“Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred…to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great so that you will be a blessing.’ ” (Genesis 12:1-2)
While it has become popular today amongst atheists to mock the God of the Bible as “a divine, genocidal psychopath”, we discover through God’s covenants in the Bible that He is just the opposite; He is actually a God of grace and blessing.
The Abrahamic covenant is a case in point. It is a covenant founded upon God’s grace. It is important that we note the context of the covenant. It was instituted shortly after the completion of the Tower of Babel when the dark night of idolatry and unbelief had descended upon the world. God acted in judgment against the world’s self-worship by confusing their language and dispersing them throughout the earth.
It was in the midst of this darkness that God appeared to Abraham, who, incidentally, was a practicing idolater at the time. He and his family were “serving other gods” (Joshua 24:2-3). In other words, while God dealt with the idolatry of Babel in judgment, when He dealt with Abraham – another idolater – He did so in mercy and grace. Abraham didn’t receive God’s call because somehow he merited His favour; instead, God appeared to him solely because of His grace.
But to what end? Moses tells us that God’s aim in making the covenant was to bring blessing into Abraham’s life and into the lives of his descendants. Now the notion of ‘blessing’ is a very important Biblical idea. The word ‘bless’ or ‘blessing’ occurs 415 times in the Old Testament. It had a very important place in people’s thinking. According to the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament edited by R. Laird Harris, to bless means “to endue with power for success, prosperity…and longevity.” In essence, the one who is blessed is given a rich and abundant life. In other words, if you are looking for ‘the good life’, or what the ancients called the summun bonum, you discover the source of it in God’s covenant promises.
This means that the good life is not to be found simply by living in a country which has an ever-expanding economy and a generous welfare system. Instead, it is found by being in relationship with God through trusting His covenant promises.
Isn’t it interesting that this is where Satan so often attacks the Christian faith? He tempts us to believe that becoming a Christian and following God’s call will lead to misery. He suggests that a life lived for God will spoil all our fun. I suppose you have heard the oft-repeated statement that Christians in the Puritan age were totally miserable because they took the Bible too seriously. Conversely, it is claimed, people who have cast off every form of divine restraint are immensely happy.
Sadly, the truth is otherwise. Those who push for total freedom from God are often the most miserable, and those who seek God’s blessing in the covenant are invariably filled with joy.