This transcript:

  1. Was machine generated.
  2. Has not been checked for errors.
  3. May not be entirely accurate.

This recording constitutes a section of my class on Genesis.

I began teaching the class before COVID caused any number of problems, of which we are all well aware.

At any rate, this recording is meant to be both standalone as an exegesis of a section of Genesis 12, and as an accompaniment to an episode of the Stone Choir podcast, one that will be released, incidentally, the same day as this recording.

It will be in the show notes for that episode.

The topic of that episode is dispensationalism, which is why this particular section of Genesis is relevant.

The section of Genesis that I will be exegeting in this recording is the beginning of Genesis 12, and I will start by reading that section.

It's just one paragraph.

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.

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.

I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse.

And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

For this recording, I will be focusing on verses 2 and 3, and so not the first verse about Abram leaving his country and his kindred, and going to a land that God would give to him or to his descendants more accurately.

Although this does not come through particularly well in English, there are seven blessings or promises here.

The first, God will make him a great nation.

The second, God will bless him.

The third, God will make for him a great name.

The fourth, he will be a blessing to others.

The fifth, he will bless those, that is, God will bless those who bless him.

The sixth, God will curse those who dishonor him.

The seventh, all nations will be blessed in him.

Now, this is an expansive set of promises, and we should spend some time unpacking them.

So we will go in order.

First, great nation.

Of this promise, Luther contends that not only is it gospel, and so it is, but that it is also a most outstanding passage and one of the most important in all Holy Scripture.

I would recommend you highlight or underline it unless you refuse to write in your Bible, which I do with most of mine.

Again from Luther.

First of all, you should consider that what the Lord promises Abraham here is altogether impossible, unbelievable, and untrue if you follow reason, because it cannot be seen.

If the Lord has something like this in mind for Abraham, why does he not let him remain in his land and with his kindred, where Abraham undoubtedly had some influence or reputation?

Is the way to success easier among strange people, where one does not even have a place to set one's foot, than at home, where one's fields, friends, neighbors, and relatives are, where one's household has been well established?

Therefore the power of the Holy Spirit was great and extraordinary in Abraham, because he was able to apprehend with his heart these impossible, unbelievable, and incomprehensible things, as though they were real and already present.

Such must have been the case, especially since he was already approaching old age, for he was seventy-five years old, but Sarah was ten years younger, and barren at that.

The second blessing, I will bless you.

We would do well to interpret this promise as applying both to Abraham and to his offspring.

But who were the offspring of Abraham?

From Romans 9, But it is not as though the word of God has failed, for not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham, because they are his offspring, but through Isaac shall your offspring be named.

This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise who are counted as offspring.

To some degree, this promise was fulfilled to Abraham personally, for he was truly blessed spiritually and physically.

To another degree, this promise was fulfilled to Old Testament Israel, as they, in accordance with the first blessing, became a great nation.

And, to the fullest degree, this was fulfilled in Christ, the greatest blessing of all, and a blessing in which Abraham participated through faith.

The third blessing, I will make your name great.

Need we even review this promise, this blessing, at any real length?

It is now 2023.

God made this promise to Abraham in the second millennium BC, to the best of our calculations.

Can you quickly name three people who lived 700 years ago?

Perhaps a medieval history major would have an answer for me, but the point should be clear.

Abraham lived more than five times 700 years ago, and yet here we are learning of him.

I do not suppose that history will remember most of us 4,000 years from now.

Luther, perhaps, but Abraham will still have 3,500 years on him.

And Christ himself spoke of Abraham.

The fourth promise, you will be a blessing.

Our fourth blessing is not merely a blessing, but also an interpretive lens for the preceding three blessings, and for the following three.

It is a perfect centerpiece in God's perfect sevenfold blessing of Abraham.

Here we see why God blesses Abraham.

Certainly God blesses Abraham because it is his good pleasure to do so.

But he does so also with an aim and end, a goal in mind.

So that, I will make you a great nation, so that you will be a blessing.

I will bless you, so that you will be a blessing.

I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.

You will be a blessing, so that, him who blesses you, I will bless.

You will be a blessing, so that, him who dishonors you, I will curse.

You will be a blessing, so that, in you all nations will be blessed.

Promises five and six.

I will bless those who bless you, and curse those who dishonor you.

We must carefully note here that God's promises are not idle.

Today the church seems small and shrinking, despised, held in contempt by the world.

But here we have the word of God.

He will bless those who bless us, and curse those who dishonor us.

Well over a thousand years of European Christendom speak to God's steadfast love and faithfulness in his promise to bless.

And the drowned army of Pharaoh speaks to the fate of those who persecute the church.

We know that persecution will come.

From second Timothy.

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

But we also know that Christ is and will be with us, even until the end of the age.

This life may at times seem beyond even the vestiges of hope.

But we know that the victory has already been won.

From Revelation one.

Behold he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him.

And all the tribes of the earth will wail on account of him.

Even so, Amen.

Promise seven.

In you all the families of the earth will be blessed.

Thus far the promises have been more or less material or temporal in nature.

However, the seventh and final blessing is clearly spiritual.

In nature and casts a spiritual meaning upon the first four promises as well.

What we have here at the end of verse three is a recapitulation of the promise of Genesis 3 15.

For how will the families of man be blessed except through the sun, on account of the blessed seed who crushes the serpent's head?

As Luther comments, But now there follows that promise which should be written in golden letters and should be extolled in the languages of all people.

For it offers eternal treasures, for it cannot be understood in a material sense, namely, that it would be confined to this people only as the previous blessings perhaps were.

But if, as the words clearly indicate, this promise is to be extended to all nations or families of the earth, who else shall we say has dispensed this blessing among all nations except the son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ?

Luther actually goes further and reasons out the nature of the promise and Christ's work from these verses.

And in doing so he is well supported.

For clearly only a true man, who was and is more than mere man, could proceed from Abraham, and yet bless all humanity, including Abraham.

If I were tasked with pulling from scripture ten sections to summarize what and why we believe, this would be the second or the third.

Even if there is some danger in using a third of one's allowance before leaving the first of sixty-six books, these promises are properly understood as applying to the church, and what a beautiful set they form.

We begin with the promise to form from Abraham a great nation, and we end with a clarification of what kind of nation this will be.

Note carefully the language, and the ESV does in fact capture this.

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.

I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse.

And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

Abraham will be a great nation, but all the families of the world will be blessed in him.

Scripture does not usually speak of families in this context, for the usual term is nation, which is to say ethnos, or in the plural, ethne, instead of pesai ai phule.

Phule being the term for families here.

Why then do we have families in this verse?

Two reasons.

Nations would not work here, for Abraham's seed, Christ, does not bring blessing to all nations, at least not in the sense here in view, because what he actually does is create a new nation, the Church, the true Israel.

Now, this is not to say that Christ's work destroys national identities.

Soteriology does not destroy ontology.

However, it is to say that only the nation that is the Church is truly and completely blessed.

That nation is pulled from all members of all actual nations, which is to say the sense of nation used to mean blood, used synonymously with ethnicity, the sort of nation that is directly heritable.

And so, in that sense, all nations are, of course, blessed in Christ, but it is only the Church, in which all members of the Church are individually themselves blessed in Christ.

And second, we are being told from whom Christ will craft his new nation, from all the families of the earth.

The scope of this blessing is universal, even if some will, tragically, reject it.