Picture of Pastor Gettys

Sermon delivered Februay 9, 2002 by Pastor Donald J. Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New International Version NIV unless otherwise noted. Divine pronouns and titles are capitalized.

Abram: Leaving the Past

Genesis 11:22-32

This morning I would like to speak with you about Abram. This is a brand new series of sermons we're starting about this life of this great man.

God had a problem. He was lonely. He had angels and Jesus and the Holy Spirit. But God wanted more companionship. So He created Adam and then Eve. For a few days all went well. But soon, problems came. And I want you to know that the problem was not the apple in the tree. It was the pair on the ground. As time went on this evil spread like a virus. Finally the entire human race was infected. It came down to the point where there was only one believer left. Only one! And his name was Noah. If God had waited any longer maybe He would have lost the entire human race. So God took action. He sent a flood and destroyed all sinners, everybody except Noah and his immediate family.

But there was a problem. The flood waters did not wash away the sin. You see, sin is not water-soluble. Like Aids, the ugly monster of sin reappeared. Soon the Tower of Babel stuck its ugly finger of pride up to the heavens in God's face. People were proud. They were into idolatry. And actually they were even worse than they were before the flood. In just ten short generations again there was only one man left that God could depend on. Only one believer, and his name was Abram. Adam had failed God; Noah eventually failed God; and now it was down to one man. God had to act quickly or risk losing the whole human race again. This time, God decided to let the sinful world run its course and to focus His powers and strength on one man: Abram. Now If I call him Abraham you must realize that he's not Abraham until several more chapters, but the Bible makes that same mistake. We'll try to call him Abram.

He was a righteous man and god, from that one person, decided to make a righteous nation. Almost the whole rest of the Bible deals with the descendants of this one man. Abram is called the "Friend of God." Jesus Christ came from the lineage of Abram. Abram was born in 1950 BC about four thousand years ago. That's a long time ago.

The tall Tower of Babel had been destroyed by an extra terrestrial UFO. It went down in a ball of fire similar to the World Trade Center, in a pile of brick. The universal language they had was suddenly lost as groups started speaking in unknown tongues. As a result, a world-wide migration scattered families across the continent. Persons who spoke the same unknown tongue suddenly became friends. The entire world lay before these surging waves of flood survivors. Nimrod, who was a Hamite, settled in the south and build his great cities. Japheth's clan headed North. Abram's daddy Terah, a Shemite headed east to build his empire around Ur of the Chaldees.

Terah means Moon or Lunar Month. So you can see that they were involved with the moon God there in Ur. God can't make you great while you are connected to sinful Ur. So God called Abram to come out of Ur.

You can't become great either when you're bogged down with sinful associates, sinful past, sinful surroundings. God can't make you great while you are mired down with sin and surrounded with sinners. How can Godly people live among noxious gross sin and become righteous? What does the Bible say about this? Isaiah 51:1b "Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn; look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah, who gave you birth." Here in the bible we are instructed to look to Abraham and Sarah, because we were cut from a quarry just like they were. Do you realize that Genesis 11 is the actual account of the story of how God chiseled Abram out of that heathen quarry. God had to excavate him from the (King James Version says) "the hole of the pit." That's where Abram came from before He could make Abram into a marble pillar in His House. He had to quarry him out of the rock. I will tell you that Abraham is an example of how God can take you and chisel you out. You may think, "I've been chiseled enough." Well God is making you into something, and His process is never comfortable. But he chiseled Abram out of that rock and He will chisel you out of wherever you are and make you into a pillar in His house if you will allow Him to do so.

Abram had to leave that heathen town and follow God's leading. Our story begins in Genesis 11. And Genesis 11 begins in Genesis 12. And you may say, "How in the world is that?" Well, let's look at Genesis 12:1 (KJV) Now the LORD had said unto Abram, "Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will show thee" Do you see what He says here? In the very first words of Genesis 12:1 He says, "The Lord had said..." (Past tense) When did God say that? It was sometime in the past. "God had said, 'Get you out.'" When did He say that? He said that back in Genesis 11. There is not record of that in Genesis 11. In fact you really have to turn to the book of Acts to find that out.

Our scripture reading today: Steven, just before he was stoned to death explains when God appeared to Abram: Acts 7:2 To this he replied: "Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran. 'Leave your country and your people,' God said, 'and go to the land I will show you.'" So, now we can go back to Genesis and get the whole story straight because Genesis 12 introduces Genesis 11.

The first recorded appearance of God for two thousand years happens with Abram. You see, God appeared to Adam and Eve, and is pretty well visible up until Abram's time. He spoke to Noah. He spoke to Cain, but nobody else. And He never appeared to them. And so now, the glory of God did appear to Abram, in fact, the glory of God appeared to him seven times. The first was when Abram lived in Ur when God commanded Abram to leave Ur.

