ABRAHAM: LIVING UP TO HIS NAME

This is a story about a man who was not living up to his name…and there was nothing he could do about it.  As are our habits, mankind is willing to take matters into its own hands to just make it happen, whatever that “it” is.  We are a powerful lot, but alas, we are not all-powerful.  That designation is reserved for the ONE who created all that is seen and unseen.  This is also a story of a man who could, in a limited way, live up to his given name; but could never attain to his eternal name without the intervention of a miracle.  He could never become who he was designed to become without the unseen realm becoming visible to him.  What a mystery to explore!

The word of Yahweh came to Abram in a vision declaring himself as Abram’s shield and abundant reward.  This statement prompted Abram to ask of the Lord (Yahweh) about his greatest concern – which was the issue of fatherhood.  In fact, the name Abram meant “exalted father”, and still in his mid-eighties, he was not a father.  Abram was not living in the reality of his name – and he, apparently, could do nothing about it because his wife was barren.  Since his earlier encounters with this Yahweh, Abram had become wealthy because of the blessings of his God.  Yet, his concern (and complaint) was that he had no son to be his heir.  In a sense, Abram was telling the Lord that he didn’t need more blessings unless the Lord would make him a father to a son.  Nothing else seemed to matter because at his age, the time had passed him by; especially, it had passed by his wife, Sarai who was well beyond child-bearing age.  Abram’s concern was not just what he would leave behind, but to whom he would leave it.  Today, we might call this a legacy question.

The accumulation of goods, possessions, property and lands may be for which a man works his whole life.  That bounty, even the Lord’s reward, represents his whole life, the meaningfulness of his existence of this earth.  There is something about man who wants to have a say-so to whom the fruit of those labors will be left, evidenced by developing a will, which is closely connected to the idea of covenant.  If all that a man did and accomplished in this life could not be passed on to someone who recognized and valued his contribution – and subsequently built on that contribution – such would constitute meaninglessness.  Abram had an opinion about whom should succeed him.  In the dialog, Abram “instructs” the Lord by telling Him to LOOK, as if saying, “Do you see any kids running around my tent?  I’m in my eighties.  What is the likelihood of this happening?”  Abram was drawing the Lord’s attention to his condition of fatherlessness.  This seems to be Abram’s primary concern in this dialog with the word of Yahweh

In this interaction, one must notice that this is not just a voice or thought interacting with Abram, but rather, a presence.  This presence assured him that Eliezer would not be his heir, but that Abram would yet have a flesh and blood son.  An amazing thing happened – the word of Yahweh “brought” Abram outside his tent.  Heretofore the conversation had been inside the confines of Abram’s tent.  Now it was Yahweh’s turn to tell Abram to LOOK.  It was as if the Lord was telling him that He saw Abram’s situation, but Abram was not fully understanding THE SITUATION…”No, Abram, You LOOK!”  The Melchizedekian blessing clearly stated that the Most High was Maker of heaven and earth.  Abram knew that, but He needed to be reminded that this Maker of all would not have any trouble giving him a son, culminating in the promise of offspring innumerable, just as the stars of heaven.  Yahweh’s plan was not just the intent of making Abram a father, but a father that would compete with the stars, with the cosmos, in all his descendants.  This demonstration was not just showing Abram the quantity of his legacy, but was a declaration before the stars of heaven as witnesses that Yahweh had chosen this man to populate the earth with Yahweh’s people.  Just as the Lord had stuck His thumb in the eye of the satan when He commended Job (1:8-9), the Most High was similarly making an announcement to the spirit world that He was still working with mankind (who are made a little lower than the angels) to complete His mission of establishing them as the rightful and just heirs of earth.

Abram believed Yahweh when He told him that his offspring would be innumerable.  The scripture says that this BELIEVING was accounted to him as righteousness which means that right relationship was established between Yahweh and Abram.  Yahweh had found a man who believed Him.  Upon that foundation of believing faith, the Lord started to build a people for Himself who would represent His purposes for the earth.  Notice that when Yahweh promised Abram a son, it was His way of telling Abram that this is how He would fulfill His promise to give this land to Abram’s seed.  After this promise of a son had been declared, Yahweh divulged why He had brought Abram out of Ur of the Chaldees – to give this land to Abram.  This was not new news.  The Lord had appeared to Abram when he was 75 years old and the  original promise was given when he first arrived at Shechem in Canaan (Genesis 12:7).  Years had passed when this new visitation (Genesis 15) of Yahweh occurred.  Abram wanted to know how he was going to inherit the land.  After all, Yahweh had told him years earlier that this would happen, but it hadn’t happened yet…and he didn’t even have an heir.  So, Abram had been promised this land in Genesis 12, followed by another declaration of this promise in Genesis 15 several years later.  Abram wanted something to which he could point that verified the delivery of this promise.  In our vernacular, one might say that someone had promised them an inheritance, but could they please put it in the will?  Yahweh put it “in the will” by making a covenant with Abram. 

Even though Abram believed God, he did not know how Yahweh was going to give him a son.  Was God going to need his “help” in performing this miracle birth?  At least, Yahweh was going to need his cooperation.  Sarai’s idea of giving her handmaiden, Hagar, to act as a surrogate mother, was agreeable with Abram.  It is interesting to note that Abram produced Ishmael from that union with Hagar while he was yet uncircumcised, and he was still named Abram, “exalted father.”  Truly, Abram was now a father.  He must have thought that finally he was starting to live up to his name.  Was this what God had in mind when Yahweh told him that he would have a son?

Thirteen years passed as Abram delighted in his son, Ishmael, even though there was contention in the household.  Yahweh visited him again when he was 99 years old announcing that Sarai would bear a son to Abram.  At this divine encounter, names changed: Abram to Abraham and Sarai to Sarah.  Abraham was not only called to be an “exalted father”, but now a father of many nations.  A year later Isaac was born, a child of Abraham’s circumcision – the token of Yahweh’s everlasting covenant with Abraham and his seed. A blessing was reserved for Ishmael, but the everlasting covenant was reserved for Isaac and his seed – God’s choice, not Abraham’s.  What’s better than receiving a blessing?  Answer: Receiving a covenant…being a covenant-bearer.

Yahweh did not reveal the entire plan that He had for Abram’s life in Haran.  Abram had to leave the familiar behind, and trudge into the great unknown – called to venture toward his undisclosed future.  Over the next 25 years of transitions, travels, relationships, threats, mistakes and just living life – this man came to know the intentions of his God via periodic encounters.  All along the way, Abram sought the Lord in between the times that the Lord initiated contact with him.  Abram desired contact with reverenced and feared Yahweh as the one true God, Maker of heaven and earth.  Yahweh made, crafted, create, designed, composed this man to be the father of a multitude of nations.  This is why he was created – for this purpose.

Photo by Matthew Ronder-Seid on Unsplash

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