Abram the peacemaker

Physical SCARCITY and emotional STRIFE are litmus tests of our heart.

They prove whether our faith is resting in God alone, or propped up by his blessings. They expose the false gods of the heart and reveal our insecurities and discontentment. Scarcity and strife force us into a decision: To choose for ourselves, or trust God to choose on our behalf.

Abram and Lot faced these litmus tests in Genesis 13 when their herdsmen were in conflict over scarce land and resources. Abram’s dealings with Lot show the fruit of genuine repentance and a growing faith. Although the entire land was rightfully his, Abram did not consider it his right to hold close to his chest. Instead, he risked losing the best portions of land to Lot, “entrusting himself to (God) who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23). Through this family conflict, Abram proved that He trusted God as his shield and his very great reward (Gen 15:1). His peace efforts were motivated by GRACE, rather than by PRIDE or FEAR. Abram was confident of his place in God’s family and chose God’s blessing over what he could see with his eyes or grasp with his hands. As for Lot, he selfishly chose for himself, based on what his eyes desired.

Appearances can be deceiving.

Our text is Genesis 13:

So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, with his wife and everything he had, and Lot went with him. Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold.

From the Negev he went from place to place until he came to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier and where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the name of the Lord.

Now Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. But the land could not support them while they stayed together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to stay together. And quarreling arose between Abram’s herders and Lot’s. The Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land at that time.

So Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herders and mine, for we are close relatives. Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.”

10 Lot looked around and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan toward Zoar was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) 11 So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company:12 Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. 13 Now the people of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord.

14 The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west. 15 All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. 16 I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. 17 Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.”

18 So Abram went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he pitched his tents. There he built an altar to the Lord. (Gen 13)

The fruit of genuine repentance

Abram’s faith is a work in progress. In the previous scene, famine and fear propelled him into hasty schemes in Egypt when he chose to trust himself instead of Yahweh (Gen 12:10-20). After grasping at every straw of self-protection, Abram left Egypt in a cloud of disgrace. Today however, we get a snapshot of a repentant man who returns to his previous altar and calls again on the name of the Lord (Gen 13:3-4). Abram shows us that repentance is the only way back when we have backslidden or wandered from the Great Shepherd of our souls. A humbled Abram once again places his confidence in the Lord’s promises and treats his nephew, Lot, with the same undeserved grace that Yahweh showed toward him.

Abram offered Lot an olive branch plucked from the tree of grace.

Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matt 5:9).

Genesis 13 is a cameo of a peacemaker in action. It is also a picture of the gospel of grace two thousand years before Christ was born.

Lot should have deferred to his uncle since he owed his existence to Abram (Gen 11:27-28), but in response to this insult, Abram held out an olive branch to his nephew. He overlooked Lot’s offence and gave up his legitimate right to all the land for the sake of reconciliation. Abram valued family relationships more than wealth, pride or status. He took the initiative to be a peacemaker even though he was the older, wiser and more powerful man (Gen 13:8-9).

It is impossible to make sense of Abram’s generous response when we consider Mesopotamian culture, which gave a patriarch absolute authority over his household.

Yet, against the grain of human nature and his culture, Abram repaid Lot’s insult with blessing. Perhaps it had something to do with his recent experience of the grace and forgiveness of God.

Abram responded as a man who knew that he was the heir of God’s blessing which he valued more than anything (1 Peter 3:914). His eyes gazed beyond tents, grass and soil– to a heavenly country –“the city with foundations whose designer and builder is God” (Heb 11:1016). Even without Scripture to read and before the law of Moses, Abram knew these Biblical truths: “Whoever would love life and see good days…let him seek peace and pursue it” (1 Peter 3:10-11). “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Rom 12:17-1819-21).

Unlike Lot, Abram was not ruled by what his eyes saw, but believed that “the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous” (1 Peter 3:12).

Abram did not act out of selfish ambition or vain conceit but rather, in humility, valued Lot above himself (Phil 2:3-4). Abram could not have imagined that his descendant would be the Lord Jesus himself “who, being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather he made himself nothing…he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!”(Phil 2:678). Abram unwittingly had the same mindset as Christ Jesus in his dealings with Lot.

Abram became a minister of reconciliation, just as we are entrusted to be. Our motive for peacemaking is God’s grace, which has been lavished on us when we least deserved it:

“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:18-19).

Lot chose for himself.

Verse 10 and 11 are pregnant with irony. Lot allowed his worldly eyes to be his guide. Just as Eve “saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye”, Lot’s desires ruled him (Gen 3:6). Instead of seeking the counsel of God or Abram, He chose the best land for himself because he could see how lush it was, “like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt”. Ironically, it was Abram’s faithless sojourn in Egypt that had given Lot a taste for the plains of the Jordan.

