The Promises and Mission of God
Genesis 12:1-9 ESV
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 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. 3 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.”
4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy- five years old when he departed from Haran. 5 And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan, 6 Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. 7 Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. 8 From there he moved to the hill country on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. And there he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord. 9 And Abram journeyed on, still going toward the Negeb.
God giving us grace, today we begin our journey through the Bible from Genesis through Revelation. The Bible is God telling us his story in human history. It is a story about his glory and how he displays and invites us to share in the blessings of his glory. The main character or hero of God’s story is the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible primarily is made up of the narrative storyline and God’s commentary upon that. It is important that we know this, or else we will view the Bible as a collection of morals or rituals or as a theological fact book.
In choosing a passage from the various books of the Bible, I attempt to select one that will shed light on the story of God’s glory in Jesus Christ. Usually this will require that we know the place of the passage in the context of the story. Over the weeks, this will involve some repetition, but this will help us know the various people and themes that God uses in his story.
I.The setting of God’s promises and mission – a brief overview
A.The account of creation (Gen 1-2)
1.The action of the all-powerful, personal living God. He is so majestic and glorious that he speaks the universe into being by his word. Note the recurring “And God said.” Everything is created by his will (Rev 4:11) in a manner that communicates wise design. Everything that God creates is good; in fact, all is very good (Gen 1:31).
2.This goodness includes Adam and his wife. God makes them in his image and likeness. God places them in a garden that is like a temple in all its imagery. God tells Adam and Eve to exercise dominion over the garden and the whole earth. They are to serve him as royal priests—an important idea in God’s story.
3.God blesses the people he created. Overflowing with glory and goodness, God chooses to bless people. God is telling us about his mission. And God also asserts his authority to order and command the way of life of people. Adam and Eve receive one prohibition and a consequence for disobedience that tells them that God can set limits on human behavior (2:15-17). The creation account closes with the man and the woman living in God’s blessing with harmony.
B.The account of the Fall into sin and death (Gen 3; cf. Rm 5:12-21)
1.Mankind falls into sin and death because Adam and Eve rebelled against God and his authority when Satan tempted them. (The rest of God’s story makes clear that the tempter was Satan or the devil (cf. Jn 8:44). Adam did not exercise his authority over creation and order the serpent to stop his lies. Instead, he sinned, became guilty, was afraid, and hid from God.
2.God acts to judge all three sinners, and pronounces curses upon them and their world. Yet at the same time, in the midst of the curse on the judgment, God gives hope. He tells that one day the seed of the woman would be victorious over the serpent and his seed (Gen 3:15). So then, in the midst of destruction, there is a promise of blessing, but it will come through the seed. This is an important idea in God’s story.
3.God spares mankind from immediate physical death, but drives them from the garden temple where they had lived. The way back into God’s presence can only come through a blood sacrifice.
C.The account of the spread of sin and death (Gen 4-11) – The Bible never tells us the extent of time from the expulsion from Eden to the call of Abraham, but it took thousands of years.
1.Adam and Eve have two sons, whose relationship shows the ruin that sin brought on the human race. Cain murders his brother Abel, showing that he was of the seed of the evil one (cf. 1 Jn 3:11-12). His line builds a civilization of godless violence. God grants another son to them, Seth, and through his descendants come people that call on the name of the Lord (4:26). Yet their priestly activity is unable to rebuild the world. Instead, humanity is filled with evil and all suffer the curse of death. Note the gloomy refrain in Gen 5: “and then he died”. Human wickedness becomes so terrible that God decides to destroy mankind (Gen 6:5-7).
2.However, God also gives us hope by telling us about his grace—his unmerited favor for those who deserve God’s wrath. As he prepares to destroy the earth, he selects one man and his family to make a new beginning—Noah. He provides Noah and the land and air animals with a way of rescue or salvation—the ark. After the Great Flood that killed all outside the ark, God leads out Noah and the rest to a world that he has remade. God makes a covenant promise with humanity and the rest of the world not to destroy it again by a Great Flood (Gen 8-9). Yet God’s words tell us of the continuing reality of sin, conflict, and death.
