Have you ever had a moment when you thought you heard God speak to you, reveal something to you or prompt you in some way? You are in good company. Why are these moments so arresting to us? Is it because we do not often sense that God communicates with us? Do we feel unworthy to believe that the Creator of the universe thinks about us? Or have we given up trying to find true spiritual, abundant life?
The Bible is full of stories about people like you and me who were pleasantly shocked to know that God does communicate with us. This is the first in many ramblings that will highlight many of the instances when God unexpectedly communicated with people like you and me.
Let’s look at the father of our faith, Abraham. His name was Abram at the time that God called him. He had a loving, beautiful wife, many faithful servants, livestock, wealth, and a close-knit family. He was comfortable in his worship of many gods. However, he must have had a reverence for the divine, because he entertained the thought of a god communicating with him.
We learned through Joshua that the Lord said that Terah, Abraham’s father, and his family served other gods. Does his life sound a lot like our lives? It is in this context, that God, for the first time recorded in Scripture since Noah, talked with a person. Not only did the Lord talk with Abram, but He commanded to leave. How many times did Abram have a divine encounter before his calling? Why do I ask this question? Because I am astounded that Abram didn’t question, doubt, or argue. He didn’t seem dismissive or indifferent. Do we respond to God in this manner? I dare say that I am less inclined to truly follow Jesus Christ in faith. Life is complicated. Responsibilities are consuming. And yet, God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. And humans are the same as well.
Speaking of faith, what has always amazed me is that Eve, when confronted by the serpent, didn’t recoil or run away. Don’t you think that a talking serpent would be startling? Yes, she blindly entered into a conversation that led to her demise. Adam, of course, was nearby. At the time she ate the fruit, she didn’t run and hide prior to giving the fruit to Adam who was with her. After he had taken a bite, and they became aware of their nakedness and hid in fear. The penalty for their sin was spiritual death immediately and physical death eventually. The next last person before Abram to talk with God was Noah. The penalty for a world full of sin was immediate physical death by a flood, killing everyone but eight people, Noah and his family.
God had given humans a fresh start. Noah found grace in the Lord’s sight and his family repopulated the earth. Yet, the growing population was fixated on becoming independent of God, as if they could collectively become divine. This got the Lord’s attention, and together as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, They judged the world by
restricting the language that each person could understand and speak. Thus the separation of groups of people by a common language had occurred. This infamous tower of Babel story happened in Genesis 11. At the end of the chapter, we are introduced to Abram, who may or may not have known about this series of judgments by Jehovah.
Abram was married to a beautiful woman, had livestock, servants, a good family, and general prosperity. Then something happened out of the ordinary. The Lord spoke to Abram. Due to the intricacies of the encounter, I have to believe the Lord came to Abram as the pre-incarnate Jesus. It is hard to imagine it was an inner impression, due to the lengthy blessing that he received. I do not believe that God spoke audibly to Abram as a disembodied voice, which would hardly inspire a confidence to follow. This encounter would not have been officiated through a prophet, since there weren’t any prophets speaking for God at that time.
So Jesus, the Logos of God who would eventually become flesh, visited with Abram. He gave him Abram a command, a lengthy blessing, and a promise. The command to leave Ur had a condition – to leave his family and his father’s house. Has God visited you in your normal life? As a disclaimer, I do not believe He will promise to make you a great nation. Has He promised to bless you or lead you somewhere unknown? Hopefully He has challenged you to take a step of faith. Perhaps you are reluctant. Abram was as well. Let’s look at Abram’s response.
First, the Lord did not introduce Himself, did not explain why He could be trusted, and did not prove He knew the whereabouts of the destination. The blessing, although comprehensive, did not include a baby but declared that the childless, seventy-five year old Abram would be a great nation. It appears from the narrative that Abram obeyed immediately and left Haran. However, we learn that the Lord came to Abram in Ur not in Haran. Stephen mentioned this in his speech in Acts 7. Abram was instructed to leave his family while in living in Ur. Yet, when he left Ur, he only made it as far as Haran, with his dad Terah and his family. Abram delayed his obedience. Once Terah died, Abram left Haran and his father’s house for the land that the Lord would show him. Our delays and disobedience will not thwart God from accomplishing His will in our lives – read about Jonah initial disobedience.
Did Abram delay due to his disbelief? Why would he believe he could become a great nation, which sounds like a lot of work, especially at the age of seventy-five? Did he delay because his life in familiar surroundings was comfortable? Did he feel a higher allegiance to his father? Fortunately, the Scripture does not fill in the details. There are no formulas in a life of faith. Following God cannot be reduced to “Five Easy Steps To Follow God.” Instead, God is Lord and He knows what He is doing in our lives and where He is taking us.
Abram isn’t the only believer to have doubts. We do as well. If the Lord has given you a command, obey without delay. You are delaying your rewards of obedience. If you have been given a blessing, don’t diminish it. After all, faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. His blessings will come. If you have been given a promise, don’t rush it. Wait upon the Lord. It is God’s promise to you. He will fulfill it without your help. We can see how Abraham tried to help God fulfill His promise of a child. We can see how Jacob stole a birthright from his brother Esau and fled to another country, even though God promised that Jacob would be the primary heir of Isaac.
Reading about the great characters in the Bible is instructive. But the more I read about them, the more thrilling they seem to me. God actually met with, loved, cared for, and led the people in the Bible and the same Lord is doing that with us today. We have the benefit of hindsight. They did not. In many cases, God expected obedience that seemed strange, counter-intuitive, impossible, or extravagant. And yet, He was faithful to fulfill His promises. Our God is worthy of our trust, faith, praise, and yieldedness. “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time…”