by Pastor David Groendyk
Chapter 12 is a major turning point in Genesis. The story of Abraham dominates the next 14 chapters of the book as the unfolding story of God saving his people begins to focus in on one single family out of the entire human race now scattered over the whole world. Genesis 12 quite naturally breaks down into two sections.
Verses 1–9 tell us of God’s call to Abram and his initial covenant promises. It’s nearly impossible to overestimate the importance of these nine verses when it comes to understanding the Bible. Abram was a descendant of Noah who was worshiping false gods and living under a false religion when God appeared to him and called him to trust and obey (see Josh. 24:2). God also gives Abram four massive promises: a nation of offspring (v. 2), protection and his own presence (v. 3a), a worldwide blessing (v. 3b), and land to live in (v. 7). It is not an overstatement to say that the entire rest of the Old Testament is a description of God faithfully and steadfastly bringing about the fulfillment of these promises, while God’s people constantly and continually forfeit their rights to these promises by sinning against him.
By the end of the book of Malachi, it appears that God’s people have perhaps forever forfeited these promises, or even perhaps that God has spectacularly over-promised but under-delivered in his covenant. However, since we have the New Testament, we know that neither of those are the case. Jesus Christ was the actual plan all along to bring about the promises to Abraham. Jesus is the offspring of Abraham through whom—spiritually—all believers make up the promised nation (see Gal. 3:8–29); Jesus is God who dwells bodily with his people and secures God’s perpetual presence with us (see John 14:8–9, 16–17); Jesus is the message by which every nation will be saved and blessed (see Matt. 28:19–20); and Jesus secures for us the true heavenly land that all God’s people will live in one day (see Heb. 11:8–16). Indeed, these four promises are crucial for understanding the gospel itself! For now, it starts just with Abram…
And what a spectacularly poor start it was! Verses 10–20 show us a massive failure and sin of Abram right off the bat. You can almost appeal for Abram that he is such a brand-new believer that he didn’t know any better, but that is no excuse at the end of the day. On one level, this is simply a major act of unbelief and disobedience immediately following an awesome salvation of God. This pattern of God saving and promising then his people immediately sinning happens over and over and over (for example, Genesis 15–16, Genesis 19–20, and Genesis 26, just to name a few). However, as if that weren’t bad enough, what compounds the sin of Abram’s lie in this chapter (and the sins in following chapters) is that his lie leads to plagues and curses upon the Egyptians. Remember verse 3? God’s plan was to bless the nations, and Abram and Sarai are cursing it. How far we’ve fallen in a matter of a few verses! Thankfully, we already know that the fulfillment of God’s blessing and salvation upon the world does not rely on Abram, Sarai, or any other weak, sinful human being. It relies fully on God himself who is sure and steadfast. God’s plan doesn’t and won’t fail on account of human sin. More than that, what grace we see from God to continue on with Abram and Sarai despite their sin! Thank God for his plan and for his grace, without either of which we would never be able to spend eternity with him.