I was reflecting on Christianity’s Jewish heritage and I couldn’t help but acknowledge how amazing it is that I believe in God. My native culture and environment could not have given me this faith let alone knowing him at all. What marveled me was the reason why I, having no stake in Israel’s ancient heritage have come to fully embrace their greatest privilege: the knowledge of the one true God, is because of a 4000 year old promise.
God told an aged Mesopotamian nomad from a thoroughly heathen culture, that if he followed him he would make him a great nation, blessing all the people of the earth through him, even though he had a barren wife well into her senior years. He believed, abandoning his home and culture to follow him to a foreign land unknown to him, where this God had sworn to bless him and establish him as the father of many nations. Abraham lived in this land as a foreigner and had only a single heir, yet he remained faithful to God. On account of that, the Lord God was faithful to him and his family for posterity. Through multiple centuries of tumult and struggle finally, the true heir of Abraham was born. It was through him that those ancient promises would be fulfilled. This heir was the Messiah the son of God, Jesus of Nazareth. Those who witnessed his ministry, death and resurrection, by his command proclaimed his extraordinary life to the entire world as the one who has saved the whole human race from destruction, the true blessing for all the families of the earth. It is through hearing the proclamation of this fantastic news that I am a believer. The apostle Peter sums it up this way,
…through [Jesus you] are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. – 1 Peter 1:21 ESV
For millennia the God of Abraham was only known as the God of the Hebrews. It is through Jesus and his divine mission that he accomplished that he has become known to the world. Jesus came because of God’s unwavering commitment to Abraham, a covenantal love and faithfulness that has endured throughout the ages and that is why I am a believer today. Abraham definitely did not know me. He probably had no idea my part of the world even existed. However, that momentous occasion when he encountered the living God completely changed my life. Not only my life but countless others from peoples and cultures all over the world have been blessed because of the promise. Jesus was the climactic turning point in the story of the covenant promise which took it global. His resurrection demonstrated within human history the God of the Hebrews was not just another tribal deity but the one true creator of life and everything. This event affected all people and the news of it spread throughout the world. Because of Jesus, the knowledge of the glory of God has covered the earth as the waters cover the sea. Abraham was marked out by his belief in God and so his true descendants would have that distinction. By believing in Jesus who was resurrected by this same God, I too belong in the family of Abraham. My circumstances could not have given me this heritage. The historical events that occurred through Israel’s long story I could not have influenced let alone orchestrated to give me this immense privilege. There’s nothing I could have done. It was all God’s doing which he freely gave me. All I had to do was believe. As the apostle Paul ever so succinctly put it,
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. – Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV
The scriptures prophesy that every tongue will give praise to the God of Abraham. There is a beautiful song called Amanfrafoɔ (Gentiles) in my language, Akan, that expresses in the words of scripture my gratitude for this amazing gift. In English it says,
Gentiles who had no inheritance,
He has made us a royal priesthood to father God,
Bless his name.
Bless his name,
Glorify his name.
He has made us a new nation,
Bless his name.