Genesis 12:1-8 & 15:1-6
In the Creation story and the pattern of Scripture, there is a flow of receiving what is good from God and extending it to others. You and I are blessed by God to be a blessing. We have been given what is good, and so we give what is good. He gives us life, breath, and unique personalities and abilities, and we use them to join God in His great story and work of recreation… the work of reversing the curse.
Are you a blessing to others? How are you impacting others? What are you extending out into the world? You’ve been blessed. You are in the life-transforming community of Jesus, and you know God. You’re in relationship with Him, and you know the fellowship and presence of the Holy Spirit. You know God the Creator is with you and for you. Is that blessing you’ve received extended through you into the world, into your relationships wherever you go and do life?
In this installment of the Story of God, we’re taking a deeper look at the covenant that God makes with Abraham. This central theme of this covenant is that God blesses us to be a blessing. God blessed Abraham to be a blessing, and God blesses us to be a blessing. We’re going to look at how God blessed Abraham and how Abraham responded to God with trust. You need trust in order to receive blessings from God and therefore to become a blessing to other people.
We need a little background on Abraham before we start. Abraham is a man under the curse of Chaos and the Fall. He’s born into it just like you and me. Eden is no more. There is toil, pain, shame, death, sin, evil, hatred, and violence. He’s from Ur of the Chaldeans (Iraq) and Haran (southern Turkey). Both were regions of idolatry. There were many cruel and fickle gods who were feared where by you would initiate the relationship with them via sacrifices for protection, to assuage them, or to get blessings. You initiated the relationship. And we get a very significant note in Genesis 11:30 about Abraham. It says “Sarah, his wife, was barren; she had no child.” And that barrenness, is where Abraham really feels the curse. Having many offspring was a huge deal in the ancient near east – lots of kids meant you were blessed, you were successful. So that leads us to Genesis 12:1-3:
Now the LORD said to Abram, “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.”
And these great blessings are tied to commands. God starts the interaction with Abraham with directives. God is saying to Abram, “Follow Me, walk with Me, go with Me, and enter fellowship with Me because I want to bless you.” The God who called Abraham, the God who called us is a God who blesses. The first and foremost blessing is relationship with Him—He wants to reconcile us to Himself, to heal the breach, and to reverse the curse. That’s His work of restoration and re-creation.
Let’s look at the promises God gives in vv. 2-3: (1) “And I will make you a great nation. “Great” carries the meaning “numerous” – God restates this promise many times with Abraham telling him he will have many offspring, many descendants. God knows Abraham’s desire for offspring, he knows they are barren, and God offers a promise of blessing that will reverse the curse in Abraham’s life. (2) I will blessing you and you will be a blessing. There’s the pattern: blessed to be a blessing. I will gift you and you then will be a gift to others. (3) “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.” These blessings are big, greater than what Abraham can and will see in his lifetime.
Now let’s look at Abraham’s response and see what we can learn from that. Does he enter in or not? Genesis 12:4-8:
So Abram went forth as the LORD had spoken to him [right on]; and Lot went with him. Now Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his nephew, and all their possessions which they had accumulated, and the persons which they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan; thus they came to the land of Canaan. Abram passed through the land as far as the site of Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. Now the Canaanite was then in the land. The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the LORD who had appeared to him. Then he proceeded from there to the mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the LORD and called upon the name of the LORD.
Abraham senses the voice of God, and he has a choice: to reject or to respond. Abraham decides to respond, to trust, and to obey the voice of God. Without that respond of trust, no relationship develops and Abraham receives no blessing from God. Without trust, without obedience, you do not have relationship with God. When God speaks to you, calls you, invites you, commands you, you can reject his move to bless you. We can say no. And we often do. Abraham is far from perfect, but at this moment he does choose trust.
Trust is essential. If I don’t trust God, I’m not going to listen to Him or spend time with Him. If I don’t trust God, I’m not going to follow him and step into the blessings he promises. Trust is important in this flow of being blessed to be a blessing. Let’s look at a scene in Genesis 15:1-6 between God and Abraham that helps us understand what trust is.
After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying,
“Do not fear, Abram,
I am a shield to you;
Your reward shall be very great.”
Abram said, “O Lord GOD, what will You give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “Since You have given no offspring to me, one born in my house is my heir.”
I imagine Abraham saying to God, “Your promises and Your words sound great and all, but what are you talking about? I don’t see it, where is the promise? Where is the great reward? I’m old, Sarah is still barren. What is the deal?” Abraham hears the word God is speaking, but all he sees is the curse. All he can see is the barrenness. What he sees says something different. The evidence points away from God and His words.
Do you know what that’s like? There are days and times where I feel the curse and the chaos. “I’m living under the curse here Lord…this feels like toil. I’m tired, and this is not working right. I’m frustrated, this is not the way it’s supposed to be. I hear Your word God, but I see the curse.” Do you know that place? But the story continues…
Then behold, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, “This man will not be your heir; but one who will come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir.” And He took him outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them ” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”
Now you look childless Abraham…but you shall have descendants as numerous as the stars you see. You can’t see it now but that is your future…that is what I have for you. Keep your eyes fixed on that Abraham. Keep your eyes fixed on Me Abraham. Keep your eyes fixed on My words Abraham, and you will see it.
And now, the apex of Abraham’s response and God’s great grace in v. 6: “Then he believed in the LORD and reckoned it to him as righteousness.”
Abraham believed the vision God gave him. Abraham trusted His words, and God says this response is “righteousness” (right-ness). This is the way it is supposed to be between God and humanity. This is a major re-creation moment for Abraham. The curse of broken relationship with God is reversed in Abraham. He is now rightly related to God.
And Abraham had good reason to trust God. God fulfilled His promises to Abraham. In his lifetime Abraham saw God miraculously provide Isaac a son. In his lifetime, he did not see millions of descendants. But today, 4000 years later, you and me, God-followers from every tongue, tribe, and nation are considered Abraham’s descendants. God fulfilled His promise and the number of those descendants continues to grow. The Story of God, moving forward, being fulfilled.
Like Abraham, you and I are blessed by God. He has brought us into a right and restored relationship with Him. He has reconciled us to Himself through the cross of Christ (Colossians 1:20). And now, we are to go and be a blessing to others. We are to fully receive and lean into the blessing of this restored fellowship with God. And as we do he will direct us and lead us to become and be a blessing to the world.
If you’re stuck in the curse with curse-filled feelings and thoughts, if you feel distant from God, if you don’t feel blessed, start with gratitude. Ask Him to show you how He has blessed you, is blessing you, and will bless you. If you know you’re blessed, ask him to show you how He is calling you to be a blessing… where and how He is calling you to love others around you–in your family, workplace, school or neighborhood. God has blessed us to be a blessing… for His glory and for our good.
* This installment in The Story of God was written by Pastor Wayne Phillips