Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

Choices Part 5


By Rayola Kelley

      We have been following Abraham as he walked by faith in light of his calling. Abraham was called by God to separate himself to become a vessel in which great blessings, promises, and hope would flow. Before Abraham could come into the place of his calling, he had to be separated from everything that would hinder the plan of God for him.

      He was separated from what was familiar (Genesis 12:1-3). This meant being separated from the land he was from, from the people he grew up among, and from a family that could not share in his calling. This is important to understand. So many times when we are being called into some ministry, we want to bring all our family, traditions, and past glory with us, but the way is too narrow, the calling personal, the blessings designed to enable us to possess our inheritance as well as promises that enlarge our vision to see our destination; and, the expectation of hope that anchors us to the reality it is, and will be so, in the end.

      Abraham ended up traveling 1500 miles from his home to the Promised Land and then he had to walk out what would become his family’s inheritance and legacy. This is the way of faith. It must be walked out in obedience to establish a heavenly inheritance while leaving behind a spiritual legacy.

      Abraham’s obedience was simply preparing him to walk towards, walk in and walk out his calling. He was walking towards a city made by God, walking through his inheritance so others could follow, and walking out what he had been promised to secure it for others (Genesis 13:17; Hebrews 11:10, 13).

      The separations Abraham had to endure were not always easy. Some of them were natural and necessary like the separation from his family, due to coming into his own as a man and believer of Jehovah God, but some of them were gut-wrenching for him that ripped at his heart. In spite of the separations through his life, he had a calling that was held steady to God by deep convictions that circumvented worldly heart affections and attractions. Convictions of this nature are a choice that requires determination to not look or go back, and must become the resolve to stay the course, while focusing the eyes of the heart of faith on what is eternal.  

      Like most people on a long journey in new terrain, Abraham took a couple of detours, but his heart led him back to God to once again get in line with his calling. The separations that God required of Abraham along the way were acts of consecration. Consecration is a type of outward separation from the old, profane life in preparation to receive the fullness of the new. This consecration can only occur upon the response of obedience. Each step of obedience was Abraham’s way of setting himself apart from the old in preparation for receiving the new. God was preparing a sanctified man in order to raise up a peculiar people for Himself (Deuteronomy 14:2). Exodus 19:4-6 says, “Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.”

      It is important to understand that Abraham was set apart so that God could set a nation apart for a very special purpose. Abraham’s descendants were not only a peculiar people, but they would become a peculiar treasure. “Peculiar” in this text means someone who exclusively or especially is owned. Clearly, the people of Israel were not considered a mere treasure that might benefit the owner in some way, but a prized treasure. However, to be considered as a prized treasure, the people of Israel had to obey God’s voice and keep the covenant.

      We are given some indication as to why the people of Israel were greatly prized. They were to serve as a kingdom of priests, a holy, separate nation. Priests were to serve God and as a holy nation they were to stand distinct from all other nations as living records and testimonies of the Lord.

      “Peculiar” also points to being special. What qualified the children of Israel to be special? Consider what Deuteronomy 7:6-9 states, “For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations.”

      Let us consider what distinguished Abraham’s descendants, 1) they were chosen above all others, 2) He chose to love them, 3) God would keep His oath which He had sworn to their fathers, 4) He had brought them forth after redeeming them, and 5) He is faithful to what He says and in all He does.

      If God chooses something, it is for the purpose of setting it apart. He chose Jerusalem as the city where He would establish His name and witness in the temple. The truth is man can’t choose God. He may be curious about God, want Him around for personal reasons, and/or to satisfy his religious notions by talking about Him, adhering to certain practices, and feeling good about doing his religious duties, but it takes the Spirit of God to spiritually draw people to God and without the Spirit, man’s attempt to know and worship the true God will miserably fail. (Matthew 16:17; John 8:44)  

      We know that Israel was not the biggest or most desired nation, but again it comes back to love. The Lord loved them, He chose to love them, and the significance of this love is brought out by 1 John 4:19, “We love him, because he first loved us.” Godly love is the purest of all loves and is committed to do that which is right and honorable. It is willing to always give and ultimately proves to be sacrificial in the end.

      The next thing we must observe is that God made a binding covenant or oath with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In the initial covenant with Abraham, it was one-sided. God bound Himself to bring forth a plan through Abraham’s descendants that would not only bless them, but become a blessing to other nations. That plan had to do with redemption through Christ.

