Saturday, September 27, 2014


The Altar of Gratitude
Abraham moved from Shechem and pitched his tent somewhere between Bethel and Ai. We know that “Bethel” is Hebrew for “House of God.” Beth = House and El is of course God. But what about Ai? What does the name Ai mean? Well, for what it’s worth Ai means “ruins.” Abraham is now situated somewhere between the House of God and a place of ruin. So, it’s kind of like a picture of where Abraham is at on his pilgrimage. He’s somewhere in between the place of death and destruction and the place of life and edification. Anyway, “There he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD” Genesis 12:8b.

If the first altar Abraham built was one of gratitude then the second is one of attitude! And I mean “attitude” in the good sense of the word, i.e., Abraham has a proper “attitude.” Abraham called on the name of the LORD – “Jehovah” – which is the covenant name of the covenant-keeping God. The first altar Abram built, then, was an altar of commemoration. On this altar Abram offered up a “thanks offering.” He made an offering in thankful remembrance of the LORD who had just appeared to him again repeating promises of a blessed offspring. Abram in this offering was also thanking the LORD for rescuing him from his spiritual bondage in Ur of the idolatrous Chaldeans.

We shouldn’t miss the significance of the first altar. It helps us to understand the significance of the second altar. The significance of the first altar is found in the words of the LORD, Abram’s Redeemer. Genesis 12:7 “The LORD appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your descendants I will give this land.’” We need to see then that Abram built the first altar as an expression of his faith in the LORD. He built it believing that, 1. The LORD would give him descendants, and 2. The LORD would give them this land. Therefore he built the altar to acknowledge that he accepted his responsibilities as head of his family, i.e., his (promised) family to come.

Think about it, Abram’s father Terah had just died, Abram was no longer part of his father’s house. He was now head of the house – the new house wherein he was its father. By building the altar he was therefore showing his gratitude to the LORD who appeared to Him with promises. However, this second altar, though also built out of gratitude, illustrates to us Abram’s attitude. For this second altar, unlike the first, which was for commemoration, is an altar of consecration! For we see that Abram at this altar is consecrating, i.e., dedicating, his life to the service of God.

Abram “called on the name of the LORD.” That’s what it means to call on the name of the LORD. It is to sacrifice yourself on His altar, which is to offer up your life in service to Him and everything He is. It is to set yourself apart, sanctify yourself, in His service. For Abram it was to say, “I’m done with Ur of the Chaldees and all its idolatrous ways! It is forever behind me. I go forward in faith!” Fitting here are the words of St Patrick who said,

“I bind unto myself today
The strong name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One, and One in Three.”

“Abram called on the name of the LORD.” What Abraham is saying here is what the psalmist says, “For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness” Psalm 84:10.

I remember my dad asking me, “Son, what are you going to do when you leave school?” I didn’t give any smart answer like, “I’m going to be a doorkeeper in the house of my God.” I didn’t know God then. I had the wrong kind of attitude toward God – then! I thought you could just ignore God. I thought you could just pull out God as a deep conversation piece, a philosophical discussion, you know, like young non-Christians who get a head full of the Theory of Evolution from the State school? There comes a time when a young man or woman starts asking the big questions. And, if you’ve been taught to ignore God all your life then you have developed a bad attitude. However, we should all have an attitude of gratitude towards God even just for being our Creator!

Let’s begin working toward a contemporary application. We should be building altars to God everywhere we go. And I don’t mean altars in order upon which to sacrifice animals. That disappeared when the One whom the sacrifices pictured appeared! So, in a sense, the animals received a blessing of sorts too when Christ was sacrificed. Since Christ poured out His blood, the animals are no longer needed for sacrifice. They have been liberated! But, more importantly, so have we! So, no more building altars for animal sacrifices to God. “It is finished!” said the living sacrifice Jesus Christ as He offered Himself up to God for us.

The altars we build today are not literal but of the figurative type. We don’t look around for a few choice stones upon which to offer up sacrifices. No, we look for quiet places to erect our altars, quiet places where we, like Abraham, can call on the name of the LORD.

We are the Family of Abraham. We’ve been engrafted into his family tree through faith. Therefore, like our father Abraham we should be building altars to keep up the family tradition.

Fathers, the altar is the place where you should go every day to pray for your family. Pray every day for the forgiveness of your family. Pray every day that the blood that was drained from Christ will cover the sins of your family.

Mothers, the altar is the place where you should go to pray for your husband and your children. It’s that quiet little haven where you meet with God. It’s the place where you ask the LORD to help you look after your little ones. It’s the place where you pray for your husband and your children’s future.

Children, the altar is the place you find it so hard to go! You’d rather watch the telly, phone a friend, read a book. You’d rather do just about anything than call on the name of the LORD in prayer! Well, the altar is the place where you learn the proper attitude towards God. Don’t ignore Him, for that’s what non-Christians do. “Draw near to Him...” and He gives you His Word, His promise that “He will draw near to you.”

