The Promise to Abraham

Whereas the empire of Babel determined to make its own name great, God decided to make Abraham’s name great.

This contrast illustrates the two paths humanity might pursue. Babel chose ambition, pride, and self-actualization, but humanity’s authentic path is found in God’s promise and gracious work. Abraham heard God’s call, believed God, and trusted God’s leading.

When God called Abraham to leave his home country in Mesopotamia and led him into an unknown land, God initiated a new story to redeem humanity’s tumble into imperial violence and idolatry. God called Abraham to inaugurate a new humanity in a new land. Rather than giving up the goal of communion with human beings, God renewed the mission to effect that goal. God chose Abraham; God chose redemption rather than annihilation.

But how will God do this through Abraham? While there are different ways to parse out God’s promise to Abraham, there are three essential components.

First, God will multiply the descendants of Abraham so that they will be as innumerable as the sand on the seashore or the stars in the sky. Second, God will give the descendants of Abraham a land to inhabit where God will dwell with them. Third, God will bless all the peoples of the earth through the descendants of Abraham.

When God called Abraham, this mission was not exclusively for Abraham or his children. It was for the sake of the nations as well. Abraham is blessed so that he, through his descendants, might bless all peoples. God was never simply concerned about Abraham; rather, God chose Abraham for the sake of the nations. Embedded in the Abrahamic promise is a mission with both universal and cosmic purpose.

As we rehearse this promise, we see a new act of divine creation. What God promises Abraham is present at the beginning in creation. There God blessed humanity that it might be fruitful and multiply. There God gave humanity land not only for their own habitation but also as a divine dwelling place. There God intended to fill the earth and include all humanity. The Abrahamic promise is the continuation of God’s purpose in creation. 

The Abrahamic promise seeks to redeem what had previously degenerated into evil and violence. Ultimately, the promise will bless the nations through the Jewish Messiah, Jesus, prepare a new heaven and new earth as a home for the righteous, and include all nations and peoples within the redeemed community. The Abrahamic promise finds its fulfillment in the work of Jesus the Jewish Messiah.

The Abrahamic promise is, well, a promise. It has no conditions; it is God’s commitment to humanity through Abraham. God will accomplish what God had always intended to achieve, that is, the communion of God and humanity through life together upon the earth.

God promised Abraham gifts, Abraham believed God, and God remained faithful to those promises. God’s faithfulness is the rest of the story.

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