Scripture: Genesis 12:1-3; Isaiah 49:6 (NRSV)
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. 2 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. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
he (the LORD) says, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel;
I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
Genesis 12: 1-3 is the first in a series of promises made to Israel’s ancestors granting them not only nationhood, reputation, and blessing, mentioned here, but also land (v.7) and descendants (13:16). Blessing means well-being in all of life’s dimensions: material, social, and spiritual. The LORD promises to bless Abram and Sarah for a purpose – “so that [they} will be a blessing.”
The form of the Hebrew verb for “to bless” in the final phrase “All the families of the earth will be blessed” may be rendered either passive or reflexive, equally plausible translations, and the choice between them has generally been made on the basis of the interpreter’s theological preference. The NRSV’s passive translation, shall be blessed, preferred in Christian interpretation (Gal 3:8), implies that God’s blessing and salvation are given to the whole world through Abraham. This concept is accentuated later in the Hebrew Scriptures (Isaiah 49:6), that Israel is to be a “light to the nations, that my (the LORD’s) salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” Later the Jewish and Jewish Christian communities will interpret this calling in different ways. –Adapted from New Interpreter’s Study Bible, pp. 26-27
Questions about the Scripture
1. In Genesis 12:1-3 The LORD says to Abram “I will bless you… you will be a blessing.” Why do you think both emphases were included in the LORD’s call? What happens when we only seek blessings for ourselves (individually, as a church, as a nation) to the exclusion of others (all the families of the earth)?
2. Can you think of some ways that the children of Abraham succeeded in being a blessing? Conversely, can you think of times when they fell short? What about the church? Give some examples of Christians being a blessing to others, as well as times when we fall short. What can we learn as a result?
3. According to Jewish New Testament scholar Amy-Jill Levine, many Jews of Jesus’ day did not accept Jesus as their Messiah because he did not immediately usher in the Messianic Age (Isaiah 11: 1-10 was not happening, wolves were still preying upon lambs, etc.). That said, a number of Jews did embrace Jesus as the Messiah (or “Christos”, the Greek word for “Messiah”). Why do you think many Jews began following Jesus as their Christ? Why do you follow Jesus today?
4. Today many Jews understandably view Christianity negatively through the lens of historic and present anti-Semitism. Discuss how we can better love all of our neighbors today (Jewish, as well as Hindu, Buddhist, and Muslim), practically speaking.
Community & Personal Action Items
Over the course of this week together, let’s challenge ourselves to do one (or both) of the following actions:
1. Seek Common Ground. Attend a synagogue service with a friend or family member sometime in the next few weeks. Discuss the similarities and differences in Jewish and Christian worship.
2. Be REAL. Prayerfully initiate coffee with someone of Jewish or another different faith tradition. Simply seek to live into the call to love our neighbors by exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23 see below) and see how God works.
3. Remember. Memorize the following verse this week. Then discuss its meaning and application with your family, friends, or small group.
MEMORY VERSE: the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. — Galatians 5:22-23