Sermon Genesis 12:1-9 & Romans 4:13-25 The Land to Which God Leads Us
By Richard Niell Donovan
Now the LORD said to Abram,
“Get out of your country,
and from your relatives,
and from your father’s house,
to the land that I will show you” (12:1).
That was a lot for God to ask. In that day, people grew up in a village with their parents and grandparents. They raised their children there. Their children took care of them in their old age. To cut those ties was a big deal.
Several years ago, I spoke with a German businessman. He had lived in Stuttgart, a big city, for many years, but he said that, when he retired, he would move back to the little village where he had grown up. I asked if he wouldn’t miss the city. He said that perhaps he would, but he had to go back to his village. That’s what people do in Germany. He could not imagine any other way. Not to return to the village would be to finish his life without roots.
That man had spent much of his life travelling the world. I met him on an airplane. But he still had roots in the little village that had always been homeand would always be home.
Now imagine how difficult it must have been for Abram to leave his home and his family. He didn’t even have a destination. He could not point to a place on a map and say, “This is where we are going.” He didn’t have an address for the movers. He didn’t have a forwarding address for his mail. God would show him where to go, but did not reveal the destination ahead of time.
But God did make a promise. He promised Abram a reward. He said:
“I will make of you a great nation.
I will bless you and make your name great.
You will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and I will curse him who curses you.
All of the families of the earth will be blessed in you” (12:2-3).
Abram obeyed God’s call, and God made of him a great nation. But that did not happen immediately. It would be many years before Abraham and Sarah even had a child. How could Abraham be the father of a great nation if he was not even the father of one child? But Abraham never stopped believing God’s promise. Paul says:
“Without being weakened in faith,
he didn’t consider his own body,
already having been worn out,
(he being about a hundred years old),
and the deadness of Sarah’s womb.
Yet, looking to the promise of God,
he didn’t waver through unbelief,
but grew strong through faith,
giving glory to God,
and being fully assured that what (God) had promised,
he was also able to perform” (Romans 4:19-21).
This week, one of our friends left home to go to a place that God would show her. Marcella died this week. Marcella used to come to church here, but has been in a nursing home for several years. She was a lovely Christian woman who was ready to die. Most of her friends had preceded her in death. She had spent a lifetime believing God’s promises and preparing to meet him. It showed! She was bed-ridden, but she always had a smile and a cheerful word. I don’t always enjoy visiting nursing homes, but I always enjoyed visiting Marcella.
When Marcella died, I considered changing the scripture for this sermon. I considered preaching on one of the great resurrection scriptures. But then I re-read the scripture that I had selected long ago, and I found it very fitting.
“Get out of your country,
and from your relatives,
and from your father’s house,
to the land that I will show you”
And I was reminded of Jesus’ words:
“In my Father’s house are many homes….
I will come again, and will receive you to myself;
that where I am, you may be there also” (John 14:2-3).
God was faithful to Abram. He made a great nation of Abram and Sarah. I believe that Jesus has also been faithful to Marcella, and has taken her to a beautiful home.
But God does things in his own time, and not in ours. God did not even begin to fulfill his promise to Abram until Abram was old and Sarah was past the age of child-bearing. Then their son, Isaac, was born. Many more years would pass before Isaac begat Israel, and Israel begat twelve sons, and the twelve sons became the great nation that God had promised. God kept his promise to Abram, but Abram saw only a tiny bit of that promise fulfilled.
Marcella also had to wait a long time. As is often true of very old people, she wondered why she had to live so long. She had been ready to go for some time. The waiting was difficult.
Isn’t it that way for all of us! God has promised to reward us. We do our best, and then wonder where he is. We pray; we go to church; and we wait.
I am reminded of the story of Corrie ten Boom. When the Nazis invaded Holland, Corrie and her family hid Jews in their home. A turncoat betrayed them. Corrie and her sister, Betsie, were sent to Ravensbruck, a Nazi death camp.
In Ravensbruck, Betsie awakened Corrie one night. Corrie pulled a coat over their heads so the guards would not hear them. Then Betsie whispered in a voice that was near death:
“God showed me that after the war
we must give to the Germans
that which they now try to take away from us:
our love for Jesus.”
Corrie was appalled. She said:
“Oh, Betsie, you mean that if we live
we will have to return to Germany?”
Betsie said that, in her vision, God gave them a concentration campa death campwhich they would use to rebuild lives. Then they would travel the whole world, telling people about Jesus. Corrie protested:
“To all the world?
But that will take much money.”
“Yes, but God will provide.
After all, He owns the cattle on a thousand hills.
If we need money
we will just ask the Father to sell a few cows.”
Can you imagine such a grand vision in such a grim place? It seemed fantastic. Three days later, Betsie died. The impossible dream was over.
But Corrie survived Ravensbruck. After the war, she felt God’s call to go to America to tell her story. But everyone wanted to go to America. There was no way to get a quota. There was no way to get a passport. There was no way to get the money. There was no way to get a ticket.
But each time Corrie turned it over to God, and every door opened. Within weeks, she found herself in New York Citywith little money and no contacts. She stayed at the YWCA. At the end of a week, the clerk told her that she had to leave. So many people wanted to stay there that they allowed people to stay only one week. Did she have a forwarding address?
Corrie told him that she had a forwarding address, but she just didn’t know it yet. God had a place for her, but had not told her where it was.
Then the clerk remembered a letter that had come for her. He handed it to her, and she read these words from a woman that she did not recall ever meeting:
“I heard you speak in the Jewish congregation.
I am aware that it is almost impossible to get a room
in New York City.
My son happens to be in Europe,
so you are welcome to use his room
as long as you are in New York.”
Corrie showed the clerk the letter. She said, “That is my forwarding address.”
God opened doors for her. He opened a door in Staten Island which led to an open door in Washington, D.C.which led to open doors in churches and synagogues. She travelled across the United States, telling her story. She travelled to Pacific Islands. She travelled to Asia. And, yes, she returned to Germany, where she transformed a camp of death into a camp of life for German refugees. She spent the last thirty years of her life travelling the world as an ambassador for Christ.
God fulfills his promisesnot always in the time that we would likebut God fulfills his promises:
God called Abram, and was faithful to his promise.
God called Betsie and Corrie, and was faithful to his promise.
God called Marcella, and was faithful to his promise.
And God will be faithful to us.
The old poem says:
“And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year,
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied,
“Go into the darkness, and put your hand into the hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light, and safer than the known way.”
Let us walk with our hand in God’s hand. Then he will lead us through the darkness and into the light.
Scripture quotations from the World English Bible.
Copyright 1996 Richard Niell Donovan