith.” He demonstrates that his ultimate allegiance is with God. In our world, we might think nothing of moving across the country to take a lucrative position with another company. We might think, “What’s the big deal? Abraham left home.” But it didn’t work this way in the ancient world. To leave the security of family and friends often meant becoming a defenseless wanderer in hostile, unknown territory. To set out like this without “your people” was to be an exile on foreign soil.
But that’s what Abraham does. He leaves behind the security of the familiar, setting out into the unknown, to follow the call of the Lord. In response, Abraham says, Yes, Lord, I trust you.
In our modern times, faith is often defined in terms of belief. In fact, the two are synonymous for most of us. But biblical faith is much more than what you believe to be true at an intellectual level. Biblical faith is always action-oriented. It is just as much about what you do as a result of that belief. What we call “belief” is certainly a part of that, but so is loyalty and allegiance and — in my opinion, this is the best word of all — trust. Because trust is a relational term.
The Bible tells us that Abraham trusted in God rather than the false gods of his family. Centuries after Abraham, Joshua delivered this word from the Lord to the people of Israel.
And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Long ago, your fathers lived beyond the Euphrates, Terah, the father of Abraham and of Nahor; and they served other gods. Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan, and made his offspring many.’”Joshua 24:2-3
There’s a contrast here between Abraham and his family. God says that Abraham’s father and brother served other gods. In that regard, they were like most of the people in their day. But the text seems to be contrasting Abraham, implying very strongly that God chose him because he broke from the tradition of his father and worshipped the One True God alone. As God would later say, “You shall have no other gods before me,” — and Abraham is the template for this kind of faithfulness.
And here we see a primary feature of biblical faith — trusting in God, even when it seems we are standing alone.
Trusting in the One True God means forsaking a lot of false gods — all false gods, actually. And the Bible is honest about this: that’s not always going to be popular. Like Abraham, you might feel like a defenseless wanderer in hostile territory, an exile on foreign soil.
But when we trust in God, He promises that we are never alone. Never will I leave you, nor will I forsake you. God makes that promise in both the Old Testament and the New Testament in our Bibles so that we will understand His unwavering faithfulness to us when we trust in Him. When it seems we are standing alone, we are actually standing with the One True God who believes in making and keeping His promises (as we said last week).
So we’re back to this idea of trust as a relational term. Abraham demonstrated faithfulness — not simply because he believed the right things about God, but because he put his trust in him. There’s a big difference there.
To put it differently, Abraham went out not knowing where he was going. But this wasn’t blind faith because Abraham knew God. His act of trust was rooted in his relationship with the Lord.
The Scriptures never call us to what is often referred to as “blind faith.” But over and over again, in times of uncertainty, the biblical story gives us glimpses of people putting their trust in God. Even though Abraham sets out for an unknown land, we cannot call this blind faith. Do you know why? Because even though Abraham didn’t know where he was going, he knew the One who called him and promised to guide him. Abraham could say, “I don’t know exactly how all of this is going to go but I know the One who says He’s going to go with me on the journey.” He could say as Paul would later say in 2 Timothy 1:12 (words that are echoed in the classic hymn), But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed.
That’s true biblical faith. It’s putting our trust in God, trusting that He joins us on the journey.
And so, God says to Abraham, Do you trust me? And in word and in deed, Abraham says, Yes, Lord, I trust you.
Through these words, the one God is saying the same thing: Do you trust me? How will you answer?