Who is the greatest babysitter mentioned in the Bible?
David – He rocked Goliath to sleep.
Alright, before we get started let’s do a brief recap. In one word, why are we here? Community. Good. And this is a problem because you, me, and every single person that’s ever lived – besides Jesus – are community ____. Crashers. That’s right – you and I live outside the garden. We ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – we ate the red popsicle – and in doing so we threw a wrench in God’s plan to bring humanity into his perfect communal life. But our God is resilient. God was quite ready, from the very beginning, to rescue the world and to bring His image-bearers back into perfect community with himself. And so in God’s perfect wisdom, he chose one man – and it’s with this one man that God’s rescue mission begins. Does anyone know who this one man is? Abraham.
And so tonight we’re talking about Abraham. But first, I want to talk about a genre of conversation I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of – after all, it’s a staple of postmodern relating patterns between males and females. I’m referring to a D.T.R., which stands for “define the relationship.” For example – two people have been hanging out for a while, the sparks are flying, a little romance is budding, BUT there’s a little ambiguity about the future of the relationship. And so a D.T.R. is needed for relational clarity. And so it usually goes something like this. The person who wants the higher commitment level – or as this person is also known, the woman (joking) – will say to their commitment-challenged partner, “I think it’s time we had a little D.T.R.” And as I’m sure you can imagine this is the first tipping point in a relationship, because you’re forced to ask yourself – “am I going to be vulnerable and take a risk, or is it time to bail? Am I ready to take things to the next level, or is it about time we call it quits?”
Now, you might be wondering – what does this have to do with Abraham or with us for that matter? Well, in Abraham’s journey we see that God initiates a series of DTR’s to invite Abraham to a new place of intimacy and a deeper level of commitment. And even though Abraham doesn’t always get it right, for the most part, Abraham moves out of these DTR moments with God into a new place of faith. And it’s not just Abraham – these DTR moments with God happen throughout the Bible. God, you see, is the Ultimate Pursuer. He corners His people; He confronts His people. And when this happens, there are only really two possible reactions. People are either vulnerable and decide to take a risk. Or they bail. No one ever walks away from God thinking, “That was a good talk.” Because a DTR with God just doesn’t work that way.
And so my objective tonight is simple. First, I want to look at Abraham’s DTR moments because the Bible is the Living Word – it’s alive. What God says to Abraham he says to you and me. But second, I want the Spirit to give us ears to hear so that you and I are tuned in enough to know when God is having a DTR with us – that way we can respond and move to deeper places of faith and love.
And so let’s look at Abraham’s first DTR with God.
DTR #1: The Call to Leave
Then the LORD told Abram, "Leave your country, your relatives, and your father's house, and go to the land that I will show you. 2 I will cause you to become the father of a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and I will make you a blessing to others. 3 I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. All the families of the earth will be blessed through you." 4 So Abram went. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran. – Gen 12: 1-4
DTR #1 starts with a single command – leave! Leave your country, leave your people, leave your family – leave everything that’s safe and familiar. And of course implied in all this is the command to leave whatever god or gods he was worshipping at the time. And so here we have Abraham who for the first time is faced with an epic DTR moment. Will he stay, or will he leave? Does he dare take a risk – does he dare follow this God that is inviting him into the unknown?
Now, we have to understand the choice he’s facing here. Abraham is not some uncouth nomad with nothing to lose. No, he’s a prosperous merchant. He’s got possessions; he’s got servants. In fact, he’s a city boy! Haran, where Abraham’s family comes from, was one of the great commercial cities of the ancient world located right on the river. And in this Metropolitan area, Abraham is known, respected, and secure. He’s a member at the HCC – the Haran country club. Abraham’s world is very safe and very familiar.
And yet God – who, lest we forget has an agenda to rescue his fallen image-bearers and to bring them back into perfect community with himself – tells Abraham to leave. Go to the place where you have no lands, no networks, no connections, and no prospects. What kind of person would follow a call like that?
Well, as it turns out, the whole story of Abraham – and scripture for that matter – hinges on two little words in Genesis 12:4. Abram went. And he was seventy-five years old. He was rich and semi-retired. Abraham had Medicare and social security benefits. And yet, he bet everything on God – he went, he left, he took a step of faith.
And so before we move on, it might be interesting to ask – is God calling you to leave anything? Perhaps some idol, some sin, or some fear? Or maybe God’s calling you to actually go someplace new – to take that step of faith – to start serving in some new area of ministry? Remember, DTR #1 starts with a single command. Leave.
OK, let’s look at DTR #2.
DTR #2: Making a Covenant
There are some things in life that just don’t make any sense – that just seem beyond our comprehension. For example, a 24 year old model marries an overweight, balding fifty-eight year old alcoholic with a short temper and bad B.O. Now, at first sight – this is just baffling. But if you think about it, why’d she marry him? Money. This actually happens all the time. People get married – they make a covenant with each other – because both parties have something to gain from the exchange. She gets the money. He gets a trophy wife. It’s just that simple. Now, just so I’m clear, this is not even close to what a healthy marriage looks like. BUT, I use this example because it’s a great illustration for how covenants in the ancient world actually worked.
For example, let’s just say two countries form a covenant. The stronger country would have something to gain – perhaps water rights or maybe they need land for their cattle (or to use a modern example, perhaps they need oil) – but the weaker country, they just want the stronger country to protect them. And so they’d form a covenant. “You can use our river; just don’t let those barbarians that live across the river kill us.” And so here’s what’s baffling – what seems beyond comprehension about DTR # 2, where God wants to form a covenant with Abraham.
