Genesis 11:8-10 – What made Abraham a great man?



Hebrews 11v8-10.



There are many famous people in the world. Those alive today and those from history.  Bill Clinton is famous. Cliff Richard … The Queen … Pavarotti … Saddam Hussain … Hitler … King Henry viii … Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. These and many others are all famous. But of how many would we say, “He /she was a great person”

Would you consider Henry viii a great man? Hiltler? Even Pavarotti – who is great in size – he has a wonderful voice, but is he great?  Will these be famous 100 years from now or will they be confined to the pages of dusty history books? Greatness is when a person’s life has lasting impact for good.

Abraham is such a man. To the Jews the most important person next to God is Abraham. He is identified with God. The GOD OF ABRAHAM. To the Muslims he is the greatest man after their prophet Muhammad. To the Christian he is the greatest man after Jesus. The Jews got angry with Jesus when he claimed to be greater than Abraham.

Are you greater than our father Abraham? [Jn.8v53]

They were angry because in their minds their could be no-one greater than Abraham.


The question has to be, “What was it about Abraham that made him great?”


Ultimately it was not what Abraham did that made him great but rather it was what God did to Abraham that made him great.

The Lord said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people

and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.”

I will make you into a great nation

and I will bless you.

I will make your name great

and you will be a blessing. [Gen 12v1-2].


God made Abraham into a great man but that does not mean that Abraham was not involved. Abraham was not passive in this process. Listen to verse 4.

“So Abraham left as the Lord had told him.”

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” {Heb. 11v8}


The first step in Abraham becoming a great man was the he OBEYED.




God asked Abraham to get up and go and he got up and went. He didn’t know his final destination. He didn’t have any tangible guarantees. All he had was God’s word. He took God at his word and he obeyed.

True faith is believing God’s word and acting upon it.

This was the first step in Abraham’s pilgrimage of faith. If it had been a man who had called Abraham he would have been wise to ask for a detailed plan of the future prospects. But God doesn’t deal with us in that way and we can’t treat him like that. He is the God of Glory, the one and only true God. If Abraham really believed that then he had to be prepared to do what God said.


It was at this point in Abraham’s life that he came into a relationship with God. Why? Because when God called him he responded in obedient Faith.

It is the same with us and the Lord Jesus Christ. We have far more evidence than Abraham ever had. We have the Bible, the Word of God. Abraham never had that.

Jesus did many other miraculous signs that are not recorded in this book.

But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the christ

the Son of God, and that believing you may have life through his name

[Jn. 20v30-31]


But it is no good saying,”Yes I believe that Jesus is the Son of God. The Bible is true”  If we do not accept him inreservedly and follow him obediently them we are wasting our time.


ILLUST: If I look at a map and see that the A3 will take me from Godalming to London. And then only ever look at the map I will never get to London. Until I get in my car and follow the map and obey the rules of the road and drive I will remain where I am.


So it is with Jesus Christ. The first step is responsive obedience to his call. We must unreservedly accepted his Lordship over everthing in our lives.

To extend the illustration of the map to London; it is God who provides the map, the car, the petrol, etc but we must still respond and obey.

We can’t say to Jesus,”Well, Lord, you give me a detailed plan of my life and what is going to be invloved them I can decide what to do.”  Jesus Christ is not a professional adviser or a career guidance teacher whose suggestions we can pick and choose from.

If we are going to be Christ’s disciples then he demands our obedience.

God told Abraham to go and he went. He believed God and took him at his word.







How you start is important. How you continue is equally important.

By faith he [Abraham] made his home in the Promised Land

like a stranger in a foreign country,

as did Isaac and Jacob who were heirs with him

of the same promise. [Heb.11v9]


Abraham was a man of Faith. He was a great man. But that does not mean that he had his head in the clouds. He was a real man dealing with real issues of life. He had to deal with his family and their problems and conflicts. [eg. Hagar and Sarah] He had to deal with his servants and slaves. With sheep and goats. With international leaders like Phaorah. He had to muster an army to rescue his nephew Lot. He was involved in the affairs of the world.

He wasn’t a perfect man. He made mistakes and suffered the consequences of those mistakes. But the general direction and goal of his life was to obey God.


When Abraham arrived in the promised land he never conquered it or possessed it but lived there as a “stranger in a foreign land’  It would have been very easy for Him, esp. as he became wealthier to acquired land and settled down to a comfortable lifestyle. Instead for 100 years he lived in tents as a nomad moving from place to place and never having a place to call his own.

I am sure there were times when his mind went back to the lush green valleys of Ur from where he had come; and the temptation was to return there.


