On The Move - Free Sample
One of my adventure heroes is the veteran Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton. Perhaps his most famous voyage occurred in 1914 when he tried to become the first person to cross the entire Antarctic continent. However disaster struck when his ship, the Endurance, became trapped in thick ice, eventually being crushed, marooning all 28 men on the polar ice with almost no hope of rescue. (1) Not all life experiences are quite as dramatic as that, but from time to time, we can experience a sense of being “stuck”. It might be an attitude from which we can’t break away, a behaviour we can’t stop or a life context that we feel traps or restricts us. Yesterday we learned of the “stuck” circumstances of Abram and Sarai – they could not have children. Their family line was going nowhere. It was a hopeless situation. But then God speaks . . .
Read: Genesis 12:1-9
So Abram went, as the Lord had told him (verse 4, NIV).
The call of Abram is dramatic. Through one man God was promising to build an entire nation who would display His character to the whole world. This is God’s new beginning for the world. From this nation, the people of Israel, would eventually come Jesus, the Saviour of the world. Abram was God’s new start.
But God’s amazing call is spoken against the harsh realities of Abram and Sarai’s barrenness. The promise that a whole nation will come from them bangs on the door of a womb that refuses to open. And yet the promise is spoken. A new family is supposed to emerge from this hopelessness. The power for that to happen rests entirely on God’s word alone.
But before the blessings spoken in verses 2-3 can come true, Abram and Sarai must do something. “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household . . .” (verse 1). The couple stuck in hopelessness must make a move. God calls them to journey. They will have to leave Haran to get God’s blessing. They cannot stay where they are.
If we want to move beyond being “stuck”, if we want to see any sense of newness in our lives, we have to be willing to make a move, too. Not necessarily a physical relocation, as was the case for Abram and Sarai. But some kind of move needs to happen. It might be a change of attitude, stopping a bad habit, placing new parameters around our life. When we are “stuck”, not doing anything is actually a decision. We just stay “stuck”. If you always do what you’ve always done, then you’ll always get what you’ve always had.
Abram must be a man on the move. He must leave Haran. But as we saw yesterday, movement was in his past experience. He’s done this before. But now the stakes are high. Very high. The promise rests upon him repeating history and moving on again. And Abram responds with faith. He packs his bags and moves on (verse 4). He opts to risk with God in a new location he’s never seen, than stay stuck in the barrenness of Haran.
What kind of a person is Abram as he makes these early moves? In this short reading, did you spot that Abram does something twice? He builds two altars, one near Shechem and one near Bethel. The man on the move is a man who worships. He reveres the God who has made the promise. We are told that Abram called on the name of the Lord, a phrase that involves both praising and asking. The man on the move is a man who worships and prays. He praises God that He has promised much and he petitions Him for his needs.
Abram keeps travelling, but his altars are fixed. His times of worship, his praise and petition, are like marker posts on the journey to new things. God loves to bring renewal to our lives. Like Abram, that will always involve being on the move with God into the newness. Like Abram we should journey with God as people of worship and prayer.
Nestling within God’s promises for Abram was one promise central to His plan. Did you notice how many different statements of blessing God gave to Abram in verses 2-3? Read them again now. How many did you count? There are seven in total. Seven is a special number in the Bible, often symbolic of completion or perfection. And from a literary point of view, the most important item in a list of seven was the middle one, the fourth. In God’s list of promises, the central one is that Abram will be a source of blessing. Whenever God does something new in our lives, there’s always more blessing than we really need. God’s goodness to us overflows to touch the lives of others.
Shackleton’s story had a happy ending. The account of how those men escaped Antarctica and were rescued stands as one of the most epic survival adventures ever recorded. Their daily battle for survival against the most inhospitable elements makes the most gripping reading. But their escape and rescue began with the realisation that they couldn’t stay where they were on the ice by their trapped ship. The Endurance wasn’t going anywhere, except the bottom of the sea. Shackleton and his men knew that rescue meant movement and so their heroic journey began. What seemed a hopeless situation turned into new possibility. Who knows what God could do with the “stuck” situations of our lives if we commit to being people who will move with Him so that His promise of newness might be fulfilled?
Heavenly Father, I offer to you the “stuck” situations of my life (you might like to name these more specifically to Him). Thank you that you are the God of promise, the God of the new. Show me what it would mean to move out of these “stuck” situations. Please reveal to me attitudes and actions that need to change. Fill me with your Spirit. May I hear your call to newness and step out in faith as Abram did. As I journey with you, making my move, may faith rise up and may worship and prayer sustain me. Amen.
You can read Shackleton’s own account of this epic story of survival in Shackleton E, South: The Endurance Expedition, 1919, London, Penguin Books