Had Abram left his homelands in vain? He had wealth and a large camp. He had long life and success in battle, honour amongst kings. But who would it all go to?
Genesis 17 is the beginning of the resolution of this dilemma. God spoke to Abram directly once more, renewing His promise to Abram. This time the promise of children was extended to Abram becoming the father of many nations, and his name was changed to “Father of many”, or Abraham. The whole of the land he had wandered in as a stranger and nomad would be given to his descendants. And Abraham was to initiate a sign amongst his descendants, the sign of circumcision as a distinguishing feature of his line.
But Abraham was still 99, and Sarai, who would become known as Sarah, was still 90. God spoke to Abraham and told him that he and Sarah would have a son.
Well, that’s a bit difficult to take in, isn’t it? And Abraham fell face down, and he laughed at the idea. And his laughing became the name for his yet-to-be-conceived-and-born son: “he laughs”, or “Isaac”. In Aussie lingo, we might call him “You’re joking!” That was the name Abraham and Sarah’s son was stuck with for his long life.
Yet Abraham faithfully circumcised every male in his encampment. He and Sarah conceived, and gave birth to the boy Isaac. Isaac fathered Jacob, who became known as Israel. His sons were the twelve tribes of the nation Israel, including the tribe of Judah. Out of Judah rose a young man, David, to become king. His line endured until a young virgin gave birth in a stable in Bethlehem to the King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus the Christ. Abraham was a father to many, and ultimately to the One who has forever changed the world.
Did Abraham find what he was looking for in his days? Mostly I think he did. He clearly trusted God and took Him at His Word. He never saw the generations of his descendants, nor his offspring receive the land, nor the kings and nations that were his legacy.
He trusted God, and God did it.
The writer to the Hebrews in chapter 11 reminds us that Abraham, among many who lived between the Fall and Good Friday (Genesis 3 to John 19), never saw the fulfilment of their hope, but they remained faithful. So how can we neglect faith if our hope has been realised on the cross and in the resurrection of Jesus in or history? We look forward to Jesus’ return and rule because we look back to His life, death, resurrection and ascension.
We look forward to ‘seventh day rest’ in God’s design (Genesis 2:2-3) when our striving and battles are no longer, just as Abraham did. And we have more confidence because we know what God has done – so let us live in confidence in Him!