THE LINE AND THE POINT.
Genesis 12 is one of the most important passages for understanding the Bible. It records the calling of Abraham, from whom the line begins that leads to the point – the point of it all; that leads to Jesus the Messiah.
There are five blessings in Genesis 12, which is significant because there are five curses in the previous eleven chapters of Genesis. God is putting us on notice that he intends to undo the curse, and he is going to use this man to make it so. The first blessing: “I will make you a great nation and I will bless you.” The second: “I will make your name great.” The people of Babel tried to make a name for themselves, but they succeeded only in making Babel a byword and a term of derision. Abram does not try to make a name for himself; he only tries to obey God, and so God makes a name for him.
The third blessing is in Hebrew an imperative: You will be a blessing. You see, God does not bless a man so that he can soak it in, but so that he can pass it on. Every one of God’s blessings is a call for us to bless. Our relationship to him is not guided by our small desires but by his transcendent purposes. We sometimes act like the Lord taught us to pray, “Our genie who art in a bottle.” But we don’t have a genie in a bottle; we have a Father in heaven, and he insists that we be a blessing to his other children.
“I will bless those who bless you” is the fourth blessing. And the fifth is the capstone: “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” This promise is so important that it is repeated five times in Genesis: here; in 18:18; 22:18; 26:4-8; 28:14. Through Adam all the peoples of the earth were cursed. Through Abram, they will be blessed. Abram is God’s answer – at least the beginning of God’s answer – to Adam. The first eleven chapters of Genesis pose a simple question: What is God going to do to fix things? Sin and evil and death threaten the planet. Will God do anything? And, if so, what will he do? The rest of the Bible is the answer to that question (and it’s a very long answer), but it starts right here. It starts with one man. It starts with Abram.
Now we need what film directors call a deep focus. A deep focus requires a lens that can keep an image in the foreground sharp while at the same time bringing an image in the background into focus. In the foreground we have Abram. He is about to launch out into uncertainty and change. He is an ordinary man, with family and career responsibilities, with hopes and fears. He does not know where he is going. He does not know what awaits him when he gets there. He is sometimes harried and afraid. Yet this man is the beginning of the cure of all creation.
He is the beginning of the cure because he is the beginning of a line, a very long line that we will follow throughout these posts. It runs through men of great repute, like David the king, and through women of ill repute, like Rahab the harlot. It runs through religious leaders like the high priest Joshua and through pagans like the Moabite, Ruth. It runs through forgotten people like Obed and unforgettable people like Solomon. The long line runs through a young woman – almost a child – named Mary. Then the line becomes a point: a point of contention for some, the point of no return for others, but the point of it all for us who believe. It is through him that the promise comes to fulfillment: all the nations of the earth are blessed, and creation itself will be cured.
That promise is not an empty one. If we flash forward to the end of the picture – a moving picture for us, but stationary to God – we find these stirring words from the seer of the Revelation: “I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language [Do you recognize them? These are the people of the blessing], standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
“All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!”” That is the end of the story that never ends, and not one of the myriads of people who fill this final scene are extras. Each one – and may you and I be numbered among them – is the result of this promise, the recipient of the blessing of Abram.