The land of Lot’s choice was physically fertile, but spiritually barren.

Sodom and Gomorrah’s wickedness is an echo of Genesis 6:5 which describes the great sin of the human race before God destroyed the world with a flood. Verse 10 is an omen of what lay ahead for Lot. He may have initially camped near Sodom, but the next we hear of Lot, he has permanently settled inside the city of Sodom, along with his family. Sin is progressive.

Lot chose to sow his seed in Sodom, and he and his family reaped more wickedness than they could handle (Gen 14:1219:4-56-8Gen 19:30-33). It is impossible to miss the very real danger Christians face when we allow ourselves and our children to set up ‘camp’ close to wickedness as Lot did. We cannot avoid living in the world, but we will not survive as Christians if we allow our culture’s passions, possessions and power to captivate our eyes and our hearts. Lot teaches us that we must remain holy and separate from the rebellion of our culture. Do we realize how much our choices affect our families and future generations? Do we trust the Lord’s choice for our lives, or do we choose for ourselves?

Living by faith and not by sight

Because Abram was not mesmerised by “all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life”, God lifted his eyes to the horizon to survey the land He had picked out for him and his offspring (1 John 2:16Gen 13:14-17). Like an estate agent, he invited Abram to walk the length and breadth of the land and told Abram that there would be no purchase price for this property: “I am giving it to you” (Gen 13:17). It would be another 25 years before Sarah would give birth to Isaac, the first seed of the promise, and about 470 years before Abram’s descendants would finally cross the Jordan river to take possession of Canaan (Josh 14:724:29). Abram lived by faith and not by sight.

Live it out!

Do you see it as your role to be a channel of peace and reconciliation in your family, church and community, as Abram was? Read these New Testament passages and ask how you can practically be a peacemaker.

Matthew 18:15-17

2 Timothy 2:22-26

1 Thessalonians 5:12-135:15.

1 Peter 3:9

Rom 12:17


Father, give me faith to desire a better country—a heavenly one. Give me eyes to see beyond appearances, conflict and scarcity to your faithful provision and promises. Give me eyes of faith to see that that you alone are my shield and my very great reward. Help me to humble myself under your mighty hand, so that I will make the first move towards peace where there is strife and entrust myself to you–the one who judges justly.


From the summit of faith into the ditch of fear

“People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.”

When I was a child I was baffled by this idiom. I dreamed up scenarios of rock-hurling inhabitants of little forest greenhouses! (Remember that it was the pre-Google era when people actually applied their minds and imaginations to figure things out!) Eventually Webster’s dictionary clarified the idiom for me:

“People who have faults should not criticize other people for having the same faults.”

This is an apt warning against smugness as we read the story of Abram’s low point in Egypt in Genesis 12. It is easy to criticize Abram’s lapse in faith as he heads down to Egypt to escape famine in Canaan. It is natural to be shocked at his selfish schemes as he leads Sarai to become a concubine in Pharoah’s harem, all to save his own skin! What on earth happened to the bold, intrepid man of faith who followed God’s call into the unknown, the man who boldly built altars and called on the name of the Lord? How did Abram imagine things would turn out for his wife—the future mother of the great nation? Had Abram not heard that husbands should lay down their lives for their wives if the need arises? Did he forget God’s amazing promises (Gen 12:2-3)? Pity he didn’t have Matt 6 and Eph 5:25-28!

But as I hurled rocks of accusation at Abram, I noticed them boomerang right back and heard the faint tinkling of glass around me: “Have I always trusted God for my physical needs and the needs of my family? Have I never reacted prematurely when afraid? Have I never obsessed over a trial instead of praying about it? Have I never responded to danger with alarm and clever deception? Have I always remembered the promises, protection and provision of God? Have I ever been unable to feed my family?” Only when we stand in the shattered glass of our own self-righteousness can we see that the Bible is written about (and for) real people just like us. People who are prone to spiritual amnesia and self-protection. People who are by nature selfish, cowardly and unfaithful. That is why we must never focus on our ‘faith’ to get us through the great tests of life, but only on God’s faithfulness. God’s grace is the only thing that stands between our mountains and ditches of faith. Our texts today are Genesis 12:10-20 and 1 Cor 10:12-13:

10 Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land. 11 When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to Sarai his wife, “I know that you are a woman beautiful in appearance,12 and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me, but they will let you live. 13 Say you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared for your sake.” 14 When Abram entered Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. 15 And when the princes of Pharaoh saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. 16 And for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male servants, female servants, female donkeys, and camels.