The altar is the place where we meet as a family. It’s the place where dad reads the Bible out loud to his wife and his children. And of course the altar is where Christians meet every Lord’s Day all over the world. Beloved! Followers, disciples of the LORD Jesus Christ, have you been neglecting the Family Altar? Is the sum total of redemption just to you the fact that you are saved? Is that it? “Oh I’m saved. I’ll just sit on my hands till the LORD comes for me.” Is that it for you? I suspect that that’s it is for a lot of Christians today!

Look back at what we looked at what we’ve looked before. Look at the second half of what the LORD promised in Abraham in Genesis 12:4, “And in you [Abraham] all the FAMILIES of the earth shall be blessed.” We know that this word “families” becomes “nations” in the New Testament. But nations are made up of many families, are they not? So how then do you expect your family or nation to get the full blessing if you won’t build a metaphorical altar and call on the LORD to receive it?

There’s much more to the blessing than salvation as great a blessing as that is. There’s a blessing to be spread to all the families of the earth. By the way, the LORD won’t meet you at the altar with a 4x2 plank in His hand! He wants you to meet with Him so that He can bless you, not clobber you! He’s not going to say, “Where’ve you been?” THUMP! He wants to bless His people, but He also wants you to ask Him. If you call on Him then you’ll know the blessing is coming from Him, and then you’ll give Him the glory, just like Abraham when he built his altars

Let each family be a living sacrifice on God’s altar for the sake of Jesus Christ. Abraham built an altar and called on the name of the LORD. He consecrated his life into serving Him with thankful remembrance. Let Christians follow the example of our father Abraham that the LORD may bless us along with him. May we all glorify God and enjoy Him forever!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


“And there he built an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him.” Genesis 12:7.


We met with Abraham just as he was leaving Haran on his way to the land the LORD was going to show him. Haran had been a bit of a crossroads on Abraham’s journey. Apparently the name “Haran” actually means “road” or “highway” and can even accommodate being translated as “crossroads.” Abraham’s father died in Haran, but undeterred, Abraham has continued on in his pilgrimage. God has kept his word to Abraham. Therefore, Abraham with his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, have left Haran. They’ve now arrived in the land of Canaan (which is the land the LORD was going to show Abraham) and they’ve brought possessions with them, i.e., sheep, goats, cattle, donkeys and such like. Therefore, they’ve accumulated a bit of wealth along the way and they even have some servants in their train.

“So they came to the land of Canaan” Genesis 12:5. “And the Canaanites were in the land” Genesis 12:6b. So the LORD kept His Word. Abraham is safely in the land of Promise, i.e., Canaan. He is moving through the land and he and his entourage are at a place called Shechem. Apparently the name “Shechem” means “shoulder,” as in “shoulder of a hill.” It reminds me of Ben Lomond on the banks of Loch Lomond in Scotland. When viewed across loch Lomond Ben Lomond is a mountain with two shoulders and a head in the middle! Well, Shechem is likened to a shoulder that bears a load, a place of burden. Anyway, Abraham it was while Abraham was here that the LORD appeared to him again and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” Genesis 12:7.

So what did Abraham do? Did he say to the LORD “What am I? Chopped liver? LORD, You’re giving all this land to a bunch of people I’ve never even seen! I don’t even have any descendants yet, no not one!” When asked what he would leave for his future descendants, the actor Woody Allan jokingly said something like, “Why should I leave them anything? What have those good-for-nothings ever done for me?” Well, even though Abraham at that point had no descendants, he just believed that God was able to deliver what He had promised! His faith in God and His Word was growing stronger.

The LORD had promised to show him a land and here it was. The LORD appeared to him and promised the land to Abraham’s seed. So what did Abraham do? “And there he built an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him.” Genesis 12:7. Then, when he moved from there he also built another altar at the next place.

 We ask the question, Why did Abraham build these altars? What do they mean? We’ll mainly look at two things found in our text, the Altar of Gratitude and the Altar of Attitude. And hopefully we’ll learn the following summary of what we’ll be looking at, We all ought to strive to be living sacrifices on God’s altar.

The Altar of Gratitude

While in Shechem, (i.e., the place of burden) Abraham built an altar to the LORD. So what kind of an altar was it? Well, it was an altar of commemoration. Abraham built this altar in remembrance of the LORD who appeared to him. Therefore, he build it out of gratitude to the LORD, to visibly show his gratitude. The LORD had made Abraham a promise and the LORD held good on what He promised. So Abraham with a thankful heart wanted to display to the LORD his gratitude. So he built an altar and gave a thanks-offering to the LORD who had appeared to him.

So then, you’re probably wondering where the sacrifice bit comes in. Well, in the original Hebrew the word translated here as “altar” means “place of sacrifice.” This comes from a word which means “to slaughter for sacrifice,” e.g., when Noah came out of the Ark after being saved from the Flood Genesis 8:20 says, “Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.” We take it that Abraham did something of the same.

