God Does Something New
The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you.[i] (Genesis 12:1, NLT)
Through Abram the Lord begins to reveal His plan of Salvation.
People were multiplying on earth. Henry Morris in his research states:
It seems reasonable to assume, for this 400-year period of history, say, 10 generations and an average family size of 8, with an average life-span of 5 of the 40-year generations, or 200 years. . . . The world population at the time of Abraham (neglecting any possible gaps in the genealogies of Genesis 11) is then calculated as 2,800,000, a figure that more than adequately explains the Biblical and archaeological population inferences for this period of earth history.[ii]
If we follow the Biblical chronology, Abram was born in the year 2161 BC or somewhere close to that. Or, if calculated in years after the flood Abraham was born in year 292 after the flood.
Following a chronology taken from the Bible, we assume with Dr. Mitchell that: “Mizraim, Noah’s grandson, founded Egypt around 2188 B.C., a date consistent with both biblical and secular records.”[iii]
Fitting this into overall world history, Egypt was still a young nation at the time of Abram’s birth.
In our present day, when a difficulty arises in understanding world history the practice is to ignore the Bible and treat it as myth. According to the article listed above, in the 3rd century B.C. an Egyptian named Manetho compiled a list of Pharaohs and their reigns. This is where we get the modern chronology of Egypt that puts Egypt as having been established in 3000 BC. Manetho never intended to make a chronological account of Egyptian history. The stones and monuments erected by the Pharaohs conflict with the chronology taken from Manetho’s list. Modern Egyptology bases its timeline on this list. In times of a divided kingdom there was more than one Pharaoh at the same time. By listing their names sequentially on the list, the chronology is lengthened. Because of problems like these, even non-Bible based historians have debunked the modern historical timeline. Anyone interested in knowing more can read the article listed. I am not an expert in ancient Egyptian history. However, I am concerned that we understand that the Biblical account is reliable and is readily supported by the evidence.[iv]
I do not treat the Bible as myth. I believe that World history shows a rapid growth of population, and a rapid departure away from the knowledge of the one true God. The world before the flood moved away from God within the second generation. After the flood, the same sort of departure took place. Within 100 years, men began building the tower of Babel. Before the flood Noah was the only righteous man of his day. After the flood, the situation was not much better.
God does something new at the time of Abram. There is a transition in the narrative of Genesis in chapter 12 when God chooses a man, Abram. God has been working with all mankind. From this point on the story will focus on God working through His chosen people. Abram is the physical father of that chosen people.
God promises Abram:
“2I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. 3I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:2-3, NLT)
God is doing something new. God has singled out a man and has made specific promises to him.
Seven promises are mentioned.
I will make you into a great nation.
I will bless you.
I will make you famous.
You will be a blessing to others.
I will bless those who bless you.
I will curse those who curse you.
All the families on earth will be blessed through you.
From these promises we see that God is going to bless the world through this man. He is going to be the conduit of God’s blessing. This is new. It is new to mankind, but not to God. He planned it from the beginning.
When Adam and Eve sinned, God explained to them the consequences of their sin. In the midst of that explanation God predicts: “And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15, NLT)
From the beginning God planned to save humanity. This transition in the Genesis story is the unfolding of this plan. Abram is chosen as the father of a people through whom salvation would come. The plan of salvation is behind the words, “All the families on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:3, NLT)
At the time of the tower of Babel incident, the people said, “Come, let’s build a great city for ourselves with a tower that reaches into the sky. This will make us famous and keep us from being scattered all over the world.” (Genesis 11:4, NLT) They were going to work out their own salvation by being famous and making a name that would never die.
What these people were trying to do by their own effort, God did for Abram.
Egypt epitomizes the world’s system. The world tries by its own efforts to get the very blessings that God promised as a gift to Abram. Egypt still exists. They came closest to achieving what men had set out to do at the tower of Babel. Egypt is one of the great nations of history. And yet with all of its history and monuments to human achievement, it has not won the blessings that God freely gave to Abram.