What does God get out of the deal? What does God –the Creator of the heavens and the earth, who needs nothing, who lacks nothing – what does the Sovereign Lord of the entire creation get out of making a covenant with Abraham? God already knows that we’re a bunch of community crashers – that in forming a covenant with us He’ll face nothing but heartache, ingratitude, folly, and sin. And so what’s in it for God?
And the answer is important. God gets someone to bless! He chooses Abraham, of all the people of the earth, and essentially says “I’m going to pour out all of my affection and warmth and mercy and love onto you. I’ve chosen you and your people to bless the entire world.” And so let’s be clear about God’s desire – God’s desire, God’s plan, is to bless the entire earth. God wants to bless this one man and his descendants so much that they in turn becoming a blessing to the world. And so just to remind you, God’s scope is universal. It’s not a pleasing thing to God when people aren’t blessed – it doesn’t bring joy to God’s heart if someone misses out on the blessing.
Now, as Christians – we also are God’s chosen people. That doesn’t mean that God loves us more than people without the “Christian” label, nor can we sit back in complacency because we think that we alone have the golden ticket into heaven. Because when God chooses you, he doesn’t do it for your sake alone, but for the sake of the whole world. He chooses you to serve. He chooses you to be a blessing. That’s what forming a covenant with God – or DTR #2 – is all about.
And so last but not least, let’s take a look at DTR #3.
DTR #3: A Call to Total Surrender
Ok, so God has a plan to rescue his image-bearers from their community crashing ways and so he chooses one man – a seventy-five year old geriatric – and says “through you and your children, I’m going to rescue the world.” So Abraham leaves what’s familiar (DTR #1) and makes a covenant with God (DTR #2). But, practically speaking, if Abraham is going to be the father of many nations, does anyone know what he has to be first? A father. And so Abraham is 99 years old. It’s been 24 years since he left Haran. He has arthritis and travels around the desert on a rascal. To quote the apostle Paul, “his body was as good as dead” (Rom 4:19). And God keeps telling him “your descendents will be great,” but Abraham doesn’t even have a proper son through his wife Sarah. And so Abraham has to wonder – am I taking crazy pills? Have I been deceived by God?
Well as it happens, Sarah miraculously conceives a son and they name him Isaac. At the age of 100, Abraham has his first son through Sarah – which means that finally, God’s promise is being fulfilled. And so you’d think that Abraham would be pretty pleased with himself. I mean, let’s say you were Abraham – that you left everything. You took a risk on God. I mean, what kind of person would do that? But you did! And now the promise is actually coming true. You’re having a son – which means that this son is everything. Through him, the promise of God moves forward, which means that through your son, God’s plan to rescue the world moves forward. And so your son – He’s your life. He’s a miracle. He’s the hope of the entire world.
God tested Abraham's faith and obedience. "Abraham!" God called. "Yes," he replied. "Here I am." 2 "Take your son, your only son-- yes, Isaac, whom you love so much-- and go to the land of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will point out to you." – Gen 22: 1-2
This is Abraham’s final DTR with God – the call to total surrender. And just so there’s no confusion – the author of Genesis makes it very clear that this is only a test. The God revealed in the Old Testament hates human sacrifice. But Abraham doesn’t know that. And human sacrifice was common in Abraham’s day. And so this is DTR # 3 – the most shocking DTR of them all – the call to surrender all that you are, and all that you have, to God. Can you hear the greater question that God is asking Abraham? “Sure you’ve left everything, yes we have a covenant – but will trust me even when you don’t understand, even when it doesn’t make sense?”
Well, if you don’t know how the story ends, God doesn’t let Abraham sacrifice Isaac. That just doesn’t mesh with God’s character. Instead, God provides a ram for Abraham to sacrifice. But Abraham was never the same – he had moved to a deeper level of intimacy, a greater level of trust, with God. He now knew what it meant to surrender everything to God. And in surrendering everything, He came to know – not just to believe but to know – that God had his best interests at heart.
“Take your son, your only son-- yes, Isaac, whom you love so much-- and sacrifice him.” This is actually the first time the word love appears in the Bible. Isn’t that interesting? We’re twenty-two chapters into the Bible and for the first time the word love appears – and it’s used for a father whose willing to sacrifice his beloved son - his beloved son that was miraculously conceived – his beloved son who just happens to be the hope of the world.
The call to be in relationship with the God of the Bible is not a one-time decision. There’s always a more radical level of trust, there’s always a deeper place of intimacy. Maybe your world is like Abraham’s was before God called him – very safe and familiar – and God’s asking you to leave something behind. Or maybe it’s time to renew your covenant – your relationship – with God. Or maybe you’ve been walking with God for a while, but you find yourself unable or unwilling to surrender everything because it’s scary. But wherever you are, I hope you’re listening – to God, not to me – because our God is the Ultimate Pursuer. He corners us, He confronts us, He invites us to a new place of intimacy and a deeper level of commitment – no matter where we are. And when this happens, we can’t walk away thinking “That was a good talk.” Because a DTR with God just doesn’t work that way.
DTR #1 – leave. DTR #2 – make a covenant. DTR #3 – surrender everything. What kind of person would follow a call like that?
NOTE ON SOURCES
This OMEGA series “OT Greatest Hits” is inspired by a 32-week Christian Education program put out by Willow Creek called the “Old Testament Challenge.” Some Omega talks will rely on this resource more heavily than others. Some will not even be based on it at all. However, if you have specific questions please email me at email@example.com. For more info on the OT Challenge, see http://www.willowcreek.com/resources/courses/otc/.