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“God alone has power to bestow blessing and give life.”
Year A. Second Sunday in Lent Genesis 12: 1-4a
12 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. 2I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."
4 So Abram went, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him.
February 24, 2002
Title: “God alone has power to bestow blessing and give life.”
We cannot pin it down to an exact time, but somewhere in the early or mid-second millenium BC a nomadic or semi-nomadic Semite called Abram left his native area of Haran in Upper Mesopotamia and went to present-day Palestine. It would have been a quite unremarkable event, one we would never have even heard of, had it not been for the meaning both Jews and Christians assigned it. To them it was and is a defining moment in the history of the whole human race. It has been passed down to them that Abram did this out of trusting obedience to God who promises him three things: 1) he would father a great nation; 2) he would receive land; and 3) he would be a source of blessing for all peoples.
Chapter twelve in Genesis marks a new stage, the beginning of human redemption. The first eleven chapters have laid out humanity’s rebellion against God and the dire consequences of trying to go through life without God. In chapter five we are given a genealogy from Adam to Noah and in chapters ten and eleven genealogies from Noah to Abram. Abram married Sarah, who was barren. Thus the Scripture wants to say that it all ends in barrenness. Humanity can go on for ages and ages, but it will end in nothing, unless there is divine intervention, grace. Humanity has nowhere else to go. Barrenness- be it war, devastation, destruction- is the way of human history without God. There is no foreseeable future, only hopelessness. Human power, apart from God, cannot create or even invent, a future. Then comes Chapter twelve verse one; the Lord speaks his powerful word directly into this situation of barrenness. It is a word, a promise, about the future, spoken to this family without any hope of a future. It is also a call, a call to change, a call to abandonment of the familiar, a renunciation of what was considered valuable, a call for a dangerous departure from the world of what would be considered by humans as “security.” Yet, it was a call to and a promise of a great future, something Abram did not have and could not achieve; on his own. He did not even know where to look.
In verse one, go to a land that I will show you: We are not told that Abram dreamed of a better land than the one he knew. This is not Abram’s dream, but God’s. He will obey a command without knowing in advance when and where he will have reached God’s intended destination. God will deal with Abram on a “need to know,” basis. He will let him know more details when the time is appropriate in God’s estimation. For now, he is to leave the familiar and set out on an as yet unknown path to an as yet unknown destination and destiny. It is so very hard for many of us to realize that God still does that to us today. That is, God will ask us to do something
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