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these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield,
your exceedingly great reward.’ But Abram said, ‘Lord GOD, what
will you give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer
of Damascus?’ Then Abram said, ‘Look, you have given me no offspring;
indeed one born in my house is my heir!’ And behold, the word of the
LORD came to him, saying,‘This one
shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall
be your heir.’
Then he brought him outside and said, ‘Look now toward heaven, and
count the stars if you are able to number them.’ And he said to him,‘So
shall your descendants be.’ And he
believed in the LORD, and he accounted it to him for righteousness.
It is a wonderful thing, the way the
Lord knows the hearts of his people. He always knows what's on our
mind. He knew what was on Abram's mind. Abram was fearful about not
having an heir. So, the Lord spoke to Abram about what really mattered.
He said … Do not
be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.
What a comforting word, aye? The Lord went right to the heart of
Abram’s concern. This is where it’s at for you and me too,
beloved. The Lord is all we need. He is our all in all. He is the
Alpha and the Omega
and everything in-between. He is our Savior, benefactor and protector.
He holds our future and the futures of our loved ones in his hands. The
unspeakable privilege of just knowing him is our incalculable reward.
As you have it in Philippians
what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet
indeed I also count all things loss
for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for
whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish,
I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having my own righteousness,
which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the
righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him
and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his
sufferings, being conformed to his death, if, by any means, I may
attain to the resurrection from the dead.
May I ask you a question? From what
do you derive your sense of security and self worth? Is it your job,
your family, your possessions or your status? Dear saint, our real
self-worth is being in Christ
… what he has done for us … and who he says we are. He died for you and
me, you know. Doesn't that say something about what we are worth in his
eyes? In Christ, God has lifted us up all the way to his very throne in
Heaven, and called us his sons and daughters. As you have it in I John 3:1a,
what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be
called children of God!
The Lord yearns for us to be with
him and has prepared a special place just for you and me. He has
given us his Holy Spirit to dwell in us. Aren’t these things the true
measure of who you and I really, really are? Just having Christ, is
more than sufficient to verify our true worth.
Coming back to our text, in Abram’s day it was the custom for a man who
had no children to pass on his possessions to his most trusted servant,
the chief steward of his household. In Abram’s case, this was his
Abram spoke to God about Eliezer becoming his heir ... but God said … No.
Then, he assured Abram that his heir would come from his own body.
Although he was now very old, God told Abram he was going to become a
dad. Then, he took Abram outside and asked him to look up at the stars saying, So shall thy seed be.
What a precious time that must have been … hanging out under the stars
with the Son of God … and hearing his amazing promise! And … praise God
… Abram believed
what the Lord told him. The Scripture tells us here that the Lord
counted it to him for righteousness. Thus, right then and there, on
that long ago starry night, Abram was saved and became the father of
all who believe. This is a landmark statement that we have before us
here ... it was counted
to him for righteousness. Simply because Abram believed God's
promise, God declared him righteous. From
that night forward, Abram’s eternal standing before God was … righteous.
And, I might add, that is also the standing of all that believe God
today. The following scriptures bear out this most basic and precious
For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted
to him for righteousness.’
Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.
But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the
ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also
describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness
apart from works: ‘Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered; Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall
not impute sin.’ And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his
own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and
the deadness of Sarah's womb. He did not waver at the promise of God
through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God,
and being fully convinced that what he had promised he was also able to
perform. And therefore ‘it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ Now it was not written for his sake alone
that it was imputed to him, but also for us. It shall be imputed to us
who believe [in him] (best translated "believe him" ...
not "believe in him") who raised up Jesus our Lord from the
dead, who was delivered up
because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God
through our Lord Jesus Christ... Romans 4:3-8,19-5:1
...just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was
accounted to him for righteousness.’ Therefore know that only
those who are of faith
are sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would
justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham
beforehand, saying, ‘In you all the
nations shall be blessed.’ So then those who are of faith are
blessed with believing Abraham. Galatians 3:6-9
Someone has said … If your righteousness doesn’t equal God’s
righteousness, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven! That
is true. But, then, will no one get in? On the contrary, many will get in because they will
have received the very righteousness of God himself
which was imputed
to them. It is not our own righteousness, you see. It is the
righteousness of another that has been imputed (counted as ours) to us
by God. We, who have believed in the Son of God, have been given the
very righteousness of Christ. As you have it in Second Corinthians 5:21,
made him (Jesus) who knew no sin to
be sin for us, that we might become
the righteousness of God in Him.