You know, God always packs a promise in with His commands. Any time we are commanded to do something there is always a promise there. Look at Gen 12:2,3 KJV "And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:

And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed." In who? In Abram. Are you a family of the earth? You are blessed through Abraham today. So we need to listen to his story. This is very important. Noah was the first to start the post-flood generation.

Now, let's go to Gen 11 and read this exciting story. Noah begat Shem who begat Arphaxad who begat Shelah who begat Eber who begat Peleg who begat Reu who begat Serug who begat Nahor who begat Terah who was Abram's daddy. So, that's where Abram came from.

Gen 11:26 And Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran. He could call them "My Three Sons." That's all he had.

We do not have any idea what happened to Abram's two brothers. All we know is what happened to Abram. Notice that only the son who followed the true God became great! Don't miss that point. If you want to be great, you need to follow God. Today more than half of the people owe their religion to Abraham. Are you aware that fifteen million Jews claim their religion was founded by Abraham? Are you aware that 1.2 Billion Muslims claim Abraham as their spiritual founder? And 2 billion are Christians claim Abraham as their spiritual father. Abraham never wrote a book, sang a song, or prophesied or gave a law yet he is the greatest human being in the Bible and in history. We really don';t know any of those things that he did, but yet, Abraham according to the National Geographic, was the greatest man the ever existed. Certainly the greatest in the bible, if not the greatest in all of history.

And here we are beginning our study on him. For the next 6 weeks we will be focusing on Abraham, the First Hebrew.

So, we're going to have some fun with Abraham for the next six weeks after today. Surely we will be deeply enriched as we study the life of this great patriarch. Abram is the pivot point upon which the rest of the Bible turns.

Jerusalem is where Abraham offered Isaac, and a lot of the fighting in Jerusalem and Palestine today comes from devotion to Abraham. Pope John II is a devoted follower of Abraham. In 1994 the Pope tried to journey to Abram's birth place - UR, but he was stopped by Saddam Hussein.

Abram's home town used to be a great city. It was not just a little dusty place in the road. Ur was Second only to Babylon. Ur cradled our great spiritual patriarch from his beginnings. Wheat, pomegranates, grapes, and apples flourished in Ur's rich fertile soil. Archaeologists have flung their lantern on the remaining rubble of Ur and discovered that It was a miniature Chicago. A fantastic place. Some homes that have been excavated there were two stories tall and some had 20 rooms! This is no small town. The great schools of Ur taught math, astronomy and medicine.

However today, UR is just a dusty spot located near where the mouth of the mighty Euphrates contributes its flow into the proud waves of the Persian Gulf. If you travel to Ur you will see a brick Ziggurat like a pyramid towering high above the desert. That used to be the citadel, the temple of idol worship. And what did they worship? It was built about 2100 BC to honor the moon god. Why did they worship the moon god? Well, I will tell you that electric light pollution that we have today obscures most of what we try to observe in the Milky Way. How many of you have seen the Milky Way lately? You can't see it from Collegedale with your eyes. However, in that environment, without the electric light pollution, the moon and the stars gleam brightly in the night. The Moon was the god of the night and that's where moon worship took off. The Moon and stars gleamed brightly drawing the flood survivors into a form of nature worship.

The remains of this vast heathen temple help us to understand why God called Abram out of UR. He didn't want him to stay there because his family were idol worshipers. Terah, Abram's daddy worshipped idols. How do we know that? Joshua 24:2- Joshua said to all the people, "This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'Long ago your forefathers, including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the River and worshiped other gods.'" They worshipped idols

Abram was from an idol-worshipping gentile family. That's where his roots come from. He was a gentile. Don't ever let anyone tell you that a gentile can't be saved. Abraham was a gentile at one time. To be great, you've got to leave Ur. You've got to leave the wicked people that are surrounding you. You've got to get out of there. You have to make yourself pure, and God will help you to do that. And so, Abram left Ur. And he obeyed God, right? No, he did not obey God.

Actually his obedience wasn't complete. Let's go back to Genesis 12:1. You are told here what God wanted Abram to do. He wanted him to do four things:

Let's examine those four things.

1. Go forth from your country. Abram did leave his country. This is fantastic. This required great faith on his part. He pulled up stakes and left, never to return to Ur as far as we know. To "Ur" is human. He erred! Notice how:

2. Go forth from your people. Did he do that? No! God said leave your people. He didn't do that. He actually took some of his relatives with him. Can you name any? How about Lot? Instead of leaving his relatives like God asked, Abram took a number of his kin folk with him. Unfortunately, they brought along their evil ways. That's a problem. God wants you to make a clean break from your sinful past.

