Preached by Dr. Gene Scott on August 26, 1979
Lift up now thine yes, and look from the place where
thou art . . . Arise, walk through the land in the length
of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee.
Genesis 13: 14-17
I AM PREACHING ON GOD’S LEADING OF HIS people and I could not find a better subject than the “father of faith,” Abram. Genesis 12 begins, “Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”
Pause on those three verses and think about how those promises have been fulfilled in history. Think about the man Abram, who received this message in Ur of the Chaldees. It was a godless city, yet God found one man with whom He could communicate. Abram had none of the revelation that we have. He had no knowledge of God’s manifold faithfulness to His word such as we have in the record of His book. Put flesh and blood on Abram, and imagine him receiving this staggering promise: “I will make of thee a great nation.”
Now we read in Genesis 11:30 that Abram was childless: his wife “Sarai was barren; she had no child.” But God said, “I will make of thee a great nation. . . and in thee shall all families of the earth by blessed.” Let’s look at that last promise, “in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” We know He is speaking of Christ. To use biblical phraseology, Christ, the seed of Abraham and the Son of God, has blessed the whole earth. There is the fulfillment.
There was a condition on these promises. God had said, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee.” Notice that back in Genesis 11, Abram left Ur with only partial faith because he took his kindred with him, including his father Terah and his nephew Lot, and they stopped at Haran. Haran was a place of halting. Abram halted in his obedience of faith. He did not have full faith. He was like the children of Israel who were freed from bondage in Egypt but did not have the faith to make the rest of the trip. They wandered in the wilderness, but they did not make it into Canaan. Abram got out of Ur, but halted at Haran. God had not yet said, “This is the place,” so he ought to have kept on going, but he did not. He stopped. There is really nothing to say about that long halt except that he wasted time. But finally in Genesis 12:4, after his father died, “Abram departed.”
Abram still did not have full faith. He let his nephew Lot hang on to his coattails, even though God had said, “Get thee out from thy kindred.” There are some who will take that text out of context and say that finding God’s will means abandonment of all kindred. That is not what is being said. Jesus teaches that no claim of kindred can interfere with His claim on you. In Abram’s case, it was a precise order from God that he only partially carried out.
Again I want you to put flesh and blood on these people in the Bible. I take comfort in the knowledge that God’s best, Abram, who was worthy to be called the father of faith, had a few faults. First he took his kindred and stopped halfway along the trip and wasted time at Haran. Then he finally got going, but Abram with his wife Sarai took his nephew Lot, “And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land.” Abram pitched his tent “east of Beth-el. . . having Beth-el on the west, and Hai on the east.” He was between those two famous mountains, Gerizim and Ebal, which would later be named the Mount of Blessing and the Mount of Cursing, when Joshua gathers the people in that land.
Abram was in the rocky uplands of Samaria and the Canaanites were all around him. “And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him. And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Beth-el, and pitched his tent.” Circle these two words in your Bible: altar and tent. They symbolize two qualities of Abram’s life: the altar speaks of a life of sacrifice, and the tent typifies a life of constant availability to the Lord.
Abram “pitched his tent, having Beth-el on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the LORD, and called upon the name of the LORD. And Abram journeyed, going on still toward the south.” And in the very same place where God had said, “This is the place. I will give you this land,” it says, “there was a famine in the land.”
Now we get down to the nitty-gritty of faith. There was a famine in the land after the Lord spoke. What did Abram do? Surely the father of faith declared, “The Lord called me. Famine, be thou gone!” Or maybe he just waved his hands and said, “Believe and receive green grass!” Is any of that in your Bible? It is not in mine either. My Bible says, “there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down.” The “father of faith” went down. There were probably some people who think that Abram should be taken out of the Bible, because faith warriors should only go up. But Abram went down, and he stayed down because verse 10 says he “went down into Egypt to sojourn there.” Sojourn means “to stay awhile.” So Abram stayed awhile in Egypt.
