Once more a brand new year begins and in a sense the Lord calls each of us to set sail on this new “Sea of Time”. This “Sea of Time” is comprised of 365 days which we will know as the year “2009”. What this year will bring us is largely unknown. Certain questions come to mind: Are we willing to launch out? Are we willing to trust God to be our navigator? Will we embark on this new journey in faith and not allow fear to stymie our progress? Will we allow the Lord to give us vision in the midst of the darkness of this world? Are we willing to believe that the Lord can use us to accomplish His will? Would we dare to believe that His will for our lives is much greater than anything we have yet thought or imagined? Will we refuse to be limited by what seems to us to be impossible, to be hindered by the obstacles which may at times appear to be insurmountable? Will we allow the Captain of our Salvation to do what he does best---carry us through troubled waters and bring us safe to the far off shore, thus accomplishing His purposes?
Let us consider God’s word to Abram:
(1) The LORD said to Abram: "Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father's house to a land that I will show you. (2) "I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. (3) I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. All the communities of the earth shall find blessing in you." (4) Abram went as the LORD directed him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran. (5) Abram took his wife Sarai, his brother's son Lot, all the possessions that they had accumulated, and the persons they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan, (6) Abram passed through the land as far as the sacred place at Shechem, by the terebinth of Moreh. (The Canaanites were then in the land.) (7) The LORD appeared to Abram and said, "To your descendants I will give this land." So Abram built an altar there to the LORD who had appeared to him. (8) From there he moved on to the hill country east of Bethel, pitching his tent with Bethel to the west and Ai to the east. He built an altar there to the LORD and invoked the LORD by name (GE. 12:1-7).
The “call” of Abram, renamed Abraham, is the starting point of the life of faith, and remains the example to us as noted many times throughout the Old and New Testaments. The first requirement upon Abraham was to “step out of his comfort zone”. In his case it meant departing from kindred and country. Henceforth, Abraham would be a pilgrim in this life. His roots would no longer be planted in the “natural”. He would set his eyes upon another city---a city whose maker and founder is God. Abraham moved because of one thing and one thing only----the God of Glory had spoken to him. Abraham made a choice to live in accordance with divine revelation. Many times he was tempted to listen to other voices, including the powerful voice of his own rationale. At times he would yield to the other voices, but a faithful God would bring him back on course.
The promise given to Abraham was that he would receive “great blessing”. This blessing would encompass all manner of material and spiritual blessing. However, Abraham was not being blessed just so he could say “I am so blessed”! Abraham was blessed so that he could become a “vessel of blessing to others”, even to all of the nations. So also it is with all of those today who look to Abraham, the Father of Faith. In like manner God blesses his people so that they will become instruments of blessing to others. To lose site of this will result in a life that at best sails off course and at worst becomes shipwrecked.
Life is like an exam. Abraham’s faith was immediately confronted by a test. Soon after embarking on his journey Abraham was faced with (“The Canaanites were then in the land”). Needless to say, the Canaanites were not thrilled about the new neighbor. What’s more Abraham would soon discover that this “promised land” was subject to severe drought and famine. He would have to detour his family to Egypt. Abraham would be tested in every area of life and sometimes he would make a mess of things, yet God would remain always steadfast. The promise of a land “flowing with milk and honey” would be a long time in fulfillment according to man’s reckoning of time. Actually, the promise is yet to be fulfilled. But fulfilled it will be, and God has a people he calls his own whom he expects to keep fighting the good fight of faith. Know this----He is still a covenant keeping God.
When Abraham arrived in Canaan land, the site of many enemies and the effects of a hostile environment could have been quite discouraging, perhaps a low moment in life. But it is precisely in this moment that the Lord again appears under the oak tree at Moreh saying, “To your descendents I will give this land”. One literal definition of the word “Moreh” is “one who teaches”. It was here that Abraham was encouraged by further instruction from the “Divine Teacher”. Abraham built an altar there, he gave expression to his faith and called on the name of the Lord.
Abraham was a nomad, a pilgrim. Returning to our first analogy, he was sailing the sea of life. He traveled to Bethel and built another altar. Often he would build altars. In the midst of his nomadic journeys, Abraham set down concrete statements. Each altar spoke of belief and worship to the Living God, the rock of his salvation. The altar spoke of fellowship, thanksgiving (Eucharist), and friendship (communion) with his God.
It is interesting to note that Abraham pitched his tent between Bethel and Ai. Bethel means “the house of God” and Ai means “a heap of ruin”. Like Abraham, that’s where we all live, is it not? We are never to far from our old life, the old nature, the heap of flesh and its ruinous ways. But through faith in Jesus the old life has passed away, it is to be reckoned as “dead”. By that same faith we now set our eye upon the “house of God”, the city on high, Bethel is the “lighthouse” that shows us the way, saves us from shipwreck, gives us hope in times of darkness, and draws us to the destination set by the Lord Himself.
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