Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
Our Old Testament reading for this week is from Genesis 12:1-9. At this point in Genesis, the narrative, which has moved very quickly since the time of the Flood, slows down considerably. The passage of time seems much more concrete. I’ll pause for a moment to consider some scholarly ideas before digging very much into the content.
Some scholars consider Genesis 1-11 almost as a fictional pre-history. They notice that the way people’s lives are described are fairly vague. The passage of time doesn’t seem very concrete. Therefore, some decide that those early chapters are not rooted in fact. Many will consider them as simply a creation story which is similar to creation stories in some other cultures. I find these ideas lacking. There is no reason to hold that a universal flood and a scattering of peoples would not be a cultural recollection in various places around the world. The long life spans described would also suggest that there could be very clear living recollections, passed from parents to children, of real events. Simply because a fairly long period of time is not discussed in much detail is not reason to assume it didn’t happen. The Bible tends to focus on God’s preservation of a specific group of people through whom the Lord intends to bring redemption to a fallen world. The most significant people in this narrative would be those who survived the flood, then the people of the promise beginning with Abram.
Now, what do we see about Abram? His age of 75 doesn’t seem all that old to me any more. But he is certainly mature. He and his wife have had many years of their childbearing age, but have not had children. He comes from a center of culture and religion. There are writings in existence today from the place he was born, from the generation or generations before he was born. This man and his family is called by God to undertake a journey. They are promised a great inheritance, a land, and a people through whom all the world will be blessed.
Without any apparent angst or debate, he packs up his family and follows the call, going to a distant land far from home. However God revealed this promise, it was sufficient to convince him. He goes. And the place he goes to seems rather forbidding. If he is going to become a great nation, he will have to trust in God. He can’t do it himself. Without children, he really can’t do it himself.
God gives him a great promise. God will preserve him and will preserve a people through him. Those people will be a blessing to the whole world. As the story unfolds through the Scripture, we find that Jesus, the one who will save the world from sin, is a descendant of Abram. This is the fulfillment of the promise.
God makes many promises to his people. They will not all see the promises fulfilled. But God’s promises are absolutely real and reliable. As he calls his people, Christians, today, he uses them to be a blessing to the whole world. We don’t always know how that will happen. We are often in a hostile environment. We labor without always seeing the positive outcome that God has promised. But his promise is still present. May we have grace to take God at his word.
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