Our reading for today is Genesis chapter 12.
This is where the story really begins. Yes, yes, I know that there are eleven chapters before this, and that those chapters upended everything the pagans believed about the universe. But those chapters were at least recognizable in their time. There are other creation stories, other flood stories, other dispersion stories.
But there is no God-in-history story. There is no “there was a man whose life you can authenticate, whose places you can stand in, whose lineage you can trace” story. Not like this. “Then the LORD said to Abram…” is fundamentally different in content and form. “Abram?” the Israelite is startled awake. “I know there was an Abram. I know he was here because I am here. I’m a child of Joseph, of Judah, of Simeon… who’s a child of Jacob, second-born of Isaac. That oak where the LORD spoke to him – it was there is my grandfather’s time.”
We’re so used to the idea of God working through history that this fails to take us by surprise. But it impressed others – like Moses (Deuteronomy 4) and David (2 Samuel 7) who ask, “Have you ever heard of such a thing? Of a god taking a nation for Himself out of another nation?”
In here are Haran and Shechem, Bethel and Egypt, the Oak of Moreh. A land, a famine, a Pharaoh. A promise, and a lie. That’s why I want to read Genesis 12 again.
O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!