Original Sin 10 – God Calls a People

It’s within the context of a humanity divided into many peoples with many gods, that we see God’s next move in Genesis 12. And unless you grasp the context of Babel, the dominion of death over humanity, and something of the depth and breadth of the healing and restoration we required, God’s moves looks exceedingly odd. Out of the nations of the earth, God calls a people. Think about it for a bit. Humanity is fractured. Not only have we turned from our only source of life, but we have turned from one another. We’ve abandoned communion with God and thus we also have no communion with each other. And every nation and even household is ruled by its own god or gods.

It’s in that context that God calls one man and tells that man that He will make him into a great nation. But there’s more there than promising him land and many descendants (essential components for a nation). God also promises that he will “be God to you and your descendants after you.” In our ears it sounds strange to hear God promising to be God. But in the ancient context where every nation had its gods, the promise makes sense. You can’t have a nation without gods. And for the nation God will form from Abraham, God promises he “will be their God.”

On the surface, it looks like God is doing little that is different from the surrounding landscape. He will have his people while the other gods have their peoples. But there is a difference that at first is easy to overlook. God promises right at the start that in Abram “all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” God is creating a people certainly. But the purpose of that people is to bless all the nations. That theme steadily develops over the course of the narrative, though by the time of Jesus it is unclear how it will ever be fulfilled.

One thing, though, is clear. This is not the reductionist narrative I mentioned yesterday. From Genesis 12 on to the end, our Holy Scriptures form the story of the people of God. And it’s a complex and rich story that in the Old Testament speaks of Christ in shadow and in the New Testament is illuminated in and through Christ. It’s not the story of a people among many peoples, of a nation among many nations. No, it’s the story of a people that spreads through all the nations of the world like yeast in dough, incorporating them into one people of one God.

It’s hard to fit the idea of inherited guilt into that story of healing and the restoration of communion. It doesn’t fit anywhere in the natural flow of the narrative as we have it in scripture. Rather, it sticks out like something that has been jammed into it, but which forms a jarring note. Tomorrow we’ll look specifically at just a bit of the Old Testament narrative. There are a few things about God I want to draw out and emphasize.

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