We know what happened when he went down to Egypt, trying to save himself and looking by sight instead of by faith. He started conniving. He said to his wife, “Honey, you are too pretty. I hear those Egyptians like pretty women. When that Egyptian king sees you, he’s going to have me killed to get to you. So when we get to Egypt and they start looking at you in that way, you say you’re my sister.” Abram, that old skunk, was a premeditated liar! He didn’t just lie under pressure, he worked it out in advance. That was the father of faith!
They arrived in Egypt and Sarai turned the eyes of the court. But Pharaoh had more character than Abram. At the last minute, Pharaoh found out she was Abram’s wife, and he called Abram in and said, “Why did you lie to me? I might have done something I shouldn’t have done with her.” Good for Pharaoh! That is why Paul says years later that sometimes the heathen do better than those who know God. I like Pharaoh better than Abram at this point. What is worse, Abram got rich while he was in Egypt. In fact, it is the first place in the Bible where you find that word rich. He got rich while he was off the track, just like many people who are going the wrong way in today’s world.
Then Pharaoh said, “Get out of here! I don’t even want you in my kingdom.” He kicked Abram out. Good for Pharaoh! Now what does the Scripture say? “And Abram went up.” How is that for reversing the usual laws of faith? When God spoke to him he went down. When Pharaoh spoke to him he went up. It seems that people’s reactions are not the key here, the word of God is the key. God said, “This is the place,” then famine came. It didn’t look like the place and Abram went down and got himself in trouble. Now he is coming out of Egypt, “And Abram went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife.”
Let me put a footnote on Abram’s trip down to Egypt. We read in Genesis 16 about Sarai’s servant, Hagar the Egyptian. Abram picked up some riches in Egypt, but he also picked up Sarai’s handmaiden. Sarai and Abram later will have a committee meeting to figure out how to work out God’s will in their lives. And as a result, Hagar is going to produce Ishmael, who will be a pain in Abram’s neck ever after. Even old Abram wasn’t spared some of the consequences of going down to Egypt.
Abram never should have gone down, and he should have taken God at His word, but God still did not write him off. Abram went down, but he came back up; and God did not abandon him because he went down. And God’s word of promise did not change.
“Abram went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the south. And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold. And he went on his journeys from the south even to Beth-el.” That name should be familiar. He is right back at the place where God had said, “This is the place.” Abram returned to “the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Beth-el and Hai; unto the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first: and there Abram called on the name of the LORD.”
I think the fact is obvious that we all have our ups and downs. But I am asking us to go back to some of the beginning points that have carried us thus far. Abram went back to “the place where his tent had been. . . unto the place of the altar.” He went back to the fundamentals, the place of sacrifice and the place of availability to God’s call and His command. Why should a famine have mattered?
Now God is going to test him, and the last ingredient of his partial commitment will be separated out. He still has Lot trailing along. God’s word was clear when He said earlier, “Get thee out from thy kindred.” In this case, “Lot also, which went with Abram, had flocks, and herds, and tents. And the land was not able to bear them, that they might dwell together: for their substance was great, so that they could not dwell together. And there was a strife between the herdmen of Abram’s cattle and the herdmen of Lot’s cattle.
Notice how an incidental, ordinary kind of happening becomes the prelude to the greatest event in Abram’s life. “And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren. Is not the whole land before thee? Separate thyself, I pray tee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left. And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere, before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar.” I underlined the last part of that sentence and wrote in the margin of my Bible, “the perfect picture of compromise.”
“Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other.” Lot picked the best. And “Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom. But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly.”
Let’s skip verses 14 through 18 for a moment, and go to Genesis 14. Sodom is attacked by kings from cities up near Damascus. In the meantime, Abram is down at Hebron. Lot is taken captive. Who saves him? Who picks up the pieces? Abram. He defeats those kings and chases them all the way up to the shadow of the mountains south and west of Damascus. And when he comes back, the king of Sodom wants to give him a great reward for delivering them out of the hands of all those kings.