This opens up the question, how did Abraham know to sacrifice an animal to God on an altar? For that matter, how did Noah know to shed the blood of animals in sacrifice to God? Where is the command to do these things mentioned in Scripture? Well, we don’t see God instructing these men personally on how to sacrifice. That doesn’t come until Israel under the command of Moses. It’s then that we see that God gave Israel clear instruction on the sacrificial system. But how did Noah and then Abraham know? Well, we get the impression they knew what God did in the Garden for Adam and Eve after the Fall.

Genesis 3:21 says, “Also for Adam and his wife the LORD God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.” Now, you are at liberty to imagine what you want, but, where did the LORD get the animal skins? From animals? Of course God could have just made a couple of sheep-skin coats for Adam Eve out of nothing. However, if you keep in mind that the Bible is also the record of Redemptive History you’ll begin to see the significance of what God did for Adam and Eve.

The LORD most probably shed the blood of the animals in front of the naked Adam and Eve. He shed the blood to demonstrate that their nakedness could only be covered by a sacrifice God made the sacrifice. The animals sacrificed belonged to Him. As the LORD through the psalmist says, “For every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the mountains. And the wild beasts of the fields are Mine.” Psalm 50:10-11. So God when He covered Adam and Eve and clothed them with something that belonged to Himself. God was the One who made the sacrifice, not Adam and Eve. He made the sacrifice because of their sin.

The LORD had told Adam that he would surely die if he disobeyed Him. Adam died spiritually the day he sinned (i.e., his love for God died) – but an animal or animals died physically that very day. The animal died that died as the LORD made its skin into tunics and covered Adam and Eve with them, died as a temporary substitute. It’s important that we remember this, for it helps us to understand why Abram is building altars.

Meanwhile back at the ranch. Here we see Abram copy what God had done for Adam and Eve. The LORD sacrificed an animal to paint a picture of the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world! But the thing is this: Abraham did it as a memorial. He made the sacrifice out of gratitude. The sacrifice of animals in the Old Testament was a picture of what happens to a man upon whom is the curse of God remains. Like the sacrificed animal he will surely die. As it has its life drained out of it, even its very life blood, so will he! As it becomes a holocaust, a burnt offering, so will he in Hell! As the animal becomes a sacrifice to the living God who is a consuming fire, so will he, forever! Abraham the father of believers believed this, and so should we.

I find it terrifying, but trying to make it go away by not believing it doesn’t help. There are people in hell right now who tried that. Therefore never treat what God says in His Word lightly. Abraham, then, knows that he has escaped the wrath of God, the consuming fire. So Abraham is thankful. He’s really thankful. So he selected some choice stones and he built an altar, an altar of gratitude. He thanked God from the bottom of his sin-scarred heart that it was an animal that was placed on the altar and not him.

Did Abraham know that all of this was a picture of what the promised “serpent-crusher” would do? Well, we’ve already seen last week that Abraham had the gospel preached to him (Galatians 3:8). And if like me you believe that substitutionary atonement is at the heart of the Gospel then clearly Abraham, the father of all believers, is justified by faith! Abraham believed that God would provide a substitute, a substitute that would pay the price owed for his sin.

This substitutional atonement is was acted out by Abram building the altars of sacrifice. Did Abraham know everything we now know? Of course not! How could he? However, was Abraham justified by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone? You bet! Although Christ & Calvary was in the yet distant horizon Abraham could see it afar off. For even Jesus said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad” John 8:56.

God gave Abraham eyes with which to see into the far off future, even the eyes of faith! So Abraham built an altar, an altar of gratitude!

Monday, September 22, 2014


A Plague on You! (Part 3)

The Plague
The LORD was teaching Pharaoh a lesson. However, Pharaoh refused to truly listen. His House refused to listen even though subsequent Pharaohs were taught the lesson over and over. But the LORD was also teaching Abram a lesson. Abram needed to learn to trust in God and God alone. “You shall have no other goods before Me.” Exodus 20:3.

There was to come a time in the future when Abram would become mature in the faith. There would come a time when he would say to his son, (whom the LORD told him to sacrifice), “The LORD will provide!” a time when he would say to his future son, Isaac, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.”

Pharaoh learned nothing from his encounters with the living God. But Abram learned to trust God for all things. He learned not to trust in his own plan but rather to trust in God’s plan, even the eternal plan of salvation, i.e., the Gospel of Jesus Christ! Abram had heard the words of prophecy from the LORD Himself. We see by Abram’s actions that he hadn’t fully understood the words of prophecy. God was patient with Abram. However, His patience ran out with Pharaoh. Pharaoh has another plan. Pharaoh’s plan was devised by “the great dragon, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan; who deceives the whole world” Revelation 12:9a.

