18 And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”
21 But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.”
Genesis Ch17, 18 & 21
In Genesis Chapter 17 God made a covenant with Abraham, that he would be a father of many nations.
This in itself was pretty spectacular; not only that Abraham would become a father of many nations, but that God actually appeared to Abraham and made a covenant with him.
Additionally, God also promised that both Abraham and his wife Sarah would bear a child in their very old age. These first three things were pretty amazing, but the prospect of having a child so late in life was ridiculous; so much so that they both laughed at such an impossible idea. God went one stage further and challenged Abraham saying "Is anything too hard for the Lord?"
When we hear from God, how often do we disbelieve what He promises?
Do we sometimes focus on the 'impossibility' of the promise, but totally miss the fact that God speaks, and makes promises to us? Perhaps we may have low expectations of what God can do with and for us in this 'modern' age.
When God 'appears' or speaks, be expectant that what may happen is likely to be something you've never experienced before. In fact, just like Abraham and Sarah's experience, it may be almost unbelievable.
In the story of the birth of Isaac, both Abraham and Sarah believed they were physically incapable of bearing children and the idea of having a son was laughable. However, God promised Sarah a son, and He did not fail on His promise.
The birth of Isaac brought sheer joy to Sarah who in turn shared her joy and blessed others.
When God blesses us, we should rejoice and share that joy with others and in turn bless them.
Heavenly and gracious Father God; in Your word we recognise how mighty and powerful You are, and that You have blessed Your people from the start of creation. We are sorry that at times we fail to recognise that your blessings are poured out on us. We are thankful for all the good gifts you give us. Please help us to share our blessings with others that they too in turn may be blessed and see your hand at work today. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
2 Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”
3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”
6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, 7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”
“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.
9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”
13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram[a] caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”
15 The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring[b] all nations on earth will be blessed,[c] because you have obeyed me.”
19 Then Abraham returned to his servants, and they set off together for Beersheba. And Abraham stayed in Beersheba.
20 Some time later Abraham was told, “Milkah is also a mother; she has borne sons to your brother Nahor: 21 Uz the firstborn, Buz his brother, Kemuel (the father of Aram), 22 Kesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph and Bethuel.” 23 Bethuel became the father of Rebekah. Milkah bore these eight sons to Abraham’s brother Nahor. 24 His concubine, whose name was Reumah, also had sons: Tebah, Gaham, Tahash and Maakah.
In this story, Abraham is seriously tested by God - almost to the point of killing his own special son Issac as a sacrificial offering to God. At the critical moment, the angel of the Lord instructs Abraham not to harm his son as Abraham has clearly demonstrated his fear and respect for God.
Sometimes we are called to make sacrifices; this can involve sacrifices of time, energy, emotions, objects or money, when we need to support a friend or family member, or a cause.
These times of sacrifice can be difficult but if we know the reason for the sacrifice this can make it easier for us to 'give over' our time and/or money for example, perhaps knowing we will never get these back, but understanding that the sacrifice will be worthwhile.
Perhaps at the time, Abraham had no understanding why he was called to sacrifice Issac, but due to his close relationship with God he obeyed the instructions given to him. However, it became clear that as Abraham was prepared to lose his son, God in turn promised He would bless Abraham and make his descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky. This was an extraordinary outcome.
When we are challenged by God to make sacrifices we should pray to God in faith for understanding, to 'let go' of those things that would prevent us from honouring God, and for strength to overcome our human frailties.
We should be prepared to release what resources, objects, time or money we have in order to demonstrate our faith in God and our respect for Him as Father and Provider, recognising that what we 'have' isn't really ours to own.
Heavenly Father; You are a generous God in your provision for us daily and in our lives. We can often make the mistake of taking this provision for granted, or think we own these provisions for ourselves. Please forgive us. Help us to think sacrificially, to give generously and to seek for nothing in return, and that we may be attentive to recognise the blessings we receive from you. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Abraham was now very old, and the Lord had blessed him in every way. 2 He said to the senior servant in his household, the one in charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh. 3 I want you to swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I am living, 4 but will go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac.”
5 The servant asked him, “What if the woman is unwilling to come back with me to this land? Shall I then take your son back to the country you came from?”
6 “Make sure that you do not take my son back there,” Abraham said. 7 “The Lord, the God of heaven, who brought me out of my father’s household and my native land and who spoke to me and promised me on oath, saying, ‘To your offspring[a] I will give this land’—he will send his angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there. 8 If the woman is unwilling to come back with you, then you will be released from this oath of mine. Only do not take my son back there.” 9 So the servant put his hand under the thigh of his master Abraham and swore an oath to him concerning this matter.
