Genesis 12-14: How Do You Find God’s Will?

It has been said by so many and very often that there is no safer place to be than in God’s Will.  While most of us would assent to this statement mentally, it is in the practical living out of this belief that sometimes gets us.  As we look at this text, it is manual on the myriad of ways we may find ourselves tested when we decide to live under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  In the call and subsequent life of Abraham we find three different examples of how God accomplished his plan for the Abraham with or in spite of patriarch’s cooperation.  But before we find out how God worked out his will in Abraham’s (or Abram’s) life, we must first look at how this man entered into that relationship to begin with.


Finding God’s Will

If I could have a dollar for every time I have had a conversation with someone about finding God’s will, whether for my own life or for one of my friends, I would be a rich man.  Many books have been written on the subject and it is certainly a worthy topic of study and conversation.  In fact, there could not be too many profitable matters than this one. A person who is genuinely seeking to find the will of God for their own life is certainly on the right track.


What strikes me as interesting in this text is the fact that the text gives us no real picture of Abram, before his conversion, as a man seeking after these things.  Abram was a pagan living in Ur of the Chaldeans which is one of the oldest civilizations in recorded history.  Abram, most likely a worshipper of Nanna, the moon god as the Easton Bible Dictionary describes the religious practices of Ur:


“Ur was consecrated to the worship of Sin [Nanna], the Babylonian moon-god. It shared this honour, however, with another city, and this city was Haran, or Harran. Harran was in Mesopotamia, and took its name from the highroad which led through it from the east to the west. The name is Babylonian, and bears witness to its having been founded by a Babylonian king. The same witness is still more decisively borne by the worship paid in it to the Babylonian moon-god and by its ancient temple of Sin. Indeed, the temple of the moon-god at Harran was perhaps even more famous in the Assyrian and Babylonian world than the temple of the moon-god at Ur. [1]


So, we have this picture of a man who was a pagan and certainly what the Apostle Paul would have used to describe the father of our faith before he knew God, “as for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient” (Ephesians 2:1-2; NIV).  What was it about Abram that compelled God to spiritually see in this man his future spiritual greatness?  Given the text and its silence on this matter – the answer seems to be nothing.  There was nothing about Abram in his lost state that made him somehow special.  All we know from the text is that God chose Abram, not because of his great potential, but for his own secret purpose.


We learn from this text that entrance into God’s will begins with a step of faith. God came to Abram and challenged him with what one of my favorite professors, Dr. Willem VanGemeren, calls the “cosmic mandate.” God gave Abram the opportunity that most men dream of having – the ability to play a central part in God’s plan to transform the world.  He was offered in a moment to be the heir of the messiah, the Savior of the world and through his line, God’s special protection would forever be on his people and all the people groups of the world would be blessed through him.


“I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you and whoever curses you I will curse; and all the peoples on the earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:2-3).


These exciting words, though, followed from a set of words that would bring deep anguish to the souls of anyone who loves his family.  This God, who was unfamiliar to Abram, came to Abram and gave this promise on the condition of faith.  God said to him that in order for this world changing relationship to begin, he had to:

1.       Leave his country

2.       Leave his people

3.       Leave his father’s household

4.       Go to the place that God would show him.

This sounds like a small thing to most of us who are used to modern transportation and communications.  Yet, in the ancient world where family, immediate and extended were critical for the proper function of one’s life, this was a radical request.  What made this request much more difficult was the fact that Abram was seventy-five at the time and clearly set in his ways.  Giving up all he had known to follow God at this stage was even more difficult to do given that God had made lofty promises for his seed, given that his wife Sarai was barren and beyond child bearing age.


Yet, in spite of the human unlikelihood of these events coming to pass, Abram trusted God anyway and we read in verse 4, “So Abram left, as the LORD had told him.”  Abram took a step of faith and trusted in the Lordship of God for his life and this genuine step of faith set in motion Abram’s new life lived within the Sovereign and blessed Will of the Most High God. 


Abram’s First Lesson on Faith: God can accomplish his will through us in spite of us (12:10-20).

