Introduction: In the previous post we read how the Lord had given Abram a promise of land for his descendants in the most solemn declaration of blessing and judgment ever given to mankind. Why was this given to Abram in his weakness? It was because Abram trusted him.
Five more years have passed. But still he has no son and the land is not his.
What could Abram do? What can any believer do when heaven is not visible to our eyes, and we only see daily difficulties.
A Son by Any Means
Sarai, who did not believe, suggested to Abram something he could do as a means of getting a son. He agrees, and son called Ishmael is born to Abram through Sarai’s servant girl when he is 86.
Then Sarai feels acutely the shame of not being mother to the son. And Abram seems to realise that this is not the right means. You can read about it in Genesis Chapter 16:1-16.
Fifth Covenant Declaration by the Lord
Another 13 years have passed. The repeated covenant promise of Almighty God was generous. Abram’s children would be numberless as dust of the earth (Gen 13:15), and boundless as the stars spread across the sky. The great sworn promise was all about what God would do. Was there nothing Abram could do?
Abram’s Part in the Covenant
Yes, there was something that Abram could do, and he must do it; he must be blameless (verse 1), with a heart that always wanted to be clean. And, yes, he wanted that; and the Lord gave him the new name Abraham, meaning ‘Father of a Multitude’. His very name would be proclaiming the grace of God shown to him for another 76 years until he died (Genesis 25:7, 8).
The Sign of God’s Covenant Grace
There was something else that Abraham could do, and must do, and would do. He and his children and his dependants must receive in their flesh the circumcision sign which showed that they, his household, were included in God’s blessing.
At Last a Son for Sarai
Abraham laughs because God’s ways are so wonderful. Sarai will be mother of nations and kings, her new name ‘Sarah’ meaning ‘Princess’. And her son would have the name ‘Isaac’, meaning ‘He laughs’. The future promised in the covenant would be fulfilled through Isaac, not through Ishmael. However, Ishmael would also be blessed.
That same day everyone, including Ishmael whom Abraham loved (v.18), received in the flesh the sign of faith.
In the last post we read of the Lord’s promises to Abram in Genesis Chapter 13. Today we read how he is puzzled because he still has no son. He is about 84 years old and it is 9 years since he left Haran. He has travelled the length of the Promised Land as an alien, been forced south into Egypt to escape famine, he has been saved by God from the Egyptian king, has parted company with his comfort-seeking nephew Lot, and he has experienced warfare (Genesis Chapter 14).
Today we read in Chapter 15 how God encouraged him. As the Lord did with Noah, he makes promise of a personal blessing, but this time he adds to it a great and terrible sworn covenant-declaration of the certain inheritance of his descendants. The land will surely be theirs in the distant future.
Promise of a Son
The Lord, “Since you left Haran I have protected you all the way, and will continue to bless you.”
Abram, “How so? I will die without a son of mine own.”
The Lord, “Not so; I will give you many offspring through your very own son.”
“And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
God loves a man’s trust; because of Abram’s belief in the Lord’s words, God considered him clean and worthy of salvation (khong rnam par dag pa’i mi zhig la brtsis gnang).
Repeated Promise of the Land
It is the 4th time that the Lord has promised the Land of Canaan to Abram and his descendants.
Abram believes God; but it is out of human weakness that he asks God how it will happen when he as yet has no son. (God allows us to say, “I believe; help my unbelief” Mark 9:24)
The LORD’s Answer
The Lord did not tell Abram how he would get offspring. Instead he gives Abram news of the delay that his unworthy descendants would experience before they came to Canaan. To Abram and to a few other worthy persons only has God allowed such a glimpse of future history.
The Terrible Covenant
See the detail of the correct offering. It took Abram all day; then all he could do was watch that his preparations were not spoiled, and wait for what God would do. Of the two rows, one was for Abram; the other was for Almighty God. He waited until nightfall. Then came both inner darkness and fear.
How would He speak?
When the Lord spoke, it was of the absolute covenant–certainty – not to be disbelieved – of His judgment on disbelieving nations. But then finally, of a future blessing for Abram’s descendants.
Now, what would God do with the offering?
At last it happened. The firepot showed that God accepted Abram’s offerings, and the torch confirmed the covenant between Him and Abram as it passed between the pieces. It was like the sworn oath of One whose promise it is dangerous to doubt.
What the Lord Foretold
However, Abram remains without a son. In future posts we will learn how his and Sarai’s faith continue to be tested. Read on to find what happens.
Dear Believers in Jesus Christ, the faith of Abram is a picture to instruct and bless us: Just as Abram had to trust the Lord for a future blessing that he could not see, so we too must trust the words of Jesus (John 6:68; 11:25; 12:44-50) for unfading life in heaven.
The Jewish people are human descendants of Abram, but those who have faith like Abram’s are the blessed spiritual descendants of Abram (Galatians 3:7-9).