Gen 12-50 shows us how God keeps His promise to restore the world broken after Gen 3. In this next section of Genesis, we start off with the life of one man, and see how God works through Him and His family to achieve His purposes.
(A) Out of silence, God reveals Himself to Abram to bless him (Gen 12:1-3)
Gen 12 begins with God speaking to Abram. Out of the silence, in a place of moon worship, God spoke, and initiated conversation with moon worshipper Abram. The God of the Bible is a speaking God! Genesis 12, like Genesis 1, shows a God who speaks and communicates and reveals Himself. Notice that the last time He spoke, it was in Genesis 11, as a voice of judgment for their pride and sin (Gen 11:7). However, in Gen 12, it was different, not to judge but to bless. This is surprising, because a righteous, holy judge is expected to come in judgment. Yet here, He comes to call and bless. Also, realise that God called him before at the end of Genesis 11, but because of his father-in-law Terah, they journeyed out halfway. We realise that Abram had already disobeyed God once (c.f. Acts 7:2-3), but God provided an undeserving second chance to a man who did not merit it.
God provided instructions with conditions to Abram (v.1). he told Abram to leave and go but He doesn't reveal the destination. What did this really mean for Abram? To leave one's country, means leaving behind one's identity. To leave one's family, is to forsake intimacy. To leave his father's house, is really a call to abandon the ultimate security. God called Abram to leave everything.
God also gave a promise with 4 terms (Gen 12:2-3), and each of these were important! To Abram, God said:
- I will make of you a great nation
- I will bless you and make your name great for blessing’s sake -- blessed to be a blessing
- I will bless those who bless you and those curse you I will curse
- In you all the nations will be blessed
Personally for Abraham, of course, God is promising: children and descendants, glory and honour, favour with God as the very Priest of the world, like a new King Adam, and the redemption of the whole cursed world. These blessings are surprising because for the first time in Genesis, we see the repetition of the idea of blessing. Here too, we see that God desires to bless everyone. But at the same time, He has a specific way of mediating His blessings -- through one man. This is a God that loves this world, and desires to bless it richly.
(B) Out of faith, Abram responds to God’s word in spite of risks and obstacles (Gen 12:4-6).
How did Abram respond (Gen 12:4)? In Gal 3:8, Paul said that Abraham had faith and believed the declared word of God as God called and preached to Abraham in Gen 12. In doing so, Paul said, God declared Abram righteous and received him just as He promised. Therefore, Abraham's action in going, is in faith. These verses show us something about the nature of faith. Faith is anchored in something, and it is impossible to just "have faith" in faith. Abraham's faith was rooted in God's words, and he obeyed wholeheartedly in response to what had been said, trusting that God will keep His promise.What, is your faith based on? How do you make decisions in your life? What is the object of your faith?
The writer of Genesis not only showed us that Abram's faith was anchored in God and he trusted in God's promises, but sometimes this faith does not guarantee that things are easy and smooth sailing. Abram brought his family and his entire life along. It was risky also because he is giving up the security that allowed him to build up such wealth. And all this on the basis of a simple "Go". Would you? The only logical reason why anyone would do this is faith, faith in a God that he has encountered and know to be real, as we have already said. Abram realised that if He had spoken, all the risk and sacrifice would be worth it.
Responding to God's call meant great uncertainties, and the path that God took him through also led to Moreh (a centre of religious divination) and Canaan (a strong military city). God brought them right into this place! This is no different from our lives today. God has asked us to trust Him even through things that are difficult, and continue to hope in something that will come only in the future. What He said and promised, He will do if we trust His promises, stay the course and continue to take God at his word.
(C) Out of the world, Abram worships God on a journey of faith (Gen 12:7-9)
Knowing these difficulties – God was gracious and kind to reassure Abram in verse 7. He appears to him for the third time, and He reiterates the promise He made in verses 1-2 of the Abrahamic Covenant, this time combining the themes of offspring/nation with land as assurance. Do you see that this is a personal and kind God? He knows when we need to be encouraged, and He provides such encouragements! How kind is God to strengthen our faith in the face of obstacles! Can you remember what it was like when God first called you to himself, and how, along the way, He revealed himself and encouraged you at other key moments?
As a response, Abram builds two altars of worship as a sign of worshiping and trusting God. In verse 7 he builds one in Shechem where God appeared to him. These altars are lasting testimonies of faith. Then as he moved on to Bethel, he built another one in verse 8 and there he “called upon the name of the LORD” a sign of his visible and committed faith to the God called the LORD. This was a sign of his commitment and worship, giving himself without abandon to this God with whom he had covenanted. Just as God had covenanted Himself to Abram, Abram was covenanting himself with the LORD, humbling himself before God and revering Him. The same question confronts us as we read this. Have we given ourselves to God? Have we called upon the name of The Lord?
At the end of this passage, how does the Bible describe Abram in contrast to the folks building Babel (Gen 11)? The people of Babel wanted to settle and build to worship themselves. Abram wanted to settle and be secure, but God calls him out into something risky and unsafe. Abram builds, not something to worship himself, but to worship God. But, through this, God promises to make his name great. We see this fulfilled years later in reading the genealogy of Matthew 1! God's blessings of fulfilment, of land and the promise to bless the nations, was ultimately fully fulfilled in the seed of the Woman, Jesus, that came to make things right again.