Topic: God’s Call And Convenant With Abraham
TEXT: Genesis 12:17 (KJV)
17 And the Lord plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram’s wife.
The first eleven chapters of the book of Genesis give an account of the creation and failure of man before and after the flood. At the end of that era, which lasted about 2,000 years, God decided to raise a special nation through which the Messiah would come. The next section of Genesis, beginning with the twelveth chapter, introduces God’s call and covenant with Abraham, the man whose descendants would form the chosen nation of Israel. Abraham was born and brought up in a city known as Ur in Mesopotamia.
Also Read: The Flood And It’s Aftermath
Historians say the city was large, secure and prosperous during Abraham’s time. But Ur was basically idolatrous and Abraham had to come out of its influence in order to enter a fresh covenant with God. It takes faith and courage to leave the known for an unknown, certainty for uncertainty. God promised that he would make of Abraham a great nation, give him a great name, vast land and bless all the earth through his seed. Abraham believed God and responded to His call.
“By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after received for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing wither he went’’ (Heb 11:8). Like God called Abraham, he calls sinners to repent and come out of their old lifestyle and association. Those who obey His call become covenant partners with Him and great blessings await them in this world and in heaven.
1. THE CALL OF ABRAHAM AND HIS RESPONSE OF FAITH
Gen 12:1-20; 13:1-18; Josh 24:2, 3; Acts 7:2-4; Heb 11:8,9
‘Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country; and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing’’( Gen 12:1,2). God appeared to Abraham and specifically asked him to get out from his idolatrous family and community (Josh 24:2, 3).
It is not God’s plan for anyone to continue in idolatry and ungodliness after encountering the true and living God. The divine call to Abraham was essentially to salvation and separation. He needed to renounce idolatry and put his trust in God. He must also separate from his country, kindred and father’s house because they were idolaters and would constitute a distraction and temptation to him. Ur of the Chaldees, the land Abraham was called to leave, was the most develop and attractive place of his time. He was called to leave and go to an unknown land, leaving family, friends and the security of a comfort zone behind. Indeed, it demands faith to obey the call of God.
However, Abraham responded in faith but took along his father, Terah, and his nephew, Lot; and they settled in Haran rather than Canaan as God had instructed. Abraham did not get to Canaan until after the death of his father (Gen 11:31, 32; 12:1; Acts7: 2-4). Here we observe the danger and encumbrance of undue family ties while responding to the call of God. Except our relatives have personal encounter with, they will constitute a burden to us in the walk of faith. Truly, Abraham went out of his country as God instructed, but he took his kindred along with him.
Aside from Terah tying him down to Haran, Lot became a source of distraction later on. After the death of his father, Abraham finally moved to Canaan and his faith was tested in many ways. The first challenge was that he did not meet the land vacant.
The Canaanites, who were renowned for their cruelty and idolatry, were on ground. But God reassured him that his descendants would inherit the land. Abraham responded in faith by building an altar unto the Lord.
Shortly after his arrival, there was a famine in the land and he relocated to Egypt. As it turned out, the move was a carnal step. Abraham felt insecure because his wife, Sarah, was a good looking and he anticipated that the lustful Egyptians might kill him in order to have her. Afraid for his life, he instructed Sarah to pretend to be his sister and not his wife. Abraham fear of being killed was unfounded because the Lord has promised to give his descendants the land of Canaan, and that the whole earth would be blessed through his seed. Standing on God’s promises, he should have believed that he would not die without a child. But fear is the greatest enemy of faith. Fear of imaginary danger pushed Abraham to lie about his marriage, though Sarah was truly his half-sister (Genesis 20:21).
God condemns lying and deception. ’He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house: he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight’’ (Psalm 101:7). “A false witness shall not be unpunished…and he that speaketh lies shall not escape’’ (Prov 19:5, 9). Christians should not tell lies for any reason. The carnality of Abraham exposed Sarah to the danger of being defiled by Pharaoh, who took her. It brought avoidable suffering to Pharaoh’s entire household, and caused the heathen king to rebuke Abraham, the man of faith. It also dented the integrity of Abraham.
