A sermon exploring Genesis 12:1-9 preached over zoom during a period of government enforced church lockdowns in BC.
12:1 The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
Abraham’s father, Terah, was a wanderer. Though he grew up in Ur, in the center of Babylonian power and civilization he set off with a dream to get to Canaan. He never got there, he was a wandering Aramean, a nomad tribal leader, a shepherd who gathered to himself flocks and helpers as he stumbled through the wilderness. To this son of a wanderer The King of the Universe came and called: leave the wandering of your father, leave the safety that you have seen so many other men flee to, and go…somewhere, you’ll get the specifics later, leave your security and familiarity and go.
2 “I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
It is wild to see here how God sees us, he sees within us all that we came from and all that will come from us. He sees in Abraham his son, and grandsons, and great grandsons, and great great grandsons, and tribes and peoples and nations that will come from his body. He sees in Abraham Eli and Samuel, Elijah and Elisha, David and Solomon, Moses and Aaron, Amos and Nehemiah, Isaiah and Jeremiah, Simon Peter and Caiaphas, Jesus and the adoptive children brought through him. Abram, I will bless you God says. Abram, I will make your name great. And we know God does change his name and make it known the world over. Abram, I will make you a blessing.
What does that mean? God will take this man and make him into a blessing? That’s his identity, his essence, his being: a blessing. God explains further:
3 I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”
Those who receive Abram as a blessing, those who bless him, will be blessed. And those who reject the blessing he offers and returns it with a curse will be cursed. But even those cursed by God along with those who receiving the blessing of Abram’s person will be blessed because God’s purpose is to bless all peoples on earth through him. In taking the leap of faith that Abraham took, in entering into his family by God’s adoption, we enter into this promise that we might be blessed by him and that we may become in his family a blessing to others. It should also be noted that this verse as well as the preceding one are written in the form of poetry- it is stylistically different from the prose, God takes purpose to communicate this promise beautifully.
4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. 5 He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.
Abraham takes this leap of faith, to trust a God whose promises to him have not yet been proven, and he trust this God and follows him into the unknown, into the chaos of the untamed wilderness. He does not go alone, God calls him to go and he brings with him his wife, his nephew, his shepherding assistants, and everything he has. That weight God will turn for him into both a curse and a blessing. He follows God, and God takes him immediately to the promised land, to a land in which he will make of Abraham a great nation to proclaim to the world that it has a God, that it has a hope beyond the fallenness of the lives we make for ourselves.
6 Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. 7 The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.
God led him right in to Canaan, Shechem was in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Bethel. There was a great civilization, a people much taller than Abraham’s descendants, living in the land. In the midst of their civilization in its heyday God appeared, showed himself to Abraham and spoke: I will give you this land. It would be like walking through Vancouver and God shows up and says I will give to your offspring this city. Someone already has this city God. Nonetheless that is his promise to Abraham. And so Abraham responds to this promise with sacrifice building an Altar to the God who appeared to him.
8 From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord. 9 Then Abram set out and continued toward the Negev.
Abraham then travels through this land of promise and sees it, explores it. And in the hills to the southeast he builds another altar, he responds with continued sacrifice, this time he called on the name of the Lord. When God introduces himself to Moses he says I am who I am. When Israel is established it is only the high priest once a year who is priviledged to call God by name. Yet here Abraham, looking to the promise of which all adopted sons and daughters of God are heirs, calls our Father by his name and worships him. Let us join in this worship as we press on towards our goal. Thanks be to God.