17 But the Lord afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. 18 So Pharaoh called Abram and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? 19 Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife; take her, and go.” 20 And Pharaoh gave men orders concerning him, and they sent him away with his wife and all that he had.

1 Cor 10:12-13:

12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Plans from panic

Immediately after the spiritual high of his call, Abram faced physical, down-to-earth trials and temptations. He was in Canaan– the promised land– obeying God and enjoying His blessings. But then he was faced with a serious famine, which threatened the survival of his family. When he ran to Egypt to avoid food shortages, he faced another kind of danger: Pharoah, who could perhaps covet his beautiful wife and kill Abram to have her.

Abram faced the fear of CIRCUMSTANCES and the fear of MAN, which every believer will face. Abram had a basic choice, just as we do: Trust God or trust self.

Abram chose his own ingenuity and did not exactly cover himself with glory.

Going down to Egypt

Spiritually speaking, ‘going down to Egypt’ means doubting God’s promises and running to the world for help. Isaiah describes this tendency, which I recognize in myself:

“Ah, stubborn children,” declares the Lord,
“who carry out a plan, but not mine,
and who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit,
    that they may add sin to sin;
who set out to go down to Egypt,
    without asking for my direction,
to take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh
    and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt! (Isa 30:1-2)

The right way is not always the easiest or most instinctive way.

Difficulties are NOT always a sign that we are outside of God’s protection, will and blessing.

We know that God tests our faith through fear, scarcity and danger, “so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold… , may be found to result in praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7). Testing produces ENDURANCE, proven CHARACTER and HOPE in those who persevere through it, because it teaches us to trust God in ways we wouldn’t in times of plenty (Romans 5:2-5James 1:12).

When the circumstances of life are too difficult and we find ourselves in the furnace of testing, Abram’s failure teaches us to seek wisdom. It is better to remain where God has put us and trust in Jesus, rather than trust in our own hearts. Panic and fear lead to foolish and hasty decisions.

So this is what the Sovereign Lord says:

“See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone,
    a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation;
the one who relies on it
    will never be stricken with panic” (Isa 28:16).

“Those who trust in themselves are fools,
    but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe” (Prov 28:26).

Plans from self preservation

The Bible often warns us against spiritual amnesia (forgetfulness). We must not forget who we are and who God is, as Abram did in his furnace of testing. Abram did not deny God’s existence. He did not curse God for the famine. But He also did not wrestle with God’s promises. He simply forgot how great God is and went about making cunning plans to save himself.

Abram failed to ask for God’s direction or protection. He went into survival mode and then hoped that God would bless his plans and schemes.

Paul reminds us not to trust in our faith or ingenuity, but to look to God, who will provide a way of escape so that we are able to endure it (1 Cor 10:12-13). No trial is an exception to this rule. It is our stubborn and proud hearts that instinctively seek shelter in the shadow of ‘Egypt’ instead of the Almighty: “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty” (Ps 91:1).

As with Abram, fear is a terrible driver of our thoughts and behaviour. The only antidote to fear is to continually turn God-ward rather than in-ward– before we make our plans.

A web of sin

Abram’s panic led to self-made plans. His desire for self preservation led to rash foolishness. His forgetfulness of God led to selfishness, compromise, deceit and sacrifice of his wife’s chastity. When Abram made plans that were not the Lord’s, he added sin to sin (Isa 30:1). He deliberately chose a convenient lie over the truth that Sarai was his wife. He even instructed her to lie on his behalf (Gen 12:13). Abram used the same lie again in Genesis 20, and Isaac did the same to his wife, Rebekah (Gen 26:7-10). Parents are role models to their children– for good or ill. It may have seemed like a small half-truth to Abram and his culture, which viewed women as chattels, but it was a serious offence to God (Gen 12:17).

Abram wandered into sin through the gateway of fear and compromise. The consequences were dire for everyone…for generations.

At first, it may have seemed as if Abram benefited from his lies (Gen 12:16), but the sweetness of sin never lingers long. The poison of deception must have killed Abram’s soul as he saw the line of sheep, oxen, donkeys, servants and camels wafting into his yard…but no Sarai in his house. His ill-gotten gain would have brought him no satisfaction.

We need to hear God’s heart on the sanctity of marriage today:

Marriage should be honoured by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” (Heb 13:4).

There is no compromise for God. Whatever the prevailing culture says, faithlessness to the marriage covenant is always an offence against God. It was wrong even before God gave Moses the commandments: You shall not commit adultery. You shall not lie (Ex 20:14; 16). Marital faithlessness causes chaos and destroys many in its wake, including children and whole communities. Even the pagan Pharoah knew that what Abram did was wrong and deported him in disgrace (Gen 12:20).