3. Go forth from your father's house. God said leave your Father's house. Did he leave his father and his father's house> No! Instead of leaving his father like God required, Abram took his Dad with him. He took his daddy with him, his idol- worshipping dad. If I were to ask you to recall that age old problem that Israel faced so long, what would you say it was? Idol worship. Where did idol-worship come from? Do you know where the source of all this came from? From Abram's partial obedience. He did not leave his old idol worshiping father like God had asked. If he had left his idol-worshipping kinfolk behind he might never have had a problem with idol worship. God wanted him to make a clean break from the past. Which he did not do. Can you see that when we don't follow God how we get into trouble? We need to fully follow the Lord.

4. Go forth to a land which I will show you. Did he do that? Be careful if you say, "Yes." Actually he headed off toward the land of Canaan, but where did he go? Instead of going forth to a land that God would show Abram, which was the land of Canaan, Abram stopped half way and settled in Haran. He never made it to Canaan for a long time. In fact, he got bogged down in Haran. He stopped half-way. He gave God partial obedience. Abram fell short of Canaan. I don't know why he stopped. Maybe he stopped so his elderly father could rest or so his flocks and herds could rest.

To go from Ur to Canaan you head South West. He did not take a direct route. Abram headed North West. It would be easier and it avoided the desert. But he did not get very far away from idolatry. Haran was a western frontier town that was also a center of moon worship. In Haran the travelers bogged down for 25 years.

Folks, if you set out for Canaan land, don't get bogged down in Haran. Go all the way with the Lord. Don't let anything stop you. Because once you stop advancing toward Canaan you may get bogged down with other things and never resume the trip. You might die in Haran, never reaching Heaven. And, Haran is not our goal.

So in four areas, Abram got only one right. His score was 25%. He was limping along. Why? Because he did not completely follow God's word. Yet, he was the best God had to work with. I suppose Partial obedience is better than no obedience, but imagine what God had in mind. Oh that we would be faithful in little things. Actually with God there are no little things.

Genesis 11:28 And Haran died before his father Terah in the land of his nativity, in Ur of the Chaldees. Thus, Lot became an orphan. He did not have a strong fatherly influence over his life. Little wonder he later chose Sodom. Bad things happen, don't they.

Genesis 11:29 - Abram's brother Nahor married their niece. Abram married Sarai his half sister according to Genesis 20:12 ("Besides, she really is my sister, the daughter of my father though not of my mother; and she became my wife.".

In Genesis 11:30 it says: But Sarai was barren; she had no child. Do you see how it repeats it? Why does it have to rub it in? Twice in one verse it repeats the sad fact that she was barren in Haran! For Abram this must have been a mystery. "How can I ever be the Father of a great nation when I am married to a barren wife? God doesn't understand." I image he had a rough time trying to comprehend, and so did he believe or not believe? Abram believed God. That's why God chose Abram. He believed God in the face of everything going contrary to God's will. Friends, when you get discouraged, when things look impossible, have faith in God. God will not let you down.

I want to conclude with a final text in Hebrews 11. This is a great "faith chapter" in the Bible, and it mentions Abraham. Hebrews 11:8 (KJV). By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. Did he actually obey? He obeyed twenty five percent. Well, what does God say? "He obeyed." You see, none of us are perfect. He obeyed twenty five percent worth, but God called it obedience. God accepts our best effort. Weak and feeble as they may be, and credits us with obedience. Can you see righteousness by faith here? This is beautiful! Abraham did that. He obeyed! "And he went out, not knowing whither he went." That's true. He obeyed in that respect. And he followed God and he kept following God. And I will tell you that we are going to see Abraham in heaven because he believed in God and he kept following. Limping along sometimes, but you're going to see more of that as we get into the next couple of weeks.

The only thing he knew for sure was God. He trusted in God. I want to ask you a question today: Are you living in Ur of the Chaldees today? Are you surrounded with idol-worshippers or heathens all around you? Do things look hopeless and dark? If so, then I urge you to stop and listen. God may be calling your name. God may be asking you to step out. God may be wanting to bless you. So, you need to listen. You need to follow Him. Believe in Him. Trust God and He will lead you to an eternal inheritance that is in the courts above. And someday you will be living among the stars. Do you believe that? Absolutely. You're going to be there if you, like Abraham, though feeble and defective you may be, if you launch out and you begin walking in the direction God wants you to go and you keep following Him You're going to be in heaven. He's going to lead you to eternal life.

How many, today, would be willing to surrender your life, you would say, "I just want to be living in heaven. I want to meet Abraham. I want to be one of God's people. I want to commit my life to Jesus Christ." Would you be willing to raise your hand and say, "I want to commit my life to Jesus."? Are you willing to surrender all to Jesus just now? If you are would you please raise you hands high?

Bulletin

Hymn of Praise: #12, Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee
Scripture: Acts 7:2-5
Hymn of Response: #445, I'm But a Stranger Here

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