Bible Readings for January 11th
If Genesis 11 is arguably the second lowest point in the Bible, then Genesis 12 is possibly the second most hopeful in the Bible—the only moment of greater triumph being the resurrection of Jesus. Since Genesis 3, everything in the unfolding story of the Scriptures has been downhill, from expulsion out of the Garden of Eden to fratricide to the Nephilim to the flood to the Tower of Babel.
But in Genesis 12, God makes a decisive, gracious move not to abandon humanity entirely but to move toward us through raising up one man through whom he will save the whole world.
As we meet Abram—whom God will later rename Abraham—it’s important to understand from the outset that Abram is not a righteous man when God calls him. We learn later in Joshua 24:2 that Abram was actually an idol worshiper with his family. Abram does become a righteous man, but in the exact same way that you or I become righteous—by the grace of God, through faith. We’ll see more about that in Genesis 15.
When God calls Abram out of Ur of the Chaldeans (that is, the Babylonians) and out of his father’s house, God calls Abram by making specific promises in Genesis 12:1–3. First, God promises he will make Abram into a great nation (Gen. 12:2), despite the fact that Abram’s wife Sarai was barren (Gen. 11:30).
Second, God promises he would make Abram’s name great (Gen. 12:2). We should read this promise against the contrast of the people of Babylon (among whom Abram was living), who had sought to make a name for themselves by building a tower into heaven to assert their independence from God (Gen. 11:4). God would give Abram a name by grace, not on the basis of anything that Abram would achieve or accomplish.
Finally, God promises not only that he would bless Abram (Gen. 12:2) but that Abram would be the dividing line of blessing and cursing in the world. So, anyone who blesses Abram, God promises to bless, and anyone who curses Abram, God insists he must curse.1 God binds himself to bless and curse the whole world on the basis of how they relate to Abram.
What this means is that Abram is not simply one of the first examples of someone who exercises faith in God. Instead, Abram is something altogether different; he is the head of a new humanity, through whom God will bless the world, cursing anyone who curses him.
But additionally, this means that God is clarifying his promise from Genesis 3:15, that the offspring of the woman would crush the head of the serpent. In Genesis 12, God is announcing the specific line through whom this offspring will come—it will come through Abram, whose family will bless all the families of the earth.
1 Allen P. Ross, Creation and Blessing: A Guide to the Study and Exposition of Genesis (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1996), 42.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.