God Calls Me to A Relationship of Faith

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Gen. 12:1   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. 2 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.  3 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.” (emphasis added)

Genesis twelve seems kind of random because it doesn’t fit with earlier chapters. We go from the Genesis flood (chapters 6–8), to Noah’s blessing (chapter 9), his descendants (chapter 10), and God’s judgment on those descendants at the tower of Babel (chapter 11).

Suddenly we see an abrupt change as God commands a man named Abram (who we have never read about before) to leave his family and friends. As if that wasn’t frightening enough God doesn’t even tell Abram where he is going! The land I will show you in 12:1 can be interpreted “when you get there I will tell you to stop.”

Though this new story is confusing, there is an important reason for it.  The sudden change is part of God’s plan because He’s emphasizing a change in the relationship between mankind and Him.

Up to this point man’s relationship with God has been based on our strength, or ability to live a Holy life.  If we obeyed the commands of God blessing would come, but if we didn’t a curse would come.  Of course there is a problem with this idea since we are broken-or unable to live for the Lord. This paired with the Holiness of God which cannot tolerate sin clearly proves that relationship wasn’t working [1].

Please understand that God knew this way of doing things wouldn’t work, but He allowed it to happen anyway. This wasn’t done in anger, or an attitude that enjoyed watching us suffer. Instead this was to show us we are poor God replacements [2].

Our failures or brokenness (Genesis 2–3) and God’s judgment of that brokenness (Genesis 4–11) prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that we cannot take the place of God. This is meant to develop an attitude of humility before Him.

Looking at Genesis 12:1 it’s quite easy to see how this new relationship is different.

  1. The old one was based on our obedience of God’s commands (Genesis 2:15–17)
  2. It was based on our willingness to confess our sins (Genesis 3:8–12)
  3. It was based on listening to God’s warnings (Genesis 4:3–7, 6:1–3)
  4. In other words it was man’s responsibility to do the work

This new relationship is different because Abram only has to do one thing (leave his family). But notice what God would do.

  1. I will show you where to go
  2. I will make you a Nation of people [3]
  3. I will make you famous (make your name great)
  4. I will bless you
  5. I will care for, and defend you

All Abram had to do was trust God.

Now of course this wouldn’t be easy. In fact in those days this step of faith would have been more difficult since without modern transportation and technology, there’s a strong possibility he would never see them again [4]. But God had promised to give the strength necessary to deal with that challenge. The strength, leadership, problem solving, all of it was God’s responsibility.

Though thousands of years have passed since that time our relationship with God is still based upon faith (relying on Him) instead of our own strength due to the fact that we are all broken in His eyes.

You want to know what’s really sad though?

I find myself returning to the old relationship

The one that hasn’t worked and never will work.

So many times when facing a challenge instead of asking the Lord for help I turn it into “the John show” and deal with it on my own. Your probably not surprised that this always ends in a spectacular failure.

But I still go back to it…Because it’s easier to rely on my own strength and feed my own pride than admit brokenness.

May God give us the strength to understand the old relationship is futility, and allow Him to do the work.


  1. More thoughts on these points can be found by visiting http://australianmissionary.org/category/who-god-is/  ↩
  2. Deep inside each of us is an idea that we can do a better of being God (deciding what’s right or wrong) than God.  ↩
  3. interesting since Abram had no children  ↩
  4. Leaving homeland and family was a much greater decision in a traditional society than in today’s mobile, individualistic culture. Abram risked everything he held most dear to obey God’s call.  ↩

Genesis 11:8 God Gives Us The Protection We Need

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Genesis 11:6 And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.  7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.”  8 So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.

 

When I was a child we used to have a small stove in the bottom level of our house, the kind that had large metal eyes. One day after playing outside in the snow my mittens had gotten really wet so I (in my childish wisdom) decided to set them on top of one of the eyes and turn the stove on so it would dry faster. Thankfully my mother saw what I was doing, and went to great lengths making sure I NEVER played with the stove again.

Now her response to my using the stove was much harsher than when I stole a cookie, or didn’t clean up my room. Because there was a serious danger involved with that event

  1. The house could have burned down
  2. Someone could have been injured
  3. Or worst case scenario someone could have died

My mother took drastic action to protect me from the disaster that was approaching.

The same way in Genesis 11:8 God acts in a very drastic way because mankind was heading towards a terrible disaster.

 

Following the Genesis Flood (Genesis 6) God commanded Noah and his family to fill the earth with their descendants (Genesis 9:1, 9:7) like He had with Adam and Eve (Genesis 1:28). This wasn’t only about having children because God wanted His glory to be known throughout the whole world.

