Genesis 12.1–9: Abraham's call and ours (11 January 2020)

Pray

Pray

Lord, prepare me to receive your word. Clear my mind and warm my heart. Assure me of your loving purposes for me, and speak into my life today.

Read

Read

God's Call to Abram

1The LORD said to Abram, “Leave your country, your relatives, and your father's home, and go to a land that I am going to show you. 2I will give you many descendants, and they will become a great nation. I will bless you and make your name famous, so that you will be a blessing.

3I will bless those who bless you,

But I will curse those who curse you.

And through you I will bless all the nations.”

4When Abram was 75 years old, he started out from Haran, as the LORD had told him to do; and Lot went with him. 5Abram took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, and all the wealth and all the slaves they had acquired in Haran, and they started out for the land of Canaan.

When they arrived in Canaan, 6Abram travelled through the land until he came to the sacred tree of Moreh, the holy place at Shechem. (At that time the Canaanites were still living in the land.) 7The LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “This is the country that I am going to give to your descendants.” Then Abram built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him. 8After that, he moved on south to the hill country east of the city of Bethel and set up his camp between Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There also he built an altar and worshipped the LORD. 9Then he moved on from place to place, going towards the southern part of Canaan.

Abram in Egypt

10But there was a famine in Canaan, and it was so bad that Abram went farther south to Egypt, to live there for a while. 11When he was about to cross the border into Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “You are a beautiful woman. 12When the Egyptians see you, they will assume that you are my wife, and so they will kill me and let you live. 13Tell them that you are my sister; then because of you they will let me live and treat me well.” 14When he crossed the border into Egypt, the Egyptians did see that his wife was beautiful. 15Some of the court officials saw her and told the king how beautiful she was; so she was taken to his palace. 16Because of her the king treated Abram well and gave him flocks of sheep and goats, cattle, donkeys, slaves, and camels.

17But because the king had taken Sarai, the LORD sent terrible diseases on him and on the people of his palace. 18Then the king sent for Abram and asked him, “What have you done to me? Why didn't you tell me that she was your wife? 19Why did you say that she was your sister, and let me take her as my wife? Here is your wife; take her and get out!” 20The king gave orders to his men, so they took Abram and put him out of the country, together with his wife and everything he owned.

The Messengers from John the Baptist

1When Jesus finished giving these instructions to his twelve disciples, he left that place and went off to teach and preach in the towns near there.

2When John the Baptist heard in prison about the things that Christ was doing, he sent some of his disciples to him. 3“Tell us,” they asked Jesus, “are you the one John said was going to come, or should we expect someone else?”

4Jesus answered, “Go back and tell John what you are hearing and seeing: 5the blind can see, the lame can walk, those who suffer from dreaded skin diseases are made clean, the deaf hear, the dead are brought back to life, and the Good News is preached to the poor. 6How happy are those who have no doubts about me!”

7While John's disciples were leaving, Jesus spoke about him to the crowds: “When you went out to John in the desert, what did you expect to see? A blade of grass bending in the wind? 8What did you go out to see? A man dressed up in fancy clothes? People who dress like that live in palaces! 9Tell me, what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes indeed, but you saw much more than a prophet. 10For John is the one of whom the scripture says: ‘God said, I will send my messenger ahead of you to open the way for you.’ 11I assure you that John the Baptist is greater than anyone who has ever lived. But the one who is least in the Kingdom of heaven is greater than John. 12From the time John preached his message until this very day the Kingdom of heaven has suffered violent attacks, and violent men try to seize it. 13Until the time of John all the prophets and the Law of Moses spoke about the Kingdom; 14and if you are willing to believe their message, John is Elijah, whose coming was predicted. 15Listen, then, if you have ears!

16“Now, to what can I compare the people of this day? They are like children sitting in the market place. One group shouts to the other, 17‘We played wedding music for you, but you wouldn't dance! We sang funeral songs, but you wouldn't cry!’ 18When John came, he fasted and drank no wine, and everyone said, ‘He has a demon in him!’ 19When the Son of Man came, he ate and drank, and everyone said, ‘Look at this man! He is a glutton and a drinker, a friend of tax collectors and other outcasts!’ God's wisdom, however, is shown to be true by its results.”

The Unbelieving Towns

20The people in the towns where Jesus had performed most of his miracles did not turn from their sins, so he reproached those towns. 21“How terrible it will be for you, Chorazin! How terrible for you too, Bethsaida! If the miracles which were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, the people there would long ago have put on sackcloth and sprinkled ashes on themselves, to show that they had turned from their sins! 22I assure you that on the Judgement Day God will show more mercy to the people of Tyre and Sidon than to you! 23And as for you, Capernaum! Did you want to lift yourself up to heaven? You will be thrown down to hell! If the miracles which were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would still be in existence today! 24You can be sure that on the Judgement Day God will show more mercy to Sodom than to you!”

Come to Me and Rest

25At that time Jesus said, “Father, Lord of heaven and earth! I thank you because you have shown to the unlearned what you have hidden from the wise and learned. 26Yes, Father, this was how you wanted it to happen.

