This past Sunday at The Story we heard the story of God’s call on Abraham (entitled Promise). The contrast between the two stories stood rather starkly for me and I saw something I had never seen before.
Previously in The Story of the Babel Builders we saw that they resisted being scattered, trying instead to create for themselves their own source of security, safety, provision, significance and rest. However when we reach Genesis 12:1-3 and the famous promise to Abraham, it is immediately noticeable that these are almost the exact same things that God promises to Abraham. And yet the very first thing that God tells Abraham to do is to scatter. He tells him to leave his country, his relatives and Father’s household and go to the land He will show Him. God’s promise immediately validates those desires in us as good desires but it also subverts our understanding of what it would take to truly gain these things.
In order for Abraham to receive the promise of land, descendants, blessing and a great Name he must scatter. The creation call to fill the earth with the glory of the Lord remains. As Abraham (and his descendants) scatters he is to demonstrate to the world that it is good to live under the reign of God. Abraham is blessed in order to be a blessing to the all the peoples on the earth. Unless Abraham is prepared to scatter he will never be a blessing and (is it safe to assume that) he himself would not be blessed. It is the man of faith who believes the Good God that the life of blessing is the life of scattering.
The paradox of God’s Kingdom is that the very things that we seek in order to “save our lives” are the very things which will rob us of the life of blessing. But yet the things which seem so diametrically opposed to blessing – leaving our people, seeking security and rest in being scattered among the nations- are in turn the very things through which we will find the good life. All rational thought tells us to build our own security. All rational thoughts tells us to stay with our own people, in our community, among people like us.
But the life of faith trusts the Good God, when he promises that the life of blessing, security, significance and rest will be found not in the building of a great name/city/business/church but in the life of scattering. We were, it would seem, made to give our lives away. We will be truly blessed as we leave our own people and our own safe havens and step out to follow God where he leads.
Nowhere do we see this more clearly demonstrated than in Jesus, who gave up his security, his people, his land, his blessings in order to take on humanity. He became a man not because he was lacking anything (the complete opposite in fact), or because it was a good choice, or a comfortable choice, or a secure choice (he was crucified for our sake), or even a wise choice. It was not a life of rest, or of significance (rejected, misunderstood, betrayed). He gave up his blessing in order to seek our blessing. He did not seek to hoard his blessing instead he trusted his Father to be “scattered” into the world in order to fill the world with His Glory through our salvation. And because of that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow and every tongue confess him as Lord (Philippians 2:5-11).