Genesis 12:1-3 The Gospel in Genesis: God has Blessed WC McCarter
Inscripturated in Gen 9:27 was a messianic promise that God Himself would dwell in the tents of Shem. After righteous Abel was murdered by his brother, Cain, another son was born to Adam and Eve. The messianic hope and righteous seed continued through Seth down through several generations including Enoch who did not die but was taken by God, Methuselah who is the oldest man listed in the Bible, Noah who was spared during the great flood, and his son, Shem. Shem continued the righteous, messianic seed and was the father of many Middle Eastern people groups known today as Semites, or Semitic, such as the Jews. As I mentioned at first, God promised to dwell in the tents of Shem in Gen 9:27. The genealogy of Shem is recorded in Genesis 11 which brings us to the name “Abram.” Abram, whose name was later changed to Abraham, was the preeminent holy man of the Old Testament. In our text today we find yet another messianic promise. Again, we see the Gospel in Genesis as God continues to unfold His plan of redemption.
READ Scripture- This is the Word of God
Introduction to the Promise Passage (11:27-32)
Gen 11:27-32 forms the introductory paragraph to Abraham’s story. It tells of his father and brothers, sister in law, his geographical setting, and his wife, Sarai. The paragraph has a structure that highlights in the middle of the passage the fact that Sarai was barren and had no children. As one commentator says, “That obituary tightly closes the door on Proto-History. Genesis 12:1-3 will open a new door in salvation history” (Waltke, 199). Because of the names of the people of Abraham’s family, there is very strong evidence that Terah’s family were pagan worshippers of the moon god. In fact, Joshua reports long after in Josh 24:2, “Your fathers, including Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, dwelt on the other side of the River in old times; and they served other gods.” So, it is documented that God called Abram from a family of pagan worshippers.
The introductory paragraph is one of bleak circumstances. Abram’s background does not seem to make him desirable for God’s purposes. He comes from a family marred by the sin of idolatry, and his wife cannot have children. In ancient times, this was an awful thing. “Against this hopelessness, God’s sovereign call of Abraham offers bright hope. . . . God’s grace is beyond human imagination. [Sarah] will bear children not by natural generation but by supernatural life that faith engenders. Through this childless couple, God will bring into being a new humanity that is born not of the will of a husband but by the will of God” (Waltke, 201).
Overview of the Promise Passage (1-3)
The opening line of chapter twelve makes it fairly clear that God had spoken these next few verses to Abram while he was still in Ur before heading toward Canaan and settling in Haran for a time. The following is a quote from the Lord which called Abram out. The Lord was setting Abram apart for a special purpose. Not just a special purpose but a unique, history changing purpose. Here, the seed of the woman, the righteous seed continues with Abram.
This passage is universally known as one of the most important passages in all of holy Scripture. It has been called the Great Commission of the Old Testament. Abram is commanded by God to leave his country and family to go to another place. In going, God would use him to bless others. In fact, God would use Abram to bless all the nations of the world. Now that sounds like global missions, doesn’t it? That sounds like Gospel ministry.
There are seven promises in these three verses of our main text today. The number seven is symbolic in Scripture of the idea of completeness. The seventh and final promise is the climax of the passage.
(1) God would make Abraham into a great nation.
(2) God would bless Abraham.
(3) God would make Abraham’s name great.
(4) Abraham and his seed would be a blessing to others.
(5) God would bless those who blessed Abraham.
(6) God would curse those who cursed Abraham.
(7) God would bless all the families of the earth through Abraham’s seed.
The seventh and final promise of this passage, “. . . always appears in the climactic position, even though it was repeated to Abraham three times and once each to Isaac and Jacob. . .” (Kaiser, 46-47). It is called the “Gospel” by the apostle Paul in Gal 3:18.
The promise made in the Garden continues with a promise made to Abram. Sin has ravished the earth. Idolatry is rampant. There is great darkness, and, yet, God speaks. Just as God spoke into the darkness of the beginning and said, “Let there be light,” here He speaks again into the darkness of humanity’s condition and brings forth one who will continue His initial messianic promise. The Lord does not forget His promises. His word is true and steadfast. Nothing can thwart the plan of God. What he intended to do to reverse the effects of sin and Satan will be done. He will use Abraham and Sarah to bless the whole world. All the families of the earth will be blessed. From every nation, tribe, and tongue there will be people redeemed by the One that God will raise up. God singles on one family, one man, but will bless him so that he will be a blessing to all families and men of the earth. The Jews would bless the Gentiles.
Conclusion to the Promise Passage (4)
Can you imagine the excitement that must have been building in Abram’s soul? Surely when the Lord spoke to him he was in awe, overwhelmed by the grace of God, adrenaline was pumping through his body, the hairs on the back of his neck were standing up, he was surely giddy with great enthusiasm until. . . wait a minute. . . Abram’s wife, Sarai, is barren. . . she cannot have children. . . and the couple is old, past child-bearing age. . . Abram is 75 years old.
There is no doubt in my mind that Abram puts his faith in God at this point. Verse four says, “So Abram departed as the Lord had spoken to him.” He did exactly as the Lord had told him despite how painful it may have been, or uncomfortable, or costly. Abram did as the Lord commanded. He trusted the word of the Lord. He obeyed the word of the Lord. There is no covenant here, that will come a few chapters later. There is only the promise of God.
Conclusion and Christian Application
Let us end where we began this morning, “What had seemed as an unfair narrowing of the privileges given to the Shemites [Gen 9:27], in that God would live only in their tents, was to be the very means for extending those benefits to all the nations and to all the Gentiles” (Kaiser, 47). This was truly the Gospel in Genesis.
(1) God is faithful to His promises. He is faithful to His word. When He spoke to the serpent in the Garden, that promise had you in mind. When He blessed Abraham, He had the intention to bless you, and He has blessed you. We preach the completed work of Christ today saying, “God has blessed.”
(2) God has always been a world-wide God. He has always desired that none would perish; red, yellow, black, and white; English speaking, Spanish speaking, German speaking, Mandarin speaking. He wills that none would perish and that all would come to repentance and life. Do not give up on your global vision to reach the nations. Continue with the vision, and bring that vision home as the “nations” move to the U.S., move into our neighborhoods, become fellow employees, and their children attend school with our children. God has blessed us in order for us to be a blessing to them.