Abram! Are You Serious?

Growing up in church many times I heard the story of Abraham as told in Genesis.  This man who is referred to as “the friend of God” is also held up as a great example of faith.

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Regarded by the Jewish people as their forefather through his son Isaac, he is also revered by the Arab nations who count him as their forefather through his son Ishmael.

Any who has heard the story of Abraham knows that his name was first Abram which means “exalted father.”   When he was 99 years old God appeared to him and repeated the promise He had made years before telling 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.

As a child I did not think too much of Abram making this name change.  I know he is pointed out as a man of faith because he obeyed God and left his home and country to go to a new place that God would show him.  Also his willingness to obey God and sacrifice his son, Isaac, trusting God to restore him to life is another example used by those who point him as our example of faith.

But as I read this week of this change of name I think this might have been the greatest example of his faith.

Think about it.

You are a rich man with lots of cattle and servants.  Many people look to you as their employer, their master, the one who supplies their daily needs.  You are now 99 years and your wife is also very old – clearly past the time to bear children.

You suddenly proclaim that from now on they are not to call you by your name Abram  but rather to call you by a new name Abraham which means “father of a multitude.”

I can almost imagine the comments made by the servants that night in their tents.

Father of a multitude?  Right!  He has not been able to have any children with his wife all these years – and now at 99 he’s going to have a multitude of children!  What does he plan to do – take a dozen wives?  

Yeah – even if he takes a dozen wives – a man his age – is he really capable of fathering a multitude?  Maybe he is losing his mind – old people do get crazy sometimes.

Yet Abraham believed God and made that change.

And how did that turn out?

  • Today there are about 14.5 million Jews in the world.
  • Statistics I could find show there are between 407 – 402 Arabs in the world.
  • There are 22 Arabs states in the world and Israel – what an amazing story there – is once again a nation after being destroyed by Rome in AD 70.
  • Abraham is also revered as the forefather of the Arab nations and Islam, as he was also the father of Ishmael, his son through Hagar, Sara’s Egyptian princess handmaiden. The Koran reports that Abraham and Ishmael raised the foundations of the Kaaba, the cube-shaped black stone structure in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, which is Islam’s holiest shrine. During the annual Haj pilgrimage, Moslems from all over the world circle the Kaaba, reinforcing the central role of Abraham and Ishmael in Islamic faith.
  • On Rosh Hashanah, the Jews recalled the story of Isaac’s near-sacrifice, which Jewish tradition states occurred on the first of Tishri and honor Abraham’s faith and obedience to God.
  • In Christians circles he is the acknowledged father of monotheism, progenitor of Western religion.  So many little children have sung that song

Father Abraham had many sons, many sons had Father Abrham.  And I am one of them and so are you, so let’s just praise the Lord.

Thinking of the faith Abraham had to declare he was to be called, at age 99, “Father of a miultitude” makes me wonder how many times God speaks to us about something in our lives and we are afraid to share it.  Afraid others will think we are crazy, or maybe even being prideful.

I remember when God called my husband and I to sell our home and possessions and go to the Philippines to teach.  I thought my co-workers might think I was crazy but I was amazed at the response of my fellow Christians.

Some thought we were fools to sell everything and step out by faith.  Others thought we were boasting when we said God had called us to this.  Then, there were those who wondered how we could do that to our family.  Leave them alone and journey to the other side of the world.

Has God ever called you to a task that you were afraid to share?

Has God ever asked you to do something that others would consider foolish?

Always trust God and like Abraham declare that which seems foolish and impossible.

The God Who Sees Me – Part 1

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In the book of Genesis we are told of the story of Hagar, the maid of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.  When Sarah was not able to conceive, she gave her maid to Abraham in hopes that she would be able to bear a son who would then be considered Abraham and Sarah’s legal offspring.  This was often the custom in the ancient world – their version of our surrogate mother today.

After Hagar conceived it appears there was conflict between the two women.  No doubt Sarah felt jealous and perhaps afraid that Abraham would begin to love Hagar more for giving him a son.  The Bible indicates that Hagar may have also become a little arrogant because she had been able to do for her master while his wife had not been able to do.

In any event when Sarah began to treat Hagar harshly, Hagar fled into the desert. There, huddled by a stream of water, no doubt feeling all alone and wondering what would become of her and the child she carried, Hagar was visited by the Angel of the Lord.  From the promises the visitor made to Hagar and from her response, it is clear that this was none other than God Himself.

God instructed Hagar to return to Sarah and Abraham and submit to them.  He assured her that she was going to have a son and that this son’s descendants would be too numerous to count.  She was instructed by God to name her son Ishmael which means “God that hears.”  Hagar clearly realized who her visitor was and she called Him El-Roi, “the God who sees me.”

I have often read this story, even taught it in Sunday School, but recently as I read it, the name of God seemed to jump out to me off the pages of my Bible.

The God Who Sees Me

In the midst of her fear and suffering Hagar recognized that God saw her.  I began to think of times in my life when I experienced that same sense.  Times of my own fear or suffering when God ministered to me in a clear way that let me know He saw me.  He knew my distress and He gave me assurance that He was with me and would help me in this time of difficulty.

I sat down and began to make a list of those times when God let me know without any doubt that He saw me and He was there.

Does Jesus Care?

The first moment for me was when I was 14 years old.  My father had recently walked out on my mother and me, leaving to live with another woman.  My heart was broken as my father had been the one I looked up to and wanted to be like.  Unable to cope with her husband’s desertion, my mother became the child and I became the adult.  Instead of her trying to comfort me, I was called on to give her comfort.  Over and over she would repeat to me stories of the early days of their marriage long before I was born and would tell me terrible things about my father.  Things I did not want and should not have had to hear.

One day feeling so alone I sat down at the piano and began to play a song we sometimes sang at church.  As I played that song, it was a cry from my heart to God.  The words of the song spoke exactly what I felt.

Does Jesus care when my heart is pained
Too deeply for mirth or song,
As the burdens press,
And the cares distress,
And the way grows weary and long?

Does Jesus care when I’ve said “goodbye”
To the dearest on earth to me,
And my sad heart aches
Till it nearly breaks,
Is it ought to Him? Does He see?

After crying out to God through these words, I began to sing the chorus.  I was not sure if the words of that chorus were true,  Did God really see me?  A young girl living in a run-down small house in a tiny town.  What was I compared to the rest of the world?  Did He care?  As the tears ran down my face, I sang these words.

O yes, He cares, I know He cares,
His heart is touched with my grief;
When the days are weary,
The long night dreary,
I know my Savior cares.

What I am about to say I know some will not believe or will say it was just the fancy of a young girl.  But to me it was so real, I will never doubt it.  As I sang the words of that chorus I felt a strong presence beside me.  Such a sense of peace came over me and I knew that the God who saw Hagar had seen me.  Afraid to turn and look for fear I would really see Him standing there and feeling how unworthy I was, I never turned.  But to this day, I know this was a moment when the Creator of the universe showed up to tell a young girl that He cared.

I have had other times of distress and problems but I have never doubted that God cares about me and that He sees me.

Have you had moments in your life when God “showed up” and let you know He was there?  If so, I would love to hear about them.