A Portrait for the Family
Passage: Genesis 12:1–12:5
A Portrait for the Family
December 2nd, 2007
Way of Grace Church
I. Introduction: What's On Your Wall?
This morning, I want you to stop and think about your home for a minute. Are there any portraits on your walls? I'm not sure if I've been in a house where there isn't at least one portrait of at least one of the occupants.
Consider for a minute two definitions of the word "portrait". The first definition is the one we usually think of first, "a pictorial representation of a person (or persons)".
The second definition is this, "a graphic portrayal in words". It's a portrait of someone or something painted with words. It's the way the word is used in the title of the book by James Joyce called, "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man".
Now, we may have a lot of portraits in our home that fit under that first definition, but how many family portraits do we have of the second type?
This morning, I want to begin a four part study of those family portraits that God wants hanging in our home. No, God is not interested in the amount of photography on your walls, but he does want several "graphic portrayals in words" to beautify your life as a family.
The "words" to which I'm referring come from God's word, from Scripture. So let's turn there this morning, specifically, to Genesis 12 (page 8).
Now as we talk about the family portraits that God wants us to see, let me clarify that this is a series for all of us. I know some of you might say, " But I'm single, or we don't have any kids, or we're empty nesters." That may be true, but 1) you are still part of some family. If you're married without kids, you and your spouse are still a family. If you're single, you still have a larger family to which you belong, a family which you can encourage.
Number 2) for those who are single or are a couple without kids, you also need to hear God's heart for the family so that if and when God changes your situation, you can be better prepared to honor him in those changes.
Finally, number 3) no matter where we are in life, all of us are called to encourage those around us toward that fullness that God intends for our lives. Are you prepared to encourage families at Way of Grace in light of what God has revealed? I pray all of us are and that God will do an incredible work through our families.
So let's begin this morning with our first family portrait, or we could say, our first portrait of the family according to God's heart. Let's look together at Genesis 12.
II. The Passage: "Go... So Abram Went" (Genesis 12:1-5)
Listen as I read from Genesis 12:1-5, and consider what we learn here about God's heart for the family.
Now the Lord said ï»¿to Abram [whose name will be changed to Abraham], "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." ï»¿4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. 5 And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan. [Let's stop there]
Now before we dive into this passage, let's talk a little bit about what's come before these verses. What do we know about Genesis 1-11 that will help us understand 12:1-5?
In a nutshell, what we learn from the opening chapters of Genesis is that God is the Creator of all things, including human beings. We also learn that God made us in order to have a relationship with us. The Garden of Eden was a picture of God and man dwelling together in perfection and harmony.
But from Genesis 3 on, we discover the consequences of men and women trying to "play God", thinking they know better than God. The blessing of knowing and loving God was replaced by a curse when we turned away from God. And as Genesis 3 tells us, that curse not only affected our relationship with God, it also affected our relationships with one another; it affected the whole world; life as we know it.
So when we look at Genesis 12 in light of everything that came before it, AND, if we were to look at this passage in light everything that comes after it, I think we would begin to understand how monumental these verses are; how important they are to God's agenda for all creation. It's not an exaggeration to say that the rest of the Bible simply explains how the promise given here was and will be fulfilled.
What we have here, only nine chapters after the onset of the Curse (capital C) is God's declaration that he will reverse the curse. Genesis 12 marks the beginning of the end for that Curse under which we suffer in separation from God. I think all of this will become clearer as we work through our study.
Looking back at our passage, let's talk about three ideas we see in verses 1-5:
First, look back at verses 1 and 2:
Now the Lord said ï»¿to Abram, "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.
Notice that God's blessing here has to do with the blessing of family. We see here that God's unconditional promise (there's no "if" here; God is going to do this), this promise revolves around the fact that Abraham will become a "great nation". This man who has no children will be blessed with so many offspring that, as we read in chapter 15, the numbers of stars in the sky will actually be a good way to describe the extent of God' s blessing.
In the same way, the land God mentions here is not an end in itself. It is simply the setting for this blessing to unfold. It is a place where the ideal of Eden can be restored.
Does Abraham deserve this blessing? No, as Joshua 24 tells us, Abraham was like most people in Mesopotamia: he worshipped idols. Instead of worshipping the true God, he was worshipping false gods made with human hands.
But God in His grace, called Abraham to receive a blessing. And the blessing had to do with family.
