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Edward F. Markquart

Series A
Father Abraham And Blessed To Be A Blessing
Old Testament Analysis

Genesis 12:1-4

The following Bible study is from a larger course entitled A SLOW WALK THROUGH THE OLD TESTAMENT. This 72 week course for the laity will be available for congregations in 2009.


  1. With Father Abraham, we move from prehistory to history, from primeval stories to historical stories. In Genesis 12, we move from universal history (Chapters 1-11) to a particular history (Abraham).
  2. Genesis 12-25 is a cycle of numerous patriarchal stories.
  3. The story of Abraham is part of a larger Biblical story of the original patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph.
  4. There is no reference to known secular history in the Book of Genesis.
  5. Genesis 12:1-3 has become a symbol for Christians:  We are blessed to be a blessing.
  6. Abraham was blessed by God with a) land; b) family; c) the Divine Presence (cloud by day and pillar of fire by night); d) The divine mission for every life: to be a blessing to the world.
  7. Abraham became the model of faith in the New Testament. (Romans 4:1-18; Galatians 3:6-9, 14-18; Hebrews 11:8-19.) In the New Testament, we are asked to believe like Father Abraham.
  8. Abraham became the father and symbol of faith for the Church. 
  9. Abraham believed the promises of the Lord. That is what it means to have faith: to believe and act on the promises of God
  10. Abraham believed and obeyed. The Apostle Paul in the New Testament  links faith and obedience. Romans 1:5: “to bring about the obedience of faith.”
  11. There are numerous references to Father Abraham in the New Testament (72).
  12. There are numerous archeological connections between Abraham and the city of Ur (Genesis 11:27-32). The city of Ur was a sophisticated culture with:a)  irrigation ditches; b) stately houses of 13-14 rooms; c) thousands of cuneiform tablets;  d) math with the use of the cube and the square;  e) thousands of business contracts; f) other cities names of Peleg, Serug, Nahor and Terah. These names are also in the Nuzi and Mari texts) In other words, Abraham was not necessarily an illiterate nomad.
  13. The name Abraham means “exalted father.”
  14. The Lord made a covenant with Abraham. The covenant with Abraham was unconditional; that is, there were no strings attached to it. The Lord also made a covenant with Moses which was a conditional covenant. That is, "If you, Moses, obey me, then I will bless you.”
  15. Abraham and Moses become symbols of two covenants: unconditional and conditional; unilateral and bilateral.
  16. Abraham’s faith was tested on two specific occasions: a) the promise of an heir and then facing Sarah’s infertility; b) the sacrifice of Isaac. 
  17. We recall that Abraham was also the father of the Jewish and Islam religions.


On the above map, locate and memorize in your mind:  Ur, the route to Haran, Haran, Babylon, the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the route to Shechem (Canaan), the Negev desert, the route to Egypt and back.  Also locate Nuzi and Mari, the sites of two famous archeological digs.

Genesis 12

-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.
Circle the words, “the Lord.” That is God’s name: the Lord.

The Lord chose to speak to Abram. This is part of the “divine election” or the “divine choosing.”  The Lord chose Abram not because he was good or perfect. We simply know that the Lord chose Abram and the Lord’s choice was not capricious.

“The Lord spoke to Abram.” This phrase reminds us of “J” and his account of the creation story and God strolling along in the Garden of Eden, looking for Adam.

Today, the Lord continues to speak with us as well. This speaking is a foundation of all personal relationship with God. The Lord speaks with us; we speak with the Lord. We talk. We communicate. We share life. We basically talk with the Lord through prayer; the Lord speaks with us through the Living Word, the Bible, through Jesus, and through human experiences.

The Lord’s relationship with Abram begins with a command: “Go. Leave the familiarity of your country, your family, and your home. Go to the Promised Land.”

In  Genesis 17:1,3,5 we read: “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, "I am God Almighty, walk before me and be blameless. ... Abram fell face down, and God said to him ... No longer will you be called Abram, your name will be Abraham for I have made you father of many nations.” From then onwards his name is “Abraham.”

