“…in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
The opening verses of Genesis chapter 12 have been called by some the most important verses in the Bible. Hyperbole? Perhaps. And yet it is certainly a helpful overstatement because what is described in these verses is an event which will shape the rest of the biblical narrative and, indeed, human history. The event described is God’s call to a pagan named Abram to gather up his family and all his possessions and travel to a land that he had never seen. It is a call for Abram to abandon his idols and look in faith to God alone. God promised Abram that from him would come a descendant who would bless all the nations on earth. As the Bible unfolds it becomes clear that his descendant is the serpent crusher promised in Genesis 3:15, the divine Redeemer, the Son of God. What is described in Genesis 12 is God’s covenant of grace whereby he promised to send a Savior to redeem a vast number of sinful humanity (Genesis 15:5). This gracious covenant is further explained and ratified in chapters 15 and 17 of Genesis. In the ruins of human sin God spoke a promise of grace. So great would be the number of those blessed through Abram’s offspring that God changed his name, which meant father of a nation, to Abraham, father of many nations.
God turned catastrophe into blessings. He snatched life from the jaws of death. In his grace God answered the wickedness and tragedy of mankind’s rebellion with a promise of redemption. The Creator was unwilling to walk away from his human creatures. But because of mankind’s sinful condition, a relationship with his holy Creator must be based upon something formal; a structure which makes it just and moral for God to forgive sinners. That formal structure is known as a covenant. A covenant is a sovereignly ordered relationship where two parties are bound by oath to one another. In his covenant of grace God bound himself to Abraham and all those throughout
human history who would believe (Galatians 3:7-9, 14, 29). It is a covenant of GRACE because God promised to meet all of the demands of the covenant himself.
Advent means appearing. Christians who celebrate Advent do so as a way to mark the arrival of God in human flesh in the Person of Jesus Christ. All the blessings which have flowed to sinners through the death and resurrection of Jesus were promised by God to Abraham.
“Man’s redemption is inextricably bound with redemptive history, as God has progressively revealed Himself in covenant to His corporate people, culminating in His revelation in Christ. Knowledge of God is openly revealed in the concrete events of redemptive history in God’s condescension to His fallen creatures. Beginning in the Old Testament, God covenanted with historical flesh-and-blood people, and He gave the new covenant through the God -man Jesus. Theologians, therefore, cannot merely start with the advent of Christ and the individual’s profession of faith, but must account for God’s covenantal dealings with His people from the very beginning in the garden-temple of Eden” (Fesko, John, Word, Water, and Spirit, Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage, 2010, 4).