Already, we’ve seen that humans have set themselves against God. They have refused to rule creation rightly under God’s leadership. Throughout the rest of the Bible, we’ll see God at work to save his rebellious world, and establish his kingdom, by choosing a human to rule rightly, under him. The message of the Bible can be summarized as “the story of God’s kingdom”. It is all about God the King who rules and saves, and who calls humans to rule creation rightly under him.
As we said in the previous stage, God did not give up on humanity. The Bible tells us that God chose one man, Abraham, and made a special pledge to him (also called a ‘covenant’ or ‘promise’). Whereas at Babel, the people had sought to make a name for themselves, God promised to make a “name” for Abraham, and pledged to him a special relationship. God would make a great nation from Abraham’s descendants, and give them a land of their own. He did this so that in the end, the whole world would be blessed, and humanity’s rejection of God would not go on forever.
The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.2 “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (ESV)
He is a merciful God who initiates relationship with undeserving humans. We also see that God makes promises which we can expect him to keep. With God, nothing is impossible (as is demonstrated in the story by Abraham’s age and Sarah’s barrenness).
Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”7 Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham.8 The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”9 So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. (ESV)
God commits himself to bring blessing to humanity. He is a loving and generous God.
I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. (ESV)
When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself,14 saying, “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.”15 And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.16 Men swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument.17 Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath.18 God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged.19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain,20 where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek. (ESV)
God makes promises and keeps them. He is faithful, even when we are unfaithful. But he also rewards people’s faith in him.
He took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”6 Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness. (ESV)
Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all.17 As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were. (ESV)
Jesus is Abraham’s descendant through whom God fulfils his promise to bless the nations. In Jesus, we see that God mercifully initiates relationship with undeserving humans, thereby ultimately bringing blessing to humanity. Those who trust in Jesus are brought into friendship with God.
What made Abraham different from those who came before him (think particularly of the previous stage)? Did this difference originate with God, or with Abraham?
Thank God for his great and precious promises, and for extending them to you through Jesus Christ.