Abram: Worldwide Blessing; Gen. 12:1-4
One of the key things to understand here is the contrast between Abram and what God is doing with his life and what God is allowing to continue in the rest of the world. The pattern goes into the doctrine of separation, that Gold calls out a people for His name. In the Old Testament the key people are the Jews, the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. That doesn't mean that every Jew is saved by means of birth, but God is working through them to be a missionary organization. That is another element in the first part of Genesis chapter twelve. These first three verses provide a foundation for missions. This is God's insertion in the Old Testament into the Gentile world that is in rebellion against Him.
Verse 1 of this chapter expresses the divine plan to separate Abram from the divine cosmic system. We've seen that he is living in the very heart of the kingdom of Nimrod. That provides the context. Then He gives the command to separate and then there is the summary of the divine promise in verse 2: "And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great." We have to understand that last clause, "make your name great," in juxtaposition to what has just happened at the tower of Babel. If we look at Genesis 11:4 when the followers of Nimrod gather together they say, "Come let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves." In contrast to man who is constantly trying to solve his own problems, elevate himself, make something from his own accomplishments independently from God, you have God who is the one who is going to work to make Abram's name great. What this shows is at the very core of a lot of international activity is spiritual motivation. This is one of the things we are never going to get on the evening news, we are only going to get this if we come to it from a framework of Scripture. The most important thing that is going on in the history of mankind has to do with what God is doing in history. That structure begins by understanding this juxtaposition between the tower of Babel and that you have one segment of humanity that is in rebellion against God and that God started to work in the midst of this rebellious mass of humanity with one individual, Abram. And it is going to be through his descendants that He ultimately is going to win back what has been taken by Satan.
As we look at these verses, verse 2 represents the divine promise. Verse 3 summarizes the divine protection. He promises certain things in verse 2 and then He gives protection in verse 3, "And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee." That provides an important structure for all of human history, too: that human history does not revolve around God's plan for the United States of America. It didn't revolve around God's plan for Britain 100 years ago; it didn't revolve around God's plan for Germany under Bismark; it revolves around what God is doing for Israel. We may be in the church age but that does not mean that what God is doing among the Jews is inconsequential. The focus today and since the day of Pentecost in approximately 33 AD has been on the church, a unique people of God; nevertheless the Jews are still God's people, and especially if we are near the end of the church age when things are going to culminate with the church age and with the church and the shift is going to be towards Israel, then that again becomes important. The promise of God's blessing and protection to the Jews is embedded in verse 3. The conclusion is that all the families of the earth will be blessed.
What we see in the life of Abraham as we go through this is four key doctrines that are picked up later on in the New Testament and developed. Abraham becomes the picture of these doctrines. The first is faith alone justification; that we are saved by faith alone in Christ alone. Paul uses and develops this in Galatians chapter four. How do you understand justification? That justification is apart from the works of the law. Justification doesn't have anything to do with personal morality, it doesn't have anything to do with religion, it doesn't have anything to do with church attendance; justification has to do with simply faith alone in Christ alone. The key verse for this is Genesis 15:6, and this is picked up and discussed in Romans chapter 4. The second key doctrine that is pictured in the life of Abraham is the post-salvation faith-rest drill. In chapters 12 through 25 Abraham is going to go through approximately ten tests. In each test we will see how certain problem-solving devices worked. Abraham becomes a picture for the faith-rest drill primarily, but other elements enter in. That is what the writer of Hebrews picks up on in chapter eleven. Also in Hebrews eleven we learn that another key doctrine with Abraham is a personal sense of his eternal destiny, that he is not just living his life in terms of the immediate but that he has a focus on the city that is built without hands and whose architect is God. He is focusing on eternal things. He never in his temporal life ever owned any land other than his burial site in the promised land, but he knows that is going to be his and he lived in light of that reality. Then the fourth key doctrine is election because God chooses to work through Abraham and his descendants. What is very important to understand when getting into the doctrine of election in the New Testament is that we have to recognize that just because God doesn't say why He chose someone doesn't mean that there isn't a reason that He chose someone.
We have seen that the initial call of Abraham took place while he was still in Ur of the Chaldees. So he is at home with his family in the center of paganism, the birth of cosmic thinking. God calls him out from the midst of that and what God is doing is setting up a fifth column in the devil's world. The devil becomes the god of this age, the ruler of this world, after Adam's fall. Now God is going to call out this one individual in the devil's world. The world is at enmity with God, and God has inserted a counter-revolutionary force, a counter-cultural force inside the world. In the Old Testament it was the Jews and in the New Testament it is the church, believers. And we are to function as God's representatives in a fallen world. Eventually through the descendants of Abraham, specifically through the seed of Abraham who is the Lord Jesus Christ, God is going to defeat Satan who is the present ruler of the earth and Jesus Christ will be installed as the ruler of the world. God will have gained back the territory which was lost. This begins with Abraham. Abraham, then, is the key to history and the Jews are the key to history.
