Genesis 11-25 The man of faith…Abraham, cont’d.
Genesis 15:1-God promises Abram that He will both protect and bless him.
Genesis 15:2-3-“Lord GOD” comes from “Adonai Yahweh”…”Adonai” meaning “master, lord, sovereign” (see the note on Genesis 2:4-25). Abram tells God that this is wonderful, but since he is childless, the blessing will only be for him and will end when he dies. 10 years have passed (cf. 12:2) since God initially told him that He was going to bless him with many descendants…and yet, he still does not have a child to inherit the blessing…and instead, it will go to his servant (it was a common practice to adopt someone to be your heir if you did not have a child of your own).
Genesis 15:4-21-God now reassures Abram that He is going to bless him and that he will have many descendants (:5). Verse 6 is one of the foundational verses of faith in the entire Bible and is used by Paul in his explanation of what faith is in Romans 4. The word “believed” comes from the Hebrew verb “aman” and it means, “to confirm, affirm” something. It is an “amen” to God’s promise…meaning that you agree with and believe in what God has said. God considered this response of faith by Abram to be the right response…an act of righteousness…and gave him credit for it. That is what “reckoned it to him as righteousness” means.
God tells Abram that He is the one who brought him from Ur to this land and that He will give this land to him. Abram then asks the Lord how he can know, for certain, that he will possess the land. So, God gives him a sign. He tells Abram to offer a sacrifice to Him. Abram did as he was instructed and then sat back to see what would happen. As he sat there, birds of prey tried to eat his sacrifice…but he chased them off (there will always be circumstances or people who will try to destroy what God is doing in our lives…but we must take responsibility and not allow that to happen). As he waited he fell asleep and had a dream. In the dream, God told him that his people would spend 400 years in a foreign nation (the time in Egypt, 430 years of Exod. 12:40, rounded off), but that after that they would return to the land that He had promised him and live there. In verse 18 God again restates His promise to give the land to the descendants of Abram.
Genesis 16:1-3-It has been 10 years since God’s promise to Abram that he would have a child…and evidently, Abram was not the only one who was anxious about having an heir. Sarai convinced him to take her servant, Hagar as a wife…in order to produce a son. This was an acceptable practice according to the legal codes and marriage contracts of their time. However, we will find out that just because something is legally acceptable, that does not mean that it is morally (spiritually) acceptable. Once again, Abram is proof that a righteous man can make stupid decisions.
Genesis 16:4-16-Abram is 86 years old when Hagar gives birth to a son that she names Ishmael (meaning “God hears”). Hagar’s attitude toward Sarai changes and she “despises” her. This attitude must have been obvious because Sarai became angry, and perhaps a little jealous, and complained to Abram about it…even trying to blame him for allowing it to happen. Abram told her that Hagar was her servant and that she should handle the matter. Sarai’s response was so harsh (she reduced her back to her status as a servant) that Hagar took her son and ran away. She headed back towards her homeland, Egypt. Verse 7 says that “the angel of the LORD found her”.
16:10 the angel of the LORD. A theophany, a self-manifestation of God. He here speaks as God, identifies Himself with God, and claims to exercise the prerogatives of God (see Genesis 16:7-14; 21:17-21; 22:11-18; 31:11,13; Exod. 3:2; Judg. 2:1-4; 5:23; 6:11-24; 13:3-22; 2 Sam. 24:16; Zech. 1:12; 3:1; 12:8). Since the angel of the Lord cases to appear after the incarnation, it is often inferred that the angel in the O.T. is a preincarnate appearance the Second Person of the Trinity.
The Ryrie Study Bible, 16:10, footnote, p. 30
The angel tells Hagar that Ishmael will be the father of many descendants (:10). The Arab people are among these descendants and many of them claim Abram as their forefather. It is from Ishmael that the founder of Islam (the Muslim religion), Mohammad was descended. Because they are the descendants of Abram, these Arabs claim that they are the rightful inheritors of the land promised to him. The angel tells her that Ishmael and his descendants would live to the “east of all his brothers.” This may mean that they would literally live to the east of the other descendants of Abraham, or it may suggest that they would always live in defiance of the rest of Abraham’s descendants. The hostility that exists between the children of Abram through his son Isaac (the Jews) and his children through Ishmael (the Arabs) is evident even today.
Genesis 17:1-8-Abram is now 99 years old. God tells him that He is “God Almighty”…the Hebrew is “El Shaddai”. “El” is a common word for “God” and “Shaddai” is derived from a word that means “mountain”…thus, together they speak of God as the one Who stands as the conqueror (almighty, all-powerful) on the mountain. He commands Abram to “Walk before Me…”…to follow Him as God. If Abram agrees to do this, then God will establish His covenant with him. God reiterates His promise that Abram will have many descendants…”the father of a multitude of nations.” God changes Abram’s name to “Abraham” which means “father of a great number” as a constant reminder of His promise. God also again states that the land that He is giving to Abraham will be his and his descendants as an “everlasting possession”.
Genesis 17:9-22-As for Abraham and his descendants (and their male servants), they are to be circumcised (at 8 days old) as a sign of the covenant that God has made with them. For a Hebrew to refuse circumcision was tantamount to his refusal to follow God and to remove himself from the people of God (cf. Rom. 4:11). God then changes Sarai’s name to “Sarah” (meaning “princess”…while the name change does not seem to bear any particular significance since the two are very similar, it may be that it served as a reminder of the occasion). God says that He is going to give Abraham a son through Sarah and that through her the multitude of his descendants will be born. Abraham had his doubts…since he was 100 and Sarah was 99…and suggested that it would be enough if God were to establish His covenant people through Ishmael. He laughed…perhaps at how ridiculous it sounded, perhaps in nervousness. But God says that Sarah will bear a son and they are to name him Isaac. His name means “laughter”. Imagine, for the rest of his days, every time Abraham said his son’s name he would be reminded of the time that he doubted God. But also, that God was able to do all things; that He was faithful and totally true to His word; and that the covenant people will come through him. Ishmael will be blessed and 12 princes will be his descendants and will be a great nation. However, God’s covenant will be through Isaac.
Genesis 17:23-27-Abraham had every man in his household circumcised that day. He was 99 and Ishmael was 13.
Prayer: Father, sometimes I pay more attention to the circumstances and what I think to be the obstacles than I do to You. Please give me faith in You…that exceeds any and all reasons, or excuses that exist. You are El Shaddai!