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Abraham had no heir. At some point after his brother Haran had died in Ur, Abraham had taken Lot, Haran’s son, into his family, perhaps thinking Lot would be his heir. But that had not worked out so well. Abraham and Lot had come to a parting of the ways in the end of Genesis 14 with Lot pitching his tent toward the well-watered plains and the city of Sodom.

So, when God appeared to Abraham again at the beginning of Genesis 15, Abraham’s first words were, “What will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer?”  God assured him that Eliezer would not be his heir, but “your very own son shall be your heir” (v.4). He then promised again that his seed would be as numberless as the stars in the sky and that they would possess Canaan, though they would be slaves in another land for 400 years before returning to Canaan, “for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete” (v. 16).

What does that mean? God is patient, not willing that any perish but that all would come to repentance. It has always been so. Yet, when the Amorites’ wickedness reached the tipping point, God judged them and gave their land to Israel. God rules in the affairs of men. When a nation becomes so wicked it cannot continue, God will still step in to check the immorality of man.

Having been assured Abraham would actually have a child (though by this time he was past 80 years old and Sarah past 70), Sarah next suggested (Gen 16) that Abraham take her Egyptian handmaid (a slave girl) as a concubine to raise up children. She quickly changed her mind when the slave girl put on airs because she was carrying Abraham’s child. Sarah treated Hagar so harshly she fled into the wilderness, but an angel found her and sent her back, assuring her that her son, Ishmael, would also have a multitude of offspring – the modern Arabs.

Things continued until Ishmael was about 13 and Abraham was 99. Then the Lord came to Abraham again when He told him he would be the father of “a multitude of nations.” He renewed his covenant to be Abraham’s God and the God of his offspring after him. He also repeated his promise that his offspring would live in the land of Canaan – and gave him a sign of this covenant, the rite of circumcision of all males.

God also told Abraham at this time that Sarah would have a son who would be the child of promise and Abraham’s heir. Abraham laughed, and said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” (Gen 17:18). We, like Abraham, often prefer our “plans” to God’s Plan and want God to accept our “Ishmaels” in place of His Son of Promise.

Yet, in the end, Abraham accepted God’s promise – and the sign of circumcision as a token of God’s Covenant with him.

Back in Genesis 12:1-3, when God called Abraham He made 3 promises to him: 1) He would make of him a great nation; 2) He would give his descendants a land of their own; and 3) He would bless all nations of the earth through Abraham’s descendants.

We will see more of how God would bless the nations through Abraham as the STORY continues in our next reading.


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