Have you received God’s own
righteousness by placing your faith squarely in the Lord Jesus Christ,
dear reader? It is a gift waiting for you, you know. God imputes it to
all who put their faith in his Son. The instant someone believes on the
Lord Jesus, forever after … God sees that believer as righteous as God
himself is! So it was in the case of Abraham. So it is with all that
follow in Abraham’s footsteps of faith ... believing God.
One last thought before we move on
... notice that the first "I Am" in the
Bible is found here.
he said to him, ‘I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the
Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it.’ And he said, ‘Lord GOD, how shall I know that I will
inherit it?’ So he said to him, ‘Bring
Me a three-year-old heifer,
a three-year-old female goat,
a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.’ Then he brought all
these to him and cut them in two,
down the middle, and placed each piece opposite the other;
but he did not cut the birds in two. And when the vultures came down on
the carcasses, Abram drove them away. Now when the sun was going down,
a deep sleep fell upon Abram;
and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him. Then he said to
certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not
theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred
years. And also the nation whom they serve I will judge;
afterward they shall come out with great possessions. Now as for you,
you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good
old age. But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet
complete.’ And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it
was dark, that behold, there appeared
a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces.
On the same day the LORD made a
covenant with Abram, saying: ‘To your descendants I have given this
land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates;
the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the
Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites,
and the Jebusites.
We come now to the central focal
point of the book of Genesis, namely, the Abrahamic Covenant. There are
three types of covenants found in the Old Testament … all of which are
rooted in ancient custom. They are as follows:
The Shoe Covenant. This
covenant involved the exchanging of shoes by the parties. We find an
example of it in the book of Ruth.
The Salt Covenant.
This covenant involved each participant mixing a pinch of salt together
in one pile. Naturally, afterwards, it was impossible to separate one's
own grains of salt from the other's grains of salt. The individual
grains that each participant had contributed, guaranteed that their
covenant (agreement) was irreversible.
The Blood Covenant.
This covenant was the most formal and serious of the three covenants.
It required an animal to be killed and then cut into pieces. The parts
of the animal were then laid in two lines with a walkway in-between.
Then, the two parties to the covenant would join hands and walk between
the severed parts … implying that if either party broke the agreement,
the other had the right to take the life of the one who had broken the
covenant. So this covenant could only be broken by the death of one of
its participants. The idea was … You
may do to me as we did to this animal … if I do not keep my part of our
It was the Blood Covenant that God
chose to enter into covenant with Abram. However, after the sacrifice
had been prepared, and its parts had been laid out, God put Abram into
a deep sleep.
Then, he spoke to Abram in a dream and said,
descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs and they
will be servants there for 400 years.
2. Then I will
judge that nation.
descendants will come out of that land with great possessions.
will live long and die in peace.
descendants will return here in the fourth generation … when the right time
has come for me to judge the Amorites.
6. I have
given this land to your descendants.
After hearing these words from the
Lord, Abram saw the likeness of a smoking oven and a
burning torch move between the pieces of the sacrifices. Alone, God passed between the parts of the sacrifice while saying the
words, To your
descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the
great river, the River Euphrates; the
Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites,
the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the
So, as it turned out, Abram had no
part whatever in the ratifying of this covenant. God had put him out of
commission through sleep. This covenant had become God’s responsibility
alone. Abram didn’t covenant with God. God covenanted with Abram.
