Scripture Reading: Genesis 12:1-9, Genesis 21:1-7, Genesis 22:15-18, John 8:56-58
God is calling us to move from the land of our birth to the land of promise. For most of us, this is not necessarily a physical move, but a spiritual one. He is calling us to give up what we know in order to fully embrace the life of Christ. God’s invitation and promise to Abram in Genesis is one of the most expansive promises in Scripture. It’s basically a superfecta of every imaginable blessing:
“I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, I will curse anyone who treats you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
– Genesis 12:2-3
Why did God call Abram to leave Ur and move all the way to Canaan? Couldn’t He have blessed Abram in the place where he was already well established? Sure, God can bring His blessing anywhere, but Abram had to change. He needed to be able to give up his native soil, his dearest friends, even the succor of family, to follow God.
God called Abram to give up all the comforts of home because they were a temptation to return to his old way of life. The things that draw us back into our idolatrous habits aren’t worth giving up the promise of new life. God told Abram to run from these things. In the KJV it rings quite dramatically; God commands Abram to: “Get thee out of thy country”! He’s essentially saying to Abram, Run, with all your speed from the temptations that cling to you! Escape with your life, and don’t look behind you (Genesis 12:1, my paraphrase).
What do we have to lose if we leave our sin and turn to God? He invites us to unspeakable blessing. The call given to Abram is like the gospel call that comes to us through Christ, the One who was before Abraham (John 8:58). We, too, are invited to leave our old life behind to step into the land of promise. Our natural affections must give way to divine affections. It’s in the Gospel of Luke that Jesus shockingly says, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, and even his own life—he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). Matthew Henry explains it this way:
Our country is dear to us, our kindred dearer, and our father’s house dearest of all; and yet they must all be hated, that is, we must love them less than Christ, hate them in comparison with him, and, whenever any of these come in competition with him, they must be postponed, and the preference given to the will and honour of the Lord Jesus.
Christmas reminds us that we are called to do the hard work of willingly parting with things that are dear to us, for the sake of turning our affections toward Christ. We are called to hold our earthly possessions and passions loosely, freeing our feet to long for the ground of promise, and to walk away from the land of death. The Messiah Himself has come, and He brings blessing and life in His wake.