1Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Genesis 11 records the development of new technology that facilitated new design and building techniques. Wanting to make a name for themselves, men erected a great tower. Symbolically it reached up to God. Motivated by pride and ambition it was another sign of humanity’s rejection of God. Millennia ago, men and women had anticipated the 19th century atheist poet Algernon Charles Swinburne’s cry , “Glory to man in the highest.”
God responded in two ways. With an act of discipline, not judgment as in Noah’s day, God scattered the people and divided their language. In doing so he struck at one of the essential features of what it means to be human – the capacity for communication and with it, of personal relationships. From the moment of the events of Genesis 3 human co-operation would be more challenging than ever because of the break-down of relationship with God and with one another – socially and ethnically, sexually and culturally.
But, God also acted in mercy. Into this dark scene dominated by godlessness and self-interest, Genesis 12 tells us that God shone a ray of light. He spoke to one man and made three promises that would impact the whole of humanity. Abraham would become ‘great’; he would be blessed with family and land where there would be peace and prosperity. It would be the reversal of the events of Genesis 3. And through this family all the nations of the world would be blessed.
Abram, as he was then known, had a choice: he could trust God and ‘Go’, or he could stay where he was. God did not violate the human capacity for choice. Abraham obeyed and the epic story of God’s rescue of humanity was launched. Down through the ages, men and women who identified themselves with the God of Abraham would be blessed. Abraham’s greatest successor, Jesus, would say, ‘I have come to seek and to save the lost’ (Luke 19:10). Paul the Apostle would write: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise (Galatians 3:28, 29).
As someone has observed, it is no accident that when we turn to the Book of Revelation ‘we find Babel or Babylon re-appearing as a consumer-oriented, mercantile society that will dominate the last days – the time between Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension and his final return. It is no accident that it is the fall of Babylon that John, the writer of Revelation, sees as the immediate precursor of the return of Christ. Babel did not end thousands of years ago on the plain of Shinar. Metaphorically speaking, Babel features again and again throughout human history.’ Whenever men and women in their arrogance think that they can build something and make a name for themselves, ignoring the reality of God as their rightful king, getting power over others with no concern for true justice, there is Babel. The great news is that because God in his mercy set in motion three promises to one man, we can now look in hope to a very different city, a new Jerusalem. There we do not have to build a tower to reach to heaven, for God is in the midst of her and he invites us to walk with him one day in her streets.
1. the details of the three promises God made;
2. the significance of the promise or promises for the nations;
3. the part that Abraham played and the role that we have today.