What It Means to Be Called According to God’s Purpose

Abraham understood that God’s purposes were much greater than Abraham and Sarah, much greater than the land promised to them, much greater even than all his descendants that would populate the earth like the stars in the sky and sand on the seashore.

Photo by Peter Avildsen

God calls us according to his purpose. He calls us as beings He created in His own image. He calls us as His image bearers, and He gives us the responsibility for being fruitful and multiplying and tending to the creation that He made.

We messed up His creation. We got it all wrong. We went our own ways. We sought to make a name for ourselves. We pursued our own ends.

Then God became flesh. He became a man and lived among us. He subjected Himself to the worst of our messiness. Unbelievably, He gave Himself up to us – and for us – to redeem us from our own devices. AND to redeem us for His purposes.

God invites us to become His children by accepting this great sacrifice that He made for us. He now invites us to give ourselves up to Him and to let Him take His rightful place in our lives and hearts and to make His purposes our purposes.

Sometimes, I believe, we have too small a view of God and His purposes. We tend to be satisfied to think that God merely desires to save us from ourselves, and we do not have a robust view of God’s purposes.

If we take a step back and consider the early instruction to Adam and Eve, we see God telling them to care for His creation and to be fruitful and multiply. They were to be fruitful and multiply in the carrying out of God’s purposes through God’s creation.

God invited Adam and Eve into his creative purposes, but they went their own way. Their descendants after them went their own ways and sought to make a name for themselves. (Gen. 11:4)

When we jump forward in time to God’s promise to Abraham, God says, “I will make you into a great nation”, and “I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.” (Gen. 12:2(NIV)) This is not Abraham’s doing, but God’s doing, and Abraham will be a blessing in carrying out God’s purposes.

God’s promise to Abraham ends with the statement, “and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Gen. 12:3) (NIV)) God’s purpose in blessing Abraham is that he would be a blessing to all the people of the earth.

Abraham is our model for following God according to the writer of Hebrews. Abraham did not take possession of the land God promised him, and he would not see his descendants take possession of the land God promised to them, but Abraham was content to trust in God. The vision given to Abraham by God was much higher and broader than that:

“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.”

Genesis 11:8-12

Abraham understood that God’s purposes were much greater than Abraham and Sarah, much greater than the land God promised to them, and much greater even than all his descendants that would populate the earth like the stars in the sky and sand on the seashore. Abraham understood that he and his descendants played a part in God’s purposes that extended to all people and the whole earth.

These things were not easy for Abraham, as we might suppose. Many years after the initial promises, Abraham had his moments of doubt.

Abraham lived in the land God’s showed to him and promised to his descendants, but he lived there as a resident alien in tents (temporary dwellings). For decades he came and went. No child was forthcoming to him. He and Sarah were getting on in age.

When Abraham was having difficulty, struggling to believe with confidence the promises God made to him, Abraham asked God, “How will I know?” (Gen. 15:8) In the sequence of actions that follow, God has Abraham set up a covenant between, and Abraham falls into a fitful sleep where God comes to Abraham in the night. Among other things, this is what God says:

“Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”

Genesis 15:13-16

430 years!

God’s promise would not be fulfilled (possession of the land God promised by Abraham’s descendants) for 430 years! Abraham would be long buried and gone by then!

In this context, Abraham believed, and it was credited to him as righteousness. (Gen. 15:7) He accepted what God said. He accepted that God’s promise was not for him to see fulfilled. He accepted that God’s plan was much bigger than Abraham and Abraham’s descendants.

God’s plan included Egypt, where Abraham’s descendants would live as strangers and slaves. God’s plan included the Amorites who lived in the land God would give to Abraham’s descendants. God’s plan ultimately included all the people of the earth who God planned to bless through Abraham and his descendants.

All of this points to the reality that God’s purposes are much bigger than us, our nation, our time and much bigger than our understanding.

Abraham could not have imagined that God would “descend” from heaven at the right time in history to become a man born to a descendant of Abraham. Abraham could not have imagined even a tiny bit of the history we see looking back – which God saw unfolding even as He responded to Abraham’s question: “How will I know?”

We have the benefit of much more hindsight than Abraham did, but we still do not now the future. We don’t know the day or hour Christ will come back. We don’t know what twists and turns are yet to unfold.

God put eternity into our hearts, but we don’t know the beginning from the end. (Ecc. 3:11). We do know the Alpha and the Omega, the Creator of all things and the Whose purpose is the driver of all things! And that is enough.

To be called according to God’s purpose is to trust God’s story and whatever part our lives play in it. He will do with it as He will, and we can rest in that.

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