Confusion & A Covenant.
Genesis 11-12, Matthew 6
Now the Lord saidto Abram, “Go from your countryand your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” – Genesis 12:1-3 ESV
Sin remains a problem on the earth. The generations come and go, and the people continue to live in open rebellion against God, illustrated by their determination to refuse God’s mandate to fill the earth. Instead, they chose to do things their own way, ignoring the will of God. “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4 ESV).
What does this passage reveal about God?
But God refused to allow mankind to ignore His will. He exercised His sovereign right to rule over His own creation and intervened, miraculously creating a myriad of languages from the one common language all mankind shared at that time. The result was confusion and chaos. No longer able to communicate and collaborate effectively, the once rebellious people scattered over the face of the earth, thus fulfilling God’s original command. But even in the midst of all the sin, confusion and chaos, God had a plan. He was in full control of the circumstances. Just as at creation, when He brought order out of chaos, God would bring order out of the chaos created when He confused the languages of mankind. Moses tells us exactly how God was going to do this through the use of yet another genealogy. This one gives us the family tree of Shem, the son of Noah, all the way to the birth of Abram. Abram, as a result of God’s judgment on mankind, would be born in the land of Ur. We are given no vital information about this man, other than his family tree. Moses provides no resume or curriculum vitae for Abram with which we might judge his character or determine his credentials. Yet in chapter 12, we read that God chose this obscure individual from among all men living on the earth at that time, and issued a starting promise to him. “Go from your countryand your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3 ESV).
God called Abram out. He chose him. And not only that, God made a covenant with him. He promised to make out of this one man a great nation, and through him to bring blessing on the entire world. None of this had anything to do with who Abram was or anything he had done. It was not based on merit or any particular merit on Abram’s part. This was solely the prerogative of God. Out of all the nations on the earth at the time, and Genesis 10 lists at least 70, God chose one man out of the land of Ur. And through this one man, God would create a great nation. He would provide them with a land of their own. And He would use this particular people group to bless all the nations of the earth. Abram was not given much in the way of details. But He was given a covenant promise from God Himself. He had the word of the God of the universe, and on that alone, he acted.
What does this passage reveal about man?
Abram obeyed and he left Ur. There is no indication from the passage that Abram had ever had any direct contact with God before, or that he even had a relationship with God to begin with. And yet, when God spoke, Abram listened and obeyed. He left Ur and set out for the land of Canaan. The story of Abram is one of faith and faithlessness, obedience and obstinance, determination and doubt. We are not given the story of Abram in order to make much out of him, but to reveal the amazing grace, mercy and love of the God who chose him. It did not take long for Abram to expose his true nature. His was going to be a story of ups and downs, marked by times of great faith and moments of fear-driven faithlessness. When he arrived on the borders of the land of Canaan, he discovered a famine. Not exactly what he was expecting. So he made the decision to move his family to Egypt. There is no indication that he sought God’s will in the matter, and upon arrival in Egypt, Abram continued to make decisions without God’s help. He convinced his wife to lie in order to protect his own skin. Fearing that the people of Egypt would find his wife attractive and potentially kill him in order to get to her, he told her to lie and say she was his sister. While this seemingly innocent decision seemed to work and even ended up making Abram wealthy, it did not meet the approval of God. He had to intervene yet again, bringing a plague on Pharaoh’s house and forcing the Egyptians to send Abram and his family back where they belonged.
God was going to keep his covenant with Abram, in spite of Abram. He was going to bless Abram regardless of whether Abram deserved those blessings or not. Because God had a much greater plan in store than Abram could have ever imagined.
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
Over in the book of Matthew, we read the words of Jesus: “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25 ESV). Here is the descendant of Abram, reminding us that the things of this world, while helpful, are not essential. What drove Abram to Egypt was anxiety over what they were going to eat in a land marked by famine. But Jesus tells us not to concern ourselves with those things. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave a glimpse into the Kingdom of God and contrasted it with the kingdom of this world. He told His listeners, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33 ESV). The people of Israel were living in a time of great oppression, suffering under the iron fist of Rome. These descendants of Abram were powerless, king-less and helpless to do anything about their circumstances. Their greatest concern was for their next meal. They were ruled by the tyranny of the urgent, and had lost sight of their position as God’s chosen people. They had ceased to be Kingdom People and lived like all the other nations around them. They worried and fretted over material things. Their religious practices were done for the sake of men, not God. They were outwardly religious, but inwardly spiritually bankrupt. When God had called Abram and set him apart from all the other nations, He had done so in order that Abram and his descendants might be a witness to the world of the goodness and graciousness of God. But they had failed to live as a people set apart. Their ancestors had been plagued by sin and ruled by a spirit of rebelliousness. They had ended up in captivity, and even when returned to the land, they continued to struggle with a love affair with this world, refusing to live under God’s command and according to His rules. So by the time Jesus showed up on the scene, they were a weary and demoralized people.
And yet, standing in their midst was the very blessing God had promised all those years ago. Jesus was to be the one through whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed. He was born a Jew, a descendant of Abram. And through Him, God would bless all mankind by offering His Son as the sacrifice for man’s sin. Paul makes this clear in Galatians 3:16. “Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, ‘And to offsprings,’ referring to many, but referring to one, ‘And to your offspring,’ who is Christ.” I stand as one who has been blessed by God through Abram. His offspring, Jesus Christ, has redeemed me and restored me to a right relationship with God. Out of the chaos of my life, God has blessed me by placing me in His Kingdom. I no longer have to worry about the things of this world, because it is not my home. I am an eternal creature with an eternal home awaiting me. I have a God who loves me and completely provides for me. There is no reason for me to be anxious or concerned about the things of this world, because I have the covenant promise of my faithful God that assures me that He has my best interest in mind and my future secured.
Father, You are a covenant-keeping God. You did for Abram all that You promised. And You have always kept Your word with me. Forgive me for the many times I still doubt and fear. Continue to teach me to trust You and rest in Your faithfulness. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men