Though he reaped great material benefits from the trip to Egypt, it affected his testimony badly, The exposure to Egypt left an indelible mark on Lot’s mind so much that Egypt became a reference point, comparable to Eden in the estimation (Gen 13:10,11). Then, most likely, it was on this trip to Egypt that Abraham picked up Hagar, the bondwoman who later causes much trouble in his household. But God, in his faithfulness, helped Abraham in this moment of weakness. He protected Sarah and ensured Abraham went back with her to Canaan.
Coming back from Egypt to Canaan, “Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold. And Lot also which went with Abram, had flocks, and herds, and tents. And the land was not able to bear them, that they might dwell together: for their substance was great, so that they could not dwell together’’ (Gen 13:2, 5, 6). This caused strife between the herdsmen of Lot and Abraham’s. “Abram said unto the Lot, let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdsmen and thy herdsmen; for we be brethren’’ (Gen 13:8). Abraham solved the problem amicably and they agreed and to separate in order to avoid further strife. In dividing the land, Abraham condescended by allowing Lot to make first choice. This is a commendable virtue; he was prepared to pay the price for peace (Rom 12:18).
Lot chose the better portion, leaving Abraham with what looked like a barren land. But the portion Lot chose was near Sodom, a very wicked city. Believers should be ready to make personal sacrifices for peaceful coexistence with others. The word of God says, ‘Follow peace with all men, and holiness without which no man can see Lord’’ (Heb 12:14). After Lot had separated, God appeared to Abraham and renewed His covenant with him (Genesis 13:14-17).
Then Abraham relocated to Hebron and built an altar unto the Lord there. It is significant that whatever Abraham went in the land of Canaan, he built altar unto God. The only time there was no record of him building the altar was during the misadventure to Egypt. The altar primarily symbolised Abraham’s worship and devotion to God. It was also a token of his faith that someday, God would fulfil the promise to give the land of Canaan to his descendants as heritage.
2. THE COURAGE OF ABRAHAM AND HIS CONVENANT WITH GOD
Gen 14:1-24; 15:1-21; 17:1-27; Jere 32:40; Gala 3:15-17
After Lot separated from Abraham, he pitched his tent near Sodom. Shortly afterwards, he was caught up in a war between two opposing forces. This was the first war recorded in the Bible and it occurred as a result of ambition and struggle for supremacy among kings. At the end of the war, Sodom was defeated; Lot and his goods were taken by alliance of four kings from the Mesopotamia.
When Abraham got information about the plight of his nephew, he decided to help out. This proved Abraham has forgiven and forgotten Lot’s offence in choosing the more fertile of the land. Believer’s should not hold grudges or retain anger against offenders but learn to forgive and forget the past. Abraham mobilised his 318 servants, assisted by Aner, Eschol and Mamre, and pursued the army of the alliance of the four nations that captured Lot till he overtook them. That was a bold step and an indication that Abraham has good relationship with his neighbours. Someone told him about misfortune of his brother, others went with him for battle. Believers should not live in isolation or at loggerheads with their neighbours.
In the end, Abraham, with his servant and his allies overcame the kings and recovered Lot and all that were taken captive, including women. Abraham had great courage to have pursued a coalition of armies with his home-trained militia. When he returned from the war, the kings of Sodom and Salem met him. “And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the Most High God’’ (Gen 14:18). Melchizedek was a human king whose record of birth was not stated in the scripture, so he could be the type of Christ with regards to his office, as king and priest (Hebrews 7:1-11). He met Abraham with bread and wine, emblems of the Lord’s Supper, and blessed him. Then, Abraham gave him tithe of the booty they brought from the battle. From the example of Abraham, Christians have a pattern of tithing before the Law of Moses. Giving of tithes is both a duty and a privilege. Any believer who understands Christians stewardship and accepts divine ownership of all things will not fail to bless faithful givers (Malachi 3:10, 11).
Whereas the king of Salem met Abraham and engaged him on spiritual essentials, the king of Sodom proposed that Abraham retain the property recovered from the war while he took away the people. But Abraham had vowed he would not take anything from the spoils. He was totally disinterested in any reward or gain coming from Sodom, though he allowed to others to take their due portion.
