Abraham. He is acknowledged as the “father of nations.” Muslims, Christians and Jews all claim him as their patriarch—an ancestor to be respected, admired and highly esteemed. God singled him out for a special relationship. God promised to bless Abraham; but not just for the good of Abraham and his family. God promised to bless Abraham so that through him the whole world would be blessed.
One way to imagine Abraham fulfilling that purpose might be to picture Abraham as the person designated to distribute all the good gifts of God—spiritual and material—to the rest of the inhabitants of the world. God makes deposits into Abraham’s account; and then Abraham writes checks to disburse the funds. That might have been fun for Abraham; but it would have probably not been fun—or effective—for long.
You really don’t have to wonder what God meant, though. God is quite clear about his intention: “I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just” (Genesis 18:19). The way the world will be blessed through Abraham is that he will teach all the members of his family to do what is right and just.
When Moses was instructing the people of Israel before they entered the Promised Land, he was clear, “Follow justice and justice alone, so that you may live and possess the land the Lord your God is giving you” (Deuteronomy 16:20). Even the queen of Sheba recognized the most valuable role Solomon played in God’s plan: “Because of the Lord’s eternal love for Israel, he has made you king to maintain justice and righteousness” (1 Kings 10:9).
In spite of this consistent theme—this command to tell the truth, to ensure the rights of the poor are respected, to guard the welfare of foreigners, to be generous with those who have experienced hard times; the people God set apart to bless failed their primary purpose. Repeatedly God sent messengers to remind them in one way or another of the desire of God’s heart: “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). It is difficult to express how utterly God’s people failed to live out this standard—or how their failure set them up for the disappointment they experienced.
God still longs for those he calls his own to do what is right and just; and we still fall short. The good news is that God still extends his mercy, shows us patience, and welcomes us when we turn toward him and seek the Spirit’s guidance to live as champions of righteousness and justice.