A Retelling of God's Promise to Abraham
It had been ten years since God first promised Abram that he would become a nation that would exist to bless other nations and a lot can happen in ten years. Abram had traveled down to Egypt to avoid famine. But he brought trouble on himself and had to leave Egypt so he headed for a desert in what is now southern Israel, wandering from place to place until he landed in Bethel.
There he became wealthy with livestock and gold. But while he was there, he began quarreling with his nephew Lot because they were running out of resources and this caused Lot and Abram to split and go their own ways. God again tells Abram that he will bless him and his family richly, giving them the land they are on as far as the eye could see in every direction. And to cap those ten years off, Abram learns that his nephew Lot is in trouble so he goes to rescue him.
But still, Abram has no children of his own that would continue his family line and this is when God shows up again telling Abram that he would be his shield and great reward making promises to him. And it's at this point that Abram lays himself bare from God.
How could God fulfill this promise to Abram when he didn't even have any children? Frustration had set in over those ten years. As far as Abram was concerned, anything he had gained in life was going to be passed on to his servant Eliezer. Everything was starting to lose meaning for Abram and it's in this moment that God makes one of the most memorable promises of all time to Abram.
Eliezer will not be your heir, but a son of your own flesh and blood. Look up at the night sky and count the stars if indeed you can. So will your offspring be. And in this moment of frustration, Abram once again believed God's promise. Time would pass and Abram would become the father of Isaac. Abram would become a father, and a grandfather, and a great-grandfather and in time, even more.
Generations upon generations later, through Abram's family line, God would indeed bless the nations through Abraham's offspring. God would insert himself into the family line of Abraham as Jesus in the flesh and in that moment, God would fulfill his promise to Abraham made so long ago. Just like we can't count all of the stars in the sky, no one could have fathomed the love that God has for people. Could Abraham have even imagined that God would bring salvation to the world, simply because he believed.
Every story can be broken down into a few parts. The setting, where the story takes place and why it might be important. The characters and their emotions and thoughts invested in the story. A tension that needs resolved. A resolution that brings us through the tension, and a through line (aka main idea) that carries the story through from beginning to end.
The Setting God speaks to Abram in a vision telling him not to be afraid because God will be his protection and reward.
- The Lord - Abram's protection and reward
- Abram - A man who wrestles with the notion of God's blessing because he has no son to pass it onto.
- Eliezer of Damascus - A trusted servant of Abram and an heir to Abram's estate. But as trusted as Eliezer may be, it's not Abram's son who could carry on his family line, something Abram highly valued.
The Tension Abram doesn't understand what God can bless him with because he remains childless. God has previously promised Abram that he would turn his family into a great nation that would exist to bless the world. It just didn't seem possible at this point.
The Resolution God makes yet another promise to Abram. God would bless Abram with a son that was his own flesh and blood who would become the heir of Abram. Abram's descendants would become as numerous as the stars in the sky, uncountable.
The Through Line God has made a promise to bless the world through Abram's family line and there's no way that Abram can truly even understand the significance of this all. As Abram's life plays out, it seems absolutely impossible but this would become a normal pattern in the story of God as God moves us from creation to new creation, from life to new life. You could say that this promise to Abram is the conception of God breathing new creation into the world as God works towards making all things new again at the end of time.
Why has this story endured? This is a beginning's story. It is a part of the story about the birth of Israel. Birth stories are not something you just forget. The dramatic imagery of descendants as numerous as the stars is language that is sealed in time. It's an incredible promise, especially if you've ever had that opportunity to stare into the milky way without light pollution blocking your view.
How does this story help us love God? Jesus would eventually come out of this family line. This is how God blesses the nations through this family. This story helps us love God because it's a conception story about how God, even through Abraham, was already at work in not only reclaiming creation, but making all things new again, making a way to bless the world.
How does this story help us love others? We are all created for more than just ourselves. This story calls us to remember that as God is at work, it's to bless others if we align ourselves with God. Abram was aligned with God and it was in this alignment that God would use Abram's family line to bless all nations. The plan was never for a nation to exist solely for itself. The plan was for a nation that would exist for others blessings and we should all from time to time ask the question, "Am I existing only for myself, or does the way I live my life also bless others?"