Jesus is a descendant of Abraham according to the flesh. (Matthew 1:1-17) This is the central and most important element in God’s promises to Abram. God chose Abram and set him apart from the rest of the world in order to bring salvation. Jesus is the direct and most obvious fulfillment of the promise to bless all the families on earth through Abram.
There are promises to the nation of Israel that still stand. In Romans 11 verse 1 the Apostle Paul says, “1I ask, then, has God rejected his own people, the nation of Israel? Of course not! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham and a member of the tribe of Benjamin.” (NLT) The nation of Israel still has a role to play. Prophecy concerning the end times contains much about Israel and the role she will play.
Israel as a nation has a role to play, but as I have said, the most direct fulfillment of the promises is found in the person of Jesus Christ. These seven promises to Abram are about blessing, and these promises find their fulfillment in Jesus Christ. When the political world was solidifying into nations and the major players were setting up their kingdoms, God chose one man to bless and through Him to shape the spiritual future of the world. Christianity, Judaism and Islam all point back to Abraham as their source. All three try to claim the blessings that God gave.
All people are invited to enjoy these blessings through Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 1:20 is speaking of this when it says, “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. And so through him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God.”[v] (NIV)
Judaism and Islam miss the blessings because they reject the One through whom the blessings are given. All efforts to earn, achieve or grab the blessings fail. Like the tower of Babel and Egypt illustrate, these blessings are beyond human achievement.
The blessings were given to Abram so that the whole world could be blessed through him. The Apostle Paul explains how we are to enjoy the blessings for ourselves in his letter to the Romans. In chapter 4 he says:
1Abraham was, humanly speaking, the founder of our Jewish nation. What did he discover about being made right with God? 2If his good deeds [read human achievement] had made him acceptable to God, he would have had something to boast about. But that was not God’s way. 3For the Scriptures tell us, “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.”
13Clearly, God’s promise to give the whole earth to Abraham and his descendants was based not on his obedience to God’s law, but on a right relationship with God that comes by faith. 14If God’s promise is only for those who obey the law, then faith is not necessary and the promise is pointless.
16So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham’s. For Abraham is the father of all who believe. 17That is what the Scriptures mean when God told him, “I have made you the father of many nations.” (NLT)
Let’s compare this to what the Apostle Paul says about the nation of Israel in Romans 9:30-32:
30What does all this mean? Even though the Gentiles were not trying to follow God’s standards, they were made right with God. And it was by faith that this took place. 31But the people of Israel, who tried so hard to get right with God by keeping the law, never succeeded. 32Why not? Because they were trying to get right with God by keeping the law instead of by trusting in him. They stumbled over the great rock in their path. (NLT)
Before the flood Noah believed God. Noah’s faith saved his family. We know Noah believed God because he built a boat.
Abram believed God. We know he believed God because when God told him to leave his native land, his relatives and his father’s family, Abram did. He left not knowing where he was going. He left his brothers, their wives and children behind.
By choosing Abram, God was doing something new. God had not changed. He was revealing more about Himself. There are things here that help us understand God’s unchanging character. There is His desire to bless us. In Exodus 20:6 He says, “I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands.” There is also His pleasure at displays of trust or faith. These two things are consistent throughout Scripture.
Faith is a confused subject. I hear, “You have to have faith.” I think what is meant is that we are to hope for the best. Faith often seems to be another word for having a positive attitude. This is not what is meant when we talk about the faith of Abraham that brings blessing.
How do we show our faith? Is there anything in our lives that we do because God tells us to and only because God tells us to? Does our faith move us to tithe our resources? Does our faith move us to say no to our favorite sin? How far are we willing to trust God?
When God chooses a man or woman, He calls him or her to leave everything and follow Him. He did it with Abram. Jesus did it with the 12. If God is calling you today, you know in your heart what it means for you. It might mean changing friends. It might mean changing a job or lifestyle. It might mean changing an attitude. The question is: Are you willing to trust Him? No safety net, just step out in faith and trust Him.
[i] Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible: New Living Translation. Copyright 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
[v] Scripture quotations marked NIV are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.