We meet a lot of Nigerians as they have migrated to Europe and enter here into Sicily. Those who believe in Jesus and follow him often have a peculiar take on the scriptures in that they believe that they should follow God so that they can become rich.
So in these cases, we have a situation where many of our Nigerian friends have come to Europe because they have lived in poverty and believe that they can find riches in Europe. I have even heard some of our African friends (not necessarily Nigerians) say, “We thought we could pick money up off of the streets in Europe!”
But of course, they arrive here and find that it is not the case. They don’t find that they have riches. Instead, it is sometimes worse for them living here than it was back in Africa. Instead of handing them jobs, the Europeans may not want them to be there. Or if they do give them a job, it is the worst job and they will pay them the least that they possibly can, often illegally without a job contract, knowing that if this person quits, there are 100 more just like him behind him looking for a job.
So you can imagine the disillusionment that someone who believes that, by believing in Jesus, they should be rich, healthy, and possibly even powerful. How is it possible that someone who has been baptized and reading scripture and trying to follow Jesus isn’t getting rich? Or is sick? Or is sitting in a low position within the society?
The Blessing of Abraham
As we started to think this through with one of our Nigerian friends, we decided to read the blessing of God to Abraham and how his relationship with Abraham began. So we read Genesis 12:1-5 and then all of Genesis 15 and we asked these questions:
What do we learn about God from these passages?
For this question, we saw that God had a plan to bless all of the nations, but he decided to bless them through Abraham.
We also saw that God didn’t complete his plan immediately. Abraham, in fact, even began to get anxious because he knew that God had blessed him but he had no one to be his heir. If he died, he would leave all of his possessions to one of his servants, not to someone from his family line who would be able to continue what he had started. But God promised Abraham that he would fulfill his word just as he had promised from the beginning.
However, as God reveals his covenant with Abraham, we see that he is going to put Abraham’s descendants into slavery and that they would serve others before they would become a nation. This slavery would last a LONG time – 400 years! We can imagine that Abraham might be incredulous at this idea. He might wonder, “what kind of blessing and covenant is this?” But we can understand that God’s blessing does not necessarily mean that they will be rich and powerful. Instead, it likely means that there will trials and trouble, just as we see God prophecy toward the end of Genesis 15.
What do we learn about people through the example of Abraham?
We discussed that people are not necessarily patient, at least in the way that we understand God to be patient. Instead, if we want to see God’s plans come to fruition, we need to be patient and let God do what he will do.
In addition, we said that God decides to use people to work out his plan. We see this in Abraham, but we also see this in his descendants as well as the country where his descendants will be enslaved, and then finally also in the Amorites and the other -ites that Abraham’s descendants will conquer in the future. In each of these, God is working out his plan through these people.
What do we learn about the idea of blessing?
For this question, we centered on the idea that “blessing” is a relationship with God. God blessed Abraham, so Abraham was now in relationship with God. But this blessing would not only be for him. He would also give the blessing to others, and in fact all of the nations on the earth would be blessed through Abraham. We discussed that this was related to the blessing of having Jesus come to the earth through the Israelite people. The Israelites were formed from Abraham having his son Isaac whose son was Jacob whose name God changed to Israel. Through these people, Jesus would come, offering himself as a sacrifice for the sin of all people, making relationship with God possible for everyone! What a great blessing!
Alas, our Nigerian friend explained in the end that this was the Old Testament and he felt like the blessing of the Old Testament and the blessing of the New Testament were different. So we decided to meet again to move forward in the scripture to see Jesus’s perspective and what he told his disciples to expect as they went to bless others. Hang tight and we’ll pick up on that discussion in the next post…