Blessing is a key theme from this point forward in the book of Genesis. The word is used eighty-eight times in the book of Genesis, with many more indirect references. Blessing shapes the life of Abram and his family in varying ways, as well as those they encounter. Therefore, it is critical that we understand what blessing means. Terence Fretheim states that “blessing stands as a gift of God (mediated through a human or nonhuman agent) that issues in goodness and well-being in life.” Blessing involves every sphere of our lives, from the tangible to the spiritual. Here, we see that blessing for Abram and his family is constituted by the multiplication of life and seemingly well-being.
But this understanding of blessing is incomplete without the concept of promise. Promise is the most basic category for understanding this narrative. This act of blessing constitutes the promise of God for Abram and his family. When we keep our word, we may say something like, “A promise is a promise.” This is crucial for understanding the promises of God. What counts about God’s promises is their continuing status as promises. In other words, they are not only applicable and binding now but also in the future. The binding nature of God’s commitment to Abram and his family through this promise creates the impetus for a response of trust and obedience. Abram’s trust in God’s promise then engenders faith and action. Where might our lack of faith in the everlasting nature of God’s promises be keeping us from experiencing God’s blessing in our lives?