The Separation of Faith
Scripture: – “Hebrews 11:8-10”
Abraham is an Old Testament character who Bible Scholars and Biblical Historians generally accept as the foremost Patriarch of Judaism and Islam plus and Man of Faith.
It would be true to say that individuals do not become notable by sitting and doing nothing and if our aspiration is to be “something or somebody” for God it will never be achieved by sitting and doing nothing. Individuals who become “somebodies” in the aspects of Christian living are those who are active and are constantly living close to their Father. So, what was it about Abraham that made him the man of notoriety that he was? Could it be due to the fact that he was a man of Faith? Well! Undoubtedly yes! Was it due to the fact that he was a Friend of God? Again, the response is Undoubtedly yes! However, accompanied by these things there is the significant aspect involved of Abraham always obeying the voice of God and His will in his life.
The actions in the life of Abraham however should really only be considered to be side issues, because the real reason that Abraham is considered by all with such admiration is that he was a “Man of God and also Gods Man.” Abrahams life continually typified a journey of “Separation” or to utilise a theological term a life of “Consecration”.
One only has to read his life story as it is recorded in the Old Testament Scriptures or perhaps look to secular historians who have recorded his life to see just how much of a separated man he was, this we shall look at further later.
There is an unfortunate tendency that has arisen in the mindset and understanding of many Christians when one talks of Consecration or Separation. It is the immediate thought of the superficial aspects of lists of “Thou Shalt Not’s” and “Narrow attitudes relating to the World at Large”. In essence however it is really is only saying to ourselves “I’m going to live my life for God entirely, come what may”, and then living our lives from that perspective, one man put it in this way: – “Separation from all that is outside of the will of God for my life, and separation to all that that is” and in light of those aspects I want us to now notice three things in regard to Gods call to Abraham.
Abrahams Call Was Progressive
When God spoke to Abraham and called him to a separated life, I want us to notice that Abraham was not in the forefront of the religious activities of the day and nor were his family circumstances very favourable. In fact, the Bible tells us that his Father Terach was an idol maker Idol Maker and made his living selling idols of various gods. Ironically, Judaism regard Abraham (as he was later called) the first Patriarch of the Jewish people was the first person to teach the idea that there was only one God; before then, people believed in many gods.
Yet as is always the case this man had his heart open and God spoke very clearly to him. Unlike Moses who had an enormous amount of Gods direct will revealed to him, with the Tablets of Stone (The Ten Commandments) Abraham received only a little revelation at a time. To be honest I’m glad of that because it coincides more with the way in which God deals with me and most of us. It’s normally “little by little, and step by step” and such was the exact and specific manner of Gods call to Abraham. Look with me at “Genesis 12:1-4” – “Abram, get up and go! Leave your country. Leave your relatives and your father’s home, and travel to the land I will show you. Don’t worry I will guide you there. I have plans to make a great people from your descendants. And I am going to put a special blessing on you and cause your reputation to grow so that you will become a blessing and example to others. I will also bless those who bless you and further you in your journey, and I’ll trip up those who try to trip you along the way. Through your descendants, all of the families of the earth will find their blessing in you. Without any hesitation, Abram went. He did exactly as the Eternal One asked him to do. Abram was years old when he left Haran. He took with him his wife Sarai, his brother’s son Lot, all of their possessions, and all of the persons they had acquired for their household while in Haran; and they all set off toward the land of Canaan” – The Voice
If we are not careful here it would be easy for us to simply think well it was no problem for him, after all what did he have to leave behind, the civilisation of the day was very poor, they were a nomadic type of people, uncivilised and for the most part illiterate. On top of that he was 75 years old, his life was spent, and taking chances would not matter. If this is how we are thinking we would be so wrong.
We are told clearly that Abram’s home was in Ur of the Chaldees. Archaeological excavations in 1922-34 reveal that there was a high state of civilisation there. The entire house of the average middle-class person had from 10 to 20 rooms and measured 40 to 52 feet. The lower floor was allocated to servants, and the upper floor for family, usually with five rooms for their use; besides a guest chamber and a lavatory reserved for visitors. In addition, there was usually a private Chapel.
The archaeological excavations also discovered a School. The Students utilised Clay Tablets and were taught the “3 R’s” as today – “Reading, Writing and Arithmetic” learning multiplication and division tables and even worked at square and cube roots.
So, this was not some illiterate barbarian who got an idea into his head. This was a highly educated and civilised person of some note in his community. Thus, when God simply told him to leave, to go to a place that would be revealed, it took a character of some strength to obey.