The second thing I want you to see here is that Abraham is blessed in order to be a blessing. Do you see that? Verse 2: ...I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. And at the end of verse 3: ... and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
The blessing God gave to Abraham was not given so that it could stop with Abraham. No, this blessing would extend to Abraham's family and, somehow, to all the families of the earth.
This is why I described this passage as the beginning of the end of the curse. This is not just about God's blessing on some wandering desert dweller 5000 years ago. It's about His blessing for all of us.
The third thing we need to see here is that Abraham's family was called to be a family of faith.
Look again at verses 1, 4, and 5:
Now the Lord said ï»¿to Abram, "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you...4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. 5 And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan
Look, this is not like somebody getting a job transfer today. There was no Mapquest back then; no long distance phone service, or airlines, or web cams. God's call to Abraham was a call to give up everything he trusted in and step out into the unknown.
The author of the book of Hebrews in the New Testament tell us that:
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. (Hebrews 11:8, 9)
And while Abraham was the leader of his family, we see his whole family at that time responding in faith as well. They all went out together, with all their possessions. Everything was on the line.
This passage begins with God's call and it ends with Abraham and his family responding.
III. Your Family in Light of Abraham's Family
So what do you think of this family portrait? Pretty amazing, isn't it. But what's our connection to this picture? Well, if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, and by that I mean, if you have trusted and are trusting in Jesus as your only hope, then God's word tells us there is a direct connection between you and Abraham.
Listen to what the Apostle Paul tells us about Abraham and this blessing"
7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justifyï»¿ [that is, bring into a right relationship with himself...that he would justify] the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "In you shall all the nations be blessed."...[skipping to verse 14] 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles [the nations, everyone who is not Jewish], so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith...And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise. (Galatians 3:7, 8. 14. 19)
Wow! Do you see how astounding that is? The blessing of Abraham was and will be fully realized through Jesus Christ. The curse has been, is being, and will be reversed through Jesus Christ. AND through faith in Christ, you are a son or daughter of Abraham.
In Romans 4:12, Paul describes followers of Jesus Christ as those who "who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had". In fact, throughout the New Testament, Abraham is held up as an example for Christians to follow.
Are you walking in Abraham's footsteps of faith? Especially when it comes to God's heart for your family?
It would be wrong to say that God is the only who has family portraits to show us. The truth is that we are surrounded by family portraits, presentations of what our family should look like, what we should value, how we should spend our time, how we should treat one another.
I think most of us recognize that fact. AND I think we also recognize that most of these portraits have gotten us nowhere. The family is in trouble today. It is being torn apart by ‘portrait artists' who are driven by the world's wisdom and desires, by what is earthly, not eternal.
What are they painting? Pictures of conditional love. Pictures of unfaithfulness. Pictures of hopelessness. Picture of busyness. Pictures of meaninglessness. Pictures of materialism. Pictures of tension, strife, and selfishness.
Do you believe God knows what is best for your family? Of course He does. He created the family. He created you!
Did you know that God has always used families in accomplishing his work in this world? Do you think that's changed? No...
This morning, I believe God wants us to remind us and challenge us in light of what we've read about Abraham and his family. He wants us to stop looking to the portraits out there and live by what's in here.
Now this challenge is most clearly directed to you couples and parents, to those of you who have a direct influence on the direction of your family. For those who are single, these things are still a challenge to you. I'd also encourage you to pray for those families that God has put in your life, for your biological family and your church family, and for the family you may have at some point.
Why don't we do this: why don't we take the three ideas we talked about from Genesis 12 and think about what they teach us as those who are called to walk in Abraham's footsteps of faith. What do we learn here about our families?
The first thing we are reminded of by this passage is that family is a blessing from God.
This may be obvious to many of us, but it's easy to lose sight of this, especially when your family is driving you crazy. When your child is throwing a fit, or when your husband is not lending a hand, or when you wife is nagging you about not lending a hand, family doesn't feel like a blessing. But it is!
God is the creator of your family. Scripture tells us that God joins husbands and wives together (Mark 10:9). We read in Psalm 127 that "children are a gift from the Lord". And just as we saw with Abraham, a family is gift of God's grace.
If we want to live according to God's heart for our families, we need to first recognize that our family is a blessing from God. And when we recognize that our family, no matter how dysfunctional you think you are, when you recognize that God is the ultimate family portrait artist, then you will begin to look for the purpose behind his artistry. Which leads us to our second point.