The Abrahamic Covenant is a unilateral covenant. It only
had one party to it.
The Abrahamic Covenant is an unconditional covenant. There
were no conditions left to be filled by the parties … whatsoever. There
was no … If you do this ... I’ll do that. God simply said ... To your descendants I
have given this land...
The Abrahamic Covenant is an irrevocable covenant.
The only way this covenant can be broken is if God breaks it and is
himself killed! And, contrary to some people's crazy notions, that just
isn't going to happen. The end result is that the Abrahamic Covenant is
still in full effect today. Its statements are set in stone. It is as
sure and lasting as the God who spoke and instituted it.
By the way, did you notice how those vultures tried to mess things up
here by eating or carrying off the part of the sacrifices? Do you
suppose there might have been something going on there ... someone behind these
vultures ... in the spirit world? I believe so or God probably wouldn't
have mentioned it here in his Word. Satan hates the Jews and, I believe
was trying to oppose this covenant "tooth and nail". Anyway, that is my
take on it.
Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children. And she had an Egyptian
maidservant whose name was Hagar.
So Sarai said to Abram, ‘See now, the LORD has restrained me from
bearing children. Please, go in to my
maid; perhaps I shall obtain children by her.’
And Abram heeded the voice of Sarai. Then Sarai, Abram's wife, took
Hagar her maid, the Egyptian, and gave her to her husband Abram to be
his wife, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan. So he went in to Hagar, and she conceived.
And when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress became despised
in her eyes. Then Sarai said to
Abram, ‘My wrong be upon you! I gave my maid into your embrace;
and when she saw that she had conceived, I became despised in her eyes.
The LORD judge between you and me.’
So Abram said to Sarai, ‘Indeed your maid is in your hand; do to her as
you please.’ And when Sarai
dealt harshly with her, she fled from her
presence. Now the Angel of the
found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the
way to Shur. And he said, ‘Hagar, Sarai's maid, where have you come
from, and where are you going?’ She said, ‘I am fleeing from the
presence of my mistress Sarai.’ The Angel of the LORD said to her,
‘Return to your mistress, and submit yourself under her hand.’ Then the
Angel of the LORD said to her, ‘I will multiply your descendants
exceedingly, so that they shall not be counted for multitude.’
And the Angel of the LORD said to her: ‘Behold, you are with child, and
you shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael,
because the LORD has heard your affliction. He shall be a wild man; His hand shall be
against every man, And every man's hand against him. And he
shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.’ Then she called the
name of the LORD who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees;
for she said, ‘Have I also here seen Him who sees me?’ Therefore the
well was called Beer Lahai Roi; observe, it is between Kadesh and
Bered. So Hagar bore Abram a son; and Abram named his son, whom Hagar
bore, Ishmael. Abram was eighty-six
years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram.
We come now to the Hagar story. It
is the story of the origin of the Arabic peoples. In effect, it's a sad
but informative chapter in the lives of Abram and Sarai. I say that,
not in relation to the Arab peoples, but because, once again, we see
the frail side of these two very special Old Testament saints. Each
time they set out to be the captains of their own ship, they made a
mess of it. Lacking patience, Sarai and Abram set out to fulfill God’s
promise of an heir by their own means. They were tired of waiting. They
wanted their heir and they wanted him now. Have you ever been like
that? However, when God says he’s going to do something, he rarely does
it the way we want him to or when we want him to. Am I right? So, Abram
and Sarai took matters into their own hands, and it resulted in:
... a schism in their relationship with
... a schism in Sarai's relationship with
her maid, Hagar
child whose descendants would build a great schism between themselves
and the children of Israel as well as against each other and, often,
against much of the rest of the world. I believe this was
foretold in the Lord’s words here … He shall be a wild man;
His hand shall be against every man, and every man's hand against him.
