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?
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).
Genesis 16 is a lesson to us all. God had made a promise to Abram. That promise was going to take a miracle. There was no way it was humanly possible for Sarai to have a baby at her age. Yet God had told Abram that he would have a son. This could be seen as an opportunity, rejection, or false promise.
It could be a false promise (or disillusion) in that either God did say or Abram only thought He said, and that there was no real plan for the fulfillment of the promise.
It could be that God was going to bring it to fulfillment, and simply had not yet (which we know to be the truth). However, that seemed less and less likely every day.
Finally, it could be a rejection. God could have been making the promise to Abram while rejecting Sarai. This was likely the struggle that Sarai was going through. She was past the age of child birth, but Abram was not. She could not have children, but her husband still could. The promise had been made to him and not to her. He needed an heir, and she couldn’t provide it. So she did what she felt needed to be done to fulfill God’s promise for Him… and it was the wrong thing.
In Sarai’s defense, as far as we know, there had never been a single woman past the age of childbearing who had miraculously conceived. It was unheard of. Is that a valid excuse? No, not really, but it does explain her decisions. She knew what her husband and family needed. She knew she couldn’t provide it, so she did what she thought was the only feasible solution… and it backfired on her.
It also wasn’t fully her fault either. Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. He accepted her assessment and solution.
Ultimately though, the question comes back to us. What promises that God has made to us are we trying to fulfill of our own power? Are we trying to “help” God fulfill His promises, or are we resting in the promises of the God who promises and fulfills?