Blessed to be a blessing

Howard Culbertson
Thursday, August 2, 2012

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Through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed. . . . Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham” (Genesis 22:18; Galatians 3:7).

Genesis 12:1-3 is often referred to as “the call of Abraham.” Those three verses are, however, more than guidance for merely one man and his family. Furthermore, when the same message is repeated in Genesis 17, God says it is a “covenant.” With this covenant -- which also appears in Genesis 18 and 22 -- God took a significant step forward to fulfilling a promise about a Redeemer that began unfolding as early as Genesis 3:15.
 
In selecting Abraham, God was choosing the family into which the Redeemer would be born. God was also asking that family to make a strategic move to the crossroads of the ancient world, and then He was challenging them to be a missional people.
 
This covenant is foundational to understanding not only the Old Testament, but also the New.  We encounter Abraham’s name about 70 times in New Testament writings.  That is not just because Abraham was the great-grandfather of the men whose families became the 12 tribes of Israel. It is because he and his descendants -- spiritual as well as biological -- were to be purveyors of God’s blessing to the whole world.
 
ImageWhen people reflect on the first verses of Genesis 12, they often see only promises of land, many descendants and the greatness of Abraham’s name. To be sure, there are promises of those things in Genesis 12:1-3. However, this covenant is about far more than land, multitudes of offspring or a man’s legacy. This covenant, called “everlasting” in Genesis 17, is about bearing the news of Messiah and His redeeming work to all peoples.
 
In Genesis 12:3, God lets us in on a big dream, a dream of blessing flowing to all the earth. That blessing was not in terms of wealth or health or other things that often cause people today to say, “God has blessed me.” The blessing which God’s people are to pass on to others, says Galatians 3:8 in its explanation of the Abrahamic covenant, is the Good News of the Gospel.
 
There are no “if” clauses in this covenant. So, in a sense, it is unconditional. On the other hand, it is clear that the people of God are blessed in order to be a blessing. As Bob Sjogren and other missiologists have noted, this covenant has a “top line” of blessing and a “bottom line” of responsibility. The message that should have come through unequivocally was that with privilege comes obligation.
 
That responsibility or obligation was re-stated by Jesus in His Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20. The “go ye” of that Great Commission is a re-affirmation of what God had said two thousand years before to Abraham: “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3).