Instead of being a blessing to the nations, Abram’s lie cursed the Egyptians and destroyed his witness there. It is likely that Hagar, (the Egyptian maidservant who bore Ishmael), was one of the gifts that came from Pharoah – payment for Abram’s marital faithlessness. Lot (Abram’s nephew) got a taste for Egypt and would later choose the plains of Sodom as his home, since the land was fertile “like the land of Egypt” (Gen 13:10). Abram’s sin affected generations to come.

Abram learned some painful lessons from Egypt: 1) Live by faith, not fear; 2) Always tell the truth; 3) The end never justifies the means, and 4) Our sins will always find us out. May the Lord help us to learn from Abram’s mistakes without having to repeat them ourselves.

But the greatest lesson Abram would have learned in Egypt is that God is faithful when we are not.

God’s grace in our unfaithfulness

In grace, God intervened and rescued Sarai from Pharoah’s harem. Yahweh had not forgotten his promises to his servant Abram (Gen 12:1-3). If God had not cursed Pharoah’s household with plagues, he may not have known anything was wrong. Pharoah did not harm Abram and sent him away with Sarai and all their goods. In mercy, God did not give Abram what his sin deserved. Despite all Abram’s wrongdoing, God worked all things together for his good and God’s glory. God never left Abram, but he did allow Abram’s sin to work itself out.

I’m sure Abram did not speak of his time in Egypt with pride. He probably lived all his life with pangs of regret and remorse—especially when he looked into the eyes of his wife, Serai, and saw those stupid animals which were a reminder of his ill-gotten lobola. But you will never find this failure mentioned in the New Testament, because God forgave Abram’s sins and kept no record of them. He chooses not to remember the faults of his repentant children, because He has judged our sin in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Despite Abram’s faithlessness, God remained faithful to his covenant with Abram. The book of Hebrews describes the covenant God has made with each and every sinner who puts our trust in Jesus:

This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel
    after that time, declares the Lord.
I will put my laws in their minds
    and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
    and they will be my people…

12 For I will forgive their wickedness
    and will remember their sins no more.”(Heb 8:12).

Only Abram’s faith is remembered, not his failure. Like Abram, the only difference between our faith and failure is the grace of God. That’s encouraging but humbling also.


Father, help me to think of myself with sober judgment, knowing that even the measure of faith I have is a free gift of grace you have assigned to me (Rom 12:3). Lord, please sustain and strengthen my faith so it may stand the test of fear.  Please help my unbelief! Help me to trust you during the furnace of testing so that my faith can grow deeper and stronger. Thank you for your grace, which is the only reason I am your child in the first place and the only reason my faith will endure to the end. Breathe your faithfulness into me, so that I may give you the glory in everything. Help me to fear you, rather than what circumstances and people can do to me.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Worship as you sing “I will wait for you”, by Shane and Shane.

Abram: Faith Faces An Uncertain Future

The Wild Coast is dubbed the “graveyard of ships”. This section of eastern Cape coastline is known for its pounding breakers, cauldron currents and treacherous rocks which have smashed and swallowed thousands of ships. One was an East-India vessel called the Grosvenor on its voyage from India to England in 1782. It carried 150 people and large stashes of gold, cash and diamonds. Stephen Taylor’s intriguing book titled Caliban’s Shore– The Wreck of the Grosvenor and the Strange Fate of Her Survivorspieces together the true story of the 91 crew and 18 wealthy British passengers who made it to shore and their fate thereafter: Of the 123 initial survivors, only six eventually reached the safety of a frontier farm and a further twelve were later rescued. All 18 survivors were the strongest and fittest young men on the ship, under the age of 29. The remaining 105 wandered aimlessly up and down and eventually starved to death, drowned in rivers, disappeared in dense forests, and fell victim to animals, local tribesmen, dysentery, sunstroke, scurvy and exhaustion. Two men and at least four women and children were permanently assimilated into local Pondo and Xhosa tribes. It is believed that the latter became wives and mothers in these villages. What struck me most was that the fate of the passengers was sealed by their weak Captain, John Coxton. Owing to flawed judgment, leadership and character, Coxton caused the group to splinter in different directions. Worst of all, he abandoned the women and children under his care in an attempt to save his own skin (and bag of diamonds). In the end, he saved neither. Captain Coxton is not remembered today for his heroism.

