Genesis 12:1 “The LORD Said, ‘Go!'”

Posted on April 26, 2009. Filed under: Genesis: Answers to Life's Crucial Questions |

Redeemer Church Sunday School

Genesis Class

Genesis 12:1 “The LORD Said ‘Go’”

Sunday, April 26, 2009


Read Genesis 12:1-9

Introduction: We have taken a couple of weeks off from our study in Genesis so this morning I want to not just pick back up where we left off, but look more deeply at the overall structure of the story of Abraham and then we shall look at 12:1-9 paying special attention to verse 1.


I want to thank our classmate, Ed Enochs, for teaching last week. That was a very inspirational and motivating class and it was pertinent to our study because Genesis is absolutely one of the books of the Bible that our lost world is attacking with great vigor. We are called upon to make an apology for our faith, that is, to give a reasoned, biblical explanation for our belief in Jesus as the crucified, resurrected Lord. And we don’t just stay on defense, we present the gospel.


I have two goals for our class today. First, I want us to have a deeper understanding of how Moses put this story of Abraham together and how it relates to the whole book and even points forward to some other things Moses wrote. I believe that if we dig deeper and see more of the structure Moses included that it makes the text come alive and excites our faith. Secondly, as we look at 12:1 I want us to understand what God was calling Abram to do and then apply it to our lives as we seek to follow Jesus.


I.                   Literary Analysis/Context of the Story of Abraham, Gen. 11:27-25:11

A.     The Bigger Picture

1.      This is the 6th toledoth in Genesis and is therefore the central story of the book, having five toledoths before and five after. This is the beginning of the second main section of the book and introduces us to the patriarchs. The story of the descendants of Terah, mainly Abraham, occupies 11:27-25:11. We have already looked at Abraham as a central figure in the OT, over 90 references to him in the NT and he is an important figure in three of the world’s religions.

2.      With the call of Abraham God is beginning the story of Israel from which nation the Messiah will come. The story so far goes like this: God creates the world 1:1-2:3 the prologue of the story; 2:4-4:26 the first toledoth tells of man’s creation, Paradise, sin and Paradise Lost, the spread of sin, the beginning of the godly line of hope and promise in Seth. 5:1 starts the second toledoth and shows the fruit of sin “and he died”. 6:9 begins the story of Noah and the Flood with the third toledoth and we see the wrath of God against sin, yet also the hope for salvation as he gives grace to one man and one family. There is a sort of second creation with Noah and the animals coming off the Ark. The fourth toledoth begins in 10:1 and the various nations develop from the descendants of Noah which culminates in the Tower of Babel story and the dispersal of the nations. With the fifth toledoth in 11:10 we get the line of Shem that narrows things down to Terah and the beginning of the sixth toledoth in 11:27. From the blessing upon Man that God gave in 1:28 to the blessing upon Abraham in 12:2 through whom would come a blessing to all the families of the earth in 12:3 the story moves from forward to fulfill the will of God.

3.      In this story of Abraham we find that his journey of faith begins with a promise from God to bless him and all the families of the earth through him in 12:1-3. In 15 we see that God makes an unchangeable covenant with Abraham where blood sacrifices are involved and his descendants shall be as the stars at night. In 17 the covenant is deepened, Abram is changed into Abraham and Sarai into Sarah. The covenant is sealed with circumcision and is passed on to Abraham’s descendants from generation to generation. Finally, after Abraham’s grand act of faith and obedience in ch.22 God deepens the covenant even more by swearing by himself that Abraham’s descendants will be as numerous as the sand of the seashore or the stars at night and that in Abraham’s offspring, singular, Christ, will all the nations of the earth be blessed.

4.      Abraham is the quintessential hero of faith in the Old Testament. In Heb. 11, the faith hall of fame, each hero gets about 1 verse, Moses gets 6 and Abraham 12. Bruce Waltke, Genesis: a Commentary, by Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 2001, p.194, writes, “Abraham’s story begins with God’s call to venture from the ‘city of man’ and family security to find the city of God. It is a call that every saint hears and that guides God’s people on their pilgrimage to the celestial city.”


B.     The Structure and Plot of the Abraham Story

1.      A brief outline of the Abraham narrative would begin with the superscription in 11:27a “Now these are the generations of Terah.” The Introduction follows in 11:27b-32 where the key tension of the whole story is introduced, “Now Sarai was barren”. The main body is 12:1-22:19 but is divided into two sections, 12:1-15 which pertains to the promise of land, and then 16-22 which focuses on the promise of descendants. The Abraham narrative then ends (22:20-25:11) where the story of Isaac will begin.

