The story of Abraham does not end with his death. The New Testament has much to say about his life and faith – especially in Hebrews 11:8-19. There, we find Abraham and Sarah’s names among the roll call of the faithful and we see the elements of what it means to live a life of faith and persevere to the end and prove to be faithful.
The record of Sarah’s death and, then eventually, Abraham’s death, is found in Genesis 23:1-20 and Genesis 25:1-11. The Bible gives great honour to Sarah, recording her age at death and the details concerning her burial. The same honour is given to Abraham, who the grand age of 175 was ‘gathered to his people’. However, the death of Abraham is not the end of the story. His greatest Son, Jesus, whose story ends with an empty grave, brings God’s people a real and living hope.
The account of Abraham’s attempted sacrifice of Isaac in Genesis 22:1-19 is surely the climactic point in the development of the faith of Abraham. After all that he had been through in relation to the promises of God that he would have a son, it must have been heart breaking for him to have to do what the Lord entreated him and offer Isaac as a burnt sacrifice. What would he do? Obey God and so prove the genuineness of his faith.
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.
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.