The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. 2 Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground. 3 He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. 4 Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. 5 Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.” “Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.” 6 So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three seahs of fine flour and knead it and bake some bread.” 7 Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. 8 He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree. 9 “Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him. “There, in the tent,” he said. 10 Then the Lord said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.” Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. 11 Abraham and Sarah were already old and well advanced in years, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?” 13 Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.” 15 Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.” But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.”
I love how this text unfolds: we find Abram sitting at his front door, probably shaded from the sun during the middle of the day. He had to wonder if it was a mirage in the desert: there’s three men who appear to be coming to see him. Abram practices tremendous hospitality to them – he gets water to wash their feet, he gets them some food to eat, and he gives them a place to rest. In doing so, we’re later told, he entertained “angels unawares.” In verse 9, they ask a surprising question: “where is your wife, Sarah?” I imagine that Abram must have been caught off guard by this – how did they know her name? Even more surprising is the news that the Lord brings him – about a year from now, Sarah will have a son! Sarah laughs at this news – it was too much for her to hear it and not respond in some way. Maybe she was picturing how funny it would be for someone who’s typically the age of a great-grandma to have a newborn of her own. Maybe the picture of her husband who was “old” and she herself being “worn out” meant that she couldn’t prevent a stifled laugh from getting out. But God sees this as a spiritual problem; verse 14 asks the rhetorical question, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” Is anything so great that it’s impossible for God? Does the mere age of a man and woman prevent Him from bringing about His plans?
Challenge: Is there anything – whether in your individual life, family life or church life – that seems impossible? Pray that God’s Holy Spirit would help you to trust Him, to not laugh at His good promises, to know that nothing is impossible with Him.
After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” 2 But Abram said, “O Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.” 4 Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir.” 5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness. 7 He also said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.”
Today’s text finds God appearing to Abram in a vision. He gives Abram powerful imagery to help him get through a time of fear. God says that He is Abram’s shield. He will protect Abram from attacks. He will keep Abram safe. He will prevent harm from coming on Abram – and we Christians, says the apostle Paul, have the shield of faith. Yet it had been years since God had made promises to Abram, and he still hadn’t seen the fulfillment. Abram lets out his words of lament: “I don’t even have a son – I have just a servant, who will be my heir.” God then gives Abram the best show-and-tell in the history of the world – verse 5 tells us, “He took him outside and said, ‘…count the stars… so shall your offspring be.’” I wonder how God “took Abram outside” – by the hand, by God’s Spirit? Verse 6 has words that are quoted later by the apostle Paul: Abram believed the Lord, and it was credited to him as righteousness. What I see here is that Abram took a leap of faith – he put his faith not just in the promises of God, but in God Himself. Rather than getting caught up in what God said He would do – give Abram the land, the blessings, the children – Abram got caught up in God. It looks like Abram finally got what God had told him in verse 1 – God was his great reward. That’s the promise for us, too – even better than the gifts that God gives us is the Giver of those gifts!
Challenge: Simply dwell in the fact that God is your great reward; relish that truth right now. Pray that you would be able to trust God with an unshakeable faith – so that even when we don’t see what we desire, we know that God is still for us.
So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, with his wife and everything he had, and Lot went with him. 2 Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold. 3 From the Negev he went from place to place until he came to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier 4 and where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the name of the Lord. 5 Now Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. 6 But the land could not support them while they stayed together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to stay together. 7 And quarreling arose between Abram’s herdsmen and the herdsmen of Lot. The Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land at that time. 8 So Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers. 9 Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.” 10 Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, toward Zoar. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) 11 So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company: 12 Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. 13 Now the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord. 14 The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. 15 All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. 16 I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. 17 Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.” 18 So Abram moved his tents and went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he built an altar to the Lord.
