The Call of Abraham and God's Promises (Genesis 12)
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Genesis 12 presents the story of the call of Abraham, who was at this time known as Abram. God spoke to Abram, saying: "Get out of your country, from your kindred, and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (verses 1-3). From this one promise springs all the rest of the Scriptures. For this foundational covenant, called the Abrahamic Covenant, contains the seed from which grows all the history of Israel and the work of Christ. (Of course, it should be noted that part of this promise goes back to the time of Adam and Evethe promised seed of the woman in Genesis 3:15 being a Messianic prophecy.)
God promised Abram physical and spiritual blessingsif he would leave his father's house and go where God would lead him. From Abram would descend a great nation, a nation that would not only be great in population but also a blessed nation, itself a blessing to others, enjoying God's protection. This aspect of the promise is entirely physicalthe promise of national greatness. But the aspect of the promise contained in the statement "in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" was primarily spiritual, fulfilled in the Messiah, a descendant of Abram, through whom salvation would be offered to all menas well as in the Bible itself eventually being produced and widely distributed through Abram's offspring.
Related to this Abrahamic Covenant is the statement in verse 7, where God promises the land of Canaan to Abraham. But we should understand that the Abrahamic Covenant and this specific promise are actually separate and distinct, and that the fulfillment of one in a particular way at a particular time did not require the fulfillment of the other in the same way or at the same time. Yet ultimately, they will find fullest fulfillment together.
Surprisingly, this chapter that records Abram faithfully responding to God's call also shows him later employing a faithless strategy of deception that backfires. Here we see a pattern repeated throughout the Biblethat it is sometimes hard on its heroes. The Bible shows their weaknesses, mistakes and problems. God knows that we slip up, sin, stumble and make mistakes. Yet "He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" when we repent and admit our sins (1 John 1:9). God tells us that the examples recorded in the Scriptures "were written for our learning" and are examples for us (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11). While the Bible records the sins and problems of many men and women of faith, it also often shows the consequences of those sinsthe problems they and others suffered as a result. It also shows that they were forgiven upon repentance and overcame, and that God considers them righteousas He will consider us if we likewise repent and overcome.
Supplementary Reading: ""Archaeology and Genesis: What Does the Record Show?," November/December 1996, Good News Magazine