Clearly, Abram who is a new follower of the living God has much to learn about the power of this God that he has chosen to follow.   As Abram went on his travels to the places that God was showing him, he eventually ended up in Egypt.  His wife Sarai was a very beautiful woman and he knew the harshness of his time when it came to the powerful and their appetites for large harems.  As a result, he concocted a plan in which he told his wife to tell everyone in Egypt that they were brother and sister, rather than husband and wife.  When word got around in Egypt that such a beautiful woman had entered the nation, Pharaoh decided to take Sarai into his harem.  Abram began to make a new life for himself as the brother of Sarai.  “But the LORD inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram’s wife Sarai.”  Once God made what was happening abundantly clear, Pharaoh summoned Abram and sent him safely on his way.


The lesson that we learn in this section is that when we are in the center of God’s will, God has will accomplish his will through us and even in spite of us.  Abram clearly did not act out of faith in this particular situation, but God had made a promise (covenant with) to Abram and he wasn’t going to leave his promise unfulfilled. 


Abram’s Second Lesson: God Never Leaves His Will Up to Chance (13:1-18)

Abram, as we noticed earlier, took his nephew Lot with him when he left to follow the Lord.  There came a time when the flocks that the two men had that it became apparent that the two groups had to split up because anyone spot could not support all the herds which created a great deal of conflict between the servants of the two men (13:5-7).


Abram came to Lot and asked him to choose to go in any direction he wanted.  This was a frightening offer, to say the least, because the Promised Land for Abram was Canaan and now Abram was on the verge of squandering it away.  What would happen if Lot chose to go to the place that God had promised to Abram?  Abram had given his word that he would go the other way.  Was Abram foolish to make such an offer, which appeared to jeopardize God’s plan for Abram’s life and eventually all the nations of the world?  We will never know what would have happened had Lot chosen Canaan, but he didn’t – he chose the plain of the Jordan and then God came to Abram and for his sake reaffirmed his promise to Abram in 13:14-16.  God did this to point out to Abram that even though he was leaving his future direction to chance, it was the Lord who was ordering his steps. 


Abram’s Third Lesson: There is no Safer place to Be then God’s Will (14:1-24).

Finally we come to the last section of today’s reading. In it we find Abram’s nephew Lot in a significant amount of trouble.  Gordon Wenham summarizes the situation nicely for us:


“The comfortable affluence of Lot was disturbed by invasion. Four kings, led by Kedorlaomer of Elam (part of Iran), conquered the Jordan valley. Thirteen years later a rebellion by the cities of the plain led to another invasion by the same eastern coalition. The armies of Sodom and Gomorrah were defeated, the cities were sacked and Lot was taken captive.”[2]


While three kings could not defeat Kedorlamoer’s alliance of four kings, Abram, when hearing about his nephew Lot’s captivity, recruited 318 of his best men and led a stealth night attack against his forces and routed them. The armies of the four kings fled for their lives and Abram was considered the hero for all of his part in the matter.


The reality, though, is that the text is pointing to the fact that Abram would have had no chance against this battle tested army had he not had a relationship with the True God.    Immediately after defeating these kings “Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine.  He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram saying, Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.” As we will learn much later in the book of Hebrews, Jesus is a priest in the line of Melchizedek and God used this priest to make sure that Abram knew who delivered him into victory.  The same is true of us.


When we are united to Christ in a genuine relationship, we will find ourselves also united with God’s will for our lives.  Sometimes God will accomplish his Will through us in spite of us; sometimes in those events that seem like chance occurrences and also in those times of great opposition. 


God’s Will is immovable, unshakable and beautiful.  God works it out in incredible detail and precision.  So what do you need to enter into that wonderful, immovable Will for your life?  The answer is simple.  Repent and believe.  In other words, turn away from sin and life without faith in Christ and turn to him and commit your life to him.  Accept the payment of Jesus’ death on your behalf and ask God to take full control of your existence.  To do this may require you to do as Abram did; you may have to give up the familiar . . .  some of the things that you have built your life on and it means that you will walk in some dangerously unfamiliar places, yet, it will be worth it.  I don’t think that Abraham regretted walking in God’s will and I don’t think you will either.  The great lesson for this text is that faith is the entryway into God’s Will.

[1]Easton, M.G.: Easton’s Bible Dictionary. Oak Harbor, WA : Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996, c1897

[2]Carson, D. A.: New Bible Commentary : 21st Century Edition. 4th ed. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA : Inter-Varsity Press, 1994, S. Ge 14:1


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