Jesus says Satan has been a liar from the beginning. He is the one who cast doubt into the mind of Adam’s wife Eve. “Has God indeed said?” Genesis 3:1. “Did God really say this? And did God really say that?” The devil is still saying the same thing today. “Has God indeed said all of this? i.e., all that is written in the Bible?”

Abram had to learn to trust the promises of God. He had to learn to take God at His Word. And so do we more than ever! We have to stop flirting around with Pharaoh. We have to stop running down to Egypt whenever there’s a famine in the church! Oh Pharaoh will give you people if that’s what you’re after. He gave Abram male and female slaves. What has Pharaoh given the church today? What has he given to the church that has gone down to Egypt in a famine? For example, he’s given us blatantly unrepentant practicing homosexual ministers, hasn’t he? He’s given us blatantly unrepentant practicing lesbian preachers in the pulpit, hasn’t he? Of course, if a person is Biblically repentant, then that’s different, we can handle that! Also, the practice of homosexuality is not the unpardonable sin! According to the Bible all human beings are sinners in need of salvation regardless of what our particular sinful actions are, be it homosexual acts or whatever. However, to twist and distort Scripture to make it say that something it isn’t is to speak the same language as the devil who is the father of lies! “God didn’t really say this and He didn’t really say that!”

Some people would take away from God’s Word and add to it as it suits them! They don’t believe in the supreme authority of Scripture and/or they put their “spin” on it! Oh God can save even the vilest of sinners. He saved me! He saves all believers! However, those who are flirting with the things of the world, those who are happy in the courts of Pharaoh, those who are ignoring the promises of God, need to beware! As John the Apostle wrote in Revelation 22:18ff., For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book [i.e., the Bible, the completed Word of God]: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”

“The LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abrams wife.” Now, you may think that plagues are just a natural part of this fallen world. If you think that then you’re only half right. There are no plagues in the kingdom of God. Plagues belong only to the kingdom of Satan. However, when the Kingdom of God advances on earth so too does medical science, for example. Read the Book of Leviticus, for instance, if you don’t believe what I’m saying! It was Christianity that brought doctors, hospitals and medical science, not paganism! Christianity, true Christianity brings healing to the nations (Revelation 22:2).

Look at those countries where the gospel has never flourished and you’ll see squalor and disease. You’ll see AIDS in epidemic proportion, pandemic. Pharaoh and his whole house, even his kingdom is cursed by God. Even all of creation groans under this curse! But those who listen to Word of God, those who believe the promises of God, are set free! Now, this isn’t to say that Christians will be free from all disease in this life, but rather where the Kingdom of God makes inroads there is better quality of life.

Where people are obedient to the Gospel venereal disease disappears, for instance. It’s no longer an epidemic. AIDS virtually vanishes! Where the Gospel advances marriages produce obedient children making for a safer society. A safer society means fewer murders which means a lower mortality rate. All I’m trying to tell you about is a principle seen throughout Scripture, i.e., the ‘Good News’ principle. When Israel was obedient to God, then God blessed them. When they turned their backs on His promises He cursed them. He sent plagues in among His own people so that they would know it was Him. He sent the plagues so that they would turn to Him in repentance for help!

Abram needed to learn to turn to God first and foremost for help and not to conform to the world. There were blessings in abundance awaiting Abram from the hand of God. But first he had to see the fallen world for what it really was, a desert-mirage. There is nothing of any substance in the Kingdom of this world. The kingdom of this world is just a sand castle in the sky! The storm cloud of God’s wrath is going to wash it all away on the Last Day, it will be dissolved! It’s the Kingdom of God and His righteousness we need to seek, for that remains forever. However, you won’t find it hanging around in Pharaoh’s court.

Abram went down to Egypt for help during a famine. The LORD gives this warning through His prophet Isaiah, “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many, and in horsemen because they are very strong, but who do not look  to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek the LORD!” Isaiah 31:1.

Let’s consider Pharaoh for a moment. Pharaoh figured out the connection between the plagues and Sarai. Pharaoh had had adulterous intentions towards Abram’s wife. Whatever he had planned for Sarai had been unsuccessful. He knew there was something different about this woman to all the rest. And we gather that at some point Sarai must have told him she was Abram’s wife (Genesis 12:18). The LORD (back in Genesis 12:3b) had already said to Abram, “I will bless those who bless you. And I will curse him who curses you.” Pharaoh had unwittingly come between a man and his wife – a man of God and his wife! He had separated a man from his wife because of his antics – marriage wrecker! So God cursed him with great plagues for his trouble! Genesis 12:3, “I will curse him who curses you” - even him who curses you unwittingly. (“What, therefore, God had joined together, let not man put asunder!”)

If non-Christians could only think more like Pharaoh, they would see the connections between plagues and famines, and the people of God, the children of our father Abraham. Perhaps this is too much to ask since even many Christians fail to see the connections! But all it means is that we’ll never be short of material for a lesson on trusting in God and not Pharaoh!

