Chapter 2 – God Builds a Nation

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The Bible Project – Read Scripture: Genesis part 2

Introduction

God’s greatest act of love was the Creation.
He created a place for us to live, to thrive.
He created a perfect paradise, a place of peace.
The animals jumped with joy and we lingered in His love…
until we forgot, turned away.
We chose to go instead of stay.
Chose to choose, to lose.
Believed a lie. Chose to die.

Instead of thriving, we’re now striving.
Instead of peace and love, we live in war and hate.
The Fall, the greatest one of them all, started with pride as all falls do.
But Chapter One doesn’t end there.
God starts again with one man, Noah.
He says, “all I want to do is show ya.
My love.
I desire you. I want to bring you back to me,
my love.”

God longs to be with us. He has a plan
Is not content to let us die,
wants us to live in paradise again.
He wants us to love him and be loved by him.
We cannot do it alone.
It will take more than sweat to break this fall.
There will be blood.
The blood of a son.
The blood of a king to cover us all.
God chooses the weak to show his strength

It’s not through the strong that this saviour comes. No, it’s the weak, the lame, the dumb. In the space between Chapter One and Two of The Story we find Genesis Ch. 11. This is the story of the strong, the proud, the great. They said to themselves in vs. 4 – “come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower to reach the heavens. Let us make for ourselves a name.” But God doesn’t choose this band of men with heads the size of cities and hearts the size of peas. Instead God shows them their pride, shows how foolish they are to try to make sense of this fallen world alone. So, he gives them a name, but not the one they were striving for. He calls them Babel, calls them confused. He changes their language, scatters their tongue, and in confusion they run.

These are the strong. They are the ones we would expect God to choose, to use. But God chooses the weak, the unknown. He chooses Abram from Ur of the Chaldeans. This man wasn’t known for being holy or particularly wise. His people were idol worshippers, father thought to be an idol maker. They lived just south of Babylon (or Babel) that place known for pride and confusion, known for not needing God. But it is through Abram, the pagan son of an idol maker, that God chooses to bring the Saviour.

Chapter Two begins with these words from Gen. 12:1-3:

“Get out of your country,
From your family
And from your father’s house,
to a land that I will show you.
I will make you a great nation;
I will bless you
And make your name great;
And you shall be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

“Abram, I choose you.
I choose a man living near the centre of sin and pride.
I choose a man with many sins to hide.
I choose you,
not because of how great you are,
and not because of your fast car.

Abram, the journey will be long,
so pack an extra pair of feet,
because you will get weak.
In you, Abram, all will be blessed.”
And Abram says, “Okay, but first let me get dressed.”

The strong sought to make a name for themselves at Babel. God gives Abram a great name, not because of how great he is, but because of how great God is. He chooses the weak to show his strength. He uses a pagan family living near the original tower of Babel scattering to bring His Garden Blessing back to the world. As Paul puts it in his book 2 Corinthians 12:9 – “God’s power is made perfect in weakness.” When I am weak, then you are strong.

But this is not just about the Lower Story of Abram. God’s Upper Story of redeeming those who have lost his love weaves through the life of this weak man. The blessing that Abram will be to the world echoes from Mount Moriah to Ararat, and even further back. It bounces between the limbs in the Garden of Eden. The promise of a man coming to crush the head of the Serpent while he himself is bruised. (Gen 3:15) The promise of blood shed to cover our sin and shame, not just trading fig leaves for sheep skins, but our own frail cover-ups with his divine grace and love. The promise to bring paradise back into our lives, to restore our relationship with God, comes through Abram.

Through repeat human failure, God remains Faithful

But Abram is far from perfect. He’s known as this great man of faith, but he doesn’t start there. See, once he had hair. Once he was young. Once he was foolish. Once he was faithless and dumb.

In Genesis 12:10 we see him entering a land where in years to come there would be slavery. Egypt, where he thought he would find enemies. He thought he would find death, and so he says to his wife in verse 13, “Tell them you are my sister. I don’t want to die.” They will kill me for your beauty. He saw the road ahead spilled with death and adultery.

