(5) All peoples on earth will be blessed through you – Genesis 12:3

The first eleven chapters of Genesis are written from a global perspective. They record creation, the fall of man into sin and the introduction of death into the world, a universal flood, the origin of nations and of languages. In the account of the Tower of Babel we read how men after the flood seek to make a name for themselves rather than giving God the honour due to him and how God confused their language, introducing many languages, so that people scattered from one another across the world. Jewish Rabbis say that you should not study these first eleven chapters of Genesis too much as you will go mad due to the number of unanswered questions they raise!

In the twelfth chapter of Genesis, the account changes focus, moving from the wide angle lens that takes in the global perspective, to a telescopic lens that shows us one man, Abram, who would later have his name changed to Abraham.

Abraham lived in what we now call Iraq and worshiped other gods, but somehow God spoke to him and told him to leave the town and country that he had grown up in and go to a land that God would show him, the land of Canaan. This was a huge upheaval for Abraham and his family. He had livestock and possessions which he took with him and he went and lived as “a stranger in a foreign country” (Hebrews 11:9), living in tents in the land that God promised to give to his descendants. Abraham never saw the fulfilment of this promise but he believed God, demonstrating great faith, even though the only piece of land he ever owned in Canaan was a field he purchased to bury his wife.

The rest of the Bible is the account of Abraham’s descendants, both physical and spiritual, and how God reached out to them and provided a way to restore his relationship with them. We seek God, but the Bible shows that he seeks us first. The promise to Abraham was that “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3) and to ‘bless’ means to bring wholeness and deep happiness. This promise to Abraham was ultimately fulfilled when God himself came to earth, born as a baby descended from Abraham, in order to restore the broken relationship between God and man through his death. We become righteous – right before God – as Abraham did, through our faith in God and so become spiritual children of Abraham (see Galatians 3:6-9).

Right from the beginning of the Bible, God is referred to as ‘the Lord’, which is often written with small capitals in English Bibles. This comes from the name that God revealed to Moses when he said that his name was “I am who I am”, or just, “I am” (Exodus 3:14), signifying his unchanging and dependable nature. Moses was told to call him, ‘He is’, which is the word translated ‘the Lord’ throughout the Bible. Abraham’s faith was not misplaced. ‘The Lord’ who spoke to him, and who speaks to us through his word, is faithful to his promises and can be totally relied upon.

Abraham’s faith was severely tested. His wife Sarah was unable to have children and it is only after she is past the normal childbearing age that the Lord reconfirms the promise to him that he will be “the father of many nations” (Genesis 17:4) and has his name changed to Abraham which means ‘father of many’. Sarah laughs at the idea of bearing a child at her age but the next year Abraham and Sarah have a son called Isaac, a name meaning ‘laughter’ as Sarah says that “God has brought me laughter” (Genesis 21:6).

Abraham, through putting his faith in God’s word to him and holding on to it, became a blessing to all people. We, by putting our faith in God’s word to us through Jesus, can also be a blessing to many. Abraham became the friend of God (see 2 Chronicles 20:7 and Isaiah 41:8). We too can become God’s friends.

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