Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Call (Genesis 12:1-9)

If you were to make a list of all the most important, influential Bible passages, Genesis 12:1-9 would be near the top of the list. In particular, verses 1-3 are vital in the overarching story and theology that the Bible is communicating. It is here where we clearly see that the Creator is a missionary God and His people are to be a missionary people.

God calls Abram (as he is called at this point) and Abram follows his calling. That is the essence of this passage. It is this act of obedience, signaling a trust in God, that the Bible highlights as what God wants from people: faith. Do we trust God enough to live as He asks us to, or do we insist on doing things the way we see fit? That is the question at the heart of the Gospel.

More precisely, God calls Abram to GO. This cannot be overemphasized. All the verbs in God’s call to Abram hinge on this first verb. Abram is to GO so that God will bless him, and through him, the rest of humanity. And the GOing is not just the thing God wants of Abram. It is what God calls all His people to as well. The key calling that Jesus gives all His followers later in the New Covenant is also to GO. Here in Genesis we will be focusing on just three key characters: Abram (Abraham), Jacob (Israel), and Joseph (Zaphenath-Paneah). All three of them leave their home and family. All three of them undergo a loss of culture and a dramatic change of circumstances orchestrated by God. God wants His people to GO wherever He leads them, and that is rarely (if ever) to stay where they are.

God’s promise to Abram in return for his trust is four fold:

God will make Abram into a great nation.

God will bless Abram.

God will make his name great, so that he will become a blessing.

God will bless all peoples through Abram.

These are the sorts of things that humanity—in it rebellion—is striving to attain. These are the things that humanity is continually failing to attain. These are the things that only God, and a life with Him as He intended it to be lived, can give. The whole Bible is written and assembled to tell the story of how God accomplished this blessing through Abram and his descendant, Jesus.

Perhaps the second most important and interesting aspect of this calling and blessing, aside from the faith-GO issue, is the idea that Abram will be God’s blessing. The issue of blessing is hugely important in Genesis and in Biblical theology. It is the idea that God helps His people and shows them favor. Success in life is blessing. And yet, the idea here is that Abram will be blessed in order that he will in turn be a blessing to others.

It is common practice in some branches of Christianity to invoke the blessing of Numbers 6:24-26. Perhaps it would be better to look to Genesis 12. Rather than praying for God’s blessings on us, it is more in keeping with God’s calling to pray that God will use us and make us into a blessing for those around us.

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