      When you study the concept of covenant, it involves a “cutting.” It is for this reason covenants were often confirmed with sacrifice. It showed parties coming into agreement with the intent to keep a binding oath not only with each other, but it would be passed down from generation to generation. Note, how Deuteronomy 7:9 makes reference to a thousand generations.

      There was some type of token also given as a means to remember that the parties involved were bound to the covenant. For God, the covenant He made with the earth after the great flood was the rainbow, while for Abraham it was circumcision, and when it came to the children of Israel in relationship to the covenant of the Law, it was keeping the Sabbath (Genesis 8:20-21; 9:8-14; 17:4-14; Exodus 31:13-18).

      The fourth aspect of this is the fact that God had redeemed them from Egypt. This meant He owned them and that He was taking responsibility for their welfare. When it comes to redemption we see where the Lord put an estimation on them by ransoming them to be His people, purchasing them to set them at liberty to worship and serve Him, and providing the means in which they could become part of a greater household and inheritance.

      The fifth part of this has to do with faithfulness. It requires faithfulness on a person’s part to fulfill a vow and see a covenant through to the end. To be faithful, requires a certain amount of integrity in relationship to keeping one’s word, a moral resolve to do it in an honorable way, and a willingness to sell out and let go of everything that is outside of personal responsibility to maintain it.

      This is why marriages fail, faithfulness is missing from the equation, and often what is reigning in the place of faithfulness is selfishness. Selfishness will ultimately prefer self over anything else, be measured in what it does, and before it responds in a positive way make sure that the other party meets conditions and serves personal desires.

      It is important to understand who Israel was and is to God because the church has the same high calling in this world. You can read it in 1 Peter 2:9. Jesus made it clear that we did not choose Him; rather, He chose us. I have already pointed out that we love Jesus because He first loved us. This love was sacrificial and displayed openly on the cross, “For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16; 15:16; 1 John 4:19).

      God made a covenant with us through Jesus Christ. It was confirmed by His broken body and His blood. Every time we take communion, we are remembering what Jesus did for us, and we are to practice this ordinance until He comes for His church (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). We observe this ordinance in light of this glorious promise, “But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom(Matthew 26:29).  

      The children of Israel may be Abraham’s biological descendants, but as believers, Abraham is our father as well, but he is a spiritual father and our relationship is based on faith. It is by faith through grace that we are saved and heirs of a spiritual and eternal inheritance that was also part of the covenant made with Abraham (Romans 4:16-17).

      Salvation comes from faith, but faith can only be enlarged when one accepts the call of discipleship. The walk of a disciple is the act of consecration. It is setting oneself apart as a sacrifice that will cast all aside of this present world to follow the Lord into a walk to do God’s will and bidding. As His disciples we must avoid looking back at what has been judged, while learning to discern the present and keep our focus on Jesus (Luke 9:57-62; Romans 12:1-2).

      It is for this reason the call to discipleship begins with the word “if.” This word does not mean discipleship is optional; rather, it is a prerequisite to being a disciple. It tells you “if” you are going to be a disciple, you must deny self and pick up your cross before you can rightfully follow Jesus. Self must be out of the way, while the walk must be disciplined to come into step with Jesus before one can come under the yoke of service with Him.

      This brings us to the other separations that occurred in Abraham’s life. His first separation was from that of familiarity to enlarge faith and create real dependency on the Lord. The second had to do with idolatry, and the third with establishing inheritance.

      The fourth part of this separation required him to become part of the covenant by offering up a sacrifice. The event is found in Genesis 15. The Lord clearly outlined that He was Abraham’s shield that protected him and his great reward that he would discover in the end. It was at this point Abraham was told to take a heifer (used for burnt offerings denoting consecration), a she goat (used as sin offering), a ram (symbolic of substitution), and turtledove and young pigeon (pointed to a poor status). He was to divide each sacrifice in half except for the birds and then he was to guard them through the night to ensure the fowls would not feast upon the sacrifices.