For the first generations Noah’s family did this faithfully, but in Genesis nine we see a dramatic change.

Gen. 11:1   Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2 And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” (emphasis added)

Notice that they were doing the right thing (migrating towards the east) but came to a place called Shinar and decided to stay there. This led to the creation of a tower that would “reach to Heaven” so they wouldn’t be forgotten.

Obviously this isn’t a literal tower to Heaven. Instead the descendants of Noah decided to stay in that one place instead of being scattered. Basically they didn’t want to obey the command of God

God’s response to this is changing their speech (9:7) so that it wouldn’t be possible to continue building that city (nobody would understand each other).

It’s interesting to see that the word for “dispersed” in Genesis 9:8 is the same as in Genesis 9:4, but has a very different definition. The people didn’t want to be “scattered to other nations” (9:4) so God scattered them in a violent way (9:11) with the idea of shattering something [1].

So we see because they refused to move into other areas on their own God forced them to move

But why?

Because this was only the beginning of their rebellion

 

See God knows that each one of us have rebellious hearts that desire to do things our own way. At first those rebellions are incredibly small and seemingly unimportant, but they grow very quickly. And the more of those rebellions we get away with, the more (and bigger) we will attempt.

The thing is even as a child I knew that I wasn’t supposed to be using the stove to dry out my wet gloves. But part of just wanted to see if it would work. If I was successful (and hadn’t burned the house down) my curiosity doubtless would have led me to try something bigger.

I personally believe Genesis 11:4 wasn’t the first rebellion of Noah’s children against God…they started with something much smaller [2]. It’s not as if they woke up one morning and said, “hey lets build a tower to Heaven!”

 

God knew it was just going get bigger…
And with each rebellion the consequences will get harsher
So He puts an end to it

Could God have allowed mankind to continue rebelling till something really bad happened? Yes, but the price to pay would have been much greater.

Just like my mother didn’t wait till I actually did start a massive fire before disciplining me, God doesn’t wait till our whole life is in shambles before convicting us of our sins.

And there is Grace in that because our Heavenly Father is actually PROTECTING US from the stronger consequences of our foolish choices.  And in those moments instead of confusion or anger, the correct response is thankfulness to the one who protected us from a greater evil.


    1. X…wÚp puwts, poots; a primitive root; to dash in pieces, literally or figuratively (especially to disperse):—break (dash, shake) in (to) pieces, cast (abroad), disperse (selves), drive, retire, scatter (abroad), spread abroad.
  1. God said this was the beginning since this was the first thing the first rebellion as a unified group  ↩

Genesis 6:3-7 God’s Holiness Gives What We Ignore

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Genesis 6:3 Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” (emphasis added)

 

Sometimes it’s easy to see the Grace and Mercy of God in stories of His judgment, but that’s just not true with the Genesis flood.

For those of you who may not know much about this let me give you some background:

  1. All mankind decided to rebel against God
  2. This sin hurt God (who is Holy) and He decided to kill everyone with a worldwide flood (this would also be the first time it ever rained)
  3. Noah the one Godly man left was chosen by God to build an ark, and bring animals into it
  4. God after the ark was finished closed the door and brought a flood that killed all mankind except for Noah’s family in the boat

Not a very happy story is it? Yet the mercy of God can still be seen.

In Genesis 6:3 God expresses His frustration over the wickedness of man and says, “I won’t contend with (have mercy on) children forever.” He then says the days of man will be 120 years

As amazing as it may seem this wasn’t that long of a lifespan since during those days people lived far longer. Noah actually lived for 500 years before having children (Genesis 5:32).

There are two major views on what God meant by saying man’s days would be 120 years.

  1. 120 years would be the new lifespan after the flood
  2. 120 years was the amount of time between this decision, and the flood

I prefer to believe that God was referring to the time before the flood came since men and women didn’t all live to be 120 (obviously doesn’t happen today).

Okay so why would God wait 120 years before bringing His judgment? One reason is it would take Noah an incredibly long time to build the Ark without modern day machinery (everything would be done by hand). But the real reason I believe is to give people opportunities to repent.

For around 100 years I would say (we do know Noah was 600 when God brought the rain Genesis 7:6) he preached that message to the people

God is going to send a flood that will destroy the entire world…repent of your sins, and join me in the Ark.

But during all of that time nobody would believe.

