God Chose Familes

 “Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house 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. I will bless those who bless you, and him who curses you I will curse; and by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves.’”   Genesis 12:1-3


Beginning with Abram God chose carry out his mission through a family as a vessel to bear salvation into the world.  When you stop to think about it, this is an awkward and unwieldy way of doing things.  How much more efficient it would appear to be to send a swat team, or a team of navy seals who could stealthily move into foreign territory to take it.  After that devout, godly leaders could set up the true religion backed by force.  But God chose to start with Abraham, an old man with no children of his own, an extended family, some hired hands to tend the flocks, much livestock and lots of possessions.  


The promise of salvation for the world became mysteriously and inextricably bound up with this family of nomadic cattle herders.   How strange and curious that the hope for the world should be entrusted to a man whose wife could have no children.  It just doesn’t make sense. Even in the best of circumstances, a family is a vulnerable and transient thing. Too many things can go wrong in families. But apparently, for God, it is just the right thing to accomplish his mission.

The families we read about in the Bible are a far cry from our ideals.  Abraham fathered a baby with his wife’s servant girl Hagar, setting up a rivalry between the girl and his wife Sarah.  Jacob schemed to steal the birthright from his brother Esau. Jacob had multiple wives who became jealous of one another. David indulged himself in an adulterous affair with Bathsheba, then married her after killing her husband.  It is hard to find a model family in the Old Testament. In spite of all this, God did not reject his people but continued to be faithful to his promise to send salvation through the families of his chosen people.


Families are always at risk.  The night Jesus was born, his parents could not get a room in a hotel. They had to camp out in a stable.  Soon after this, a cruel middle eastern tyrant named Herod, gave the order to slaughter all the young boys of Bethlehem, among them, Jesus.  But Joseph had been warned in a dream to flee the county. The family fled to Egypt as refugees.  Though frail and vulnerable, the family who brought Jesus into the world turned out to serve God’s purposes well enough.  

Families in our time face uncertainty and danger too.  More than half of marriages in America end in divorce. Many husbands and wives who stay married get hung up endlessly arguing over the same old things. Children are unsettled by their parents’ inability to get along. Parents, exasperated with their children’s chaotic behavior, wonder whether anything good can emerge out of their lives.  When parents divorce, kids are left on their own to figure out how to live in multiple households under changing sets of rules. Older people despair of the lack of wisdom they see in the lives of the younger generation. Young parents struggle to make ends meet and make sense of life in a rapidly changing economy. Single moms and dads strive against the odds to provide a good life for their children.  It’s a confusing world.

In spite of all this, God does not cease to make use of families, with all their flaws and weaknesses, as the little community for shaping people toward a life of salvation and doing his mission in the world.  With all the brokenness in families, God still chooses to make known his unbreakable promise of salvation and hope to people in the fragility of their families. He still uses families to extend the same irrevocable promises to people in the world around them.

Donald Marsden

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