“Joy to the world the Lord is come, let earth receive her king!”
I love the song “Joy to the World”. It’s so good because in it we get to sing about a salvation that God has for the whole world. Not only that but in the third verse, Isaac Watts tells us that what Jesus is doing has enormous, cosmic implications. He is reversing the curse! This is awesome!
It started with one man
If you are not on a Bible plan where you read through the whole Bible every year then you need to be. And when you read through the Bible you need to not allow yourself to become numb to some of your favorite Bible stories like Father Abraham. Sure we know that, “many sons had father Abraham” but it is really important that we pause and reflect on what a crazy turn of events this is because the Creator of the universe singles out one man with whom to have this covenant relationship.
So here we have Abraham, minding his own business, doing nothing for which God should reward him, and then, seemingly out of nowhere, God introduces himself. Wow. What is happening here? Because we have been following along in the flow of salvation history we know that God has already promised that God is going to send a man (born of a woman) to provide salvation. And if we are reading the Bible with this in mind then as soon as we see Eve get pregnant in chapter 4 then we think this might be the one. In fact, I think that is exactly what Eve was thinking. Look what she says. “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord” (Gen 4:1). It’s possible she was thinking that this was the one that God promised. But Cain turned out to be the opposite of a messiah and that didn’t work out. Then time goes by and people forget the Lord over and over. Finally, we get to Abraham and God chooses him to establish a covenant.
Covenants, Testaments, and Promises
When we say that God is establishing a covenant relationship with Abraham (He’s actually still called Abram at this point, but you know who we’re talking about) what we mean is that God is making a promise to him that He is going to fulfill. This moment provides a hinge in all of human history. The immaterial, all-powerful, Creator God is initiating a personal relationship with a sinful human being. Everything that comes after this (a.k.a. history) needs to be seen in light of this singular event.
So what exactly is God promising Abraham at this point? Let’s look at the deets.
Make a great nation from you
Make your name great
You will be a blessing
Bless those who bless you
Curse those who curse you
Bless all the families of the earth through you
As we look at these, we realize that this is a pretty sweet gig. This is compounded even more when we remember that at this point Abraham is 75 years old and he doesn’t have any kids. The first six of these promises are really straight forward. God is going to make a great nation out of Abraham’s family. We can assume that this blessing is going to involve all kinds of land, possessions, livestock, and property. And more than that, God is going to look out for him. This is a kind of adoption where God is providing not only Abraham’s provisions but also his protection. Those who are good to Abraham will be taken care of by God, and those who seek his harm will be repaid by God.
None of these are really hard to understand. It is the last promise that is a bit confusing. What exactly could God mean by saying that the whole earth is going to be blessed through Abraham? What could Abraham do to affect the whole world? This is where it gets really good. The answer is… nothing. Abraham couldn’t possibly do something that would affect the whole world. This is something that only God can do.
When we look back at this through the lens of the Gospel we see that God is narrowing the means by which He is fulfilling the promise He made to Eve way back in the garden. The serpent crusher that God told Adam and Eve about is going to come through the family of Abraham. This is the only way that the whole world is going to be blessed through him. And this will be accomplished not through land and livestock but through the Messiah reversing the curse!
So what do we need to be thinking about as we look forward to Christmas? We need to remember that God is good and that he keeps his promises. Jesus coming to earth as a baby was not just some sort of isolated, haphazard event but was the fulfillment of his promise.
God chose Abraham out of all the people on the earth and made a covenant with him. This is the beginning of the Jewish nation. But notice that from the beginning God did not just intend to bring salvat