Abraham had a correct view of God and a vision of a life beyond the boundaries of this world. His vision was not limited to earthly things. He knew that there was something far more important than a permanent dwelling in the Land of Canaan. Abraham never forgot that he was a pilgrim – a stranger in a foreign country.


As Christian we too are strangers and aliens. 1 Peter 1v1.

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

to God’s elect, strangers in the world….”

1 Peter 2v11

“Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world,

to abstain from sinful desires which war against the soul”


Peter is warning God’s people not to become entangled in this world’s system. We tend to think of “sinful desires” as adultery and others kinds of sexual immorality. But the most subtle and dangerous desires are when we adopt the priorities and norms of the world.

In our affluent western society I believe that one of the biggest danger in the church is MATERIALISM. It is so easy to get caught up in this race to have a better house, a better car, a better job even when it is at expense of our spiritual well-being. If you knew God was calling you to go and do some work for him somewhere else could you walk away from your possessions? How much do your possessions mean to you?


[v10]    But why could Abraham do this? Why could he walk away from his home country and live all his life in a strange land?  Why was he so detached from the materialism that preoccupies so many? What lay behind the faith of this Great Man?


“For he was looking forward to the city with foundations,

whose architect and builder is God”. [ Heb.11v10]


Abraham never settled in the land of Canaan, not because of where he had come from but because of were he was going.

Abraham had a vision of the future. He knew that this earthly life was not the be all and end all of existence. There was much much more. Death was not the end but the beginning. It is a doorway into a whole new world of exciting discovery. Death for the christian is not the end.

ILLUST: C.S. Lewis’ Narnia Book ” The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe” The cupboard seems like an ordinary cupboard but when the children pass through the cupboard they enter a whole new realm.


If we become preoccupied with the things of this world we loose the point of what it means to be a Christian. Indeed, we loose the point of life itself.  The writer of Ecclesiastes says that if we consider life from an under the sun point of view [from an earthly, human perspective] then it is meaningless. If there is nothing after this life then what is the point of life.


ILLUST: How many people spend their whole lives collecting possesion and paying off a mortgage only to die and leave it all behind. We become slaves to our possessions.


Hebrews 13v14.”for here we do not have a enduring city,

but we are looking for a city that is to come”


ILLUST: If those who put there money into BCCI had known in advance that it was going to go bankurpt do you think they would have put their money into it.  We would think that anyone who invested in an institution that was going to fall apart was absolutely stupid.


But that is exactly what people are doing when they invest in this world rather than in the one to come. Jesus warn about this:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth,

where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.

But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven ….

For where your treasure is there will your heart be also.”

[Matthew  6v19-21]


What was the secret of Abraham’s faith?  He focussed on the eternal rather than the temporal. He sometimes went off track. But he always came back. Wherever he went and pitched his tent he built an altar – a symbol of his worship of and communication with God. Abraham’s life was characterised by a daily living faith in the God who had called him. He didn’t get bogged down in the petty problems of this life.

When we are preoccupied with our own little world things can get out of all proportion. When we have an eternal view of things, life is put into its right perspective.

If Abraham had built a city in the land of Canaan it would soon have become like any other city. Filled with tears and sorrow and crying and loneliness and pain. Filled with liars and cheats and prostitutes and idolators. In stead he was content to live as a pilgrim in a tent and to look froward to a city that God would build. As city that John describes in Rev.21v1-4

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had   passed away,  and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her       husband. And I heard loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is        with men and He will live with him. They will be his people, and God himself will be with       them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. there will be no more           death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has past away”.


What a place that will be!! By faith Abraham looked forward to God’s city. We are not only saved by faith but we are expected to live by faith putting eternal and heavenly things before temporal and earthly things.

“All these people were still living by faith when they died.
they did not receive the things promised;

they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance.

And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth.

People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own.

If they had been thinking of the country they had left,

they would have had opportunity to return.

Instead, they were longing for a better country – a heavenly one.

Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God,

 for he has prepared a city for them” [Heb11v13-16]


Abraham responded by faith when God called him and he obeyed the word of God. He continued to live by faith until the day he died. He lived as a traveller in a tent, his roots in this world were very loose because his real home was in the City of God. God blessed Abraham in this life . God gives us many things to enjoy along the way and he wants us to enjoy them but to hold them loosely because they are only transitory. The eternal is the goal.


Abraham was great because the God in whom he place his faith was great.


Have you put your faith in God and responded to his called?

If you have are you living by faith?

“True faith is our obedient response to the Word of God”. [Wiersbe]


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