Genesis 12:1-3 briefly covers God’s calling Abram (Abraham) to become a great nation, “Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And 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. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonours you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.'”
There are many things to glean from this text of Scripture, but the main thing to keep in mind is that this promise God makes to Abraham is the theme of all Genesis. As I continue this Pastoral Thoughts series, we will see that God repeats this promise made to Abram several times. It is not only the theme of Genesis, however; it is the theme of the entire Scriptures. Thus, the theme of the Scriptures can be described as such: God chooses a lowly people to be His own, beginning first in Abraham and his sons until the promise is fulfilled in Christ Jesus.
As we explore Genesis these next few weeks, we will see the Scriptures’ witness to this promise in Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For now, we will meditate on its ultimate fulfilment in Christ.
What Christians should know from this verse is that the current State of Israel is not the fulfilment of this promise. Does Israel as a nation state still remain? Certainly, but Israel as a nation state is not the fulfilment of God’s promise to Abram. Too many Christians are looking to the nation state, Israel, for hope, especially regarding the supposed rebuilding of the Temple Mount. Yet where Christians should really be looking is Jesus Christ, the true Israel, who is Israel fulfilled.
The Temple Mount is no longer the focus for God’s people. The Temple is now the incarnate Christ. Consider what John’s Gospel says concerning the Temple: “Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?’ But He was speaking about the temple of His body. When therefore He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the Word that Jesus had spoken” (John 2:19-22). Therefore, the Temple in Jerusalem becomes an idol for many Christians, for the entire trust of their heart ought to be in the incarnate, risen Christ. The Temple has already been rebuilt; it was rebuilt in Christ’s resurrected, incarnate body.
Jesus is the true Israel—Israel fulfilled. Remember that Israel was first the name of a man, who was originally named Jacob (Genesis 35:1-15). This man Israel prefigured Christ. And according to Paul, it is not by genealogy that one is a part of Israel but by faith, that is, according to the promise: “For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but, ‘Through Isaac shall your offspring be named’ [Genesis 21:12]. This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring” (Romans 9:6b-8). Furthermore, Paul continues, Gentiles have been grafted into Israel through Christ:
So, I ask, did [the Israelites] stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean! Now I am speaking to you Gentiles…For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? If the dough offered as first fruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy [Israel], so are the branches [Gentiles].
But if some of the branches were broken off, and you [Gentiles], although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will He spare you. Note then the kindness and severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in His kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. And even they [the Israelites], if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you [Gentiles] were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.Romans 11:11-13a, 15-24
The TL;DR is this: using an unnatural, wild olive tree as a metaphor for Gentiles, God grafted them into the root, that is (v. 17), Israel, despite their unnaturalness, which is done by faith (v. 20).
Therefore, God’s promise to Abram of familial fecundity is fulfilled in Christ’s church. As Jesus is the true Israel, through the Body of Christ (the church, 1 Corinthians 12), all the families of the earth are indeed blessed through Abram, for Christ Himself ordered His disciples to go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them and teaching His Word (Matthew 28:19-20).
Theology Terms Used
- Fecundity: fruitfulness or fertility; the capacity for abundant production.
Featured image: The March of Abraham by József Molnár (19th century); in the Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest. © G. Dagli Orti—DeA Picture Library/age fotostock