The Following thought for the day was written by Brother Richard Morgan and provides insight and encouragement for those seeking to serve the God of Israel.
What is the blessing promised to Abraham in Genesis 12? Just about the first thing God says to Abraham is that He will bless him – “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.” (Gen. 12:2).
When the Bible repeats a word, we should sit up and take notice. But when it is mentioned five times in two verses, surely its significance skyrockets. Twice God declared a blessing in verse 2, now look at the next verse – “ I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (v3)
There has to be something to this blessing if it’s the undeniable focus in the very first thing God tells Abraham. But when talking about the promises, we focus on the birth of Isaac and the Promised Land that we can gloss over what the actual blessing means.
So, what is the blessing of Abraham? Perhaps we think it’s merely referring to the subsequent promises, and how God would bless Abraham with offspring and the land. But we don’t have to guess; the New Testament tells us.
Peter quoted these verses from Genesis when he preached to the Jews. He said, “You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’” (Acts 3:25). Then he explained what that blessing is – “God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.” (v26).
That’s the blessing of Abraham. It is given to us when we turn away from wickedness. But what exactly does that mean? In one sense, we can see how blessed it is to live a life separate from evil. The word blessing has the idea of happiness and what a happy life we would all have if we turned away from wickedness.
But there’s more to it. It’s all wrapped up in the opposite of wickedness, what we turn towards – righteousness. Paul quoted the same verse as Peter when he said, “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed.’” (Gal. 3:8). Paul’s main point in Galatians is to show that salvation comes through faith and not by law. He also points out here that in saying “all the nations,” the blessing is available to all people. Abraham’s children aren’t necessarily his biological descendants. It’s those who have the family trait of faith that are his offspring.
But the other point here is what Paul says that blessing is – justification. Justification is the positive counterpart to God turning us from our wickedness. We can look at the example of Abraham to see it in action – “And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.” (Gen. 15:6). God is willing to count our faith as righteousness if we have faith. That’s because faith is the core characteristic of members of God’s family that produces the sort of person God wants in His Kingdom.
All that brings us in a roundabout way to our reading today from Romans 4. The topic is the same as Galatians 3 – justification by faith. Paul quotes that verse from Genesis 15 in verse 3 and then goes on to explain how being justified is a blessing. He uses the example of David and a psalm he wrote to commemorate his forgiveness – “just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: ‘Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.’” (v6-8).
Do we realize how blessed we are to be forgiven for our sins and counted righteous by God? It is His way of turning us away from wickedness. And the point is, it works. The very first thing He says to the man He calls to His purpose is, “I am going to bless you.” God uses the carrot, not the stick. He is willing to forgive us and count us as righteous in prospect of our obedience. If we were in charge, we’d probably try to get everyone to fall in line with our rules first, and then we’d think about blessing them as a reward. But not God. He knows that blessing His children with justification simply because we have faith works and will produce in us the kind of children with whom He wants to spend eternity.
Simi Hills, CA
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View all the thoughts in this series here…