Last Friday, we looked at the blessing that God gave to both Adam and Noah.
Be fertile, increase in number, fill the earth, and be its master. Rule the fish in the sea, the birds in the air, and all the animals that crawl on the earth...I have given you every plant with seeds on the face of the earth and every tree that has fruit with seeds. This will be your food. To Noah, He adds, Everything that lives and moves will be your food. I gave you green plants as food; I now give you everything else.
It's an amazing blessing, but isn't it also...a little much? It seems to be. Generations of men and women after Adam and after Noah seem to struggle to do even the most basic of these things. And what we see from God is perhaps a little measure of grace.
Because the next interaction we have with God and men is the story of Abram/Abraham. And here, God repeats His blessing, in a way, but He does it in a distinct series of steps. Rather than telling Abraham that he should be fertile and rule the land, God tells Abraham that he will be fertile. Period. He will be the father of many nations. And as an added promise, his descendants will be given the land.
In other words, Abraham's blessing is only the first line; his promise is the rest of it.
The same is true for Isaac. Again, God tells him that he will be a father of many peoples, that his sons will become two powerful nations with countless ancestors. And again, He tells the faithful man that his descendants will be given the land.
The same is true for Jacob. Again, God tells him that he will be the father of a great nation, God's very people, and that his sons will be the leaders of the twelve tribes of countless people who will be an incredible people for God. And again, He tells Jacob that his descendants will be given the land.
What's interesting to note about this is not just that these three patriarchs receive only the first line of the blessing, with the promise of the rest, but that each of these three was required to rely on God for even the fulfillment of the first blessing. Each of these three men married infertile women. Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel were all unable to have children. But God Himself had mercy on them, opened their womb, and gave them sons. So God has blessed His people with one simple blessing, but they still had to rely on Him for every bit of it.
Fast forward a bit into the Old Testament, and we see the second part of the blessing coming to fruition. God is giving His people the land. they have been fertile, increased in number, and filled the earth. Now, they are becoming masters of the land as they enter Canaan, the Promise. God is giving them their own territory. But again, they are required to rely on God for every square inch of it. The battles recorded in the OT are accounts of faithfulness and unfaithfulness, obedience and disobedience, as Israel gains, then loses, then gains, then loses, then gains the land that God has promised them, the land that is to be their blessing. So again, God blesses His people with now the first two parts of the blessing, but they have to turn to Him for it. It's His to give or take away.
Keep going, and we see a people who have figured out what to do with the birds of the air and the animals that crawl on the earth: they have become the people's sacrifices. And by the time we get to the New Testament, we see a people who have conquered the fish of the sea: this is their trade.
Deeper into the New Testament, particularly when we start to get to Paul and Peter, we see that the last bit of God's blessing on Noah is coming to pass. Finally. God has released His people from the very first things He gave them as food, and permitted them to eat all things. "Everything else," He says, just as Peter saw descending from Heaven on a blanket. The people of God who were once separated by what they were given to eat have now been given everything, and they have thus become even a greater people.
It's an interesting way to read the Scriptures, at the very least. If we take this blessing that God spoke to His original creation, Adam, and His restored creation, Noah, and then we follow it's development through the rest of His story, we see that God has broken His blessing into concrete steps - giving each generation its own portion of the blessing, with the rest of it falling as promise. And at every step, He requires that His people continue looking to Him for every bit of it.