There will be more and more famines and plagues until people learn to trust in God in thankful obedience. But if the world ever wants to spare itself then it needs to learn to, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding!” We need to learn to walk in grateful obedience to the promises of God.

Should Abram have gone down into Egypt with Sarai? No. Why not? Because by substituting his own plan he was putting God’s plan of redemption in jeopardy. Paul the Apostle illuminates it all for us, Galatians 3:16, “Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as of many, but as one, ‘And to your Seed,’ who is Christ.”

As to His humanity, God’s Son, Jesus Christ was to descend from Abram and Sarah, not Pharaoh and Sarah! So the LORD intervened by sending great plagues into Pharaoh’s house. So Pharaoh got the message and sent Abram packing, “Here is your wife, take her and go your way.” I don’t think it is a misapplication of Scripture to quote at this point the verse where God says, “Out of Egypt I called my Son” (Matthew 2:15b).

Pharaoh was only too glad to see the backs of Abram and Sarai – to escape the plagues of God! However, the only sure way to escape God’s plague on you is to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. This is found of course only in the One who came through the loins of Abram and the womb of his barren wife Sarai – his Seed Jesus Christ.


A Plague on you! (Part 2)

The Place

Egypt was a mighty world power in Abram’s time. Egypt at the time of Abram some 4000 years ago was different to today. The great Pharaohs were around in those days. Some of the great pyramids had probably been built before then. So we can imagine something the wealth of the place needed to build pyramids! Today 99% of the people in Egypt live in 4% of the land. The size of the country today is in rough terms 1100 kilometers by 1100 kilometers. Just about all of that is desert, more than 90% apparently.

Now, we know that 4000 years is a long time and perhaps the land was quite different then to what it is now. However, the most fertile parts of Egypt must always have been along the banks of the River Nile. The Nile would overflow its banks each year and the silt deposits were great for growing things in. The Egyptians were good agriculturalists. They also had settled livestock. They used the little fertile land they had wisely.

Abram was a pastoralist. He was into flocks of sheep and herds cattle etc. He was living the life of a nomad, keeping an eye open for good grazing ground in Canaan. However, when the famine came what was he to do? We don’t know how much of his livestock survived the famine in Canaan. If any of the droughts we’ve witness over the last few decades in Australia are anything to go by, I don’t expect Abram had much livestock left! One drought-stricken Australian cattleman said it was almost enough to make a man fall on his knees and pray to God!

What did Abram do? Well, he didn’t look first to his bank-manager for an extension on his loan! Neither do we see him falling to his knees! No! he looked south to Egypt, to the oasis in the desert, type of ancient Las Vegas in the Nevada desert! So Abram went there! He reasoned with Sarai, “We have to get away from this dry and parched land! If we remain here we’ll perish along with the livestock, Promised Land or not!” Abram thought, “If I head south what do I have to loose, my life, my wife?” Abram took the gamble and went to the “oasis in the desert.

According to the Egyptian paintings from around that time, the Egyptian people were copper colored, (like “bronzed Aussies”?). The Egyptians then were descendants of Ham, one of Noah’s three sons (Psa. 105:23). Therefore, when Abram went there, the Hamites met with some Shemites, (Noah’s three sons were called Shem, Ham and Japheth). And the skin of the Shemites was lighter in appearance than that of the hamites. This might have contributed to the beauty of Sarai in the eyes of the Egyptians. There’s a painting from the tomb of Khnum-hotep III which depicts a foreign ruler arriving in Egypt with thirty seven “Asiatics” (i.e., Shemites). They’re not sure whether the scene recalls Abram’s visit or that of Jacob’s sons (Genesis 46-47). The painting is dated from around 1890 BC, so it could be either. The Hamites are copper colored and the Shemites are much fairer. Anyhow, the Egyptians fell off their barstools when they saw Sarai’s beauty!

“Don’t go near her or the boss will kill you!” Abram was right about the Egyptians. They knew a good-looking woman when they saw one! “The princes of Pharaoh also saw her and commended her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken to Pharaoh’s house.” We can only take it that Pharaoh had men scouting around for beautiful women for him.

So Abram got Sarai to lie about their marital status and tell Pharaoh she was his sister! Pharaoh treated Abram well on account of his “sister” (Genesis 12:16). Abram received a sizeable payout at the Oasis! He got sheep, oxen, male and female donkeys,  male and female servants and camels, all tax-free! And all of this because he had a beautiful sister, correction, WIFE! Sarai was Abram’s wife no matter how close they were related. Sarai was a married woman and more than that. She might have been part of Abram’s elaborate plan, and she might have had the star roll in his elaborate stage-play, but there was One infinitely greater than Abram who had a roll for Sarai to play.

Sarai was to play a star part of an even greater plan – God’s plan of redemption! Abram, for the moment, had forgotten about that plan. He had forgotten about the promise the LORD had made to him. “I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and curse him who curses you.” Genesis 12:2-3.

