“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.” (Genesis 12:2, NRSV)
A commission is given along with a threefold blessing. A great call and a greater blessing. All in just the first three verses found in chapter 12 of the Book of Genesis. A passage I have heard and taught on various times and places. Whether in worship from the pulpit or in the basement of the youth building, the call of Abram and God’s blessings is a story of faith that begins to unfold.
Genesis 12:1-3 is a pivotal break in the Genesis narrative. It begins the great ancestral narrative and begins a journey of God’s people that will continue through the rest of the book of Genesis. For it is the call from God that sets the journey in motion, as J. Gerald Janzen points out. And it is more than just Abram’s journey. “For all its brevity,” Janzen writes, “this call is of immeasurable importance, for it both anchors the journey and guides our interpretation of each step along the way – Abraham’s, his descendants’, and our own steps as we join the journey.”
Walter Brueggemann suggests that the commission to be a blessing was intended for Israel to live a life under the promise to “energize and model a way for the other nations also to receive a blessing from this God.” This theology of being a blessing to the “unqualified” is utilized through the New Testament, reflecting back to Abraham and Genesis 12. The Gospel of Luke is very attentive to the “unqualified” through the stories of Jesus blessing the crippled woman (Luke 13:10-17) and Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10). And these are just two examples. In Acts 3:25, Peter quotes Genesis 12:3 in his sermon to the Jewish community. Paul, similarly, refers to this commission to be a blessing as the “gospel beforehand” in his letter to the Galatians (3:8).
I can’t help but think of the “unqualified” in Los Diques. As we drove through the downtown/suburban community of Cartago and crossed over the railroad tracks, we seemed to leave one reality to enter another. The promise of land, of descendants, and blessing would be received as hope in this community. Yet, at the same time, this community takes serious the commission to “be a blessing.”
Sometimes the hardest thing in this world is to live in it. To know that God speaks in the barrenness of live, offers hope for any of us. It reminds us that God still longs for relationship with humanity.