“Abram and Sarai. There may be confusion over the names Abram and Sarai. Genesis refers to the first patriarch as Abram and the first matriarch as Sarai from the time of their departure from Ur until the covenant of circumcision is given. At this point God changed their names to Abraham (17:5) and Sarah (17:15). Where a distinction is not relevant, discussions will use the names Abraham and Sarah.”

 “In Islam, Abraham is also called the Friend of God, Khalilu 'llah and his name, Ibrahim, occurs 69 times in the Qur'an, making him the second most-occuring name of prophets in the Qur'an after Moses. He was supposed to be one of the six prophets in Islam to whom God delivered special laws. He was said to be given twenty portions (suhifah) of scripture.”

“Lo! Allah preferred Adam and Noah and the Family of Abraham and the Family of 'Imran above (all His) creatures.”

-I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, “Focus on the phrase: “I will bless you.” Sheer gift. Sheer grace. Sheer generosity of God. Abraham did nothing to deserve God’s blessings and promises. Abraham was simply elected, chosen, and selected by God to receive God’s blessings. Everything was a gift, a pure gift. The Law and Ten Commandments had not been given through Moses yet, so Abraham was not blessed because he had been obedient to God’s law. There was no law yet. God’s gifts to Abraham were pure grace.”

The question for you and me is: What are the many blessings that God has showered on our lives? What are some of the greatest blessings that God has freely given to you?

-and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.  People ask what the purpose of life is. And the answer? To be a blessing to the world around us. That is what the Lord God wants from each one of us: to bless the world around us. God wants to use our brains/personalities/gifts/resources/aptitudes/attitudes to bless the world to which all of us belong.

Down deep in our craw, when we human beings are healthy, we want our lives to count for something and that something is to be a blessing. We want to leave this earth better than we found it because we have live lovingly and responsibly. 

-I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; Circle the word, “bless.” The word, “bless,” occurs five times within two verses.  
The Lord promises to make Abraham a great nation. That is, the Lord will shower his blessings upon Abraham, so that Abraham will be a blessing to the world.  Abraham has a basic mission for his life: to be a blessing. Also, the Lord promises to bless others who bless Abraham. All the families of the earth shall be blessed through Abraham.

-and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." “Focus on the phrase: “By you, all the families of the earth will be blessed.” Circle the word, “all.” All the families of the earth will be blessed. Not just Jewish families. Not just Christian families. Not just Muslim families. Not just Lutheran families or Catholic families. Notice that all the families of the earth are to be blessed through the life of Abraham. This is part of God’s persistent universal love; that is, love for all people and all humanity and all the earth. Hold onto this point because later in the sermon, we will focus on the fact that you and I are to be the instruments for God’s blessings on all the world around us, regardless of race, color, creed, gender or political persuasion.”

-So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; Without using the words “believe and obey,” Abraham believed the Lord and obeyed the Lord’s command to go to the Promised Land.

This is “an act of silent obedience.”

From a sermon:

 “What does it mean to believe in Christ? To trust God like Father Abraham did, not wavering or doubting but firmly believing that God could do what he promised. That is what faith is: to believe that God can do what he has promised. It is to trust the promises of God so implicitly that you act on them. Let me explain.

God made three promises to Abraham:  1) I will be with you and bless you so that you will be a blessing. No matter where you go and what you do in your journey of life, I will be with you and bless you with my Presence, so that you will be a blessing to the world. And Abraham believed God’s promise. To be religious, to be spiritual, is to believe God’s promise to you, that God will be with you, at your side, in this journey called life. 2) The second promise that God made to Abraham was that his descendents would be numerous. There would be millions of descendents, like the sands of the sea and the stars of the sky. And Abraham believed God’s promises. Abraham fully trusted that God would be faithful to his promises to give him descendents. 3) God promised him the Promised Land, that Abraham and his descendents would have land to grow their crops, a land flowing with milk and honey, a land rich in abundance. And Abraham believed God’s promise. To be religious, to be spiritual, is to believe God’s promises to you.