When Abram left Ur he had reached spiritual adolescence and he understood he had an eternal destiny, and that was his motivation. Genesis 12:1, "Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will show thee." There are two imperatives. The first is to leave his home and get out of his country and the second is to be a blessing, but they are not of equal weight. Abram has to decide whether or not he is going to respond positively to this command. That is the first test of faith in the life of Abraham. Will he obey God and leave or not? This imperatival form "to go' is used one other time in Abraham's life, and that is in Genesis 22:2 with "Take now thy son." So the first test is in Genesis 12:1, "God," and then there are 8 other tests, and the tenth test is in 22:2 where there is the same command "go." Where is he going in 12:1? He is going to a land where God will show him. He has no clue where he is headed. What happens in 22:2? "Go to one of the mountains that I will show you." Again, Abraham doesn't know where God is taking him, he is just told to go. But the test is virtually the same. What we have in 12:1 is partial obedience, he leaves his country and his clan but he doesn't leave his father or Lot. In chapter 22 when he is told to do something even more demanding there is one hundred per cent obedience. What we see here is that as Abraham goes through this sanctification process there is a series of tests. Some tests he passes; some he fails, but in the process he learns who God is, he learns about his provision, and Abraham hits spiritual maturity and trust in God when he gets to the end of the line. All of this relates to the principle that we have in James 1:2ff where we are told, "My brethren, count it all joy when you encounter various tests; knowing this, that the testing of your faith [doctrine in the soul] produces endurance." The faith there isn't testing your ability to trust, it is testing your ability to trust in doctrine. The issue is: Are you going to be trusting in doctrine to handle the situations in life? Endurance will bring about the completion of maturity. That is how we grow—from test, to test, to test. This is brought out with Abraham, and it is also brought out in James 2 when it talks about the evidence, i.e. living faith as opposed to dead, non-productive faith. So Abraham is the picture in the New Testament of saving faith (justification) as well as ongoing post-salvation spiritual growth. The end result is that Abraham is given the title "friend of God," a very special title that is not given to anyone else in the Old Testament, and it is that title that indicates that he has hit spiritual adulthood with personal love for God.
In Genesis 12:2, 3 God promises Abraham protection, and He promises seven blessings, seven positive things for Abraham. 1) I will make you a great nation; 2) I will bless you; 3) I will make your name great; 4) As a result of this you will be a blessing—imperative of result; 5) I will bless those who bless you; 6) Him who curses you, I will curse; 7) In you all the families of the earth will be blessed. So there are seven verbs that encapsulate what God is going to do for Abraham. What is interesting is that there is this same sevenfold structure when God relates His promise of blessing to both Isaac and Jacob. In Genesis 26:3, 4 there are seven verbs as God outlines what He is going to do for Isaac. In Genesis 12:2 God promises that He will make Abraham a great nation, and by great nation He means a nation that has prominence in the world, not one that simply has size or magnitude but one that has a significant role in history. It is the centerpiece of God's plan in history. "I will make your name great" means that He will honor and distinguish Abraham's name; He will be a man of consequence. In his life time this did not take place, but it takes place through his descendants. And as a result, "you will be a blessing." We will see these themes work their way out all the way through the life of Abraham, that he is going to be a blessing to others through blessing by association. So verse 2 gives us the unconditional promises that God makes to Abraham.
Genesis 12:3 gives the protection. "And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed." The first word "curse" means to treat lightly; the second word means to curse harshly—two different words in the Hebrew. The key idea here is the idea of blessing, that God is promising blessing. Blessing in Scripture relates to the divine promise which may include protection or prosperity or health or grace or happiness or peace. It is not a promise that if God blesses you then you are not going to have problems, that you are going to have health, that you are going to have financial wealth. It is none of that. It is that God is going to provide for you everything you need so that you can have perfect peace and tranquility and stability in life, and it is not going to be based on what you do, on the circumstances of your life; it is going to be based on your grace-based relationship with God. The source of blessing is never what we do, it is always the possession of righteousness. God is perfect righteousness and absolute justice. The righteousness of God represents God's eternal and absolute standard. The justice of God represents the application of that standard to mankind. So when man falls short of that standard of righteousness the justice of God operates in terms of condemnation. When the righteousness of God is met then the justice of God operates in terms of divine blessing. Man is born under the condemnation of God, but when we put our faith alone in Christ alone it is the perfect righteousness of Christ that is imputed to our account at the instant of salvation. God then looks at the +R [imputed righteousness], and because of that +R that we possess God is free to bless us. So God now blesses us not because of anything we do but because we possess the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. This is what happens with Abraham—Genesis 15:6, a parenthetical reminder that before Abraham had left Ur he had believed in God and it was imputed to him as righteousness. So everything that is flowing out of this is a result of the fact that Abraham possesses that imputation of righteousness. It is not his. This is the same reason Gods blesses us: because of our imputed righteousness.
God has given us a package of both temporal blessings and eternal blessings, and those blessings are also comprised of logistical and advanced blessings. Logistical blessings are not based on our maturity. God is going to pour them out to us: the air to breathe, the food to eat, Bible doctrine so that we can grow spiritually. It will be made available to us. Through logistical grace we can grow and advance, and as we do and we develop capacity for blessing God is going to distribute temporal blessings. We will also acquire eternal blessings: crowns and rewards. This is designed as a basis for giving us incentives for growing spiritually and advancing in the spiritual life. But if we don't grow the result is going to be divine discipline and loss of rewards because we don't have the capacity and because God is punishing/disciplining us for disobedience. As we grow in life we see there are two sources of blessing. One happens just because we have imputation of righteousness, and that brings us logistical grace blessing. Secondly, as we grow and advance and develop capacity for life we have capacity righteousness. We call it capacity righteousness because that results in getting advanced grace blessings. As we get the distribution of those advanced grace blessings we are blessed, but also there is blessing by association to others, to those who are around us. So what Abraham is told is that he will be a source of blessing to others and that there will be blessing by association simply to those who treat the Jews well. But to those who treat them lightly—and today we live in an era when anti-Semitism is on the rise, and the new anti-Semitism is expressing itself as anti-Zionism and is very subtle—will be cursed.