As we move from the story of Adam and Eve last week, we jump forward 13 chapters to the story of Abram. Really, it is the middle of the story of Abram; Abraham before he became Abraham.
After Adam and Eve and the Fall came the dysfunctional family matters of Cain and Abel. We make a major leap forward from Adam’s family to Noah and the flood and the dysfunction of Noah’s sons. There is some genealogy stuff, the Tower of Babel and more genealogy stuff before coming to Abram. Shem was the son of Noah and Abram was the great to the 6th grand son of Shem.
We begin the story of Abram with his wife Sarai in Harran. At 75 years old, God calls Abram to leave his people and his country for a land yet to be seen. God tells Abram, “I will make you a great nation and I will bless you. I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. And, all peoples on earth will be blessed by you.” I call this the “blessed to be a blessing” call of Abram. God will bless him so he may bless others.
So, the old barren couple Abram and Sarai set out for parts unknown. They spend some time in Egypt and Abram gets in trouble with the Pharoah so they have to leave. Then, Abram’s nephew Lot gets in trouble and Abram intervenes. Abram has been waiting some 10 or 11 years for the fulfillment of God’s promise that he will be receive land, blessings, and descendants.
Chapter 15 begins with “after this”. We can’t be sure if this was directly after what happens in Chapter 14, but we’re led to believe this conversation between Abram and God in Chapter 15 happened after Chapter 14’s story of Abram rescuing Lot. In Chapter 14, the king of Sodom offers Abram great reward for his role in defeating King Ked-or-la-o-mer of Elam but Abram refuses.
The conversation in Chapter 15 verses 1 – 6 could be God’s offer of reward for rescuing Lot and not taking rewards for his victory. God says to Abram, “Do not be afraid. I am your shield, your very great reward.”
Now, when I read Scriptures, I imagine the tone characters might have in these conversations. The Bible doesn’t give us tone and inflection in the telling of these stories. We’re left to interpret the manner in which people speak to God. I imagine that after 10 years of waiting for God to fulfill His promise of land, blessing, and descendants Abram is a little cynical. I hear Abram’s response as, “Yeah, God. What are you going to give me? After all this time, I still don’t have a child like you promised. Instead, all my great wealth is going to go to some servant. Not my child.”
God’s response is a renewal or affirmation of His promise. God says, “The servant won’t be your heir. Your flesh and blood son will be your heir.” God took Abram outside, leaving us the impression that God was present in a way capable of leading him outside. God said, “Look up at the sky. Can you count the stars? That’s how many seed you will have.”
I posted on cartoon on Facebook this week of Abram looking up at the sky full of stars thinking, “Christmas is going to be expensive this year.”
Like I said; this is the middle of Abram’s story. Having waited long enough for God to give them children, Sarai decides to help God a little with her own plan for procreation with Abram. Sarai tells Abram to have a baby through her maid servant Hagar. Abram had a son Ishmael at 86 years old with Hagar. But, this wasn’t’ the fulfillment of God’s promise.
Abram met God and God established a covenant with Abram renewing His promise and in the process renaming Abram and Sarai to Abraham and Sarah. Included in this renewed promise is the promise that Sarah will be the mother of many nations. God promises to bless Abraham and Hagar’s son Ishmael but vows to establish God’s continued covenant through Sarah’s son. This happened as Abraham was 100 years old.
Then, sometime later, maybe a day, maybe longer, angels visit Abraham and Sarah to tell them they will have a son in one year. And, at around 101 years old, Abraham has a son with 91 year old Sarah. 25 years after God’s original call and promise to Abraham.
I don’t know about you, but I would have surely given up believing that God would bless me as He had promised if it hadn’t happened real soon; let alone waiting 25 years. We live in a day of instant gratification. Whatever we want we can get as quickly as we think about wanting it; unless we have to wait 2 days for Amazon Prime shipping.
Throughout Abraham’s story, there seems to be an ebb and flow of him trusting God’s promise as if Abraham had, at times, lost hope that God would fulfill His promise. God made His promise to give Abraham land, blessing and descendants and renewed that promise twice, perhaps when God knew Abraham was losing hope as years passed with no children.
We know that Abraham was very wealthy in livestock, gold and silver (Genesis 13: 2). If you want to equate wealth with blessing, as many of us are tempted to do, we could believe that the blessing part of God’s promise had been fulfilled. Abraham lived in the land of Canaan which would later become the nation of Israel, so we could believe that the land part of God’s promise had been fulfilled. But, Abraham held out for 25 years for a son through whom God would establish a covenant and nation.
As he and Sarah waited, there were times of hopelessness and times of hope. If we examine our lives, we can see those same patterns of waxing and waning of hope. Abraham and Sarah had wanted just one son, but God promised as many as there are stars in the sky.
What is the barren place in your life where you’ve lost hope?
How do you believe God’s promise has failed you?
Can you imagine the promise of God blessing you beyond your imagination?
Our lives are more complicated than narrowing our hope to a son. Our hopes follow through our marriage, children, grandchildren, career, hobbies, church, home and finances. There are constantly multiple draws on our hope as one area of our life seems to fall into place and another becomes our focus. A constant waxing and waning of hope and hopelessness.
The story of Abraham reveals to us that this cycle of hope and hopelessness has been a part of the human story for thousands of years. God made a promise to Abram – Abram lost hope – God renewed His promise to Abram – Abram had renewed hope – Abram lost hope – God renewed His promise and renamed him Abraham – Abraham had new hope – Abraham lost hope again waiting until God finally fulfilled His promise after 25 years.
A son was the part of the promise of God that Abraham waited for the longest time to be fulfilled. A son was more than a child. A son was security for the future. A son would provide for his parents in their golden years; though Abraham and Sarah were well into their golden years when they had Isaac. Abraham had no hope to be taken care of without a son. Abraham had no security without a son. God’s promise of family to Abraham was the promise of security.
As my parents age, they’re only 63, but we think about who will care for them when they are unable to care for themselves. It will probably fall on me. This gets me to thinking about who will care for me when I’m not able to care for myself. I don’t have children. I don’t have someone to rely on. Hopefully, my niece and nephew, but I can sympathize with Abraham and Sarah wanting some security for their future, for help providing for them in their old age.
I know all of you, at some point in your life, have thought about:
Who will care for me when I’m old?
Who will care for my spouse after I’m gone?
Who will care for my children if something happens to me?
We all look to our insurance policies for hope that there will be the financial means for the care of our families when we pass on, but, for today, I don’t think the birth of Isaac can be simply boiled down to a long term care policy.
The promise of God to give Abraham land, blessing and descendants is a foreshadowing of God establishing the great nation of Israel. The security Abraham received in a son was the security of a legacy. Abraham had no hope for a legacy without a son. The belief in eternal life had not yet been conceived. The only hope a man had for living on beyond death was to establish a legacy. As promised, God secured Abraham’s legacy through his sons. He is known as a man of faith and the father of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Our future is secured through a Son, the Son of God, Jesus Christ. We know that our eternal life is promised through Jesus. Our hope is in Jesus. God’s promise of security to Abraham has been fulfilled to us in Jesus who cares for us here and now and will care for us then and forever.