The Wreck of the Grosvenor made me think of the ancient heroes of Hebrews 11 who were commended by God because of their faith while they lived as strangers in an inhospitable land (Heb 11:21339). Unlike Captain Coxton, these heroes of the faith are like a line of footprints in the sand for Christians to follow. They teach us not to give up or wander about aimlessly on our journey home (Heb 12:1-3). They teach us to be bold and intrepid in the face of uncertainty. They show us what “Perseverance of the Saints” looks like in the messiness of life. However, the Bible makes no attempt to airbrush or photo shop their stories. The Scripture records frankly how they fared in various tests, revealing that the heroes of the faith were not very different from ourselves. Sometimes their faith was steadfast, but often it faltered and buckled to fear, pressure, unbelief and impatience.

The flawed ‘heroes’ of Hebrews 11 show us that God is the true hero of every journey of faith.

We have already looked at Abel, Enoch and Noah’s faith. For the next few weeks on The God Walk, we will look dig into the lives of Abraham and Sarah. Our texts are from Hebrews 11 and Genesis 12:

Hebrews 11:8

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 

Genesis 12:1-12

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.”

So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him.From there he moved to the hill country on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. And there he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord. And Abram journeyed on, still going toward the Negeb.

Believe and obey—the heartbeat of Abram’s faith

These nine verses mark a pivotal point in God’s plan of salvation. God took the initiative and called an ordinary man and his wife out of idolatry. Abram and Sarai were no more holy than everyone else in Ur. God chose a liar and a future polygamist to be the father of all who believe (Gen 12; 20; Gen 16:3Gen 25:1).

God called Abram to believe his word and leave everything that was comfortable and secure–To go towards an uncertain, uncomfortable future that God would show him. Abram believed God’s promises and obeyed his call. His faith wobbled many times along the pilgrimage, but this intrepid response to God’s call is the heartbeat of his faith. Volumes could be written about the call of Abram and God’s promises to him, but I will focus on just a few thoughts regarding Abram’s faithful obedience to God’s call.

Abram’s call demanded his all.

Abram’s unequivocal obedience to leave and go was uncomfortable and costly. There was no halfway house or return ticket to Ur. God’s call took Abram right outside of his comfort zone.

So Abram went, as the Lord told him” is a stark, simple record of obedience. God had revealed his explicit instructions to Abram while living in Ur, and Abram had taken God at his word and set out for Canaan with his wife (Sarai), father (Terah) and nephew (Lot), leaving his clan behind in Ur. Terah only got as far as the town called Harran, where he died aged 205 (Gen 11:10-32).

Yahweh called Abram to give up all he had ever known to follow wherever God led.

It must have been a mighty convincing revelation! Abram’s call meant leaving the comfort and protection of his clan, job and contacts in Ur– no small sacrifice in a world ruled by raiders and wars. Abram and Sarai uprooted themselves on the basis of God’s naked word.

They sacrificed a known, sure future– for a dangerous, uncertain one. Uncertainty did not paralyse them.

They gave up the sophisticated community of Ur and its culture of libraries and learning– to pitch their tent as strangers. There would be no welcoming committee from the Canaanites who practiced child-sacrifice and public prostitution to coax blessing from their fertility gods– Baal and Asherah. Abram and Sarai left the wealth and privilege of their extended family– to trust in God’s provision alone. Their faith was bold.

Abram’s faith held tightly to what he could not see, rather than what his culture deemed important. By faith, he pitched temporary tents while building permanent altars to the Lord (Gen 12:7-8Heb 11:9).

Abram built altars wherever he went.

Abram traded the familiar lunar gods of Mesopotamia to worship Yahweh, whom he could not see. He swapped the great Ziggurat (temple) of Ur for altars he built out of stone, first in Schechem and then among the hills between Ai and Bethel (v 7 and 8).

God promised to make Abram’s name great, but instead Abram built altars to the Lord and “called” (qârâ) on the name of the Lord. Qârâ means to ‘proclaim’, ‘call out to’, ‘preach’ or ‘accost.’ It is poignant that he built altars on the southern and northern borders of the promised land of Canaan—symbolically taking possession of the land before it was given to his descendants. He boldly built an altar under the oaks of Moreh where soothsayers practiced divinations and sorcery, bringing Yahweh’s light to his dark pagan world (Gen 12:6;7).

In the previous chapter of Genesis, people had built the Tower of Babel to make a name for themselves, but Abram built altars to proclaim God’s name instead of his own (Gen 11:4).

In building altars, Abram consecrated himself and his family for God’s glory. Abram lived not for his own greatness, but for the fame of God.

Abram believed against all hope.

God’s promises seemed far-fetched and impossible.

Sarai was barren and getting on in years—but God promised that through a family of his own, Abram would become a great nation that would enjoy God’s blessing (Gen 12:2-3).

Abram was unknown – but God promised that his name would be great (Gen 12:2).

Abram and Serai were childless—but God promised that Abram would be a conduit of blessing to all families (nations) on earth (Gen 12:3).

