Not Forgotten

As for Ishmael, I have heard you. I will certainly bless him; I will make him fruitful and will multiply him greatly. He will father 12 tribal leaders, and I will make him into a great nation. Genesis 17:20 HCSB

When I was a child I always hated when we would choose teams. Naturally, we all wanted to be chosen first for our athletic abilities. The dreaded position for each class member was to be the last person chosen. Nobody seemingly wanted whoever was chosen last and the last team to pick had no other option. They really never wanted the sole person who remained. There is nothing much more demoralizing than to be the last one picked.

Ishmael would not be picked to be Abraham’s heir. He was the first born son of Abraham, but he was not Sarah’s son. Ishmael’s mother was Sarah’s maidservant. Sarah, thinking that she could not have children, resorted to giving her maidservant to Abraham in an attempt to produce an heir. This was not God’s plan. Later Sarah would give birth to a son, Isaac, and he would be the one that would establish a covenant relationship with God. He would be Abraham’s heir. Even though Ishmael would not be the heir, God would not forget him and promised that Ishmael would be blessed and be the father of a great nation.

Challenge: Regardless of your circumstances or your position in life, God has not forgotten you. When you wonder if God even cares about what you are going through, remember that He is in control. When you trust Him, you can be assured that God will bring good from any situation and circumstance for those who love and obey Him.

Doubting God

God said to Abraham, “As for your wife Sarai, do not call her Sarai, for Sarah will be her name. I will bless her, indeed, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she will produce nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” Abraham fell facedown. Then he laughed and said to himself, “Can a child be born to a hundred-year-old man? Can Sarah, a ninety-year-old woman, give birth?” Genesis 17:15-17 HCSB

A few years ago our church approached the end of the budget year and I projected that we would end the year in the red. If we continued at the current giving rate and spending rate we would spend approximately $30,000 more than the receipts for the year. We had reserves to take care of the expenses over receipts, but that certainly is not the way to operate. I doubted that we would have enough offerings to even break even by the end of the year. Without any coaxing, the people gave over $250,000 in the month of December. God provided more than enough and we finished the year approximately $30,000 in the black. We should never doubt God’s ability to take care of any problem, no matter how big the problem may be.

Abraham doubted God. He did not believe that he and Sarah could have a baby at their ages. God had promised to bless Abraham and Sarah with a son, even in old age. Abraham even laughed and began talking to himself. basically saying that what God had promised was impossible. In the New Testament Abraham is referred as a great man of faith. Despite his doubts Abraham followed God’s commands.

Challenge: Even people of great faith will sometimes have doubts. When you begin to doubt what God can do, follow Abraham’s example and continue to obey God and focus on His commitment to fulfill His promises to you. God is faithful, He will always do what He says He will do. You can count on it.

Name Change

Your name will no longer be Abram, but your name will be Abraham, for I will make you the father of many nations. I will make you extremely fruitful and will make nations and kings come from you.” Genesis 17:5-6 HCSB

There is a story of a politician in Texas who had the last name of Hogg. He and his wife had twin girls and named them Ura and Ima. If I had a name like that, I think I might change my name. My name, “Ron Moore,” when turned around becomes “Moron”. As a student pastor, many of the teenagers affectionately called me “Moron”. It is interesting the reasons that parents name their children a certain name.

In these Scriptures we discover that God changed Abram’s name to Abraham. In Biblical times names were very important and had specific meanings. Abram meant “exalted father” while Abraham meant “father of a multitude”. This was another way for God to confirm that He would bless Abraham with many descendants.

Challenge: Take some time to research the meaning of your name. Remember that no matter what your name is, if you are a believer, you are a child of God. Praise Him that you are a part of God’s family and that you can proudly claim the name of being a Christian.

God’s Agreement

I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I will multiply you greatly.” Genesis 17:2 HCSB

Our church is getting ready to renovate our preschool and children’s area so we can have enhanced security and provide a better environment to minister to children and parents. Our contract delineates what work the contractor will provide, the fee for services, and other provisions to make sure both parties (church and contractor) understand their responsibilities in the agreement.

Twice before God had mentioned a covenant or agreement with Abram (Genesis 12 and 15). Again God is confirming with Abram what He is promising to do. The terms of the agreement were simple. Abram would spend time with God and obey Him and in return God would provide Abram with many descendants, power, and wealth. In most agreements there is an equal give and take by each party, but in this covenant God’s blessings far outweigh what is expected of Abram.

Challenge: God’s blessings will always outweigh what we are asked to do or sacrifice. We must trust God and obey His commandments. God may not give us descendants, wealth, and power, but He will always give us what we need and bring blessings into our lives. He does not promise us an easy life, but He does promise to be with us and bless us. Sometimes blessings come in many different ways according to God’s sovereign plan for each of us.

God Has A Message

When Abram was 99 years old, the Lord appeared to him, saying, “I am God Almighty. Live in My presence and be blameless. Genesis 17:1 HCSB

In today’s world we all seem to be dependent upon our cell phones. We send email and text messages. And we even use our cell phones to leave voicemail messages. Just today I sent several text messages to the facility manager at our church. As I see things that need repair or cleaning, I send him a message. It is wonderful that we live in an age that technology helps us to communicate better with those around us.

God sent a message to Abram. First, God reminded him that He was the God who sustains life and provides for all of our needs. God is all-knowing. He knows the past and the future. Truly, God is a mighty God. Second, the Scripture records that Abram was to live in the presence of God and be blameless. Abram was to spend time with God and live differently than others.

