Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Abraham's Worshiping Faith

Reading: Genesis 12–15
The faith of Abraham was a faith that worshiped. Those who are of the faith of Abraham are a people with a faith that worships. I believe this is a central aspect of Biblical faith, yet may well be an aspect of faith that is most often neglected. Maybe it is the effect of our western culture, but faith in evangelical churches is often strong in reason, but weak in worship. Of course, we are all aware of those whose faith has been strong in worship but weak in reason. Should we have to choose? Is your faith worshiping?
Abraham was a worshiper. We see evidence of this regularly.
The LORD appeared to Abram and said, "To your offspring I will give this land." So he built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him. 8From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD. (Genesis 12:7-8)
At the beginning of the account of Abram, even before his name change, we find two immediate references to his building an altar. The second clarifies the purpose of these altars: “and called on the name of the Lord.” It is this calling on the name of the Lord that makes it plain that Abram's faith was a faith that worshiped. It was more than a faith that believed certain things to be true; it was a faith that had a God-ward orientation, a verbal, active calling. The Hebrew word, according to the BDB Lexicon means to call, cry, or utter a loud sound—for help; like that of pleading in court. In other words, we might say Abraham was a man who was desperately dependent on God.
This pattern of worship continues through the story of Abraham (see Genesis 13:3-4; 13:18). God is seeking worshipers (John 4:23-24). In fact, a life of dependence on God—a life spent seeking and trusting in God—is one that God will reward and respond to by being strong on their behalf (Hebrews 11:6). This truth can be seen in Abraham's life.
In Genesis 14 we read of four powerful kings that squelched a rebellion from their vassal kings. Five of these vassal kings came to fight against Chedorlaomer who was banded together with three other kings. Five kings and their armies were doing battle against the four kings and their armies. The five lost to the four! In the plunder, Lot, his family, and possessions are taken. Oops! Lot is Abram's nephew. God is on Abram's side, and a survivor gets away to tell Abram what happened. And so we read,
When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called out the 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit as far as Dan. (Genesis 14:14)
Five kings and their armies couldn't do anything against Chedorlaomer and his band of four kingdoms. But Abram and his household army are going after him. This looks like disaster in the making. How could Abram possibly survive? Because, as we read later in Israel's history, “the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” (2 Chronicles 16:9) God was going to be there for Abram! God will reward Abram's seeking!
Following this victory (Genesis 14:15-16), and the return of Lot and his household along with the rest of Sodom—the people and goods, we find Abram's God-ward response again.
18Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, 19and he blessed Abram, saying, "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. 20And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand." Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything. (Genesis 14:18-20)
Abram was a worshiper. This time it isn't an altar, it is his tithe. Interestingly, it seems he didn't keep anything for himself, but still gave God the tenth that belonged to Him.
There is one more altar Abraham builds in Genesis. This is on Mount Moriah, where God sent him, telling him to sacrifice His son (Genesis 22:9). This time He was going in obedience to God (which is quite frankly amazing!). It is here, at this altar, that we learn something which has everything to do with our worship. As they traveled to this place, Isaac asks where the sacrifice is going to come from (not realizing he was the sacrifice). Abraham answered, 'God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.'” (Genesis 22:8) The sacrifice needed to please Yahweh would be provided for by Yahweh Himself.
Hence, when the story is done, we read the “moral to the story,” or the punch-line as it were:
So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided. (Genesis 22:14)
The Lord has provided the sacrifice necessary so that all who worship God, calling on His name through Christ, will be accepted by Him. (For more on this, see What Kind of God Would Tell Abraham to Sacrifice His Son?)
Abraham's faith was reflected in a life of worship—a worship that was actively calling on God. In a discussion about the present state of our souls, a friend of mine was telling me last week that he found real refreshing in just spending time singing to the Lord and worshiping. Seems simple. Today as I read Psalm 9:1-4 HCSB, instead of just reading it, I paused and read it aloud, and instead of just saying, “I will thank Yahweh with all my heart,” I began to thank Him with all my heart. And instead of saying, “I will declare all Your wonderful works. 2I will rejoice and boast about You; I will sing about Your name, Most High,” I began to declare His works aloud and rejoice in Him and boast about Him, even committing to boast of Him to others today. I sang to Him. This is where our faith moves from mere reason to a faith that worships.
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,