Wednesday, January 29, 2014

6 Themes of Genesis 12, Part 1

There are many ways to arrange a sermon for Genesis 12. I've chosen to divide it up based on the 6 major themes I've seen in the chapter. This consisted of two sermons, and so we'll make it into two separate blog posts. Each post is just a small overview of the sermon.

Here are the first 3 themes* (covering Genesis 11:27-12:3):

1. Grace - Don't forget Genesis 1-11!  We have the story in those chapters of God creating the heavens and the earth ex nihilo, out of nothing.  When He is finished God declares His creation very good and then rests on the 7th day.  From chapters 3-11 we have the story of man's fall, and the ever worsening condition of mankind.  A global flood destroys all but 8 people, but it doesn't destroy sin.  Barely a century after the flood mankind tries to build a tower heaven resulting in God's dispersing of the nations.

How should we expect Chapter 12 to start? More judgment? Mankind continues to show its wickedness despite God's goodness but God shows us man's wickedness won't have the final say.  God shows us His original plans and purposes for mankind will not be thwarted.  And out of nowhere God calls a man born in a pagan land to leave all that he knows and to trust Him.

That's grace.  Abram didn't pursue God, God pursued Abram.  If we really want to be a "seeker friendly" church then we should align ourselves with the One, and only, Seeker, God Almighty (see Rom. 3:10-18).  Despite man's depravity, despite Abram's depravity, God chose to save him to accomplish His good purposes.  That's what grace does.  It comes out of nowhere and sweeps us off our feet.  Or, ask Paul, it knocks us, quite literally in his case, off our high horse.

2. Blessing - We want to be careful here in light of the prosperity gospel that is permeating our society. Yet, we also need to be boldly biblical.  God delights to bless.  God does bless. Blessing is manifestation of God's favor. God was blessing before the fall (1:28) and he continues to bless after the fall.

Reread Genesis 12:1-3. Notice: I will make. I will bless. You will be a blessing. I will bless. In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

God has the right to bless and His blessing is better than man's.  Notice for example in 11:4 the people wanted to make a name for themselves, and in Genesis 12:2 God promises to make a name for Abram.  Which turned out better?

A couple of more points here.  1st, why did God bless Abram according to verse 2? So that he will be a blessing.  A quick application point is this: God doesn't bless you or make your name great for the sole purpose of you having a great name - it's to show His great name.  Use your blessings to bless others.

But a 2nd point I'd like to make, and one that shatters the prosperity gospel to pieces, is this: The ultimate blessings in this life are not material. “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”  Think on that for a bit.  Are all families of the earth blessed because of Abram's physical blessings?  No way.  We know this verse alludes to Christ.  This is why the prosperity Gospel is whack.  You don't come to Christ for material things.  Come to Christ for Christ, He is the most treasurable blessing, for in Him there is life and He is infinitely glorious. He is the only true satisfaction for our restless hearts.  If the blessing in verse 3 means we are better off simply because Israel became a semi-dominate nation in the Middle East for a few decades 3,000 years ago then we should hang our heads.  What I mean is that worldly prosperity is fleeting and the blessing promised to all the families of the earth through Abram was infinitely greater than material.

3. Gospel - The 3rd and final theme will look at today from Genesis 12 is the theme of the Gospel.  What is the Gospel? God saves sinners through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  More detail HERE.

Scripture interprets Scripture, so I want to look at what Paul says about this passage in Galatians 3:8
And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.”
So much to be said! But, I'll keep it brief.  The Old Testaments Saints were saved by the gospel.  They exercised faith in God's promises pointing forward to the coming Messiah that would crush the Serpent's head. Genesis 12:3 reveals that the nations (which were just dispersed in judgment) are in need to be blessed and that God will be the one to bring the nations a blessing through Abram, which would be Christ (see Galatians 3:16).

Abram was called to trust God and his promises over and above what he could actually see. We will see later in Genesis that Abram is justified by faith, and we see in Galatians that this is the same way that God justifies the faith.  Faith? Faith in what? Not faith in what, but faith in Who. Christ.

God pursued Abram. Abram trusted God’s promises even though the Gospel was just in the form of an acorn not yet a full blown Oak tree. God credited His Son’s righteous life to Abram through Abram’s faith in God’s promises. You need righteousness.  This is what God requires because He is Holy.  The problem? You don't have it and you can't attain it.  The good news? It has already been attained through the perfect life of Jesus and His substitutionary ("in the place of") death on the Cross.  Which is how Paul is able to say in 2 Cor. 5:21
For our sake he made [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in [Jesus] we might become the righteousness of God.
God, what is man that you are mindful of him? Who are we that God would look upon us with favor? With blessing? That the Most High and Holy God Almighty, unchanging, in need of nothing, would condescend to make Himself known to rebellious man?

We spend hours and hours focusing on lesser things while the most glorious thing in all the universe, God Himself, who transcends the universe, has proclaimed terms of peace and offered up Himself, in the Person of His Son, who secured for us a righteousness and died the wrath absorbing death on the Cross for all those who will turn form their sins and put their faith in Jesus. 

These truths are not just for the lost. They are to be ever before the Christian as well. We do not graduate from the Gospel. We need to be reminded of it daily, perhaps hourly.  God accepts us based on Christ and Christ alone. As we’ll see more in the next post, that changes everything.

*I will not cover the theme of "covenant" in Genesis 12.  That is reserved for Genesis 15.

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