Text: Genesis 12:1-3; Galatians 3:8-14
Last week we looked at the first sentence of “The Old Testament in Seven Sentences.”
1. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)
We looked at Creation and Genesis 1-11. There three “big questions” were raised as both and introduction to and outline of the God’s big story in the Bible. That introduction answered the questions: Where are we? Who are we? What’s gone wrong? We continue on today at Genesis 12 with Abraham’s story and the unfolding of a fourth question: What’s the solution? Or asked another way: What can God do about the brokenness of humanity, the earth, and the nations?
The second sentence summarizing the Old Testament is addressed to Abraham in Genesis 12. And today we will look at how God begins to address the great “what has gone wrong” question through a promise to and through Abraham to all the nations of the world:
2. All people on earth will be blessed through you. (v.3)
What’s the Solution?
The story of Abraham is, among other things, the story of God’s response to the Fall and the brokenness of humanity, the earth, and the nations. As evidenced in the Garden when Adam and Eve hid from God, God’s solution is not to turn away from the problem, but to move toward it and into it. We’ll see this most completely in Jesus, but in many anticipatory ways in the Old Testament narratives. And Abraham is one of the first.
God moved towards us and called Abraham into a new place and made a covenant promise to him. I LOVED Joanie’s illustration of this in the children’s message with pouring the liquid into the container that overflowed into the larger dish. That’s such a great picture of God’s covenant promises. God pours out blessing on Abraham with the purpose – not just an accidental by-product – but the PURPOSE of pouring blessing, healing, and salvation over the world. This indeed will be the big story that unfolds throughout the course of the Bible and finds its culmination in the New Heaven and New Earth of Revelation. There humanity, the earth, and the nations are healed, redeemed, and restored.
Three Promises to Abraham: children, land, blessing
Though Abraham’s story unfolds as a narrative, you can see God’s blessing action in the formulation of the covenant. This is like the vows taken in a marriage ceremony: to have and hold, in sickness and in health, for richer and poorer, and so forth. It’s all vowed and witnessed and lifted up, but then it is to be lived out in real life. So it was with Abraham.
Except in Abraham’s case, God was one making the vows. The agreement was mutual and between them, but God did all the heavy lifting. God and Abraham would be united, not in marriage, but in a special you-are-my-God-and-you-are-my-people relationship… a spiritual family, if you will. And God spoke the vows, including a well-known formula at the time that amounted to “I swear to uphold this upon God and my life.” In God’s case, that meant swearing upon His own name and existence; and it takes on truly profound meaning when you later realize that Jesus was fully God and fully human and gave his life in order to uphold this same promise to Abraham and the world. The passage we read today from Galatians makes the connection between Jesus’ life and death and the promises to Abraham. I am reminded that one of the most-repeated descriptions in scripture about God is that God is faithful, and God proves it again and again.
So God made three on-my-name-and-life vows to Abraham, for children, land, and blessing. Let me remind you of that vow, presented in short form in Genesis 12, but repeated again several times later in Genesis.
Now the Lord said to Abraham,
“Go forth from your country,
And from your relatives
And from your father’s house,
To the land which I will show you;
And I will make you a great nation,
And I will bless you,
And make your name great;
And so you shall be a blessing;
And I will bless those who bless you,
And the one who curses you I will curse.
And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.
Children: God promised children – enough to become a great nation – to childless old Abraham and Sarah. Seeing that promise fulfilled would result in some doubt, some faith, some laughter, and a lot of intra-family drama. Though even in the Old Testament outsiders are welcome into the spiritual family, that welcome is really turned outward in the New Testament with the invitation of all – Jew/Greek, male/female, slave/free – to become children of God through Jesus Christ.
Land: God promised land and a home. Seeing that promise fulfilled would lead to a long and sorrowful detour into slavery, a protracted wandering in the wilderness to get to the land, a fight with many spiritual and moral compromises in the land, and then losing the land all over again because of more sin and disobedience to God. And yet, Jesus comes announcing an even greater land and kingdom, the Kingdom of God, now among us.
Blessing: God promised to bless Abraham. Though we often think of ‘blessings’ as material possessions or some kind of religious good luck, it was a rich concept captured best by the Hebrew word shalom – a mixture of wellness, wholeness, peace, and contentment found most fully when lined up with God’s will and purpose. In other words, you can be rich and out of God’s will and that’s not the blessing described in scripture. And you can be poor and following God’s will and purpose and be deeply and richly blessed. That’s what God promised to Abraham and his children and through them, the world…
One Universal Goal: blessing the world
It is often skipped over, but should probably be understood as the main point: God blessed Abraham in order to bless the world. And by ‘bless’ I mean make right, heal, redeem, and restore humanity, the earth, and the nations. This second major theme of the Old Testament really frames so much of what will follow. God made the world and declared it good. God created us, male and female, and made us in God’s image, with all the dignity and purpose that entails. And God made us for worship and service. Our first parents and then we all over again, fall short and turn away from that dignity and purpose.
We might throw our hands up in disgust, turn away grumbling or cursing, and declare the whole endeavor a failure. Sometimes I think we want to take that approach to our own lives and failures. But not God!
God loves you and moves toward you in faithfulness, persistence, and patience. That is the story of the Bible and the story of God. Abraham’s is one of the first in a long line of God moving toward people. And you and I are included – the whole world is included. God’s desire for you is healing, wholeness, redemption, and restoration. God’s desire for our community and nation and world is for healing, wholeness, redemption, and restoration.
And just as God did with Abraham, He not only offers that to us, but invites us to then be a part of offering it to others. You and I are also blessed to be a blessing. Hear the Good News! Amen.
Next week we dig into what deliverance or redemption means as we look at Exodus and the third summary sentence of the Old Testament:
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt,
out of the land of slavery. (Exodus 20:2)
Some Music Used
- He Saved Us to Show His Glory (Walker)
- O For a Thousand Tongues (AZMON)
- OFFERTORY: The Reconciliation Song
- Lord Most High