One of the more popular verses applied to America’s political relationship with Israel is Genesis 12:3:
“I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
The context is Abram’s call out of Haran to a land God would show him. This was Abram’s second call, but that’s another story. Here God makes various promises to assure Abram.
“I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.”
Abram responded with obedience to the call out of the life he’d always known.
“So Abram went, as the LORD had told him, and Lot went with him.”
So, the application of the “bless those who bless you” seems to apply to Abraham and his descendants. That’s the clear meaning from the context.
Of course, Paul clarifies who the descendants of Abraham really are.
“…not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, ….it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.” Romans 9:7-8
Remember, through Hagar Abraham fathered Ishmael, a symbol of a child of the flesh. Paul writes more about this in Galatians 4:23-25. To understand how this works we must remember that Isaac was a child of promise, born miraculously to a woman who was barren and post-menopausal and to a man whose body was “as good as dead.” In other words, there was no physical possibility of Isaac’s conception and birth. It was completely the work of God, which worked through the faithful cooperation and obedience of Abraham and Sarah.
The descendants of Abraham are those who are children of promise. They are born miraculously, awakened from the dead by the call of the Lord. They are given the gift of repentance (2Tim. 2:25) and faith (Eph. 2:8).
So, applying this to the Nation of Israel today misses the point. I’ll explain.
Who Really Gets Blessed/Cursed?
When reading about Abram being called out, we can see a type of us, the believer, receiving the call. We see this with the disciples, when Jesus calls them out. We see it again with Lazarus who is called out of the tomb to new life.
The application of Genesis 12:3, as we see, can be applied to all true children of Abraham who are his descendants by promise and faith.
But there’s an added meaning to this. To understand the types and symbols of the Old Testament and how they point to the New Testament, we need to realize that they indicate a couple meanings, sometimes. And if we miss this, we might apply the verse in a way that isn’t consistent with Scripture.
An example of applying it poorly is how people try to say that America, the political entity, is blessed when it politically supports the political entity known as Israel. This amounts to mysticism. It suggests that God is not concerned with the repentance and obedience of the people that inhabit Israel, or America, but rather is concerned with the earthly politics of the two nations.
Ask yourself this: When has God ever been concerned with earthly prosperity over faithfulness to His Word?
So, Abraham as being a father of an earthly people apart from faith and promise is not the point of verse 3. I believe it does apply to true Christians who are treated well by the world being a blessing of God upon those “nations.” I also believe that when the world curses true Christians they will suffer curses.
But that application should be expanded in light of Abraham’s other “type.” Remember, he is the father who had an only begotten son, the son he loved, whom he would sacrifice for God. In that story, found in Genesis 22, Abraham is like God the Father, offering up his only son, Isaac, the one born of promise, not of the flesh.
So, when vs. 3 says, “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” it is referring to Isaac, who is a type of Christ. And since we understand that God the Father and the Son are one, we should apply verse 3 the following way:
Those who bless the Lord, Jesus, will be blessed, and those who curse the Lord Jesus will be cursed. Jesus confirms this in John when he describes the work of the Holy Spirit:
“And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me;” John 16:8-9
Sin is rejecting Christ, not believing in Him as Lord and Savior. Those who turn in repentance (leaving the life they’ve known and is common in the world) and believe in Jesus as the source of all life, trusting in His promises, counting Him as their great reward, will be blessed by God with eternal life. Those who reject Christ, or dishonor Him, will be cursed with eternal punishment.
So, Genesis 12:3 doesn’t suggest some mystical earthly prosperity if we support Israel. It demonstrates God’s blessing to those who turn to the Lord and bless Him, showing Him the honor He deserves.