Abram was a nomad in a land inhabited by formidable pagans—but God promised to give his descendants the land (Gen 12:7).

Abram did not waver in believing that God would fulfill his promises.

Romans 4:18-20 is a commentary of how Abram walked by faith and not by sight:

18 Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.

By faith, Abram was fully convinced that God would do what was humanly impossible. Likewise, God calls all believers to believe God’s promises to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.

Abram’s call announced the gospel.

God’s ‘impossible’ promise to Abram was, “In you all families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen 12:3). Later God confirms this promise in a covenant, “Behold my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations” (Gen 17:4).

Our God is astounding! Four thousand years ago, when God called Abram, He knew his promised Messiah, Jesus Christ, would come to earth and ‘pitch his tent’ among us as Abram did in the land of Canaan (John 1:14). He made sure Jesus was a direct descendant of Abram (Matt 1:1). God knew that his Son would be the ultimate fulfillment of these promises to Abram, opening the way for any person, from any nation, to become a child of Abraham through faith in Jesus. He knew every man, woman and child who would become ‘heirs’ of His promises. God knew about you and me if we are believers and followers of our Lord Jesus today! Paul states clearly:

The call of Abram was the first Gospel announcement!

Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith (Gal 3:7-8)

God’s call to go the nations

Jesus’s call to every believer is to go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation, making disciples of all nations and teaching them to obey Jesus’ commands. His promise is that He will be with us always, to the very end of the age (Mark 16:15Matt 28:18-20).

Hudson Taylor believed God had called him to China to do exactly this. In 1865 on Brighton beach he told God that he would go anywhere, do anything, suffer anything. He asked God to give him the guidance and provision He would need. He knew it was a call to a rugged life that would be hard on his body and would require complete dependence on God and not on any man. He began preparing by exercising his body, sharing the gospel and serving medically in the poorest slums of his hometown. He moved out of his comfortable home and lived among the poor, renting a cold, unfurnished apartment and existing on a very sparse diet. He embraced every opportunity to trust God for physical needs. Eventually, Hudson and his wife Maria, led the way for thousands of missionaries to proclaim the gospel in all the provinces of China through ‘China Inland Missions’. Through the Boxer Rebellion, serious illnesses, deaths of his wife and four of his eight children, Hudson continued to yield himself to God’s call on his life. In 1900 there were 100 000 Christians in China. Today there are probably around 150 million. Hudson’s statement of faith was simple:

“Depend upon it, GOD’S work done in GOD’S way will never lack GOD’S supplies.”

I ask myself today whether I am prepared to experience even slight discomfort and uncertainty to channel the blessings of the gospel to strangers, friends and family on my doorstep?

Live it out!

It is important not to read ourselves into Abram’s story, but it is also impossible to miss the features of faith that should be visible in every believer:

  • Do you obey God without hesitation as Abram did? Jesus said that obedience is the external evidence that we are Abraham’s children: “Abraham is our father,” they answered “If you were Abraham’s children,… then you would do what Abraham did” (John 8:39). Faith has nothing to do with ethnicity, church membership or being better than others. But true children of Abraham trust in God’s promised Saviour and then follow him in obedience.
  • Have you experienced a “leaving” and “going” in your life? It may not be geographical, but God’s call never leaves us where He finds us spiritually. Jesus did not invite us to a safe, private faith, but to a lifetime of denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following him (Luke 9:23-25). We are called to let go of cultural practices and thinking which do not conform to Christ.
  • Do you rely on God’s promises today and look to the future with hope? Faith is childlike dependence on God, one day at a time (Matt 18:1-4). His work in us in never finished until the day He takes us home.
  • Does your faith shine with joy and life to those in your culture? God calls us out of this world to declare his praises (1 Peter 2:9); to worship wherever we go (1 Cor 10:31) and let our light shine in our pagan world (Matt 5:16), just as Abram did in his.


Father, thank you that you loved the world so much that you gave your only beloved Son, so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. I hold tightly to this firm promise and I believe you when you say that we are saved by faith– in Jesus alone. Thank you for your provision and for the many wonderful blessings of life I enjoy, but I ask that you would loosen my grip on the comforts of this world so that they would not become my idols. I believe you when you say that I am a child of Abraham– your own beloved child. Today I offer you every encounter, every unique moment of my short life, and lay it down– like bread cast on the waters– to be used for your glory. I pray that when I face uncertainty for myself and my family, I will boldly obey and trust you to provide for every need. I trust you to equip me for every good work you have planned in advance for me to do. I trust that I will be in the presence of the Lord Jesus the moment I die. I believe you will return to restore the new heavens and new earth better than my wildest imaginings. I pray for grace not to hold anything back from you in the days you give me on earth. I ask for an intrepid, obedient faith like Abram’s.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Worship as you sing the hymn, Take my Life and Let it be, Consecrated Lord to Thee. 


