I wonder how you think of God? Do you regard God as a blessing God, or a cursing God? Would you say that he is a God who enjoys spoiling our fun, or a God that is a delight to know? Does God dish us up with good things in life, or does God take from us the things that are most precious? What kind of God do you think God is?
You see, let’s be honest. The world is a mess. The papers and the TV news tell us that. The personal stories that many of us could share tell us that. The world is a mess. Which makes us ask, doesn’t it, whether God delights to bless us or tries to ruin our lives.
The book of Genesis is asking this question too, at the point when Abram enters the story. The first two chapters of Genesis describe God making the world and everything in it. And the book stresses that God made a good world, and it was his intention to bless it. But then in chapter 3, the first man and the first woman decide that they don’t trust God and that they want to be in charge instead. So as a result, God curses them and the serpent that incited this rebellion.
Those curses explain why life is so often difficult. But those curses also give us hope. God says to the serpent: And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.
From this time on the human race will contain two kinds of people. There will be the woman’s offspring, or seed, and the serpent’s offspring, or seed. These two groups will be permanently at war. But while the serpent’s seed will just go for the heel, the woman’s seed will get the head – one day the serpent will be finally crushed and God’s plan to bless the world will win out.
That’s reassuring, except that as Genesis carries on things aren’t looking too promising. You’d need to read chapters 4 to 11, but after the birth of Seth, we get the flood. After Shem’s children spread around the world, we get the tower of Babel. Each time we get the woman’s seed spreading throughout the earth, things then go badly wrong and the serpent’s seed score again.
God may intend for his blessing to win out. But to this point in Genesis there’s a lot more divine cursing going on than there is blessing.
At this point, Genesis is asking the same question we are. Is God a blessing God or a cursing God? Will the blessing he intended at creation win, or have we messed things up so far that all we’ll ever experience is God’s anger and his curse?
And then in the first half of chapter 12, two things happen.
God promises to bless the world through Abram
The first thing that happens is that God promises to bless the world through Abram. God promises to bless the world through Abram.
In verses 2 and 3 God makes Abram some pretty big promises. The horizons keep on expanding. It starts with God blessing Abram. I will make of you a great nation and I will bless you and make your name great.
But it doesn’t stop with Abram. Others will blessed through him. Verse 3: I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonours you I will curse. Those who want to see Abram be blessed will find God’s blessing themselves. The reverse is true too. Literally, whoever thinks light of you I will curse. Whoever thinks Abram is of little or no importance will find God’s curse.
And then the biggest horizon is that all the families of the earth will be blessed through him. This blessing will extend to every tribe and language and people and nation. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you.
God promises to bless the world through Abram.
All this because God promises to bless Abraham and his offspring, his seed.
So whether someone will experience God’s blessing or his curse depends on how they regard Abram and his family. If you bless him, if you recognise that God has blessed him: then you’ll be blessed. But if you think light of him. If you think he’s of little importance, then God’s curse is all you’ll see.
But which will win overall? Will the human race, by and large, bless Abram and be blessed? Or will the human race, by and large, make light of him and be cursed? Verse 3 gives us the answer: I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonours you I will curse. What God is saying is that a few will insist on making light of Abram, but all those who bless him will find God’s blessing.
The other clue in verse 3 is there on the surface. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you. This blessing through Abram isn’t just for a few people to enjoy in a corner somewhere. It extends to every nook and cranny of our world. God promises to bless the world through Abram.
Do you like Marmite? There’s a scale, isn’t there. At one end we’ll have those who absolutely loath Marmite. At the other end, there are those who take it on holiday with them, because breakfast wouldn’t be breakfast without it. And somewhere in between we all come. Me? I like it, but certainly not for breakfast!
You get the same scale for what people think of Abram and his family. Some hate them. Some think that they are where it’s at. And everything in between. Who will find God’s blessing? Those who are thrilled and absorbed by the way God blesses Abram, right at one end. Who will be cursed? Not just those who hate them. All you have to do to be cursed is to think light of them. If you can’t care less about Abram and his offspring, I’m afraid that puts you in the curse category.
So, who are these blessed offspring of Abram? I take it we want to enjoy God’s blessing rather than suffer his curse. So if that blessing comes exclusively through being rightly related to Abram and his offspring we’d better know who that offspring is.
Well Genesis continues with the stories of Isaac, Jacob, Judah and Joseph. But Israel failed to trust the God who made these promises. In 587 b.c. Israel was kicked out of her land by the superpower, Babylon. By that point, no-one in Israel was recognisably Abraham’s offspring. When Jesus comes, he tells some Jews of his day that they can’t be Abraham’s offspring because they want to kill Jesus. And in a.d. 70, God ransacked Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans. Whoever Abraham’s seed is, it is no longer the Jewish people.