10 Then the servant left, taking with him ten of his master’s camels loaded with all kinds of good things from his master. He set out for Aram Naharaim[b] and made his way to the town of Nahor. 11 He had the camels kneel down near the well outside the town; it was toward evening, the time the women go out to draw water.
12 Then he prayed, “Lord, God of my master Abraham, make me successful today, and show kindness to my master Abraham. 13 See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. 14 May it be that when I say to a young woman, ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too’—let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.”
15 Before he had finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder. She was the daughter of Bethuel son of Milkah, who was the wife of Abraham’s brother Nahor. 16 The woman was very beautiful, a virgin; no man had ever slept with her. She went down to the spring, filled her jar and came up again.
17 The servant hurried to meet her and said, “Please give me a little water from your jar.”
18 “Drink, my lord,” she said, and quickly lowered the jar to her hands and gave him a drink.
19 After she had given him a drink, she said, “I’ll draw water for your camels too, until they have had enough to drink.” 20 So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough, ran back to the well to draw more water, and drew enough for all his camels. 21 Without saying a word, the man watched her closely to learn whether or not the Lord had made his journey successful.
22 When the camels had finished drinking, the man took out a gold nose ring weighing a beka[c] and two gold bracelets weighing ten shekels.[d] 23 Then he asked, “Whose daughter are you? Please tell me, is there room in your father’s house for us to spend the night?”
24 She answered him, “I am the daughter of Bethuel, the son that Milkah bore to Nahor.” 25 And she added, “We have plenty of straw and fodder, as well as room for you to spend the night.”
26 Then the man bowed down and worshiped the Lord, 27 saying, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not abandoned his kindness and faithfulness to my master. As for me, the Lord has led me on the journey to the house of my master’s relatives.”
28 The young woman ran and told her mother’s household about these things. 29 Now Rebekah had a brother named Laban, and he hurried out to the man at the spring. 30 As soon as he had seen the nose ring, and the bracelets on his sister’s arms, and had heard Rebekah tell what the man said to her, he went out to the man and found him standing by the camels near the spring. 31 “Come, you who are blessed by the Lord,” he said. “Why are you standing out here? I have prepared the house and a place for the camels.”
32 So the man went to the house, and the camels were unloaded. Straw and fodder were brought for the camels, and water for him and his men to wash their feet. 33 Then food was set before him, but he said, “I will not eat until I have told you what I have to say.”
“Then tell us,” Laban said.
34 So he said, “I am Abraham’s servant. 35 The Lord has blessed my master abundantly, and he has become wealthy. He has given him sheep and cattle, silver and gold, male and female servants, and camels and donkeys. 36 My master’s wife Sarah has borne him a son in her old age, and he has given him everything he owns. 37 And my master made me swear an oath, and said, ‘You must not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I live, 38 but go to my father’s family and to my own clan, and get a wife for my son.’
39 “Then I asked my master, ‘What if the woman will not come back with me?’
40 “He replied, ‘The Lord, before whom I have walked faithfully, will send his angel with you and make your journey a success, so that you can get a wife for my son from my own clan and from my father’s family. 41 You will be released from my oath if, when you go to my clan, they refuse to give her to you—then you will be released from my oath.’
42 “When I came to the spring today, I said, ‘Lord, God of my master Abraham, if you will, please grant success to the journey on which I have come. 43 See, I am standing beside this spring. If a young woman comes out to draw water and I say to her, “Please let me drink a little water from your jar,” 44 and if she says to me, “Drink, and I’ll draw water for your camels too,” let her be the one the Lord has chosen for my master’s son.’
45 “Before I finished praying in my heart, Rebekah came out, with her jar on her shoulder. She went down to the spring and drew water, and I said to her, ‘Please give me a drink.’
46 “She quickly lowered her jar from her shoulder and said, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too.’ So I drank, and she watered the camels also.
47 “I asked her, ‘Whose daughter are you?’
“She said, ‘The daughter of Bethuel son of Nahor, whom Milkah bore to him.’
“Then I put the ring in her nose and the bracelets on her arms, 48 and I bowed down and worshiped the Lord. I praised the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me on the right road to get the granddaughter of my master’s brother for his son. 49 Now if you will show kindness and faithfulness to my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, so I may know which way to turn.”
50 Laban and Bethuel answered, “This is from the Lord; we can say nothing to you one way or the other. 51 Here is Rebekah; take her and go, and let her become the wife of your master’s son, as the Lord has directed.”
