God’s Promise: For a Purpose (11am)
Topic: Called Scripture: Genesis 12:1–12:4
Ok, so I have a question for all of you. How many of you like some kind of reality TV? Remember this is a safe space. No one will judge you. At the very least, they’ll do it quietly so you don’t notice. So reality TV fans, where are you? Ok. What are some of the reality TV shows yall like?
A good little mix. When it comes down to it, there is a lot that falls under the category of reality TV. You’ve got the extreme shows: Survivor, Fear Factor. You’ve got the musical shows: American Idol, The Voice. You’ve got those fantastic examples of romance in shows like the Bachelor and Bachelorette. Back in PA, I was part of a men’s Bible study that met at 6:30pm every Tuesday morning. Well, one of the gentleman actually had a son who was the bachelor on season 10: Andy Baldwin. His dad, Roy, wasn’t a huge fan of the show.
But the other night I came across a clip from another reality TV show: Shark Tank. I have to confess, I’ve never watched a full episode of the show but I get the concept. Aspiring entrepreneurs come onto the show and pitch their inventions or business proposals to a group of “sharks” – wealthy business owners who want to buy into the next great idea. Well, like I said, I came across a clip from an episode featuring a farmer named Johnny Georges. He was selling his invention: the tree t-pee. It’s a plastic t-pee device that goes around the bases of growing trees to maximize watering and conserving water and fuel used to water the trees. Through the whole presentation you can see that Johnny is not a savvy business dealer. He’s a salt of the earth farmer and only thinks about other farmers and supporting them.
Anyway, his invention seems to really impress the judges but it’s the business model that they struggle with. You see, Johnny wants to sell these tree t-pee’s at close to cost. Maybe $1 profit on each. He wants to keep them inexpensive so that farmers don’t have to sacrifice anymore to do their work more efficiently. He knows the struggles that come with being a farmer. One shark immediately says that he’s out. He says that at the current price, it won’t make enough money to interest him or any other partner. And then another shark steps in. He says, “Johnny, farmers are the cornerstone of America. I’m going to give you everything you’re asking for. What you’re doing is right and you deserve the chance to make it big and do a lot of good. I’d like to be your partner, Johnny. I like everything you stand for.”
A promise was made to support Johnny and his endeavors and it was made for a purpose. To help farmers do their important work more efficiently and cost-effectively. The shark who invested didn’t just promise $150,000 for no reason. He did it for a purpose and because he could see the good intentions and the heart of Johnny Georges.
This morning we are continuing in our series called the Promises of God. Last week we looked at God’s promise to Noah after the flood. God made a promise to never again destroy the world with a flood but it was also the beginning of God making grace the center point of His relationship with humanity. A grace that would eventually be embodied in the life and death of our Savior, Jesus Christ. This morning we will explore another promise of God.
This one comes only a few chapters later in the book of Genesis and it is made to a man named Abram. We’re in Genesis 12:1-4.
I said last week that we’d be going through what are considered the five major covenants of God, promises that God made with humanity that hold significant importance in terms of the relationship between Creator and creation. This one with Abram is likely one of the most popular of God’s promises.
God calls Abram to pack up his family and to go to a foreign place. Abram is given a promise. That God would make him into a great nation. That Abram would be blessed by God. That Abram’s name would be made great and that Abram would be made into a blessing. God promises to bless those who bless Abram and curse those who curse him. And then God promises that all the people of the earth will be blessed through Abram. This is a huge promise and, like a Christmas tree surrounded by presents, requires some unpacking. Right off the bat though, I want to lay my cards on the table.
If you take the image I just used of opening gifts from under the tree, we can see what God is doing in this promise. When Isaac opened up gifts like a tool bench and a new game and new books and all the other gifts, yes, he received those individual gifts from us. But over and within all of those gifts and even us giving them to him in the first place denotes something much more meaningful than a full toy box. Those gifts represent a desire for us as parents to love our child and to give him good things and to bring joy to his life. Well, this promise to Abram is much the same kind of thing. Each individual element of the covenant is valuable but there is an overarching truth that is even more important.
So the first lines of God’s promise to Abram is that he will be made into a great nation and that God will bless him. This is a promise about descendants. God will give Abram many sons and daughters. And those sons and daughters will have sons and daughters. Abram’s family line would continue on but not only continue on. The nation out of Abram would be great. This is even more of an incredible promise when we read on and find that Abram is 75 years old. And then the second line: God tells Abram that He will bless him.
Blessing is a fascinating element, especially within the Old Testament. For God to bless a person is God saying that the person being blessed will be favored by God. It doesn’t mean they will never encounter trial or hardship. It doesn’t mean that they can simply wish into existence all of their desires. It means that God is present. A way I like to think about is the example of when a child is learning to ride a bike. As a parent, we give special attention and proximity to the child when they are on that bike. We trot along with them down the sidewalk. Our hands are there creating a protective bubble, only occasionally actually touching the child. The child could still fall and get a scrapped knee. It might take our kid a few more days or weeks to learn. And when that child does finally learn, it is not because we forced them to or because we did it for them. And yet, our presence and our encouragement is so important to the process. When God blesses Abram, the Creator is making a vow that He will be with Abram along the journey and God’s presence and encouragement will never be far off.