A Lasting Legacy

Everyone wants to be remembered for something, but the accounts of Enoch and Noah point us to the only epitaph worth having and the only legacy worth leaving:

They walked with God.

They walked WITH God before they did any great work FOR God. They were concerned for the salvation of their households. Their legacies were not born out of natural talent, physical prowess or leadership skills, but out of a persevering FAITH which moved them to obey God in whatever he called them to be and do.

Their lasting legacies were birthed from a faith that kept walking with God through the mundane and momentous details of life… over a lifetime.

Our text today is Hebrews 11:5-7:

By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. 

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.”

They walked by faith, not by sight

Enoch and Noah are listed in Hebrews 11 as heroes because they lived by faith, sure of things hoped for and convicted of things not seen. (Heb 11:1). Both gained God’s approval through their faith, but never saw God’s promises fulfilled in their lifetimes (Heb 11:39). We are told that both men lived lives that were pleasing to God (Heb 11: 57) as they walked with God (Gen 5:22-23Gen 6:9). Enoch’s entire story is summed up in four short verses in a genealogy, whereas Noah’s account takes up seventy-four verses (Gen 6; 7; 8; 9).

Noah’s legacy

In human terms, Noah was the one who played a pivotal role in redemptive history, not Enoch. The 600-year old man with the long white beard is the darling of Sunday school classes and Toddlers’ Bibles, whereas I’ve never seen Enoch’s story get a mention. Admittedly, nothing spectacular happens in Enoch’s life (except at its unique end), whereas Noah’s legacy was stunning: From the age of 600 to 720, Noah knocked nails into a watertight ark the length of one-and-a half rugby fields and as high as a four-storey building. Although he lived 4400 years ago, Noah built a vessel that was as large and seaworthy as a modern day cargo ship. Despite no sign of a flood for 120 years, he “did everything just as God commanded him” while a wicked generation looked on apathetically and ignored his warnings of coming judgment. He dared to stand alone as the only ‘blameless’ man in his corrupt and violent generation. For this he ‘found favour in the eyes of the Lord’ (Gen 6:8;9). While buffeted on high waters for over a year, Noah took care of all the animals on the ark– no mean feat for any zookeeper! Noah was a colossus in the arena of faith in action and deserves his spot in every children’s Bible.

For our impatient generation, Noah’s long-term commitment (121 years) to doing exactly what God told him to do is truly staggering. Because of his obedience, God saved Noah and his family from a vast flood that wiped out every other living thing on the face of the earth (Gen 7:212223). Noah’s legacy is obvious for all to see.

Enoch’s legacy

However, Enoch’s claim to fame is more subtle than spectacular. In fact, it seems that Enoch lived a common, pedestrian life. Little is mentioned about him except the gems tucked into the genealogy of Genesis 5:

21 When Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah. 22 Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters.23 Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years. 24 Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.

Without a body to bury, Enoch’s funeral may have been unusual. But these four verses would be a fitting eulogy at any believer’s funeral. Unlike Noah, Enoch was not assigned a great project or pivotal role in redemption history. Nor did he live to a ripe old age for his day. (By comparison, his son, Methuselah lived 969 years and his grandson, Lamech lived 777 years!) Enoch’s lasting legacy was simply that he walked with God as he went about the ordinary business of life. His faith was an ongoing habit of life.

It struck me that Enoch walked with God from the time he was 65 years old, the year his son Methuselah was born (Gen 5:22). The birth of a child is always a momentous event. I wonder if he had a personal encounter with God as he looked at the tiny baby in his arms and saw God’s handiwork in his son’s perfect frame? Perhaps this day branded him forever as a man who walked by faith and not by sight—the day he received saving faith? After Methuselah’s birth, Enoch was a father to other children and walked with God for three centuries. At that point God considered his work on earth done.

The subtle statement “Enoch walked with God” is repeated by the inspired writer, so it must be significant (Heb 11:2224).

An epitaph worth having on our tombstone

Enoch may not have owned a tombstone in a graveyard, but he had a significant epitaph recorded in Genesis 5:24 for hundreds of generations to read. Enoch’s epitaph challenges us:

When we die, will people remember us as someone who walked with God? This is the only epitaph worth having.

Walking with God is an ongoing habit of life rather than a few isolated encounters. It hints at intimate friendship with a steady rhythm, like two pilgrims enjoying each other’s company on a long journey together.

Walking suggests a daily dependence on God through the mundane and momentous details of life.

