ST. STEPHEN’S EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
Striving to speak God’s saving truth in love. Ephesians 4:15
St. Stephen’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and School | Beaver Dam, WI | 920.885.3309
A sermon based on Genesis 12:1-8 for the 2nd Sunday of Lent, March 8, 2020.
I can remember when my kids were younger packing up for trips. We lived down in Texas with two kids and then another came as well. My family was in Oshkosh and Andrea’s family lived outside of Lansing, MI. When it came time to visit family, we loaded up everything in our van to make the trip. With three kids we used every inch of space we could. The back had items piled up to the roof. The stow and go was crammed full of things. Even open seats had supplies lying on them. It felt like it took us hours to load up and unpack.
Now, as our kids have gotten older, packing doesn’t mean loading the van to the brim. It still is a hectic scenario before we leave on vacation. We triple check clothes, movies, books, toiletries, food, and everything else to make sure we have enough. We load up the van and head out on our trip.
Abram, whom God would later give the name Abraham, also had to go on a trip. This was not a planned trip. God came to him and said, “Get out of your country and away from your relatives and from your father’s house and go to the land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1). God appeared to Abram a second time telling him to pack up everything and leave. The first time Abram and his family left Ur to settle in Haran. Now, God told him to pack up again and leave for the land of Canaan.
Abram obeyed the Lord. “Abram took his wife Sarai his people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to travel to the land of canaan. Eventually they arrived in the land of Canaan. Abram passed through the land until he came to the Oak of Moreh at the place called Shechem ” (Genesis 12:5-6). No big deal, right? People moved all the time, so what made Abram so special? One fact was Abram’s age. He was 75 years old. When most people would want to settle down and enjoy their latter years, Abram packed up and left for a new land. When many people would want to slow down with life, Abram started a new chapter.
Abram simply obeyed. He asked no questions. He spoke no complaints. He did not even try to negotiate with God the ability to stay in the land. Abram loaded up all his possessions and left. Why was Abram able to do all of this? He loaded up the most important thing for his trip, God’s promises.
God did not Abram leave to fend for himself. God gave Abram three promises to get him through this journey. He promised to make him into a great nation. Even though this man of 75 years old, having a barren wife of 65 years old, these two would grow into a great nation. God promised to bless Abram. Abram would see these blessings through his life. He would grow in riches and honor. The people around him would honor him as great.
God would give this land to Abram’s descendants. Even though Abram would live as a nomad, the only place to call his own was a plot to bury his dead. This land, with all of its riches and bounty, would be home for Abram’s descendants. They would wrestle it out of the hands of the Canaanites and live in it for generations.
The most important promise came last. “All of the families of the earth will be blessed in you” (Genesis 12:3). Not only would Abram’s descendants be blessed, but all people would be blessed. God would give one special descendant of Abraham to bring new life to the world.
All of these blessings have the same focal point. Did you catch it? They do not focus on Abram. They do not focus on the ability of Abram to live a decent life to have the possibility of receiving these promises. These promises center upon Christ. Christ is the doer of the action here. Christ will bring all these promises to fruition. The certainty comes from Christ and his ability to keep all the promises which he has made.
The only reason Abram set out upon his journey to a new land came from his faith. Abram built his faith upon God. Abram knew the promises that God made to Adam and Eve. God would repeat these promises to Abram many times throughout his life. God never wanted Abram to be in doubt. God never wanted Abram to feel alone. God never wanted Abram to build upon a shaky foundation.
In the end God fulfilled his promises. Abram would not see the fulfillment of many of them. His descendants did not measure up to the stars in the sky, at least not yet. All nations of the earth had not been blessed, at least not yet. Abram still believed. Abram put his faith not in a general deity. Abram’s faith rested in one person, the most important person, God.
Faith allowed Abram to continually look ahead knowing that God’s promises would come true. This faith saved. Abram placed his faith in God. Abram’s faith knew that Jesus would come into this world to save the world from their sins. Abram loaded up all of God’s promises as the basis for his faith.
God grant us such a faith like Abram! In fact the very same faith Abram possesed is the very same faith we possess. God might never ask us to get up and leave for a land that is not our own. This does not mean that God silences all his promises. His promises continue to come to us.
God promises that he will grant us our daily bread. We take a look around only to wonder where it is. Our table remains, we do not want to say empty, but quite bare compared to the tables of others. God promises to watch our step so that we will slip. Life beats us down. The old adage of bad things come in threes doesn’t apply to me, because they come in a series of four, five, or six bad things. God says he will never abandon us. Yet, we feel all alone. We do not feel God with us walking with us.
So often we turn God’s promises into things we want. We need to remember at the center of all the promises is Christ. When God says, he acts. When God promises, he provides. Our sinful eyes will only focus on the negative and evil. The Holy Spirit adjusts our eyes to focus on him who alone will keep us safe.
At the center Christ’s greatest promise remains for us to see. One very special descendant of Abram has done the greatest work for us. Jesus spread out his arms upon the cross and cried out that God forsook him. Christ gave the exclamation that “It is finished.” Payment is complete. Sin has been paid for. We are free.
Our faith centers upon Christ. This is the very same Christ Abram built his faith upon. Isn’t this amazing? Every believer is connected through faith in Christ. We load up on all these promises of Christ as the foundation of our faith. At the center stands our Savior. Jesus has done it all for us, so that we will never be in doubt.
Abram was not scared to move because Christ was going to go with him. Abram’s faith made him strong to act. Does our faith do the same thing? So often we are timid. We walk gingerly through life not knowing what is going to happen.
Our faith empowers us. This power comes not from us. This power comes from God. In life we might feel like giving up easily. We might wonder how we can ever go on with our life when we only get fall down time and time again.
Our faith gives us the power to continue in this life. Faith never will make this life a cakewalk. We still struggle with sin and the devil’s traps. We continue on. We load up on God’s promises to continue to live in this world for our strength and power. God’s promises allow us to tackle any obstacle that will come. God’s promises give us the confidence that we will not be overtaken in this world. These promises will constantly give us new life.
For this reason as we journey through this world we will load up on God’s promises. These promises serve as a foundation for our faith. We build upon Christ, who is our chief cornerstone. God’s promises will also be our strength and stay. We will run back to them time and time again. We Load Up On God’s Promises. Amen.