Faithlife Sermons

Abraham's Story

Autumn 2018 Narrative Lectionary  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  11:37
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Why was Abram chosen to become Abraham and the ancestor of many nations? What did he do that warranted that type of attention from God? In short -- NOTHING. Abraham didn't warrant God's blessing, and neither do we. This story is the beginning of God dealing differently with God's people. We are chosen by God to be blessed because we exist, and because God wants us to be blessed.

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Why Abraham?

When I went to Seminary, I spent more time taking courses in the Hebrew Scriptures than the New Testament because I wanted to understand certain things that were often missing from my faith development up to that point. Sure, stories like Creation, and the Flood were part of what I knew — and that God’s people wandered for 40 years in the wilderness — but there were things that just didn’t make sense to me.
Abraham was one of them. Why did God pick Abraham to be the ancestor of faith? From time to time, I’d hear prayers that were prayed to “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”. What happened to Noah? If we’re all descendant from Noah — then shouldn’t we be recalling his name in our prayers?
So, what do we know about Abraham?
Genesis 11:27–31 NRSV
Now these are the descendants of Terah. Terah was the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran was the father of Lot. Haran died before his father Terah in the land of his birth, in Ur of the Chaldeans. Abram and Nahor took wives; the name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife was Milcah. She was the daughter of Haran the father of Milcah and Iscah. Now Sarai was barren; she had no child. Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they went out together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan; but when they came to Haran, they settled there.
Since those are the verses just before today’s reading, it isn’t a lot to go on. Ancient rabbinical sources would say that Terah was an idol maker, but there’s nothing here to support that. If he was, then Abram, who later becomes Abraham is the first mono-theist. Which then makes sense that God would make promises to him.
However, if there isn’t biblical support for that story-line, then maybe we need to look elsewhere to understand “Why Abraham?”

What are the promises?

The promises are three-fold:
++Children
++Blessing
++Land
There are two parts of the text though that require careful examination to understand:
Genesis 12:2 NRSV
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.
It is the end of the verse that is the important part. Abraham doesn’t get to be a great nation, and have a great lineage, so he can amass wealth and pass that wealth onto his descendants. Abraham gets children and blessing to be a blessing to others.

What does it mean to be a blessing?

The Hebrew root, ברך (brk), “bless,” is widely understood as referring to “health-creating power”; someone who is בְּרוּךְ (berukh), “blessed,” is gifted with such power, while to bless someone is either to bestow such power on them (often by means of a verbal statement) or to declare that they have such power

So, Abraham is granted children and land, and is blessed, so he in-turn can share “health-creating power” on those who follow.
Couldn’t Noah have done that? Couldn’t Adam have done that?
Why do we come back to Abraham again?
Harper’s Bible Dictionary Curse and Blessing

The Priestly author of Genesis 1 places the divine blessing on humankind at the beginning of his work (1:28); but the Yahwist chapters that follow are a narrative dominated by God’s curse, from the man and woman (Gen. 3:16-19) to Cain (4:11) to the Flood and the renewal of the divine blessing to its survivors (9:1). The cycle of sin and curse begins again, climaxing in the hybris of the Tower of Babel (11:1-9), but it is countered now by a new act of God, the blessing of Abram (12:1-3). This is the beginning of a history of blessing (22:15-18; 24:60; 26:2-4) that culminates in the blessing of Jacob by Isaac (27:27-29) and by God (32:27).

Jacob of course becomes Israel, so this story is so important to understanding how God works in the world.
No longer will the sin and curse that was dominant in the first 11 chapters of Genesis be the focus — blessing — and being a blessing for others — health-creating power — and sharing that power with others — will be the new focus of God’s story with God’s people.

So … Why Abraham? … Why not?

If we see the purpose of this story as a way to help us understand that God is going to deal differently with God’s people,
If we see Abraham not as someone who warranted God’s blessing, but as someone who just happened to be born,
If we see blessing as the power to create health in others ...
Then why not Abraham,
and to take that further … why not us?
Genesis 12:3 could be understood this way:

I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse;

by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves

Each one of us, has the power to create health — physical, emotional, spiritual — in ourselves — and to share that health with others.
So the true blessings of life aren’t kids, and possessions .. the true blessing of life is health … and how we share that with others is the key to life.
Thank God that sin and curse are no longer the way that God deals with God’s people. For we too are called — as Abraham was — to be a blessing to the many nations of the world. Thanks be to God.
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