Now, let's take a closer look at
this in greater detail. In verses 1 through 4, we have Abram’s
acquiescence to Sarai’s idea to fulfill God's promise of an heir by
Abram by taking Hagar as his second wife. And, it worked, but not in the
way they had hoped. After Hagar became pregnant, she became proud and
haughty toward Sarai. Her attitude really stunk. Well now, Sarai ... look at me. I'm going
to give Abram a child. Too bad you can't! This caused Sarai to
retaliate so harshly that Hagar had to flee.
May we step aside here for a moment?
May I say to you, dear saint, that when it comes to receiving the ends
of the promises of God in our lives ... and it seems to us like God is
not holding up his end of the bargain ... we must resist the
impulse to fulfill God's promises by our own means. A very wise pastor
I know calls this … filling in the
blanks in your life.
When God gives us a promise, and it has not yet come to pass, there is
a blank waiting to be filled in. Let’s not try to fill it in ourselves.
Let’s wait for God to fill it in. This was Sarai’s error. She decided
to fill in the blank, rather than wait for God to fill it in his time
and in his way. So, when it comes to the promises of God in our lives,
we need to focus on what we have, not on what we don't have. Sarai was
solely focused on the fact that she was childless, and that got her
into a lot of trouble. So, let’s think on the things that God has
already given us, rather than on the things he has not yet given us.
Then, we will be able to say with Paul,
have learned in whatever state I am, to be content… Phil. 4:11
Coming back to our text in verses 5
through 16, we see our Lord’s tender care for Hagar. Pregnant and
filled with the fear of Sarai, Hagar fled into the wilderness. And she
probably would have died there, had it not been that The Angel of the Lord
was watching over her. Again, please keep in mind that this title, The Angel of the Lord,
always refers to the pre-incarnate
when it is found in the Old Testament. The Lord cared about Hagar and
he came to her rescue that day, way out there in the wilderness. Listen
to his words. He told her:
1. Return to your
mistress and submit yourself under her hand.
2. I will multiply
your descendants exceedingly so they shall not be counted for multitude.
3. You will bear a son.
4. You shall call his
5. He shall be a wild
6. He shall dwell in
the presence of all his brethren. (i.e. ... I won't allow him to be an outcast.)
How encouraging this must have been
to this poor, forsaken, lost and distraught girl. With a heart full of
gratitude, she called the one who had appeared to her … You Are The Lord That
Sees. And, she wondered if she had not, in fact, seen the Deity
himself, saying … Have
I also here seen Him who sees me?
The answer, of course, was ... Yes,
Hagar, indeed you have! May I say
to you, God is no respecter of persons. He cares for all human beings.
The book of Jonah was written precisely for the purpose of
demonstrating that truth. There, in no uncertain terms, we see God’s
concern, and Israel’s lack of concern, for the wicked, heathen
Assyrians. In the final two verses of that book, God says to Jonah,
have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it
grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. And should
I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred
and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand
and their left (babies); and much livestock? Jonah 4:10b-11
May I chase another rabbit here for
a moment? Because our Lord, and a good number of his people, have
cared, there are many Arab believers in the world today. Like the rest
of us Gentiles, they too have a Savior in the Lord Jesus Christ and he
continues to reach out to their ethnic groups. The great need is for
their countries to open their doors so that the gospel might come in
and reach them. My son, Jonathan, took a trip a while back to a closed
Muslim country in Asia. He went there to look upon the fields
that were white to harvest
(John 4:35) and to help devise a strategy to reach those people with
the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our Savior is calling out a people
for his name's sake today out of every tribe,
tongue and nation. Please remember to pray for these often
forgotten descendants of Ishmael.
And, by the way, could the masses of refugees out of the middle east
... and especially Syria ... that is taking place today be answers to
prayer? Long, we Christians have prayed that the closed Arab nations
would open up so that the gospel could be brought in and reach their
Islamic peoples. But, the doors have remained closed. Now, however,
perhaps the saying is coming to pass, "If
Mohammed won't come to the
mountain, the mountain will come to Mohammed!"?
One last thing before we move on. The book of Galatians presents
Ishmael and Isaac as types.
