God chose Abram and commanded him to depart from his father’s house and move to a land about which he would be informed later. It is about breaking old links and moving to an unknown area and Abram neither doubted nor questioned the wisdom of taking such a step. His wife Sarai and nephew Lot were with him along with his servants and all that he had. He was chosen to be a blessing to all the nations of the earth and for his obedience is called ‘the man of faith’.
But why was Abram chosen and blessed? The blessing that rested on Abram had a future fulfillment in being a great nation of Israel; to make his name great through the Jewish people; ‘you shall be a blessing’ and those who bless him will be blessed by God and those who curse him will be cursed (Genesis 12:2-3). The final blessing is ‘in you all families of the earth shall be blessed’. Abram was 75 years old when this encounter with God took place and he shifted out to the land of Canaan. But when a few years passed without God’s promise coming through, Sarai, his wife urged him to produce a child with Hagar, her Egyptian maid, and Ishmael was born. ‘Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold’ (Genesis 13:2). His nephew Lot also became very rich and decided to separate from him and since he shifted from out of the blessing of Abram, he first camped in the plains ‘as far as Sodom’ and later shifted into Sodom.
Lot and all that he had was taken captive by the five kings when they attacked Sodom. Abram rescued Lot and the others with his 319 trained servants and all the ‘goods of Sodom and Gomorrah. Melchizedek, the priestly king of Salem offered him ‘bread and wine’, a precursor to Holy Communion and Abram ‘gave him a tithe of all’. The reason God chose Abram becomes apparent with this and his rejection of all the recaptured goods of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abram’s rejection of all recaptured wealth reply clarifies his total dependence on His God for everything, ‘I have raised my band to the LORD, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth, that I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal satrap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich’.
The command to redeem the firstborn male child, offer the clean animals as a sacrificial offering and redeem the unclean animal with a clean one ‘or break its neck’ with offering of the first fruits of the crops is the way to receive blessing on the remainder (Numbers 18). Offering of tithe by Abram, was done by Abraham more than four hundred years before the law was given to Moses. God warned that a person who does not offer his tithe is ‘cursed with a curse’ and one who diligently follows this command will be blessed (Malachi 3:9-11). God promises to ‘rebuke the devourer for your sake, so that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field’. A believer’s household that suffers continual sickness and loss must examine this area of their lives to find out the reason, though there could be other reasons as well.
Abraham’s father, Terah, worshipped other gods and it is said that Abraham searched for the True God from an early age, much before he was chosen by God. God declares, ‘I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings’ (Jeremiah 17:10). Abraham was blessed to be a blessing and (Genesis 22:2) command to offer his ‘only son Isaac, whom you love’ as a sacrificial offering was about the redeeming of the firstborn. Once we do this, through tithe and other offerings, what is left with us is blessed by God and we start to become a blessing for others for we enter into the ‘abundant life’ that Lord Jesus also promised.
Abundant life in Lord Jesus – The great ‘Son of David’ revealed Himself as the Good Shepherd while comparing the works of the devil with His. Right from the time of creation, Satan first led one third of angels in heaven to their eternal damnation. Thereafter, in the Garden of Eden, he led Adam and Eve into sin bringing death upon mankind and separation from God. The very purpose of the Son of God becoming man is ‘that He might destroy the works of the devil’ (1 John 3:8). The command to make disciples is preceded by an assurance by the Lord, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth’ to teach all believers to work in His power (Matthew 28:18-20). The same promise of receiving power is repeated by Him just before His ascension into heaven (Acts 1:8).
Apostle Paul reminds us of our new identity as children of God as citizens of heaven, the Kingdom of God our Father (Philippians 3:20). Since we are His children, we represent God as ‘ambassadors of Christ’ and carry His message of salvation and reconciliation to God (2 Corinthians 5:20). Now a citizen and an ambassador looks towards his own government for care, provisioning and protection in his place of work, that is an alien place controlled by some other government. Satan is god of this world and is in opposition to the very government we represent (2 Corinthians 4:4). Lord Jesus taught us about the works of the devil ‘to steal, to kill and to destroy’ versus His own mission on earth to give life and that too more abundantly (John 10:10). The Greek words used are very illustrative, first, ‘thuo’ meaning ‘sacrifice, slaughter, kill’; secondly, ‘apollumi’ meaning ‘fully destroy, cutting off entirely’ with the implication of ruin and destruction.
The devil, who is called ‘accuser of our brethren’ (Revelation 12:10) accused Job of being faithful to God with the ulterior motive of receiving His provisioning, protection and blessings (Job 1:9-10). God considered Job to be an exceptional man on earth, ‘a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil’. With God’s permission, the devil stole and destroyed all that Job had, his children, his wealth, his relationships and even social prestige. What life the Good Shepherd gives is ‘zoe’ meaning both ‘physical spiritual life’ but it can only be derived and comes from another source and is sustained by that, ‘God’s self-existent life’. Second, ‘perissos’ meaning ‘all-around, excess, beyond anticipation, exceeding expectation’.
The promise would then mean, ‘I came in order that they (believers) might continuously have life, even that they may continuously have it all-around’ (John 10:10). The promise is of a life that is beyond our expectation for the One who gives ‘is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think’ (Ephesians 3:20).