Challenge: The message to Abram is the same message that God gives to His followers today: Spend time reading God’s Word and praying. Obey His commands in every respect because He is God. He is the only One who knows everything about you and deserves your praise and honor. Only He can meet every need you have. He deserves our best, our praise, and our worship.

God Knows the Future

Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know this for certain: Your offspring will be foreigners in a land that does not belong to them; they will be enslaved and oppressed 400 years. However, I will judge the nation they serve, and afterward they will go out with many possessions. But you will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a ripe old age. In the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” Genesis 15:13-16 HCSB

Some people go to fortune tellers who look into a crystal ball to see the future. Others look at Tarot cards to tell the future, while others look at the palm of a person to offer advice about the future. These are all evil and of the devil. We all sometimes wish we could look into the future and know what is going to happen, but only God knows the future.

Abram was given a glimpse of what the future would hold for his descendants. The Lord told the story that we find in Exodus of how the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt for 400 years but then set free by God’s hand and given many possessions as they left. God also promised Abram a long life. Abram lived to be 175 years old (see Genesis 25:7). Eventually, Abram’s descendants would occupy the Promised Land that was currently held by the Amorites.

Challenge: God knows your future and what is best for you. In the future you may encounter difficulties just like the Israelites did in Egypt, but remain faithful to God and believe that He is a good God. He will bring blessings into your life just as He did for the Israelites.

Do You Believe?

Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness. He also said to him, “I am Yahweh who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.” Genesis 15:6 HCSB

There are many religions in the world that focus on good deeds. Some think that a person must do something or perform certain actions to be acceptable to God. The focus is on good actions rather than on believing, faith, and trust. When we focus on right actions, we will always fall short. No one can be good enough to be acceptable to God. We are all sinners and deserve death and separation from God. The only way to have a right relationship with a holy God is through believing in His Son, Jesus Christ. We must believe that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and rose on the third day to conquer death.

This is the first time that the word “believe” is mentioned in the Bible. When Abram believed, the Lord credited it to him as righteousness. It is through belief that we are made righteous and acceptable in the sight of God.

Challenge: You can have a right relationship with God by believing. Your outward actions such as church attendance, tithing, and other good deeds will not make you right with a Holy God. A right relationship is based on faith. Believe that God is who He says He is and will do what He says. Your right actions should naturally follow as a product of your right relationship with God. (Read Romans 4:1-5)

You’ve Got to Be Joking

Now the word of the Lord came to him: “This one will not be your heir; instead, one who comes from your own body will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look at the sky and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then He said to him, “Your offspring will be that numerous.” Genesis 15:4-5 HCSB

Have you heard a story that seemed to be unbelievable? You may have even said, “You’ve got to be joking.” Sometimes people will exaggerate the truth or embellish a story to make it sound bigger and better than the truth.

Certainly, Abram must have had that same feeling when God told him that his offspring would be more numerous than all the stars in heaven. This is especially unbelievable since Abram did not have any children and was an old man. His wife was past the age of bearing children. God’s reward would not be wealth or fame; rather, God would bless Abram with descendants more numerous than the stars in the sky or the grains of sand on the seashore (see Genesis 22:17). God’s blessings and rewards are beyond our imagination. We cannot fathom the greatness of God and His blessings for His children.

Challenge: God does not joke around. If He says it, you can count on it. Just when you think it cannot be done – God may come through and amaze you with a blessing that you never thought was possible. Have faith and believe God. His blessings are greater than you can imagine – even when you think there is no hope.

Complaining to God

But Abram said, “Lord God, what can You give me, since I am childless and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” Abram continued, “Look, You have given me no offspring, so a slave born in my house will be my heir.” Genesis 15:2-3 HCSB

There have been times in my life when I have complained to God about what I was experiencing. I have asked Him, “Why is this happening to me?” Certainly others have had the same experience. When over 3,000 people were killed on 911 many asked, “Why did this happen?” If we have a loved one who is facing a terminal disease we may ask God, “Why?” and complain about our circumstances.

God had just promised in a vision that Abram would have a great reward. Abram was complaining that even if God gave him an abundance of money, land, or possessions, it would be inherited by his slave Eliezer since he did not have any children. Eliezer was Abram’s trusted servant. If Abram were to die without a son, his eldest servant would become the heir. Although Abram loved Eliezer, he wanted a son to inherit his possessions. Abram was complaining that God had not given him a son.

Challenge: When have you complained to God about the circumstances in your life? Ask God to forgive your lack of faith. Trust God that He knows what is best in every situation and that He will bring good from the bad in our lives. The pain and suffering may even be a blessing in disguise.

God is Our Protector

After these events, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward will be very great. Genesis 15:1 HCSB

Occasionally I have experienced apprehension about what the future would bring my way. When we face difficult or frustrating situations in life and wonder what tomorrow will bring, we often feel fearful. This is a natural human reaction, and apparently it was what Abram was feeling.

The Lord came to Abram in a vision and reassured him that He was with him and that he did not have to be afraid of the future. The vision included an assurance from God that He would be Abram’s shield, indicating that God would be his protection just like a shield is a protection in battle. When you are battling life’s greatest challenges, remember that God has promised to be your security no matter what the future might bring.

Abram’s vision also included a promise from God that his reward would be very great. We often think of reward in an earthly context of worldly possessions, but the greatest reward is God Himself. The person who lives a righteous life is one who can experience God and His great grace and love.

Challenge: Remember that God will be with you and be your protector through the difficult times that you might experience. He has promised to walk with you through any problem you may face and will bring a blessing to you if you are one of His children.