The moment that first drop fell from the sky they all suddenly realized Noah was telling the truth and wanted to get in.

but it was too late

God’s opportunities for mercy had ended

As a child my parents used the common “three strikes your out” philosophy of dealing with bad behavior. The idea was I would be given three warnings for misbehaving. After the third I would either be punished, or put in a situation where the slightest disobedience got me in trouble.

Being a normal child I would always completely ignore warnings one and two, then try to really obey or beg for mercy when the third warning came. Usually my parents response was “it’s too late, you already had your chances.”

Sometimes they would give me one last chance but even if the hadn’t I had no reason to call it unfair. They gave me two clear warnings. They explained what would happen if we got to number three. I didn’t even try to do the right thing till the last minute.

Throughout Scripture we see God warning mankind of their sins through prophets, angels, or Jesus Himself. Altogether he gives us a much better chance for repentance than the count of three (try the count of one-hundred and twenty!) This long-suffering grace makes us believe sometimes that that mercy of God will last forever.

But it won’t

Eventually God’s Holiness will win out, and He will righteously judge us for our sins…and at that point it will be too late for us to ask for mercy.

Genesis 4:6-7 God’s Holiness Gives What We Choose

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Genesis 4:5 but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell.

Genesis 4:6 The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it” (emphasis added)

 

The story of Cain and Abel is an incredibly sad one since Cain’s anger led him to murder his brother (Genesis 4:8) and refuse to repent (4:9). Because of this God placed a great curse upon the life of Cain (4:10–11).

The truly sad thing is it didn’t have to be this way

Even sadder…God didn’t want it to be that way

God had commanded offerings be given to Him as a form of worship and obedience. Abel brought the best he had to God in an attitude of faith and humility so that the Lord would bless Him (Hebrews 11:4). Cain brought fruit of the ground, but this appears not to be his best or offered in the right attitude, because God refused to bless Cain in the way that He blessed Abel (4:5).

I view Genesis 4:6–7 as a “father and son talk” between Cain and God. The Lord begins by clarifying what happened to Cain was fair (if you do well, won’t you be accepted?). I wrote about fairness yesterday using Genesis 3:24–26, but it bears repeating that the Lord will always give to us what we deserve.

In the second half of verse seven God goes a step farther by warning Cain of what will happen if his anger continues.

He says that sin (the desire to kill Abel) was “crouching at the door.” While some believe this is an animal about to attack, the Hebrew word used gives the idea of resting [1]. So in my opinion this is an animal resting at the door watching and waiting for the best moment to make his move.

But Cain’s anger wasn’t just lying at the door. God says it’s “desire is for him” which should be translated “wants to dominate you.” This is the same word used to describe the husband wife relationship in Genesis 3.

Gen. 3:16   To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” (emphasis added)

Following their act of rebellion against God, Adam and Eve’s relationship with each other was totally broken. Now instead of focusing on others needs and ministering to them, relationships will revolve around control.

The word desire here doesn’t mean anything physical but instead explains that Eve will desire to have the place of decision-making (control) and Adam will rule over her (keep that position of control at all costs). I personally believe all of our relationships could be described as a battle over control.

editors note:  I’m in no way saying here men are better decision makers than women, in fact we often do a poor job of it.  However Scripture is clear that the place of leadership or decision-making belongs to the husband.

So the sin-nature (desire to kill his brother) wanted to control Cain and make him do the wrong thing. Therefore instead Cain must “rule over it.” This doesn’t refer to a completely sinless life since for individuals on their own that’s impossible. Instead God’s telling Cain to fight that anger in the Lord’s strength.

Basically God here is giving Cain a choice:

  1. Fight against that anger before it becomes a desire to kill your brother
  2. Or allow it to grow and experience my curse

We don’t know how Cain felt after this warning from God, but we do know he chose the second option.

It’s interesting that after God does curse Cain he claims it’s too much to bear (Genesis 4:13–14) but the truth is he has nobody to blame but himself. God simply gave to Cain the results of his actions.

As a child I struggled with stubbornness so my parents often used the phrase “okay we can do this the easy way, or the hard way.” This was usually followed up by an explanation of both options.

Now after choosing the hard way and its time for my punishment I couldn’t look at my parents and say…”this isn’t fair!”

Well actually I could, but they would have a fantastic response

You chose this

In the same way I have no reason to complain about God’s Holy punishment when I willingly chose to do things the hard way.

God doesn’t punish me because He enjoys it, instead He loudly calls for me to go the other way (more on this tomorrow).

But in His holiness the Lord will give me the path I choose…even if it’s a painful one.


