Genesis 15-17…God establishes his covenant with Abram, Hagar and Ishmael become part of the narrative as a result of sin, and the covenant of circumcision between God and Abraham is put in place.
We’re only 17 chapters into the first book of the Bible, and the pattern of interaction between God and man is well-established. God creates and blesses His people. He wants fellowship with them, and they consistently turn to their own selfish wants and needs. Prideful unbelief and selfishness mark all people from Adam to us. But, despite this stiff-necked opposition to our Creator, He consistently shows grace and mercy.
In chapter 15, we see exactly what God wants from us. Genesis 15:1 says:
“Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.”
He wants us to believe in Him, and to find contentment in Him. He is our reward, and our interests should align with His. We should pursue righteousness if we love God, because He loves righteousness. This text is married beautifully to Romans 4. We have to have a savior, and we must have righteousness come from outside ourselves, because we cannot be righteous enough. God’s covenant with Abram requires faith in return for righteousness. And so it is for us as well. We cannot be justified by works, but need the works of one who was without sin. Our faith in Christ and repentance from sin is the only way to be shielded from God’s wrath, because He is both perfectly holy and perfectly just.
Genesis 16 outlines a pattern of human unbelief and pride which marks our own lives. Abram’s wife, Sarai, does not believe that God will bless her with children. She convinces Abram to sleep with her servant, Hagar, and he gets Hagar pregnant. This is the same Abram who had just been miraculously saved by the Lord in the previous chapters. Sarai is then upset by the outcome, which is not surprising. However, this is exactly what we do. We don’t like God’s timing and/or word, so we take matters into our own hands. We sin, choosing to somehow please ourselves and find happiness. The outcome of our sin is usually not great, then we are upset with the circumstances that we put ourselves in by not obeying God in the first place. This cycle of prideful unbelief marks all of our lives, but it can be broken. We have to first recognize that we are in desperate need of a savior because of our sin. Through repentance and faith we can be changed. This is what true conversion looks like.
God’s interaction with Abraham in Genesis 17 follows the same course. He promises to bless Abraham with a son, and Abraham laughs at him. But God, being abundantly patient and merciful, blesses Abraham anyway. He is a loving father, and exercises this same patience with us. He wants our hearts, and desires that we put down the trinkets and toys that we worship. Those idols we try to find contentment in will not be in heaven. Are you looking forward to heaven for the right reward? Because if you a longing for eternity with something other than God, you aren’t going to like heaven.