How is God going to make Abram into a great nation when Abram has gone into the place of captivity? There are echoes here of Adam and Eve in the Garden submitting to the Serpent. Abram’s wife Sarai has been taken captive by Pharaoh. Pharaoh through Sarai, the go-between, the mediator, has given Abram the fruit of the land. Abram’s into livestock. “Here!” says Pharaoh, “Have some sheep, oxen, donkeys and camels! I’ll even give you some people to serve you. Have some male and female slaves!” By the way, one of these slaves was a woman named Hagar, i.e., “Hagar the Egyptian” (Genesis 25:12).

Anyway, we see a Bible “motif” here. We see an underlying element or theme at work. Always remember that “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12. At this point in time Abram had not learned this. He was young in the faith, somewhat immature. He needed to learn to keep his eyes on the kingdom of God and His righteousness!

Pharaoh in the Bible is a type, or picture of the Devil, the Serpent. Egypt at this time represents the Devil’s Domain, his kingdom of darkness. Of course, his kingdom is full of delights, delights for the flesh. But what about the spirit? It’s the place of spiritual bondage. It’s the place where people are captive to the things of the world!

Take a walk through the local RSL. Take a look at the hotel along the road. I remember seeing a billboard outside a hotel “Twenty (or was it 40?) new pokey [slot] machines!” Go and look and you’ll see a perfect example of people in captivity. Look in the hotels and RSL’s. Look in those places where they have all those gambling machines.

There was a member of a bowling club in Scotland who wet herself in front of a “pokey machine.” She was afraid to leave the “one-armed-bandit” for a second – even to go to the toilet! She was afraid someone else would move in on her absence and commandeer the machine and hit the elusive “jackpot”! But we don’t have that problem here in Australia. At least not in the hotel with the forty new pokey machines! “No waiting! There’s room for all!” But we should “Seek FIRST the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Matthew 6:33.

Turn your back on the “Get Rich Quick” schemes. Don’t seek to rub shoulders with the rich and famous in order to try to gain riches. For that is to gamble with your soul at Pharaoh’s Casino. Pharaoh’s Oasis is but a desert mirage. His kingdom of glamour and glitter will all be dissolved on the Last Day, (2 Peter 3:11).

You might have fun at the “Oasis Casino” for a little while. But you’ll find that there’s a principle at work. You’ll find that you’ll need to expend twice the amount of effort to receive half the amount of fun. You’ll need to make twice the amount of bricks with half the amount of straw! That is how the mathematical law operates in Pharaoh’s (i.e., the Devil’s) domain.

Gamblers talk about beating the “system.” YOU WILL NEVER BEAT THE SYSTEM! Pharaoh is the hard-hearted taskmaster. He is the picture of the Satan himself! Brothers and sisters, friends, do not serve Pharaoh! As Jesus said to the devil who tried to tempt Him in the wilderness, “Away with you Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’” As the LORD said to Pharaoh through His servant Moses, “Let My people go that they may serve ME!”

Sarai, Abram’s wife was a captive in Egypt. Pharaoh wanted her to serve only him! Genesis 12:17, “But the LORD plagued Pharaoh’s house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram’s wife.” “She will serve only ME and not Pharaoh!” says the LORD. So the LORD set about delivering His people from the hand of Pharaoh. “A plague! A plague on you Pharaoh! A plague on your house!”

A PLAGUE ON YOU ! (Part 1)


(Read: Genesis 12:10-20)

“But the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife.” Genesis 12:17.

We pick up Abram as he continues on his journey through the land the LORD had promised to his descendants. We see that there is a great famine in the Promised Land. The LORD had sent this famine to test the faith of His servant Abram! What was Abram going to do? Would he call on the LORD to provide  for him, knowing that the LORD is faithful? Or would he lean on his own understanding?

We see that Abram, like many of us, had not yet learned to FULLY trust in the LORD. However, the LORD is patient with His children! So let’s see if we can learn from what the LORD taught Abram. Christian, you need to learn the proverb, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding!” Proverbs 3:5.

The Plan
Abram looked at the Promised Land and saw severe famine all around. If he could have change stones to bread he would have! The place had become a wilderness. Hunger and thirst hid behind every dry and parched rock! Of course, Abram didn’t know the verse of Scripture, the verse the LORD quoted when He was in the wilderness, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” Matthew 4:4. Jesus trusted in God the father to provide for Him. But what about Abram? The LORD had caused the famine to teach Abram to trust in Him alone! It was to teach Abram to trust every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

When Moses addressed the children of God he said, “He [the LORD] humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD.” Deuteronomy 8:3.

Did Abraham trust in the promises of God during the famine? No, instead Abraham wrote an elaborate “stage-play”! And Sarah his wife was to be the star player in this stage play. In simple terms, Abram had a plan! He told his wife that they were flying south for the winter! Just like the Canada goose they were heading south to escape the season of famine. Sarah was to be his passport, his ticket into the “Oasis Casino.” He was going to park his camel and try his luck on the “pokey machines” of Egypt!

