Second Sunday in Lent March 4-5, 2023
“Father Abraham” Genesis 12:1-9
Rev. John R. Larson Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
Three years ago life for many of us changed. In March of 2020 the question of COVID was quite unknown to many of us. But it hit hard, and for the last three years it has made an impact upon us and all of the world.
Some of you lost friends and relatives due to that virus. For some of you, your job, or at least where you did it, changed. The health for some, even though it didn’t always result in death, was weakened.
We also learned how to shop online, how to go to church online. We found out that we improved our looks by simply wearing a mask. We binged TV shows that we hadn’t paid attention to for the last decade. And we found out that toilet paper is truly a necessity that you can’t do without.
But I also saw that many people lost hope. They saw life in a dark and dismal way. The future was uncertain and they lacked any encouragement that things would get any better. Those who keep statistics on this, tell us that the number of suicides in the last three years increased significantly. And the number of folks who have turned to drugs or alcohol to help them cope, or to find an escape, multiplied. They lost hope. I bet some of us have lost hope, as well.
The life of Abraham is a picture of hope, it is a life of hope. But having a real hope is not so easy. It wasn’t easy for that old man and I don’t think it is ever easy for us. In Romans 4 we read, “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations.” (Verse 18). Now, that is an interesting phrase – “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed…” Maybe that can be translated – “Without any real reason to have hope, Abraham still had hope.”
Here are some real reasons for that guy not to have any hope. First, he is given a name by his parents that showed what they expected of him. Abram, his given name, means “exalted father.” His parents expected children and grandchildren from their son. The name of that family then would continue for many generations. Just a few verses prior to our text in Genesis 12 he tells us of the problem that that part of his life had for him and for his family, “Now Sarai was barren; she had no children.” (Genesis 11:30) Why plaster that in the book of the Bible? Isn’t that sort of a private matter?
But then we read what God said to Abram – “exalted father,”. “[God] brought him outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven and number the stars, if you are able to number them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’” (Genesis 15:5) There was a problem though. Abraham was 75 years old. Sarah and Abraham may have been married for 50-55 years already. If they didn’t have kids by then, I don’t think they were coming.
So Abraham thought he needed to take things in his own hands. He fathered a child when he was 86!! But not through his wife, Sarah, but through her servant. But God said that this child was not the child he had promised them. Hope was squashed.
Isn’t that how hope can be? We think we have something solved. We believe that we have the outcome that is right. But it wasn’t solved. The outcome wasn’t right. And hope is gone. How do you get hope back?
This past week our cable provider had some “free” movies that we wanted to see. (Though with their recent increases in our bill, I think I pay a lot of money for their “free” shows.) We watched “Maverick” with Tom Cruise. In the movie, Cruise a former “Top Gun” pilot in his younger years comes back to teach a bunch of twenty-year-olds how to fly very fast in amazingly dangerous conditions to destroy a proposed uranium storage site in a foreign country.
I thought the story was engaging. I liked how fast those F-16’s could go. And I thought that Tom Cruise’s words to his wingman – “Rooster” were wise. “Don’t think – just do.” He was telling him that if he was navigating and moving his jet simply by his mind and not by his instincts it would not have worked. He would have been shot down by the enemy. “Don’t think – just do.”
Abraham had little hope by himself to be the father of many nations. This wasn’t something to understand how it might be possible – but in faith, to trust God. He had to give this over to someone bigger than himself. And that is what he did. The ‘exalted father’ gave all of this into the hands of the Heavenly Father. Romans 4 tells us who gave him hope, “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead – since he was about a hundred years old – and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.” (Romans 4:18-21)
Do you know what gave him hope? God gave him hope. God spoke a word of promise and that was all he needed. In Hebrews 11 we read about Abraham and his faith, “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as an inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” “By faith Abraham, even though he was past age – and Sarah herself was barren – was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.” (Hebrews 11:8, 11-12)
If he had thought it all through – the move, the thought of being a father to any children, having millions of descendants – he wouldn’t have any reason to hope. But because it was God who spoke, because God made the promise, because God had things in His hands, Abraham could live in faith. Abraham could trust what God said.
There is a wonderful prayer that speaks of the certainty that we have even in the uncertainties which we face, “Lord God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Over 50% of the world’s population consider Abraham as the father of their faith. Judaism, the Muslim faith and Christianity all speak about “Father Abraham”.
It is the one who came from Abraham that brings us the living hope. Jesus Christ, miraculously came from Abraham. The New Testament begins, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” (Matthew 1:1) When the promises were made to Abraham, the promises that he believed, we read, “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3) How did that happen? How did all families of the world receive a blessing through Abraham? His descendant was the Savior of the world.
What brings you hope? Jesus brings us hope. God brings us hope when He tells us that we can simply trust in Jesus for life and death, for now and eternity. We read in John 3, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16-17)
In this complicated world, in your life that at times can be confusing, complicated, and challenging, I encourage you to learn from Abraham and simply take God at His word. Trust what He says. Know that you are blessed in Jesus. We have a living hope in Jesus.
Father Abraham had many sons, many sons had Father Abraham. I am one of them and so are you. So let’s all praise the Lord. Amen!!