Living By Faith

And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that . . . in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed (Genesis 12:2-3).

The promise, that through Abraham all nations of the earth would be blessed, did not apply to all of Abraham’s descendants. It left out Ishmael and his six step-brothers. It would later leave out Esau. Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, had twelve sons, but the means of blessing the world would come through only one of them – Judah.

Reuben’s lifestyle issues excluded him from the blessing. Simeon and Levi were guilty of acts of violence and that excluded them (see Genesis 49). And that, of course, left Judah – through whom Jesus came.

We could leave it at that, but we would overlook another contender: Joseph. Why not make Joseph the tribe of the blessing? After all, Joseph himself was a man of faith and absolute devotion to God. His descendants (through his sons Manasseh and Ephraim) would constitute the largest tribe in Israel – so prominent that “Ephraim” would become the other name for ten of Israel’s tribes. Why wouldn’t the blessing come through Joseph and Ephraim? In fact, according to 1 Chronicles 5:1-2, this was a distinct possibility.

Psalm 78 provides an answer. “they [Ephraim] did not believe in God and did not trust his saving power . . . despite his wonders, they did not believe” (vss. 22,32). And so, God “rejected” the tribe of Joseph (or the rest of Israel) in favor of Judah (vss. 67-68).

The thrust of Psalm 78 is to emphasize the importance of a right response to God’s blessings (of which all Israel were recipients), and therein is the lesson for us. The proper response to God’s grace is to trust His way, seek His guidance and follow it, believing that God’s way is the best way, and the only way into His presence.

It’s called “living by faith.”

Thursday, January 17. Genesis 12 – 14

Finally, the story of Genesis begins in earnest. Chapter twelve is not a creation story, but it might as well be because everything takes a turn here. The rest of the Bible will be about the conversation God has with Abraham here.

God chooses Abraham to be His person of promise. The Lord intends to create for himself a special people, a nation of people, a people to call his own. They will be the descendants of Abraham.

Apparently, Abraham did not have to qualify for this promise. Nothing is said about him being especially “righteous.” God just picked him. God’s intent was that through Abraham, all nations of the earth might be blessed by God.

We might well ask: If God could just pick Abraham and bless him, why did He need Abraham to bless all nations of the world. Why didn’t God just choose to bless everyone like He did Abraham?

Blessing would not be without obligation. Abraham was the beginning of the learning process. He would have to “let goods and kindred go.” He would have to blindly follow the leading of God. He would have to trust that God could and would bring about the impossible in His life. He would have to learn to be a blessing to others outside his family and ethnic group, for the purpose of his calling was to bless others.

And so it is with us all. We do not have to “get right with God” before we become His children. We do not have to qualify. God qualifies us with his election. But having been qualified, we must live as the called, not as the world.