Abram was a gambler (we see this in Genesis 12:12-13). The stakes were high. He was gambling with his life! Like all gamblers Abram had a system. He had a plan – Sarai! We’re told in Genesis 12:11 that Abram observed that Sarah was “a woman of beautiful countenance.” Take a beautiful woman with you and you’ll receive the royal treatment on her account! “Pretty girls just seem to find out early, How to open doors with just a smile!” (The Eagles), so go the words for a popular song from the seventies still popular today. Abram knew that his wife’s pretty face would get him into the “Oasis!” And we see in Genesis 12:14 that the Egyptians agreed with Abram, “So it was, when Abram came into Egypt, that the Egyptians saw the woman, that she was very beautiful.”

Abram had masterminded a brilliant plan! His fake passport had fooled Egyptian customs! “The princes of Egypt also saw her and commended her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken to Pharaoh’s house.” BINGO! JACKPOT!

What a great mind this man Abram had! His plan was foolproof. There he was in among the high-fliers. He was, so to speak, playing the roulette-wheel beside the high rollers. In today’s vernacular, no doubt Abram couldn’t believe his “luck.” He even landed himself beside the highest of the high rollers, the Casino owner, Pharaoh himself! Find a stunningly beautiful woman, use her wisely, and you can go places in this world. Doors will open for you. And here’s the proof!

Why put up with a famine in the land the LORD has promised when you can have wallow in the riches of Pharaoh’s court? So there was the beautiful Sarai in the palaces of Pharaoh. Marilyn Munro in Kennedy’s Camelot? There’s more to it than that!

What was really going on here? Abram wasn’t really gambling with luck, was he? Abram was really gambling with the LORD. He was putting his trust, not in God, but in the flesh. He was trusting in his own plan, not God’s plan. He was putting his trust in his wife. He was trusting in his wife’s good looks. He was trusting in those things that don’t last. “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley” (Robert Burns ‘To A Mouse’).

As the LORD through His Prophet Isaiah says 40:6-8, “All flesh is grass, and its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, because the breath of the LORD blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.” O Abraham, don’t you see that the famine in the Promised Land is from the LORD? The LORD, like a hot wind, has blown upon it and brought this famine! O Abraham, why do you seek refuge in the things of the world? Wouldn’t you rather be a doorkeeper in the house of your God than dwell in the tents of iniquity? Abram was young in the faith. He had a lot to learn! But praise the LORD for His patience toward all His children!

To summarize before we move on, Abraham, at this time, trusted in his own wits. He trusted in his own wife! He trusted in her beauty! And he trusted in the wealth of a nation.

Saturday, September 20, 2014


The Family Trek

“Now the LORD had said to Abram: ‘Get out of your country, from your kindred and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you.” Genesis 12:1.

In one sense it’s true to say that Abraham went out not knowing where he was going. For Hebrews 11:8 says, “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would afterward receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.” He might not have known where on earth he was going. However, he certainly knew he was walking towards heaven, for Hebrews goes on to say, “For he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” Hebrews 11:10.

Like Christian in Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress Abraham was heading for the Celestial City. Abraham wasn’t rushing out to hammer in some wooden stakes in a land grab, you know, like what they did in the Wild West frontier of America. Abraham wasn’t after a handful of dirt. Every human being gets awarded that in the end. In fact all we are is a handful of dirt, and that’s what we’re awarded on our coffin when we die. “For dust you are, and to dust you shall return” Genesis 3:19b. You’ll get a plot of land – six-foot deep!

Abraham was seeking more than dust, more than a piece of real estate. He was seeking much, much more than that. Instead of hammering in stakes he was upping stakes. Abraham was looking for a City not built with hands – the Celestial City. Abraham was looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of his faith. The Jesus who was eventually going to come through his own loins. “Get you out of your country ... to a land that I will show you.” Who spoke these words to Abraham? Was it one of the wooden or stone idols of the land of Ur of the Chaldeans? Ur was full of pagan idols. Ur was apparently the name of a moon goddess. The word “Ur” means brightness or flame. However, One brighter than the moon appeared to Abraham! One brighter than the sun – ten thousand suns!

Stephen in his address before they stoned him says, “The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in HaranActs 7:2-3. The only other place in Scripture where God is called the “God of glory” is in Psalm 29. There David says, “The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders; the LORD is over many waters.” This is the God who poured out the water jars of heaven upon the face of all the earth in judgment. This is the God who poured out fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah. This is the God who appeared to Abraham – to lead him to glory.

Christian in The Pilgrim’s Progress had just climbed the hill called Difficulty. Two men came running up to him. One was named Timorous the other Mistrust. They told Christian that they were turning back.