52 When Abraham’s servant heard what they said, he bowed down to the ground before the Lord. 53 Then the servant brought out gold and silver jewelry and articles of clothing and gave them to Rebekah; he also gave costly gifts to her brother and to her mother. 54 Then he and the men who were with him ate and drank and spent the night there.
When they got up the next morning, he said, “Send me on my way to my master.”
55 But her brother and her mother replied, “Let the young woman remain with us ten days or so; then you[e] may go.”
56 But he said to them, “Do not detain me, now that the Lord has granted success to my journey. Send me on my way so I may go to my master.”
57 Then they said, “Let’s call the young woman and ask her about it.” 58 So they called Rebekah and asked her, “Will you go with this man?”
“I will go,” she said.
59 So they sent their sister Rebekah on her way, along with her nurse and Abraham’s servant and his men. 60 And they blessed Rebekah and said to her,
“Our sister, may you increase
to thousands upon thousands;
may your offspring possess
the cities of their enemies.”
61 Then Rebekah and her attendants got ready and mounted the camels and went back with the man. So the servant took Rebekah and left.
62 Now Isaac had come from Beer Lahai Roi, for he was living in the Negev. 63 He went out to the field one evening to meditate,[f] and as he looked up, he saw camels approaching. 64 Rebekah also looked up and saw Isaac. She got down from her camel 65 and asked the servant, “Who is that man in the field coming to meet us?”
“He is my master,” the servant answered. So she took her veil and covered herself.
66 Then the servant told Isaac all he had done. 67 Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah. So she became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.
Rebekah - acting in faith - prayer & evidence
Bethuel - Father of Rebekah
Laban - brother of Rebekah
Abraham instructed his chief servant in his household to travel to Abraham's own country and relatives, in search of a wife for Issac.
The servant was faithful in his task, praying intently to God that success would be granted to him, and kindness would be shown to his master Abraham.
When Rebekah appeared before the servant as he had prayed, the whole story was in turn revealed to Rebekah's father, brother and family. Abraham's servant made a request that he should be able to take Rebekah to become a wife for Issac.
It is recorded that Betheul and Laban acknowledged that as this event was from the Lord that they were unable to say anything to disagree. Indeed they said "Here is Rebekah, take her and go, and let her become the wife of your master's son, as the Lord has directed."
Bethuel was challenged to release his daughter in marriage - a significant act, however, he recognised the Lord at work.
When we are confronted with prayer filled evidence that demands our attention and action how do we react?
Do we doubt? do we ask for more 'evidence'? do we hesitate to act? do we 'hang-on' to that which we are being asked to release?
When we recognise and acknowledge the Lord's hand in our lives, we should act with confidence and conviction. Acting in faith and resisting the temptation to question everything can bring blessings to others and glory to God.
Gracious Father, you are a bountiful provider to your people. We have been blessed with so much, but we can forget that without You we would be and have nothing. In our daily lives, we pray You would remain close to us, we would remain close to you and help us to recognise Your hand at work. When we are prompted, help us to act in faith, without doubting. Amen.
The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. 2 “My lords,” he said, “please turn aside to your servant’s house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning.”
“No,” they answered, “we will spend the night in the square.”
3 But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate. 4 Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. 5 They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.”
6 Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him 7 and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. 8 Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.”
9 “Get out of our way,” they replied. “This fellow came here as a foreigner, and now he wants to play the judge! We’ll treat you worse than them.” They kept bringing pressure on Lot and moved forward to break down the door.
10 But the men inside reached out and pulled Lot back into the house and shut the door. 11 Then they struck the men who were at the door of the house, young and old, with blindness so that they could not find the door.
12 The two men said to Lot, “Do you have anyone else here—sons-in-law, sons or daughters, or anyone else in the city who belongs to you? Get them out of here, 13 because we are going to destroy this place. The outcry to the Lord against its people is so great that he has sent us to destroy it.”
14 So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were pledged to marry[a] his daughters. He said, “Hurry and get out of this place, because the Lord is about to destroy the city!” But his sons-in-law thought he was joking.
15 With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.”
16 When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the Lord was merciful to them. 17 As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!”
18 But Lot said to them, “No, my lords,[b] please! 19 Your[c] servant has found favor in your[d] eyes, and you[e] have shown great kindness to me in sparing my life. But I can’t flee to the mountains; this disaster will overtake me, and I’ll die. 20 Look, here is a town near enough to run to, and it is small. Let me flee to it—it is very small, isn’t it? Then my life will be spared.”
