In the fourth part of our Long Story Short series, Greg zooms in on the calling of Abraham in order to discover the ways in which God’s Kingdom is like a mustard seed.
Today, Greg begins with a look at the calling of Abraham.
In Genesis 12 the Bible shifts from a story of how mankind is destroying itself to how God is pursuing mankind and restoring us.
After this shift we could get the impression that God is a tribal God. There are portraits in the Old Testament narrative that can seem to point towards this. While sometimes glimpses of truth emerge (as in Amos 9:7 “Are you not like the Cushites to me, O people of Israel?” declares the Lord. “Did I not bring up Israel from the land of Egypt, and the Philistines from Caphtor and the Syrians from Kir?”), God does not lobotomize people to think true thoughts.
As Greg explains, no one had a view of a God who was equally for all people. The view that Amos 9:7 supposes is radical and unprecedented.
In Genesis 12:1-3 we see how God starts small like a mustard seed:
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and pin you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
The Israelites were always meant for the benefit of the entire globe, not just themselves. It is a fundamental kingdom principle is that if we are blessed we should enjoy it and use it to bless others.
Paul comments on Abraham’s story in Galatians 3:16-18
To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.
Paul argues from Jesus to highlight the text. Not the other way around. If anyone believes how Abraham believed towards Jesus, then they become the seed. Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise of Abraham.
Further, Paul argues in Galatians 3:28-29
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
The oneness we have in Christ is to be manifest across any and all human-contrived lines. All right relatedness comes through Christ. Everything else is considered null and void. God loves Israel and all the peoples of world. We are to do the same. What God is doing transcends race, nationalities, and property. Racism is particularly demonic because it cuts to the core of this amazing gospel message.
Greg then poses the questions: Why did God choose Abraham? What could have happened if Abraham said no? Were there others God called?
Take Genesis 11:27-32
Now these are the generations of Terah. Terah fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran fathered Lot. Haran died in the presence of his father Terah in the land of his kindred, in Ur of the Chaldeans. And Abram and Nahor took wives. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran the father of Milcah and Iscah. Now Sarai was barren; she had no child.
Terah took Abram his son and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife, and they went forth together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan, but when they came to Haran, they settled there. The days of Terah were 205 years, and Terah died in Haran.
Greg points out that Terah left Ur and headed towards the promise land, but for some reason he stopped in Haran. Some scholars speculated that it was possible God originally called Terah to go to Canaan, but Terah somehow got sidetracked.
Greg also notes how all the heroes of the Bible have their flaws. Abraham lied about his wife being his sister out of fear that the Pharaoh would kill him to have her. Noah gets drunk, passes out naked, and curses his son. David has all the women in the world and still sleeps with Bathsheba. Moses kills a man. This reveals how God works with and uses flawed and sinful people. We have all screwed up in our various minor or major ways, but our identity is not defined by the messes we create, but by Christ crucified. No matter how terrible or ugly your screw up, God is not done with you. Satan, the accuser, wants to use our screw ups to take us out. We don’t have to trust our brain, which is damaged, we can trust Jesus. Jesus paid all the death consequences of sin. When we think we need to pay for our own sin, we act as if the cross wasn’t enough.
Greg end by encouraging us to start serving and get back in the game. The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead lives in us. When we take a hit, fear and shame will seek to keep us in chains, but when we fall, we are to as soon as possible get back up, knowing that fear, shame, and death have been defeated. The most vulnerable person is the person who is idle.
Lastly, it was not until decades past the initial promising of a child that Isaac was born. Trust between Abraham and God was developed during these years, but God wasn’t in a hurry. Down the road Abraham’s descendants were slaves in Egypt for 400 years during which God’s promise of being a great nation seemed hopeless. Imagine at year 300, being a slave in Egypt seeing no evidence of God’s promise. However, God still was faithful. Using that as an analogy can help us trust that even though the world seems just as dark as it has always been, God will be faithful to his promise to bring complete restoration and righteousness through the coming of his kingdom and victory won on the cross.
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