by Dr Calvin Chong
God's higher purpose for His people, the Body of Christ.
Photo: Wikipedia Commons
It all started with a family conflict. Having made that 400-mile migratory journey from Haran, Abram had now grown wealthy with large herds and flocks. But so had his nephew Lot. The scriptures tell us that their combined possessions could not be supported by the land they occupied, resulting in quarrels between their respective herders.
Abram’s response to the conflict was highly conciliatory. As head of the family, he acknowledged the tensions on the ground, put his finger on the cause, and then proposed a way out for the two disputing parties. This was in the form of a generous offer made to Lot which we read of in Genesis 13:8-9:
Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herders and mine, for we are close relatives. 9 Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.
The offer gave Lot first pick of the best real estate in the land. Lot picked the well-watered plains away from the dry Negev desert where the tensions began. The two parted company and Lot headed toward his prize.
The patriarch stayed on, content with what God had blessed him with, and setting his heart on a different prize. Abram had had important “time-with-God” encounters in his life. Prior to the family conflict in Gen 13, God had already appeared to Abram twice to reveal how He was going to bless his family line greatly (Gen 12:1-3; 7). In response, Abram built altars and called upon the Lord in worship (12:7b; 8b). Interestingly, this pattern of God appearing to Abram continued in Gen 13 (vv14-17) as did the pattern of Abram building altars and calling on the Lord in worship (vv4; 18).
The Scriptures tells us of a higher purpose and calling that the Lord had entrusted to Abram.
Beyond the prize of union and favour with God, the Scriptures tells us of a higher purpose and calling that the Lord had entrusted to Abram. God’s blessing on him and his family line was in order that they would be a blessing to the nations:
2 I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
This calling and responsibility to be a blessing to all peoples of earth is captured in the biblical phrase “light to the nations.” A sacred duty was entrusted to the people of Israel in the Old Testament and then passed on to the body of Christ in the New Testament (Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:6; Isaiah 52:10; Isaiah 60:3; John 8:12; Acts 13:47; Acts 26:23). And even though it has been thousands of years since the mandate was given, Christians all around the world stand today in the same tradition that God began in Abram – to be a blessing to the world and a light to the nations.
Christians all around the world stand today in the same tradition that God began in Abram – to be a blessing to the world and a light to the nations.
What lessons can we learn from this story of Abram in Genesis 12-13? Is the lesson about being generous and conciliatory in seasons of conflict? Is the lesson about cultivating a relationship with God and being earnest in worship? Or is it about conscientiously seeking to be a blessing to all around us? I suspect the answer is a resounding yes to all three expressions of Christian love and obedience.
In this circuit breaker season when circumstances have forced many to spend extended time at home, each of us will have the opportunity to re-examine our lives and to take stock of our relationship with God.
For some, we will be called to be peacemakers in our homes or workplaces. Being forced into close, confined spaces creates a fertile breeding ground for family and work conflict. For others, we will be prompted to intentionally set aside time to spend with God through prayer, worship, reading the scriptures, and gathering with fellow Christians. Yet for others, God will call you to cast your sights far and wide to serve the last, the least, and the left out in society.
What is clear is that most Singaporean Christians share a common trait with Abram. We are persons of privilege blessed for a purpose! My prayer is that God will shine His light in our hearts and that we will emerge from this season of home confinement with greater clarity of what that call and purpose are. May conviction, commitment, and confidence grow as we submit ourselves to Him in faith and obedience.