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.
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.
After making a vital decision concerning what Abram would seek in life, his peaceful existence must have been shattered by the capture of his nephew Lot by warring Kings of neighbouring nations. Genesis 14:1-24 tells the story of how Abram risked all to rescue Lot from these victorious and powerful kings, but also how Abram soon was met by both the King of Salem and the King of Sodom. His response to both of these Kings indicate that Abram was growing in stature as a man of faith.
Abram’s close shave in Egypt appeared to have made some impression upon him. Genesis 13:1-18 tells us that on his return to Canaan, Abram’s heart was set toward the Lord his God. The chapter even contrasts Abram’s new found perspective on life with that of his nephew, Lot. When given a choice as to which part of the valley he would choose, Lot chose the best portion for himself. Abram, however, had his sights fixed on the Lord and a heavenly reward that would far outweigh anything material.
After God called Abram to go to the land He promised to show him, Abram went on his way. He trusted what he was told and obeyed… until the events of Genesis 12:10-20 unfolded. Like us, Abram’s trust in God had to grow. The fact that he stumbled in these verses does not negate the overall pattern of growth. Like Abram, we all need to walk by faith and not by sight as we follow along behind the Lord who leads us.
The story of God’s call to Abram in Genesis 12:1-9, is a pivotal passage in the unfolding of Abram’s life and the whole story of the Bible. The fact that God called Abram and gave him many promises all based on grace is foundational to our faith. Yet also in these verses we meet Abram the willing obedient follower who ‘went out not knowing where he was to go’. His obedience to God’s call sets a pattern for believers today to follow.