Text: Genesis 11, 12; Matthew 4:19
Those words are pregnant with meaning, aren’t they? If a sopping wet stranger on a bridge took off running towards the edge, I (who sinks better than swims) would not be too prone to follow him. But if he were a swimming instructor to which I was taking lessons I might be a little more inclined to follow. To ask someone to follow you is an invitation into a relationship of trust.
“Follow me” is also different than “let’s follow these animal tracks back to its den”. “Me” is personal. It’s not an invitation to read books about that person, it’s an invitation to actually get to know that person. For a follower of Jesus when we hear those words, we know they are an invitation to discipleship. Our minds immediately go to the words of Jesus to his early disciples. But there are similar words in Genesis 12. “Follow me” is the center of God’s interaction with Abraham.
If you were reading through Genesis for the very first time, without knowing anything about the rest of the story, you’d likely be shocked at what happens in Genesis 12. I think Christopher Wright says it well:
- A new world, ultimately a new creation, begins in this text. But it is a new world that bursts out of the womb of the old—the old world portrayed in Genesis 1-11. And yet that womb is barren. Not only has the story run into the sands of abandoned Babel but even the line of Shem, in whom hope seems fixed for the future, has run almost to a dead end in the barrenness of Sarah and the death of Terah in Haran (Genesis 11:30, 32). History, like creation itself prior to the transforming word of God, seems shut up to futility and shrouded in darkness (Genesis 1:2).
You don’t expect God’s “follow me” me to come booming out of such barrenness. But it does. And just as it wasn’t out of loneliness that God created humanity, so also it is not out of loneliness that God calls Abram to follow Him. It is because God is deeply relational and intimately involved with His creation. He calls Abram because He wants to call Abram. God’s friendship with this old man doesn’t flow out of Abram’s character but out of God’s character.
Don’t read the story of the tower of Babel, skim through that genealogy, and then read Genesis 12:1-3 as if the two are separate incidents and this new story is the beginning of a new chapter. No, Genesis 12:1-3 is actually turning the ugliness of the Babel incident onto its head. This is God’s redemption. This is him making things right. What is the biggest problem with humanity trying to “get to God” by building a tower? Isn’t searching for God a noble thing? Why is God so upset? Why does he “come down” and then scatter their language so that their tower building days are over? I would argue that the key issue here is that their actions reveal a heart without a desire for relationship with God.
Their refusal to be scattered is a slap in the face of the God who said “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth with my glory”. Christopher Wright is correct, “The Babel story presents us with people who seem intent on reaching the heavens even while resisting God’s will for them on earth.” But the story of Abraham is the opposite. That is a story of God condescending to speak to Abram and draw him into a relationship. Building a tower to heaven might be an act of trying to find God but it’s not an act of following God. Because God is relational, he doesn’t leave blueprints to tower building but rather he comes to us.
We see this in part with his call to Abraham. But certainly, we see it fully in Christ coming to earth. It’s not by accident that when Jesus was on earth, he called people into a discipleship relationship— “follow me”. If you ever question whether God cares about the everyday affairs of the world look no further than Jesus. He called his disciples into relationship. He ate with them. He hugged them. He went fishing with them. He truly loved and related to them. Yes, the God who created everything genuinely relates to His creation. Your desire for deep relationship is actually a God-given reflection of Him.
Once again, I’ll just give you a couple of lines to help you get started in preaching the gospel to yourself.
God: The Abrahamic covenant shows that it is the nature of God to covenant and relate with sinful humanity
Man: We reflect God in our desire for community, but shipwreck it by our sin
Christ: Jesus restores proper relationships
Response: Am I a friend of God? Do I reflect this in my relationship with others?