Sunday, December 4, 2016

Promise

Gen 12:1–7

God Gave a Promise


Long after Noah’s death, God found another friend in Abraham (2 Chr 20:7; Jas 2:23). Although Abraham sometimes struggled with his faith, the overall record is that “Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith” (Gen 15:6; Gal 3:6). As in the time of Noah, the people of Abraham’s time had grown very wicked. God wanted to protect Abraham and his promised offspring from this wickedness. So he promised to give them another land if Abraham would obey and move there.

The wicked nations had been busy with projects, saying, “Let us make a name for ourselves” (Gen 11:4 esv)—but it only made them infamous. God promised Abraham, obey me and “I will bless you and make your name great” (12:2 esv). God also promised Abraham and Sarah that their offspring would become “a great nation” (v. 2; 17:6; 18:18). He promised, “I will bless you” (v. 2) and “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt” (v. 3; 27:29; Num 24:9)

God Gave a Commission

The promise “I will bless you” entailed a commission, “and you will be a blessing to others” (v. 2), “all the families on earth will be blessed through you” (v. 3; 18:18; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14; Jer 4:2). That was Israel’s job description, the unchanging mandate for the people of God.

Sadly, Israel pretty much failed to deliver on that international commission during the Old Testament period. Just about the only times they blessed nations were when they were sent there in various forms of exile. I think of Joseph blessing Egypt and the surrounding nations with wise guidance that mitigated the deadly effects of famine (Gen 39–50), or the little slave girl guiding an Assyrian general to get healing from the Lord God of Israel (2Kgs 5), or Daniel and his friends in Babylonian exile (Dan 1–5). Of course, there was Jonah blessing Nineveh by warning of divine judgment, which implied God’s offer of forgiveness if they would repent—but he hated warning them, and he hated succeeding at eliciting their repentance so that God relented with his judgments (Jonah).

God Kept His Promise and Sustained His Commission

God kept the promise and made a great nation of Abraham’s offspring. Indeed, by the time of David and Solomon, Israel had become an empire. But even this imperial hope failed, because Israel’s sin led to exile and to the death of the Davidic dynasty. Nonetheless, God sustained the promise, if only because the commission could not be allowed to fail.

When Jesus was born, he became the most important descendant that Abraham and Sarah would ever have. And he fulfilled the mandate to bless the nations. He taught about God’s love not only for all Israel but also for all the nations. In an overly Jewish temple, he reminded his fellow-worshipers, of Isaiah’s proclamation that the Lord’s “Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations”(Mark 11:17; Isa 56:7).

And he made sure that this task became the church’s commission as well. The resurrected Jesus reminded his disciples of the Old Testament promise, “This message would be proclaimed in the authority of his name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent’” (Luke 24:47). Indeed, he said, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit”(Matt 28:18–19).

Questions, Reflections, and Commitments


  • Ask yourself this question: “What am I personally doing to see that the message of salvation in Jesus Christ is proclaimed to all the nations?”
  • If the answer is little or nothing, then find some way of responding to the rebuke implied in that unsatisfactory answer.
  • Discuss with your children what the family might do together to “bless the nations” with the Gospel promise of forgiveness for anyone who repents.
  • Perhaps you might like to calculate just how far you live from Jerusalem, where the Gospel started out. This will likely lead you to the conclusion that you live at “the end of the earth” as far as the gospel mandate goes (Acts 1:8; 13:47; Rom 10:18). So thank God that those who came before were faithful to the commission to take the Gospel to the end of the earth—where it reached even you.


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