Before I get into the text, I have to get this song out of my head. I taught it in Sunday School, and my girls performed it many times growing up. I thought the desert motif went well with our Biblical study. It gave me a good chuckle. It's also a good reminder to pray for peace in the Middle East. The song goes, "Father Abraham had many sons, many sons had Father Abraham. I am one one of them and so are you, so lets all praise the Lord."
One of the things I love most about the Bible is that it's real. The authors, inspired by the Holy Spirit, don't gloss over the shortcomings of the individuals they write about. They are exposed for who they are...
Here is a re-cap...
Abram obeyed God and departed to Canaan with Sarai and Lot. A famine forces them to go to Egypt, where he and Sarai deceive Pharoah into thinking she was Abram's sister instead of his wife. (Sarai is actually Abraham's half sister.) Back north to the Promised Land, Abram generously gives Lot first pick of the land. Lot chooses the fertile plains of the Jordan Valley with the best water supply, near a place called Sodom, where the "people of this area where extremely wicked and constantly sinned against the Lord." War breaks out in the valley of the Dead Sea, Lot is captured, Abraham strategically rescues him, gives one tenth of all the goods recovered to Melchizadek, a priest of God Most High, and wisely refuses the King of Sodom's offer to take it all. Here is a picture of the Dead Sea area from my trip to Israel.
Questioning and impatient with how God will fulfill His promise, Sarai gives her maid, Hagar to Abram to be a surrogate mother, (a common practice in the ancient Near East.) Hagar, when pregnant, flaunts it. Sarai treats her poorly enough where she runs away. Ishmael is born, and the Scripture says, "he will live in open hostility against all his relatives." The consequences of this bad decision are still being felt today by the hostility of the descendants of Ishmael, the Arabs and those of Isaac, the Jews.
There you have it. The good, the bad and the ugly of humanity. Obedience, wisdom and faithfulness are contrasted with fear, greed, convenience and selfishness. It's all in there. And we are all capable. Yet, in the midst of it all is a Covenant Making God, with a plan to bless all of mankind through one man, Abraham. At ninety nine years old, The Lord appears to him and says, "I am El-Shaddai-God Almighty...and I will make you the father of many nations."
God promises the couple a son of their own, which they are to name Isaac. Through Isaac would come the Messiah. "From the very beginning, God had in view that Jesus Christ would be the descendant of Abraham and that everyone who trusts in Christ would become an heir of Abraham's promise. So it says in Galations 3:29,"If you are Christ's then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to the promise." Or as Romans 4:16-17 says, "The promise is according to grace in order to be guaranteed to all Abraham's descendants, not only to [the Jews] but also to [Gentiles] who share the faith of Abraham, who is father of us all, as it is written, 'I have made you the father of many nations.'" Read or listen to more of God's Covenant with Abraham by John Piper.
In light of these promises, Abram, now named Abraham, is to live a life of obedience and faith, along with the sign of circumcision as proof of his keeping the covenant. He wastes no time, but immediately (the best time to obey) gets the job done. First on himself, then all the male members of his household.
Think about God's love and care for Sarai and Hagar. She was far from perfect, yet God protected her in Egypt, and never gave up on her when she was at her worst. He had a higher calling for her life, that of "mother of nations." He also heard Hagar cry out in the wilderness. "The Angel of the Lord" appeared to her, who scholars regard as an early appearance of Jesus Christ. Uttered in misery, He reminds her that He has heard her cry. She, too, will be the mother of large numbers of offspring. Then there is Abraham, who after a time of "laughing" at the prospect of he and Sarah having their own child, believes God.
No one likes waiting. We live in a restless, materialistic society that thrives on instant gratification. As I type this, my computer slowed down, and I became momentarily frustrated. But God's timing is always perfect, and His promises are always kept. He is always faithful, even when we fail Him. No amount of worry or fretting will change His Sovereign timetable. What ever it is that you are waiting on, God asks that we believe and trust Him, No Matter What!
Be Blessed...and stay tuned!