“If the other planets are inhabited,” quipped George Bernard Shaw, “then they must be using the earth for their insane asylum.” We may chuckle at that statement, but it reminds us of a sad fact: The world is in a mess, and it does not seem to be getting any better. What is wrong?
It all goes back to events recorded in the Book of Genesis. Except for the account in chapters 1 and 2, the first eleven chapters of Genesis record one failure of man after another, failures that are being repeated today. The first man and woman broke the one rule God gave them and moved out of the Garden (chap. 3). Cain murdered his brother Abel and lied about it. Then Lamech marries two women and boasts about killing two men! (chap. 4). Humanity became so corrupt that God cleansed the earth with a flood (chaps. 6-8). Noah got drunk and exposed himself to his son Ham (chap. 9). In their defiance men built a city and a tower to reach God; and God had to send confusion to end the rebellion (chap. 10).
Murder, disobedience, deception, drunkenness, polygamy, nudity, rape and rebellion sound pretty up-to-date, don’t they? If you were God, what would you do with these sinners, men and women you had created in your own image?. “I’d probably destroy them!” you might reply; but that’s not what God did. Instead, God called a man and his wife to leave their home and go to a new land, so that He might give humanity a new beginning!
Because of God’s call and their obedient faith, Abraham and Sarah ultimately gave to the world the Jewish nation from which would come the Bible, and our Savior, Jesus Christ.
So, God didn’t give up on the human race, no. He continued His grand vision of community with mankind by establishing a spiritual community, a special group of related, like-minded people intent on knowing God as much as He wanted to know them, a spiritual community full of people who would be committed to sharing God’s redemptive plan with the rest of the world.
In coming weeks in Joshua and Judges we’ll study the struggles that came with the building of God’s people. They were a lot like us today!
As we begin Genesis 12—a thousand years have passed since the flood. The genealogies that fill chapters 10 and 11 set the scene for the arrival of a very important person named Abram…a descendant of Noah’s son, Shem. Abram would be the Father of this chosen nation of God. God did not choose to build his people so that He could bless them.
God chose his people because He had a task for them to do. It was blessed to be a blessing. If you know God, you are blessed to be a blessing. This nation that Abram was to found was to be an instrument to return the fallen world to God. Anne Graham Lotz says, “God’s plan for Abram’s life would be the beginning of the solution…the solution to all the problems that had swarmed out of the Pandora’s box of sin, affecting the human race since the Garden of Eden. The world would never be the same.” In short, Abram or as he would later be known, Abraham, would be the beginning of the end for Satan and his curse of death upon the human race.
But who was Abraham? Abraham was from Ur—the region of the world where the Tower of Babel had been built, which means he grew up and lived in a pagan society that thrived four thousand years ago. Abraham was most likely well-educated and cultured. Archeologists have excavated UR and found it to have been a place where society was very advanced much more advanced than historians originally thought. For example, they found a great library there with clay tablets bearing the records of thriving commerce, literature, and religion. They found the foundations of huge structures….homes, palaces, and public buildings that rival those we make today. It was a great civilization indeed.
Ur was a port city—situated in the fertile area between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in what later became known as Babylonia. The people were religious—but pagan. Their priesthood offered human sacrifices…and Abraham would have been very familiar with this because his father Terah was deeply involved in the false religion of the area. (Josh. 24:2)
For some reason, God chose this well-educated but pagan man—Abram—to found His chosen people—the nation of Israel. “The Lord said to Abram, “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.” (Gen 12)
He left his culture with all its benefits and headed out to a place he didn’t know! This pagan man would never again sleep under a roof, he would be a tent-dweller. But there are other problems with God’s choice of the father of His chosen nation. It wasn’t just the fact that he was a pagan that makes us question God’s choice. When God called them to this task Abraham and his wife were old. He was 75 and she was ten years his junior. Sure 75 is the new 40, but Sarah was also barren and childless. So God picked a pagan, childless couple who were reviewing retirement home fliers to found this chosen nation.
I personally find this humorous; God used an old, pagan, barren couple to start a Godly nation!
If God can use an old, pagan and barren couple he can use you too!
God will do this kind of thing over and over and over again. We’ll see that our Heavenly Father prefers to use the least likely people to accomplish His purpose and to tell His story. Let’s review some of the shakers and the movers in God’s story and you’ll see what I mean. Abraham was old. Isaac was insecure. Jacob was a con-man. Leah was unattractive. Joseph was a slave and a brat as a kid. Moses stuttered and was a murder. Gideon had anxiety attacks. Samson an arrogant womanizer that needed a haircut. Rahab was a prostitute. David had an affair and murdered the husband. Elijah was depressed and suicidal. Jeremiah was depressed and cried a lot. Jonah was disobedient and suicidal. Naomi was a widow. Mary was a poor teenager. John the Baptist ate bugs. Peter was impulsive. Martha was a worry wart. The Samaritan woman had five failed marriages. Thomas had his doubts. Paul executed Christians for a living. Timothy was timid…and the list goes on and on—a list of the unlikely people that God used in powerful ways to tell His story. It’s not what you would expect. It’s not who we would choose. But nevertheless that’s what we’ll see.
The question is, “Why?” Why does God prefer to use imperfect misfits to accomplish His purposes? Why would He pick an elderly infertile couple to populate an entire nation? God made this choice—He makes these kind of choices—to display His power and glory. He does it so there will be no doubt that He is the source of the miracles that come, that He is the giver of every good and perfect gift. He does it this way because His strength is made most visible in our weakness.
If you feel unqualified to be a part of the story God is writing. If you feel, “It’s too late for me. I’m too old. I’ve made too many mistakes. I’ve had my chances and I blew them. I don’t have their resources or the gifts. I don’t have the right talents.” If you feel this way, you can look at Abraham and Sarah and all the others and know that God uses weak, imperfect people like that. He uses people like you and me. It may not make the most sense on paper but it gives God an opportunity to be glorified which is what the story is ultimately about.
But there was something very special about Abraham—and I’m referring to his faith. Abraham’s entire life is a story of faith. Fourteen chapters are devoted to the telling of his life story, plus he is mentioned 160 times in Old Testament and 71 times in the New Testament. When you put it all together it’s a story of FAITH.
In the next few posts, we’ll examine what faith looks like. God’s people are called to live a life of faith which is not an easy task.