The Significance of Genesis: Wrap-up: Abraham, His Call, His Significance (Genesis 12:1-3)

The Significance of Genesis: Wrap-up: Abraham, His Call, His Significance (Genesis 12:1-3)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, August 7, 2022

I heard a good illustration from Chuck Swindoll:

Generosity is not as much an overflow of wealth as it is an overabundance of faith. Stinginess, on the other hand, is a sure sign that a person trusts things instead of God. And make no mistake, we serve what we trust.

My older brother, Orville, was never a wealthy man, but he was wonderfully generous with what he had. He never held back from the Lord . . . and that is still true! It was this overabundance of faith that led him to be a missionary for more than thirty years in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Just before that, he had done some short-term mission work in Mexico and had come north to gather his wife, Erma Jean, and the kids for the long trip down into the far reaches of South America.

Before leaving, they stopped off for a quick visit with our parents in Houston. Now, you have to appreciate the kind of man my father was. Look up the word responsible in the dictionary, and his picture is there! To him, risks are for those who fail to plan. Responsible people leave nothing to chance. As far as he was concerned, faith is something you exercise when your three backup plans fall through and you have run out of all other options. My father was a believer, but he never understood the life of faith. Not really.

My brother, on the other hand, was stimulated by faith. He has lived his entire adult life on the raw edge of faith. To him, life doesn’t get exciting until God, and God alone, can get us through some specific challenge. That drove our dad nuts!

Orville pulled up to the house in an old Chevy sedan on four of the slickest tires I had ever seen. My father always inspected tires when we came to visit. I wondered how long it would take for him to say something. I’m sure Orville did too. Not very is the answer.

After a great supper of good ol’ collard greens and corn bread, onions and red beans, my mother and sister went into the kitchen, leaving my father at one end of the table, Orville at the other, and me sitting on one side. Then it started.

“Son, how much money do you have for your long trip?”

“Oh, Dad, don’t worry about it. We’re gonna be fine.”

Before he could change the subject, my father pressed the issue, “Answer me! How much money do you have in your wallet?”

Orville smiled and shrugged as he said, “I don’t have any in my wallet.”

I sat silent, watching this verbal tennis match.

“Nothing in your wallet? How much money do you have? You’re gettin’ ready to go down to South America! How much money you got?”

With that, my brother smiled, dug into his pocket, pulled out a quarter, set it on its edge on his end of the table, then gave it a careful thump. It slowly rolled past me all the way to my father’s end of the table and fell into his hand. Dad said, “A quarter? That is all you’ve got?”

Orville broke into an even bigger smile and said, “Yeah. Isn’t that exciting!”

That was not the word my father had in mind. After a heavy sigh and a very brief pause, Dad shook his head and said, “Orville, I just don’t understand you.”

My brother grew more serious. Looking Dad in the eyes, he answered without blinking, “No, Dad, you never have.”

I don’t know how he actually made the trip to their destination . . . or how he and Erma Jean took care of all their little kids, but they never went hungry. And they served in Buenos Aires and traveled to other parts of the world for more than three decades. My father was a man who emerged through the Great Depression, lived in fear of poverty his whole life, seldom took a risk, and never experienced the joy of trusting God that made my brother smile so big that day.

Jesus never said that having nice things is wrong. By His sovereign choice, He may ordain some to be as poor as Himself and His disciples. Yet He may want others to have an overabundance of money and material goods so that they might give in abundance. His chief concern is not the issue of wealth; He cares about us and where we turn for security. Whether or not we own nice things, He wants to be sure that they don’t own us!

Generosity is not only a sure sign of faith; it’s also a surefire way to stimulate it. As soon as something begins to feel just a little too crucial to our happiness or safety, it’s time to show it who’s boss by giving it away.[1]

That faith, that Swindoll’s brother, Orville, had, that is the faith that Abraham had. Abraham is for sure the father of our faith.

Today, we wrap up our sermon series on Genesis chapters 1-11 as foundational to our faith.

My theme today:

Abraham had faith following God unknowing where God was leading him. So, let’s follow Abraham’s example, having faith in God with our future.

