The account of Genesis 21:22-34 records the development of an unusual working relationship between Abraham and King Abimelech of Gerar. After Abraham’s last encounter with Abimelech in Genesis 20 which didn’t go so well, this time, their interaction – particularly from Abraham’s point of view – went so much better! The section of text is interesting on another level too, in that it provides us with an understanding of covenants in Old Testament times, leading us to remember the God who makes covenants with His people.
The text of Genesis 21:1-21 tells us that God’s promises to Abraham and Sarah were eventually fulfilled in the birth of the promised son, Isaac. While the story has been concerned with Abraham’s struggle to believe the Lord’s promises, on the other hand, the story also emphasizes the certainty of God’s faithfulness. He did not fail to accomplish what He promised. Although the birth of Isaac created issues for Sarah, Hagar and Ishmael, God’s mercy and grace were still not out of the picture.
After the heights of Abraham’s intercessory prayer before the Lord in chapter 18, the next we read of Abraham is in Genesis 20:1-18 where he fell for the ‘same old story’ of a previous incident recorded in chapter 12. Passing Sarah off as his sister (although she was actually his half-sister) before Abimelech almost resulted in disaster for all concerned. But with this repeat offence, God intervened, and by His grace, not only rescued the situation but also used it for Abraham’s (and our) blessing.
In the account of Matthew 8:1-4, Matthew records how Jesus showed great compassion to a leper by touching him to heal him. Although the story contains only a small amount of information, it carries a great amount of significance for those who know they are also ‘unclean’ and therefore unworthy.
After Abraham’s encounter with the three heavenly visitors, Genesis 18:16-33 records how the Lord spoke with Abraham, probably revealing to him in the process the forthcoming judgment that would fall upon the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham’s response was to intercede on behalf of the ‘righteous’ who dwelt in those towns – no doubt motivated by the danger that his nephew, Lot, would find himself in. The exchange between the Lord and Abraham is both remarkable (in that Abraham was allowed to speak so openly to the Lord and challenging (reminding us that there are many who live now under the Lord’s righteous judgment).
There are times in life that call for laughter, but in Genesis 17:15-18:15, after God told both Abraham and Sarah of the fact that they would soon be parents, perhaps laughter wasn’t the best kind of response. Understandable of course, but not the best response. They had reasons to doubt the truth of God’s promises, the major one being their advanced age, but in this up and down journey of faith, trusting what God said is still so necessary!
It was now many years after the disastrous arrangement by which Abram fathered Ishmael through Sarai’s maidservant Hagar. The record of Genesis 17:1-14, reveals that Abram received a new revelation of the Lord, a new name from the Lord and a new covenant sign from the Lord. These were all gifts of God’s grace to his servant and all were for the purpose of stretching his faith and lifting his eyes to prepare him for what was going to be humanly impossible, but possible with God Almighty (El Shaddai).
After Abram experienced the dizzying heights of the events on Genesis 15, he came crashing back to earth and reality in Genesis 16:1-16. Though God had promised Abram a great nation of descendants, he and his wife Sarai (at her instigation) concocted a plan for Abram to father a child through Sarai’s slave girl Hagar. Sadly, the plan they concocted wasn’t the plan God had in mind for the fulfillment of the promises He had in mind in chapter 12. When it comes to taking ‘matters into our own hands’, the lessons we learn from the chapter are sobering.
The account of Genesis 15:1-21 is vital in the unfolding story of Abram and for the rest of the story of the Scriptures. After winning the victory over the all conquering kings in Genesis 14, in this chapter the Lord made clear to Abram all over again the realty of the promises He had given him. To do this, God showed Abram the stars in the sky, telling him that their number (beyond counting) would be the number of Abram’s descendants. Abram believed God’s promise and because of that faith he was counted as being among those who are ‘right with God’ – by grace, through faith.
The parable of the barren fig tree in Luke 13:6-9 belongs to Jesus’ words at the end of Luke 12 and his response to the people who told him of the death of certain Galileans killed by Pilate’s soldiers, and continues theme of our urgent need to make our peace with God. The people of his time could interpret the signs of changing weather, but not ‘the present time’ in which showed He was their Messiah and King. Despite this, and using the news of the day, Jesus persisted in calling people everywhere and immediately to repentance.