Next up: God tells Abram that He will make his name great. This is all about legacy. God’s already promised descendants. Now God is promising something more. That Abram’s name would be remembered. The descendants and the legacy of his name create a one-two punch. It’s one thing to have your name and picture in countless photo albums. Each album is filled with sweet memories and cherished by those within your family. That’s what God promises in the first line. With this second element, the making Abram’s name great, God is promising that Abram’s name will not only be in those photo albums but also be in the history books of God’s people. Everyone would know Abram. And then to continue the pattern God started with the first part of the promise, there is an element of blessing here as well.
This time though Abram is told he will be a blessing. So Abram will be blessed so that Abram himself can be a blessing. The blessing of God is growing and expanding in its reach. The next line of the promise: God will bless those who bless Abram and curse those who curse Abram. Ya know how when we’re kids we sometimes got into those arguments with other kids: My dad is stronger than your dad. Well, Abram wins. God promises to be there for Abram here. God’s presence and God’s love for Abram will reach further than merely Abram. And that leads us to the last line of the promise. The part of the promise that I believe is the real kicker and x-factor of this covenant: “All the peoples of the earth will be blessed through you.”
God’s promise, His covenant, to Abram is now a promise to more than simple Abram. God’s promise, God’s intention, is now focused on all the world. And this brings me to that point I made about the Christmas tree and presents earlier. God makes this grand promise to Abram and each element is an incredible gift in and of itself. Descendants, legacy, protection…each of these things alone is worth more than we can imagine. But it is this final line that sums it up and that truly highlights the value of each aspect of the promise. Just as a parent’s love urges them to give good gifts to their children, so too does God’s intention give meaning to every part of the promise. And God’s intention is this: That God’s chosen, Abram in this case, would be a blessing to all the world.
Our text out of Ephesians this morning reiterates that truth. Paul, in Ephesians and several other places, emphasizes the truth of God’s election. We can lost in a conversation predestination and free will but that’s not what I’m emphasizing here. Rather, it is God’s practice of election – choosing some out of many – that is the emphasis. God has historically throughout Scripture chosen some over others. He chose Abram instead of Lot. He chose the Hebrews instead of the Egyptians. He chose David instead of one of David’s many brothers. Jesus did it too. He chose fisherman and tax collectors as his disciples instead of priests and politicians. We can’t for one second claim that God does not elect some instead of others. But it’s the purpose of the election that is more important than the persons elected. And that purpose is demonstrated in our promise within Genesis 12.
God chooses some, makes promises like this one, for the purpose of blessing all. Abram was given a legacy and protection so that through him, all the peoples of the world might be touched by God’s blessing. Paul tells us that the elect are chosen by God not for the purpose of hoisting some people above others but rather so that the grace and love of God might be shared to all. Paul says it right here at the end of Ephesians 1:10. Paul says that all of it – the choosing and calling of some by God, the action of God adopting us as sons and daughters, the giving of the gift of forgiveness and redemption - is all for one reason: “to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.”
The promise of God is for a purpose. For Abram and for us. I think the challenge for all of us today is being able to recognize the tremendous purpose behind the grace of God. Let’s go back real quick to Shark Tank. A wealthy business owner chose to willing give $150,000 to a farmer. That’s generous and life changing as a gift all by itself. But it wasn’t merely generosity and kindness that drove the shark to make that decision. He saw a greater purpose, a further reach, in making that promise of investment with Johnny Georges. This promise, his investment, would impact countless farmers and thus it would impact countless thousands who fed their families by way of the crops from those farmers.
Many of us today operate under the false pretense that it is God’s responsibility to make us happy. That’s wrong. God is not mandated, obligated, or even slightly responsible to make us happy. If God was focused on my happiness, this world would be a worse off place. Instead, our Creator engages creation and forms relationships with humanity and makes promises to us for a much larger, much more reaching, much more powerful purpose.
What if your relationship with God was about more than comfortable tradition? What if your presence and participation in this church was about more than your happiness? When we claim Jesus Christ as our Savior and take hold of our identity as children of God we enter into a sacred, ancient, reaching promise. A promise filled with history and legacy and meaning and purpose. We are called by God and receive promises from God not so that we can have our preferred pew or fulfill a Sunday morning obligation. It’s more.
Abram was the recipient of a really full promise but it came with a responsibility. If we have been touched by the love of Christ and claim to be His followers than we are obligated to do the work of the promise and not simply reap the rewards. Each of us as a role to play in blessing others, in bringing unity to all things. If you’re in school, think about what it means to bless the students that are different than you, who seem to be outsiders. Bring unity to them. In our jobs, regardless of where it is or what you do, how do you bless your coworkers? Are they aware of your faith, of the hope you have in Christ? Abram was called to bless all people. How are you blessing the people of Bloomington-Normal? What are you doing so that God’s promise can reach our neighbors?
Friends, it is time we lived out the purpose of Gods promise to bless the world instead of simply assuming that promise is about our happiness. It is time we became a blessing. It is time we realized that most important truth about God’s Promise: That it is for a purpose. Let’s pray.