Even though Israel is a small country it is always in the news. The news continues to report on Jews moving to Israel, on the technology invented there, but also on conflict, wars and tensions with surrounding people.
A look at Israel’s history in the book of Genesis of the Bible reveals that 4000 years ago a man, now very well known, went on a camping trip in that part of the world. The Bible says that his story affects our future.
This ancient man is Abraham (also known as Abram). The Bible records God’s first steps in fulfilling His primeval promise, taken with Abraham.
The Promise to Abraham
God made a promise to Abraham:
“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you;
I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”Genesis 12:2-3
Abraham’s name became Great
Some today wonder if a personal God exists who cares enough to help our troubled lives and give us hope. In this account we can test this question. Here God made a promise to a specific person, parts of which we can verify today. The account records that The LORD directly promised Abraham that ‘I will make your name great’. We live in the 21st century – 4000 years later. Today the name of Abraham is one of the most globally recognized names from ancient history. Jews and Arabs today trace their ancestry from him. The recent US-sponsored peace plan changing the geo-politics of the Middle East, The Abraham Accords, was named from him. This promise has literally, historically, and verifiably come true.
The Dead Sea scrolls contain the earliest manuscripts of the Bible. They date date to 200-100 BCE. This means that this promise has, at the very latest, been in writing since long before the name ‘Abraham’ became known outside of the Jewish nation. The fulfillment did not come about by simply writing it down after the name of Abraham became known.
… by means of his great nation
What is equally astonishing is that Abraham really did nothing noteworthy in his life. He achieved nothing that normally makes one’s name ‘great’. He did not write anything extraordinary. Abraham did not build anything noteworthy. He did not lead an army with impressive military skill . Nor was he a statesman, or a teacher. Abraham did not even rule a kingdom. He did nothing really except camp on his journey, pray in the wilderness, and then have a son.
If you lived in Abraham’s day and predicted who would be most remembered thousands of years later, you would have bet on the kings, generals, warriors, or court poets living back then to be remembered today. But their names are all forgotten. But the man who just barely managed to have a family in the wilderness is a household name around the world. His name is great only because the nation(s) that he fathered kept the record of his account. Then individuals and nations that came from him became great. This is exactly how God promised it long ago (“I will make you into a great nation … I will make your name great”). No one else in all history is so well-known only because of descendants coming from him rather than from great accomplishments in his own life.
…Through the Will of the Promise-Maker
And the people today who descended from Abraham – the Jews – were never really a nation which we typically associate with greatness. They did not build great architectural structures like the pyramids of the Egyptians. They did not write philosophy like the Greeks, or administer over far-flung colonies like the British did. All of these nations accomplished their achievements as world empires stretching their extensive borders through extraordinary military power.
But the Jews never attained such great imperial power. The Jewish people’s greatness is mostly due to the Law and Book (Bible) which they birthed; from some remarkable individuals that came from their nation; and that they have survived for these thousands of years as a distinct and somewhat different people group. Their greatness is not really due to anything they did, but rather what was done to and through them.
The “I wills” stamped into History
Now look to the Person that was going to make this promise happen. There, in black-and-white, it says repeatedly that “I will …”. The unique way their greatness has played out in history fits once again remarkable to this declaration that it was going to be the Creator who would make this happen rather than some innate ability, conquest or power of this ‘nation’. The media attention paid around the world today to events in Israel, the modern Jewish nation, is a case in point. Do you constantly hear of news events in Singapore, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Bolivia, or the Central African Republic? But Israel, similarly-sized as these with 9 million, is constantly and regularly in the global news headlines.
Human events have no preset bias for Jewish people. History could have unfolded along so many different paths. Think how likely it was for this promise to have failed in some way. But instead it has unfolded, and continues to unfold, as it was declared those thousands of years ago. Perhaps the power and authority of that ancient Promise-Maker can penetrate the confusion that governs our lives.
The Journey that still shakes the World
The Bible then says that “So Abram left as the LORD had told him” (v. 4). He began a journey, shown on the map that is still making history.
Blessings to us
This journey extends far beyond Abraham and his physical descendants. The blessing was not only for Abraham because it also says that
all peoples on earth will be blessed through youv. 4
This should make you and I take note. Regardless of your nationality; no matter what your religion; whether you are wealthy or poor, healthy or sick, educated or not – the ‘all peoples on earth’ has to include you also. This promise for a blessing includes everybody alive from back then until today – which means you. How? When? What kind of blessing? In following the account of Abraham we understand better.
We have just verified historically and literally that the first part of the Promise to Abraham has come true. Do we not then have a reason to trust that the Promise to you and to me will also not activate? Because we can see it operating still 4000 years later, we know this promise reaches across history. But we need to unlock it – to understand the Promise, know how it can ‘touch’ us. We find out in continuing to follow the account of Abraham. He shows a pattern we can follow. We see this next.