In the previous article we saw how Noah was the potential promised one, building a way of salvation for his house and leading them into new creation. However, like Adam, he took from the fruit and fell and his son's house became a house of rebellion against God.
God Chooses Abraham
In Genesis 9v26-27, Noah speaks a prophecy over his son:
"Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem
And may Canaan be his servant.
May God enlarge Japheth,
And may he dwell in the tents of Shem;
And may Canaan be his servant."
This prophecy draws a circle around Shem. Shem's descendant is Abram, who will later be called Abraham.
The Bible is full of word pictures that captivate our imagination. One of these is how it uses the image of dangerous and trubulent water to describe masses of people who are rebellious and violent (see Psalm 65v7, Isaiah 8v7-8, Jeremiah 51v42, 55, Revelation 17v15).
God separated the waters from the dry land and formed Adam and Eve, placing them in Eden and blessing him
God caused the flood waters to subside and Noah and his family got off the ark into new creation and received the same blessing
God called Abraham out of the rebellious nations, commanded him to enter a new land, promising to bless him (Genesis 12v1-3)
In this promise to Abraham God offers to make his name great, which was exactly what the nations were seeking to do in their own strength (11v4, 12v2). Not only will God bless Abraham and his House, but He will make Abraham's House a blessing to all the families of the earth. We are being told to look to Abraham as the potential serpent killer; the one who will bring an end to the curse and give us rest instead.
God also tells Abraham that those who seek to bless him will be blessed by God and those who seek to curse him will be cursed by God. In other words, at this stage, what people receive from God is conditional upon how they choose to honour or dishonour Abraham.
Abraham travels to Canaan and sets about building altars (12v7, 8, 13v18), living by and planting groves of trees (21v33) and digging wells (21v30). He is turning everywhere he goes into a garden.
Another amazing part of Abraham's life is his intercession for the wicked cities of the valley. Underneath a grove of trees, by the door of his tent, the Lord appears to him and Abraham, hearing of the judgement coming upon the cities, prays for them, resting on the character of God.
We are going to skip over large portions of Abraham's life in this article. Hopefully it'll encourage you to dig into it more yourself to seek out these themes.
So far so good. Here is a chosen one, blessing those around him, spreading a garden, trusting and obeying God and interceding for others. Is Abraham the one we've been waiting for? There are at least two big failure moments in his life.
First, not far into the story of Abraham, there is a famine in the land God called him to go to. Instead of trusting God he travels down into Egypt (12v13), one of the kingdoms of rebellious Ham (10v13). The language describing what happens next throws us back to Genesis 3.
Sarai is described as beautiful and desirable
Abram lies about who she is to him
The Egyptians see her and take her
God punished them
Abram is revealed to be a deceiver, bringing a curse upon an innocent king and nation. This is not what the promised one was supposed to do.
Second, later on, Abram and Sarah, instead of trusting God to bring about His promised blessing, take matters into their own hands. Sarah couldn't have children and she tells Abram to have a child with Hagar, their Egyptian slave (16v1-4). Compare this moment with Genesis 3v6.
"she [Eve] took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband [Adam] with her, and he ate."
"Sarai, Abram's wife, took Hagar her maid, the Egyptian, and gave her to her husband."
Shortly after this Abram and Sarai mistreat Hagar so much that she runs out of the garden and into the wilderness. They essentially drive her out of exile, failing to be a blessing to her.
Abraham and his House would later be commanded to circumcise the foreskin of his flesh, which was a symbol of his self-trust and rebellion. It was only because of the unconditional covenant that God made with Abraham that meant he wouldn't be disinherited like the nations of Genesis 10-11.
We see that Abraham and Sarah are sin-bitten ones. There are times of trust and obedience, but there are also times of plotting, scheming, deceiving and bringing cursing upon the innocent instead of blessing.
You Are/Aren't Abraham
Abraham, even though he failed, is an example of faith (11v8-12) and his example of faith is one of the great defences of justification by faith in the New Testament (Romans 4, Galatians 3). We, however, are not Abraham, we are the ones who need a better-than-Abraham.
We need an Abraham who will:
trust and obey God in every single detail
bring a blessing to all the families of the earth
plant and spread a garden of blessing
successfully intercede for the wicked and undeserving
Like Abraham failed, so we too have failed. We too have failed to trust God and taken matters into our own hands, trusting in our own strength and wisdom. What we share in common with Abraham is our need of a greater Abraham.
Abraham prayed for the wicked cities of the valley, but God judged them because they didn't meet the conditions of the prayer. Jesus, however, doesn't just pray for the wicked, He transforms the wicked into righteous people.
Jesus is the Seed through whom Abraham blessed all the families of the earth (Galatians 3v14-16). As the Seed He is the heir of the Covenant given to Abraham.
Abraham rejoiced to see the day of the Messiah (John 8v56).
Through His perfect obedience Jesus has brought the blessing of Abraham to His House. Through His accepted sacrifice His House now enjoys the blessing of God. Jesus is the One who truly brings the blessing to those who are of faith.
What people receive from God, in the present age, is conditional upon what they do with Jesus, the seed of Abraham.