The LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him” (Genesis 18:17-19).
The Lord called Abraham to the most glorious of callings—to be a vessel of blessing to all the families of the earth. The passage above suggests to means, one implicit and one explicit, by which Abraham was to carry out that calling.
First, the Lord calls Abraham to intercede. This is inferential, but I believe real nonetheless. As the Lord sets out toward Sodom, judgment impending, He takes Abraham, the one through whom the Lord will bless all the world, into his confidence: “shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?” (18:18). Abraham is called to be a blessing to all the nations of the earth, and the Lord has an intention regarding some of those nations. Therefore he goes to Abraham. Why? This work done through Abraham is just that—a work done through Abraham, in which Abraham has a real part. And what is that part? It would seem here that the Lord is calling Abraham to intercede. If Abraham is called to be a blessing to all nations, might not the Lord be calling Abraham to intercede for some of them? This is not explicit, but I believe likely. (It is interesting that Abraham doesn’t intercede as a response to a command, but apparently as an instinctive response to what he assumes will be the Lord’s response to the sin of Sodom.) While Abraham’s intercession didn’t save Sodom, it nevertheless appears that intercession was the Lord’s intention. Perhaps not just for this instance, but for the nation Abraham would become. If this is the case, it suggests a role for Israel in relation to the nations. Are they called to intercede for the nations? It would seem so here, an inference only strengthened by Israel’s calling as a priestly kingdom (Exodus 19:6), the priests being called to be intercessors for the people. This makes Jonah’s reluctance to go to Nineveh all the more striking.
There is another part to Abraham’s calling, this one explicit. Abraham is called to his family: “For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promise him” (18:19). The strategy is simple. The Lord will bless the nations is through Abraham’s teaching his household the ways of righteousness and justice. Not preaching or teaching, and not works of service, as important as all that is. He is called to his family. And, as he is called to his family, he is therefore called to the world. Raising children to do righteousness and justice is not an inward matter, for righteousness and justice have outward and social trajectories. And this has to do with my neighbor. This is the means for the blessing of the nations. Not a program, but a household (then households) actively seeking the good of the world. This is what it means to be a light to the nations, a city set on a hill. It appears that the Lord will full the promise to Abraham as Abraham and his household faithfully lives and passes down the fear of the Lord to the generations. For in so doing, the world will see the form of righteousness and justice, and therefore come to learn something of the Lord, and be blessed.