“When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.’ Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, ‘Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.’”
- Genesis 17:1-7
This was not God’s first encounter with Abram. In chapter 12, the Lord called Abram to leave his land and to follow the Lord to a new land. There, the Lord would make a great nation from Abram. With radical faith, Abram obeyed the Lord and followed him to this new land and new opportunity. Despite Abram’s obedience, the way ahead wasn’t always clear and easy. Abram made a few concessions to save his skin as he told the Egyptians that Sarai was his sister and not his wife (Genesis 12:10-20). When God did not fulfill his promise for a son in Abram’s timing (or Sarai’s timing), Abram and Sarai took matters into their own hands. Abram slept with Sarai’s maid Hagar, and Ishmael was conceived. As we get to chapter 17, God reaffirms his call to Abram and then changes Abram’s name to Abraham. Again, God promises that Abraham and Sarah (Sarai’s name changed, too) would conceive and bear a son. From this son, God would build the nations.
What did Abram do to deserve this calling of the Lord and these glorious promises? He was just a man, a man who didn’t always make the best choices. He was married but had no children. His future wasn’t looking all that bright. Abram did nothing to deserve this favor and kindness of the Lord. He was chosen to be the father of many nations. He was chosen to follow the Lord then equipped to obey. Abram was a fallen man who received the grace of God and the call of God. There was nothing remarkable about Abram except that he responded in faith.
God fulfilled his promises to Abraham through the miraculous conception and birth of Isaac. What was thought to be dead became a great source of life as the nation of Israel was also born.
Like Abram, we are chosen by the Lord and called to follow him in faith. We become the recipients of God’s covenantal promises. We aren’t given these promises because of what we have done or will do. We are given these promises through God’s call on our lives. Not only does God call us, but he equips us to follow him in faith and obedience through the gift of the Holy Spirit. Through us, God wants to create something glorious. He has people for us to evangelize and disciple, ministries for us to build, kingdom work that is uniquely designed for us.
Do we respond as Abram did, or do we allow our mistakes and failures to hinder us and hold us back from this great calling? Just as God changed Abram’s name to Abraham, so he wants to change our names – from fearful to trusting, from shame to righteousness, from timid to bold, from dead to alive in Christ.Reflection:
Are you embracing God’s call on your life? What would the Lord have you learn from Abraham?
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