He did not know how right he would be. No, it was not Pharaoh who committed this sin, but his own wife, his own kin. Sarai also did not trust the LORD and so she said, “take Hagar, my servant, into your bed. Perhaps I will have kids through her instead.” So, Hagar has a child, but he is not the Promised One. Ishmael will not start the lineage from this father of many nations to God the Father’s only Son. No, this would come through faith.

Sarai, just like Eve, decided that maybe God’s plan wasn’t the best. Maybe there was another way for the nations to be blessed. And Abram, just like Adam (and just like Eve) trusted a creature more than the Creator, trusted Hagar to give birth to the Saviour.

But, it is not these repeat failures that we celebrate. It is not the weakness of Abram and Sarai to which we look. No, that’s not the point of this book. God has an Upper Story still to weave in. His story is one of love and faithfulness despite our sin. God promises again. Genesis 17:4-6 (pg. 17)

“My Covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and king shall come from you.”

vs. 10-11 (next paragraph)

“This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you.”

A new name to re-affirm God’s promise. A new way for Abraham to show he is in this. His new name means “father of many nations.” Such a powerful promise to a barren man. And the sign is circumcision. He is to cut a piece from his reproductive limb as a sign that the promise will be fulfilled through the power of God, and not through him. For many generations this would go on as a reminder that their fruitfulness is not a result of that circumcised thing, but their family is a gift from the God of Heaven.

Years have passed. Abram and Sarai, now Abraham and Sarah have lived through ups and downs, lived through failure, lived through pain. They have walked the road of their lower story from Ur to Canaan land. They are old, frail, death knocking on their door. Abraham is kept up at night by the pain in his bones. His hands shake more than they used to, hair covers less than it once did.

He looks over at his wife Sarah, a princess in God’s eyes. Once he saw her that way. Once he was afraid that other men would take her away. Now, skin shrivelled like old wine-skins, breasts sagging, breath shallow, he couldn’t imagine being afraid. No, not because the beauty of youth had left her, but because God hadn’t. Despite their years of faithlessness, God was there.

Now, as Abraham watches his wife, he smiles. “A Mother of many nations,” the first of them growing inside her. Outside the stars shine bright, and sand glistens beneath their light. Every grain below and twinkling wonder above a reminder of the nations they will birth. If Abraham started weak, what was he now? Weaker then when he left his father’s house decades ago… almost a century now. But stronger. Weaker in himself, but stronger in faith. And with that faith, the promise has come.

Sarah has a son. Isaac is born. He grows up as children do, and Abraham thinks, “this is it. My faith has reached its height. Its limit.” But no, Abraham still has more to learn. Abraham, the weak, has to be strong when God says, “Kill your son.”

Why would God do this? Never had God required human sacrifice. That was the pagan way, the way of his ancestors. No, Abraham served the God of love. It didn’t make sense! But Abraham trusted God and went. He climbs Mount Moriah, one quivering foot after another. He shakes deep in his bones, perspired. Who wouldn’t, knowing what has to happen, what he was going to do?

Has God ever told you to kill your son, too? Perhaps not, but maybe something hard, something you don’t want to do. Perhaps something that doesn’t make sense to you. Why would God ask me to sell my house and move to a place I don’t know? Why would God take my job away? Doesn’t he know I have bills to pay, a family to feed?

But see, God was testing Abraham’s seed. He didn’t want him to forget that it’s God who carries you, not your paycheck. And Abraham, after all these year, had learned who was to be feared. It was not men who might kill him for his wife, not the pagan idols from his former life. No, the God of Heaven, God of Love, who made the whole world just to be with us… that is the God that Abraham served. And so it says in Hebrews 11:7 (pg. 20) – “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called,’ concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead.”

Issac was spared, and a goat offered in his place. But this is not the only time a father was told to kill his son. Centuries later, another beloved Son will be sacrificed, and no goat is offered in his place. No, Jesus dies to save the whole human race. God wants to love us at any cost. He desires us, wants us to return. It is on this same hill 2080 years later that Jesus, the Son of God, is offered up as a sacrifice on the Cross. And God used a weak Abraham to start the process.

