God makes a covenant with Abram and changes his name as a sign of the covenant. God’s promise is that Abram, now Abraham, will father all nations. Abram is 100 years old and his wife Sarai, now Sarah, is 90.
Without getting bogged down in arguments about average life spans of ancient people, the passage in Genesis is clear that neither Abraham nor Sarah was of childbearing age. Hearing the promise, each of them laughs, so their son is named Isaac (Laughter).
The key to understanding that promise, while it is in Genesis, is clarified by Paul in today’s reading. The key is to look at Abram/Abraham. God asked him to leave his home and family and go to a strange land where God would provide for him. Abram did that, even though, his father worshiped other gods and did not even know this new God.
There were many trials and struggles, not the least the fight between Sarai and Hagar. The final conflict came after the birth of Isaac, indeed, probably after he reached adulthood. God instructed Abraham to take Isaac to the mountain and perform a sacrifice.
Abraham was given one promise, that he would be the father of nations. He had two sons, but Sarai sent one into the desert to die. Abraham took one to the mountain. Consider what Abraham faced.
Abraham tied his son and placed him on the altar. He raised the knife to kill the sacrifice for God. Why?
The promise. You, Abraham, will be the father of nations. That is the key.
As is often said today, God said it; it is true. We know the rest of the story, how God stopped Abraham and gave him a goat to sacrifice in Isaac’s place. We know that the Twelve Tribes came not long after.
But do we understand what happened at that moment when Abraham started to plunge the knife into his only son? What set Abraham apart from all other men? We say Faith as though that explains it, but does it really? What kind of faith would lead a man to kill his son?
What kind of Faith would allow a Father to sacrifice his Son?
There is one all-important word not yet mentioned: Grace. Abraham did nothing to deserve being selected as father of nations. In fact, his lineage was suspect, remember his father. He wandered around, living his life, following God’s directions, yet questioning Him from time to time.
God chose Abram and Abram responded. God made him a promise and Abram never gave up on that promise. God even asked him to kill his only son and Abraham lived his faith by raising the knife, probably blubbering and blinded by tears, but obeying God even when it made no sense to Abraham. If God said it, it is true.
There are no laws, rules, or customs that will save me; there is only faith that God’s Grace can make my messed up life whole again. Even if I steal a man’s wife and murder him, God can make it right if I, like David, never lose that trust. Grace alone can make it right. I will commit murder again tomorrow, but Grace will make it right and if I gain as much faith as Abraham, if I grow in faith as he did, perhaps I will not commit murder tomorrow.
Be righteous and do good.