Greetings in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations (Genesis 17:5)
God called Abram, and told Abram. Abram heard God’s voice, and left his home because he believed God, who would give him a land of flowing milk and honey, and make his descendants as numerous as starts on a clear night sky, not like a murky night sky today. I still remember one clear night on a remote place where everything was so dark that even I was not able to see even one inch ahead of me. The sky was pitch black. However, it was packed with bright stars. All of them were crystal clear as if somebody picked an individual star, washed, and polished before placing it back to where it was. Then there was a spectacular scene of the Milky Way that was towering out of the horizon ahead of me, and closing the night sky till reaching the other side of the horizon until the last star barely hid to the horizon. I felt that I could even touch the stars, if I had a long arm because they were so clear and bright. The splendor of the awestruck display of the countless crystal stars that I can see even today, if I close my eyes. Whenever I read Bible about Abram, I could imagine how Abram felt when he conversed with God while watching the stars on the night sky. He was completely overpowered the splendor of the night sky and the stars. Anyt attempt to count starts was even foolish to Abram. He saw God who was greater than anything that Abram could imagine.
Abram was 70 years old, when he was called by God. Upon calling, he left Haran only because of the Covenant with God: The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
“I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:1-3)
God made a promise to Abram, and Abram believed. What a blessing to Abram!
After a long journey, he arrived the land of promise, but the land was plagued by famine. He could not stay on the promised land, and had to make a journey to Egypt, where he lived as foreigner. Then God made him return to Canaan, the promised land. On the way back, he had to be separate from Lot, his nephew, because Lot wanted to be independent. He split his wealth and gave to Lot. Then he continued to journey back to Canaan and settled.
One day, God appeared again to Abram, and God blessed him:
“Do not be afraid, Abram.
I am your shield,
your very great reward. ” (Genesis 15:1b)
Abram faithfully followed God’s promise, but there was no sign of God’s covenant that would be fulfilled. He struggled. When Abram heard again from God, he could not keep quite any more. He emptied his frustration to God, and told his plan to make God’s covenant come true because in Abram’s eyes, God had not done anything about the Covenant given to Abram – “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.” (Genesis 15:2-3)
Did God already know about the above Abram’s response even before Abram responded? Yes, I believe so. God immediately responded by stopping his plan and added yet another even greatly blessed Covenant: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then He said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” (Genesis 15:4b,5) Then Bible immediately records, “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:6) Yes, Abram believed, but in fact, he was convinced by God under the beautiful, majestic scene of the night sky filled with countless crystal clear bright stars. Under the majestic scene, Abram was able to see how pitiful his plan was — fulfilling God’s Covenant by his own hand. He quickly realized that he was utterly foolish. Immediately, Abram humbled himself before God, and believed God. The gracious God counted him, who believed Him, righteous. This is how God works with His people, as our parents do everything to prevent from their 3-year old small child to do a wrong thing even though he/she thinks doing a right thing. God is our True and Ever-Lasting Father with full of love, compassion and grace, who always loves us with the best.
After God counted Abram righteous, did everything go well for Abram? No. Abram had to go through another test. His wife, who was also in great stress of not having a baby, proposed a tempting plan — making a son with her servant girl, Hagar. Sarai knew and believed she was barren. Abram accepted. However, this sin led to a serious domestic conflict between Sarai and Hagar. When Hagar knew she had Abram’s baby in her womb, Hagar despised Sarai. Sarai made a plea to Abram, but Abram’s respond was cold. Out of the pain, Sarai plot against Hagar, and made Hagar leave the Abram’s house. What a dysfunction family! God could not let them alone. God intervened. God, who was merciful and full of love, came to Hagar first. She was wondering in wilderness. In the wilderness, she was even struggling to find drinking water. God brought Hagar back to Abram and Sarai. Hagar, then, bore a son, Ishmael when Abram was eighty-six years old. Abram followed God for 16 years since God’s calling.
When Abram’s age was 99, God appeared to him and said, I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.” (Genesis 17:1b-2) Please note that for the first time, God gave a warning. “Walk before me faithfully and be blameless.” Why did God tell this warning? By that time, Abram had gone through many things in his journey with God. Yes, Abram failed multiple times, but he had never forgotten God, and believe Him as the source of blessing and promise. It was not a blame, but God wanted for him to grow spiritually and have a deeper relationship with Him.
Upon hearing God’s voice, for this time, Abram fell facedown before the God, whom Abram truly believed. God knew Abram was ready. God said to Abram, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.” (Genesis 17:4-8)
Upon seeing Abram’s spiritual growth, God granted a new name, Abraham, because he was no longer Abram. He was ready for a new life in God. God gave a new Covenant — Abraham as a father of many nations, not just one nation. Additionally, God made his covenant as an everlasting covenant between God and Abraham and Abrahams’ descendants after Abraham for the generations to come, to be Abraham’s God and the God of Abraham’s descendants after Abraham. As God promised, Abraham became the father of Israel, and most importantly the father of all believers today. Praise God, who is merciful and full of love! As He did to Abraham, God who started a good work in our lives will surely complete. This is the promise and our true hope in Him. Praise the Lord! His mercy endures forever. Amen.
being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)