Today’s reading begins with Abram rescuing Lot and concludes with God’s promise to Abraham for a son.
Each reading in the first several chapters of Genesis seems to cover quite a bit of ground and this reading is no different. Chapter 14 begins with Abram fighting in cooperation with several of the kings of the region, including those of Sodom and Gomorrah, in order to rescue his nephew Lot who had been kidnapped in a raid. Abram and his men must have been skilled and brave warriors because they numbered only 318, but were able to secure Lot’s release and those with him and also recover his possessions. On his return from rescuing Lot, Abram meets the great priest Melchizedek.
Not long after this successful campaign, God came to Abram and made a covenant with him. God’s covenant with Abram is that He would give Abram a son and make his son the heir of his possessions. In addition, God would multiply Abram’s offspring to number greater than the stars of heaven and give them the land “from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates”. This must have seemed impossible to Abram because he and his wife Sarai had been without children their entire lives and at this time he was in his mid seventies and she in her mid sixties. The interesting part of the covenant that God makes with Abram regarding his son and their offspring is that God is the only one who enters into the covenant. Much the same as he did with Noah and the rainbow, God passes through the slaughtered animals that Abram had provided and Abram did not. God once again bears the full weight of the covenant that He makes with Abram.
As with nearly every person, when God seems to be delaying His blessings in our lives, we think that maybe He wants us to do something to ‘help Him out’; and Abram is no different. With Sarai and Abram not able to conceive, Sarai gives Abram her servant Hagar as a wife. Hagar is able to conceive and her son Ishmael is born. One can imagine the jealousy that Sarai would feel towards Hagar, and Sarai drives Hagar away into the wilderness and while there God promises her blessings for herself and her son. Hagar returns to the camp and births Ishmael.
Thirteen years after the birth of Ishmael, God appears to Abram and informs him that in one year Sarai will bear him a son, and he is to call him Isaac. In addition to the promised birth of Isaac, God tell’s Abram that his wife is no longer to be called Sarai, but instead, Sarah; and he is to no longer be called Abram, but Abraham, which means “father of a multitude”.
The symbol of Abraham’s entrance into the covenant with God was that he and every male in his camp including Ishmael be circumcised and that every newborn male of his lineage and in his service be circumcised eight days after birth.
I wish that I had Abraham’s faith. I realize that he tried to force God’s hand with taking another wife to move the process along, but instead of God’s anger being kindled against him for his lack of faith, God came to him again at the right time and gave him the explanation as to how the promise of a son and a heritage would be fulfilled. It’s difficult to see how God moves and it seems as if He stays silent far longer than necessary. In Abraham’s case, God took almost a quarter century to fulfill His promise to him. I can only pray for that kind of patience and enduring faith.