1 The Lord said to Abram, “Leave your land, your family, and your father’s household for the land that I will show you. 2 I will make of you a great nation and will bless you. I will make your name respected, and you will be a blessing.
3 I will bless those who bless you,
those who curse you I will curse;
all the families of the earth
will be blessed because of you.”
God made great promises to Abraham, “the ancestor of all those people… who have faith in God” (cf. Romans 4:11), including “a land I will show you,” and “I will bless you.” Human nature might turn promises like that into “God has made me more special than anyone else!” But God had something different in mind. God blessed Abraham so that he and his offspring could share the blessing: “All the families of earth will be blessed because of you.”
Lord Jesus, you wanted Abraham to care about blessing “all the families of earth.” Plant that kind of heart in me, too, as one of Abraham’s spiritual descendants. Amen.
* D. Stuart Briscoe, The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Volume 1: Genesis. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1987, p. 117.
** Theodore Hiebert, sidebar note “The Promises to the Ancestors” in The CEB Study Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2013, p. 23 OT.
The story of the Tower of Babel is one of human achievement. Just before this story in the Genesis narrative, Noah and his children had survived a flood that had destroyed the whole world. Shem, Ham and Japheth had seen firsthand the work of God in their salvation, but their children and grandchildren didn’t seem to have learned the same lesson.
As the story of the Great Flood became further and further removed from their memories, the author of Genesis indicates that people saw their survival as the victory of humanity over the mightiest forces of the earth. Society is depicted as seeing themselves as gods over the earth instead of as a recipient of God’s grace and forgiveness. For them, nature became a monster to be tamed rather than a garden to tend.
So they began building a tower that would be a testament to the greatness of humanity, a visible sign of the power wielded by men. The tower was the golden calf of this generation. It was a literal elevation of the status of human society over the strength of the earth. Yet God saw their pride and, as a reminder that their salvation had not been by their own works but by the mercy of God, foiled their plans for the tower by confusing their languages and dividing them into different cultures.
And then, as today’s GPS reading points out, God did something really surprising: God promised to make Abraham, a nobody, the source of blessing for the very people God had just dispersed. By no means was Abraham perfect – he made some significant missteps over the course of his life – but he accepted God’s call and walked toward God’s purpose for him in faith and humility. Although Abraham never really saw the fulfillment of God’s promise over him, we know today that God undoubtedly blessed the whole world through him.
As reflective Christians, we must ask ourselves which character we would be if we were to place ourselves into this Genesis story. Would we be the builders of the Tower of Babel, or would we be the humble servant Abraham? Do we choose to be wielders of power and might, or do we choose to be used by God to bless the people around us? Do we take credit for what God has done in our lives, or do we give God all the glory?
The choice is ours to make: to honor ourselves or to honor God through servant leadership.
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