After God had promised him an heir and would make him the father of a great nation, Abram entered into a blood covenant with Him. And God said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you from Ur of the Chalde′ans, to give you this land to possess.” But he said, “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a she-goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” And he brought him all these, cut them in two, and laid each half over against the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. And when birds of prey came down upon the carcasses, Abram drove them away.
Afterward God spoke to Abram in a dream giving him a view of a future time when his descendants would experience a great famine and travel to Egypt only to become slaves of the Pharaoh for four hundred years. God then promised to deliver them from their servitude.
“As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram; and lo, a dread and great darkness fell upon him. Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know of a surety that your descendants will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs, and will be slaves there, and they will be oppressed for four hundred years; but I will bring judgment on the nation which they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for yourself, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age.” (Genesis 15:12-15)
Remember how back in the days of Eden how Eve had not become fully invested in God’s promises and had listened to the voice of the tempter and had eaten of the forbidden fruit? Here history is repeated as Sar’ai once again circumvents God’s plan with one of her own and then blames Abram when it goes against her.
Now Sar′ai, Abram’s wife, bore him no children. She had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar; and Sar′ai said to Abram, “Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children; go in to my maid; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sar′ai. So, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, Sar′ai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her maid, and gave her to Abram her husband as a wife. And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived; and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress. And Sar′ai said to Abram, “May the wrong done to me be on you! I gave my maid to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt. May the Lord judge between you and me!” (Genesis 16:1-5)
Even in those ancient days there was contentious moments in family life. Not willing to contend with Sar’ai’s drama Abram drops it back on her and tells her to deal with it. But Abram said to Sar′ai, “Behold, your maid is in your power; do to her as you please.” Then Sar′ai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her. (Genesis 16:6)
What follows has become a bone of contention down through the ages between the Jews and Arabs, especially the Islamic nations as they assume that Ishmael being Abram’s first born would rightfully become heir to God’s promise to Abram, but that was not so as God plans will not be thwarted by the will of man.
The angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, maid of Sar′ai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She said, “I am fleeing from my mistress Sar′ai.” The angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit to her.” The angel of the Lord also said to her, “I will so greatly multiply your descendants that they cannot be numbered for multitude.” And the angel of the Lord said to her, “Behold, you are with child, and shall bear a son; you shall call his name Ish′mael; because the Lord has given heed to your affliction. He shall be a wild ass of a man, his hand against every man and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen.” So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “Thou art a God of seeing”; for she said, “Have I really seen God and remained alive after seeing him?” Therefore the well was called Beer-la′hai-roi; it lies between Kadesh and Bered. And Hagar bore Abram a son; and Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ish′mael. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ish′mael to Abram. (Genesis 16:7-16)
At the age of ninety-nine Abram had still not fathered an heir by Sar’ai as she was barren and they were well into their years, but God had chosen this couple and this faithful believer to become patriarch over a great nation from which God himself will eventually rule over the entire earth. Notice the reverence Abram has for the Lord as he falls on his face before him. I wonder how many even bow and go down on their knees in these times in which we now live.
When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly.” Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come forth from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. And I will give to you, and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.” (Genesis 17: 1-8)
God then established a sign of his covenant with Abraham ordering that every male child would henceforth be circumcised and He changed Sar’ai’s name to Sarah.
Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” (Genesis 17:17)
(To be continued)