2.      The main idea is that Abraham’s faith must struggle through leaving his home and family, having a childless wife, the onset of age, famine, hostile people, pagan kings taking his wife, disharmony in the home, an ungrateful nephew, a war, watching the judgment of God, God demanding the sacrifice of the miracle child of promise, and, let’s not forget, Abraham’s own sins which are recorded. In the end, he obeys out of faith. The great doctrine of justification by faith is presented in 15:6. This may be our key verse for this part of Genesis!

3.      The ‘bookends’ of the Abraham narrative are 12:1-3, which show Abram called to leave his home and family, all that is familiar, and go to a land that will be shown to him, someplace he has never been, leave his past, and then in ch.22 he is called to abandon his future by sacrificing his son, Isaac. In both parts of the story, he faces an unknown with great faith in God. In both stories he is called to give up what is dear to him and trust God to provide.

4.      Abraham’s story points us to Christ. God promises a son to Abraham through whom all nations on earth will be blessed. God promised to give his Son through whom people of all nations will come to salvation. Both Isaac and Jesus have miracle births. Just as Abraham offers Isaac as a sacrifice, so God the Father offers his Son as a sacrifice, Isaac as a type and Jesus literally. The sign of the covenant between God and Abraham is circumcision while the sign of our covenant with Christ is baptism.


II.                God’s Call 12:1-9

A.     Literary Analysis- Discover what the text says

1.      This passage is part of the larger unit 12:1-15:20 dealing with the Land of Promise. In this text God calls Abram to leave on land or realm and go to another, one that He will show him. When Abram arrives in the land his first act is to set up an altar at Shechem. When he moves on to the hill country between Bethel and Ai, he builds another altar to the LORD, thus claiming the land for God.

2.      This text has 3 parts. (1) God’s call, (2) Abram’s obedience shown in his journey from Haran to the Land, and (3) his travels throughout the land, north to south, and his worship as he travels.

3.      Key words: bless/blessing. Occurs 5 times in vss.1-3 and hearkens back to the previous 5 uses of the word in chapters 1-11. See vss. 1:22,28; 2:3; 5:2; 9:1. The use of bless and curse together in vs.3 also points forward to Deut.28. This sets us up with an overwhelming theme of blessing. God wants to bless us with salvation! Land and see/show/appeared are also key words.

4.      The use of the number 7. Remember how many times we have discussed how Moses uses the number 7 or its multiples in Genesis? Here it is again. There are 7 elements in this blessing of Abram in vss. 2-3. (1) I will make you into a great nation; (2) I will bless you; (3) I will make your name great; (4) you will be a blessing; (5) I will bless those who bless you; (6) whoever dishonors you I will curse; (7) all families on earth will be blessed.


B.     Exposition/Theological Analysis- Discover what the text means

1.      Now the LORD said- (Gen. 1:3 “And God said…”) by the same word, “said”, God created the world and he called Abram. God is here and he is not silent. God spoke to the prophets of old, he spoke through his Son, he spoke through the apostles of Jesus, and he speaks to us now through his written Word.

2.      to Abram- God’s call was particular and personal. There were likely a few other godly men around, Melchizedek in Salem, and Job could have been alive at this time. But God sovereignly chose to call Abram for his own purposes and glory.

3.      go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house- God’s call to Abram involved a leaving first of all. The call seems to have come while he was in Ur which is indicated by the use of the past perfect in “The LORD said (had said)”. We just do not know the rest of the story about why Terah led the whole family and why Abram did not leave on his own. The word for “go” or “leave” is a strong word implying that you are to determine to dissociate from your family. Quote Calvin pp.341-2, 344.



    "Now the Lord had said unto Abram." That an absurd division of these
chapters may not trouble the readers, let them connect this sentence with
the last two verses of the previous chapter. Moses had before said, that
Terah and Abram had departed from their country to dwell in the land of
Canaan. He now explains that they had not been impelled by levity as rash
and fickle men are wont to be; nor had been drawn to other regions by
disgust with their own country, as morose persons frequently are; nor
were fugitives on account of crime; nor were led away by any foolish
hope, or by any allurements, as many are hurried hither and thither by
their own desires; but that Abram had been divinely commanded to go forth
and had not moved a foot but as he was guided by the word of God. They
who explain the passage to mean, that God spoke to Abram after the death
of his father, are easily refuted by the very words of Moses: for if
Abram was already without a country, and was sojourning as a stranger
elsewhere, the command of God would have been superfluous, 'Depart from
thy land, from thy country, and from thy father's house.' The authority
of Stephen is also added, who certainly deserves to be accounted a
suitable interpreter of this passage: now he plainly testifies, that God
appeared to Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in
Charran; he then recites this oracle which we are now explaining; and at
length concludes, that, for this reason, Abraham migrated from Chaldea.
Nor is that to be overlooked which God afterwards repeats, (15: 7,) 'I am
the Lord that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees;' for we thence
infer, that the Divine Hand was not for the first time stretched out to
him after he had dwelt in Charran, but while he yet remained at home in
Chaldea. Truly this command of Gods respecting which doubts are foolishly
entertained, ought to be deemed by us sufficient to disprove the contrary
error. For God could not have spoken thus, except to a man who had been,
up to that time, settled in his nest, having his affairs underanged, and
living quietly and tranquilly among his relatives, without any change in
his mode of life; otherwise, the answer would have been readily given 'I
have left my country, I am far removed from my kindred.' In short, Moses
records this oracle, in order that we may know that this long journey was

undertaken by Abram, and his father Terah, at the command of God.


