The God of the bible is a marrying kind of God. He is not interested in just dating his people until a better offer comes his way, or turning up when it suits Him, or being a friend with benefits. Like every marriage, God first makes promises to his people in chapter 12. He then turns those promises into a formal Covenant chapter 15. This is followed by the sign chapter 17.
God made promises to Abraham when he 75 and Sarai 65 and infertile, God promised Abram he will be a father of a great nation, the nation would be given land and the nation would be blessed and a blessing to the world.
These Promises are repeated and expanded and they steer the plan of God in the bible. Years pass and still no child. Its only natural for fears and doubts to come to Abram but God’s love assures people
After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” ~Genesis 15:1 (NIV)
Do not be afraid, I have your back, God will never stop saying those words to his people.
One fear was that Abram’s servant and not his son would be the heir to his inheritance. Abraham is not pretending with God, doubts need to be expressed to God and we must be open to letting the Word speak to your fears.
To reassure Abram God takes Abram outside to look at the stars of the sky and tells him, count them because that is as many descendants as you will have. Some over 70 Billion Trillion stars.
First, it was the dust of the earth and now it's the stars in the sky.
These promises were made to be trusted.
Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness. ~Genesis 15:6 (NIV)
That is one of the most important sentences in the bible, it tells us how we get right with God. God reckoned unrighteous Abraham as righteousness. Why? Because he took God at his word, God gave to Abraham a righteousness that was not his and he will do the same for you. Being right with God is a gift to be received not a wage to be earned.
Faith is an attitude of Trust, for us, we trust that Christ was handed over for our sins and raised for our forgiveness. This is how God's people are always put right with God. Whether you lived 2000 years before Jesus like Abraham or you live 2000 years after Jesus like us, if you’re not clear then book for the Explaining Christianity course on February 16 and this will become very clear. But remember friends its not the size of your faith that saves but who you trust in.
Two people get on a plane to Johannesburg, one is full of fear and the other is full of confidence. Which one ends up in Johannesburg? Both do. The difference is that one enjoyed the trip a whole lot more. There is no reason to doubt or live in fear. Christ has paid the price for the ticket to heaven, there is now no condemnation in Christ Jesus.
God not only wants to save people he wants them to know they are saved. So God turns those promises into a formal covenant. This is like going from dating to marriage, this was how the covenant was made. Abraham was told to split into two 5 sacrificial animals and lay them on the ground, as the sunset Abraham falls into a deep sleep. This was going to be a one-sided contract, God in the form of a blazing fire passes between the dead animals. In effect, God is saying “If I don’t keep my promises to you then may I become like one of these animals” “If you Abraham break this covenant I will take your place and pay for your sin.”
The point is clear, God's salvation rides on the shoulders of the seed of Abram, who was cursed so that we could be blessed.
God wants Abram to know for certain that God don’t make promises that he don’t keep. Then God reissues and extends the promises
On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, ~Genesis 15:18 (NIV)
By making a covenant, God was GIVING HIS ALL to his people.
I remember a woman who became a Christian at an Explaining Christianity course. She had been in a de facto relationship for 30 years, I wasn’t sure why she was so resistant to getting married and she finally admitted on the day of their wedding “Ray, I was holding back a part of me from my man by not marrying him.”
God is holding nothing back, He has fully committed himself to his promises to bless, you can trust him! and we have 2000 years of bible history to prove it.
But God is not in a hurry. Time marches on. The promises are getting bigger. Abraham and Sarai are getting older but still no kid. The tension is excruciating. Abram first gets the promise at 75, he is now 85 years old only to be told
Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. ~Genesis 16:1 (NIV)
There is the normal painful grief of not having children, the cultural shame of not being able to have children, but here God raised their expectation by promising them a whole nation and they couldn’t even have just one baby, so Sarai take things into her own hands.
Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.” Abram agreed to what Sarai said. ~Genesis 16:1-2 (NIV)
Sarai has subtlety blamed God. God is not acting and so I must. I will build a family through the young slave girl, Hagar.
Sarai’s longing overruled her loyalty to God, these were good longings but they failed to trust God’s goodness. Abram offers no resistance and no godly leadership
Abram agreed to what Sarai said. ~Gen 16:2c (NIV)
What a good husband Abrahams is! OK, babe, if you want me to marry and sleep with Hagar I'll do it , but I'm doing it because you told me. If Sarai was like Eve in taking control then Abraham was like Adam, silently passive. We men either don’t listen to our wives when we should or we do listen when it suites us. Being led rather than leading. Abram and Sarai needed to learn that God needs no help, God will build this family not Sarai.