So immediately this was all put to the test. So here was the first testing of Abraham’s faith, whether or not Abraham truly believe in God and his promises. Father Abraham was in Babylonia, and God said, “Go to the land of Israel where I will give you a good land.” And Abraham got up and left his mother and father and brothers and sisters and began his journey to the promised land. Why did he get up and go? Because he believed that God would be faithful to his promises. No proofs. No signs. No wonders. No official deed in his fingers of future lands he would own. He simply believed that God would be faithful to him, be with him, would bless him so he would be a blessing. He acted and got up and left his homeland because he believed the promises of God, that God would give him a new land. That is what faith is: to believe in God’s promises even when there are no signs or miraculous evidences or proofs that the promises will come true.

The second testing of Abraham’s faith.  Abraham and Sarah got old, approaching one hundred years old and they didn’t have any children. But Abraham still believed God, the promises of God, that he would be the father of a great nation and be the father of millions even though he was ninety-nine years old and still didn’t have a kid. In that dark hour of aged infertility, God worked a miracle and gave Abraham and Sarah a child, Isaac, who became the father of millions. But Abraham believed in God, when he was ninety nine years old, before Sarah was pregnant, that God was faithful to his promise. He didn’t start believing in God when he was 101, the year after God worked his miracle. That is what true faith is: it is believing in the promises of God, even before there is a sign or miracle.  You need understand what faith in Christ is, and it is like having the faith of Abraham who truly believed God and God’s promises to him.

The third testing of Abraham’s faith. God had commanded to take his only son out into the desert and offer a sacrifice to God. When the two of them were alone out in the desert, little Isaac asked his father Abraham where the lamb was that was to be offered for sacrifice. They hadn’t brought it. And Abraham said, “God promised he will provide.”  God ordered Abraham to offer his only son Isaac whom Abraham deeply loved as a sacrifice and when Abraham raised the knife to slit the throat of his only son to be a sacrifice, an angel of God spoke sharply and exclaimed, “Stop.” God was putting Abraham to the test, to see if Abraham loved God more than his son Isaac. Abraham passed the test, that he loved God more than his son. And further, Abraham believed God would provide a sacrifice and sure enough, there was a lamb caught in the briars and it was sacrificed. … Abraham believed God’s promise that he would be the father of a mighty nation, even before God gave him a sign, a miracle, of the lamb caught in the bush. Abraham did not believe as a result of the miracle. No, Abraham believed in God before the miracle. He truly believed that God would provide.

And all of this occurred before Moses and the Ten Commandments, before ethics and morality, before obeying and following the religious rules, before the Jewish religion, before the commandment to love God and neighbor. What is true religion? Is true religion to love God with all your heart, mind and soul as in Deuteronomy 6:4 and love your neighbor as yourself as in Leviticus 19:18? What I am suggesting to you is that 430 years before there was Deuteronomy 6:4 and Leviticus 19:18, there was Father Abraham and his faith in God’s promises. That is the deepest form of religion, the core, the nucleus, the target. We are to have strong faith in God like Abraham. That’s what Paul is telling us in Romans four: we are to have strong faith such as found in Abraham.”

And all of this is a free gift of God’s pure grace. God’s promises of his blessing, the descendents, the Promised Land are all free gifts from God, pure gifts, simple gifts. Abraham did nothing to deserve them or earn them or work for them. God simply promised these gifts to Father Abraham and Abraham believed God.”

-And Lot went with him. Lot was Abraham’s nephew. The person of Lot becomes important to the unfolding story of Abraham.

-Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.

Related Sermons:

Lent 2 
Father Abraham, Father of Three World Religions, Genesis 12:1-3

Lent 2 
The Nucleus, Believe in Jesus Christ, Father Abraham the Model of Faith, Romans 4:6-13

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