Now to do it once could be considered at his time and background to have been fool hardy, but it didn’t stop there. Abraham got settled in Egypt and began to prosper as God had promised him then God speaks again to him in and in “Genesis 13:1 to 4” God tells him to pack his bags and move on, then again in “Genesis 13:14 to 18” he is told to leave the security of his relatives.
If these times of testing were not enough in “Genesis 17:9 to 14” he is commanded to perform the first act of Circumcision and following that in “Genesis 22:1 to 18” we have the well-known incident where he is told to offer up Isaac, his Son as a Sacrifice.
When we read the Bible we of course sit down and read from Genesis 12 thru Genesis 22 quite quickly and it’s easy to not see the relevance of the time intervals between the Bible sections. Genesis 15:18 thru Genesis 17:4 gives us about 14 years, and it takes some fortitude of character in and through these episodes in his life, to continue to believe. It all came bit by bit and little by little and reminds us of what the New Testament say’s to us that we “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” – “1 Corinthians 13:12” KJV as it was for Abraham, so it is for us.
It is best explained like this. Imagine looking into a broken curved mirror. The image is distorted, and some things can be clearly made out, others you can piece together what you’re looking at, while others are a total mystery. So, for some things you’re “face to face” and everything is clear, and other things you’re only seeing “in part” but not fully. The last part is basically saying that through God, all things can eventually be seen.
To better understand it, the New Living Translation explains it pretty well. “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely”
Now we might and I hope we are all aspiring to work for God in one way or another and to serve Him. However, let’s not forget that although time is short, God is not in a hurry, better to be a well-prepared messenger of God and do a little well, than a lot badly, but one important factor clearly manifests itself and it is that we must keep close to the Lord in order to hear His voice.
Abrahams Call Was Particular
When God gave His call to Abram, He made sure that Abram knew exactly what He wanted him to do. Abram didn’t need to strive and get all twisted up in his personality and character. When God spoke to him, He made it absolutely plain, in his particular case it was initially to leave his home, family and associates. For him it meant leaving behind his sense of security and comfort, but he was in no doubt whatsoever as to what God required of him. It will always be the case that when God speaks to us, and many ways in which to do so, we will know, and if we are not an old saying is good to follow “If in doubt don’t.”
Now I do not believe for one moment God on a whim just chose Abram out of the vast millions of the day, no God had proved him in the 75yrs He had been watching him. The Bible clearly tells us “The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!” – “Matthew 25:21” So we see this principle at work in Abrahams journey of faith.
It is nearly always the c:ase that God calls “Busy Men” and if we wish to serve God, let’s keep busy in that which is already in our hands, and also keep in mind that if we have not been shown a specific role or task to perform, that we should consider that the “Need is the Call” until we are shown more.
Abrahams Call Was Practical
I mentioned earlier on that Abraham was a man of note and a very educated person and for the day and age in which he lived I guess he would have been considered to have been an intellectual. However, Gods call to him was just the same as it would have been for anyone, sure it was Progressive, and it was Particular, but it was also very down to earth and Practical.
As Christians we have an unfortunate tendency that arises in our hearts and minds, and it is to use an old saying to become “To Heavenly minded to be of any Earthly use.” It happens for a number of reasons, we read books with Biographies of people and how they were called and what they did for God, and these are good for the inspiration they produce, but inevitably they, if not combined together with sound practical Bible Teaching (which is sadly missing in the Church nowadays) produce twisted and imaginary ideas in the mind. These lead to God’s people getting all twisted up and frustrated. Why? Because it is not occurring in the same way for them. Because two thirds of Christians never have any regular sound and systematic teaching, the problem is simply magnified.
Now in Abrahams life we discover naturally that he did not have any formal Bible teaching, so there are always exceptions, but one thing we do notice is that he was a man who had his feet firmly planted on the ground. Rather than getting caught up with all the future concepts and ideas of what the call might produce, which is inevitably illusionary – He got “Stuck into the job in hand.”
God is still today providing Men and Women with His calling, for some it will be to serve Him away from the comforts of the “Home Nest” and in some distant part of the World. Others it will be to do so where they are, both are equally as important. One important thing to keep in mind is that God is looking for “Missionaries not Visionaries.” Sure, there is a great need for God’s people to be people of Vision, to be those who are imaginative and innovative, but at the same time it is vital that the ideas and concepts that are rushing around in heads don’t stop them getting into action now.
When God does call however it should be borne in mind that it places upon us a solemn responsibility. A responsibility and one which cannot be escaped from. Attempting to escape only leaves a gaping hole in a spiritual life, this happened to Abram in particular and he experienced the associated with the losses and various hardships that followed.
