Introduction: This week we follow Abram as he embarks on a journey to explore the land of Canaan. Let’s see how God sets the compass of Abram’s faith and sends him forward to claim the Promised Land.
Monday: read Genesis 12:6-9. Abram transforms the geography of Canaan by building altars throughout the Promised Land. These are the first altars dedicated to the worship of the one true God – Gen. 12:7, 12:8, 13:4, 13:18. Abram does this because, like all true Old Testament saints, he sought to cover his sins from the blazing judgment of God by building altars for blood sacrifice. This is why the building of these altars is stressed: to emphasize that there is a barrier between the Holy One and sinners which can only be removed through blood. Abram’s life is committed to this principle, even as his trip up the highest mountain of sacrifice will prove in Genesis 22:7-8. Armed with all the materials of burnt offering except God’s designated victim, Abram trusts that God will provide that victim for the blood sacrifice to take the place of his son. Abram lived in the shadow of sacrifice and looked for the day of the greater Lamb Jesus (John 8:56).
Meditate and Pray: We must be brought back continually to our need for someone else more righteous to suffer in our place as our sacrifice. As the hymn writer says in # 251 in the Trinity Hymnal: ‘Beneath the cross of Jesus I fain would take my stand, the shadow of a mighty Rock within a weary land; a home within the wilderness, a rest upon the way, from the burning of the noon-tide heat and the burden of the day.’ Ask God to increasingly enable you to live a cross-centered life.
Tuesday: read Genesis 12:8-10. Not only does Abram build altars as a witness to his belief in God’s power to forgive sins through shed blood: he also focuses his worship on ‘calling on the name of the Lord.’ We know that this call of prayer was directed to the God whose name is Jehovah (translated in capital letters as ‘LORD.”) This is not one of God’s titles, but His personal name – used by those who know Him intimately and approach Him in worship. This is the name which also came from the lips of Saul when he first saw the light of the gospel in Jesus Christ: ‘Who are you, LORD?’, he cried out on the Damascus road (Acts 9:6).
Meditate and Pray: Thank God that you can know Him personally: not as ‘Mr. President’, or some other distant title, but by His personal name as ‘The LORD’, who has provided for you the most precious blood sacrifice of His Son. Look often to that sacrifice. As Robert Murray McCheyne said, ‘For every one look at yourself, look 9 times at Christ.’ Call on His name often. Look to the altar of His sacrifice wherever your daily walk takes you in this world and confess – ‘It is my LORD who died for me there.’
Wednesday: read Genesis 12:9-20. What are we to think of Abram’s relocation to Egypt? It was because of unbelief in the face of the famine. Here is what William Still says about it:
Why did Abram move on and on until he came to Egypt? It was the enemy, who had tried to keep him OUT of the land in the first place, when his father was still alive (Genesis 11:31, compared with Acts 7:2-4), who now tries to drive him on and on out of God’s protection into Egypt itself, where he feels compelled to lie about Sarai in Genesis 12:13. Thus Satan seeks to hinder the purpose God had in view, namely, that through Abram, Isaac and Jacob and at last through Israel herself, Messiah Himself should come.
And it almost came to disaster, didn’t it? Pharaoh takes Sarai to himself, not knowing she was Abram’s wife. Thus the holy seed is almost lost in Genesis 12:15-16. Only God’s plague on Pharaoh’s house saves Sarai from that unholy marriage in Genesis 12:17-20. Abram returns to the safety of the Promised Land with his tail between his legs, having been justly rebuked for his unseemly lie about Sarai by the unbeliever Pharaoh! How shameful for the Gospel witness of Abram!
Meditate and Pray: Let us humble ourselves, confessing that even as Christians we can often be an obstacle to the clear outshining of Jesus through us. God grant us that our neighbors and loved ones might see more clearly than ever before Christ in us as our hope and joy.
Thursday: read Genesis 13:1-13. As Abram retraces his steps in Gen. 13:1-4, back to where his tent had been at the beginning, we ask ourselves: ‘What makes the Promised Land a sanctuary for Abram and his family?’ The answer is: God’s care for that place, such that ‘His eyes are continually on it’ (Deuteronomy 11:12). Lot should have remembered this when offered the choice of where to live: with Abram and the Lord in the confines of blessing, or with the ungodly nations of the plain of the Jordan. He chose the valley of Sodom and Gomorrah because ‘it looked like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt,’ full of worldly promise. Just as Abram sought dangerous refuge in Egypt in Gen. 12, so Lot imitates him by following his eyes into a land which at first sight promised all his heart could desire: except communion with God.
Meditate and Pray: Ask God to give you contentment in the ‘lot’ which He has given you, and to guard you from what John calls ‘the lust off the eyes.’ When the world falsely promises ‘greener pastures’, sing from the heart these words from Hymn # 481: ‘O soul, are you weary and troubled? No light in the darkness you see? There’s light for a look at the Savior, and life more abundant and free! Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face; and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.’
Friday: read Genesis 13:14-18. We will see in future what a disastrous decision Lot made. But today take heart with Abram: See how God comforts him in Gen. 13:12-18 after the sad departure of Lot. ‘Walk through the land,’ the Lord says – ‘it is all yours.’ When he was most alone, and with only the barren hills of the Promised Land to call his own, God renews His promise to him, and invites him to walk ‘as far as his eye could see,’ bringing him to Hebron in Gen. 13:18, one of the ancient cities of the world. There he pitches his tent under a spreading oak, and builds another altar to the Lord. For the rest of his life, Hebron and the ‘oaks of Mamre’ will prove to be one of Abram’s great refuges.
Meditate and Pray: God knows how hard it is to walk by faith when men in their unbelief succeed at whatever they do. But remember that our ‘good things’ are secure with Jesus in heaven, where we will be one day – while the Sodomites of this world will reap their eternal reward. Take a long view of things, and learn with Abram that even on days when we lose much – as Abram lost contact with Lot in Gen. 13 – we can gain greater assurance of our eternal gifts and graces. Jesus makes sure of that: ‘Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time…and in the age to come eternal life.’ (Mark 10:29-30)