27“My Father has given me all things. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

28“Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke and put it on you, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit; and you will find rest. 30For the yoke I will give you is easy, and the load I will put on you is light.”

1This is the account of what Nehemiah son of Hacaliah accomplished.

Nehemiah's Concern for Jerusalem

In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year that Artaxerxes was emperor of Persia, I, Nehemiah, was in Susa, the capital city. 2Hanani, one of my brothers, arrived from Judah with another group, and I asked them about Jerusalem and about our fellow-Jews who had returned from exile in Babylonia. 3They told me that those who had survived and were back in the homeland were in great difficulty and that the foreigners who lived near by looked down on them. They also told me that the walls of Jerusalem were still broken down and that the gates had not been restored since the time they were burnt. 4When I heard all this, I sat down and wept.

For several days I mourned and did not eat. I prayed to God, 5“LORD God of Heaven! You are great, and we stand in fear of you. You faithfully keep your covenant with those who love you and do what you command. 6Look at me, LORD, and hear my prayer, as I pray day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess that we, the people of Israel, have sinned. My ancestors and I have sinned. 7We have acted wickedly against you and have not done what you commanded. We have not kept the laws which you gave us through Moses, your servant. 8Remember now what you told Moses: ‘If you people of Israel are unfaithful to me, I will scatter you among the other nations. 9But then if you turn back to me and do what I have commanded you, I will bring you back to the place where I have chosen to be worshipped, even though you are scattered to the ends of the earth.’

10“Lord, these are your servants, your own people. You rescued them by your great power and strength. 11Listen now to my prayer and to the prayers of all your other servants who want to honour you. Give me success today and make the emperor merciful to me.”

In those days I was the emperor's wine steward.

Peter's Report to the Church at Jerusalem

1The apostles and the other believers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2When Peter went to Jerusalem, those who were in favour of circumcising Gentiles criticized him, saying, 3“You were a guest in the home of uncircumcised Gentiles, and you even ate with them!” 4So Peter gave them a complete account of what had happened from the very beginning:

5“While I was praying in the city of Joppa, I had a vision. I saw something coming down that looked like a large sheet being lowered by its four corners from heaven, and it stopped next to me. 6I looked closely inside and saw domesticated and wild animals, reptiles, and wild birds. 7Then I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat!’ 8But I said, ‘Certainly not, Lord! No ritually unclean or defiled food has ever entered my mouth.’ 9The voice spoke again from heaven, ‘Do not consider anything unclean that God has declared clean.’ 10This happened three times, and finally the whole thing was drawn back up into heaven. 11At that very moment three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea arrived at the house where I was staying. 12The Spirit told me to go with them without hesitation. These six fellow-believers from Joppa accompanied me to Caesarea, and we all went into the house of Cornelius. 13He told us how he had seen an angel standing in his house, who said to him, ‘Send someone to Joppa for a man whose full name is Simon Peter. 14He will speak words to you by which you and all your family will be saved.’ 15And when I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came down on them just as on us at the beginning. 16Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17It is clear that God gave those Gentiles the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ; who was I, then, to try to stop God!”

18When they heard this, they stopped their criticism and praised God, saying, “Then God has given to the Gentiles also the opportunity to repent and live!”

The Church at Antioch

19Some of the believers who were scattered by the persecution which took place when Stephen was killed went as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, telling the message to Jews only. 20But other believers, who were from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and proclaimed the message to Gentiles also, telling them the Good News about the Lord Jesus. 21The Lord's power was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.

22The news about this reached the church in Jerusalem, so they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23When he arrived and saw how God had blessed the people, he was glad and urged them all to be faithful and true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and many people were brought to the Lord.

25Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul. 26When he found him, he took him to Antioch, and for a whole year the two met with the people of the church and taught a large group. It was at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians.

27About that time some prophets went from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28One of them, named Agabus, stood up and by the power of the Spirit predicted that a severe famine was about to come over all the earth. (It came when Claudius was emperor.) 29The disciples decided that they would each send as much as they could to help their fellow-believers who lived in Judea. 30They did this, then, and sent the money to the church elders by Barnabas and Saul.

Reflect

Reflect on Genesis 12.1–9

The call of Abraham marks the beginning of the story of the people of Israel. He leaves his home city of Ur in Babylonia and travels to somewhere new. God tells him that this is the land he will give to his descendants, and so a new chapter in God's revelation of himself begins. Abraham himself will make many errors, but he will remain faithful to his calling and God will keep his promises.

This calling to move to a new place is one that has spoken powerfully to Christians over the centuries. We can be happy and settled where we are – geographically or spiritually – but sense that God is calling us to be somewhere else. In Abraham's case, this call took place when he was already an old man. He and his family were uprooted from everything that was familiar and sent out on a new adventure.

Homes where we can feel secure, where we know the landscape and relationships are deep and strong, are great gifts from God. In Abraham's case, those relationships endured: his entire household came with him. Moving from what we know to what we don't know is never straightforward, but when we can take others with us the road is easier.

Sometimes God calls us to go on a journey, whether in the mind and spirit or in the body. Abraham's call is sometimes ours.

Pray

Pray

God, help me to be willing to hear your voice when you call me into new pathways. Thank you for companions on the way.

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