The call of God will always be accompanied by losses on a personal level they cannot be avoided if we move from serving our own interests to serving His interests. Whether we are serving Him at home or abroad, questions regarding the work of God being Hard or Easy. Why? Because they are really irrelevant, because it always has it’s good and bad points, depending on our own personalities and characters. One thing is certain though and it is that “it always has its costs.” Jesus reminds us of this in “Luke 9:23-26” let me relate these verses to you – “Then he told them what they could expect for themselves: “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? If any of you is embarrassed with me and the way I’m leading you, know that the Son of Man will be far more embarrassed with you when he arrives in all his splendour in company with the Father and the holy angels. This isn’t, you realize, pie in the sky by and by. Some who have taken their stand right here are going to see it happen, see with their own eyes the kingdom of God” – The Message
With this in mind let’s take a look at three specific areas where this is especially applicable.
- There Is A Loss of Personal Freedom
Abraham recognised that as soon as he set his hand to do what God had told him to do that he was no longer a Free Man. The Apostle Paul once said in “Romans 1:1” that he had become the Lord’s Bondsman or Slave, and this is exactly the situation that Abraham found himself in. Whenever God spoke to him, he really had no choice but to obey and it is no different for us. However, we should not run away with the idea that Abraham or Paul come to that were so spiritual that the dictates of the Spirit never caused them any problems. I’m absolutely convinced that Abraham had his struggles with God’s call and the outworking of it as we do but having once set his hand to the plough as it were, he knew that he could not turn back, he had lost his freedom, and he had been set free to be in captivity to God.
- There Is A Loss of Social Standing
When Abraham left Ur of the Chaldees (North-western Syria or southcentral Turkey) and set out on his great adventure, there would undoubtedly have been those in that heathen society who had been his lifelong friends who would have considered him to be absolutely mad. One who had suddenly let “religious fervour” get the better of him. In addition, and as he progressed there would have been a natural increase in the awareness of the holiness of God as he got closer to Him, this in turn would have separated him even more. Why would this have done so? Quite simply, “Impartiality cannot live with Intimacy.” We must recognise that under normal circumstances God’s call in one’s life can make life lonely.
- There Is A Loss of Worldly Gain
It is not always the case but invariably it is that obeying God’s call, and especially if it is one that involves a lot of travel will mean that the normal and legitimate building of worldly possessions along with comfortable foundations in regard to riches, is just not possible, basically because to do those things is in itself a full-time job.
Now, don’t get me wrong I am not for one moment saying these things are wrong, it’s “The Love of Money” that is wrong, not the possession of it. Love for money causes all kinds of evil. Some people want to get rich and they have wandered away from the faith. They have wounded themselves with many sorrows – “1 Timothy 6:10”
The Rich Young Ruler whose story is told in three of the synoptic Gospels – “Matthew 19:16–23, Mark 10:17–22, and Luke 18:18–23” was not sent away miserable because he was rich but because his riches were a snare to him. He had made an idol of his wealth, and he loved it more than God. With surgical precision, Jesus exposes the greed in the man’s heart – greed the man did not even suspect he had. The man is described as a “ruler,” which means he was a prince or magistrate of some sort. Since no Roman ruler would address Jesus as “teacher” or “master,” it is assumed that this man was a Jewish ruler in the local synagogue. So, for him it was a “double whammy” the loss of both his riches and his social standing.
It is not wrong for any Child of God to have savings and nice possessions, but one thing must always be borne in mind, and it is “Whose are they.” Do we really one and all consider ourselves, as we should, as God’s Servants? If so, then all we have is His to increase or dispose of as He wishes.
Abram did I’m sure leave a lot behind in Haran, and I’m equally sure that it was many years before he started to enjoy the comfortable life, he previously had but one thing was obvious and that is that God certainly gave back more than was lost.
Abraham gained: –
- Gods Special Presence
- Gods Special Promises
- Gods Special Protection
- Gods Special Power
- Gods Special Provision
God certainly proved Himself to be “El-Shaddai” (Genesis 17:1) the “All Sufficient One” – “And when Abram was ninety-nine years old and the LORD appeared to Abram, and he said to him, I am El Shaddai, walk before me, and be perfect” the life of Abram shows that he never wanted for the things that really mattered
If we really want to serve the Lord and are willing to say to Him as Isaiah “Here am I send me” – “Isaiah 6:8” or “Reign in me” as the old chorus lyrics said. Or with any degree of sincerity “Here I am wholly available as for me I will serve the Lord” then we must remember that with the smooth there will also be the rough. The pathway will not always be easy, but one thing is absolutely sure and that is if we are consecrated and are willing to be separated, it will be worthwhile and the most fulfilling aspect of the Christian life that can be enjoyed.
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