Genesis 11:31-12:4
Become A Fountain Of Blessing

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

1. I would like for us to read the story of Abraham today. In today's passage of scripture his name is still "Abram." Later it changes to Abraham. During [our] worship service I would like for us to focus our attention especially on the message which the Lord first gave to Abraham. The Lord God spoke to Abram as follows: "You will leave your native town and the house of your father and go to the land that I will show you so that [I will] make you into a great nation, [I will] bless you, [I will] elevate your name, and turn you into a fountain of blessing. I will bless those who bless you and I will curse those who curse you. Through you all the families on the earth will enter into blessing," (Genesis 12:1-3).

Blessing And Cursing

2. The first thing I notice right off is that the word "blessing" is repeated five times in this brief passage. We understand [from this that] the appearance of Abraham on the biblical stage involves this matter of "blessing." The appearing onto the scriptural stage of a character involving "blessing" also means from another view of it that there is a world in need of such a character. Let's think about this [point of view] first.

3. The opposite of "blessing" is "cursing." Where does the word "curse" first appear in the scriptures? It is in Genesis chapter three. As [a story] you are already familiar with, written in chapter three is the story of when Adam and Eve took and ate the fruit from "The Tree Of The Knowledge Of Good And Evil" which God had forbidden to them. There, then, "the serpent" was cursed [after] it had first tempted humankind. "The Lord God said to the serpent, 'You, who have done such a thing as this, will be a cursed thing among every kind of livestock and every kind of wild animal. You will creep for life and eat the dust.'," (Genesis 3:14). Also, the word "curse" is found next among the words spoken to Adam. "God said to Adam, 'You obeyed the voice of your wife, you ate from the tree which I commanded you not to take and eat from. Because of you, the ground will be a cursed thing. You will suffer for life when you try to get food. The earth will be made to spring forth thorns and thistles against you, yes you, as you try to eat the herbs of the fields. You will get your bread by having sweat flow on your face - until you return to the ground - to the ground from which you were taken out. You, who are but dust, will return to the dust.'," (Genesis 3:17-19).

4. Here we have the biblical point of view, that makes us see hard with a really sobering perspective the nature of humanity such as it is which has rebelled against God and tried to become like God. The Bible sees the lifetime of a person as a lifetime on this truly accursed earth. On the accursed ground [humans] have lived though all the while suffering for a limited [amount of] time. And then the aftereffects of that will only be to "return to the dust."

5. When I read this text here, I recall an odd play I saw more than twenty years ago, in which some youth in America had performed. It hardly had any story to it. A person in it repeated an order over and over dragging it out, "Get up. Eat. Work. Sleep." The other people were acting it out. Till blue in the face almost, they repeated on through it at great length. Then, after the person who was issuing the commands said the final [round of] "Get up - Eat - Work - Sleep," he shouted, "Die!" Lying down already from the command of "Sleep", the actors no longer got up again.

6. A whole life only to return to the ground [after] suffering continuously on the accursed ground. A lifetime of only "Get up - Eat - Work - Sleep - Die." Is this an extreme exaggeration? It does seem to be. But, I wonder who has never felt somewhere inside the feeling of "this damned life here on earth?" People try to deny so hard this feeling of futility in life, [this squirrel wheel cage existence]. Or, they try to frantically distract themselves with something or other. But, they can't squelch it completely. A pencil that people made, apart from a person's hand, has no meaningful existence in and of itself alone. It is just some dried up [stick] of nothing. The world of people is the same way when they rebel against God and try to be apart from God's hand. They keep returning to the ground without any meaning. That is the hard reality of accursed humanity on this accursed ground.

7. But, God has not left humanity abandoned in this curse. God cares for the world. God cares about humanity [though] it has turned its back in rebellion on him. God has intervened within human history. He did so to bring blessing amid the curse. For that purpose, God choose the character by the name of Abraham from this world, and he gave ground to a concrete actual plan for the world. As descendants of Abraham the Israelites soon come on the stage of world history. As one of those Israelites, a Jew, Jesus Christ would come to appear in the world.

8. Then, history flows from Jesus Christ to the church. The church is also within this flow. In fact, the church that exists in Japan in the twenty-first century and also each one of us living in it are in the great flow of the history of salvation, which began at the moment God spoke to Abraham that day. In addition, therefore, when we think about the church and about our selves, we cannot think without taking into account what God said [when] he called Abraham originally.