      There is a lot of symbolism in this event. We have the great symbol of Jesus’ broken body that was lifted on a cross as a sacrifice to secure a covenant, the attack of Satan against Him to destroy His work, and the dark grave to silence it. However, for Abraham it actually pointed to resurrection of the promise as he became identified in the covenant and received his prophetic calling as the Lord showed him the plight of his descendants in the land of Egypt. At the end of grave darkness is the light of promise which was brought forth when the Lord showed Abraham that there would be a great deliverance of his descendants and they would be brought into their inheritance that he had walked out, and he would also later establish with his own death and burial.

      Keep in mind that Abraham bought and secured a piece of land in the Promised Land in which to bury his wife, Sarah. It became a burial place for not only Sarah and Abraham, but for Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, and Leah as well. That little plot by Hebron was where the seed that went into the ground in death, multiplied and identified the inheritance of the land to the children of Israel (Genesis 23; 25:9; 35:27-29; 49:29-33; John 12:24).

      The final part of Abraham’s experience in Genesis 15 that must be noted is that he had to guard the sacrifices through the night. It is in the night of testing that causes one to truly begin to value and become identified to what is eternal. It also revealed that Abraham had to guard what had been entrusted to him. He could not sleep, slumber, become casual, or let his guard down until God had His way and the light dawned upon the place. We have this promise that is often quoted at such dark times in Psalm 30:5, “For his anger endured but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning.”    

      The next separation had to be gut-wrenching and that was from Ishmael. This separation occurred because Ishmael was the son of a bondwoman and had no part in the inheritance that was to go to the promised son, Isaac. After seeing Ishmael’s attitude of mockery, Sarah was not about to let him share in her son’s rightful inheritance and commanded Abraham to send Ishmael and his mother, Hagar, away. The Lord told him to hearken to Sarah’s voice (Genesis 21:12; Galatians 4:28-31).

      Ishmael represents the flesh and Isaac the spirit. The Bible is clear that there is an ongoing war between these two enemies. As believers, we can’t share our spiritual inheritance with matters associated with the flesh or attached to the world, for there is no real agreement to be found. We are called to mortify the works of the flesh, come out and be separate from the world, while allowing the work of the cross to make us dead to it (2 Corinthians 6:14-18; Galatians 5:17; 6:14; Colossians 3:5).

      The next separation proved to be an incredible test of Abraham’s faith (Genesis 22). The test did not come from the actual separation, but the call to offer up the actual promise of God as a sacrifice. If we are not willing to lose something for the sake of Christ, we will lose it all in the end (Matthew 16:24-25). We must not value what is temporary over what is eternal. If we are unwilling to lose the temporal, we will never gain the eternal, and if we are not willing to lose the promise to some grave, it will never be allowed to be resurrected to bring forth greater life and fruit.

      It is easy in these bodies to be clinging to the desires of the flesh and to the matters of this world, but as believers we are born of Spirit and are no longer identified to either the earth or the world. We are seated above it with Christ, while pressing through it towards that which is excellent, and reaching for that which is eternal.

      We know that Isaac was to be offered up but instead a ram was provided; however, Abraham was confident that even though he was separated from the promise, he had the assurance that the promise would be raised up in greater measure because God would not lie as to what He established concerning Abraham’s descendants (Hebrews 11:17-19).

      Abraham’s willingness to offer up the promise of God allowed him to receive it in the figure or example of Isaac. Isaac carried the wood for the offering (cross), was laid upon the altar and bound to it, and as Abraham was about to offer his promised son up, the great exchange took place when God provided a ram (Christ) in his stead. Jesus stated in John 8:56 that Abraham was looking forward to His day and he saw it and he was glad.   

      The place this happened was set apart. Moriah means, “Chosen by Jehovah.” It was in this vicinity where Jerusalem would be located, and where some maintain the temple was built. The Muslims believe the rock upon which Isaac (although they claim it was Ishmael) was offered, is preserved in the Dome of the Rock.           

      We know that Abraham was separated from his precious wife, Sarah, and before his death he sent his concubine, Keturah, away with all their children to preserve the inheritance for Isaac (Genesis 25:1-9). His journey on earth had been all about the promise of a son who was born out of season to aged parents, not according to the will of man but God. It was about holding to faith in spite of not seeing promises fulfilled, being willing to offer the only promise up in light of what would be, and ever looking beyond this world with the eyes of faith, knowing that what God promised is bigger than the heavens, immeasurable like the sand, and outside of any human or worldly description.