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Simplified Journey (4): I Will Make You A Nation

The first of the promises to Abraham to find fulfillment was that God would make of him a great nation. At first, this did not seem likely.

Abram himself despaired of having a son through his wife, Sarai. Between them, they decided to help God out – by Sarai giving Abram her slave girl as a concubine. Thus, Ishmael was born, a son of Abram’s old age whom he loved dearly. When God said to him that Sarai, whom God renamed Sarah, would have a son herself, Abraham asked God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!”

God had other plans, though. Isaac, the son of the promise, was born when Abraham was 100 and Sarah 90 years of age. Then, that great test of Abraham’s faith came when God told him to sacrifice Isaac. We do not know how old Isaac was when this happened – but he was old enough to understand what was happening. Perhaps this was a test of Isaac’s faith as well.

Isaac also was old when his sons, Esau and Jacob, were born. These twin brothers were such rivals it seemed they would destroy the family. In fact, Jacob had to run for his life when Esau threatened to kill him. Esau made this threat because of Jacob’s deception in stealing his birthright and their father’s blessing. At that time, however, God gave Jacob a vision of a ladder reaching into heaven with angels ascending and descending to and from God. Godrenewed the promises He gave to Abraham earlier. Jesus spoke of this vision in John 1 when one of his new disciples exclaimed because Jesus told him He had seen him before Philip invited him to come see Jesus. “Do you believe because I said I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this. You will see the Son of Man with angels ascending and descending upon Him.”

God blessed Jacob’s journey back to Haran, to Abraham’s family where he found a wife – two actually. And the rivalry between these sisters and their sons almost ruined the family.

In Haran, Jacob became a wealthy man at the expense of his father-in-law before he returned to Canaan and a reconciliation with Esau. On the return, he again encountered God. This time he wrestled with the Lord in prayer and was touched by Him in a way that he carried a permanent reminder, a limp, of that encounter. God changed his name from Jacob, which meant “supplanter,” to Israel, which means “he who struggled with God and prevailed.”

With Jacob back in Canaan, his older sons hated their younger brother, Joseph, because of their father’s favoritism toward him. When this hatred reached its peak, they secretly sold him into the land of Egypt as a slave. There, after a very interesting series of events, he became ruler of all Egypt, second only to the Pharaoh.

God had revealed to Pharaoh through dreams Joseph explained to him that there would be seven years of abundance, followed by seven years of famine. Pharaoh gave Joseph the task of storing food during the time of plenty for the famine that was to follow. He did this, and when the famine struck there was food in Egypt.

Joseph’s brothers, not knowing he was still alive, came to Egypt to buy grain to sustain their families in the famine. They did not recognize him, though he knew them. Eventually he revealed himself to them and invited them to bring their aged father and their families to join him in Egypt where there was plenty of food. In this way, all the family of Jacob came into Egypt.

In Egypt, they were favored by the Pharaoh so that they began to grow into a large nation of people, as God had promised Abraham year before. When Jacob (Israel) died, the brothers feared that Joseph would avenge himself on them. He, however, explained that it was God who had sent him ahead of the family into Egypt to preserve them there.

The great attempts of the serpent to destroy the chosen seed of Abraham did not succeed. Though he tempted the family into quarreling, God used their quarrels for His own purposes. His plan was still alive as the book of Genesis ends.

NEXT: Simplified Journey (5): To Your Descendants I Will Give This Land

PREVIOUS: Simplified Journey (3): Covenant With Abraham


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