Abraham, Part 6 (The Covenant & the Cross #52)

Today’s passage of Scripture is Genesis 21:1-2 which reads: “And the Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did unto Sarah as he had spoken. For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him.”

Allow me to share with you some further commentary on this passage from the Reformation Study Bible by Dr. R.C. Sproul:

The report of Isaac’s birth concludes the story of Sarah’s barrenness begun in Genesis 11. The covenantal arrangement is underscored: God keeps His promise to give Abraham a son by Sarah, and Abraham responds in obedience by naming him Isaac and circumcising him, while Sarah responds with praise.

Today’s quote about the Bible is from A.W. Tozer. He said: “The Word of God well understood and religiously obeyed is the shortest route to spiritual perfection. And we must not select a few favorite passages to the exclusion of others. Nothing less than a whole Bible can make a whole Christian.”

Our topic for today is titled “Abraham” (Part 6) from the book, “The Promise and the Blessing” by Dr. Michael A. Harbin.

A painting of Abraham's departure by József Molnár.

A painting of Abraham’s departure by József Molnár.

The Birth of Isaac

Finally, after decades of waiting, the heir was born. Because God had told Sarah that despite her laughter at His promises she would bear a son, she said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” Thus, the son was named Isaac (“he laughs”).

With the change in Sarah’s maternal status, relations between her and Hagar deteriorated. The antagonism came to a climax when Ishmael began to ridicule his little brother on the day Isaac was weaned. Sarah was livid and demanded that Hagar and Ishmael be driven out into the desert. This time Abraham did pray about it. God told him to listen to his wife, so Hagar and Ishmael were sent out the next day. While God accommodated Sarah, however, He did not abandon Abraham’s mistress and son. They were protected by an angel, and Ishmael became a patriarch in his own right. This status is shown to us by the inclusion of a to-le-dot section devoted to Ishmael tucked between the lives of Abraham and Isaac.

It is generally accepted that the Arabs are descendants of Ishmael. The names of his sons are reflected in the names of various Arabian tribes and regions. Islamic tradition claims that the well where Hagar and Ishmael were revived was located in what is now Mecca, but this city is more than 700 miles (as the crow flies) from Beersheba, where Abraham lived when the incident took place.

Abraham’s Test

From here we jump to the supreme test given to Abraham when he was well over a hundred years old (the exact age is not given). God told him to sacrifice his son Isaac as a burnt offering.” The point of the sacrifice was to bring out whether Abraham really trusted God. Earlier he had attempted to find substitutes for God’s promises—first, Eliezer, his lifelong servant; then Ishmael, his illegitimate son. Twice over the years, Abraham had argued with God that Ishmael should be the heir. Now it is clear that Isaac is to be the heir, and in Abraham’s mind, at this point there does not seem to be any consideration of an alternative. But how could that be possible if he killed the lad? The writer to the Hebrews
states that Abraham figured that God could resurrect the boy after the sacrifice. Of course, we learn that after Abraham showed faith and obedience, God provided a substitute.

Final Events in the Life of Abraham

After Sarah died, Abraham bought a cave near Hebron in which to bury her. Today, if you go to Hebron, you may still visit the site where Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Leah, and Jacob were buried. It is a Muslim mosque situated over a cave that was last entered by the Crusaders in 1119. Since then (after the city was retaken by the Arabs), entrance has been forbidden to all. Sometime after Isaac grew up, Abraham arranged a marriage for him, which we will discuss later. Abraham then took another wife, whose name was Keturah. Through her, he had six more sons, and he also had other sons through concubines. These sons too became the ancestors of nations, but Isaac was the line of the blessing.

In summary, what do we know about Abraham? He was an ordinary man with a very human nature. He was called of God, and he struggled in his faith. More important, God finally did give him the son He had promised, who was the next link in the family line. At a minimum, this narrative showed the Israelites at Mount Sinai that God had long had an interest in them.

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