When she [Hagar] knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my servant in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me.” ~Genesis 16:4-5 (NIV)
The second wife resents the first wife, the first wife resents the husband for doing what she told him to do. First Sarai blames God and then appeals to God. The husband fails to lead, the husband is blamed then the husband abandons his second wife. One sin compounded by another, it's everyone else's fault but mine. Again it does sound a little like Adam and Eve, the one exception is that Abraham is a man of faith, like you and me, ungodly Ab is justified by faith in the promises from God.
See what happens went we don’t trust God, we treat people like they are objects. Abraham uses Hagar, Hagar despises Sarai, Sarai abuses Hagar, Abraham abandons Hagar.
“Your servant is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her. ~Genesis 16:6 (NIV)
Abraham might abandon Hagar but God will not, Sarai may mistreat Hagar but God's eye remains on Hagar as she flees to the desert. This is the only time someone gives God a name, she has seen God who has seen her in her misery.
My nephew flew reconnaissance planes in Iraq, one of the high powered camera lenses picked up Isis rebels decapitating the heads of children in front of their father before they killed him. He saw everything from a height of 10,000 metres but he could do nothing.
God saw this young powerless foreign slave woman and God protected her, the God who promised to save his people from slavery in Egypt is now saving an Egyptian slave from his people. We all need saving, God does what he does best, makes promises and blesses people.
The child born to Hagar is Ishmael, he too is a son of Abraham, not a child of the promise but a son nevertheless and he too will share in the blessing.
Now 86 Abraham is a Father, but not a Father through Sarai, so he waits as the years click past. Age 87,88, 89, 90 no child 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99 and still no child, nearly 25 years of waiting and nothing. Now Abram is nearly 100 years old and Sarai is 90 years old, God has made so many promises, repeats them, formalises them and expands those promises.
So that now where will Kings and Nations come from, it will be an everlasting covenant, but No land, No children, No Nothing and to make matters worse, God gives Abram a new name.
If he hasn’t looked like an idiot before, he went from Abram (which means Father) to Abraham which means (Father of many). From daddy to big daddy, you could only imagine the kind of questions Abraham was asked over 25 years.
Imagine, Abram meets up with Enoch at a well. “Hi, my name is Enoch what's yours?” “My name is Abram.” “Abram, 'Father', with a name like that God must have blessed you with many children, how many 3, 4, 5?” “Actually none.” “Oh sorry about that.” 25 years later they met again at the same well. Enoch says “Abram my friend it's been so long how are you?” Abraham says “actually Enoch I’ve changed my name” Enoch says “Wise decision since you had no children, it was awkward.” “Yes, it's now Abraham.” “Abraham, father of many, so God has blessed you my friend with many children, how many has Sarah given birth Big Daddy, Abraham 5,10,15?” “No, still none, but I am holding onto the promise of a child from whom will come a great nations and kings and land.”
Abraham was fully persuaded that God had the power to do what God said. God wants his promises to be remembered, so God gives the sign of circumcision. It’s a costly sign, Abraham was circumcised at age 99 at God’s command. Those who trust in God walk before him and are blameless, it was not like a rite of passage into manhood. It would be a sign for the whole of life for the whole of God's people. As a sign, it pointed to God’s promises to bless the world. A sign to re-assure his people that
God is for them and he can be trusted.
Circumcision grafted these promises onto the body and unlike my wedding rings which I keep losing in the ocean, circumcision is a permanent sign, you can remove a tattoo but you cant undo a circumcision. God's people were to never forget Gods commitment to bless the world. Circumcision would mark out God's people among the nations, they alone were birthed by the gracious promises of God. Salvation comes from the seed of Abraham.
But why circumcision? Why not a nose ring? Less painful. At the point where Abraham tried to make it happen by having sex with Hagar, that is the point where he is cut back. Each circumcision was a reminder to trust God and not force God's hand.
Warning is here!
It’s a sign that a person is justified by faith in God’s promises.
Tragically circumcision became just another good work to buy God's approval, forgetting that Abraham was justified by faith at least 15 years before he was ever circumcised. Was this all too good to be true? Abram thought so, he was found laughing at the thought that God would fulfill his promise of a child at age 100-year-old man through a wife of 90 to bear a child.
Friends, Obstetricians don’t get called out to nursing homes to deliver babies, except with God. Dead people don’t come back to life except with Christ.
What a crazy, crazy, awesome, wonderful, gracious God, too good to be true.
Like knowing that in Christ Jesus
So, walk before God and be blameless. give him your best for that is what he gave you.