That's because one came as the result of an effort of the flesh (Ishmael),
but the other came by God, through his promise (Isaac).
As you have it in Galatians
it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the
other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born
according to the flesh, and he
of the freewoman through promise,
which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one
from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar; for this
Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now
is, and is in bondage with her children; but the Jerusalem above is
free, which is the mother of us all. For it is written: ‘Rejoice, O
barren, you who do not bear! Break forth and shout, you who are not in
labor! For the desolate has many more children than she who has a
husband.’ Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise.
But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who
was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what
does the Scripture say? ‘Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the
son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.’
So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the
free. Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us
free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.
Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to
him, 'I am Almighty God; walk
before me and be blameless. And I
will make my covenant between me and you,
and will multiply you exceedingly.' Then Abram fell on his face, and
God talked with him, saying: 'As for me, behold, my covenant is with
you, and you shall be a father of many nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram,
but your name shall be Abraham;
for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you
exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall
come from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and
your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after
you. Also I
give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a
stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession;
and I will be their God.' And God said to Abraham: 'As for you, you
shall keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout
their generations. This is my
covenant which you shall keep, between me and you and your descendants
after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; and
you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall
be a sign of the covenant between me and you. He who is eight days old
among you shall be circumcised, every male child in your generations,
he who is born in your house or bought with money from any foreigner
who is not your descendant. He who is born in your house and he who is
bought with your money must be circumcised, and my covenant shall be in
your flesh for an everlasting covenant. And
the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of
his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has
broken my covenant.' Then God said to Abraham, 'As for Sarai your wife, you shall
not call her name Sarai, but Sarah
shall be her name. And I will
bless her and also give you a son by her; then I will bless her,
and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be from
Here, in chapter 17, the Abrahamic
Covenant is reiterated and signified. Also, God reveals himself to
Abram by a new name here ... El Shaddai. This is the
first use of this name in the Bible. It means God Almighty.
This name emphasizes that he is the God who possesses all power and
authority. It brings to mind Jesus’ words in Matthew 28:18, does it
Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to
me in heaven and on earth’.
The main points of what El Shaddai had
to say to Abram are as follows:
1. I have
made my covenant with you, Abram.
2. I am
changing your name to Abraham. (Abram meant high father. Abraham means father of a multitude)
3. I have
made you the father of many nations.
4. I have
given to you and your descendants all of the land of Canaan for an
5. The sign
of this covenant will be circumcision. Circumcision! What an
unusual thing. I believe it was given for at least three reasons:
a. It set up a difficult exercise
of obedience for the people of God to follow.
b. It placed a mark of
identification on every Jewish male's anatomy ... for God to see.
This reminds me of the account of Joseph's revealing of himself to his
brothers. He did it, in my opinion, by showing them this sign of the
covenant in his own body ... something that no Egyptian would have had.
I believe this is the implication in Genesis 45:3-4,
Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am Joseph; does my father still live?’
But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed in his
presence. And Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Please come near to me.’ So
they came near. Then he said: ‘I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold
c. It sanctified (set apart unto God) the sexual organs of
all the males of the chosen people of God (by means of which
organs … eventually, one of their offspring would give birth to
Messiah). As you have it in Galatians 4:4,
But when the fullness of the
time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the
d. Those who refused the sign of
the Covenant were to be removed from the people of God.
The refusal of circumcision would not nullify the covenant itself, just
an individual's participation in it. Moses had a fight with his wife,
Zipporah, over this very issue when, belatedly, he had to circumcise his
son. As the newly designated deliverer of Israel, Moses’ failure in
carrying out that covenant obligation almost cost him his life! As you have it in Exodus 4:24-26,
it came to pass on the way, at the encampment, that the LORD met him
and sought to kill him. Then Zipporah took a sharp stone and cut off
the foreskin of her son and cast it at Moses' feet, and said, ‘Surely
you are a husband of blood to me!’ So he let him go. Then she said,
‘You are a husband of blood!’; because of the circumcision.