Part two of a mini series by Nigel Beynon: God’s plan for his world and our lives.
This week: Searching for God’s blessing
Last week we looked at Genesis 11 – and followed the theme of unity through the Bible. I felt aware there was a lot of information so was a bit unhappy about that. This week – I feel that even more. Thought I’d let you know at the start. This is a big picture sermon – covering a lot of ground in the Bible.
At the same time – it can be very exciting to see how the Bible fits together – I think it’s very encouraging how God’s plans develop and are fulfilled and come together. And seeing that can strengthen us in keeping going as Christians.
Maybe we feel we need a bit of that – said we haven’t appointed a vicar this week – I think a good and the right decision. But disappointing decision. We may feel a weary. Struggling to keep going in this interim time.
And of course there can be many other things that make us feel like giving up as a Christian. Moments when you think – wouldn’t it be easier if I wasn’t a Christian.
Well I hope this big picture – God’s big plan – how it comes together in Jesus – will encourage us to keep going with Jesus.
Now, we heard Genesis 12 read – promise to Abram. But to get the significance of what is being said here we’ve got to appreciate the flow from the start of Genesis – we’ve got to get the run up to this – only then will we get the hit of Genesis 12.
So here’s the run up. First of all,
Back in chapter 1 God made the world – he made it beautiful and bountiful. And he made humanity – and we’re told ‘he blessed them’ – told them to multiply and fill the earth, to rule it and enjoy this paradise he’s given them – and to do that with God and under God. It’s a picture is of a perfect world – as the Bible says – “God saw all he had made and it was very good.” That is God’s blessing.
The other night I was watching TV and then an advert came on – and you got these shots of sun, sand and sea. It was beautiful. And there were lots of smiley faces. Happy families. Wonderful food. It was paradise. It turns out paradise only costs £2000 for a week – and it’s located in Turkey.
Lots of adverts offer us that perfect world don’t they – or a part of it - a lifestyle, a relationship, a home – which will be perfect. They offer us that because that is what we were made for – and so that is what we long for.
But of course we long for that world, not just because we were made for it – but also because we haven’t got it.
That’s the next bit of the run up.
In Genesis 3 Adam and Eve rebel against God – put themselves in charge instead of him. And that leads to curse or what we often call, the fall.
Curse is the opposite of his blessing. Relationships are spoilt - we hurt each other. Work is hard and frustrating. Most of all, rather than live in God’s presence and eating from the tree of life, Adam and Eve are thrown out of the garden, separated from God – and now will die.
I mentioned the advert of a holiday. Have you ever been on a holiday like that? It’s never what you hoped for is it? The sand gets in your food, you get sunburnt on the first day, the swimming pool hasn’t been built. Or even if the place is really nice, that doesn’t stop you having an argument with the people you are with. And no matter how good it is - it doesn’t last.
We were made for blessing, we long for blessing, but we often experience curse.
Third part of the run up.
God says to the serpent – Satan – who tempted Adam and Eve,
I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers: he will crush your head and you will strike his heel.
An offspring of Eve – will crush the serpent. And if he crushes the serpent maybe he can do something about sin and the curse. It’s not fleshed out but there is hope here.
And so we read on looking for this serpent crusher. Chapter 4 we get Cain & Abel – Abel seems good but gets killed by Cain. Sin & the curse are winning. Then we get to Noah – the world is flooded because sin is so bad. But after the flood it’s like a new start – fresh world – only then Noah gets drunk and disgraces himself – and you realise sin and the curse are still winning. Then we get the tower of Babel – this united rejection of God and so they are scattered. Sin and the curse are definitely winning.
Then we come to our passage tonight.
Now I don’t know what you thought when you heard the genealogy being read? It’s fun to see if the reader can pronounce the names – you did very well Marg – but it’s easy to think, what’s the point of this – how does this help?
Looking for someone, 11v10-26
First thing we have to notice is that this genealogy is linear. In most family trees you get a branch structure - one person – then their 5 children – and then each of theirs etc.
Well a linear genealogy – follows one line down that tree. So we are told v10, Shem had a son called Arpachshad – then v11, it says Shem had lots of other sons and daughters but we’re not told about them –we stick with Arpachshad – and then to one of his sons, Shelah. He had other sons and daughters too – but don’t hear about then – just follow Shelah and on from him. We follow a line down the family tree.
I’m sure you’ve been driving with someone else is giving you instructions? You don’t know where you’re going, but they do so they say – left here, and left again. And straight on – and now right.
If they do that – it would be safe to assume they are taking you somewhere aren’t they? I mean they might being having a laugh. But turning left and right like that - the sense is – we’re going somewhere – we’ve got a destination.
Well that is what is happening here. This genealogy isn’t just telling us some people had some children. It’s leading us somewhere – at each generation it says – this son – not the others – now this son – left, now right.
There is a sense of being taken somewhere – or looking for someone. We’re looking for that serpent crusher.
And the line takes us to Abram. And we read this: 12v1-3 READ.
Now having had the run up I hope we begin to get what’s being said here.
Abram is promised a land – well God made Adam and Eve a place to live – a land if you like.
I’ll make you a great nation – well Adam and Eve were meant to multiply and fill the earth – be great.
Most of all - I will bless you – that’s like Genesis 1 & 2 when God blessed them. Blessing is the opposite of the cursing that’s been going on.
So this promise – this is massive. This is nothing less than promising Eden again. We’ve gone blessing – curse – and now God promises blessing again. God is promising to undo the curse – to take us back before the fall. He’s promising to going to put everything right – and give us a perfect world again.
Now I want to pause for a moment on this – because Paul comments on this verse in Galatians. Galatians 3:8 says,
“The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you’.”
This promise of blessing – Paul says is the gospel announced in advance. So this promise – Genesis 12 – is the gospel.