'I command thee to go forth with closed eyes, and forbid thee
to inquire whither I am about to lead thee, until, having renounced thy
country, thou shalt have given thyself wholly to me.' And this is the
true proof of our obedience, when we are not wise in our own eyes, but
commit ourselves entirely unto the Lord. Whensoever, therefore, he
requires anything of us, we must not be so solicitous about success, as
to allow fear and anxiety to retard our course. For it is better, with
closed eyes, to follow God as our guide, than, by relying on our own
prudence, to wander through those circuitous paths which it devises for


4.      to the land – land is a key word in this part of Genesis, through ch. 15. This goes back to chapters 1-2 and the creation of the land, the preparation of the land for the man God was going to create. The man was tasked with caring for the Garden, the land.

5.      I will show you- the word “see” is another key word in this part of Genesis and “show” is a form of the same word.  God is a God who shows himself, who reveals himself and reveals his will for us. By faith we can “see” the land to which he has called us.    



C.     Application

1.      There are many today who claim that God continues to give revelation through other means than the Word, but I am leery of all those. God is not silent! Hear the Word preached and taught. Read the Word. Study the Word. Memorize the Word, Meditate in the Word.

2.      God still calls individuals today. Just as Jesus called his disciples one by one, he calls people to repentance and faith today.

3.      The first part of the Gospel is Repent- if we are going to follow Christ we must first lay aside our fishing nets, leave or tax collector booth and repent of sin. In our day many people want to add Jesus to their lives, not many want to give up their lives to follow Him wherever he leads. To follow Jesus will always be costly, even though his grace is free. We do not earn salvation by leaving, we leave because he has called us. Repentance is a fruit of being born again and is a grace gift that is the twin of faith, belief. God calls us, the Holy Spirit gives us a new heart, and then he graces us with the gifts of repentance and faith. We leave and then we cleave; we lay aside our sin and we take up the cross.

4.      The land is still important today. I do not believe in a separate way of salvation for the Jews, they must repent and believe in Jesus. But the Jews are in a unique way, God’s chosen people, and he is not done with the Jews nor the land. I am convinced that those who bless and defend the Jews will also be blessed. Here is where politics touches on theology. I think it would be disastrous for America to abandon Israel in favor of the children of Ishmael. And it seems that is exactly what this current President is determined to do. God has a purpose for that land from Creation til the coming of the Lord and we should defend Israel’s right to that land. But for the last 30 years or so, we have tried to defend and help various muslim peoples and Arab lands and it has only brought us problems.

5.      If we are spiritually blind we cannot see the work of God. In Matt.13:10-17


10 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:

“‘You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.
15 For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed,
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.’

16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. 17 For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.





6.      Pray that our eyes would be open so that we might read and understand the Word and see what the Lord is leading us to leave behind and where he is leading us to go.


#285 in the Baptist Hymnal, “Wherever He Leads I’ll Go”

“Take up thy cross and follow me” I heard my Master say;

“I gave my life to ransom thee, surrender your all today”.


Wherever He leads I’ll go, Wherever he leads I’ll go.

I’ll follow my Christ who loves me so, wherever he leads I’ll go.


He drew me closer to his side, I sought his will to know,

And in that will I now abide, Wherever he leads I’ll go.


It may be through shadows dim, or o’er the stormy sea,

I take my cross and follow him, Wherever he leadeth me.


My heart, my life, my all I bring to Christ who loves me so.

He is my Master, Lord, and King, Wherever he leads I’ll go.


Wherever He leads I’ll go, Wherever he leads I’ll go.

I’ll follow my Christ who loves me so, wherever he leads I’ll go.


Conclusion: God’s call upon our lives is always a call to leave behind that which is sinful and useless, though we may be clinging to it with false affection and hope. God always calls us to leave and to go to a better place. This world is not our home, and, as our world seems to be crumbling around us, let us all the more fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Let us have the faith of old Abram!


Sources: Waltke, Bruce. Genesis: a commentary. Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 2001.

Calvin, John. Genesis. Banner of Truth Trust: Edinborgh, 1975 (original 1554 Geneva).


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