2nd Sunday in Lent
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, the promised Savior, friends in Christ,
Charles Blondin was a famous person who lived in the 1800s. He was a French born tight rope walker and was famous for his skill, his agility, and particularly for his creativity and originality in the settings of his tight rope walks. One that made him particularly famous was his tight rope walk 1,100 feet long, 160 feet above the Niagra Gorge that divides the United States and Canada. He did this not once, not twice, but a number of times and even did a number of variations like doing it blindfolded, in a sack, even pushing a wheel barrel across. Apparently, large crowds would come and watch him perform this feat and every time he asked the group of people how many of them thought that he could walk across on the tight rope. And pretty much everyone would say, “Yes” they thought he could. Then he would ask how many of them thought he could walk across the tight rope with someone on his back. Again they would respond that they thought he could do that. Then he’d ask for volunteers from the crowd and never got even one to take him up on the offer.
The people said that they believed this guy named Blondin, but in the end they really didn’t. They weren’t willing to rest their whole lives in the talent and strength of this French tight rope walker. I’m not going to ask how many of you think you would have taken him up on that offer because the point is not about putting ourselves in needless danger. But it does illustrate something about faith. Faith is essentially trust that someone will do what they’ve told you they will do. Well, it’s our faith in God that moves us to do or act in certain ways in our lives.
In our text for this morning we’re introduced to a certain man in whom God worked trust and faith and from this account we learn about how God also deals with you and me.
Remember that last week we heard how after Adam and Eve sinned God promised to send a Savior who would crush the devil’s head. Well, after the time of Adam and Eve the world grew in number, but also did sin and rejection of God and His ways. It got so bad that at the time of Noah God decided to wash the world clean of humanity’s wickedness and evil, so he sent a flood sparing only Noah and his family. Yet, Noah and his family were also sinners and they passed their sin on to their children and once again unbelief and rejection of God grew in the world. So, God who will keep all His promises decided to focus on one nation descended from one man: Abram. The descendants of Abram would serve as the people through whom the Savior would be sent into the world.
And this is where we really get to know this Abram who would later be renamed Abraham. We don’t know too much about his background except just before this text we learn that his family originally was from a place called Ur, likely a place in modern day Iraq. Then his family moved to a place called Haran probably some 600 miles away.
Here we are told that the Lord spoke with Abram. How? We’re not told. They didn’t have God’s Word like we have today so God communicated with people in different ways. God told Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” Now imagine being Abram here. You’re simply told to get up and leave everything that you know, leave behind just about every person you know, and go and live in a strange land about which you know virtually nothing. Then God gives him a string of blessings: He will be a great nation, God will bless him, his name will be great, he will be a blessing to people, God will bless those who bless him, curse those who curse him, and all people will be blessed through him. God simply gives him a bunch of promises that are all good but are left rather undefined and left to an undetermined time in the future. Add to all of this that Abram is 75 years old and not some young adventuresome lad. His wife is 65 and has already been diagnosed as being barren. And now God promises that Abram will become a great nation? That through him all people on earth will be blessed?
And yet what do we hear Abram do? “So Abram left, as the Lord had told him.” He trusted God’s promises and listened to God’s words. You’ll immediately notice that it wasn’t a wonderful emotional experience that moved Abram to give his life over to God – as some people today say needs to happen in order to be considered a Christian. Notice also it wasn’t a rational decision Abram made based on studying all the evidence and deciding to believe God. Nor are we told about anything Abram did in his life to earn God’s favor. Rather, it’s GOD who comes to Abram, God who instructs Abram to move, God who promises Abram some amazing blessings!
So why did Abram do what God told him? It could be nothing other than faith in God’s promises which was worked by God through those very promises. The essence of faith is simply trusting that God has the power to do what He has promised to do.
And so trusting that God has the power to do what He’s promised Abram took all that he had and set off for the land of Canaan, probably some 450 miles away. He arrives there and goes right to the middle of the land, we’re not told of any fear on his part – even though the Canaanites are living there. And God appears to him there and promises that this land would be his descendants’ land. Abram builds and altar to the Lord and worships God there, moves again, builds another altar to worship the Lord there and then he “called on the name of the Lord.” A better translation would be that he “proclaimed” the name of the Lord. Not only did he worship God right in the middle of a foreign land among people he didn’t know, he also told people there about the faithful God of rich promises.
Abram’s life would have been meaningless if it wasn’t for God’s promises, specifically one promise. It was a great promise that Abram’s name would be great – in fact it is still great today, thousands of years later. It was great that God promised his descendants a special land. But the promise at the center of all God’s promises and blessings is the promise that “all people on earth would be blessed through Abram” in other words, one of Abram’s descendants would be the Savior. And so, centering his life on that promise and all of God’s promises, Abram could simply live for God and leave whatever God wanted him to leave and do whatever God wanted him to do and go wherever God wanted him to go.
What about us? Do we center our lives on the promises of God? Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we don’t see. Abram didn’t get to see all of God’s promises fulfilled, but he trusted in them nonetheless. He changed his entire life based on the promises of God. What about us? Are God’s promises the center of our lives? How often do we honestly think about the promises of God? When something bad happens do we throw up our hands in despair or remind ourselves that God has promised to be in control and will work this out for the good in the end? When money is tight do we fall into worry or trust God who is with us and has already given us riches beyond belief in heaven? You see, life without the promises of God or a life that forgets the promises of God can easily become worrisome, troubled, full of fear, and even purposeless and meaningless.
But that wasn’t Abram’s life, nor is it your life. It was faith that connected you to the forgiveness of sins Jesus won for you on the cross. Everything that Jesus did for you – his perfect life in your place and his death as payment for your sins – all that became yours through faith. And yet faith is like all of our salvation a gift of God. In fact, it was the promises of God that brought you to faith. God’s promise attached to the waters of baptism gave your baptism the power to bring you into God’s family. It’s God’s promises attached to the miracle of the Lord’s Supper give His Supper the power to give you in a tangible and tasteful way your forgiveness. And it’s God’s promises loaded and packed into God’s Word that unleash God’s power into your heart every time you read it and take His words to heart.
And God’s promises not only strengthen your faith they also empower you to live. Think about what God’s promises do: God has promised to be with you always, He’s promised to provide for your needs, He’s promised to send His angels to serve you, He’s promised to listen and answer every one of your prayers, He’s promised to make all things work out for your good, He’s promised that He doesn’t remember your sins any more, He’s promised to take you to heaven when you die. And what do those promises do for your life? Do God’s promises not move you to find joy, peace and contentment in life? Do they not inspire greater trust that God is in control? Do they not lead us to a further appreciation of God’s love and move us to live for him? Do they not lead us away from a life of self-service, bitterness, holding on to grudges, anger, fear of the future?
God doesn’t ask you to jump on the back of some French tight rope walker. Rather God’s promises empower you to cling tightly to Him in all situations and circumstances because He HAS and IS and WILL always be your powerful faithful God. Amen.