If you sit down to read the first 11 chapters of Genesis, you will find that God's creation became quite the mess. In fact, humanity became so miserably evil at one point that the Lord nearly wiped us from the face of the earth. Genesis 6:5-6 tells us, "The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him to His heart." But for the righteousness of Noah, our story would have ended. With righteousness God wiped out every living person on the earth, except for Noah and his family. God temporarily purified His creation in a mighty act of justice, although the sin condition remained in the hearts of Noah and his descendants. As Noah's sons repopulated the earth, sin reigned still.
We read in Genesis 11 of man's efforts to build a city and a tower, known commonly as the Tower of Babel. In their wickedness, they sought to make a great name for themselves. Rejecting God's provision and His command to spread out and populate the face of the earth, these people gathered together in one location and with one language. They sought to become strong. God, knowing the destruction and evil that would come from such power, confused their language and dispersed this people.
Then, the Genesis account slows down and focuses on one man, Abram, from Ur of the Chaldeans. Abram, son of Terah, husband to Sarai, uncle to Lot, father to none. He was a pagan man in a pagan culture. He left his home and journeyed with his father to settle in the land of Canaan, but on their way they came to Haran. There they settled instead (Gen. 11:27-32).
Somewhere along the way, this man Abram encounters the Creator God. Did he know God before his encounter in chapter 12? Or was this the first time God spoke to him? We do not know the answer, but we do know that Abram obeyed Yahweh after his encounter in Genesis 12:1-3. Here God told 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 dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
So comes the first covenant from God, also known as the Abrahamic Covenant. Just to be clear, this covenant extended to Abram was completely the initiative of God. Abram did no good thing to earn or deserve this covenant and the promises it held. God chose Abram.
To review, God, in His goodness and holiness, had fashioned a wondrous creation to display His glory. God, who formed man in His image as the pinnacle of His creation, had given mankind dominion of all He had created. God, rejected and despised by Adam and Eve, and thereby all of humanity, stayed His righteous anger and instead placed humanity outside the garden to live until God could redeem His creation from the grips of sin. And now God, ever-gracious and ever-kind, reached out toward one man to ultimately establish His relationship with humanity once more.
In establishing His covenant with Abram, God provides our first insight into His redemption plan. God gives Abram an imperative: leave his land, his family, and all he knows. For his obedience, God gives three promises to Abram: 1) a great nation, 2) a blessing for Abram, and 3) a great name. Imagine Abram, advanced in age and with no children to his name, receiving a promise from the Creator God that He will make a great nation from him. It is a seemingly impossible plan, a dream for a man who had most likely ceased dreaming many years prior.
God's promises do not stop there, though, for His benevolence goes beyond raising up one man. As He finishes explaining the first three promises for Abram, God reveals that He is choosing to bless Abram "so that you will be a blessing." This is the second imperative God gives Abram, that he might bless others. This imperative also contains three promises. God will 1) bless those who bless Abram, 2) curse those who curse him, and 3) bless all the families of the earth through Abram. Giving, serving, and blessing others are weaved into the fabric of God's redemption plan, and they have been so from the beginning. God established His people through this man Abram, later called Abraham, but not so that they could be the only recipients of His goodness. They were to be a missionary people from the beginning, the means through which God would work His redemptive plan that all might be saved.
He is a Benevolent God.
He is the greatest example of giving and sacrifice. It is His nature, and this is shown even from His first covenant in Scripture. God did not reach out to Abram to merely bless him alone; His redemption plan involves blessing one so that all the peoples of the earth might be blessed. We see the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant in Jesus Christ, who is of the line of Abraham. Christ is the ultimate fulfillment of this because it is through Christ that God blesses all nations.
The wonders of Christ's birth are magnified when we realize this. Yes, God sent His Son for you and for me. Let us always rejoice in that. But let us not ever stop there, for we then cheapen His gift to being something we selfishly prize for ourselves. My friends, our Benevolent God sent His Son to bless with salvation those who call upon His Name in surrender and repentance, that we might know Him and that we might bless others!
All the time.
For ALL people.
Merry Christmas, and I pray that it truly is a merry and blessed Christmas for you. But I also pray that as we all meditate on God's gift to us over the next several weeks, we are genuinely changed inside. I pray that it enlightens the way in which we live and encounter others all the time, that we might embrace and display the benevolent nature of our God to all people. I pray that a lost and dying world cannot help but see our good works and praise our Father in Heaven (Matt. 5:16; 1 Pet. 2:12). This is the Gospel!