Now if I were picking the time to give Abram those staggering promises he received in Genesis 13, I would have waited until after that great victory recorded in Genesis 14. Wouldn’t it be more believable that way? Abram with God’s help defeats all those kings and even Sodom is at his feet, and then the Lord says to Abram, “I am going to give you this land.” But that isn’t when God said it. God made those promises before the victories of Genesis 14. And He made those promises at the very same place where God had said, before Abram ever went down to Egypt, “This is the place.”
In the same place that Abram had fled because his sight told him he couldn’t last through the famine, “The LORD said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes.” Circle that word now in Genesis 13:14. “Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art.” Underline those words in your Bible. “Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever.”
From where Abram stood, if you climbed up the hill and looked north, you could see the snowcapped peak of Mount Hermon in the distance. Looking southward you could see the hills all the way to Jerusalem and down to Hebron, Beersheba and the desert. Looking eastward you could see all the land just chosen by Lot. And looking westward, if you climbed one of the mountains, you could see across the plains of Sharon, clear out to the Mediterranean Sea.
Put yourself in his circumstance to understand how mind-boggling this promise must have been. “For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered.” Remember, Abram’s wife was barren.
I can imagine him saying, “Oh, wait a minute, God. Improve the circumstances first before You ask me to have faith. Take me through the victory of chapter 14, and then give me these promises.” No, this is the message of faith. It is one of those compass points in God’s book that I force myself to go back to periodically. “Lift up now thine eyes,” not when the circumstance changes, “now. . . from the place where thou art.” Nothing at all had changed in his circumstance. The only thing that is going to change is Abram’s reaction to God’s word when he hears Him say, “Lift up now thine eyes. . . from the place where thou art.”
I can just imagine Abram saying, “Okay, I’ve looked up, Lord. There’s a lot of land and a lot of dust to count. If You are going to give me all that, get on with it!” And then the Lord warmed up His chariot and He zoomed down and said, “Come aboard, Abram. Let’s look over your territory!” Don’t you think that would make a much more exciting story to tell? The flames of fire and the whirlwind of the Lord and the chariot of the Lord and zoom! Off goes Abram looking over his territory. That would be enough to convince you that he was a great spiritual man. Why didn’t God do it that way?
But all God said was, “I am going to give you all this land, Abram. Get up and walk!” Most of us would have said, “Lord, I’ve been walking. Do you know how far it is from Ur to this place? Do you know how far I walked from Egypt?” For 40 years his children are going to wander around that wilderness. He had walked all the way from Ur. God is saying, “That is right, just keep on doing what you have been doing.” That is the second part of my message.
I have two simple things to say. First, you can go down and still get back up and God will not leave you, and His word doesn’t change a quarter turn. Second, when you do get back up and God’s promise is in front of you, just keep doing what you have been doing. Walk the way God told you to walk, period. Abram could have argued, “Well, that isn’t very glamorous. Why don’t You redeem me, Lord, in the eyes of all the saints who will look on through the generations, because I’m going to be the father of faith. Can’t You do it in a way that totally demonstrates You will blot out the Canaanites with a fiery chariot? Save my face, O Lord!” No, “Get up and walk.”
So what did the living embodiment of God’s word do? He walked. How many days did he walk? He walked until he got it done. Isn’t that exciting? The marathon walker of the Old Testament walked by faith and not by sight. That’s it! I can identify with that. I can walk and you can walk.
Abram started walking through that land. Remember he walked through Philistine territory. The Canaanites were in the land, but by faith, Abram knew that land was his. He just walked, because God had said walk “through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee.” At some point he must have thought, “Man, my feet hurt! I have blisters on my heels, but if I don’t climb this mountain and claim it, God won’t be able to say years later when Joshua comes into the land, ‘Unto Asher will I give this mountain.’ If I don’t walk across this plain, God will not be able to say to another one of my great-grandchildren, ‘Unto thee is this lot divided.’” Abram staked out the boundaries and God has been honoring the title deed ever since.
