The Know It All – Genesis 12:1-9

 

tarrants_kneelHow would you describe a “know it all?” Do you enjoy being around a know it all? Is there a part of you that desires to be a know is all? As I think about that last question, I think deep down I want to be a know it all. Not in the sense that I annoy people w/ my authoritative opinions, or I-told-you-so attitude. Rather, I really desire to know what is going on. As I consider the different things going on around me, I really do wish I knew it all. And I think we all do at some level. As we think about the challenging decisions or situations ahead of us, we wish we knew how to exactly we should navigate them. The problem is that we want to know the entire plan, but we are limited. We do not know how things will end up. We do not have the privilege of history of things in the future. We are limited, and yet all too often we live our lives as if we know what will happen. We live as if we are all-knowing know it alls.

Today we start a new summer series, looking at the early accounts of Abram. So grab a Bible and turn to Genesis 12. In this series we are asking 2 questions: Who is God? And, who are we in relation to God?

 

Text

The latter half of Genesis 11 gives us a background to Abram, his family and location. In Genesis 12, God Himself meets Abram. Lets read Genesis 12:1-9, and as we do, ask yourself: Who is God, and who are we in relation to God?

The Lord had said to Abram, Go from your country, your people and your fathers household to the land I will show you. 2 I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.

4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. 5 He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there. 6 Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land.

7 The Lord appeared to Abram and said: To your offspring I will give this land. So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him. 8 From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord. 9 Then Abram set out and continued toward the Negev.

So, Who is God? And, Who are we in relation to God? In this passage, we see a “call and response sequence” b/t God and Abram. OT scholar, Walter Bruggermann says: As the Bible has it, the God of the gospel bursts into the world w/ an utterance of promise and summons. It is a word of summons. Abram and his kin are summoned to depart their comfort zone in obedience to a God they do not know, toward a zone that remains unidentified. God said leave your native country, family, and go to a land I will show you. God did not tell him where. [This of course is spoken of in Hebrews 11:8, “By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.”] Bruggermann continues: The utterance continues as a promise. Abram is required to leave the old regime of his life. Abram is promised by this divine utterer a future, an heir, a land, and a material bodily well-being in the world.[1] That is Gods call to Abram. Abrams response is seen in v. 4-6. What does he do in response to the call? Abram left (as he was told), taking everyone and everything w/ him. In other words, Abram is obedient to this God he has just met. Then God speaks again. In v. 7, God gives another promise, saying: I will give you this land. And Abrams response is cool. He responds by building an altar. In other words, in response to this unknown Gods promise, Abram commits his 1st formal act of worship. Then in v. 8, Abram continues traveling, and continues this posture of worship by building a 2nd alter to worship his God.

Abram is encountered by God. God initiates a relationship w/ Abram. And not knowing the complete plan, Abram responds to this God w/ obedience and worship. God gave Abram just what He needed in the moment, and is blessed as he responds. And I think the same is true for us. The good news is that the all knowing God calls us to follow Him, and gives us just what we need for the moment, and as a result we are blessed. We do not know everything; He does. But we are called to trust this God who desires relationship.

 

Today

But the problem is that we still want to know the entire plan, even though we are limited. We want to know how the chapter will end before we start reading. We want to the best path to take in an uncertain situation. We want to know it all. For K8 and I we feel like we are living w/ a certain amount of uncertainty. Our land lord told us that our place will be put on the market in April. We do not know if we can afford to buy it or if we want to. We do not know if another unit will open at cohousing. We do not know, and I wish I knew what would be the best avenue to pursue. At the café, the business we enjoy operating, the facility is up for sale and we are doing a month to month lease. We do not know if the place will be sold and our café will cease to exist. We do not know if it will be sold and a new owner will allow us to continue. We do not know, and wish we knew the complete story of how things will play out. I wish I was a know it all.

The challenge you and I have is that we have a call from God to follow Him into areas we do not know. Like Abram, we do not know where we will end up. But we are called to follow. And like Abram we have a choice. How will we respond to this uncertainty? Abram responded w/ obedience and worship, and God gave him just what he needed, and he was blessed. God initiated a covenant relationship. And God was w/ Abram throughout his travels and encouraged him. And I believe the same is true w/ us. In the face of uncertainty, God calls us to follow, and gives us just what we need. And He is w/ us as we go, encouraging us.

And so picture what is would be like if we lived into this reality. The picture I see is one of peace – peace in the midst of uncertainty. Knowing God is the know it all (in the best sense), while knowing we are not, we are invited to rest in who He is. We live into a true covenant that declares: He is God and we are not, and we find peace. Bruggermann says:

Covenantal existence eventuates [or is seen as] a community of uncommon generosity and mercy, a community of fidelity/loyalty and freedom, a community that is not seduced by absolutism and that is not restrained by autonomy. It is a congregation of conservative covenanters and liberal covenanters, all of whom are covenanters before they receive other labels. So imagine a community of covenant, set down in a society of forceful absolutism and self-indulgent autonomy come to give itself away, ready and able to receive more life from those who are unlike us, ready for fidelity that takes the form of freedom that is disciplined, ready for sign and acts and gestures of forgiveness and hospitality and generosity, more ready to support than judge.[2]

As I look at this quote from Bruggermann, I see a picture of freedom in JC.

As we rest in the covenant relationship of Gods goodness and strength, we have peace. We are called to act and respond to His initiatives, but we have the space to give grace and peace to others, knowing He is God and we are not. So we need not be know it alls.

So we have our series question: Who are we in relation to God? And from this text we can answer: We are called, called to be in relationship w/ a sovereign God, and called to follow in obedience.

So, may we be found faithful to this call. And may we extend grace to other, b/c of the grace given to us.

 

Amen.

 

[1] Walter Bruggermann “Disruptive Grace” Fortress Press, 2011. p 17-18

[2] Walter Bruggermann “Disruptive Grace” Fortress Press, 2011. p. 33

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