Faith, Fear, & Future Favor (Genesis 12)
The promise of God to save happens on the heels of the Fall (Genesis 3). However, following that promise, the initial seed provided was killed by his brother (Genesis 4). Then the people on earth were “only evil continually” (Genesis 6). And even following the judgment of the flood (Genesis 7-9) there was no real difference to speak of. Humanity, which had been created to reflect God’s glory, continues in its selfish rebellion, seen in the building of the tower at Babel (Genesis 11).
Still, despite the sinfulness of humanity, God is resolved to save, according to the promise of Genesis 3:15, and Genesis 12 reveals more of His plan.
I. Covenantal Faith (verses 1-9)
The Lord gives Abram a difficult commandment (verse 1). He must relinquish country, friends and family, in order to go to “the land” that God would give him. On the one hand, the description of “the land” is vague because it is unknown to Abram. But on the other hand, it is precise (evidenced by the definite article), because it is the specific land that God will give Him. In a similar way, God never calls us merely to leave our country and connections, but rather to withdraw our affections from earthly things, and to fix them upon things above (Colossians 3:1-2). The whole world around us lies in wickedness (1 John 5:19), and we are expressly forbidden to be of the world, any more than christ Himself was of the world (John 17:14, 16). We are not to love it, or anything that is in it (1 John 2:15-16), and we are not to be conformed to it (Romans 12:2) or seek its friendship (James 4:4). We are to regard it as a wilderness through which we are passing to our Father’s home; and in our passage through it to consider ourselves as strangers and pilgrims (Hebrews 11:13).
Not only does God give Abram a difficult commandment, but he also explains to him the divine covenant. The demands in verse 1 are far outweighed by the promises of verses 2-3. God would bless Abram, and through Abram He would bless all the families of the earth. What God promises Abram includes Abram and his future generations, but it is not limited to his lineage. The promise is limitless and it includes “all the families of the earth.”
Abram’s faith is seen in his obedience: “Abram went forth as the Lord had spoken to him” (verse 4). Because it was the Lord who spoke, and because Abram trusted His promises, Abram simply obeyed. Disobedience, on the other hand, would have been to not care what God says (i.e. “He is not Lord”) or to not believe what God says (i.e. “He is not trustworthy”). Abram also responded in worship to the presence and promise of God, building an alter in the land of Canaan, that God had promised him (verse 7).
II. Compromising Fear (verses 10-20)
Abram responded by faith initially, but it’s not long before fear is marking his choices. Canaan is as barren as Sarai, and the situation doesn’t seem to match God’s promises. Things don’t feel quite right, and as a result, rather than resting on God’s promises, Abram resorts to his own ideas. Contrary to Ephesians 5:25, and the husbands responsibility to “love and give your life” for her, Abram resorts to self-preservation. Still, God is the God of promise and provision, and despite Abram’s sin, he strikes Pharaoh and his house with a great plague, in keeping with the promise that “the one who curses you I will curse.” Once again, God proves that “If we are faithless, He remains faithful” (2 Timothy 2:13).
Abram would again call on the name of the Lord at the altar he had made (Genesis 13:1-4). There, surely, the altar would have been wet with contrite tears, and also with the blood of a lamb. It would point clearly to that Lamb that will take away the sins of the world (John 1:29). Abram’s call was to leave country, friends, and family for the sake of his life and his future. Christ left His Father’s side, dwelled among enemies, yet not for His own sake, but for ours.
– Salvation and the gospel is about individual souls being saved. Yet, at the same time, it is about, “You shall be a blessing,” and, “All the families of the earth will be blessed.” God has both made the promise to save His people from every tribe and tongue, and He also provides us with what is needed to accomplish this task. Have you come to Christ to receive the blessing of the forgiveness of sin? Are you also responding by going out with the gospel for the purpose of taking that blessing to all the families of the earth? What opportunities have you been given to fulfill God’s promise to bring the blessing of Abraham’s Seed to those around you?