So Abram left, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was 75 years old when he left Haran. 5 Abram set out for Canaan. He took along his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, and all the possessions they had accumulated and the servants they had acquired in Haran.
6 They arrived in Canaan, and Abram traveled through the land to the oak tree belonging to Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. 7 Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “I’m going to give this land to your descendants.” So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.
8 He moved on to the hills east of Bethel, and he put up his tent—with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. He also built an altar to the Lord there and worshiped the Lord. 9 Abram kept moving toward the Negev. – Genesis 12:4-9 [GW]
“Rejoicing Along the Way.” That was the theme of the message Pastor Robert Lange preached at our wedding. We were headed for the seminary in Springfield, Illinois with stars in our eyes and hopes for a rich and full life of service to God. Looking back, I’m certain that our parents were concerned about our future. I had no job. She had a degree in biology (a completely un-marketable degree). We had little furniture an less than $1,000 to our name. But we were off! Rejoicing along the way.
Only we weren’t. Rejoicing along the way that it. We were rejoicing in being newly married. We were rejoicing at meeting new friends at the seminary. We were rejoicing to be on our own. I was rejoicing in no longer working at the brick factory. But we were fully devoted to rejoicing once we got much further along the way. We were living in the future. Won’t it be great when we have our first call? Won’t it be wonderful when we have children? Won’t it be a blessing to buy our first house?
All these were in the future. And all of them would be realized. We look back and thank God for the many blessings we have enjoyed over the years. But, along the way…what blessings might we have missed? Blessings of others not received. Blessings to others not given. Some received and given, but not recognized. That whole along the way thing is sometimes more difficult than we would wish.
Abram’s response and Moses’ record of that response gives us some insight to rejoicing along life’s way. I notice that Abram goes. In obedient faith he takes his family and leaves for a place unknown. God will show him when the time comes. But for now he simply goes. It’s a family affair. The whole extended family and all they had were part of the convoy. Abram was apparently wealthy so this was no little caravan. This was a major move. Abram was all in, with his family and able to enjoy the wealth he had accumulated along the way.
Abram also looked for God along the way. How many days go by without any awareness on our parts of God’s place in the day-to-day events? How many divine appointments have we rushed by in a mindless quest for lesser things or distractions? Seems clear to me that rejoicing along the way involves looking for God and listening for his voice. Clearly that will include looking to God’s word to shape our hearts and hopes. Setting our hearts on his truth, grace, provision, and blessings will sustain us in true joy.
Abram also prayed. This is the second time in the Bible that the phrase, “called on the name of the Lord,” is used. The first (Genesis 4:26) is connected with Enoch’s sons. Now Abraham does the same. This phrase has a formal and informal meaning. Formally it means public worship. The Good News translators even translate it as such (see above). The phrase also means to pray. Whether this was a more formal manner of prayer or a more spontaneous expression, it signifies both an acknowledgment of God’s blessings and our continuing need for his provision.
All this is instigated by God’s initiative in calling Abram, and his promise to him and his descendants. We, too have been called by God’s initiative and grace. Promises abound for us as well. And just as Abram kept moving along, so we do. There will be tests. Abram will fail some and pass others. In it all remains a faithfulness on Abram’s part and a great example for us to follow if we want to live in faith in rejoice along the way.
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