Walking is active, determined progress towards a destination– as opposed to stagnation.

Walking with God is not a sprint, a sleep or a solo. It is not an endless quest for the spectacular, nor sanctuary from the rough and tumble of life. It is keeping in step with the Holy Spirit in the messy details of life (Gal 5:16;25).

A habit takes 66 days to install– a relatively small chunk of time out of a lifetime. There is no habit more worthwhile than an early morning rendezvous with our heavenly Father, in which we read the Bible and pray honestly to him. We cannot ‘walk’ with God unless we listen and talk with Him along life’s way.

A legacy worth leaving

When faithful Christians walk with God in the details of life, they become winsome. The grace and love of the Lord Jesus spills naturally into their demeanour. They long to pass on the gospel of grace to others. This is the lasting legacy they leave behind them.

It’s easy to overlook Enoch’s legacy as we get bogged down in the genealogy of Genesis 5 and engrossed by the flood thereafter. Enoch passed on a lasting legacy that he could not have foreseen at the time:

Enoch was the great-grandfather of Noah! (Gen 5:25-30) And Noah pointed the way to Jesus, the great Redeemer!

Noah did exactly what great-grandpa Enoch modelled for him—he walked with God. This led him to be favoured by Goda righteous man, blameless among the people of his time” (Gen 6:89). Through the INFLUENCE of Enoch, Noah learnt to treasure and obey God before all else. Through Enoch’s EXAMPLE, Noah learned to trust God even when he could not see why. That is why God entrusted Noah with the Ark.

What Noah did not see

Noah could not see beyond his immediate context, but his Ark still stands as a powerful beacon of God’s Redemption of the world. With hindsight, we can see that Jesus embodied the Ark that sheltered Noah’s family from God’s judgment:

“This is God’s message that everyone should know when they walk away from Noah’s account. The message that God is the Creator, that sin has consequences, and judgment is coming. The people of Noah’s time lived how they wanted to live up until the Flood took them. They never took the time to repent of their wickedness.

The Bible tells us there was only one door to the Ark (Gen 6:16). Similarly, there is only one way to enter into a relationship with God. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). For those who believe in Him, Jesus is our one entrance into God’s redemptive grace.

The Bible warns us that a second judgment is coming—this time by fire (2 Peter 3:7). People are turning from God, rejecting Him as Creator, and putting themselves in His place. God continues to be longsuffering, as He was in Noah’s day, but there will come a time when judgment will come. During Noah’s time the question was, “Were you standing in the boat or standing out in the world?” There was no hope of survival for the people outside of the Ark, God’s means of physical salvation. In Noah’s day grace came in the shape of an Ark. Today grace comes in the shape of a Cross. The only way a person can be saved from the eternal consequences of their rebellion against God is to turn from that sin and trust in the Savior Jesus Christ—the way, the truth, and the life. Where do you stand?”


Enoch, Noah… and us

Enoch and Noah point us to the only epitaph worth having and the only legacy worth leaving.

No Christian is ‘just’ a mother or father, aunt, uncle, grandparent, youth leader or school teacher. Like Enoch, our EXAMPLE and INFLUENCE will have massive ramifications that we cannot see now. We are entrusted with the flaming torch of the gospel to pass on to future generations. Even if we have no family of our own, every believer is entrusted with a sphere of influence, no matter how small. To God, it was enough that Enoch was a godly husband and father who walked closely with him. His influence and example in his family was greater than he could have imagined. We do not know what else he did in his lifetime, but his faithfulness in ordinary things pleased God immensely. The writer of Hebrews calls us to follow in the footsteps of those that went before us, to pass on our faith to the next generation and keep our eyes on the end goal of history.

“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For,“in just a very little while, He who is coming will come and will not delay; 38 but my righteous one shall live by faith…(Hebrews 10:36-38).

Lyrics of the song By Faith:

By faith, we see the hand of God
In the light of creation’s grand design;
In the lives of those who prove His faithfulness,
Who walk by faith and not by sight.

By faith, our fathers roamed the earth
With the power of His promise in their hearts
Of a holy city built by God’s own hand –
A place where peace and justice reign.

We will stand as children of the promise,
We will fix our eyes on Him, our soul’s reward.
Till the race is finished and the work is done,
We’ll walk by faith and not by sight.

By faith, the prophets saw a day
When the longed-for Messiah would appear
With the power to break the chains of sin and death,
And rise triumphant from the grave.

By faith, the church was called to go
In the power of the Spirit to the lost
To deliver captives and to preach good news,
In every corner of the earth.

By faith, this mountain shall be moved
And the power of the gospel shall prevail,
For we know in Christ all things are possible
For all who call upon His name.