3.Noah and his family quickly demonstrate sin’s evil in their lives, and Noah as God’s priest pronounces a curse on part of his family while blessing the Lord God and pointing them to the Lord God for hope. However, mankind quickly rises in rebellion against the Lord and builds a civilization contrary to God’s orders. In their folly, they attempt to “make a name for ourselves” (Gen 11:4). God easily ends this part of human rebellion by dividing humanity by various languages and then by scattering them across the world. For many, many years human history is the story of untold millions living and dying in the darkness of the “evil exchange” (cf. Rm 1:18-32).
II.The proclamation of God’s promises and mission (Gen 12:1-9) – the call of Abraham (cf. Heb 11:8-16)
A.God’s sovereign grace shines brightly in the story of Abram or Abraham.
1.God took the initiative and called Abram to follow him. Abram was not looking for God; instead, God brought him out from a family who worshiped other gods (Josh 24:2). The line of Seth, Noah, and Shem had hit a dead end in the “evil exchange”. Abram’s wife Sarai (Sarah) was barren. The man whose name meant “exalted father” had no children. They looked cursed instead of blessed.
2.God spoke to Abram to change him: “The Lord had said…” (Gen 12:1). The God of glory appeared to Abraham (Ac 7:2) but he performed no signs and wonders to convince him. Yet the Lord (Yahweh) gave him faith to trust him and to show that faith by obedience. God’s story involves people that trust his promises and act according to God’s words.
3.God’s call involved commands and promises (Gen 12:1-3). As Abram believed God’s promises, he would do God’s will. God gave him two commands at this point and three promises connected with each command.
a.“Leave… and go….” Abram must set himself apart from others and rely on God’s direction. God encourages him by promising: (1) to make him a great nation, (2) to bless him, and (3) to make his name great. God is going to do something new and it involves a large group of people. Regardless of how bleak Abram’s present situation might be, God promises to bless him. Note the connection back to Gen 1:28. It is the beginning of a new humanity. The Lord God also promises to make Abram’s name great. He would do for Abram what the builders of Babel could not do.
b.“Be a blessing.” God gives Abram a mission. Abram and his seed are to act to bring blessing to the world. God involves the new people in his global mission. God encourages him in this mission by promising: (1) that God would bless those who bless Abram, (2) that God will curse those who curse him, and (3) that all the people groups of the world would be blessed through Abram and his seed. Notice that God links blessing and cursing of the world to the interactions of his people with other people. His people will be priests to bless the world, but the peoples must receive the blessing his people bring. This eventually leads to the Great Commission and the eternal state.
B.Abraham believed and obeyed (Gen 12:4-9).
1.God promised Abram the land. Since the Fall, God had not dwelt with people in a place. But now God starts the process of bringing people back into his presence. At first, it is only a small area that Abram could easily walk around. It is not the end of the story. But it is the start of something new and good, because God would choose a place in that land for his temple and live among the people there. When Christ comes, something better would happen. This is an important idea in God’s story.
2.Notice how the promise is made to Abram and his seed (12:7). God started with the seed of the woman, and now it is the seed of Abraham. God’s story is progressing! As Paul much later explains, Abraham’s seed is the Lord Jesus Christ (Gal 3:16). The rest of the story in Genesis does more to identify the seed. Read all of Genesis to see Christ!
3.Abraham responds with worship (Gen 12:7b-9). He does not try to create a new city, but rather waits for the city of God, living in tents, waiting for God to fulfill his word. As Abraham worships, we see the father of believers returning to the calling to worship God. A godly people are reestablished.
Apply: Are you part of this godly people that worship the true and living God? Or are you still pursuing idols? Turn from idols and serve the living God. This will only happen when you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Only then will you belong to Abraham’s seed and be an heir according to God’s promise (Gal 3:29).
Pastor Dave Frampton
The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are featured here at CMC. As a Bible teacher he excels. Teachers and student alike will profit much from his labor in the God’s Word. Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church.