Directly prior to the great flood, God withdrew His spirit such that the Spirit did not strive with humanity (Genesis 6:3). He left humanity to its own devices to rule the earth, and the earth was plunged into wickedness and violence. God baptized the earth because it had become corrupt. People will only bring injustice and violence without God. After the Flood, the Holy Spirit began to strive with humanity again, and God promised never to forsake humanity or destroy the earth again on account of humanity (Genesis 8:21-22). God proved Himself at Babel, not leaving humanity to corrupt the earth again. Even after confusing their languages and dispersing people according to His own plan, people did not know Him.
Have you ever wondered how God can be known? He is transcendent. He is invisible. He cannot be searched out because all we can perceive are material things. There is a reason so many in the world come to the conclusion that God either does not exist and cannot be seen. Scripture itself admits that God is unsearchable and His ways are unknowable (Job 9:10; Psalm 145:3; Ecclesiastes 11:5; Isaiah 40:28; 64:4; 65:17; Romans 11:33; 1 Corinthians 2:9-11). How silly it seems that anyone can possibly claim to know God or search the things of God when no one can know me unless I communicate something about myself to him. Today, I want to pose a simple question. There are many belief systems in the world. There are many claims about God or different gods. Here is my simple question—How can you know God, especially when any real God is, by definition, unsearchable?
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3).
Abram’s family intended to “enter Canaan” (11:31). There is no indication in the text that Abram’s family knew Yahweh. They were Chaldeans and were going to settle down as Canaanites, both idolatrous people groups (cf. 11:1-9, the Cushites represented all humanity). After Abram’s father dies, God makes first contact with him by initiating a command. The God of the Bible is consistently the only one who actively seeks His people whom He has chosen rather than requiring people to seek and find Him. God seeks Abram. God makes Abram a promise. God promises to bless every family of the earth through Abram, which requires no previous effort from Abram. In fact, it doesn’t even require Abram to have known or searched for God—who is unsearchable. God just shows up. He reveals Himself to Abram.
There are many people today who will ask you to do the impossible. Search for God. Have enough faith. You have to know Him. You have to know about Him. Look at the story. God was not on Abram’s radar. God chose to reveal Himself to Abram anyway. I want to encourage you. You don’t have to know everything about God. The only thing required for you to belong to Him is His knowledge of you. He will reveal Himself to you—in fact He does so through His word. Praise Him for that, because I have been in theological education for 13 or 14 years, and I still feel like I don’t know much about God. I am confident that I am fully known by Him. God is unsearchable, He is not unrevealed.
God previously cursed the whole world through Adam. He will lift the curse through Abram. Even before the birth of national Israel or any form of Judaism, prior to the advent of the messiah, who would ultimately fulfill God’s promise to Abram here, and the building of the Christian church, God provides a way for people to be saved. It is not by works but grace. Those who bless Abram will have the blessing of redemption (cf. Genesis 3:20-21). Those who curse Abram will be cursed like their father the serpent (cf. Genesis 3:14-15). Never again will God destroy the whole earth. His plan is to bless the nations despite the natural depravity and wretchedness of humankind. His Spirit strives with humanity now.
I want you to see God’s heart, here—the heart He reveals to Abram. He promises Abram that all the families of the earth will be blessed in Abram. There are no exceptions. God meant to say all families are blessed in Abram—which is a promised fulfilled in Jesus Christ. God cannot lie, so this is encouraging. It does not mean that everyone will receive eternal life. It does mean that God’s heart is to bless every family on the earth. He is not interested in cursing or destroying the world again. That is not God’s heart.
There is, however, a curse mentioned. Those who curse Abram will be cursed. God does not take joy in this. The intention of His heart is blessing, not cursing. Yet, He is a just God. Those who curse Abram, those who reject the descendants of Abram—particularly Jesus Christ—are cursed. But the whole world is not and will not be cursed. In fact, even with such a curse every family will be blessed by God in some way. God is so good, and the intentions of His will are so kind (cf. Ephesians 1:5).
So Abram went forth as the Lord had spoken to him; and Lot went with him. Now Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his nephew, and all their possessions which they had accumulated, and the persons which they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan; thus they came to the land of Canaan. Abram passed through the land as far as the site of Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. Now the Canaanite was then in the land. The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord who had appeared to him. Then he proceeded from there to the mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord. Abram journeyed on, continuing toward the Negev (Genesis 12:4-9).
Abram follows the Lord’s instructions. Instead of becoming a Canaanite, settling in Canaan, Abram’s descendants will be given the land. The land that is under the cursed people will be given to the blessed people. God’s renewal of Canaan through the Hebrews as recorded in the Pentateuch (Torah) typifies His renewal of the whole world through the messiah, Jesus Christ. Abram does his best work in his old age. God uses the young and old alike. He does not discriminate by age.
This is the first time Abram worships God, who chose him and promised him a gift he did not earn, at the high place near Bethel. Abram does not worship in order to please God or earn God’s favor. He worships because God’s favor has already been freely given.
The Bible is the only collection of documents that claims God is unsearchable and builds a belief system on the fact that people can’t do anything to discover or get close to God. God must come and love us first (cf. 1 John 4:19). Every other system presents a system of works or practices that are considered to be holy and achieve closeness with some god or gods or the universe or whatever. Any true belief system will claim that God is unsearchable—the Bible does. That is why we can be confident in the words of Scripture—it is honest and doesn’t seek to manipulate people by telling them to act better or fit some paradigm in order to gain the favor of God. Abram was an idolater moving to a land of many manmade gods. Yet, God chose Him. Our communities are filled with people who do not know God and are not searching for God. God will reveal Himself to them, too, in His own timing. Many reading this may not be searching for God, but God is the one who seeks and saves the lost (cf. Luke 19:10).
In response to God’s revelation, we worship Him. We do not worship to gain His favor. We worship because He first grants His favor to His people.
In order to know God, then, we trust in His revelation of Himself (Scripture). We can trust the Bible because it is unique in the midst of all the religions of the world—plainly admitting that God is unsearchable and that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone. Will you turn to God like Abram did today?