In our last post we took a moment to consider the moment when unbelief (e.g. belief in the ANE gods) becomes belief in the One True God. It’s not yet fully formed in Abram’s heart, but it’s something worth stepping into, and that’s everything to God. We see from Abram’s story that God has chosen this man and He’s got something amazing to show Him. Now that Abram has followed the first command, we’re going to see a subtle shift from a command to a promise, and we’re going to see why that is such an important part of God’s calling.
We started last week with the first verse in Chapter 12 of Genesis. This week we’ll unpack verses 2-3:
And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
It’s important to consider in this context–where ANE gods are so central to belief in that day–to take a moment and first consider how God first spoke this message to Abram.
Most scholars will agree that Moses is responsible for writing the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch. These books were given to him through inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and in verse 1 of Chapter 12 he writes that “the Lord said to Abram…” From the Orthodox Jewish Bible, a short commentary reads:
“Who is this Lord who appeared? The Holy Spirit identified him in Genesis 15:1 as the Word of the Lord whom Abraham saw in a vision … This Word is the Son of God … Thus, the Son also preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, for the Father always speaks through His Word.”
Paul affirms this in Galatians 3:8 when he writes, “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.””
Certainly, we can all agree that The Lord is God the Father, as Paul indicated in Galatians 3:8. The commentary finishes with this note:
“Therefore, where one Person of the Trinity is present and working, the other two Persons are also present in one and the same working for the salvation of man. The Father works through the Son and in the Spirit.”
Abram was not just being invited to change allegiances, he was being invited into a relationship with a Triune God who spoke to him through His Word (Christ) and by the power of His Spirit. His newly formed faith was already being enriched, sanctified, and challenged by the Trinity of God. More remarkable, we find a gospel message being preached and established before we get out of the first book of the Bible!
Why is this so important? When God later commends Abram for his faith in Genesis 22:18 (now called Abraham by this point), He reiterates this promise by saying, “and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” All the nations in this verse tie with verse 12:3 in revealing God’s intention for Abram: he is being blessed so that this gospel truth will permeate ALL nations (nations here can be understood as ‘ethne’ or all peoples).
This is no longer a command, it’s a promise–a covenantal promise scholars refer to as the Abrahamic Covenant. In Lesson One of the Perspectives Course, Steve Hawthorne writes, “God chose to reveal His purpose in the form of a promise, a promise that was both personal and immediately global; to bless all the families of the earth.” And because it was given as a promise instead of a command we see that it’s all about what God does. The promise doesn’t rest on Abram, it rests on God. It isn’t about works or doing the right thing perfectly. It simply hinges on whether or not God is believed by faith. Certainly Abraham was obedient, and God used his obedience to progressively lay out the blessing throughout the book of Genesis. But it was always God’s goal to bring a people back into a dynamic and personal relationship with Him, a relationship that was broken by The Fall in Genesis 3. And through the first promise to Abram we find a gospel that is also subtly and progressively revealed throughout the Old Testament. It was never meant for Israel alone, but for all people.
Abraham truly is the father of our faith. He believed in God, and God made his name great, just as He said He would: no bricks, no towers, no man-made things accomplished, or checklists to follow. Just faith.
It can be difficult for us to imagine that faith is so central to God’s promises. We expect to do something for Him, to WOW Him or to be better at Bible reading, intercession, or church attendance. While all these things are certainly important, what God desires more than anything is a relationship with you. How might this truth challenge your own faith to grow deeper in your walk with our amazing Triune God?