Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Bible and the Supernatural: The Call of Abram

Scripture: Genesis 12:1-4

This week we return to Genesis and begin the story of Abraham (called here Abram). Several generations have now passed since the Flood. Babel has come and gone, resulting in the confusion of the languages and the scattering of the people across the face of the earth. Out of this, God now picks a single man to start the plan of redemption, which would reach its pinnacle in the person of Jesus Christ.

Observations: At first glance, this semi-familiar passage may not look particularly supernatural. There are no healings or plagues of judgment, no strange phenomenon or violations of natural law. God simply talks to Abram, tells him to leave his home, and as a result, be greatly blessed. No big deal, right?

Such dismissive words only show our complacency and desensitization to the supernatural, especially within the pages of Scripture. We have read the words “God said” or “the LORD spoke” so often that we fail to absorb the unnaturalness of such things. Consider: how often has God spoken to you in such a clear and precise manner that you could record the exact words He used on paper?

Now I understand that Abram had no Bible. He was dependent on such direct communication. But that doesn’t mean it was any less startling or supernatural. After all, God, the supernatural Creator of all things, just communicated directly to a man. Besides, if God is a supernatural Being, wouldn’t His speaking be considered an act of the supernatural?

And what was so urgent, so earth-shattering, that God would need to invade the natural world? He asked Abram to leave his home and follow Him to an unknown destination, promising to greatly bless him if he did. Leave, follow, be blessed. As strange as those instructions seem, neither do they seem particularly world-changing—not like God’s warning of impending destruction to Noah, only a few chapters earlier. Still God condescended to speak to Abram.

Perhaps just as amazing, Abram went. There is no record of fear or terror over God speaking to him, no arguments or doubts expressed over the instructions. Now obviously the Bible doesn’t record every single detail. So these things may have still occurred. But because the Bible doesn’t hide or gloss over the warts of its people, such things, if they occurred at all, must have been fleeting for the Bible to not record it. Rather, Abram heard from God and reacted as if this were the most normal thing in the world, picking up his whole household and heading into the unknown.

Significance: In reading this passage and studying it, several questions are brought to mind.

First, how often do we fail to see the supernatural in our lives due to our own dullness? That is, the supernatural actually is present in our lives, but we don’t notice it because it occurs so often, even regularly, much like manna with the Israelites. So are we truly not experiencing the supernatural today—or are we merely dismissing it and explaining it away as something “normal”?

Second, how often do we fail to hear God because we overlook His concern over the specific details of our lives? While we have the rest of Scripture to understand the far-reaching implications of God’s words to Abram, Abram did not have that advantage. To him, God just asked him to move, trusting that God would provide the final location. Would you attribute any great history-changing significance to such a request—that you quit your job and pack up your belongings in preparation for a move to who-knows-where? And believing no significance to such instructions, would you truly expect God to bother providing such in the first place? So since we think the details don’t matter or we attribute no significance to the specifics of our lives, may it be that we don’t hear from God, not because He is silent, but because we don’t really expect to hear Him?

Finally, how would we react if God spoke to us? With doubt that it was God or uncertainty that you heard right? In fear of the unknown? Resistant to the instructions? It would be nice to believe that we would obey in trust like Abram…yet how do we respond to what God has already spoken clearly within the Scriptures? If we do not obey that, why do we think we would respond differently to a direct communication from God?

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