Timorous said, “The farther we go, the more danger we meet with; wherefore we turned, and are going back again.”
Mistrust said: “Just before us lie a couple of lions in the way, whether sleeping or waking we know not; and we could not think, if we came within reach, but they would presently pull us to pieces.”
Then said Christian, “You make me afraid; but whither shall I fly to be safe? If I go back to mine own country, that is prepared for fire and brimstone, and I shall certainly perish there; if I can get to the Celestial City, I am sure to be in safety there: I must venture. To go          back is nothing but death; to go forward is fear of death, and life everlasting beyond it; I will go forward.”[1]

Jesus Christ says, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking    back, is fit for the kingdom of God” Luke 9:62. O Christian, what are you afraid of? The LORD has given you His Word. And His Word endures forever. He has made you a promise, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” King David knew this when he wrote, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” The God of Glory appeared to Abraham to bring him into His Celestial City. Abraham trusted that the LORD would lead him there. And now Abraham is with the LORD in Glory – even the Celestial City. And so are all who trust in the God of Abraham who manifested Himself in the LORD Jesus Christ. He is the same LORD who says, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit everlasting life.” Matthew 19:29. He is the same LORD who says, “Have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of  Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living” Matthew 22:32. The same LORD who said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” John 8:56.

So let us begin to tie things together. God called Abraham out of Ur – out of the “flame.” Abraham was to leave his family and all their false gods behind and he was to trust that the God of glory was going take him to a place of glory. Ahead, as we follow the life of Abraham, you’ll see that your journey to the Celestial City is fraught with danger just as it was for Abraham. However, remember we as Christians are all in this together. Like Abraham there will be many obstacles to be overcome. No doubt we’ll make many mistakes along the way but trust in the LORD always. You can’t go back. There’s nothing there – nothing but death! The LORD, after many had turned from following Him, said to those who remained, “‘Do you also want to go away?’ Then Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” John 6: 67-68.

It’s nice to know who you are and where you come from. But don’t spend your life looking at church records. Don’t spend your life walking around graveyards looking at headstones. For that is to go barking up the wrong tree. All you’ll find are a bunch of dead relatives. As the angels said to the women the day Jesus was resurrected, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” If you trace your family tree back far enough and you’ll come to Adam. And Scripture says that we are all dead in Adam. But those who are grafted into Christ’s Family Tree shall live with Him in glory forever! For Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though He may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” Luke 11:25-26.

It was through the loins of Abraham that Christ in His humanity came. From Adam, Seth, Shem, Abraham all the way down to Jesus Christ. Wouldn’t you like to belong to that Family Tree? We’ll according to Scripture we are grafted into Abraham’s Family Tree through believing in Christ! Think about it, instead of looking through old church archives for your rellies, you can just crack open the Bible and see them listed in its pages! However, you won’t see your name written there. You’ll just have to take it on faith. For Jesus has the record of His Family Tree all the way back to Adam through Abraham. And this Book is called “The Lamb’s Book of Life.”

So instead of skulking around graveyards with big magnifying glasses looking at moss-covered headstones, you need to come to Jesus. You need to ask Him if you are one of Abraham’s offspring. But before you do, keep in mind what the Scriptures say, “Know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham” Galatians 3:7. As the Scripture says,  “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6. You must believe, for that’s what faith is, belief, and that’s what Abraham had.

Jesus says, “Whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.” Matthew 12:50. God has honored Abraham by listing his name in redemptive history as the “Father of the Faithful.”

We’ve been reminded that genealogies denote continuity. A Family Tree only tells you where you’ve come from. It is to look back and find all sorts of criminals and skeletons in your closet. God told Abraham to get out from his country and kindred. Therefore, Abraham stopped looking at his Family Tree and went on a Family Trek. So let me ask you where you are. Are you stuck up a Family Tree somewhere, hoping that you’re descended from royalty? Are you hoping that some rich rellie has died and left you a fortune? Or are you turning your back on all of that and going on a Family Trek to the Celestial City? Well, let me remind you that if you are a Christian then fellow believers are your family. We are in this together!

All Christians who are waiting, like Abraham, for that city which "has foundations, whose builder is God” are your family! Let me encourage you by reminding you of the One who is related to us. He is even our blood relative – the blood He shed on a cross for the forgiveness of our sins! They called “His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” Luke 1:21. He kept God’s Law perfectly on behalf of all His family. For all men are sinners and fall far short of His glory. He propitiated the wrath of God for the sake of His people. He became our substitute and covered the sins of every Christian with His own blood. And yes, like those in our Family Tree He died. However, the God of Glory raised Jesus from the dead that we might have everlasting life through believing in Him. So, as Christians let’s encourage each other in the LORD along the way.

Yes, it’s good to know where you’ve come from, but it’s even better to know where you’re going!

[1] Vol. 1, pt. 2, p. 26. (Check John Bunyan volumes for reference)