When it comes to reading my Bible, I’ve always been a New Testament kind of girl. It seems more practical. More comprehendible. But lately, I’ve been stuck in the Old Testament, discovering that with a little bit of knowledge about the text, it is a treasure trove of wonderful and applicable things to discover about God’s character and the world He created.
When we read some of these narrative portions of the Bible, which is much of the Old Testament, we often read them with the idea that we should find out how we can relate to the main character. What can we do the same or different than them? Those are helpful questions, but not always the the main idea of those stories.
You see, we aren’t the main character of God’s story. God is. Crazy, I know. I was reminded of this again, as I read the story of Abraham and thought to myself “How can I be more like Abram?”. But I felt as if God was pointing me more toward the nature of the God Abraham served than to things I should emulate or avoid in Abraham himself.
In Genesis 11, we start of the story of Abraham. His name is just Abram right now. God changes it to Abraham later on. Most of chapter 11 is the genealogy that gets you from Noah to Abram, but it eventually narrows down to our main characters. Abram is married to his wife Sarai. Abram’s dad, Terah, takes Abram, Lot (Abram’s nephew), and their spouses and heads toward Canaan to settle down.
The Bible makes a special point of telling us that Sarai is not able to have children. Just like today, this can be a big blow straight to the nature of a woman. It can make her feel empty and somehow lesser of a woman. And in Sarai’s time, it was an even bigger deal. The success of the family line depended on the wife’s ability to conceive. The fact that the author mentioned this in the middle of a genealogy is giving us a clue that this will be a problem going forward. It already looks as though Abram’s family line is going to stop with him.
But chapter 12 shows us that God had bigger plans for this couple that seemed to be destined to spend the rest of their live empty-nesting it. It all started with a simple command. “Go.” God told Abram to pack up his stuff, gather his family and head out. He told him to leave everything that was comfortable and normal for him, and head to a place that was foreign and unusual.
And while He didn’t outline all the details of the trip, He did send him with an amazing promise. Let’s just break down this promise in verse 2 to see what God is promising Abram. He’s telling him that if he follows the command and heads toward this mystery life ahead, then the following things will come to be:
- I will make you a great nation. How in the world will Abram father a great nation with no sons to carry on the family name? Hopefully God has something up his sleeve that Abram doesn’t know about yet…
- I will make your name great. Again. Without an heir to keep this soon-to-be great name going, it seemed pointless. But the Lord promises the fame of Abram’s name.
- I will bless you. God promises to look out specifically for Abraham, to bring about blessings in his life. Maybe wealth, or victory over enemies, or a large family. Whatever it is, God promises to demonstrate His love to Abram with blessings.
- I will bless those who bless you, and curse those who curse you. He promises to be on Abram’s side. He’s got his back. And God will make sure that Abram isn’t treated unfairly; or if he is, that those who do so know that Abram has God on his side.
- All the peoples of the earth will be blessed through you. This is my favorite part. It literally makes tears form in my eyes. Why? Because this one is for you and me! The first few promises seem specific to Abram and his amazingly huge family God is promising him, who will be the Isrealites. I don’t know the ethnicity of all my readers, but I do have a good idea that the majority are not Jewish. But God promised that ALL peoples of the earth would be blessed….that’s all of us, Jewish or not!
“So Abram went, as the Lord had told him.” (v. 4) He just did it. He packed up his stuff and took his family and left out for this ambiguous unknown. But why did he do it? Yes, Abraham had extraordinary faith. Later on in the Bible he’s given kudos for this faith, and set out as an example that we are to follow.
Hebrews 11: 8 says “By faith, Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as an his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” And in this way, we are to be like Abraham. That entire chapter (Hebrews 11) is all about people of amazing faith that we should strive to be like.
But where did this faith come from? How do you and I, just ordinary people, find the kind of faith to follow Christ to that place of His blessing that is so far beyond our comprehension?
It has way more to do with where we place our faith than how much faith we can muster up. Remember, it’s not about you and me. The more we know God and the nature of who He is, the easier it becomes to follow Him. When we understand that He is a God of covenants, we can more fully trust Him. Covenents are a big deal to God! The very nature of who He is says He can’t violate the covenant. So His word is as good as gold…and a million times better than that.
A covenant to God is not like anything we can picture on earth. Covenants here are broken all the time. Marriages fail, treaties are violated, promises broken. So we don’t have good comparisons on earth to the kind of covenant God promised us through Abraham.
But read on through Genesis…..it’s fascinating. Abraham did a lot of doubting and lot of trying to do it on his own, and God still honored His part of the covenant. He made a great nation out of Abraham despite Abraham’s efforts to thwart it and do it his way. God dealt with those things as they came up, but it never derailed His greater purpose and blessing on Abraham. God promised to do all the work, provide all the blessing….if Abram would simply trust Him and go.
And because he did, a nation was formed that eventually produced a sweet young girl who also trusted that God knew what He was doing when He told her she was pregnant even though she was a virgin. And from this royal line, the Savior of the entire world was born. He lived on the earth and died to save all humankind, not just Abraham’s direct descendants.
And today, He offers a covenant you. He offers you the chance at a rich and full life in relationship with Him and an eternity in Heaven. All you have to do is go. Whether that means taking the first step toward entering into that covenant with Him and letting Him become Lord of your life, or following Him somewhere that seems crazy, He won’t leave you hanging. Because He is a God of covenant.