Week of Dec. 4: A blessing for all nations
By HELEN AND SAM ROGERS
Scripture: Genesis 12:1-9
The incredible story of God’s redemptive plan for the world begins with one word to one individual. That word is “GO!” The individual is Abraham and his response was that he went! To understand God’s plan, we need to know it involved forming a faithful people – the Hebrew people. God chose to inaugurate this story of redemption by choosing Abraham. Why? Only God knows! But we find a clue in the fact that, without so much as a question (like Moses with all his excuses!), Abraham obeys. There is a great old hymn your class might want to sing: “Trust and Obey.”
There are two very important dimensions of this extraordinary account of God’s call and Abraham’s response, which are both relevant for us today. They are: 1) God’s faithfulness and 2) the human response to God with obedience. For me, the second is what faith is! Trust and obey! Too often we think of faith as believing what we cannot prove, or a series of statements like the Apostles’ Creed. Hebrews 11:1 gives a succinct yet elusive definition. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, and the certainty of things unseen.” Faith is not like a child hoping for a gift at Christmas, faith is assurance and certainty that God keeps His word. God says in Isaiah 55, “So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish the purpose for which I sent it” (NIV).
Now, what is the word God gives to Abraham?
God makes five promises. 1) I will make of you a great nation. 2) I will bless you. 3) I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 4) I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. 5) In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Another great hymn is “Standing on the Promises!”
In these five promises Abraham trusts, so at age 75 he packs and moves with his wife Sarah, his nephew Lot, and all of his possessions. They weren’t old, as we often say, since he lived to 175 and she lived to 127. For them the unexpected move was more like a mid-life crisis! Think about how it must have felt for them to pack up and move to a faraway place – not even knowing where they would settle! God didn’t give them the details – just the promise!
The call to Abraham was specific and personal. God is always personal - however Abraham heard that particular call, he acted! Only later in the journey did God identify where he was to settle. But still the journey continued! They traveled from the land of the Canaanites to the Negev. Can’t you hear Sarah asking, “Are we there yet? Can’t we settle down somewhere?” How do you become a great nation when you don’t have any children?
The journey of faith is always filled with uncertainty. There are many questions, and maybe even doubts about the final destination. We practical folk want some guarantee that what we are experiencing isn’t useless. It is in the journey that we discover the only certainty is: “God is with us!” The eternal Presence is the reason we can affirm, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me” (Psalm 23:4).
Abraham and Sarah would never see the promise of land fulfilled. That fulfillment would wait until a later generation. Eventually, there would be a child. Blessings would come, but always in small ways. So much of our journey of faith begins that way. In our congregation several years ago, one person had a vision of taking food to those who were homebound by age or health. Thus began Meals on Wheels. Today meals are distributed on six routes, five days a week, 52 weeks a year, manned by a cadre of committed people from many churches. The blessings are experienced by many people. As it was with Abraham and Sarah – so it is today!
There is another word which must be said about the promise of blessing and curse. The word “curse” has powerfully negative connotations. One interpreter can help us understand an important dimension to this promise. Those who were kind and hospitable to this wandering family received blessing for their random acts of kindness, but those who refused missed an opportunity to be blessed. Their curse was missing the blessing! People often miss the joy and wonder of what God is doing in this world by slamming the heart’s door to the opportunities that come their way because of prejudice, selfishness, or preoccupation. Every time someone knocks on the door of your heart it may be God waiting to bless you. Think about it!
Finally, although much of what God promised Abraham would never be evident to him in his earthly life, his response in the present would shape the future in powerful and dramatic ways! There will be a new community of faith to carry God’s purpose forward. It will be a covenant community of relationship with God and with each other. That community of faith will be a blessing for all nations for countless generations to come - all the way to ours! For that reason, the pilgrimage of this wandering family becomes a metaphor for the Christian life. It is a journey which reaches out to a promised future, but comes up short in one’s own lifetime. Certainly there are signs and blessings along the way. With them, there is much joy and fulfillment day by day-- but the “promised land” will always be stretched out before us until our dying day!