The Gospel for the City in Genesis 24 – 25:11

Genesis 24 – 25:11 tell the story of the death of Sarah and Abraham and the transfer of the covenant promise to Isaac and the marriage of Isaac. Upon the death of Sarah Abraham purchases a burial plot in the Promised Land. Though he has not possessed the land of promise, he has sojourned there in life and will rest there in death. In order for the promise to progress beyond Isaac, God must graciously provide from him a wife through whom offspring will come and the promise to the descendants of Abraham will continue. Though Abraham remarries after the death of Saran and fathers numerous children, he gives all that he has to Isaac, the bearer of the covenant promise.

Such is the patient way of God in bringing about the fulfillment of his promises in the context of the realities of human life.  Abraham tastes the future both in the purchase of the burial plot and in the marriage of Isaac. Isaac also is comforted In the midst of the sorrow of death by the expectation of new life offered in his marriage to Rebecca.

These chapters continue the story of faith – looking for the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promises and longing for that ‘seed’ who would bring blessing to the nations of the earth. The taste of the temporal earthly promise of a land and seed kept Abraham looking for the greater promise an eternal city which would be brought about by the quintessential seed of Abraham, Jesus.

Hebrews 11:13-16  13 ¶ These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.  14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.  15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return.  16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

In God’s providence and grace, by faith Abraham had a glimpse of the future, when God would bring about the fulfillment of his promise.

John 8:56   56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.”

As we live and labor in the city, we seek to have the faith of Abraham. Like Abraham we have tasted of the world to come through our faith in the quintessential seed of Abraham, Jesus. He has come and inaugurated his kingdom which mysteriously covers the earth through the lives and congregations of those who have been redeemed. Yet, we long for the ultimate, consummate fulfillment of that kingdom.

The city offers frequent and at times harsh reminders that we are sojourners here. The city is marked by unsettledness, transience, and change. People come and go; neighborhoods experience deterioration and gentrification; landmarks are imploded and replaced often by less durable structure; once full church buildings lay nearly empty or vacant. In the Spirit of Christ we taste the perfect world to come; in the spirit of the city we taste the imperfect world that is

Yes, there are more stable and serene communities beyond the city limits. There are non-urban utopian places where the longing for heaven is quieted by the satisfying pleasures of earth. But we choose the city! We choose to live with the gnawing dissatisfaction and unsettledness of city life, while enjoying the Spirit’s down payment of the world to come and living with the expectation that we will one day live in the city which God is preparing for us.

The Gospel for the City in Genesis 21-22

In Genesis 21-22 Abraham’s faith that God would bless the nations through his offspring is now tested. Isaac, the son through whom the promise will be fulfilled, has become for Abraham the visible evidence of that promise. The underlying question of Genesis 22 is this:  Is Abraham’s faith still dependent on the Word of God or is it now placed in the physical presence of Isaac? Is Abraham walking by faith or is he walking by sight?

Abraham is ordered to offer the son of promise as a sacrifice. Abraham, in obedience to the God who called him and believing that God would resurrect the son of promise, takes his son to the mountain top and lays him on the altar of sacrifice.  God prevents Abraham from slaying Isaac and graciously supplies a substitute sacrifice.

The promise of numerous descendants and blessing to the nations is confirmed again to Abraham.

Abraham models the faith of all true followers of Christ. He believed that God could raise the dead.

Hebrews 11:17-19   17 ¶ By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son,  18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”  19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.

Like Abraham, our present actions are based upon our faith in God’s future actions. Furthermore, we live on the other side of Christ’s resurrection and are called to an even deeper faith. The God who has raised Jesus from the dead is the God who assures us that through faith we participate in His resurrection. Immediately through faith we receive new life in the inaugurated kingdom of Jesus and ultimately are assured of resurrected life in the consummated kingdom of Jesus.

The promised offspring of Abraham who would bless the nations has come. We are recipients of that blessing as well as mediators of that blessing to the nations. That is why followers of Christ eschew ethnic pride; they deplore racism and mono-culturalism. Many believers today are reversing the white flight that abandoned cities for the safer suburbs. They realize that cities are where the nations of the world are congregating and that King Jesus, is a king for the nations.  In most major cities today, you can literally obey the command of Jesus to “go into all the world and make disciples of all nations.”