The Lord God first admonished the Israelites to not have any foreign gods nor worship them and then promised them, ‘I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, open your mouth wide and I will fill it’ (Psalm 81:9-10). Apostle James, the brother of our Lord who did not believe in Him as the Messiah but later became the Apostle and head of the Jerusalem church, reveals the reason for our lack. He says, ‘You do not have because you do not ask’ or you ask for your fleshly lusts and not for God’s glory (James 4:2-3). The two principles about asking as mentioned by Apostle James are to firstly, ask with a full realization about the One from whom you ask. God desires to bless in every area of our life but most times we hesitate and pray for something that we have already been equipped to have. It is like asking God for some peanuts for today while He is ready to give the whole peanut farm. Our asking should bring Him glory and not be an unintentional effort to insult. The second point is about the aim of asking, is it for God’s glory to be a blessing for someone or for personal selfish ends.
‘Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them’ (Acts 19:11-12). Despite all this and much more that the Apostle was empowered to do by the LORD, for his own deliverance from his ‘thorn in the flesh’ a messenger of Satan that buffeted him, he prayed three times to the Lord (2 Corinthians12:7-8). His clear understanding was that the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through him was for blessing others and not for self gratification. God blessed Abram and made his name great but the qualifying clause is, ‘and you shall be a blessing’ (Genesis 12:2).
What is an abundant life that I can be a blessing? It is not necessarily an especially long life or an easy and comfortable life full of wealth and treasures. It is a life of contentment and satisfaction in Lord Jesus. Jabez was considered more honorable than his brothers and he prayed to the LORD and received the answer (1 Chronicles 4:9-10). Jabez asked for the blessing that would be apparent, enlarged territory, God’s hand of blessing forever, separation from evil and be a blessing for others. That is abundant life which is lived permanently under the ‘pillar of cloud’ for then even in the wilderness, ‘manna’ from heaven would come and Divine presence would lead on to the destination He has decreed.
Reasons for missing out – Lord Jesus identified Himself and His sheep and their characteristics first (John 10:2-5). He comes by the door and does not trespass. He prefers to knock and waits to be invited into the heart to give the great bounty of blessings, the heavenly manna, He Himself, whereas the devil gatecrashes (Revelation 3:20). The sheep hear His voice and He calls His sheep by name for He knows them and leads them out. He moves ahead to face all challenges and threats Himself. His sheep do not follow ‘a stranger’, one whom they do not know. The sheep must identify, hear His voice and follow the Shepherd. –Adam and Eve ‘heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the Garden’ and they hid themselves (Genesis 3:8). They feared the judgment of the loving God. LORD God appeared on Mount Sinai amidst thundering, lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking (Exodus 20:18-19). But the people ‘said to Moses, ‘You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die’.
God spoke to Moses face to face but he asked God, ‘Please, show me Your glory’ (Exodus 33:18). At the transfiguration of Lord Jesus, the command of God is, ‘This is My beloved Son. Hear Him’ (Luke 9:35). To meet the need of the Israelites to get water, God commanded Moses, ‘Take the rod; you and your brother Aaron, gather the congregation together. Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water’ (Numbers 20:8). Since Moses did not ‘hear’ properly, he went and hit the rock twice and sinned. Time of prayer is a two way communication but invariably hardly anyone cares to hear ‘the still small voice’ of God. King David could rejoice for he sought and heard the voice of God and even the fear of death could not deter him. Walking through the valley, whether facing Goliath or fleeing from Absalom’s rebellion, he could see the table prepared by his God for him before his enemies with assured eternal dwelling in God’s house (Psalm 23:4-6).
Most believers are satisfied with the occasional visit to God’s house on the pretext that they are very busy, but the fact is that their priorities are different and God is very low in that. In the parable of Talents the distribution was according to each person’s ability for the Creator knows that (Matthew 25:15 & 25). Person with one talent buried it for fear of losing it. Man was put in the Garden of Eden to ‘tend and keep it’ and ensure its upkeep (Genesis 2:15). He could not have told God, ‘ I wanted to but God, You did not give me strength, intelligence or personality’. When we hear God and obey, He provides us the expertise to do His will and because His presence and power is backing us, we have to act.
Lord Jesus answered the Scribe about the first or important commandment with the ‘Shema’ prayer that every Jew recites daily about loving the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength (Mark 12:29-31). The second being to ‘love your neighbor as yourself’. In thoughts (mind), in feelings and desires (heart), in our whole being (soul) and in use of all that we have, God must be our first priority. Love is the emotional pleasure of knowing the object of love, the more we know God and His attributes, the more we love Him. King David, the ‘man of God’s heart’, could learn about God from the beauty of His creation and perceive and hear their song of praise (Psalm 19:1-2). We get closer to God through study and meditation on the Word of God. Joshua received the promise of conquering all of the Promised Land and success over his enemies provided he observed ‘to all that is written’ in the Scripture (Joshua 1:3, 5, 8).
How can we recognize the voice of God when we do not know Him, we do not fellowship with Him, we do not follow Him nor obey His commands and place Him low in our priorities in life? Under such a relationship God will keep standing at the door without being invited in and the ‘life of abundance’ just passes us by. ‘God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we can think or imagine’ but this works through the power of the Holy Spirit working in us. The more we place God first in every sphere of our life, the more His power leads us into His abundance. His eyes are always on His children but is He also in our focus always?