Families can be one of the greatest blessings that we have in life, but they can also be some of the most infuriating people in our lives! I’m guessing it has something to do with how close to our hearts people get – and the people closest to us can do either the most good or the most harm to us! Abram found this to be true in today’s Bible passage. We’re told that Abram’s family and Lot’s family (Lot was his nephew) have settled down together in the land. But a problem comes up: the shared land couldn’t support all the people and animals. In fact, we’re told that some of the herdsmen from each family were fighting with each other. It likely had to do with how far the sheep from one group could go, whether they were getting in each other’s way, and a concern that resources weren’t abundant enough for everyone. So Abram comes up with a solution that is in surprising contrast to yesterday’s devotion: instead of looking out for his own good, he lets Lot have the first choice as far as the land. When Lot looks out to the east and to the west, he sees two very different pictures; to the east was well-watered and fertile land, and the west was a lot less desirable land. Lot went east. And later in Genesis, it turns out to be the place where Lot would get into a whole lot of trouble! It can be the same way in our lives, too. Sometimes what appears to be easiest or best for the moment can be our undoing.
Challenge: Is God calling you to something challenging right now? Keep the big picture, the long-term in mind! Pray that God would give you strength to face challenges, knowing that all things are possible through Christ!
“I surrender all”
10 Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. 11 As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. 12 When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. 13 Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.” 14 When Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians saw that she was a very beautiful woman. 15 And when Pharaoh’s officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace. 16 He treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, menservants and maidservants, and camels. 17 But the Lord inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram’s wife Sarai. 18 So Pharaoh summoned Abram. “What have you done to me?” he said. “Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife? 19 Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her to be my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and go!” 20 Then Pharaoh gave orders about Abram to his men, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and everything he had.
It’s easy to think about Abram’s life like we sometimes think about other great people of faith: when they make a great sacrifice or take a great leap of faith or do something radical for God, then we sometimes assume that things will automatically go extremely well. But that’s not the case; not in our lives and not even in Abram’s life. Soon after leaving everything he knew behind, we’re briefly told about something that Abram couldn’t have expected: a famine! We’re not told how common this was in Abram’s previous land, but this must have been a disappointing house-warming gift! We’re told that Abram takes his family to greener pastures and enters the land of Egypt. But the new land brings new challenges; Abram fears for the problems he might face because of his beautiful wife Sarai (God later changes her name to “Sarah”). Abram is concerned for himself, so he tells Sarai to lie about who she is. “Say that you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life may be spared because of you.” It sounds like he only cared about protecting his own life. Why? Maybe because he was scared and selfish. Maybe he thought he had to protect his life to keep the possibility of God’s promises alive. Either way, it appears that he didn’t trust God to protect him if they told the truth. Nevertheless, we still see God bless Abram at the end of this story!
Challenge: Is there something that you haven’t surrendered to God because of fear? You can trust Him in tough times! Pray that the Holy Spirit would give you courage to do the right thing even when it seems scary to do that.
“Going without knowing”
As we begin this week, we’ll continue our study of the Way of Jesus. We saw on Sunday that Noah’s life was full of faith in God and the faithfulness of God. Next Sunday, we’ll see how God tested Abraham to help strengthen his faith. During our devotions this week, we’ll study the life of Abraham to prepare ourselves for Sunday worship. Our text today opens with a startlingly abrupt beginning: God seems to appear out of nowhere into the life of Abram (He later changes his name to “Abraham”) and commands him to leave. Go. Everything that you’re familiar with, everything that you’re accustomed to, everything that makes you feel comfortable – leave it all behind. It’s even more shocking when we notice this detail in verse 4: Abram was already 75 years old! He’s nearing the end of his life – times have changed from when Noah lived passed 600 years. And yet God calls Abram to leave everything. Review the promises that God made to Abram in verses 2 and 3. God made some marvelous promises to him! We know from the rest of Abram’s life (and even through the life of Jesus Christ!) that God does, indeed, keep these promises – in ways that Abram couldn’t have even dreamed of! It’s amazing to think that God’s promise to bless all peoples through Abram would be fulfilled in Jesus’ command to bring the Gospel to all nations! And it all started with God’s call and a faithful response.
Challenge: What new thing is God calling you to do today? Pray that God would empower you to do what He’s calling you to do – so that you respond with faithfulness to God’s command.