Meanwhile, it is surprising that there was no record of any move from Lot to retrace his steps, or the appreciation coming from him “After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and exceeding great reward’’ (Gen 15:1).
God was aware of Abraham’s anxiety concerning the possibility of a counter-attack from the kings of the nations he defeated. Also, his decision not to take anything from the spoil of war might have portrayed him as one who laboured without reward. But God reassured him of protection and reward. Likewise, Jesus promised believers that as they overpower Satan and all his forces, nothing shall by any means hurt them. He also promised to reward His followers both in time and eternity (Luke 10:17; Matt 19:27-29).
Abraham brought up the issue of his childlessness before God. He was concerned that his lack of children would affect the fulfilment of the promises of God (Gen 12:7; 13:14-17). But God reassured him that he would have children and his steward would not be his heir. Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness. In the New Testament, the first of Abraham on this occasion became a model of the doctrine of justification by faith. A sinner is justified and counted righteous before God the moment she/he believes in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour (Rom 4:3, 4, 17-25; Gala 3:6-14). God entered into a covenant with Abraham in line with the custom of his days. Abraham divided the sacrificial animals into two equal parts and arranged the pieces opposite each other.
Then, he waited and watched until God, represented by a smoking furnace and burning lamp, passed between the pieces. God repeated and enlarged the promises He had earlier made to him and gave him the rite of circumcision as the seal of the covenant. He also changed the name of Abram to
Abraham, and Sarai to Sarah. Changing of their names signifies a new beginning and the new thing the Lord would do for them. But God informed Abram into ham that part of the promise would not happen immediately because his descendants would first sojourn in Egypt and be enslaved and oppressed for four hundred years as they developed into a great nation, but their oppressors would be punished and Abraham’s seed would be delivered (Genesis 15:13-16). At first, God’s promise that Abraham and Sarah would have a child in old age appeared incredulous, so Abraham laughed. But God’s own time, the promise came to pass, thus proving that with Him, nothing shall be impossible.
3. COMPROMISE OF ABRAHAM AND GOD’S CONSIDERATION
Gen 16:1-16; 17:1; Rom 2:25-29; 2 Cor 1:19, 20
Abraham and Sarah waited for God to give them a child as he has promised, but after waiting for ten years, they contrived an alternative solution. Sarah gave Hagar her Egyptian handmaid to Abraham for a wife. Sarah’s plan was to have a child through her as it was practised in their culture. Truly, Hagar conceived and gave birth to Ishmael, but the outcome was far from Sarah’s expectation. Hagar became unruly and despised Sarah because of her childlessness.
In her frustration, Sarah blamed Abraham and dealt cruelty with Hagar until she fled from her. Believers are not expected to deal cruelly with anyone, no matter the provocation. Despite the doubt and compromise of Abraham and his wife, God still intervened on behalf. First, He took care of the complication arising from the Hagar and Ishmael factor. God made it plain that Ishmael would be blessed because he was Abraham’s descendant but he was not the covenant child. Second, He called Abraham to a perfect walk. “And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the almighty God; walk before me and be thou perfect’’ (Gen 17:1).
God wanted him to overcome those carnal tendencies that were evident in his life. Already, he had shown signs of anxiety, fear, insincerity and self-management. All of these must be purged. God demands that everyone who would remain in a covenant relationship with him be perfect. This underscores the necessity and priority of the sanctification experiences for all believers subsequent to the new birth, whereby the adamic nature and the prosperity of sin is dealt a death blow (Romans 6:6,7). After his call to perfection, Abraham’s was changed from Abram (exalted father) to Abraham (father of many nations). Sarai, meaning princess, was also changed to Sarai (mother of many nations).
Following this, God commanded the rite of circumcision as a token of this covenant with Abraham and his seed. He was to circumcise himself, all males in his camp and all baby boys eight days after their birth. Those who refused to be circumcised were to be cut off from among his people. However, the injunction of flesh circumcision is no longer binding on believers, but what matters today is the circumcision of the heart. ’But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not men, but of God’’ (Rom 2:29).