21 He said to him, “Very well, I will grant this request too; I will not overthrow the town you speak of. 22 But flee there quickly, because I cannot do anything until you reach it.” (That is why the town was called Zoar.[f])
23 By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. 24 Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the Lord out of the heavens. 25 Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, destroying all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land. 26 But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.
27 Early the next morning Abraham got up and returned to the place where he had stood before the Lord. 28 He looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, toward all the land of the plain, and he saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace.
29 So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham, and he brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived.
Lot and His Daughters
30 Lot and his two daughters left Zoar and settled in the mountains, for he was afraid to stay in Zoar. He and his two daughters lived in a cave. 31 One day the older daughter said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is no man around here to give us children—as is the custom all over the earth. 32 Let’s get our father to drink wine and then sleep with him and preserve our family line through our father.”
33 That night they got their father to drink wine, and the older daughter went in and slept with him. He was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up.
34 The next day the older daughter said to the younger, “Last night I slept with my father. Let’s get him to drink wine again tonight, and you go in and sleep with him so we can preserve our family line through our father.” 35 So they got their father to drink wine that night also, and the younger daughter went in and slept with him. Again he was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up.
36 So both of Lot’s daughters became pregnant by their father. 37 The older daughter had a son, and she named him Moab; he is the father of the Moabites of today. 38 The younger daughter also had a son, and she named him Ben-Ammi; he is the father of the Ammonitesof today.
The account of what was happening in Sodom and Gomorrah makes for grim reading.
Angels of the Lord visited Sodom and stayed with Lot.
They pleaded with Lot to take himself and his
family members away as the Lord was set to destroy the city.
Lot told his sons-in-law to depart quickly, but they thought he was joking.
As dawn appeared, the angels urged Lot to take his wife, daughters and himself out of the city, as
they risked certain death. Lot hesitated, but the angels physically led them safely out of the city.
The angels told them, "Flee for your lives, don't look back, and don't stop".
By the time Lot reached a safe haven, the Lord destroyed both Sodom and Gomorrah including the inhabitants.
Unfortunately, Lot's wife turned to look back and became a pillar of salt - a serious consequence of disobedience.
This account of events is hard to understand, but if we are to learn anything it is that we should really pay attention to the Lord's commands.
Lot's sons-in-law did not take things seriously and perished.
Lot's wife thought she knew better, to her cost.
Dear Lord and caring Father, we look to you as our provider and protector. Thank you that you are concerned for us, your children. Please forgive us when we go astray, when we don't obey your commands, when we cause each other harm. Help us to cling to your truths, to stay close to you, looking forward to a reconciled life with you and not looking back to past behaviours. Amen.
In our Christian life and walk, we can sometimes doubt whether we are 'good enough'. Well, rest assured, except through Christ we can't be. Looking through Genesis Chapters 17-35, there are multiple stories and instances of people and families who we would consider as 'failing', being deceitful, dishonest and scheming. Yet God is in their situations.
In many ways, this is no different to how things appear today; images of modern life.
Ch19: Both daughters of Lot conspired to sleep with him, their own father, in order to preserve their family line.
Ch20: It is revealed that Abraham, though married to Sarah, is Sarah's half brother.
Ch21: Abraham, not trusting God, slept with Hagar his servant in order to produce offspring (Ishmael).
Ch25: Isaac and Rebekah, produced two sons, Esau and Jacob. Isaac loved Esau, while Rebekah loved Jacob; later this was to prove divisive.
Ch26: Esau married Judith and also Basemath - they were a source of grief to Isaac and Rebekah.
Ch27: Rebekah conspired with Jacob to deceive Isaac to give Jacob the blessing intended for his brother Esau. The result; Esau held a grudge against Jacob, planning to kill him.
Ch29: Jacob married two women, Leah and Rachel. Leah gave birth to two children, and Rachel became jealous and filled with anger. As Rachel was incapable of bearing children, she gave her servant Bilhah to Jacob and encouraged him to sleep with Bilhah in order to raise children for Rachel. When Leah stopped having children she gave her maidservant Zilpah to Jacob as a wife, in turn raising a further two children.
What is quite amazing, is that within our capacity to understand the actions of God, He has used and continues to use broken people who have fractured relationships and
blesses them and their nations.
Heavenly father, as You look down on your creation, one that was perfect but has become marred by the actions of mankind, we thank You for your provision and patience. We readily admit our failings, painfully aware of our thoughtlessness, our scheming and our appetite to deceive and divide. We pray for forgiveness, and ask for your Spirit of renewal that we may become Christ like in character, living in love with our fellow man. Gracious Father, bless us in Jesus name, we pray. Amen.