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A Family Tree of God’s Love

Key References: Genesis 11:10-12:9; Patriarchs and Prophets, chap. 11, pp. 125-131; The Bible Story (1994), vol. 1, pp. 133-137; 142-147; Our Beliefs, nos. 23, 14, 11

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“For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him” (Genesis 18:19).

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We each play an important part in God’s plan for our family.

Has anyone ever said to you, “You look just like . . . ?” Have you ever thought that it is more than looks that get passed on from one generation to the next? Faith and family customs are also passed on from one generation to the next.

A family reunion suddenly comes alive when the great-aunts drag out the tattered pictures from many years ago. You find that you look amazingly like Grandma when she was your age. Sometimes those photographs are all we have to connect us to our ancestors. Many times we don’t know their stories or even their complete names. But even if we don’t know much about our forefathers, some of their traits still live on in us.

While ancestors may not seem particularly important to some people today, that was not the case in Old Testament times. The family was the most important part of society. We can see that in the long genealogies the Bible records in several places, including Genesis 11. Each father and son is carefully noted and remembered. What is important is that we can see traits that were passed down from parents to children.

Thanks to a careful record of genealogy, Abraham knew his ancestry all the way back to Adam. His line traced backward through Shem, Noah, Methusaleh, Enoch, and Seth, the son of Adam.

These godly men had established a family history of serving God. That tradition had been passed down to Abraham. Through his family Abraham came to know and love God. Even though he lived in a heathen society and was surrounded by idol worship, Abraham worshipped only Jehovah.

Abraham lived at a time when a large family was considered a blessing from God. But God-fearing Abraham and his wife, Sarah, had no children. That must have been a terrible disappointment to them. Perhaps they wondered why God was denying them the special joy of parenthood.

Then one day God spoke to Abraham. “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you,” said God (Genesis 12:2). What a promise! The promise of many children! After all those years of childlessness, that must have been enough to excite Abraham. But there was more.

“I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. . . . All peoples on earth will be blessed through you,” God continued (verses 2, 3). Abraham and his children had been selected for a special purpose. God had great plans for Abraham’s family. He and his children and his children’s children were given the special job of showing God’s love to the surrounding nations. One day, far in the future, one of his own line would be born in a manger and die on a cross so all people could be saved. What a tremendous honor for Abraham’s family.

But first there was something else. “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you,” said God (verse 1). God wanted Abraham to leave his heathen surroundings. Abraham’s family was to be special. God wanted them to live differently. God had a special plan for them.

The rest of the Old Testament is the story of Abraham’s family. Just as God promised, his descendants became a great nation—the Jewish people. The blessings God promised to Abraham were given to generation after generation of his children. During their greatest period their fame spread far. Rulers from other countries even came to visit to find the secret to their success.

Family traits are still handed down from generation to generation. God still has great plans for families today. It is in our families that we first learn to feel and give love. It is there that we first learn about God. Our families are the place where we discover the special talents God gives to each of us. We can thank God for our families and for the blessings we receive through them.