Friday, June 26, 2015

All Things New: Abram, the Unknown Road, part 3

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Looking this week at Genesis 14 - 17.   The passage starts with Abram doing something very noble...he raised an army and rescued all the inhabitants of the Jordan Plain, because  his nephew Lot had been among those captured and carried away by foreign kings...then refused any reward, lest the pagan kings of those cities would take any credit for Abram's wealth.

God, however,  declared to Abram in a vision, 'I am your shield, your very great reward.'

What's a paltry pile of gold and silver compared to the favor and blessings of God Almighty?

But Abram basically shrugged...what good is a reward without a son to pass it along to?

So God got a little more specific about His promise.  In Genesis 15,  He told  Abram that he WILL father a child and he WILL have natural offspring as numerous as the stars in the sky.

But God didn't give him much more detail on that.  For one thing, He didn't mention who the baby's mother would be.  And, with Sarai well past menopause,  how could anyone even consider that it might possibly be her?

Abram had God's promise...but he didn't have God's perspective.  I've heard folks say that Abram and Sarai didn't have faith, so they looked for a human solution.  I don't necessarily think that's so...I think their faith was stirred up to believe God could do something so... they gave Him the opportunity.  In the only way that appeared to be possible.  Sarai sent Hagar in to Abram.  We read:

So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne.  Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, "I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless.  I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.'  (Gen. 16:15 - 17:2)

So far, this really is nothing new, just a repeat of what God has told him before.  But there is new stuff coming...

No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations...This is...the covenant you are to keep:  Every male among you shall be circumcised.  - Gen 17:5, 10

But there's more.

As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah.  I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her and will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.  (Gen 17:15-16)

You do realize that, for 13 years, Abraham believed Ishmael was the fulfillment of God's promise.  After so many years,  he had a son.  But... Ishmael's mother was bitter and jealous.  Sarah was bitter and jealous. Ishmael grew up under the influence of his mother. The peace in Abraham's tents was one of tension and suspicion.   None of that mattered much to Abraham...he had a son.  He wasn't looking for God to do anything else for him.  He was satisfied.

But God was not.  He had something better in mind.  A child born out of a complete and total miracle.   One who would honor his father and his mother and the birthright covenant coming to him. In much the same way that Abraham would take nothing from the kings of the plain, so they could claim no part of him, God's plan required nothing from Abraham and Sarah but faith in Him.   So that they could not say that  the fulfillment of God's promise was a product of their own intellect and planning.

Abraham fell face down.  What else could he do?  He laughed to himself at the ludicrous promise...and God did not call him out on it.  Because Abraham's laughter ceased when he thought of Ishmael.  His firstborn.  On the cusp of manhood at age 13, having grown up believing he would inherit Abraham's position and promise.

'Can't you bless Ishmael?' Abraham asked God.

God replied that He would bless Ishmael...but that the covenant and the promise would go to the son who would be born to Sarah within a year's time.

Abraham responded in character...he immediately got up that very day and performed his part of the covenant: every male associated with his household was circumcised.  But, while he seems to have passed along the name changes,  I don't think Abraham said anything about a baby yet to be born.    That would've tipped the truce in the household.  Better to deal with that when...and Abraham may even have been subconsciously thinking if... it happened.  One step at a time.

This is a story that I come back to over and over again.  How many times have I felt compelled to provide God with the opportunity to keep His promise?  To make the vision come to pass?  To bring about His deliverance?  Believing He would do the improbable, but never really considering that He might actually do the impossible?   How many Ishmaels have been engendered by my actions?  How many times have I been content with the results of my own planning instead of waiting for God's plan?

One of the most difficult tests in a time of transition is the trust test...absolutely refusing to do anything to try and manipulate the circumstances to turn out the way I think God needs to work.  The truth is that God has a bigger plan that I don't see, and my little ideas of how things should come to pass really only get in the way and cause problems.  No wonder the enemy works overtime to make those ideas look good...

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