  1. lie down, lie: of domestic animals, ass (under heavy burden), (in obstructed path) (at ease; poet. in, sim.); sheep, in repose; fig. of people; calf, in repose; of wild beasts, lion, in lair; = make lair, abode (fig.); leopard (with kid); = brood, of mother-bird; of man, in repose; of the deep; fig. of curse (b pers.); of sin.  ↩

Genesis 3:22-24 God’s Holiness Gives What We Deserve

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Gen. 3:22   Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand rand take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—”

23 therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. (emphasis added)

 

Adam and Eve’s sin of eating the fruit that God had commanded them not to (Gen.3:1–6) brought many painful consequences into the world.

  1. Shame and embarrassment (Genesis 3:7)
  2. Selfish relationships only focused on protecting themselves (Genesis 3:8–12)
  3. Pain for the woman in childbirth, and the marriage relationship (along with all others) will become about gaining control (Genesis 3:16)
  4. Life is now filled with hard work (Genesis 3:17–18)
  5. Physical death comes at the end of life (Genesis 3:19)
  6. And worst of all God sends them out of Eden (3:22–24)

 

To make sure we understand the seriousness of this judgment, God describes his sending out in two different ways.

 

The first word in 3:23 [1] gives the idea of sending someone away, but it has lots of different definitions [2]. In this case it takes the definition of “earnestly forsaking”, but God wants to make sure that we have a clear understanding of how seriously He takes sin..

That’s why he uses the word’s “drove out” in 3:24 which gives the idea of a forceful sending away [3]. In most cases it either refers to the Lord judging wicked nations (Deuteronomy 33:27, Joshua 24:18) or ending a marriage in divorce.

God chose to us a Hebrew word that’s often used describing divorce to explain just how seriously He took the rebellion of Adam and Eve, and share an important truth.

Sin Breaks the Heart of God

Now it’s easy to see the God of Genesis 3:23–24 who refuses to overlook sin and view Him as someone that just wants everyone to suffer…which is why we have Genesis 3:22.

You see we can get so wrapped up in the fact that God doesn’t give mercy or forgiveness that we can forget we DON’T DESERVE MERCY.

 

Editors note: To illustrate this point I am about to go on a rant, feel free to start reading after the rant has ended.

If working with children has taught me anything, it’s that parents or authority figures are doing a very poor job of explaining reality to them. By this I mean the simple idea of “if you do the right thing good things will happen, but if you don’t obey bad things will happen” are foreign, or looked upon as unfair.

For instance I often use things like candy as prizes for children who listen and obey during class time. You would be amazed at the amount of  kids who willingly admit to not listening or obeying but can’t comprehend why they don’t get a piece of candy at the end.

In a deeper sense this shows our cultures refusal to institute consequences for wrong actions. Now instead of “do the right thing and you’ll be rewarded”, it’s “try your best and you will be rewarded.” And eventually if we aren’t careful it becomes “just try and you will be rewarded.”

Okay end of rant…you can start reading again now.

 

Lets look at 3:22 for a moment shall we?

  1. Adam and Eve willingly chose to take the place of God (place of control instead of deity) instead of obeying Him
  2. They now were able to discern good and evil (make the rules themselves) but because of sins presence in their lives, they would always choose rebellion over disobedience
  3. In their current condition there was no hope [4]
  4. If they ate the fruit there would NEVER be any hope in their lives
  5. So God in His mercy cast them out

 

Now lets ask ourselves a serious question. Did Adam and Eve deserve to stay in the Garden of Eden (a place of perfection). No! They deserved to be forced out.

 

And here we see beauty in the Holiness of God…He is always fair.

When faced with God’s judgments we can make lots of complaints

It’s too difficult

It’s not merciful

It’s lasts too long

but we can never say it isn’t fair.


  1. the english spelling of this Hebrew Word is Shalach  ↩
  2. a primitive root; to send away, for, or out (in a great variety of applications):—x any wise, appoint, bring (on the way), cast (away, out), conduct, x earnestly, forsake, give (up), grow long, lay, leave, let depart (down, go, loose), push away, put (away, forth, in, out), reach forth, send (away, forth, out), set, shoot (forth, out), sow, spread, stretch forth (out).  ↩
  3. a primitive root; to drive out from a possession; especially to expatriate or divorce:—cast up (out), divorced (woman), drive away (forth, out), expel, x surely put away, trouble, thrust out.  ↩
  4. it would be constant cycle of sin, repentance of sin, and sinning again  ↩
  5. refuses to punish wrong actions  ↩