So have Abram’s seed vanished? Will the serpent’s seed win yet again because there are no offspring of Abram to bless? Not at all. Matthew opens his gospel by telling us that Jesus Christ is the son of Abraham. And Paul in Galatians 3:16 says that the promises were spoken to Abraham and his seed, meaning Christ.
Abraham’s seed is the Lord Jesus Christ. He trusted God totally.
Which means that, given enough time, God’s plan to bless the world will win. Those who recognise that Jesus is the one God has blessed will find blessing for themselves in him. Give it long enough, those people who are blessed in the Lord Jesus Christ, Abraham’s offspring, will come from every nation on earth and will vastly outnumber those who are still cursed in the fall.
The question is: Will we be one of those who enjoy God’s blessing? Will we bless Jesus? Are we delighted that he is as blessed as he is? Do we want to know him, to share in whatever he has? Do we want him to be the number one and to be honoured above all else? Because those who bless him, God will bless. Or will we remain one of those who thinks light of him? Who couldn’t care less? Who hasn’t got that much time for Jesus? Because he who makes light of him, God will curse.
Abram leaves home and trust himself to God’s promise.
That’s the first thing that happens in these 9 verses: God promises to bless the world through Abram. The second thing that happens is that Abram leaves home and trusts himself to God’s promise.
Off he goes. Verse 1 had God tell Abram to leave and go. Verse 4 tells us that he left. And in case we don’t get the point, this is just as the Lord has told him.
And he leaves everything behind. His country, his people, and his father’s household. Everything that would have given him security and a sense of being at home.
And off he goes, destination unknown, just the land that I will show you. And he travels until, in verse 7, God tells him that he’s arrived. And when he gets there, he builds an altar. We’re told this is at the site of the great tree of Moreh. The site would be a religious site where the Canaanites worshipped their gods. So Abram reached the tree where the local people worshipped their gods, and he builds an altar to the Lord. The Canaanites may have thought their gods live here, but Abram knew the Lord who made everything, and who really owned that land.
And then he goes on tour. It’s a bit like when you finally collect the keys from the estate agent for the house you’ve bought. You may have done a number of visits when you were deciding whether to buy it, but that doesn’t stop you from going straight there once the keys are in your hand and having a good tour. This is yours. And that’s what Abram does. He goes from North to South, building altars and calling on God’s name in prayer.
There are just a couple of problems with this land being a gift to Abram and his extended family. Verse 4 reminds us that Abram was 75 years old at the time, with no kids yet, and a barren wife. He’s ten years older than our retirement age, and the family hasn’t even begun yet – talk about leaving it a bit late! And then verse 6 reminds us that at that time the Canaanites were in the land. This wasn’t a bit of wasteland going for grabs, it was occupied.
Well the next few chapters of Genesis reveal God’s plan for dealing with those two problems. For now, Abram trusts that God will keep his promise, and leaves home as a result.
For now, there’s something reassuring about the fact that Abram had to take things on trust. What’s more, his trust in God was not perfect. He wavers, as he worries about whether he will be killed in Egypt because his wife is so beautiful. We’ll find that he does that again and again. It’s God’s commitment to him that matters, not how perfectly he manages to trust God. But, at this stage, his broad response is to trust the God who made these grand promises, entrusting everything to him.
We’ve said that, for us, blessing comes only through being rightly related to Jesus Christ. Abraham is our model here. God calls us to leave home and trust ourselves totally to God’s promise. Not our physical home. But we do need to realise, with Abraham that our security doesn’t come from the places we usually turn: our family, our upbringing and our community. Instead we need to do what Abraham did and trust God to bless us as we share in the blessings Jesus himself enjoys. We need to realise that this is where our security and blessing will be found, and to seek these things there and nowhere else.
And it may prove costly. I’ve spoken to people who have had to leave their physical home when they told their parents about their new alignment to God’s purposes through Jesus Christ. And we’ll discover in the next few weeks that things were quite costly for Abram as well. Leaving home was just the start.
So, as we said at the start, you don’t need me to tell you that the world is in a mess. The evidence is all around us. Genesis tells us why this is so – the world is under God’s curse because we have rebelled against God. But the story in Genesis goes back before the curse to creation itself, where we learn that God’s plan is to bless the world he has made. The question is: Have we messed it all up? Have we put ourselves forever under God’s curse with no hope of a rescue?
And the answer is no. Abraham’s seed, the Lord Jesus Christ, will. Evil will be destroyed. One day, the vast majority of the human race will enjoy God’s blessing. But that will include no-one who thinks the Lord Jesus Christ is of low importance, who thinks light of him. If we want God’s blessing, not his curse, we need to do what Abram did and trust God. That may mean leaving everything behind, but we need to recognise that Jesus is the one God has blessed – Abram’s seed. And we need to get to know him so that we might share in his blessing. And as we do this, God’s purpose to bring blessing to the world will come closer and closer to fulfilment.