GENESIS 11-18, 21
I’m going to tell you a story that starts many years after Noah and his family made a
new start ...
Noah’s descendants forgot about God and how He had spared them in the flood. They made plans to construct a great city out of brick.
They said, “Let’s build a monument to ourselves that reaches to the heavens to show how great we are.”
God saw how people were gathering together to honour themselves instead of Him. At that time everyone on earth spoke the same language, so God gave people different languages to make it harder for them to join together in rebellion. Then He scattered them all over the earth.
A few generations later, God established a special relationship and a promise with a man named Abram. This special promise was called a covenant, representing the deepest of all agreements between two people.
God made this covenant with Abram:
I will make you the father of a great nation - famous throughout history.
I will bless you and make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you, and curse those who curse you.
The entire earth will be blessed through your descendants.
This was an amazing promise God was making. He was choosing to bless the entire earth through one family of people! There was just one problem: Abram’s wife, Sarai, had not been able to have children, so how would the earth be blessed through their descendants? Not to mention they were getting old. At that time Abram was about seventy-five and Sarai about sixty-five!
God told Abram, “I want you to leave your country and your family and go to the land I will show to you.” So Abram and his family left, as God had said, and went to a land called Canaan. There God told Abram, “Look as far as you can see in every direction. I am giving this land to you and your descendants.” This land of Canaan would now be called the “Promised Land.”
Some time passed, and Abram and Sarai still did not have a child. Abram asked God, “What good are all of your blessings if I don’t even have a son? I am getting old, and soon I will have to give my inheritance to one of my servants.”
God replied to Abram, “No, you will have a son who will inherit everything I have promised you.” Then God took Abram out beneath the night sky and said, “Look up into the heavens and count the stars if you can. Your family will be like this - too many to count!” Abram believed what God said, so God called him “righteous” because of his faith.
More years passed, and Sarai became impatient with not having a child. She asked her servant, an Egyptian woman named Hagar, to have a child for her. Abram agreed with this plan. Hagar became pregnant and gave birth to a boy named Ishmael. However, Hagar and Sarai were not getting along. During Hagar’s pregnancy, she began to hate Sarai. In return, Sarai treated Hagar terribly.
When Abram was ninety-nine, God appeared to him again, saying, “I am the mighty God; serve me with your entire life and live purely. I will keep my covenant with you for many generations to come. I am changing your name to Abraham, which means ‘father of many nations.’ Remember this: I will always be your God, and you will always be my people.” Then God added, “I am also changing your wife’s name to Sarah, which means ‘mother of many nations.’ Very soon she will be blessed with a son. You are to name this son Isaac.”
Both Abraham and Sarah laughed to themselves in disbelief of God’s promise. Abraham wondered, “How can I become a father at one-hundred years old? How can Sarah have a baby when she is almost ninety?”
Sarah thought, “How could a worn-out woman like me have a baby? My husband is even older than I am!”
Abraham asked God, “Would you pass on your blessing through my son Ishmael?”
But God said, “No. Sarah will have a son about a year from now, and it is through him I will pass on my blessing. Why would you laugh at this thought, Abraham? Is anything too hard for me?”
Sure enough, a year later—exactly as God had said—Sarah gave birth to their first son, naming him Isaac, which means “laughter.” Isaac’s birth caused Sarah and Hagar to hate each other again, so Hagar and Ishmael were sent away and not allowed to live with Abraham’s family.
The birth of Isaac was the beginning of God completing the promise He made to Abraham. God desired for Abraham’s descendants, called the Hebrews, to be a new kind of people who would show the world what it means to live in God’s ways.