It appears that some time goes by before God speaks to Abraham again. During this encounter, Abraham voices what the reader has been thinking. “O Sovereign Lord, what good are all your blessings when I don’t even have a son?” (Genesis 15:2) YAWEH’s response is to tell Abraham that he would, indeed, have a son, and then had him go outside and look up at the night sky. “Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. That’s how many descendants you will have.” (Genesis 15:5)
God then initiated a covenant with Abraham. Covenants were very important in the ancient world, and the fact that YAWEH initiated it is even more significant. God was, in essence, telling Abraham that he could count on him to fulfill his promises.
Even though God had appeared at regular intervals to Abraham, his wife Sarah seemed to feel left out of the picture. In Genesis 16, she came to Abraham with a proposal. “The Lord has prevented me from having children. Go and sleep with my servant girl, Hagar. Perhaps I can have children through her.” (Genesis 16:2) While this is offensive to modern sensibilities, this was an accepted cultural norm of the day for women who were infertile. Abraham did, and Hagar gave birth to a son, Ishmael.
The Ishmael story is a painful sub-plot in the story of Abraham. One of the interesting things about this narrative is the fact that God never rebukes Abraham or Sarah for it. This was clearly not part of YAWEH’s plan, yet the consequences of Ishmael’s birth were rebuke enough. God let Abraham and Sarah experience the consequences of their bad decision.
This is often the way that God continues to deal with His people. Instead of dropping His Heavenly Hammer of Judgment on us when we sin, God allows us to reap the consequences of our bad decisions. That is usually punishment enough!
To be continued…
My wife Annie and I are based in C3 Church, Curitiba, Brazil and working with church planting efforts here. Click here to join our Brazil Support Team. Obrigado!