We said last week when we think of the gospel – we usually think about Jesus bringing us forgiveness, having a relationship with God, place in heaven, that sort of thing. We said last week that’s individualistic – gospel is also God’s plan to reunite humanity.
Now we see it’s bigger again – the gospel is nothing less than God’s plan to put the whole world right. To reverse the fall – to make everything as it was meant to be. To take us back to Genesis 1&2.
Within that – there is forgiveness and relationship with God. Absolutely. Those things are central. But the gospel is much bigger than just me and my personal relationship with God. It’s nothing less than God’s plan to put the whole world right. For us to enjoy his blessing again.
Question – how do we get that blessing? Because here – it’s just a promise. And Abraham doesn’t see much of this promise in reality. Then we get Isaac, he inherits the promise of blessing, then his son Jacob, then Joseph – but same goes for them. They’ve got the promise of blessing - don’t actually get the blessing.
Then we get nation of Israel formed under Moses – so they become a great nation. Tick.
And in time - they do get a wonderful land to live in – tick. And they become great and rich and prosperous under king David and Solomon – and you begin to think – this is good – this a bit like Eden – the blessing.
But just as you think that - it all comes crashing down. Nation splits in two. Enemies defeat them in war. And they end up being thrown out of the land.
Did you ever play pass the parcel as a kid? The music stops and you get the present for a moment – and you tear off as many layers as you can – until the music starts again. I always got very excited about getting the present but then got frustrated there was too much sellotape and paper - and I barely got started before the music started. Often ended in tears and I had to be sent to my room to calm down.
Imagine though if the present was totally covered in sellotape. Sealed in fact – it comes to the first person – but they can’t get anywhere. Music starts – passed on – stops at the next person - they can’t open it – and so it goes on.
That would certainly lead to tears.
Well God promises his blessing to Abraham – and then the promise is passed on to Isaac, then Jacob - but no one can open it – and so the promise is passed on to the next generation and then the next – but no one can bring about God’s perfect world.
And the reason is – sin and the curse keep winning. We’ll see next week Abram struggles to trust God and so lies. Sin still wins. Then we see Jacob deceiving people or Moses getting angry. Sin is winning. Then king David commits adultery. Solomon worships other gods. Sin is still winning. And so the curse is thriving.
In other words we’re still looking for a serpent crusher. We’ve got the promise of blessing – but we’re looking for someone to open it – someone who can overcome sin and overcome the curse, crush the serpent.
Let’s turn to another genealogy, Luke 3-4.
Luke 3v23 READ – and so it goes on until we get to the people we’ve seen in Genesis – so v34 we get Jacob and Isaac and Abraham. Then v35 we get Shem, and then Noah and back to Adam.
It’s another linear genealogy – showing us – this line to Abraham – actually goes through the OT – all the way to Jesus.
Having identified Jesus if you like – we get straight way - Luke 4. Have a read, 4v1-2 READ.
Jesus faces temptation – like Adam and Eve – he now faces the serpent. The devil tempts him three times but Jesus responds each time by quoting the Bible – by staying true to God’s word – by putting God first.
It’s taken me a while to realise how big this is. But this is – for the first time in ever – a human truly and fully obeys God. Ever since the garden of Eden, sin has won. Cain, Noah, Abraham, Moses, on and on – sin always wins. The serpent always wins.
But now – for the first time in human history – someone overcomes sin – fully obeys God.
To put this another way we could say – Christ lives for us. We’re going to say in a moment that Christ died for us. Probably more familiar with that. But Christ also lives for us – by that I mean that in his life he overcame sin – he fully obeyed God. If he gave in to temptation he would be yet another one defeated by sin.
But he doesn’t give in – he lives a perfect life – for us.
Not only does he overcome sin himself – he takes the curse himself.
Back in Galatians Paul writes,
“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.”
The curse our sin deserved – Jesus takes it himself – in his death. He lives the perfect life – he deserves nothing but blessing. But he then takes our curse.
And you know Paul goes on, next sentence,
“He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus.”
Jesus has taken our curse – so we can get the blessing. The blessing promised in Genesis 12 to Abraham – can come to us.
That blessing starts now. Forgiveness – relationship with God. Receiving the Spirit – being part of the church. Many good things now.
But most of all – his blessing will come in the future when we are part of that perfect world God’s renewed creation – Revelation says –
“there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain for the old order of things has passed away…. No longer will there be any curse.”
Everything will be as it was made to be. All we ever wanted. All we could ever imagine. God’s blessing.
I said at the start we might feel a bit weary, discouraged. Maybe about the search for a vicar. Maybe with our situation. Maybe with our work, or children, or just ourselves. It’s easy for that to crowd in on us – absorb us – and make us feel like giving up.
An antidote to that – is to see where we are going. To have a vision of our future. Genesis 12 gives us that – as it pushes us forward to Jesus and to God’s perfect blessing.
In 1952 a woman called Florence Chadwick tried to swim from Catilina Island to the shore of mainland California. She has already become the first women to swim the English Channel both ways. The day was cold and foggy so she cold hardly see the boats alongside her. She swam for 15 hours and was really tired. She asked to stop but her trainer urged her on. In the end she’d had enough and just stopped swimming and was pulled out. The boats carried on through the fog and found they were just ½ a mile from the shore.
The next day at a new conference she said, I found it too hard, but I think if I could have seen the shore, I would have made it.
Two months later she tried again – bright clear day – vision was perfect – she swam the whole way.
If we are feeling tired. Feel like giving up. Let’s look ahead. Look where you’re going. God has promised – I will bless you. Jesus has lived for you, died for you, to win you that blessing. Look where you’re going – all you ever wanted, all you could imagine, all you ever live for now, complete and perfect – God’s blessing.