Go To The Land I Will Show You

9. So when we look at the Lord's words here, first, the Lord God commanded Abraham, "You will leave your native town and the house of your father and go to the land that I will show you," (12:1).

10. We're told Abraham originally used to be in a place called Ur of the Chaldeans with his father Terah. Being downstream on the Euphrates River, Ur often appears on the area map in recent news related to Iraq. The area is known for an abundant culture flourishing from it very early [in history]. The house of Terah moved from that such a place to Haran. He stayed there and began making a living, and his father Terah would die there.

11. The motive for Terah's moving from Ur to live in Haran is not ascertainable. But whatever the reason, it most likely stemmed from the father Terah's will and not from the son Abram. The scripture says, "Terah ... took his son Abraham, set out for Ur of the Chaldeans, and headed for the land of Canaan [but settled in Haran]," (11:31). But, afterwards the Lord said to Abram, "I am the Lord who led you out of Ur of the Chaldeans," (15:7). In other words, it wasn't Terah who had lead Abram out of Ur. It's that before Abram knew the Lord, the Lord knew Abram and [HE as] the Lord [of all] led him out of Ur.

12. Then at last, Abram had come to meet the one who had been guiding his life while unbeknownst to him. The Lord spoke to Abram, saying, "You will leave your native town and the house of your father and go to the land that I will show you." The terminology in "native town" is not necessarily about Ur because translated literally it would be "your land, your relatives." It is "[this] land of yours" where Abram was making his living, and "[this] land of yours" is also definable as the land upon which Abram had toiled so hard, and the land where Abram would also die like his father Terah had died and return back to the ground. But then, the Lord told him to start traveling out of this "land of yours."

13. Does that mean that just like when it did when his father Terah transferred to Haran from Ur, the other land will turn into "your land?" No, it doesn't. Here we have what you could call people of nomadic tribes, and changing the places they live does not necessarily mean fundamental changes in their lives. It is not talking about that kind of thing here. Abram is told here "You will leave your land ... and go to the land that I will show you." That is, Abram, though he hasn't known it all this time but he has been led by the Lord, from here on out he does obey the Lord with utmost trust as he hears the Lord speaking directly to him and as he obtains guidance from the Lord. You could just as well call this "faith." In short, the Lord called Abram unto faith.

14. In order for the Lord God to advance his plan of salvation in this world, he first looked for a person of faith from this world. Then, he looked for a people of faith born as descendants of that person of faith. The Lord looked for a people who would listen to his voice and follow his guidance.

That You Be A Fountain Of Blessing

15. Furthermore, along with the command, a promise was made to Abram, "[I will] make you into a great nation, [I will] bless you, [I will] elevate your name, and turn you into a fountain of blessing. I will bless those who bless you and I will curse those who curse you. Through you all the families on the earth will enter into blessing," (verses two and three).

16. The Lord said he would "bless." Blessing is on the extreme opposite to cursing. Since cursing ends in death and destruction, blessing then [must mean] the power of life to keep on flowing into the future. Abram began to live in an abundant flow of life. Of course, that doesn't mean that all suffering was completely eradicated and stopped in Abram's life; we know that by reading the story of Abraham. But, he was no longer a man just passing his life away, only to die and go back to the ground [after] all that suffering [in life] on the accursed ground. -- Because God said he would bless him.

17. And that's not the whole story. Abram was not only blessed, he became a fountain of blessing. In the original text, it is written as "you will become a blessing," the translation of "become a fountain of blessing" is a paraphrase, but I think it is a very image rich translation of the blessings that would just flow and overflow from there on out. God didn't bless Abram just for Abram's sake alone. He did so in order to bring blessing upon the world. Therefore, the Lord said, "All the families on earth will enter into blessing through your name."

18. Then, the church is also placed within God's great plan that "All the families on earth will enter into blessing through your name," and within [this plan] each one of us also will find life. When we Gentiles did not know the Lord, the Lord already knew us, loved us, and was guiding us as well. And now he has made us in this way as a people who know the Lord, who worship Him, listen to His voice, and walk guided by Him. We certainly are in the blessing of the Lord. It is not just for our sake [either]. We are being called to live as a people of faith, to become a blessing to others, and to become a blessing to the world.

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