Even despite Abraham’s failures in life, God remains faithful.

Isaac and Jacob

But Abraham wasn’t the only one. We know that Abraham had a son. Isaac follows in his father’s footsteps, carrying on the blessing of God coming one day to free us. But he carries something else too. He may have learned something about faith on Mount Moriah, but starts off just as his father did. He marries a beautiful woman, and many nations would be blessed through their children. But first Isaac copies his father’s sin. Genesis 26:7 speaks of Isaac living in a foreign land and being afraid of the men there. “When the men of the place asked about his wife, he said, ‘she is my sister,’ for he was afraid to say, ‘my wife,’ thinking, ‘the men of the place might kill me on account of Rebekah, for she is beautiful.’” And so the cycle begins again.

Eventually Isaac and Rebekah have two sons. Esau comes out first, all hairy and ready for the world, but Jacob is not content to stay behind. He grabs hold of his brother’s heal in the womb and is born right after him. Even Jacob’s name foreshadows who he would be. Heal grasper, trickster, deceiver.

As if it were written in stone, Jacob lives out his name, tripping people up everywhere he went. First it was his older brother being tricked out of his inheritance for a bowl of soup. Next it was his father Isaac, laying in weak and blind. Jacob tricks him into thinking that he is Esau, the eldest, and receives the blessing before Isaac dies—all at the encouragement of his mother.

We think, “this is the chosen family to bring God’s Son? These are the ones? How could God use such a band of sinners, looking out for themselves and not each other? Men who give their wives away, women who encourage adultery and deceit, now two brothers, one so angry he wants to kill the other.

Our Lower stories are full of sin. Full of hate, war, lust, adultery, deceit, and lying hearts. See, we’re comfortable with this art. Comfortable with not trusting God. Proud of doing things alone, on our own. But God says, “my power is greater than your rebellion. My strength is made perfect in weakness.” And as we see the blessing passed on, it’s not because of what they’re done wrong, but despite it. God uses us who are not perfect, but will trust in His love anyway.

At the bottom of pg. 23 we see a man who has run from God. We see one who has done quite well for himself, cheating and deceiving his way to the top, comes to a moment of recognition. All his life he’s been wrestling with God, now all his running comes to a head. Gen. 32:24 – “Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day.” This man was Jesus in the flesh, and Jacob recognizing his wayward ways says, “I won’t let you leave until I am blessed.” He says “If it is the path of the Promise that I am to follow, show me a practical sign that you are in this as much as I am called to swallow.”

God says at the top of pg. 24 (vs. 28) – “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.” He gives him a name which will one day be a people. Even today, a nation is named after him. God says, “you have wrestled with me your whole life, been running from all that is good, but today I want you to change. Because even through you are wayward, I remain faithful to you.

Conclusion

Our Lower Story may be filled with doubt, confusion, trials, pain. God’s way may feel foolish at times. Perhaps, like Abram, we are more afraid of what others will do than the God who chose you. Or maybe, God doesn’t understand how things are done. He needs our help, like Sarai thought about her son. Or, like Isaac, we are following our father’s play instead of trusting in the LORD’s way. However your story looks today, God can use you. He doesn’t need the strong, the brave, but desires to be with those who will say, “Okay.”

This is not the end of The Story. God has much more to say. He has many more broken people to use until Jesus arrives. Until his own Son, the perfect spotless one, cries. Until the unbroken one, takes on the brokenness of the world, and dies. We can celebrate that story today, because we know His Son. He desired us enough to sacrifice his only son, and it was not a test, so that through Him we could be blessed.

So, whether you are weak or strong today, come and say, “God, this is all the messiness that is me. I don’t know how or why… but you want me. Thank you. I accept your love. Forgive me for when I don’t live in your embrace. I’m sorry for when I walk away and try to do it on my own. God, I want to come home.” And let His story live in you. Let His Story become part of your story, and walk the plot line together.

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