In Genesis 12:1-3, God speaks of the great blessing He will bestow upon Abraham. In fact, God uses the word “bless” five times in His call of Abraham.
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and 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
Jewish interpreters see this as a deliberate counter to the fivefold occurrence of the word “curse” in Genesis 1-11:
- Genesis 3:14, The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock…”
- Genesis 3:17, And to Adam he said…”Cursed is the ground because of you…”
- Genesis 4:11, “And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood…”
- Genesis 5:29, …and he called his name Noah, saying, “Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed this one shall bring us relief…”
- Genesis 9:25, “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.”
Five blessings, five curses. Interesting coincidence? Or is something more going on here?
I think it is pretty obvious that God is at work, through Abraham, to bless His creation. God promises to bless Abraham so that he will be a blessing to others. In fact, through Abraham and his descendants, all the families of the earth will be blessed. Starting with Abraham, God sets in motion His plan to make right all that is wrong in the world.
This blessing begins with covenant faithfulness and trust. This is one of the deep truths of the biblical story. As we have already seen, rebellion is the problem. Human sinfulness is active rebellion against God — it distorts the image of God in us and damages our relationships with one another and with God. This is the great curse that we read about in the first chapters of Genesis — and sin is a curse that is still at work in our world today.
But here in Genesis 12 we see the solution to this problem: faithfulness — in the form of God’s promise to bless. God’s faithfulness to His promises is the key to overcoming the power of the curse. Abraham’s response to God’s promises is instructive for us — he trusted God and God counted it to him as righteousness.
And today, the key question looms for us, the same question God posed to Abraham: Do you trust God?
It needs to be said that trust didn’t always come easily for Abraham. And I take some comfort in that because trust doesn’t always come easily for us either. It’s certainly not as easy as preachers sometimes make it sound. There are times in Abraham’s story when he tries to take matters into his own hands — all that business with Hagar and Ishmael, for instance. On more than one occasion, he lies to a king by saying that Sarah is his sister rather than his wife.
This is not to say that Abraham was necessarily unfaithful, only that exercising faith can be a bit of a challenge sometimes. And Abraham’s failures are usually the result of his own impatience. He grows tired of waiting on the Lord. God doesn’t always operate quickly enough for our tastes. I guess that’s one of the dangers of entering into a covenant relationship with an eternal being — His sense of timing is rarely going to square up with ours.
But through it all, God seems to say to Abraham, Do you trust me?
And despite his flaws and his failures, Abraham keeps answering back, Yes, Lord, I trust you.
In the hands of an interpreter like Paul, we learn that Abraham is the template of faith for us as well. In Galatians, Paul reaches back to the covenant agreement God made with Abraham and notes that it was founded upon trust. Speaking of Abraham, Paul quotes Genesis 15:6, And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness. Then Paul goes on to say:
Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.Galatians 3:7-9
Paul is able to see the fullness of the blessing that began when Abraham took that first step out of Haran, away from his father’s house and toward an unknown land. What began that day has truly become a worldwide blessing, Paul says, for now it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. The true children of Abraham have likewise responded to the call of faith. Specifically, they have put their trust in Jesus as God’s Messiah — for He is the means through which God is acting to bless.
Yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.Galatians 2:16
The blessing God brings to the world through Abraham is the faithful, trusting obedience of His Son, Jesus, the Messiah. Jesus is the culmination of Israel’s story. Like Abraham, Jesus left his father’s house; he became a wanderer in a foreign land. Throughout His ministry, Jesus will say, “The Son of Man has no place to lay His head.” At the critical hour, Jesus faced the same temptation Abraham faced — the temptation to take matters into his own hands. In the Garden of Gethsemane the night before His crucifixion, Jesus asks, “Father, would you remove this cup from me?” The kind of trust God requires doesn’t always come easily, even for Jesus
But this doesn’t make Jesus unfaithful — not anymore than it made Abraham unfaithful. In Jesus we find faithfulness and trusting obedience modeled perfectly and completely. In that all important moment in the Garden, as Jesus asks His Father to remove this cup from Him, we can only imagine the dialogue between them. But somewhere in there, I wonder if the question came from the Father to the Son, the question that defined that moment in Gethsemane just as it defined Abraham’s life, just as it is the controlling question for you and for me.
Do you trust me?
And Jesus replied, Yes, Father. I trust you. Not my will but Yours be done.
How about you? Do you trust Him?
The greatest blessings of all come when we place our trust in Jesus, the One who completes the will of God — the One whose trusting obedience is counted to us as righteousness. In Him we find redemption, the forgiveness of our sins, and the promise of life both meaningful and eternal.
Do you trust Him?