  • The rest of the Bible is about Abram’s descendants:
    • This passage is Genesis 12. You may or may not realize it, but we are only a couple thousand years into history in this passage. In Genesis chapters 1-3 we have the creation of Adam and Eve. Then Adam and Eve sinned.
    • Beginning in Genesis 4 we have Cain and Abel, then we have all the descendants of Adam and Eve.
    • In Genesis chapters 6-9 we have the flood narrative with Noah and his family.
    • In Genesis chapter 10 we have the table of nations. All of Noah’s descendants spread out.
    • In Genesis 11 we have the tower of Babel.
    • At the end of Genesis 11 we are introduced to Abram.
    • Abram’s father begins moving the family from Ur to the land of Canaan. They stopped in Haran.
    • This brings us to Genesis 12. The rest of Genesis and the rest of the Old Testament will be about Abraham and his descendants. His descendants become the people of Israel.
    • Jesus came through the people of Israel.
    • We are saved and grafted in to the people of Israel.
  • Abram’s call and obedience
    • Genesis 12:1-3: Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
    • The place (12:1): Ur of the Chaldeans (see Genesis 11:31).
    • The promises (12:2–3): Abram will found a great nation; and God will bless him, make his name great, and cause him to bless others. Those who bless Abram will be blessed; those who curse him will be cursed. Everyone on earth will be blessed through him. This takes place through Jesus Christ, a descendant of Abram.
    • The Lord calls Abram. He is called “Abram,” right now and not, “Abraham.” In Genesis 17:4-6 his name is changed to Abraham.
    • This promissory call is the first recorded speech since God’s word of judgment at the Tower of Babel, resulting in the creation of the nations (11:5–6, 9). Abram is called upon to leave both his past and his future in placing his trust in God.[2]
    • The many promises of the passage cohere into three strands: land, seed, and blessing. The divine oath is like an avalanche of blessing cascading in wave after wave on the patriarch and his children yet to come.[3]
    • Abram is called upon to leave both his past and his future in placing his trust in God.[4]
    • Abram was introduced in Genesis 11:27ff.
    • The Lord calls him to leave his country. The Lord calls him to leave his relatives and his father’s household.
    • This is a big deal. Back then they needed their family and friends to survive. They needed each other.
    • Verse 2: God says that He, the Lord, will make Abram’s name great… God will make him a great nation. God will bless him.
    • God will make his name great. This was the failed aspiration of the tower builders (11:4).[5]
    • This passage is proven true.
    • We are talking about Abram today are we not?
    • Jesus came through the descendants of Abraham.
    • All gentiles are saved through the seed of Abraham.
    • God will bless Abram and also he will be a blessing. Abram was a blessing through his descendants.
    • Verse 3: Those who bless Abram will be blessed, but those who curse him will be cursed.
    • Again, all the families of the earth will be blessed through Abram. We have all been blessed through the Messiah…
  • Applications and Review:
  • Genesis chapters 1-12 are important for the rest of the Bible.
  • These people show up throughout the Scriptures. Through Abram, we are all blessed. Abram literally changes history.
  • We must be responsive to the Lord as Abram was. He obeyed what the Lord had told him to do (Gen. 12:4).
  • We must trust the Lord as Abram did. Abram left his family, his network, his community to trust the Lord.
    • Sometimes the Lord’s will may not make sense, but we must trust him.
      1. We must trust Him with our home.
      2. We must trust Him with our money.
      3. We must trust Him with our family.
      4. We must trust Him with our children.
  • We must recognize the Lord is sovereign and in control as we see in this passage. In verse 2 we see the Lord is the One Who blesses Abram, makes his name great and makes him a great nation. In verse 3 we see it is the Lord who blesses those who bless him and curses those who curse him. It is the Lord who blesses all the families of the earth through Abram.
  • We must recognize the Lord gives blessings out of grace. As verse 1 shows, Abram did not do anything to earn this covenant.
  • We must worship the Lord as we are all blessed through Abraham’s seed, Jesus.
  • We must be willing to trust God to lead us to uncharted territory as Abraham was willing.
  • We must be willing to sacrifice, income, time, talent, location to serve the Lord.
  • We must be willing to move for the Lord.
  • We must be willing to change occupations for the Lord.
  • We must be willing to prayerfully consider mission trips, local or foreign. This may be uncharted territory.
  • We must be willing to serve somewhere new in the community: hospice, nursing home ministry.
  • We must be willing to talk to someone about Jesus. This is uncharted territory in many ways.
  • We must be willing to step out.
  • We must be willing to trust God with our future. We must trust God with the unknown.
  • We must not compromise the Old Testament.
  • The Old Testament is the foundation for the New Testament. Genesis 1-11 is the foundation for the Bible


We can picture faith as a connection between the work of the Holy Spirit and the power at work in our new nature. Faith is a wire that conducts a current called grace that flows from the Spirit so that the new nature receives power.270[6]

A blind girl, one day, was caught in a fire on the tenth floor of a building. She could make her way to a window, but she couldn’t see anything. She felt the heat and smelled the smoke of the fire. Then she heard a fireman yell, “Jump, jump!”

She said, “I’m scared to jump. I can’t see.”

The fireman said, “If you don’t jump, you’re going to die. Take the risk, and jump.”

It’s bad enough to jump from ten stories high, but to jump when you can’t see where you’re jumping—that’s terror. In the midst of the chaos and confusion, she heard another voice, “Darling, jump, I’ve got you.” She smiled and said, “Okay, Daddy, I’ll jump.”

Jesus Christ is inviting us to jump. He knows we’re nervous, but just jump. He knows you’re scared, but just jump. Remember, we’re talking about your Daddy. We’re talking about Somebody you know. You’ve seen what He can do.276[7]


[1] Taken from Charles R. Swindoll, “Ragged-Edge Faith and Reckless Generosity,” Insights (May 2007): 1-2. Copyright © 2007, Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide

[2] K. A. Mathews, Genesis 11:27–50:26, vol. 1B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2005), 105.

[3] K. A. Mathews, Genesis 11:27–50:26, vol. 1B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2005), 104–105.

[4] Ibid, 105.

[5] Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 71.

[6] Tony Evans, Tony Evans’ Book of Illustrations: Stories, Quotes, and Anecdotes from More than 30 Years of Preaching and Public Speaking (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2009), 96.

[7] Tony Evans, Tony Evans’ Book of Illustrations: Stories, Quotes, and Anecdotes from More than 30 Years of Preaching and Public Speaking (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2009), 97.

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