It was amazing grace that saved a wretch like Abraham.
It was amazing grace that saved a wretch like Abraham...
We are told that God homed in on this one man, Abraham, an idolater living in a pagan culture. There is not the slightest hint in the passage that at this time Abraham was agonizing, seeking, praying and looking for God, but rather that the whole initiative in the call of Abraham was God’s. He came seeking and finding Abraham. From that moment on we find this is the pattern of God’s saving enterprise throughout the Bible. Moses is in the back side of the desert, a shepherd caring for his father-in-law’s sheep. He has been doing that work for forty years and suddenly one day he is confronted by a bush burning and not being consumed. He did not light that fire; God lit it, and from the midst of the fire God reveals himself to Moses, speaks to him, calls him and commissions him. That is the picture of the call of Abraham repeated. Once you see it then you notice it throughout the Bible. Samuel is a little boy lying in his bed in the temple and suddenly he hears the voice of God speaking to him, “Samuel, Samuel!” God meets with a teenage girl in Nazareth called Mary; “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you . . . you have found favour with God . . . you will be with child and give birth to a son . . . he will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High” (Lk. 1:28-31). Two brothers are casting their net into the lake and unannounced the Lord appears at their side and says to James and John, “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” A man named Matthew was sitting at the tax-collector’s booth and the Lord came up to him and said, “Follow me.” Zachaeus the tax-collector was perched in a tree in Jericho when the Lord called him. Saul of Tarsus was on a road walking to Damascus when the Lord said to him, “Saul, Saul.” The call of God is the Lord’s saving action.
None of those people was especially religious, and some were monsters, but God stopped them in their tracks, and turned their lives around. That is the powerful grace of God. In church history he’s done the same. He did this to Augustine in a garden, and to Luther in a storm, and to John Newton in a boat in the midst of a storm. People far from God, whose lifestyles and attitudes were sub-Christian were confronted and changed by the Lord intervening in their lives. The father of all of them was Abraham. Nothing could be starker than the change wrought in Abraham. Think of what he’d been compared to what he became. The contrast is darkness and light. Apart from the voice of his conscience, and faint memories of an old story of the fall and the promise of a special one who’d come one day, Abraham had had no contact with the Lord, or with the Lord’s people. There was no vital fellowship of growing worshipping Christians in Ur. Not one. There was no preacher; no tracts; no books; no prayer meetings. There was no group he could join, and no one to help him by enthusing about the joy of walking with God.
How different it was to be with Saul of Tarsus; he soon met Ananias; he had also seen the calmness and forgiveness with which Christians die. Again, Matthew the tax collector joined a group of keen young followers of Jesus. Abraham had no one whatsoever like that. Abraham was 75 and set in his ways. His wife, Sarai, was not much younger but certainly past the age for having children. All over the land were the Canaanites (v.6) and they functioned in terms of other gods, and they outnumbered Abraham, his wife, nephew and servants a thousand to one. Was Abraham ever tempted to think, “Why are we the only ones out of step?” He wasn’t following the Lord very long before he ran into a famine (v.10) and this was no ordinary famine. It was severe (v.10) and he had to journey to another continent, to Africa, to Egypt in order to find food for them to survive. Is this what happens when you start following the Lord, that you run into colossal problems? All appearances seemed against Abraham following the Lord, and yet when God appeared to him and spoke to him he believed and followed God.
Think of a sixteen year old boy called Spurgeon slipping into a very small Primitive Methodist chapel in Colchester one winter’s day in a snowstorm. The preacher could not get there because of the snow and so a badly prepared layman harangued the twenty or so in the congregation urging them to do one thing, to look unto God and be saved. This theme he wearily reiterated and repeated, fastening Spurgeon to the pew with his arrows. Some would claim that they would never recover from such an embarrassing confrontation with that monotonous preacher. “You won’t find us in church again.” But God met with that teenager in the Artillery Street Primitive Methodist church through that layman, and his whole life changed.
Aren’t you glad that God intervenes in men’s lives? Aren’t you delighted that he speaks to sinners in his word? Why should he? Why should he set his love on us and deign to speak to us. When you go into your garden do you address the slugs and tell them that you love them? Yet God speaks to those who are worshipping the moon and stars and he says to them, “Get up! Turn around! Leave your idols and your way of life. It is all passing away. Become a citizen of heaven.” We’ve not deserved the Creator of the universe speaking to people like us. We’ve not desired to know him. We’ve been no better than anyone else in the place and far worse than many, and yet God loved us, and spoke to us, and called us! That is how it happened. God speaking to us is salvation applied; God calling us to follow him is his sovereign grace; God telling us to obey him is mercy all immense and free. That is how God saves us. Why did he save us? Because he loved us. But why he should love us, ah, we could never tell. It is amazing grace that he should have loved me especially when he knew all about me. Many years later a man soon to be stoned to death preached to those who lusted after his blood. Stephen told them very plainly what had happened in Ur on this momentous occasion; “The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham” (Acts 7:2). What greater contrast could you possibly find than these two entities? On the one hand an unbelieving worshipper of the moon, and on the other the God of glory, and yet this Lord appeared to the pagan Abraham to do him much good. It was amazing grace that saved a wretch like Abraham.