Today’s Text: Genesis 12:1-9.
Have you ever had an eye exam? Think about that giant machine that simulates every set of lenses possible. You place your eyes in position and the doctor starts flipping lenses while you try to read the chart.
“Do you prefer 1 or 2?” she asks.
“One,” you respond.
“Do you prefer 3 or 4?”
And so the focusing processes continues until that which was once a black smudge across the screen is now a crystal clear set of intelligible letters. It is a gradual process of refined focusing.
God’s promises are much like that throughout the story of the Bible. The creation stories proclaim the blessings of life and fruitfulness for all things, but God is so big and so “other” that humanity easily slips into fear and treachery. The promise is broad and blurry in the human consciousness. Noah’s blessing that we mentioned yesterday, is slightly more in focus. God names the sanctity of all life and promises to never destroy all things again. Yet, it is still fuzzy and Noah slips into cursing his son in the next passage.
The story for today, found in Genesis 12:1-9, marks a big jump in the focusing process. God’s promise has always been a blessing for all things, but it leaves us with the monumental task of creating our own version of God, since God is so unknowable. Now, however, God chooses Abram to be the bearer of God’s blessing. Click, the promise takes a shape that we recognize: a human family.
Why does God choose Abram from among the billions of humans in history? Part of the reason is because the promise needs to have skin on it. It needs to come into focus to the point that the human mind can see it and make sense out of it.
Lesslie Newbigin says, “To be chosen, to be elect, therefore does not mean that the elect are the saved and the rest are the lost. To be elect…means to be incorporated into [God’s] mission to the world, to be the bearer of God’s saving purpose for his whole world, to be the sign and the agent and the firstfruit of his blessed kingdom which is for all.”
In order for the whole world to know God’s promise and to know what God’s Kingdom of Love looks like in the world, God had to work with one specific group of people and wrestle within that set of cultural particularities. It doesn’t mean that everything Abram or his descendents said and did was godly–far from it actually. It simply means that God demonstrates blessing and faithfulness with skin on it.
We will see how the promise continues to focus as the story progresses throughout this year of reading. Finally, it clicks into clarity in the flesh and blood of Jesus, a child of Abraham. We’ll come to that later. Until then, let us rest in the fact that God has skin in this game of life. God does not stand aloof from creation and hope that some of us get it right. God enters into the messy, fleshy business of humanity and works in, with, under, against, and for us every day…to bless the world.
May you walk today as the skin and bone of God’s blessing in your world.