The second thing we are reminded of in Genesis 12 is that our family is blessed in order to be a blessing.
Yes, God has blessed you with family for your joy, but he has also blessed you with family for the joy of others.
Do you recognize that God has called your family to be a family that brings blessing to others? As followers of Christ, God's word calls us to bless others, even when we are mistreated (Matthew 5; Romans 12; I Corinthians 4).
I think sometimes we get too focused on counting our own blessings and looking for blessing, rather than thinking about how we as a family can be a blessing to those around us.
And what do we mean when we use this word bless and blessing? Were not just talking about something we do when people sneeze, are we?
Well, if Galatians 3 taught us that all the families of the earth were and will be blessed in Abraham because of Jesus Christ, if it show us that Genesis 12:3 is actually a prediction of the gospel, then we know that the blessing we're talking about is the blessing of new life in Jesus.
Now, we may in fact have different kinds of opportunities to be a blessing to those around us, but all of our blessing should be pointing to the greatest blessing which is Jesus Christ and the new life he makes possible.
One of the reasons I'm standing here today sharing God's word with you is because a family twenty-seven years ago was a blessing to my family. Yes, they were kind to us, and blessed us in a variety of ways. But their greatest blessing was pointing us to Jesus Christ.
Jesus had One Mission, didn't he? To seek and save the lost. Is your family on that mission, together? Yes, God uses us as individuals, but he also wants to use your family to be a blessing.
In our current home group lesson we've been talking about this very thing, about making our home a place in which God's agenda of grace is carried out. We've been reading about Cornelius in Acts 10, who, when God brought the Apostle Peter to his home to share the Good News about Jesus, we read that "Cornelius was waiting for them, and had called together his relatives and close friends." He wanted them to hear God's heart and his home became the place where that mission was carried out.
God blessed Cornelius and his family in order that they might be a blessing.
The third thing God wants to remind us of from Genesis 12 is the fact that we are called to be families of faith.
Recognizing that God is the maker of the family and living to bless as we've been blessed is not easy. It requires faith.
Just as Abraham journeyed into the unknown trusting God, there will be a lot of scary and uncertain situations into which God calls your family, situations which will require that we trust in God's wisdom and God's power.
Families who bless must be families of faith.
When you reach out to other families, you are stepping into the unknown. When you are serving those in need, you are stepping into the unknown. When you open up your home in order to be a blessing, you are stepping into the unknown. The results? Unknown. Their reactions? Unknown. The risk? Unknown.
It all requires faith. It requires us trusting that God knows best and that God is with us.
Too many families today are not families of faith, they are families of fear. Their priorities, their schedules, their finances, their family dynamic, are all driven by fear. Fear of loss. Fear of outside influences. Fear of failure. Fear of sacrifice.
Brothers and sisters, God is calling us to be families of faith.
IV. Do You Have a Big Vision for Your Family?
When we stop and look at the big picture, at this family portrait from Genesis 12, here's the question I believe God would have us ask ourselves, "Do I have a big vision for my family?" Is your vision for your family a big vision because it's rooted in the bigness of God; because it's rooted in God's intentions and design?
Do you know what a mission statement is? A mission statement is a short summary describing an organization's purpose. All sorts of organizations use mission statements. If you were to sit down and write out a mission statement for your family, what would it say?
Our mission is to have fun together? Our mission is to be and raise good citizens? Our mission is to be successful? To be liked? To be at peace with one another? To simply stay together? To survive?
If you belong to Jesus Christ by faith, because of His grace, then God's word gives your family a mission statement, in fact, THE mission statement for the family, according to God's design.
Haven't we seen this morning that...
God's blessing calls us to be families of faith in Jesus Christ in order to be a blessing to others in His name.
Is that your desire? Fathers, hubsands, is that your desire? Then lead like Abraham. Mothers, wives, is that your desire? Then walk in faith like Abraham. Children, follow in faith. Singles, walk in this faith as you help the families around you to do this very thing.
All of us need to go home and put up this portrait of Abraham and his family in a conspicuous place, someplace where it will remind us and inspire us to be a blessing, just as we've been blessed; to be families of faith.
In the coming weeks, we're going to get more specific about what it means to live as a family according to God's heart. I pray that God will use our time in his word to shape us and mold us according to his incredible artistry.
Let's pray that God would do that through Christ. Would you pray with me?