September 17 – Genesis 12:1-3


Main focus: Embedded in God’s promises to humanity is his redemptive love for a diverse people.

In Genesis 12:1-3 we’ll see the integral way in which God’s desire for a multi-ethnic people is woven into his plan for salvation. There we see God visit Abram (later renamed Abraham), promising to bless him and make him the father of a great nation, the future people of Israel. Yet beautifully embedded in this promise to Abram is a promise that through him “all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” God’s heart, even in his promise to one people group, is for all people groups.

If you were reading this passage for the first time you might wonder, who is Abram? Here and there, Genesis tracks the lineage from Adam and Eve all the way up to Abraham, the son of Terah. Abraham was born in the city of Ur, an ancient urban center that featured an important shrine to the moon goddess Nanna. Despite being the heir of the promised line (Gen 3:15), Abraham was otherwise a nobody and, most likely, a pagan who worshiped other gods. Imagine all of this from Abraham’s perspective: at the age of 75, a God he didn’t know spoke to him out of the blue and commanded him to leave everything he’d ever known for a place he’d never been: “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to a land I will show you.”

The suddenness of God’s initiation with Abraham is really only topped by the effusive blessings that God promises to Abraham. There are seven here, a strategically important biblical number, and imagine Abraham’s feeling of shock over all these: his family will become a great nation, he will be personally blessed by God, he will be given a great name, he will be a blessing to others, God himself will bless those whom he blesses, God himself will curse those who dishonor him, and through him “all the families of the earth,” i.e. all people groups, will be blessed by God.

In discussion we’ll connect this to God’s character and nature—here we see God initiate, pulling Abraham into his orbit, involving him in the grand story of redemption, and showering on him an overabundance of kindness. Blessing, blessing, blessing; this is God’s plan of redemption, the reversal of the curse that Adam and Eve ushered into the world. First mentioned in Genesis 3:15, this is the plan for the ages sketched out, and in shadows and glimpses we see with it the future hope of salvation.

And that’s exactly what Paul picks up on in Galatians 3:7-9, to which we’ll turn next. There he refers to God’s promise that “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” as God “preach[ing] the gospel beforehand.” The Bible does all the connecting for us, revealing that God was referencing salvation through Jesus Christ 2000 years prior when he visited Abraham out of the blue. How remarkable is that! And how overwhelmed you and I should feel when we realize that, because of Jesus’s work to complete these promises, way back in ancient Mesopotamia God showed up to tell Abraham about his plan to save you.

And not just you, but to save for himself a people “from every tribe, tongue, and nation” (Rev 7:9). Long ago, God made astounding promises to a man who is, most likely, of a different ethnicity than you, but through Christ you can participate in those promises alongside people from all over the earth. By placing our faith in the Triune God of the Bible, you and I place our faith in the same God who declared Abraham righteous, and in so doing we join a single family of faith united throughout the ages across all sorts of demographic differences; we all are counted as “sons of Abraham.”

Brief aside: “sons” is used there to connote inheritance, since only male children could inherit property or wealth in the ancient Near East; thus, because all believers, male and female, are fellow heirs with Christ (Rom 8:17) according to the covenant (Gal 3:29), Paul stretches the word “sons” for his original audience to make a point: no one who believes in Jesus, male or female, is left out of the blessing. Lastly, in discussion we’ll finish by talking about how that core attribute of Abraham, faith, can do this work of uniting, and through our exercise of faith we take part in the work God started through Abraham to bless all the peoples of the earth.

Questions for Discussion

• Could someone read Genesis 12:1-3 for us?

• In your own words, how would you describe God’s promises to Abraham?

• What do you think these promises can tell us about God?

• Could someone read Galatians 3:7-9?

• How does this add to our understanding of God’s promises to Abraham?

• How do you think that key attribute, faith, can bring unity between you and people who are different from you?

• How do you think God might use us to continue his work of blessing “all the families of the earth”?

• Prayer prompt: Thank God for his work through Jesus to bless the nations, especially his work in and through us as a part of that.