From ashes to ashes; from dust to dust. Her time had come, and Sarah was no more. After everything that has happened, it’s hard to imagine Sarah (Sarai) no longer being in the picture. It’s also a signal that though one main character may be gone (and another nearing the end of his journey); a story may take a pause, but history stops for no one.
Life must go on, and Abraham has a responsibility to care for his deceased. Even in a time of mourning, the work is never done. Abraham sets about getting the appropriate final resting place for his wife and family. He already knows what he wants and is looking for. So he goes to make the transaction and we yet again see his mentality that he will not take what is not his. He is offered the land and cave that he wants free of charge, but he insists that he will only take what he has rightfully paid for. Its value resides in what its value is to the one who owns or is seeking it. If a man is not willing to pay fair price for it, is it worth owning?
What is it about promises? We make them. We take them. We keep them. We break them. How much do they really mean? What are they really worth?
For instance, God made a promise towards Abraham and Sarah that they would have a son. He fulfilled it, and at the time that He said that He would as well. Sarah finally received the fulfillment of God’s promise with the birth of Isaac. Hagar also had received, and receives again a promise that Ishmael would become a great nation. In this chapter God provides for her and Ishmael, taking a step towards the fulfillment of His promise towards them.
At the same time, other promises are, and are not made. Abimelech, seeing that God blesses everything that Abraham does comes to Abraham seeking a promise. He reminds Abraham of his kindness to him in regards to the incident with Sarah. Abimelech had been righteous in his actions and dealings, so God had prevented him from sinning by sleeping with Sarah and he acted righteously towards Abraham. So, knowing that God blesses all that Abraham does, he comes to Abraham seeking a promise that Abraham and his descendants will never deal falsely with Abimelech and his descendants. Together, Abraham and Abimelech make a covenant with each other that neither would deal falsely with the other. So the promise is made. At the end of the chapter, we see just who Abimelech is. He is a Philistine king.
We know, especially from Judges and Kings, that this promise is not kept. The Philistines are the primary antagonists to the Israelites in Judges and Kings. They attempt to make the Israelite people their slaves. They even steal the Arc of the Covenant. Their promise has no lasting value.
What’s more, is the promise that they didn’t make. They made a promise with Abraham, whom God was blessing, but they never pursued a promise with the God of Abraham. They were more focused on the things of the world that they ignored the very source of Abraham’s blessings. They never pursued the true God. That was a promise lost.
In looking at the promises and fulfillments; I suppose that the value of a promise is very much dependent upon who is making what promise, to whom, and why? What promises have we made, and to whom? Are we fulfilling our promises?
I’m finding, as i do this project, that things that i have previously learned and assumed don’t always work out the way i expected them to. For instance, over the previous chapters we have been looking at the life and times of Abram. Now i know this story well, and i know that Abram becomes Abraham. I have heard and read it since i was a child. However, in spite of the fact that the transition occurred yesterday (Chapter 17), i am having a very difficult time making that transition in my mind and writing. I have gone to write Abraham, and i keep writing Abram. It’s very annoying. It’s just after having spent so much time writing Abram, it’s difficult to make the transition even though i have been prepping myself for it since i uncomfortably started writing Abram instead of Abraham.
That having been said, i was also very perplexed in part of this chapter. In Chapter 17 God tells Abram, to be called Abraham, that he will have a son through Sarai, now to be called Sarah. He tells Abram that this will occur in the same season in the next year. Now, God tells Abraham that within a year Sarah will be holding her baby, and Sarah laughs? She already knows that this is supposed to happen. Hence she has been being called Sarah instead of Sarai. So why is she surprised by the idea that she could/will be holding her new baby within a year?
Finally, i was trying to process the relationship between Abraham and God. Abraham is bold enough to question God and His decisions. He is confident enough to stand in the face of God and say, “You’re THE Judge. You aren’t actually thinking of destroying Sodom if there are 50 righteous people in the city. That would just be unjust and wrong!” Then God turns, actually takes the comment seriously, and makes clear his plans.
To me, it’s interesting the ways that God’s people respond to the things He says to and about them. How do we respond when God speaks to and about us? Do we laugh and doubt Him? Do we confront Him and seek / demand clarification? Do we even hear or acknowledge that He is speaking to us? Do we even recognize the freedom we have in our relationship with God?
To some extent, i really don’t understand this chapter. It just seems like a repetition of previous chapters with some more clarification. It doesn’t seem like there is too much of a need for it. God has already made these promises to Abram, but it almost seems as though He is making the promises all over again. Like somehow the first time didn’t matter.
I believe that this was just a reminder and clarification for Abram’s sake. After so much time had gone by (~23 years) it would be easy to lose sight of the promise and it’s promised fulfillment. So God took it a step further. He not only reminded Abram of the promise, He made it even more real.
God gave Abram a new name. Abram went from “exalted father” to Abraham “father of nations”. Sarai went from “leader / head / director” to Sarah “Princess”. The promise became even more real with the promise that Sarah would bear a son in approximately one year, and that God would continue to bless Ishmael. Of course, there was still the issue of circumcision, the outward expression of the covenant. The physical expression that would forever stand as a physical representation of the promise between God and man.
So, the question comes; have we lost focus of God’s promise for us? Is there something that God has told you that you have lost due to the busyness of life? What do we need to be reminded of?
Worthy of note as well, this is the first appearance of the name God Almighty (El-Shaddai).