Editor’s Note: This is the second in a two part series on the story of Abraham. To read the other post, click here.
Amid the unspeakably gorgeous mountain setting at the Billy Graham Training Center in North Carolina, a simple photograph made an indelible impression on me. The photo captured a wooden desk lined with Bibles and other study helps, several open at once; the desk belonged to Ruth Graham. For nearly a year, this picture has not left my mind and it’s made me curious to learn more about Billy Graham’s beloved wife. In her book It’s My Turn, Ruth remembers striving to get her way during their early years of marriage. In his gracious but firm tone, Billy once responded, “God will lead me and you will do the following.” She closed her chapter by stating, “I’ve been following ever since.”
These remarks by Billy and Ruth beautifully depict the image of Christ and his church. As we place our faith in Christ and believe in his goodness, we will follow as he leads. In doing so, a beautiful story unfolds.
In the first nine verses of Genesis Chapter 12, God does all of the speaking. He asked Abram for a dramatic response and gave an overview of the dramatic promises to follow. There are no recorded words from Abram. Only action. “So Abram went, as the Lord had told him” recounts verse 4. God is leading and Abram is following. It is simple and difficult at the same time.
Through Abram’s first steps toward the Promised Land, there are truths to apply to the journey you and I are on today.
God gives Abram a command, not a consideration. He did not say, “Abram, take your time and when you are all packed and ready, consider taking this path.” Instead, the command given to a 75-year-old Abram is “Get out!” Abram was in a comfortable place. He and his family had occupied this land for many years. Staying in the land would mean receiving an inheritance that walking away would forfeit. Even still, none of these comforts took precedence over what the Lord asked of Abram. Therefore, we must not, in pursuit or protection of what is comfortable, turn the Lord’s commands into words to merely consider.
In an instant, Abram weighed all that was familiar against the calling of his Lord. He placed his confidence in the sovereignty of God over all that was established around him. Abram’s response of obedient action displays a life beautifully confident in the Lord. He turns away from all that is comfortable in the eyes of the world to follow the God of eternity. As we prepare for the next command or in response to one the Lord has already given, you and I must decide now upon who or what our confidence is built.
As soon as the Lord told Abram to get out of the country, the Lord lists the promises to come. This list of promises in verses 2 and 3 is the beginning of the Abrahamic covenant, the foundational promises made by God to his chosen people. Notice Abram does not have anything to offer to fulfill the promises. In his own strength, possession, and reasoning, Abram is completely lacking. He is leaving the only land he has known and has no children of his own yet he receives the promises to become a great nation and have a great name. He is an empty-handed man believing in the God full of promise. Similarly, we come before God the Father with nothing of our own to offer. Remarkably through faith in Christ, we become children of Abraham, recipients of the promises, able to display our faith through obedience. Abram begs us to wrestle down our tendency to depend on ourselves and to instead look to his same God who, through the sufficiency of Jesus, empowers and equips us for the journey ahead.
God bellowed his command upon Abram and at the same time blankets Abram with unimaginable grace. As John Piper once said, “In completely sovereign grace God comes to this undeserving idolater and says, with life-creating authority, ‘I am going to bless you, and through you bring blessing to the whole world.’ And with that begins the history of the people of Israel.” Abram’s homeland was one of idol worship (Joshua 24:2); he stood alone in following the one true God. Even so, the Lord pursues Abram and does not doubt his obedience. In his grace, the Lord gives to Abram the faith to obey and Abram moves toward this provision instead of fighting against it. In Abram’s forward momentum, the way is paved for God’s redemptive promises to unfold over generations. God’s pursuit of and provision for this unsuspecting, ill-equipped man of pagan heritage gives us hope as we take one blind step of surrender and trust at a time.
Ruth Graham was married to Billy for 63 years before her passing in 2007. From my reading of her, she was witty, intellectual, and devoted, but a natural follower may not be words I’d use to describe her. Yet, she lived out her promise to follow Jesus and follow Billy for the long haul no matter where it took her. In doing so, she and Billy left a beautiful legacy of the work God can and will do through lives surrendered to him.
Father, thank you for giving us these inspiring real stories, both old and new, of people willing to follow you. Please help me turn away from my natural tendencies to cling to my own ways and to turn towards you, my faithful guide and savior. In the name of Jesus, Amen.
About the Author:
Leslie Glass attends First Presbyterian Church in Augusta, Georgia. She enjoys quiet mornings on the front porch even in five minute increments. After fifteen years in the nonprofit fundraising industry, she now spends her time facilitating Bible study, leading Moms in Prayer groups, and writing devotions to encourage and equip women. She and her husband, Kevin, and their three children keep bags packed for whatever road trip might be just around the corner.