We read in Hebrews 11, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” The word translated “substance” is hypostasis in the Greek. When scholars turned their attention from classical writings and began to pay more attention to ordinary communications of the common people, they recognized that the New Testament was written in Koine Greek, the colloquial language of that day. Some archaeologists dug up a little box, and in that box was a letter by a lady who was seeking justice regarding a piece of property. She had written, “Attached is the title deed showing my right of ownership over this property.” The word she used in Greek was hypostasis. Hebrews 11 says, “Faith is the hypostasis of things hoped for.” Kenneth Wuest* translates it, “Faith is the title deed of things hoped for.” That means faith is the title deed that shows the right of ownership.
Faith hangs the body on God’s word and just keeps hanging there. In Abram’s case, it was a walking task. As he walked that territory by faith, every place the soles of his feet trod gave him the title deed of ownership. History records that fact. Even in the Millennium, the restored temple of the Lord will sit on that very land where Abram once walked.
I am going to keep walking. I would like to think that we as a church are past Haran and past Egypt. I would like to claim the promise that we are at Beth-el, the place of the altar and the place of the tent. Let’s keep doing what God’s word illustrates: “Life up now thine eyes from the place where thou art.” Whatever your circumstance, whether it is sickness, anxiety or material needs, God’s word of promise fits it. You grab God’s book, you find the promise that fits your need, and you “Lift up now thine eyes from the place where thou art.” Then you walk on that promise. Let’s keep walking by faith!
Re-printed with permission from Pastor Melissa Scott.
Prayer Requests for April, 2015
For Steve Golina (Florence, Arizona), and for his family members: Kathleen, Lori, Kris, Angelina, and Mike.
For Mary (Oklahoma City), who has lost muscle movement in her legs and right shoulder.
For Isaac Douglas (Illinois), that he gets approved for work release soon.
For Dennis Martin (Lexington, OK) who is having more procedures done on his heart.
For Willie Scott (Grady, Arkansas), that he will be granted clemency from the parole board.
For Michael Small’s Mom, Suzanne (Illinois).
For Anthony Grayson (Elmira, New York), that he finds legal assistance.
For Mike Long (Larned, Kansas), for health.
For Sister Ann & the Carmelite nuns in Little Rock.
For Robert Heffernan , Grady, Arkansas.
For Pastor Scott’s health; & her ministry in Los Angeles.
For Brian’s health. Also pray for Gail.
For all of us at Wingspread.
Margaret wants to thank everyone for their prayers. She is doing much better.
Students in an Ohio State psychology class are being taught that atheists have higher IQs than Christians, according to a college watchdog organization.
Campus Reform notes that a question from a recent online psychology quiz from the university implied that religious beliefs were directly relate to IQ levels.
“Theo has an IQ of 100 and Aine has an IQ of 125,” the quiz stated. “Which of the following statements would you expect to be true?”
Students were then asked to select an answer from the following four options:
Aine is an atheist, while Theo is a Christian.
Aine earns less money than Theo.
Theo is more liberal than Aine.
Theo is an atheist, while Aine is a Christian.
According to the school, the correct answer is Option #1.
The quiz question was purportedly part of an online homework set for Ohio State’s Psychology 1100 course. Psychology 1100. . . is a general education requirement, which means many students from a variety of disciplines take the class each year.
The anonymous student who first told Campus Reform about the quiz said that the question was unsurprising, considering the anti-Christian bias prevalent in many public universities.
“I understand that colleges have a liberal spin on things so it didn’t surprise me to see the question, which is a sad thing,” the student said. “But how can you really measure which religion has a higher IQ?”
“Colleges will tolerate pretty much any religion other than Christianity,” he added. “If colleges really want to give everyone a fair shot, they should stay away from making comments about any religion.” (http://goo.gl/JYmxvS)
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