The Bible is full of God’s promises. However, appended to these promises are commands that need to be obeyed. It is for this reason that not many are able to receive what was promised, for they were unable to obey the commands. One of the greatest promises of God in the Bible is the promise given to Abraham, saying, “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 peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Gen. 12:2-3) This promise is to restore God’s original blessings to Adam and Eve i.e. to be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. But whether Abraham received the promise, or not, depended on his obedience to God’s command.
The command of the Lord to Abraham was, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” (Gen. 12:1) While this command seemed to be an easy and simple one to obey, it was not so with Abraham. He had to struggle with it because it was loaded with challenges and uncertainties. From this command, we could see three challenges that Abraham had to deal with. First was the command to leave his country. It was not an easy thing for him to leave his country, as many of us who’ve migrated from another country have experienced. It was particularly so because his country was a prosperous one. He and his family were comfortably living there. The second challenge was the command to leave his people. Again, it was not easy for him to be uprooted from the community in which he grew up. He had his friends and everybody else that mattered to him living there. The emotional bond that they developed through the years was not easy to break without tears shed.
While anyone might be able to easily overcome the first two challenges, the third challenge of leaving his father’s household proved to be more difficult to overcome. While Abraham received the command and the promise while still living in Mesopotamia (Acts 7:2), he was not able to obey it fully. He departed Mesopotamia, but had to bring his father with him—he could not leave him behind. As a result, he and his father only journeyed up to Haran. It was only after his father’s death that he finally set out to the land that the Lord would show him. This reminds us of a scene in the gospel where the Lord Jesus told a man to follow him, but the man responded, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” To this Jesus replied, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:59-60) Jesus did not mean to dishonour the man’s father, but he was emphasizing the urgency of the call. The man should not wait for his father to die before he follows and serves Jesus. The need to obey the command is now.
Aside from the three challenges that Abraham had to deal with, there were also three uncertainties that he had to confront. The first uncertainty was whether he could indeed become a great nation while his wife was barren. Could he multiply and become the father of many nations? The second uncertainty was his age. How much longer would he live? Would he see the fulfilment of the promise? And the third was the condition of the land that he was going to possess. The Lord did not tell him exactly where that land was and its condition—whether fertile or not. All that he was told to do was to go to the land that the Lord would show him. All these uncertainties needed to be dealt with in faith. Therefore, “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going” (Heb. 11:8).
Indeed, Abraham had the faith that though he and Sarah were as good as dead because of their age, he could still be the father of many nations, because he believed in “God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were” (Rom. 4:17). And though Abraham was seventy five years old when he departed from Haran, he lived another one hundred years. “Altogether, Abraham lived a hundred and seventy-five years.” (Gen. 25:7) Whenever the Lord gives a blessing, he will make sure that we will have enough time to enjoy it. Abraham enjoyed Isaac and his other children fully.
While there are commands that are appended to God’s promises and these commands are often challenging and full of uncertainties, it pays to obey, just like what Abraham did. If Abraham did not take that step of faith, he would have missed the blessing. Therefore, let us put our faith in God. He alone knows what is ahead of us. He does not always tell us what the future holds for us, because he wants us to walk by faith. Yes, we need to take that step of faith for us to be blessed. Hallelujah!